The Peach Jam was this weekend, which is the culmination of Nike's EYBL season. Twenty-four teams competed. Forty five of 2016's top 100 recruits played. The early games were shown online in higher quality than your typical mid-major home stream. The semis and finals were on ESPNU.
Florida State currently has the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation, and two of three commits were at the Peach Jam: Trent Forrest (Georgia Stars) and Jonathan Isaac (E1T1). The event features four courts, and the Stars and E1T1 played on the same schedule but different courts. Since this is a live evaluation, Leonard Hamilton and Stan Jones were both there as well. One would post up with the Georgia Stars, and the other would watch E1T1. Then they'd switch.
E1T1 was knocked out in the quarter-finals, while the Georgia Stars took home the title.
I watched all of the games. Here are some thoughts about what I saw:
CG Trent Forrest (Georgia Stars)
True to his reputation, Forrest was relentless attacking the rim. He used his size well to shield off defenders. His finishes were solid, creative. His reverse layups will remind fans of Aaron Thomas. He ran the point at times. He's a big guard who can handle the ball and get his feet into the paint. His passing is a strength. He routinely collapses the defense on drives and then kicks to the open shooter.
Defensively, he reacts well, and I'm sure he led his team in deflections. In different games he was assigned to guard De'Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, and Miles Bridges, who are all consensus 5* recruits. He also rebounds well and gets a hand on lots of balls out of his area.
He led the Stars on a big comeback in the semi-finals, and sent the game to overtime with an impressive drive.
At this point he's capable of being a plus defender and being a weapon in transition. When he gets a defender on his hip, he gets to the rim. He becomes less valuable in set pieces as defenders don't really need to honor his outside shot, though if the defense gets moving then he can penetrate with ease. He's already stated that his shot is his focus for the next year. Once he poses more of a threat from outside then he'll be seriously difficult to guard.
SF Jonathan Isaac (E1T1)
Jon Isaac is a problem. As much as any player in the tournament he flashed moments that left you shaking your head at his skill. He's a true perimeter player and he's already 6-9. Go small and he just shoots over the top. Go big, and he drives past you.
Most of the battle of watching high school kids is trying to project forward - not just in their skills, but in their body. The precedents for 6-10+ perimeter guys aren't many, but there are enough that you see where his game is going. His go-to is the drive with a step-back counter. When he drives he's quick and explosive for his size, but his finishes need a lot of work.
His counter move off the drive (the step back) makes people look silly. Though he didn't shoot well from deep in this tourney, he has a pure shot.
The WOW moment came on Saturday morning, when Isaac did this. A few minutes later, a trainer who works with him, sent out videos of him teaching Isaac that move less than two months ago. And that's what makes him such a special prospect. A year ago he was a lengthy kid with a fascinating set of skills. Now he's a basketball player. And he's processing new information at a tremendous rate.
His senior year will be interesting to watch as he adds strength and continues to hone his skills.
CG Brandon Robinson (Georgia Stars)
Brandon's game is beginning to come together. He's a long, lean, glider. He never looks like he's going full speed, and then he's past people. He gets great lift on his jumper, and his form is good, but he needs his shot to be more consistent. Trent Forrest's shot to send the semis game to OT was preceded by two clutch free throws from Robinson.
His length is disruptive on defense.
Primarily, he needs to bulk up and continue to tighten his handle. Coach Hamilton is recruiting a lot of multi-dimensional wings, and Robinson fits right in. Ham wants to be able to mix and match, and Robinson brings versatility.
C Udoka Azubuike (Georgia Stars)
I'm not sure what the single season dunk record is at Florida State, but if Azubuike plays in garnet and gold the record will be his. He looks to dunk everything. He's a powerfully built 6-11 with a long wingspan, and he uses his strength to get great position.
He'll block shots. He's a good athlete. He can run the floor.
His glaring weakness is a lack of post moves. Bullying defenders works fine, but elite post players have a range of moves and know when to use them. He's developing a drop step. He shows an occasional power dribble. He won't play his first college game for 16 months so he has time to work.
His conditioning needs to improve as well.
PF Wendell Carter (Georgia Stars)
I don't think FSU has much of a chance for Carter, and so I'm not going to spend time on it. But he's an absolute beast. He's one-and-done. He'll be in the conversation for the No. 1 player in the class.
PF Kevin Knox Jr. (E1T1)
Playing on U-16 Team USA has changed Knox as a player. Before, he was a bundle of size and energy. Now he's harnessed that energy and is beginning to look like an extremely skilled player.
I think he ends up as a consensus top 25 recruit, and much of that is due to his effort. No one outworks him on the court.
He flashed several nice baseline drives, which typically ended in dunks. He's constantly in motion. He's physical. He's no fun to guard.