VENICE BEACH, CALIF. - The Under Armour Elite 24 is a celebration of the nation's 24 top high school basketball recruits after the long, arduous road that is the July Evaluation period. Playing parallel to one of the most famous beaches in the world, the cool Pacific Ocean was the perfect backdrop for this star-studded affair before a sun-drenched crowd.
Isaac Hamilton deeing up Sindarius Thornwell.
The event, which originated in Harlem's Rucker Park, moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and is the perfect marriage of the best street basketball has to offer with elite athletes defying gravity and in-game emcees dropping knowledge for the fans as the action unfolds.
Three of the 247Sports’ top-six 2013 recruits led the way in the high scoring affair, helping the Raymond “Ray Lew” Lewis squad. 247Sports’ top player, Julius Randle, scored 27 points on 13-for-14 shooting, while the network’s second-ranked prospect Aaron Harrison and its sixth-rated player Aaron Gordon finished with 25 points apiece.
The top recruit in the Class of 2013 by 247Sports proved worthy of his title Saturday, leading all scorers with 27 points. Sure, every score from Randle was at the basket, but it was his ball-handling, spin moves, and decisive first steps that got him to the rim in the first place.
Gordon, who spent the better half of the year recovering from injury, clearly used the downtime wisely. A bulked up Gordon took Venice Beach by storm with a variety of windmill and acrobatic dunks. Impressively, the dunks were only half the show. For a player with a reputation of wanting to take an opponent’s head off, the uber competitive Gordon left little in the tank Saturday. Watching Gordon’s post dunk theatrics, he played to the tune of the street ball creed which is to say he left nothing on the court while sending a clear message that no one possesses his raw athleticism.
The thing that impresses me most about Harrison is he’s an artist in lulling an opponent to sleep, only to then blow by for the quick score. It’s obvious that Harrison is athletic, but every time he elevates to the rim I’m continually surprised by his explosiveness. Harrison, like Gordon, finished with 25 points Saturday, which included a handful of dunks that would have been easily missed had you blinked.
The 2014 small forward proved he belongs with the big boys on the grandest of stages. Like the abovementioned 2013 standouts, Winslow has a level of athleticism that can’t be taught. Winslow scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting, taking full advantage of the game’s open court style. He has excellent hands, broad shoulders, and walks the walk of a future NBA wing.
The 2013 shooting guard has a sweet shooting touch and a reputation for playing solid defense. He can also rise to the rim with the best of them. Bird scored 20 points in just 18 minutes of action by doing nothing more than benefitting from his basketball IQ and being in the right place at the right time.
NEXT TIER PLAYERS
Hamilton has been wowing analysts and coaches on the AAU circuit this summer with his heady play and the occasional 50-point outburst. Saturday, Hamilton didn’t exactly stand out, but his 19 points and 4 assists proved that even when he’s not on his A-game, the big guard still finds ways to produce. Hamilton had a nice contingent of hometown fans at the courts, which may have actually served as a distraction as their cheers led to Hamilton smiles and likely a temporary lapse in concentration. Either way, some lucky college is going to get a capable playmaker and scorer in the next few months.
Gordon looked ripped on the Venice Beach courts.
The 6-foot-9 small forward did most of the dirty work for the Marques Johnson squad in a losing effort, pulling down 8 rebounds and finishing with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Iverson has the length to play in the post at the college level and the quickness to defend the perimeter, making him a tricky match up. Saturday, he used his length to secure boards and contest shots while ripping off a few of his own nifty slams.
The 2013 small forward plays as hard as anyone…anytime, anywhere. In fact, if you polled 10 people at every AAU event this summer about Jefferson’s effort level, nine would say it’s off the charts. The Philadelphia prospect is sneaky quick, and like Gordon ultra competitive, which is a great combination for a small forward to have at the next level. Jefferson finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in yet another prototypical Jefferson performance in which he does a little bit of everything extremely well.
SEEN & HEARD
2013 shooting guard Keith Frazier is weighing options between Florida, Memphis, Arizona and Providence, among others. Frazier said Thursday that official visits to Florida and Memphis are “a given”. Frazier has options with each school, but according to Frazier the talk of him serving more as a combo guard at Florida and Memphis has definitely piqued his interest.
2014 guard Emmanuel Mudiay has learned a lot this summer, particularly when competing in marquee events such as the Adidas Nations and the Elite 24. “I’m just taking all the lessons in,” Mudiay said. “The different coaches are telling me a lot of ways to improve my game and showing me some tricks that I’m trying to use.” The one coach Mudiay learned the most from this year was his Adidas Nations coach and former UCLA Bruin and NBA player Don McClean. “Donnie Mac really helped me with the mental side of the game this summer,” Mudiay continued. “He was helping me figure out weaknesses in the other team and how to get into the head of my defender. He was cool.”
2013 Washington commit Nigel Williams-Goss attributed his decision almost entirely to Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar. “(Romar) started recruiting me in eighth grade,” Williams-Goss said. “It’s a great program and plus they play the up-tempo style, which fits how I want to play. Defense and pushing the basketball.”
2013’s Rondae Jefferson has yet to make his college decision, but rumblings out west suggest Arizona could land the Philly prospect, thusly denying the prohibitive favorite Syracuse. Jefferson took an unofficial visit to Arizona last week as a convenient extension to his trip to Los Angeles for the Elite 24. Jefferson said he “loved” the visit, and sources close to his recruitment suggest that the relationship Arizona has built with the 6-foot-7 forward is strong. It’s been reported that Jefferson wishes to announce his college decision on his January 3 birthday. However, the date falls outside of the November signing period. Sources have informed me that Jefferson has been made aware of the situation, and he will be adjusting his timetable so that he indeed does sign his LOI in November rather than waiting until March.
It’s been long discussed that Aaron Gordon will not choose and sign with a school until next March. So far, the timetable remains unchanged. What has changed has been the recent addition of Kansas and Kentucky to Gordon’s official visit list. Gordon announced Saturday that the Jayhawks and Wildcats will receive official visits along with Arizona, Washington and Oregon.
During Thursday’s scrimmage, despite the five-on-five format, a one-on-one tournament broke out as each time down the court two players would go head-to-head in clear out situations. One of the more entertaining match ups featured Kansas commit Conner Frankamp and Aaron Harrison. Harrison got to the rim for back-to-back scores on Frankamp. However, the real entertainment came when the sharpshooting Frankamp had the ball in his hands. On his first go, Frankamp used a quick dribble shake and pull to drain a 3-Pointer from the wing. The second time down the court, Harrison defended harder, which only meant that instead of knocking down a trey from 21-feet, Frankamp used the same dribble shake and pull to nail a 25-footer. To say Frankamp has unlimited range is the understatement of the decade.
Rondae Jefferson brought his Philly style to the west coast.
The Southern California invasion of private schools poaching elite talent from the city schools continues. Schools like Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly, Harvard-Westlake, Loyola and Orange Lutheran have been doing it for years. St. John Bosco joined the fray a season ago when they picked up Isaac Hamilton and his younger brother Daniel (Class of 2014). This summer, Bosco received transfers from 2015’s Tyler Dorsey and 2013’s Darien Williams. Word on the street is St. Anthony’s in Long Beach, Calif. is the next private school to get into the business of pursuing state titles with talent first groomed somewhere else.
Gary Randazzo is a national basketball analyst and publisher of WildcatSportsReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @garyrandazzo.