Think of July like a marathon on foreign terrain. It starts off on the highest mountaintop looking down at the most beautiful harbor surrounded by the bluest of water. You spend half the race winding down the mountain looking at picturesque scenery, enjoying every minute of the view, much of which is brand new.
And then the real race kicks in …
All of the sudden it's the second half of the marathon, it's all uphill and cloudy. Your body is sore, the mind is clouded and you're doing all you can to make it to the finish line. That folks, is what the month of July looks like for a recruiting analyst who may catch a dozen flights and spend up to 22 nights of the month in a hotel room. Of those 22 nights, you're lucky to get 6 hours of sleep per.
The basketball at times can be exhilarating as prospects look to boost their stock with the coaches, earn coveted scholarships and compete for major camp and tournament championships. It's the most important month on the calendar because it's the one-month where everyone is on the same playing field. You want to play in front of college coaches, you head to places like Indianapolis, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Las Vegas or Dallas and everywhere in between.
Nearly everyone can enter just about any event and if you do, the chance to showcase your talents opens up before the eyes of scouts and coaches. If you fancy yourself a player, its guaranteed your on a roster in more than one event, hopping on at least one plane ride and lacing them up in a city you may have never visited. It is, July, the most grueling and important month on the national recruiting calendar.
Prior to the month, there have already been a host of amazing performances and performers. Since the air went out of the high school season, elite players have been getting it done on the traveling team and camp circuit in preparation for this July grind.
Here's what we've learned since late March.
The Hottest Rising Seniors
Dave Telep: Anthony Davis, a power forward out of Chicago not only wasn't on our radar last year, he was a 6-3 guard not 6-10 hybrid forward. His spring blow up and subsequent breakout at the NBA Camp vaulted into the Scout.com Top 5. Alongside NBA Camp MVP Chane Behanan, he enters the homestretch with the most eyes on his every move.
Evan Daniels: This category is a lay up. Two guys – Chane Behanan and Anthony Davis – showed out this spring. Behahan's out of this world performance at NBA Camp was not only exciting but also unexpected. He may be undersized (6-foot-7, 255-pounds) for the four-spot, but he's a pit bull that never stops barking. He has strength not only in his arms and shoulders, but also in his legs that causes problems for the opposition.
As a player, Behanan and Davis are complete opposites. But Davis' impact was has been felt just as much. His semi-finals performance at NBA Camp was among the top performance I've seen since entering this business. He has the length to be a major force blocking shots, but he also has the hands, touch and ability to face up. He may be a late bloomer, but don't sleep on him. He's among the best talents in the entire country.
Off The Radar But Not Forgotten
Dave Telep: The kids from the USA U17 team spent much of June and part of July in San Antonio or overseas. Their performances chronicled by USA Basketball and relayed to the rest of us. Brad Beal has been on a tear as James McAdoo limbers up following an injury.
Evan Daniels: Unfortunately D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a 2012 prospect out of Indianapolis (Ind.) North Central, won't be able to lace them up this July due to a knee injury. The 6-foot-3 combo guard was primed for a big month, as he's gotten a step quicker, has improved his handle and is a talented scorer.
J.J. Redick Would Be Envious
Dave Telep: The guy with the best stroke these eyes have seen is Kentavious Caldwell. From his play with his traveling team in the spring, the Georgian looks like a cold-blooded sniper with size, range and the Chutzpah to make a play when needed.
Evan Daniels: The best long-range sniper in the class of 2011 could also make a case for the top overall player – Austin Rivers. In the FIBA Americas U18 Championship he clicked off 21 threes in five games, including nine in one. His range extends well past the three-point line and he has the confidence to pull-up at any time.
It's Like Ben Wallace Taught Him
Dave Telep: However you want to phrase it, pound for pound, inch for inch, whatever, Branden Dawson is in my opinion the best rebounder in this class. Actually, he's the best offensive rebounder, which to me is an even loftier distinction. Dawson owns a strong body, a nose for the ball and the natural ability to track down a rebound like he's locked in via homing device.
Evan Daniels: The nation's top rebounder isn't a power forward or a center. The nation's top rebounder is 2011 wing prospect Branden Dawson. An athletic 6-foot-6 forward, Dawson makes it his personal goal to lock down the paint and snag any and every rebound in his vicinity. He's especially an animal on the offensive glass and more often than not turns those boards into points.
Dikembe Mutombo Says "No."
Dave Telep: Ever attempt to score against a 7-foot lengthy kid with a 9-3 wingspan? It's not easy and that's just one trait that makes junior center Isaiah Austin an elite prospect. He blocks so many shots you find yourself losing count. Mutombo would be proud. "Deke" would also be jealous because he never had a fraction of Austin's offensive abilities.
Evan Daniels: There are three different directions you could go here. Rakeem Christmas, Isaiah Austin or Anthony Davis. Christmas is the most athletic of the three, while Austin and Davis use their extreme length to get their hands on a lot of shots. For the sake of picking one, I'll go with Austin, as he's become much more active and is a force swatting shots. With that said, all three are talented shot swatters.
Chris Paul Makes It Look Easy But These Guys Try
Dave Telep: The purest natural point guard in the senior class going into the summer is Myck Kabongo. He's the guy with the best combination of winning, leadership and game. Marquis Teague may be faster, Quinn Cook can score it and Shannon Scott drops dimes. Kabongo borrows a page from them all.
Evan Daniels: Marquis Teague is the best lead guard prospect. His speed and athleticism at the position is unmatched. He's better than his brother – Jeff Teague – at the same stage and will likely join him in the NBA ranks sooner than later.
Myck Kabongo isn't too far behind him at the position. He possesses all of the intangibles and leadership qualities that you want in a lead guard. Another guy that deserves some ink is 2012 prospect Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell. He hasn't received the attention he deserves and I expect him to string together a big July.
Better Look In The Rear View Mirror, Bron
Dave Telep: Just kidding, we don't currently have another LeBron James in the high school pipeline but we do have talent in the ranks. Since Al Gore invented the internet, the planet's shrunk and the basketball scene is now covered coast to coast. There are few secrets. What we can tell you is that the national high school basketball audience, while it may be aware of 2013 forward Julius Randle, it might not know just how talented he is. If you're into answering "Who's Got Next," then give Randle a look.
Evan Daniels: Earlier this spring we introduced the world to Julius Randle, the top overall prospect in 2013. But a guy that has flown just behind him is Connecticut native Kuran Iverson. At 6-foot-8, 190-pounds, Iverson is a legit small forward prospect with mobility, swagger and an impressive scoring package.
And Finally … Who Is No. 1?
Dave Telep: Our job over at Scout.com is to figure this thing out. In the senior class, Michael Gilchrist has been our guy the better part of two years. A warrior with a blue collar, tough guy approach to the small forward position, Gilchrist is an achiever. He enters the summer No. 1. Unless something changes, his top senior competition comes from Quincy Miller and maybe Austin Rivers.
A case can be made that Miller has the most pro upside of his rivals for the spot. Rivers will play as a scorer in college before assuming a Tyreke Evans-like role in the pro ranks. These guys are great players, strong prospects and professionals sooner than later. Gilchrist is going to Kentucky, Miller may join him and Rivers is getting hit by the blue bloods including the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils.
Evan Daniels: In the 2012 class there are a pair of prospects that have made a strong case to be considered the top overall player. Andre Drummond has held the spot for over a year and is well deserving of the honor. The Oakdale (Conn.) St. Thomas More standout has a great set of hands, high-level athleticism and the bulk to body with anyone.
Breathing down Drummond's back is 7-foot Texan Isaiah Austin. His effort at Pangos All-American camp was impressive, but what he strung together at NBA camp surpassed it. He has extreme length, gets his hands on a lot shots and even has the ability to face up for jumpers to 21-feet.
Drummond's the pick for No.1 now. Will he be able to hold off Austin through July?