NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.—This city hard by the Georgia-South Carolina border has been overrun with college basketball’s future stars. Harry Giles, whom many consider the best player in the class of 2016, is such a strong attractions that, during his game Friday night, a horde of fans formed an unmovable mass in front of the doorway and security denied entry to others who hoped to see him. A contest the previous day featuring Jayson Tatum, perhaps second only to Giles in the class, summoned North Carolina’s Roy Williams. Coaches are already buzzing over Marvin Bagley, a class of 2018 power forward who counts offers from Duke and Kentucky.
The Peach Jam is all about what’s next.
Yet one player competing here is commanding attention because of his plans—or lack of certainty therein—for the present. Shooting guard Maverick Rowan intends to play Division I basketball in 2015-16. For which school? He says he doesn’t know yet. After completing what was supposed to be his junior high school season this year, Rowan decided to pursue a reclassification from the class of 2016 to 2015. Rowan said he hopes to complete the courses he’s taking through the Elev|8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Fla., by the first week of August. He released a list of four schools on Thursday: Louisville, North Carolina State, St. John’s and West Virginia.
“I’m considering all options,” said Rowan, who transferred from Lincoln Park (Pa.) High to Cardinal Gibbons (Fla.) High last summer.
Rowan’s father, Ron, played at St. John’s in the 1980s (and also professionally overseas), and Rowan said one of the reasons he’s drawn to the school is that new coach and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin played his position. Yet St. John’s is undergoing a complete rebuild, with a handful of new players—including highly touted recruit Marcus LoVett, Italian guard Federico Mussini and junior college transfer Darien Williams—joining a team that finished fifth in the Big East before being eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.
“A little nervous about it,” Rowan said of the current situation at St. John’s. “Just got to think about things. If it’s the right fit, then I’ll go there. If it’s not, then somewhere else.” When discussing the selling points of the other three schools on his list, Rowan praised Louisville’s Rick Pitino as “one of the possibly best coaches in the United States,” mentioned the chance to assume a role at North Carolina State similar to what former Wolfpack standouts T.J. Warren and Trevor Lacey had during their stints with the program and explained that he believed he could fit well in the motion offense Bob Huggins runs at West Virginia.
Rowan, who said he won’t be taking any more visits, indicated that when evaluating the schools, he’s focusing primarily on which offers significant playing time early on. “Playing right away—I don’t want to skip my senior year and go sit on the bench,” Rowan said of the factors guiding his thinking. He added “And hopefully winning in March, when it matters.” It’s not clear when Rowan will announce his decision, but he raised the possibility it could happen soon after the Peach Jam. “Maybe [within] the next week.“ Rowan said.
At the time Rowan’s intentions to attempt to reclassify were reported, in late June, there were other highly coveted prospects in the class of 2015 who had yet to reveal where they would play. Five-star point guard Jamal Murray hadn’t committed to Kentucky, and center Georgios Pappagiannis was still in the process of deciding whether to pursue an opportunity with a professional team in Greece or join a Division I college. Meanwhile, Rowan is waiting to unveil his plans until the time of year when the spotlight shines most brightly on the recruits one class younger than him. It’s late in the cycle, in other words.
Of course, the school that lands Rowan won’t take issue with the timing of his recruitment. The four-star shooting guard is renowned for his scoring prowess, particularly from beyond the arc. Rowan also can also create enough space off the dribble to get off clean looks, but his coach would be best served deploying him in shoot-first situations, at least early in his college career. Over 17 games with Florida-based Each 1 Teach 1 in the Elite Youth Basketball League this year, including four at the Peach Jam, Rowan has averaged 18.4 points while shooting 40.2 percent from three-point range.
His addition would elevate any of the four schools’ 2015 recruiting classes from good to great. Yet whereas fans have to wait a long time for other highly regarded high school recruits who announce their decisions in July to play in college, they can look forward to watching Rowan in a few months.
• There may not be a better wing tandem in the class of 2016 than V.J. King and D.J. Harvey. King is a savvy scorer who excels when attacking off the dribble, and Harvey is a remarkable leaper who can stretch the floor with his three-point range. Together, King and Harvey have led Washington D.C.-based Team Takeover to a 3-1 record at the Peach Jam, with wins over Team Final (Pa.), Mac Irvin Fire (Ill.) and the Arkansas Wings and the lone loss coming to a strong Team CP3 squad led by Giles.
The possibility exists that the two could extend their partnership to the college ranks. King, whom Rivals.com rates the No. 20 overall prospect in the class of 2016, committed to Louisville in June, while Harvey, a five-star prospect in the class of 2017, received a scholarship offer from the Cardinals this spring. For Louisville to reel in Harvey, however, it will need to beat at least 10 schools, including Maryland, Notre Dame and Texas.
Louisville is also pursuing 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz, a teammate of Harvey’s at DeMatha Catholic High.
• Speaking of a dominant duo sharing one part of the court…There may be no defensive gameplan that can counter the Georgia Stars’ big men. The group includes five-star power forward Wendell Carter, four-star center Udoka Azubuike and four-star center Abdulhakim Ado. Combined, that’s 248 inches and 780 pounds of listed frontcourt heft. It should come as no surprise that those three have dominated the paint during the tournament.
Over four games, the Stars have outscored their opponents in the paint 194-106, or an average of 22 points per game. In addition, the team has owned opponents on the glass, posting offensive rebounding percentages of 44, 33, 42 and 39, respectively, in victories over Nike Pro Skills (Texas), The Family (Mich.), Albany City Rocks (N.Y.) and the Las Vegas Prospects (Nev.), compared to 36, 18, 30 and 23, respectively for each opponent.
Thanks in large part to Azubuike, Ado and Carter—as well as four-star shooting guard and Florida State commit Trent Forrest, among other contributors—the Stars enter their final game of pool play on Saturday with a 4-0 record. A coach considering how to take on the Stars may want to consider downsizing, spreading the floor and forcing Azubuike, Ado and Carter to leave the paint. Trying to match size with size, in this case, is a bad idea.
One team who would seem to have the size needed to bang on the block with the Stars is Pro Skills, which features five-star center Marques Bolden and four-star center Schnider Herard. Yet when Pro Skills faced the Stars on Thursday, the latter squad easily won the battle inside and the game, by 34 points.
• Power is a defining trait of many top big men who operate mostly near the basket. The best wing prospects, meanwhile, are often regarded favorably for their perimeter skills. As Miles Bridges keeps honing the latter, he’ll continue to display the former while punishing the opposition. Bridges uses his combination of size and strength to maneuver around defenders before attacking the basket. He’s also active on the glass, having pulled down 8.8 rebounds per game over 16 games on the Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, and a spectacular dunker.
At the end of a game on Friday morning, Bridges hammered home a powerful windmill that sounded a little bit like this Russell Westbrook jam.
A five-star prospect in the class of 2016, Bridges currently counts scholarship offers from more than 15 schools. He released a list of his top eight in June: Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Michigan, N.C. State. Though Bridges attends powerhouse Huntington Prep in West Virginia, he hails from Flint, Mich, which has produced the so-called “Flintstones,” trio of Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell that led the Spartans to the national championship in 2000.
Michigan State is pursuing him strongly, but it will face stiff competition from several other high-major programs to add him, including Kentucky. It’s difficult to imagine any of them disappointed by what they’ve seen from Bridges so far during the tournament. Over four games with the Detroit-based The Family, Bridges has averaged 22.8 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from three-point range.
• UConn has another quality lead guard on the way in Alterique Gilbert. The Miller Grove (Ga.) High standout, who committed to the Huskies last week, should acquit himself well at a program that has produced a steady stream of backcourt standouts. With Ryan Boatright expiring his eligibilty this season, the Huskies could play either graduate transfer Sterling Gibbs or Jalen Adams, a five-star prospect in the class of 2015, at point guard. Gilbert could join Adams in 2016 and instantly help the Huskies with his scoring ability.
At 6’1,’’ 170 pounds, Gilbert does well to shake his defender in the open court and slash to the basket. He also possesses range on his jump shot and, on the other end of the floor, works hard to keep opposing ball handlers in front of him. The No. 30 player in the class of 2016, according to Rivals.com, starred in Friday night’s highly anticipated bout between Team CP3 and Team Takeover. Gilbert dished out five assists and connected on six of his nine field-goal attempts for 22 points in a 28-point win.