Notebook: Simmons a true contender

Ben Simmons

In our weekly Notebook feature, the Scout.com national team explores diverse topics within the grassroots hoops realm.

Simmons has signature performance in Dallas

As I watched Team Takeover against the St. Louis Eagles this past Sunday evening at EYBL Dallas, I couldn't help but peak over to the adjacent court where Montverde (Fla.) Academy standout Ben Simmons was playing.

Last time I had watched him live was in December at the City of Palms. In one of the evaluations at COP, Simmons put together perhaps the best performance I saw all of high school season. Then he backed it up with a good, but not necessarily resounding, showing a day later.

Having missed out on seeing him at EYBL Sacramento and him not being able to play with E1T1 Elite at the Gibbons TOC last weekend, I was eager to see the 6-foot-8 powerfully built forward in action again.

It started as me glancing up and seeing him make a couple plays off the dribble. In a couple minute stretch, Simmons scored in transition through contact, made a strong move to the rim and switched to his off hand for a finish and knocked down a three-pointer.

By this point, I was locked in on Simmons. He was being aggressive off the dribble and had scored 11 straight points. He was playing with force on the offensive end. He was using his superior size, strength and athleticism to take over a good Athletes First team.

As the game wore on, he began to show the other facets to this game, particularly his passing and ball handling. Simmons has the ability to grab boards and push the break, which he did on a handful of occasions on Sunday. Once in transition, Simmons was tossing out pinpoint passes to slashing teammates with either hand.

When it was all said and done, Simmons finished with 35 points on 14-for-18 shooting and snatched 12 rebounds. It was arguably the top performance I've seen this spring.

There's been significant debate about who should be the top prospect in the 2015 class. Currently we have Ivan Rabb sitting in the pole position, but Simmons is certainly in the conversation.

— Evan Daniels

Can Michigan State get their recruiting mojo back?

One of the major questions around the Midwest the past two recruiting cycles is what happened to Michigan State's recruiting. Ever since landing five-star Gary Harris on signing day in November of 2011, the Spartans have really struggled on the recruiting trail missing high level target after high level target.

However, that could be changing in 2015. Already in the fold is power forward Deyonta Davis, someone with five-star potential. Now the news has come down that Caleb Swanigan has moved from the 2016 class to the 2015 class. This is big because Swanigan will easily be a five-star player, and the Spartans are the school that has done the best job with him early on in his recruitment, and could be considered the early leader for his services.

Now there is clearly a long way to go, but if MSU can find a way to lock in Swanigan and pairs him with Davis, that is as good a frontcourt one-two punch as any in the class. Add in that Michigan State is also in a very solid early spot with players such as Henry Ellenson, Eric Davis and Jalen Brunson, and it has the potential to be a major bounce back class for Tom Izzo and his staff as they could once again have things rolling in East Lansing.

— Brian Snow

Ellenson deserves name mentioned amongst elite centers in 2015

The fact that 6-foot-9, 250-pound Rice Lake (Wisc.) 2015 center Henry Ellenson has participated in major AAU basketball and the USA Basketball Developmental Camp since he was a freshman has allowed Scout.com to get a great feel for him as a prospect.

Early in his career, he was a skilled center very capable of shooting from outside - as he showed at USA Basketball before his sophomore season - but if there was one concern, it was the fact that he had a thick frame and you worried about his mobility.

In the fall before his junior season, at adidas Nations and USA Basketball, Ellenson continued to prove his outside shooting ability and played hard, but the concerns with his frame and athleticism still existed.

Watching Ellenson this weekend at EYBL and suddenly there's reason to feel significantly better about him as a prospect. Yes, he can still hit three-pointers, but the difference in his body and mobility is night and day. He's slimmed down and he really gets up and down the court in a hurry now.

Also, it's not that you ever care that much how well your center can handle the ball, but his improved ball skills flat out create mismatches for bigger centers and he's legitimately capable of creating off the dribble if there is a matchup or a defensive lapse occurs.

Ellenson can keep developing around the basket - although his feet and footwork aren't bad - including added toughness inside and develop a better midrange jumper, but there's no denying that this kid is moving in a terrific direction as a prospect and now has to be included in any discussion about the top centers in 2015.

— Josh Gershon

ACC flirting with disaster … or at least disappointment?

There have been quite a few commitments recently from rising seniors, as I wrote last week. But there's a subplot brewing as well: The alleged "new" best conference, the ACC, appears to be lagging.

It's not that the ACC lacks any commitments, the problem more is that the league has too few members on the board. Syracuse certainly has upheld its end of the bargain, capturing pledges from Malachi Richardson (No. 17 nationally), Franklin Howard (No. 58) and Tyler Lydon (No. 63). The Orange are on their way to signing a highly esteemed class.

Duke also leapt out to a solid start. The Blue Devils hold the league's most touted commitment thus far, No. 14 Luke Kennard, and they may be close for No. 18 Chase Jeter.

But the only other ACC program to hold a top-100 pledge is Pittsburgh, which prevailed for No. 81 Damon Wilson. And that's it.

Where's North Carolina? Or Louisville? Or N.C. State, with its recent success? Or Virginia, immediately following its breakthrough season? With an increasing number of players looking to decide early, who leads for whom?

The league's five top-100 commitments doesn't sound catastrophic on paper, but the fact that Syracuse holds three of the five doesn't bode well for top-to-bottom success. Fifteen programs now populate the conference, and those that get skunked in the top 100 aren't likely to make a rapid move up the standings.

One thing has become obvious as we approach summer: It's time for everyone to get cooking with commitments.

— Rob Harrington

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report

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