Mid-Summer Checkup

RALEIGH, N.C. – With trips to Las Vegas and Orlando on the horizon and Nike, adidas and the Peach Jam in the bag, it's time to run down what the college basketball world has learned so far in the summer of 2003.

Significant Risers

For two days, the Nike All-American Camp belonged to Rudy Gay. For the most part, he was the show early at the camp and that's not an easy thing to do. After he cemented himself a spot on the McDonald's roster, he continued his assault on higher-ranked kids in a bid to be considered a Top 10 prospect. …

Charles Thomas isn't the same caliber prospect as Gay but after the Nike All-American Camp it was clear he belonged somewhere in our Top 50. With his AAU team he defers – wisely – to Al Jefferson but he showed what he could do at Nike. …

It's impossible to write enough about Robert Swift. The 7-0 center has been outstanding from his first event this spring to now. He was terrific at ABCD and the only guy who appeared to have much success scoring over him was Dwight Howard and we all know the kind of prospect he is.

Sizzlin' Summer Headlines

We thought for sure that Joe Crawford's de-commitment to Michigan would be the story of the summer and it just might be. However, once Daniel Gibson told an ESPN cameraman that he wanted to look at North Carolina, things got interesting. For two days at the Peach Jam, Gibson was under the microscope as interested parties watched intently as to what he would do. In the end, Gibson came out and let it be known he intends to play for Texas. Crawford on the other hand, is a free agent but many programs are hesitant to begin recruiting him due to their allegiance to his high school and AAU teammate Malik Hairston. The situation is one to monitor as the month progresses.

Here's a story to watch in the second half of the month. A.J. Price, Josh Wright, Russell Robinson and A.J. Ratliff have a lot in common but might not be aware of it yet. The same group of colleges are consistently at each player's games. Behind the scenes, the tension is mounting. The climate is such that one of these guys is going to "pop" sooner or later and that's likely to set off a chain reaction that will reverberate through more than one college hoops office.

Summer Surprises

Since the spring Andre Blatche has been on our radar and has been consistently improving. Therefore, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that he had a great adidas ABCD Camp. However, Blatche took his game to the next level when his talents were recognized on the national level after being named to the ABCD All-Star Game.

Joining Blatche on the ABCD all-star roster was Joakim Noah. The son of a French pop music star is a hit with the high-majors after leading ABCD in blocked shots. Like Blatche and Noah, Lorenzo Mata also enjoyed a fine ABCD. Mata is one of the hottest risers on the west coast.

At the Peach Jam, two unheralded players seemed to be on the lips of college scouts the most. First was power forward Andrew Brackman. The All-Ohio standout is a major league pitching prospect and a newly anointed high-major post prospect. Jerome Habel, a member of the D.C. Blue Devils, outshined a number of his higher ranked AAU teammates and took his game to another level in Augusta.

Signature Efforts

Shaun Livingston scores huge points for his degree of difficulty assists at the ABCD All-Star Game. The top-ranked point guard handed out 13 of them in the game and his performance has been the best single-game effort turned in by a player this summer. The stage was set for someone to grab headlines and Livingston was a show-stopper.

Having said that, the biggest shot of the summer – and this one might be tough to beat – was Russell Robinson's jumper at the buzzer that clinched the Peach Jam championship for the New York Gauchos.

Missing In Action

Injuries to Marvin Williams, Greg Stiemsma and Lamarcus Aldridge kept them out of action at the major shoe camps. These are elite level players who would have been significant story lines at the biggest venues.


Andre McGee, the scoring machine from California, was the talk of the ABCD camp. McGee, a terrific 3-point shooter, spent a significant amount of time in the spotlight. Brandon Rush and Tasmin Mitchell were terrific in ABCD's underclass all-star game and shared MVP honors.

Tyler Hansbrough played well at Nike but it wasn't until the Peach Jam that he started gaining big time respect. You had to get to his games with the St. Louis Eagles early because the heavy hitters of college basketball were coming on strong and taking up available seats. At the Nike Camp, Martell Webster and Amir Johnson not only contended for top underclassmen honors but there's a pretty good debate about which is the best prospect on the west coast.

Top Prospects

After watching a dozen events since the Final Four, I've settled on Dwight Howard as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2003. For now, we'll go Howard, Livingston and Al Jefferson; in that order. Jefferson is having the biggest summer of the three when you consider his overall performances but Howard and Livingston, one could argue, are slightly better long term prospects.

No matter who wins the battle for No. 1 in 2004, Greg Oden is going to make a serious case for the top overall prospect in high school. Oden is improving rapidly and his 6-11, 235-pound frame is changing games. We aren't saying he's the most dominant or gets the most done, we're only arguing that in terms of potential and ability, everyone might wind up chasing him before it's over.

What Lies Ahead?

Our coverage from the adidas Big Time begins July 22. The Big Time is the largest field in the country and we'll cover the event from start to finish. From Vegas it's off to Orlando for the AAU National Championship. We'll get to the AAU's a little late but we'll have four full days of coverage from Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

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