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Summer Circuit: 5 Burning Questions

The single Spring Evaluation Period has passed and the summer circuit is about to hear up. We take a look at the national scene and answer five pressing questions surrounding this summer’s travel ball circuit.

1. Will the Under Armour and adidas circuits make waves against the Nike EYBL?
The other shoe companies involved in grassroots basketball have finally figured out the only way to make a dent on Nike’s strange hold on the nation’s top talent is to create a league similar to the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL). The Under Armour Association and adidas Gauntlet is off to a good start with enough talent to get the attention of the recruiting networks and other national media who cover the grassroots scene. Top 10 talents such as Diamond Stone of Dominican (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) and Malik Newman of Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) are playing on the Under Armour circuit as is Student Sports National Sophomore of the Year Josh Jackson of Consortium College Prep (Detroit). The adidas circuit includes talents such as Jaylen Brown of Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) and Chase Jeter of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). The arms race to secure the top talent not only makes for stronger teams and more intense play, league standings and statistics also gives recruiting analysts a much better gauge of how elite talent performed at events they were unable to attend. In years past, they had to rely on Internet recaps and word of mouth.

Burning questions 1502. Will the Class of 2016 live up to lofty expectations?
The 2016 class is shaping up to be a memorable group, but it still remains to be seen if it can measure up to the all-time great classes such as 2007, 1988 or 1979. Our initial reaction is the class won’t quite reach the lofty heights of those legendary classes. There are two ingredients great classes contain — top flight-point guards and an abundance of big men. 2016 definitely is oozing with talented pivots such as Thon Maker of Carlisle School (Martinsville, Va.) and Udoka Azubuike of Potter’s House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.), but it’s still debatable if a franchise-type point guard or two exists in the class. The rumor mill also has Maker and/or Josh Jackson potentially reclassifying up to the 2015 class. A move up in class by either player would greatly impact 2016’s overall strength.

3. Will Lonzo Ball make believers across the country?
Speaking of an elite 2016 lead guard, the jury is still out on the 6-foot-4 do-it-all from Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.). Some West Coast scouts, such as Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com, feel he’s the region’s best lead guard prospect since Jason Kidd. Others with respected opinions who see him less are not so sure. Ball had a standout sophomore campaign for Chino Hills and led the Huskies to the SoCal Div. I regional final, but he struggled on the ball at the Team USA tryouts last June. Ball might have the best instincts of any guard in the country, but his comfort level on the court drops a bit when he’s not playing in an up-tempo, open-court style. Our take is the UCLA-bound guard will adjust and eventually win over national scouts with his instincts, rebounding and overall offensive ability.

4. Will Stephen Zimmerman re-gain his status as a consensus top five prospect in the Class of 2015?
Going into the 2013-14 season, the 7-foot 2015 center from Bishop Gorman was a bonafide Mr. Basketball USA candidate. Although the Gaels won another state title and finished ranked No. 13 in the Student Sports FAB 50, Zimmerman didn’t dominate in Gorman’s marquee games and he didn’t appear on a single ballot in the final, expanded Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. Zimmerman is playing with the Oakland Soldiers on the EYBL circuit with top five recruit Ivan Rabb of Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) and that means he won’t be the focal point on the block. Zimmerman has a multitude of skills and he displayed some of them during the first EYBL session in Sacramento, Calif. Overall, however, he scored 20 points in three games and his team struggled playing three bigs at once — the third being Chimezie Metu of Lawndale (Lawndale, Calif.). Zimmerman will need some big scoring and rebounding outputs to remain in the top five and if the team doesn’t solve its spacing and guard issues this weekend in Dallas it won’t be easy for Zimmerman to put up numbers.

5. What’s going to happen to Harry Giles’ national ranking if he doesn’t play a majority of the summer?
The 6-foot-9 forward from Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) was anointed early as the No. 1 player in the 2016 class, but he hasn’t played competitively since suffering a serious knee injury last June while playing for the U.S. U16 national team in the FIBA Americas Championship in Maldonado, Uruguay. Giles hoped to be cleared in March and play for CP3 in the first EYBL session, but that didn’t happen. He’s ranked No. 3 by ESPN Recruiting Nation, No. 1 by 247Sports.com, No. 2 by Rivals.com and the top player at his position by Scout.com. If he doesn’t get back on the circuit soon, no credible recruiting network can keep him that high considering he doesn’t have any experience on the 17U circuit. He does have No. 1 prospect in the country potential, but some other 2016 elites played 17U last summer and are improving while Giles rehabs. Even more important than his ranking, he is going to have to get acclimated to playing competitively again and that could further slow his development.

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