Arguably the most productive and impressive performer of the weekend was 6-foot-2 combination guard Collin Sexton. Sexton, who leads the Nike EYBL in scoring, picked up where he's left off with the Southern Stampede on the spring circuit. Sexton was aggressive off the dribble, constantly looking to drive the ball to the rim and either dish off to teammates or score. His reputation has been built as a potentially elite scorer in the class, but what he showed at camp was he can not only score it at a high-level, but he can also create opportunities for others and facilitate an offense. Sexton is the ultimate competitor and he brought it on both ends throughout the weekend.
Kevin Knox entered this camp last year as a virtual unknown, but he used it to catapult his stock, finishing the summer as a Gold medalist and a five-star prospect. This year a lot is expected of Knox, a 6-foot-7 versatile combo forward, as he ranks among the top 10 players in the country. But he still showed up playing as if he had something to prove. Knox showed an improved jump shot and skill set and has played with supreme confidence. He's especially been effective in transition, where he finished off plays, threw down highlight reel slams and made crisp passes to teammates. Knox's versatility will factor in, assuming he makes the team, as he's able to play both forward spots and will be a major mismatch problem for opponents at either position.
Austin Wiley returned from an injury in the state playoffs two weeks ago in Los Angeles playing with Team Thad. When he hit the court then he played with energy, showed an improved scoring touch and dominated the paint. At the USA trials, his play was similar. In fact, only one player (Wendell Carter), has been able to match Wiley's physical play around the basket. He's rebounded the ball well, protected the rim and shown off scoring moves that he didn't have last year. Wiley, who is pushing 6-foot-11, made mid-range jump shots, shooting the ball with confidence, and also dropped in jump hooks with both hands. Wiley entered Scout's top 10 when we updated the rankings last week and he proved he was well deserving of that nod.
Recruiting: Committed to Auburn
Wendell Carter is one of the top three prospects in the 2017 class and he showed up at the USA Basketball U17 trials and played like it. The strong, physical center prospect showed off his scoring touch when he had opportunities. He has very good hands, can score the ball on the block and is also capable of knocking down short range jumpers. Carter's impact was also felt on the glass, as he consistently patrolled the paint looking for put back opportunities and rebounds. Carter, who won a Gold Medal last year, is a virtual shoo-in to make this team, but he still showed up at camp and proved he's as good as prognosticators believe.
2016 combination guard Markus Howard will head to Marquette to begin summer school in early July, but first he looks focused to help USA Basketball win another Gold Medal. Howard, who was on the U16 team last summer, showed up at camp and played with energy on both ends of the floor. Howard played with an edge, played with toughness and caused opposing players fits with his ability to defend the ball. To go with his defensive intensity, Howard shot the ball well from long distance. Howard can heat up in a hurry and is/was arguably the best three-point threat at the trials.
Recruiting: Signed with Marquette in 2016
As the USA Basketball U17 trials wore on, Troy Brown raised his level of play. Although he showed flashes throughout the try outs, Brown saved his best performance for the last practice before the first cut. Brown was aggressive off the dribble, looking to drive the ball to the rim and made very good decisions when he was put in pick and roll situations. On top of that, he defended his position well, finished off plays in transition and also tossed out some impressive passes.
Although Immanuel Quickley is regarded as a five-star prospect, heading into the event he wasn’t as heralded as many of the other invitees. But Quickley proved he belonged and finished the first two days a no brainer to make the first cut. A tremendous passer, Quickley did a very good job when he was put in pick and roll situations. He made good decision with the ball and showed impressive vision. Quickley tossed out a total of 12 assists in the four scrimmage games. Now there were some instances where he was careless with the ball, so he’ll need to cut down on the turnovers, but overall Quickley has been one of the best guards at the trials.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the camp has been the play of Cart’Are Gordon. Gordon, who has grown to 6-foot-8, played like he had something to prove every time he took the court. Gordon brought energy, played a physical brand of ball and was extremely active on the glass. To go with his toughness and energy role, Gordon also proved to be a much better finisher at the rim than when I’ve seen in the past, as he scored through contact and recorded a number of tough put backs. Every team is in need of a guy that brings the type of energy and physical play to the court and Gordon has certainly opened eyes with his play in Colorado Springs.
Javonte Smart, a 6-foot-4 guard, has had a successful couple days at the U17 trials. A native of Louisiana, Smart has excelled in this environment and raised his game. Smart has done a good job of changing speeds and playing at a good pace. When put in screen and role situations, Smart made good reads and more often than not found open teammates for shot opportunities. In the four scrimmage games, Smart tied for the most assists with two. A southpaw, Smart also sprinkled in a couple catch and shoot three-pointers.
Jordan Brown, a standout at Roseville (Calif.) Woodcreek, came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Brown, a 6-foot-10 post player, showed his impressive scoring touch and moves around the basket. To go with finishes from close range, Brown also showed he could make mid-range jump shots. To go with his scoring prowess, Brown did a good job rebounding and actually recorded more boards than any other player during the scrimmages prior to the first cut.
- Jarred Vanderbilt and Tre Jones won Gold Medals with the U16 team last year, but neither were able to participate in the trials due to injuries. Jarred Vanderbilt showed up to camp with a nagging injury in his foot. During a pre-camp physical, Vanderbilt learned he’d actually been playing with a stress fracture. Jones injured his hand and told Scout that he’s hoping to be back in July.
- While Gary Trent wasn't listed above as a top performer, he will likely be a starter with a significant role for the U17 team. Trent struggled shooting the ball here the first couple of days, but it didn't impact the rest of his game. He competed on both ends, made good decisions with the ball, talked on defense and made plays off the dribble.
- The list of finalists is currently at 18: Markus Howard, Robert Woodard, Nojel Eastern, Jaren Jackson, Daejon Davis, D’Shawn Schwartz, Jalen Smith, Cameron Reddish, Jalen Smith, Markus Howard, Kevin Knox, Troy Brown, Jordan Brown, Cart'Are Gordon, Gary Trent, Austin Wiley, Wendell Carter and Collin Sexton.
- The finalists for the U17 will be selected on Tuesday. USA Basketball will take 12 players with them to compete in the U17 World Championships, which will be held in Spain beginning on June 23rd.