Pitt Jam Fest: Day One

Rick recaps Friday's action at the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest from the first night of the open evaluation period with college coaches out on the road recruiting.

With the spring grassroots basketball season underway for the better part of a month now, the intensity turned up a notch on Friday with college coaches allowed in attendance for the first time this spring.

This weekend is especially important to both the coaches and the high school prospects this year due to the fact that the spring evaluation was cut down to this singular three-day period (April 25-27) by the NCAA. In recent years there were two spring evaluation periods for college coaches.

While there are three live recruiting periods in July (9-13, 16-20 and 23-27), staffs across the country will undoubtedly be trying to make sure they cover as much ground as possible this weekend to see plenty of kids before narrowing the focus heading into July. Xavier's staff is no exception as Rick Carter and Chris Mack traveled to Sacramento on Friday for the Nike EYBL Session No. 1, Mike Peguese was in Pittsburgh for the UnderArmour Jam Fest (as was MusketeerReport), and Travis Steele was in Akron for the King James Classic.

Young Guys on the Radar in Pitt

With a lot of Xavier's top 2015 targets that already hold offers playing in Nike's EYBL event in Sacramento this weekend, both Peguese and Steele will be getting a great look at some of the 2016 prospects (and possibly even some younger guys) in Pitt and Akron that the Musketeers are recruiting.

Friday night's Pitt Jam Fest kicked off with Peguese watching DC Premier's 16U team. Premier was missing wide-bodied big man Joe Hampton, who claims offers from DePaul, Penn State and Xavier. He sat behind the bench in street clothes with a walking boot on his foot, but teammates A.J. Wilson and Alani Moore both played and displayed why they've been receiving high-major interest.

Wilson is a 6-6, high-motor forward. His game is intriguing because of his freakish athleticism and explosion, which he showed off on Friday, particularly on the defensive end when blocking shots from behind. He plays a very aggressive brand of basketball at both ends, which also makes him a strong rebounder. Wilson says he's working on rounding out the rest of his game and showing more of his all-around skill-set this summer, which is exactly what scouts and coaches will be looking for from him, as he doesn't fit perfectly into a position yet. Wilson claimed offers from Penn State and Monmouth, plus interest from Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oregon State, New Mexico State and "various other colleges."

Moore is a 5-10 point guard that is slight of stature, but he makes up for it with his presence, feel and handle. He looked to be at his best when he was pushing the ball up the floor and making decisions while playing at a fast pace. He stayed in attack mode on offense, and finished second on the team with 12 points including 10 in the first half, but it was his precise passing that really stood out as he racked up double-digit assists. According to reports, he's also been shooting the ball really well from the outside so far this spring, though he wasn't looking to settle in this game. In addition to interest from Xavier, Moore also claims an offer from Penn State and interest from other ACC and Big 10 programs.

Immediately following DC Premier's game, We R 1 from Delaware took the same court against Nova Village out of Ohio. While We R 1 was missing Sedee Keita, a 6-10 big man with Xavier interest, 6-3 guard DeVante Cross stood out as a player to keep an eye on the rest of the weekend. Cross showed great body control, good burst and athleticism, and a strong handle while breaking defenders down off the bounce. He was able to score at the rim against bigger defenders while absorbing contact, and also displayed a smooth jump shot off the dribble. Cross' recruitment will be interesting to track because he's also a standout dual-threat quarterback on the gridiron with high-major interest.

Effort Shines for 17s

When it came to the 17U teams, Peguese caught We R 1 against Team Thad, and DC Premier against Atlanta Express.

For We R 1, 6-9 center Ernest Aflakpui stood out because of his effort and athleticism. He impacted the game by rebounding on both ends and finishing around the rim, while also changing shots on defense. He's definitely raw still, but his physical tools and effort make him a presence that's hard to ignore, and he's already shown improvement in his hands, touch and skill since last year.

Coming into the tournament, Develle Phillips was definitely one of the biggest names on Xavier's radar at the Pitt Jam Fest. The athletic big man has been on a steady rise since blowing up on the scene last year at the 16U level, and the Musketeers have continued to show more interest. His strength is his length and athleticism which allows him to make plays like this. Friday night, however, he ran into a tough match-up against a very long Atlanta Express team that features 7-footer Doral Moore, and finished with just six points. It will be interesting to see how he plays the rest of the weekend. Phillips visited Xavier in June, and is being recruited by Cincinnati, Rutgers, USF, Florida, VCU, Towson and DePaul, among others.

Marquez Letcher-Ellis of DC Premier was another prospect that really turned heads with his effort. He seems to always be around the basketball; whether it's grabbing a rebound, diving on a loose ball, deflecting a pass or something else, it finds him like a magnet. His upside is through the roof because of his size, athleticism and length on the wing. His physical tools combined with his willingness to play hard allows him to have a big impact on the game. He just received an offer from Georgia this week (Mark Fox was front and center to watch him Friday night), and is also being recruited by Auburn, Texas, Houston, VCU, Boston, Rice and others in addition to Xavier.

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