Ten thoughts from Nike EYBL Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.  – And just like that, the open period for college coaches to attend spring AAU events is over. In 48 hours, it came and went. Coaches won’t be able to watch these players again until July.

So while the time felt too short, there were dozens of events across the country for coaches to attend. We were at the Nike EYBL session No. 1 in Sacramento, and storylines were numerous. Here are 10 thoughts as I wait for my red-eye flight back to New York.

1. Ben Simmons can make a terrific case for No. 1. For my money, the Australia native should be atop the rankings for the class of 2015. You can argue Ivan Rabb or Malik Newman, but Simmons has taken his game to another level over the past year and is the most impressive player in the class right now. The LSU-commit has made the transition to the small forward position, and he’s an absolute matchup nightmare for opponents. Simmons can knock down 3-pointers, glides past players in transition, and sees the floor and defense exceptionally well. I think he’s going to cement his standing as the AAU and camp season progresses.

2. Coaches really want that second open weekend. The past couple of years, there have been two weekends in April for coaches to attend tournaments and events. This season, due to date conflicts, there wasn’t an available second weekend for coaches – and they turned down the opportunity to push it to May. As a result, one of the main things I heard over the weekend was coaches lamenting the lack of a second weekend. In the past, coaches could observe and watch a long list of kids – whittling their number of targets for July after two weekends. Now, there was just 48 hours to go through your list – and now they can’t watch them again for two and a half months.

3. The point guard struggle is real. In the past, the biggest question was, “Where did all the big men go?” That certainly won’t be the case this class, with frontcourt players taking up 10 of the top 12 spots in the 247Sports Composite rankings. But where are the point guards? Malik Newman and Tyler Dorsey are more scorers than point guards, and the same goes for Isaiah Briscoe. In terms of pure point guards, Jalen Brunson might be the best of the bench – but he’s not even a top 25 overall player in the 247Sports Composite for the class of 2015. (For what it’s worth, Brunson did average 9.3 assists in three games this weekend.) Players will emerge as the spring progresses, but the position as a whole is worth watching.

4. Will the Ivan Rabb-Stephen Zimmerman duo work out? Last season, it was Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander that joined forces on the AAU circuit and formed a dominant duo of top-five prospects. This season, elite big men Rabb and Zimmerman are playing together for the Oakland Soldiers – and there have been mixed results so far. The team went 2-1 in Sacramento, and Rabb went for 16.7 points and 8.0 rebounds – but Zimmerman seemed off. He played mostly in a high-low with Rabb, and settled for a lot of face-up jumpers. Zimmerman had just 20 points total in three games.

5. Deyonta Davis is going to skyrocket up the rankings. Heading into the weekend, the 6-foot-8 Davis was ranked outside the top 100 in the 247Sports Composite. He plays at a high school in western Michigan, and despite being committed to Michigan State, not many people had watched him against other high-level players. Well, he’s going to move into everyone’s top 100 – the only question is how high will he go? One college coach watching him says he should be a top 10 prospect, while another said he’s undoubtedly a top 50 prospect. Davis can do everything offensively, knocking down perimeter shots and finishing at the rim, while running the floor like a gazelle. 

6. Two Georgia guards are beginning to break out. It always happens: players that build up a little buzz in the school season and in the early April grassroots events really hit their stride and “blow up” at a big event like the EYBL. This weekend, a couple of guards from the Peach State fall into that category. Malik Beasley, a 6-3 shooting guard from the Georgia Stars, averaged 18.5 points in four games. After adding eight this weekend, Beasley now holds offers from Vanderbilt, SMU, Florida State, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Georgia, St. John’s, Wichita State, Tennessee, California, VCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas State, UAB and others. Meanwhile, 6-1 point guard Ty Hudson was impressing for Southern Stampede. He averaged 13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in four games – and plenty of coaches were on hand to see.

7. Austin Grandstaff consistently put on a show. When Grandstaff is on, there are few players more dangerous offensively in the class of 2015. And he was on this weekend. Through four games, the former Oklahoma State commit averaged 20.5 points – making 13 3-pointers. Grandstaff has deep range on his jumper and is also adept at pulling up off the dribble and burying a shot. Florida watched him closely in Sacramento, and Billy Donovan was among the head coaches that visited Grandstaff last week. Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger and Michigan’s John Beilein also visited him last week. Grandstaff is planning to visit Ohio State next weekend.

8. There will be few performances this spring close to Malik Monk’s 59-point outing. I didn’t personally see it, but it didn’t take long for word to spread around the gym about Monk’s ridiculous scoring output. The 2016 prospect knocked down 10 3-pointers, went to the line 23 times, and finished with 59. On the weekend, Monk averaged 26.2 points in four games – and that included a seven-point game on Sunday afternoon. Monk is one of the top prospects in the sophomore class, as he’s a ridiculous athlete in transition, while also possessing the ability to get hot from 3-point range.

9. The assistant coach shuffling made for some intriguing target adjustments for schools. The big recent assistant coach moves came from the Commonwealth, with Kentucky looking likely to hire Barry “Slice” Rohrssen from Pittsburgh and Louisville snatching Kenny Johnson away from Indiana. As one coach put it, “It’s like the Cold War again.” In essence, an arms race between the two in-state rivals to one-up each other on the recruiting trail. Rohrssen hasn’t been officially announced yet, but there he was in Sacramento in a Kentucky hat and shirt, while Johnson hit the ground running for Louisville. Two notable observations. Rohrssen had recruited top-five junior Cheick Diallo closely while at Pittsburgh, and he and John Calipari watched Diallo this weekend. Meanwhile, Louisville sat three-deep (including Rick Pitino) for five-star sophomore Caleb Swanigan – a player Johnson recruited heavily at Indiana.

10. Domantas Sabonis will make an immediate impact for Gonzaga next season. I had to throw in a college note here – as things besides high school basketball come up in conversation with college coaches throughout the weekend. Anyway, Gonzaga signed Domantas Sabonis last week, and word is that the son of Arvydas Sabonis is going to be a huge player for the Zags next season. One person that watched Sabonis in the past said he would have been a McDonald’s All-American had he played in the United States. Sabonis is only 17, but will be relied upon right off the bat for Mark Few and the Bulldogs. 

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