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August 18, 2014
Starting Five: Newman leads Team USA
Over the weekend, USA Basketball won another gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championships level by outlasting Australia, 99-92. Leading the way for the USA in the title game was five-star senior shooting guard Malik Newman, who scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Newman was also named MVP of the tournament, and it shouldn't be a surprise to see him perform so well on a big stage.
Currently ranked No. 2 overall in the 2015 Rivals150, the 6-foot-4 guard from Jackson (Miss.) Callaway has long been one of the elite players in his class. So long has he been on top that perhaps people have taken him for granted, at least a little bit.
Everybody knows that Newman can put the ball in the hole with the best of them; he has proven that over and over again. However, it seems that he's at times been painted as either a somewhat selfish player or a gunner. Make no mistake, Newman loves to shoot the ball, and his shot selection is sometimes questionable. But we don't buy into the notion that he is at all selfish.
One simply needs to look at his MVP performance at the World Championships to understand. Newman led the USA with 14.9 points per game while making 47.7 percent of his field goals (36.4 percent from three). That's not a surprise. What is impressive is that he also spent much of his time playing out of position at the point guard spot and handed out the most assists on the team. When the USA stumbled out of the gates early against Australia, it was Newman who got vocal with his teammates and then unleashed a barrage of pull-up jumpers to get his team a lead they would never relinquish heading into the half.
There are certainly plenty of things left for Newman to improve upon as a prospect, but he has proven over and over that he deserves to be mentioned with 2015's elite players. Whether or not he can overtake Ben Simmons to reclaim the No. 1 spot remains to be seen, but at this juncture we find it impossible to rank him anywhere outside of the top three in the senior class.
Oregon picks up late addition
During the last few weeks of July, rumors swirled that four-star wing Dillon Brooks would attend school with his natural high school class and enroll college rather than attend a year of prep school at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Prep. Most of the rumors had Oregon pegged as his potential destination.
Those rumors came to fruition on Sunday night when Brooks announced that he would be attending Oregon as a member of the 2014 class. He plays a different position, but he more than makes up for the recent loss of big man Ray Kasongo to the admissions process.
Ranked No. 50 in the class of 2015 before deciding to skip his prep year, Brooks is a tough, hard-working, skilled, blue-collar wing who brings it on both ends of the floor. He has a strong body that allows him to finish through contact, is a sneaky athlete and has a great feel for when to shoot the jumper and when to drive. A member of the CIA Bounce summer program, Brooks is coming off of a great summer after treading water for a bit during his senior year at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, where he sacrificed his personal game for the team and often played as an undersized power forward.
Oregon's 2014 recruiting class was already ranked No. 15 nationally, but with Brooks in the fold they will likely move up a few spots.
Talent influx in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, both Steve Alford and Andy Enfield are entering their second year on the job. At UCLA, Alford took over a basketball blueblood looking to return to glory, while at USC Enfield is hoping to build the program and bring the kind of "Dunk City" flash that he brought to his previous stop at Florida Gulf Coast.
Judging by what they are doing on the recruiting trail, both are well on their way to accomplishing their goals. Each had very successful first recruiting outings in 2014 with Alford landing the nation's No. 8 class and Enfield reeling in the No. 23 class. In 2015, they both look to be at it again.
Over the weekend, the Bruins hauled in the nation's No. 27 player when shooting guard Prince Ali gave a verbal commitment. An athletic and aggressive wing player, Ali joins athletic and tough combo guard Aaron Holiday (No. 43 in the Rivals150) to give UCLA a pair of highly regarded four-star prospects to start their class off with. On top of that, they are very much in the hunt and quite possibly lead for No. 3 overall Jaylen Brown.
Meanwhile, all Enfield and the Trojans have done to start off their 2015 class is land a pair of top-50 forwards in Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright. At 6-foot-9, Metu is a very athletic and lengthy forward who can play above the rim but he's started to show a nice package of skills facing the hoop. Boatwright, on the other hand, is a rangy 6-foot-8 shooter with unlimited range who can shoot the jumper with the best of them.
Bottom line, Arizona has been dominating recruiting on the West Coast for a while now and the Wildcats don't appear to be losing steam (Sean Miller already has three five-stars onboard for 2015). But Alford and Enfield are proving to be up to the task as recruiters and will turn Los Angeles into a college hoops hotbed if they keep up their current pace.
Observations from Nike's Global Challenge
Rivals.com did not attend the Nike Global Challenge in Chicago during the latter part of last week. However, all of the games were streamed live online, and we did take some time to watch. Here are three brief observations from what we saw.
We wrote at the end of July that Stephen Zimmerman was really finishing his summer on a high note. He looked quite strong again in Chicago. The five-star center has really embraced playing around the rim and it showed as he controlled the glass, scored on the interior and made great passes out of the block. Not surprisingly, he was then able to face up and do some damage. After a bit of a lull in his development, Zimmerman looks to be back on the road to improving each time he takes the floor.
Maybe one of the toughest players to gauge in the class of 2015 is big man Ted Kapita. At times, he looks like one of the most dominant players in the class and at others he is almost invisible. All of the tools to be a high-end big man are certainly there. He is strong, he has some touch and he is a very athletic 6-foot-9 power forward. When his motor is running full speed he is a load. The problem at this point, though, is that you never know which Kapita is going to show up.
Rivals.com loved what Jalen Poyser did at Adidas Nations earlier this month. So much so that he made himself a lock for the post summer 2015 Rivals150. After watching him some at the Global Challenge, Poyser not only cemented his spot in the rankings but he will enter them in the four-star range. He isn't the strongest kid around, but he has good size and is very elusive with the ball. He can score, he can set guys up and he seems to be improving at a rapid rate. As of last week his recruitment hadn't really taken off, but it should be happening soon.
Rankings updates coming
The summer is over and kids are headed back to school. Naturally, everybody wants to know when the rankings will be updated. The answer to that question is soon, very soon.
On Tuesday, Aug. 26, the revamped class of 2015 Rivals150 will be revealed. We are in the process of moving players around and there will definitely be some major movement both up and down the list. On Friday, Aug. 29, we'll take those new Rivals150 rankings into account when we release our first edition of 2015 team rankings.
On Wednesday, Sept. 3, the class of 2016 rankings will be refreshed and expanded from a top 100 to a true Rivals150. Because of that, there will be lots of new names making their debuts in the rankings.
Finally, on Wednesday, Sept. 10 we will unveil our first look at the class of 2017. Expect the first look at 2017 to be much smaller in scale because there is still so much time left for that class to develop and because it hasn't been scouted to near the extent that 2015 and 2016 have.
Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.