Mid-July Status Report

PHOENIX, Ariz. – As we head west for the second half of the month of July, it's time to reflect on what we saw in the first part of the evaluation period. From Nike Camp to adidas ABCD Camp to the Peach Jam, here's what we learned so far.

Mid-July Analysis

Making Strides With Their Game

Gary Forbes, SG-SF: He used Nike Camp to boost his recruitment to new heights. Previously, high-major schools wrote him but few knew what he looked like in person.

Aaron Brooks, PG: We distinctly remember sitting courtside at the 2001 Big Time, wondering what kind of player he would be like if he had a jumper. Well, this summer we got the answer. Brooks' newfound range is more than enough to propel him into the top category of PGs.

Ryan Lambert, PF: The fifth-year player is likely to wind up at Hargrave Military Academy. He's also more likely to make a jump shot this year than he was last.

Gary Ervin, PG: Presently midway his first how-to-book. It's about going from a mid-major two guard to a high-major point guard in less than a year.

Chris Richard, PF: There's a reason Florida made him a priority when they saw him last December. Now, he's fulfilling the potential.

Trevor Ariza, F: Even Ariza himself was more than a little surprised when he drilled 5 smooth 3-pointers in a game at the Peach Jam.

Marcus Hammond, SG: Man, he really had his confidence and deep stroke going for him at Nike Camp. Impressive with his jumper.

Jerrell Houston, PF, 2004: Honestly, he was like a healthy scratch (hockey term) when we saw him with his high school team and early this spring. His Nike and Peach Jam efforts have people talking about him again. Keep it up big fella.

Dwight Howard, C, 2004: As a rising sophomore, he was tall and athletic. Now, having taken the ABCD Camp by storm, he's still tall, still athletic and now he's a lot more talented than last year.

Randolph Morris, C, 2004: See Dwight Howard above. A year ago, Morris didn't even have good hands. Now, he's got more offense than most kids in his class.

Cameron Stanley, SF, 2004: Get this, Stanley wasn't even a starter for his high school team but he was a standout at ABCD. He transferred to Raleigh Millbrook last year and surely he'll get the starting nod as junior. Did we mention he's managed to grow at least an inch and a half since the end of his high school season?

Surprise (We Had No Idea You Were This Good)

Ivan Harris, PF: When Ohio State took a commitment from him last year; we figured they knew what they were doing. So far this July, Harris has confirmed those suspicions. As good as he was at USA Basketball, he was equally as good at ABCD. Great on the glass and has range.

Josh Smith, SF: This young man is going to challenge for the title of No. 1 player in the Class of 2004. He's not athletic, he's ultra-athletic. His skill package is really something to marvel at. Loved him at ABCD. He can play both forward positions.

Justin Benson, PF: Without him, the Houston Hoops would have imploded long before the finals of the Peach Jam. With his jumper and presence, they waited until the final game to self destruct.

Stephen Verwers, PF: In April, he looked every bit like a low-major prospect. Four months later, this once quiet home-schooled youngster is maturing into a prospect that's hearing from SMU and Michigan. Go figure.

Quenton "Pooh" Day: The real reason why he's a surprise isn't because of his talent level, it's more like this is the first time we've seen him on the circuit in two years. The lefty hooped it up at ABCD Camp and while he was once gone, no way he's forgotten now.

James Lang, C: OK, after the TOC figured Lang was a big time prospect. But, we wanted to see it again just to make sure. After two days at ABCD, we're sure. Bullish big man is too much for high school kids in the paint.

Looking Down At The Rim (The Top Athletes)

Brandon Foust, SF: If you don't box him out on the offensive end, he'll rise up, dunk and thoroughly embarrass you. If he gets you once, he'll be hungry for another round.

JR Giddens, SF: The Kansas staff knew exactly what they were doing when they took an early commitment from this previously undervalued national prospect.

Shannon Brown, SG: Once a game he takes off from a place on the court that's little out of his range. Usually, he gets pretty close to the rim.

Travis Outlaw, SF: No secret here, he's been bumping his head on rims since his freshman year. What's cool about Outlaw is that he's never boring. His antics above the rim are always pretty cool to watch. Here's one for you: he thought the rims at USA Basketball's complex were too low. He would know.

Vakeaton Wafer, SF: He's got silly athleticism and what's scary is that he's only beginning to learn how to use it to his advantage.

Regis Koundjia, SF: The native of the Republic of Central Africa amazed those seeing him for the first time at ABCD Camp. There might not be a player in the country who goes from baseline to baseline as fast as this guy does.

Corey Brewer, SF, 2004: He'll have a chance to be a very highly regarded wing player next season. He can do it at both ends.

Jason Rich, SG, 2004: "Who is that guy," they wondered at Nike. Well, he's one of the best athletes in the nation and he was nursing a bad back.

Brandon Bass, PF: You have to marvel at his athleticism. At 6-7 and 225 pounds, he's a warrior in the paint and load for guys to deal with. Toss in the fact he's explosive with a good burst and the opposition is faced with a real dilemma.

Roy Bright, SF, 2004: Durham's finest nearly bagged himself an MVP award in the ABCD Underclassmen game. This dude will play at the rim, above it, in the post, on the perimeter, you name it.

Best Shooters

Mari Taybron, SG: One high-major coach tried to get us to offer him a scholarship on behalf of his program. That's not unusual talk, but it was only halftime of a game and the first time the coach had seen Taybron.

Dan Fitzgerald, SF: Sometimes can be a little streaky, but here's a guy with size and a stroke. You take your chances with shooters like him.

Blake Ahearn, SG: If the Sacramento Kings kicked to him instead of Doug Christie we might not have gotten a chance to see Mark Madsen dance again.

Daniel Gibson, PG, 2004: Five 3s in a Nike Camp 3-on-3 game? Are you serious? Those games aren't but a few minutes long.

Demetric Bennett, SG: Seemed like he stuck a jumper every time we looked up at Nike.

Dru Joyce, SG: OK, so he's well under 6-0 tall and really excels in just one area. However, when that area is stroking the basketball from 20 feet, you earn a scholarship. PS … it doesn't hurt if you're LeBron James' high school teammate.

Best Shot Blockers/Rebounders:

Darian Townes, C: The NCAA took him out of the Boo Williams lineup at the Peach Jam because he wasn't certified. However, he swatted away some shots before they made their move.

Ndudi Ebi, PF: If he is the second best player in the Class of 2003, this would be the primary reason why. This skill sets him apart from a group of contenders. What more can be asked of him on the glass? While others around him are jacking up shots at a prolific clip, for the most part he takes care of the dirty work.

Torre Johnson, PF: We aren't sure exactly how tall he is (6-6 ½ might be a good guess) but we're starting to think that it doesn't matter. He swatted some shots so hard at the Peach Jam that they were pumping air back into the balls at halftime.

Stephen Danley, PF: Last year, Jason Fraser mastered the concept of rebound, outlet pass and fast break bucket. Danley apparently is a pretty good study. And for the record, we heard this super student athlete missed just two questions on the SAT.

Longar Longar, C: By the time you get off the ground on your first jump, Longar's already rebounded it, dunked it and is halfway down the floor on defense.

Greg Steimsma, PF-C, 2004: Count us among the believers that Wisconsin added a 15-year pro for the Class of 2004. Few are as efficient as Steimsma.

Ousmane Barro, C: One of the pleasant big man surprises of the summer. He played much better than his reputation. Still needs work on offense, but he's got a handle at the defensive end.

Courtney Sims, C: Wouldn't want to be his mail man in August.

Best Assist Men

Mustafa Shakur, PG: It's clear that Shakur is one of the best players in the country in the past few years when it comes to getting teammates shots. The way he found guys for open looks at ABCD Camp was something. True, there wasn't a ton of perimeter defense played at either shoe camp, but what Shakur did looked good in any setting.

Dez Willingham, PG: The way he passes the basketball via the bounce is a lost craft. Who says you can't impact games without scoring? Terrific at Nike Camp.

Chris Paul, PG: He doesn't wow you with his speed or dunking. He just sees and feels the game. In turn, you have to be alert because he'll find you.

DeMond Carter, PG, 2006: We just thought you should know: this kid is a star.

Ross Neltner, PF: A power forward on the list? Sure, why not. When you are a big man and can pass in a camp setting that doesn't promote the even distribution of the basketball, you tend to stand out.

Drew Nietzel, PG, 2004: With so many seniors on the Michigan Hurricanes roster, he doesn't always get to show his prowess. At ABCD, we saw the reason why Michigan State moved fast to lock him up: the guy has a chance to be an assist machine. We love his ability to create and make shots.

These Guys Can Light Up A Scoreboard

Brandon Cotton, SG-PG: He needs about 3 centimeters to get his shot off and then it's all over. Has a great feel from a scoring perspective.

Al Jefferson, PF, 2004: And you thought this was a category for guards? Jefferson gets his points on the glass, off post moves, in transition. The guy just scores.

Darius Washington, PG: Unlike some other guys around the nation who put up huge numbers, he doesn't take a ton of shots, relatively speaking. In fact, he's quite efficient with his chances. He can get you 25 in a hurry.

Taurean Minor, SG-PG: His shot selection isn't very good and he's far from being able to run a team at the college level. However, he has superior scoring talent off the dribble and if he ever commits himself to learning the game he'd be one heckuva player.

Charlie Villanueava, SF: Whether it's inside or outside, and more often than not it's outside, Charlie scores. His jumper looks good deep. He can attack the rim and he'll do his part on the offensive glass. Add it up and you've got an elite scorer.

Sean Banks, SF: No one is questioning his talent level. When faced with the predicament of needing a bucket, Banks can improvise and get it done.

DeMarcus Nelson, SG, 2004: He didn't put up the biggest numbers we've seen so far this summer, but this guy was built to score. The former football standout and current Blue Devil commitment isn't likely to forget this skill anytime soon.

Gamers (These Guys Know How To Win)

Andrew Lavender, PG: Lead his team to the Peach Jam title. Enough said.

Kris Humphries, PF: We think he loves to play the game and while that should be a given, trust us; it's not always the case. He's not ever going to be afraid of anyone or any situation.

Utility Players (They Just Get It Done)

Marcus Heard, F: We like it when guys hang in their, tip the ball a couple of times and then get the board. Heard does that and more. As long as he plays this hard, he'll get plenty of court time.

CJ Anderson, PF-SF: Playing with Daniel Gibson and Chris Paul at Nike Camp was just the kind of chance opportunistic players crave. Anderson didn't waste his chance.

Arnaud Dahi, SF: Doesn't do one thing exceptionally well, but he's always around the ball and he's usually making something positive happen. He's a piece of the puzzle kind of guy.

Dayshaun Wright, PF, 2004: He's a younger, stronger version of St. John's forward Anthony Glover. While Glover might have more bounciness to his game, Wright has a touch more power.

Tasmin Mitchell, PF-SF, 2005: We still can get a grip on what position he is but that's OK because he's always getting things done. We've seen him score well at the power forward and then move out and do some things as a small forward. No matter the setting, he usually looks good.

Quick Triggers (These Guys Don't Worry About Shot Clocks)

Taurean Minor, SG-PG: Lucky they didn't give out citations for violating the four-pass rule at Nike Camp.

Isaiah Swann, SG, 2004: He is absolutely not afraid to let it fly. He'll never have confidence issues.

Darius Washington, PG, 2004: If he were a baseball player, he'd be thinking fastball for a homerun on every first pitch.

Andre McGee, PG, 2005: His brother is a Division I guard for the Colorado Buffaloes but he has more natural talent, at least it seems at this stage. In fact, he has great scoring tools and is crafty in the paint. With an improved understanding of shot selection he's got a bright future.

Monday begins our coverage of the adidas Big Time from Las Vegas!

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