NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Five things we learned Friday from The Nike EYBL Peach Jam:
1) Single team herds are the new recruiting tactic
Everywhere Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski goes, he draws a crowd. While the legendary Duke headman has been unfailingly pleasant with each fan who approaches him, he’s also ensuring that he’s in a crowd because he has brought his assistants with him at each stop. It’s not just Duke; nearly every other major program has had multiple coaches at individual contests. Michigan, North Carolina, Michigan State, Virginia. All of them.
The assistants in tow have been there for a reason. While it might be helpful to spread out and gather more intel, Coach K and the Duke staff are sending a message to whichever top recruit they see: We’re focused on you. You’re the priority.
If early feedback is any indication, it seems to be making an impact.
“It speaks volumes,” top junior recruit Michael Porter Jr. said of Duke’s coaching presence after Coach K and crew watched his night session finale on Thursday. “It shows how much they’re interested in you.”
2) No room at the inn for prep school coaches
Division I NCAA head coaches aren’t the only ones here; they’re high school hoops factory counterparts are on the premises, too. They just aren’t receiving quite the same white glove treatment as Coach K, Roy Williams and their peers.
More than once, when Huntington Prep head coach Arkell Bruce and Findlay Prep head coach Andy Johnson have descended on court seats, they’ve been bounced back. We’re hopeful that they were allowed to remain when there were empty seats, but we have no proof of that.
It sure seems to us that they deserve that privilege. After all, coaches are coaches.
3) Whole Foods: Where coaches go to eat (and kill time)
Want to see a Division I coach during his off hours? Go camp out at a Whole Foods. Really.
During a break in the action on Friday, we counted no fewer than 11 Division I basketball coaches during a two-hour period at a Whole Foods that is two highway exits away from the Northwest Recreation Center, which has hosted the Peach Jam for the past 20 years. Some were head coaches, some were assistants, but all came hungry.
Without giving away identities, the coaches ranged from east coast to west and Power 5 conference to smaller would-be challengers. All picked something up and sat in the cafe area, though they were foiled by one issue: The cafe in the Augusta Whole Foods has just one phone charger, leaving most frustrated from their goal of boosting their battery life by a colleague.
4) No team is unbeatable
So much for the unbeatable goliath. Team CP3, which appeared to be a decisive favorite after Thursday, opened Friday by struggling through a 12-point loss to Team Final, which limited Harry Giles III to 14 points. In fact, they were only kept in the game by Alterique Gilbert’s impressive 24-point explosion.
Yet the loss may have only made Team CP3 stronger heading into Saturday’s eventual postseason round. For one, Gilbert has fully hit his stride, as evidenced by his 22 points against Team Takeover. And the team as a whole attacked the game from the opening tap, with Giles in particular taking matters into his own hand.
5) Jayson Tatum has been the Jam’s most consistent player
Many have made the case for Tatum as the nation’s top overall prospect. He certainly hasn’t done anything to dissuade that belief through four games. Here are his lines: 29 points-11 rebounds, 26-11, 20-6, 20-10. And he’s put home his team’s biggest buckets, t00. Put it all together, and Tatum enters Saturday with a legitimate buzz, right alongside Giles.