The majority of the players at the USA 16u trials are out of the school for the summer or were able to take finals early in order to try out for the team. Unfortunately for Troy Brown, he wasn’t so lucky. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound 2017 point guard from Las Vegas Centennial doesn’t get out of school until June 5 so he wouldn’t be able to try out for a team he very likely would be a starter for. Still, Brown came out for the weekend to practice with some guys he could very well end up playing with in the future. “I just wanted to come out and show what I can do for next year as well as see all my friends,” Brown said. The first day for Brown was a good one. His shot has made improvement and he remains an extremely versatile guard who is best on the ball yet will be able to play and defend three positions at the next level. Brown’s vision at his size makes you ultimately like him at point guard and the schools recruiting him – he listed UNLV, Arizona State, UCLA, Louisville, Duke and Arizona – are all after him as such. “They’re all contacting me from time to time and doing a good job,” Brown said. Scout’s 2nd ranked 2017 prospect remains in no rush to make a decision. “I don’t have any unofficial visits or anything coming up,” Brown said. “I’m still young so maybe more towards my junior and senior year. I’m just a kid right now.”
Eastern learning from sidelines
During the Lexington EYBL session in April, one of 2017’s versatile guards suffered an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the spring and summer. Nojel Eastern, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound combo guard out of Evanston (Ill.), dislocated his ankle during a game and has been on the sidelines since. “I start rehab on Tuesday of next week,” Eastern said. “Getting treatment from the USA Basketball training staff is a great start to the process. I’m just going through the process slowly and doing the things I can do. “In two and a half weeks I’ll be walking again. I’ll be working out in August and playing basketball in October.” Eastern participated in the USA Basketball Developmental Camp in Oct. 2014 and if his play before the injury was any indication, he would have had a terrific shot at making the USA 16u team. Even though he couldn’t tryout for the team, Eastern still made the trip to Colorado Springs to take what he could from the camp. “It’s a great experience,” Eastern said. “It’s Team USA staff and players. These are my friends and also competitors. I’m learning a lot of stuff new mentally since I can’t physically. I’m taking it all in. I’m listening to the coaches and training staff.” Eastern has picked up Michigan State and Missouri offers in the last month, but his recruitment is far from his mind right now. “My mom is really dealing with the recruiting process while I’m working on getting back on the court,” he said.
Vanover a unique prospect
Making the first round of cuts for the USA Basketball 16u squad was 7-foot-3, 210-pound Little Rock (Ark.) Arkansas Baptist center Connor Vanover. The 2018 prospect isn’t your typical 7-foot-plus prospect by any means. He’s most comfortable facing the basket and is a terrific shooter for his size. Vanover isn’t all offense, as pure size makes him a strong rim protector and he also rebounds well. “I shoot and I’m a good rebounder,” Vanover said. “I try to hustle. I’m working on defense and getting stronger.” Vanover, who grew up an Arkansas fan, doesn’t have any offers yet but is hearing from six schools. “UNC, Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, Baylor and Kansas,” he listed.
Johns thriving due to versatility
One of the most versatile prospects at the USA camp has been 6-foot-7, 190-pound Lansing (Mich.) East hybrid forward Brandon Johns. The 2018 prospect has taken the most unselfish approach to the trials for any non-point guard and it was refreshing to see the USA coaching staff reward him for it by clearing him through the first round of cuts. Johns can defend either forward position and takes that side of the court seriously. What has been most impressive is how many open looks he has passed up to use his impressive vision to create for teammates. There is still a long time before Johns reaches his potential as a player, but for now he thrives as a utility guy and he seems to take pride in it. “I’m an all-around type of player,” Johns said. “I can play inside or outside and can shoot. I’m working on my aggressiveness and being more of a scorer.” Johns, who said he’s interested in getting a little bit away from home for college, has one offer so far. “Alabama has offered and I’m getting interest from Michigan, Michigan State, and Stanford,” Johns said.