Well, friends, Peach Jam has once again arrived - which means dozens of college coaches and hundreds of fans will descend upon the tiny town of North Augusta, S.C. to take in the finals of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, an even which features some of the top prep hoops talent in the nation.
Last year, talents like Brad Beal, Ben McLemore, Josiah Turner, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis stole the show.This week, the Classes of 2012 and 2013 will bring some serious headliners of their own, many of whom the Kansas Jayhawks coaching staff will be eyeing with great interest.
Here, Phog.net runs down a few of the bigger names on which fans can expect updates during the course of the next few days.
J-Mychal Reese - Houston Hoops - Class of 2012:
Ranked the No. 5 point guard in the class by Scout.com, this four-star prospect from Bryan (TX) High has had an outstanding spring and summer. With his quickness and smooth jumpshot, he's managed to stand out on an AAU backcourt that also includes fellow elite talents L.J. Rose and Rasheed Sulaimon.
Scout.com's Brian Snow had this to say about him following the third EYBL qualifier of the summer in Los Angeles:
"In a loaded backcourt sometimes it can be tough to standout, but Reese did that on Sunday. He hit a three at the halftime buzzer to give the Hoops a lot of momentum, and continued it in the second half with some nice passes and impressive shot making. His floater is an absolute weapon, and all game long defenders really struggled to stay in front of Reese."
The Jayhawks have been believed to be the clubhouse leader for Reese for a while now, but the job prospects of his father - Bryan (TX) High coach John Reese - who reportedly has assistant coaching offers on the table from several programs, including Texas A&M and Texas Tech, has thrown a bit of a wrench into the proceedings. Still, he recently told Scout.com's Evan Daniels he plans to visit Louisville, Kansas and Oregon in the near future.
Jabari Parker - Mac Irvin Fire - Class of 2013:
Hailing from the Windy City, the Mac Irvin Fire AAU squad has earned a reputation as a non-stop highlight reel in recent years thanks to a flood of freak athletes taking the court in the orange and white.
Jabari Parker has continued that trend this season - and then some. A 6-foot-7 wing with freakish athleticism and big-time scoring ability, he's the current king of the Class of 2013 rankings - though Plano (TX) Prestonwood Christian's Julius Randle is hot on his heels.
Almost immediately after returning home from Cancun, Mexico with the Team USA Under 16 squad - gold medal in tow - Parker took part in the Nike Skills Academies in his home town of Chicago along with some of the best talent in the country, and immediately got to work.
As Scott Phillips wrote in a special to Scout.com:
"Fresh off a USA U16 title and MVP hnors, Parker showed up a day later in his hometown and had an impressive performance. Already known around Chicago for his grueling workouts, Scout's number one prospectin 2013 went at it hard in drills and scored the ball in a variety of ways during the scrimmage. The cerebral aspect of Jabari's game sticks out when you watch the different places he goes to on the floor to score."
With Bill Self's ties to Chicago, it stands to reason the Jayhawks are heavily involved in this recruitment. As of June 1, Kansas was a part of Parker's early Top 5, along with Duke, Illinois, Michigan State and Washington.
Julius Randle - Texas Titans - Class of 2013:
Ask the Scout.com gurus, and they'll say there's not much room separating the top two players in the Class of 2013. So talented are Parker and Julius Randle that they may, in fact, be the top two players in the country regardless of class.
Whereas Parker is an athletic small forward, Randle is all power - a 6-foot-8 power forward with explosion and strength to spare. He finishes through contact, can face up defenders and score attacking the basket as well - in addition to being a superior rebounder.
Brian Snow had this to say about his performance on Day Three of EYBL: Los Angeles:
"At times during the weekend Randle struggled, but on Monday morning that was most definitely not the case. Randle used his combination of strength and athleticism to get the BABC interior players in foul trouble, and just was a dominant force. Add in that Randle led the break at times and knocked in threes as well. Overall it was a completely dominant performance from Randle."
The Jayhawks have been recruiting this elite power forward for many months, and in fact he joined his Prestonwood teammate - and current Kansas commitment - Zach Peters on a trip to Lawrence, Kan. for "Late Night in the Phog" last October.
With offers on the table from Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arkansas - as well as heavy interest from Memphis and Duke - Randle has no shortage of options, though he won't be making a decision any time soon.
"I definitely (have a time frame)," the junior-to-be told Scout.com in a July 1 interview. "I want to commit my senior year and I plan on taking my official visits."
Adam Woodbury - All-Iowa Attack - Class of 2012:
Perhaps no player in the country has improved his stock as much this summer as this legit 7-footer from Iowa. Not a fantastic athlete, Woodbury has nonetheless developed toughness and scoring instincts that place him among the best big men in the country - and the interest level from college programs is beginning to increase as a result.
Already bearing a host of offers from BCS programs such as California, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Virginia, Wake Forest and Wisconsin, recently programs such as Duke, Kansas and North Carolina have all turned up the heat in their own pursuit of the talented center.
Billed as a "true center," Woodbury made a huge splash at the annual NBPA Camp in June.
"Not only did Woodbury, a 7-footer, walk out of NBA Camp with the MVP trophy," wrote Evan Daniels. "But he also led his squad to the camp championship. At times, Woodbury was downright dominant in the paint. he forced double-teams, scored over highly regarded defensive players and facilitated offense out of the post. The light is coming on and it's coming at just the right time. Woodbury averaged 11.3 points per game."
Brandon Ashley - Oakland Soldiers - Class of 2012:
Ashley is one of those prospects who just has the look of a big-time player. Last year a part of arguably the most talent-rich team on the AAU circuit - as the Oakland Soldiers featured not only him, but elite talents Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner, Jabari Brown and Kyle Wiltjer - this year he's shouldering more of the load himself and really coming into his own.
Like Woodbury, Ashley was also listed by Evan Daniels as one of the top post performers at the NBA Players Camp in late June:
"He capped a strong spring with a monster performance at NBA Camp," Daniels said, of the 6-foot-8, 190-pound forward. "Ashley is a versatile forward prospect with the tools to one-day play for pay. At his size he moves extremely well and has an impressive all around skill package. Sure he still needs to get stronger, but right now he's playing an aggressive brand of ball and is making plays on both ends of the floor. He averaged 14.2 points per game."
Aaron Gordon - Oakland Soldiers - Class of 2013:
It's not as if Ashley is without help on the Soldiers this season though. Far from it, as he's joined in the post by one of the top players in the Class of 2013 - Aaron Gordon.
A versatile power forward, Gordon - who joined Randle on the Team USA U16 gold medal-winning squad in June - has made a name for himself by being able to do a little bit of everything.
For evidence, check Brian Snow's Day Three report from EYBL: Los Angeles:
"The versatile power forward was a complete difference maker for the Soldiers. He gave great effort on the glass and had several huge baskets when things got close. Add in that Gordon showed a solid skill level in the mid-range and it is easy to see why he is one of the elite players in the class."
He also made his mark at the Pangos camp just a week later:
"The wide-open style of Pangos was perfect for Gordon, who is as good as it gets at his position in the open court. Gordon was all over the boards and when he got a rebound he raced up the court, often converting at the other end. On offense hw as aggressive toward the basket, using his athleticism to finish strong at the rim."
Though he's still accepting and considering all offers at this early stage in his recruitment, the Jayhawks are right there with this top 2013 big man, along with a host of Pac-12 and ACC schools, as well as others.