LAS VEGAS — If college basketball reform makes this July evaluation period the last of its kind, what a way to go out. The country’s best of the best put on a five-day highlight reel last week in Las Vegas, with colleges coaches and fans turning high school gyms into packed sardine cans.
Here are 10 prospects that stood out among all the impressive performances:
The supremely skilled, 6-foot-10 big looked every bit like the best prospect in Vegas with Each 1 Teach 1. He showcased elite scoring at all three levels, paired with his immovable-object defense inside. Coaches from his top five schools — Miami, Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky — were a constant presence for E1T1’s games at the Fab 48. This five-star recruit will make a significant, immediate impact wherever he goes.
Recruiting is often about performing well at the right time, in front of the right eyes. That happened last week with Bajema, a 6-7 shooting guard from near the Washington-Canada border. Michigan head coach John Beilein tracked him throughout the first two July periods. Utah, Northwestern, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Minnesota, Xavier and other high-majors joined the party last week. Bajema currently holds a handful of low- to mid-major offers from Santa Clara, San Francisco and UC Santa Barbara, among others, but he’s certainly on the high-major radar now. He’s a skilled guard in a 6-7 body, with solid handles and a beautiful, rainbow 3-point shot.
Mann closed the final evaluation period of his newly opened recruitment in solid fashion. The 6-4 point guard’s knees aren’t 100 percent, but he played at a high level whenever he was on the floor. His best game came Wednesday, leading E1T1 to a convincing win over a great Team Rio squad. Mann is an elite shooter and a tremendous play-making floor general. His AAU coach, Tony Atkins, told USA TODAY Sports that pretty much everyone “except Duke” had reached out since Mann re-opened his recruitment on July 13. His original final three of Tennessee, Florida and Kansas are still in the picture. North Carolina, Iowa State, North Carolina State, USC, Indiana and Louisville are several of the new programs to watch here.
Another E1T1 kid, Walker came to Vegas as the 2019 prospect with perhaps the most buzz. And he lived up to the hype. Playing on a team full of elite talent, Walker was consistently the best athlete on the floor. His ability to find space and drive to the rim for thunderous dunks or and-ones is uncanny. Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas all got plenty of looks at him. Arizona offered on Sunday. A versatile 6-8 forward, Walker is currently rated a top-50 prospect — but you’d be hard-pressed to find 30 recruits better than him.
Quinones made waves on Friday when he scored 37 points in New Heights’ 74-53 win over Team Rio. He was already a nationally known, top-100 guy. But the way he picked apart a team that boasts several five-star prospects was perhaps the biggest performance of the week. The 6-5 shooting guard picked up an Arizona offer on Sunday. He holds plenty of high-major offers, including from UConn and Xavier, but Kentucky and Duke were courtside for his 37-point game.
For whatever reason, Johnson’s recruitment didn’t take off in high school. Air Force offered the 6-7 forward/wing from Waukee, Iowa, but the spot was filled before he could commit. He’s planning to attend the Hargrave Military Academy for a prep year, but he might not need to. Kansas State, Minnesota, Boston College, Wofford and Loyola-Chicago, among other programs, took note of Johnson’s versatility playing with Kingdom Hoops last week. He can guard multiple positions and score efficiently from long range and on drives to the rim. A dynamic forward you can plug into any scheme, Johnson could be a great fit for a team seeking a final 2018 piece. Stony Brook and American have offered this offseason.
Yes, we’re including a 2022 kid in here. Livingston is a 14-year-old, 6-5 wing who is already creating buzz in the recruiting world. He’s from Akron, Ohio, and has already gotten the inevitable “next LeBron James” comparisons. He played well with his AAU team, We All Can Go, and James even drove out to watch him play at Desert Oasis on Saturday. There’s little doubt Livingston is one of the country’s best eighth-graders, and he’ll rack up plenty of offers over the next few years.
Already a top-100 national recruit, the San Diego native elevated his recruiting profile even more with great performances with the Oakland Soldiers. The 6-2 point guard sprained his ankle on Friday and didn’t play Saturday, but he did enough to tack on an offer from Arizona State. We’ll see how the Sun Devils factor in here, as Arizona, Oregon, San Diego State, Georgia Tech and USC are the major players right now. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, who offered a couple weeks ago, also watched Ellis in Vegas. North Carolina State is involved, too. It’s thought that bigger fish may still enter the fray.
Roach, a 2020 prospect, was without a doubt one of the best point guards (of any age) in Vegas. After a heartbreaking loss to Compton Magic on Wednesday night, Roach led Team Takeover to the Las Vegas Classic’s “The 8” title, scoring 17 points in the championship game over Team CP3. He’s a bulldog of a guard who can score at all three levels and defend like crazy. The 6-2 prospect is a top-10-level talent for 2020. He’s currently rated that class’ No. 1 point guard, and he proved why in Vegas. Duke certainly thought so; it offered on Monday.
Jackson had presented a strong case to be 2019’s best athlete so far this July, and that trend continued in Vegas. He routinely soared for eye-popping dunks or alley-oops with his Albany City Rocks squad. The 6-6 wing picked up offers from Indiana and Dayton before Vegas, and he recently took unofficial visits to UConn and Syracuse. He could add more offers as he takes visits this August. Just get this guy the ball and watch him work.