High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Jason Jordan

CP3 Camp: Williams, Selden motivated

June, 11, 2012
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Bryant Crawford immediately identified with what Chris Paul was lecturing about during the CP3 Elite Guard Camp at the Gateway YWCA here this weekend.

Crawford too doesn’t see the point of shooting a 12 to 15-footer when he’s “more than confident” that he can get all the way to the basket at will.

But as he continued to listen to the Los Angeles Clippers All-Star point guard, Crawford changed his perspective almost immediately.

“See I had to transition my mind to start shooting floaters because once you get to the league guys are longer and way more athletic,” Paul told the campers. “It’s so important for your game to evolve, and adding a floater opens up so much more offensively. It’s just something else that keeps the defense guessing and makes you more dangerous offensively.”

After the chat, Crawford, a rising sophomore point guard at Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.), and the rest of the campers ran through countless drills to try and perfect the floater.

“When CP3 broke it down like that it made so much sense,” Crawford said. “I know that from now on I’m going to be using the floater so much more. It’s hard because I’m a young guy and I’m really confident so I always want to take it all the way to the hoop. Now I’ll use the floater more.”

Justin Jennifer said he’ll take a similar approach now for one key reason.

“CP3 is the best point guard in the NBA,” said Jennifer, a rising sophomore point guard at John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.). “We’d be crazy not to listen to him.”

Williams motivated by snub

Kameron Williams couldn’t help but feel slighted when he learned that he didn’t get an invite to the prestigious National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va., which runs from June 13-16.

Makes sense since Williams, a rising senior combo guard at Mt. St. Joseph’s (Baltimore, Md.), led the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in scoring averaging 22.2 points a game.

“It’s just something else I’ll have to overcome,” said Williams, who is ranked No. 69 in the ESPN 100. “People have been overlooking me since I started playing. They don’t think a 6-foot-2, skinny guy like me is supposed to be scoring like I do, but it’s OK. I’ll use this as motivation. I’ll show them they got it wrong.”

ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi certainly didn’t get it wrong. He immediately referred to Williams as “one of the best natural scorers in the country.”

“He’s under control and he reads the play exceptionally well,” Biancardi said. “When he’s open he’s a legitimate threat to score every time.”

Now Williams is focused on leading Baltimore Elite AAU squad to the Nike Peach Jam title on July 19-22.

“This will just make me work even harder,” Williams said. “This just made me that much hungrier.”

Beard connects with future teammate

After going to battle against some of the top guards in the country, including current Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp for one day, Anton Beard felt like he was ready to end his recruitment and pick the Tigers.

“I just knew it was the right fit for me because I love the school and the coaches and being here made me think about it more,” said Beard, a rising junior at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet (North Little Rock, Ark.). “I got to talk with Phil a little bit and then I didn’t even know, but one of my future teammates is right here with me at this camp. We’re getting to know each other now.”

Zach Coleman, a rising senior swingman at Woodrow Wilson (Dallas), committed to the Tigers in early May and said that after watching Beard at the camp he thinks the two can be a lethal tandem in the future.

“I think that once he gets there we’ll work together pretty well,” Coleman said. “He’s really talented and I think that his skills compliment mine pretty well. We’ve been talking a lot more since we found out we’re going to be teammates so this made the trip even better.”

Selden stays hungry

Wayne Selden fully expected that when he reclassified from 2014 back to his original class of 2013 last week a drop in the rankings was imminent.

He was right.

Selden dropped from No. 6 in 2014 to No. 20 in 2013, a plunge that “didn’t bother me at all.”

“I remember when I wasn’t ranked at all,” said Selden, a shooting guard at Tilton (N.H.). “So this isn’t anything to me. If anything it’ll just be more motivation to get back to where I was. It gives me something to work for. But, to be honest, I didn’t need anything else for motivation. I stay hungry.”

Players use rankings as motivation

June, 11, 2012
Troy WilliamsScott KurtzTroy Williams of Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) was shocked that he had dropped to No. 42 from No. 6 in the ESPN rankings, but he says the shift forced him to focus more and play smarter.

Roughly two weeks ago, Troy Williams underwent a mental metamorphosis which caused him to develop a rather sizable chip smack-dab on his shoulder.

When ESPN RecruitingNation released its updated hoops class rankings, Williams learned he’d plummeted from No. 6 all the way to No. 42 in the ESPN 100, a drop that he said he “never saw coming.”

“I was shocked that I dropped that low,” said Williams, a rising senior swingman who runs with Boo Williams Summer League’s AAU squad. “I don’t get it at all, but that’s someone’s opinion, and it’s up to me to prove them wrong. It definitely bothered me though.”

Williams’ sentiments were shared by plenty of players on the AAU circuit, who felt their ranking fell short of their production thus far this AAU season.

“I think most players think they should be ranked higher,” said Tyus Jones, a rising junior point guard who runs with the Howard Pulley Panthers and is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 60. “I wouldn’t want the job of rankings players. Too many people would be mad at me.”

It’s no cakewalk for ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep and Co.

Not when the reality is that every player who isn’t the top player in his respective class thinks he’s underrated to some degree.

“It’s extremely challenging,” Telep said. “Rankings should be taken as a snapshot for where the players are and help them size-up the competition for where they want to go. If it motivates them, great, if they don’t care, even better. The best players just put their heads down and go about their business. I’ve never had a conversation with John Wall (No. 5 in the ESPN 100 in 2009) about where he was ranked.”

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis used his No. 20 rank as motivation. He scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at this year's Jordan Brand Classic.
Added Jones: “I’ve never had a coach mention anything about where I’m ranked. They don’t care about that stuff so that tells you all you need to know about rankings getting you to the next level. Most coaches don’t even look at rankings.”

Neither do players. Or so they say.

Most players are reluctant to even admit that they pay attention to rankings; a “defense mechanism” according to Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

“Guys try and say that they don’t look at rankings, but they do,” said Rathan-Mayes, a rising senior combo guard with CIA Bounce who is ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100. “We all look at them; it’s the difference between the guys that use rankings as motivation to get better and the guys who don’t.”

Rodney Purvis was definitely part of the former.

Purvis always felt slighted when the rankings were updated, but eventually developed the mindset that he’d just have to prove why he should’ve been ranked higher. He focused particularly on one aspect.

“Any time you play a person ranked above you, you’ve got to destroy them,” said Purvis, a shooting guard who will play at N.C. State next season and finished his senior season ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100. “That’s a must, but you also have to destroy the players ranked below you. Use it as fuel and build on that. That’s what I did.”

Purvis’ result?

Roster spots in both the Jordan Brand and McDonald’s All-American games.

“You can turn it around,” Purvis said.

Still, it’s important to keep rankings in proper perspective.

Jahlil Okafor doesn’t concern himself with ascending from No. 2 in the ESPN 60 to No. 1 because the way he sees it “anyone of the top six players could be No. 1.”

“Most times you dropping or not moving up doesn’t mean you were bad, it just meant some other players were great,” said Okafor, a rising junior center who runs with Mac Irvin Fire. “Rankings, for most players, are like adversity because we all want to be the best. So you’ve just got to approach it like you would a tough situation on the court. You just have to respond.”

Williams is responding.

Two days after his fall from grace, he led BWSL to a 6-0 record in the fourth session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, averaging 14 points per game.

“I think dropping like that helped me focus more and play smarter,” Williams said. “I definitely learned a valuable lesson, and that’s to go hard at all times and everything else will take care of itself. That’s what’s gonna make you a winner.”

A fail-proof plan no matter where you’re ranked.

Montrezl Harrell embraces delayed spotlight

May, 29, 2012
Montrezl HarrellCourtesy of William WiebkingAfter being released from his commitment to Virginia Tech, senior Montrezl Harrell is starting the recruiting process from square one. Now Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama and more are calling.

TARBORO, N.C. -- Montrezl Harrell has truly arrived.

He leans back in the tan metal chair inside the vacant lobby at North Edgecombe High School, interlocks his fingers behind his head, crosses his legs and smiles.

Perhaps it’s fitting that he’s lounging in the school where he dominated for three years in front of fans who never quite understood why he wasn’t getting much national hype because now the hype machine is about to overheat.

“I’ve always felt like I was underrated,” said Harrell, a 6-foot-8 forward who recently finished his senior year at Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.). “So it feels good to be getting all of this attention now even if it’s because of things I had no control over. I’m starting all over with my recruitment, and this is a different level, but I like it.”

Harrell, who is ranked No. 89 in the class of 2012 ESPN 100, originally committed to Virginia Tech last March, and was the prize of the Hokies’ 2012 haul -- a relentless workhorse who earned a reputation for his versatility and power dunks.

In February, Harrell threw down 18 dunks in a 122-119 overtime win over Fishburne Military School (Waynesboro, Va.). He finished with 51 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.

“I was definitely ready to put that kind of work in at Tech,” Harrell said. “I liked it there so much I committed without ever going on an official visit anywhere. I loved Tech.”

Montrezl Harrell
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMontrezl Harrell earned MVP honors at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game in Charlotte, N.C. in April.
That all changed on April 23 when Virginia Tech fired its head coach Seth Greenberg, who, Harrell said, was the main reason he picked Tech.

“Montrezl got really close to Coach Greenberg,” Harrell’s father Samuel Harrell said. “So when he was gone, Montrezl knew right away that he wanted to open things back up.”

Harrell eventually received a release from his scholarship on May 16, which green-lit calls from Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Xavier, Cincinnati, Auburn, Illinois and Baylor. North Carolina State also expressed interest in Harrell, but due to ACC rules, Harrell would have to sit out one year if he chose to transfer within the conference, unless he’s granted a waiver.

“I was definitely interested in State, but I don’t want to sit a year,” Harrell said. “I’ve got a lot of big time schools recruiting me now. It’s another level.”

Still, don’t get him wrong; Harrell is fully aware that he’s reaping the rewards of the recruiting dust settling.

“Some schools didn’t get the guys they wanted and now here I am,” Harrell said. “Now they want me. I know that. It definitely doesn’t bother me because I’m a confident player. Honestly, I kind of look at it like it’s about time.”

That’s the best approach, according to ESPN.com recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi.

“There’s a reason that he’s in this position,” Biancardi said. “When that kind of size and skill is on the board at this stage of the game you’ve got to have it. True, some teams didn’t get their guy, but he shouldn’t be concerned with why he’s getting the attention now. It’s here and he earned it, but he can’t let the attention get to him.”

Nerlens Noel concurred, and he would know.

As the top player in the ESPN 100, Noel received the recruiting process’s star treatment from some of the same schools before picking Kentucky.

“It can be stressful if you let it,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.). “Montrezl just has to do what’s right for him. Of course I think that’s Kentucky, but no pressure. When you’re getting this kind of attention it’s just a different level.”

Harrell certainly put up high-level numbers to validate the attention.

He averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for Hargrave, whose only loss came to Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), 87-76, in the National Prep Championship on March 7. In two postseason games – the Jordan Brand Regional and Capital Classic -- Harrell averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks per game. He took home MVP honors in both.

“I worked hard this year,” Harrell said. “I feel like all this is just a sign that’s it’s paid off. It’s weird having to go through the process all over again. I definitely learned a lesson though, and that’s to hear everyone out. I’m sticking to that plan.”

The short-term plan is to take three visits, the first of which will be to Louisville from May 31-June 2. Harrell has yet to decide which of the other schools will get the last two visits.

“I’ll decide that in the next week or so,” Harrell said. “But, like I said, I definitely want to go through the process because I didn’t do that last time. So nothing’s gonna stop me from doing that.”

Not even if Florida’s Billy Donovan will be his coach at the Team USA U18 National Team training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., from June 5-12.

“I guess that could be a little awkward since he’s recruiting me now,” Harrell said of Donovan. “But I’ll be OK. I’ll just be down there ready to learn. He’s a great coach. I’m not gonna let anything be stressful about my second recruitment. I’m in the position that I worked hard to be in. I’m happy even if I think the schools caught on late.”

Better late than never.

Reebok Showdown: Coger ready to lead

May, 14, 2012
WINSTON SALEM, N.C. -- SEBL (N.C.) forward Tyrek Coger knows that for the first time in at least six years he won’t be able to look to Rodney Purvis to bail the team out with a much-needed basket.

Purvis and Coger have teamed up on Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) for the last four years and played AAU together since they were 11, but with Purvis headed off to North Carolina State next season, Coger knows it’s his time to step into the role of the leader.

“It’s just my time,” Coger said. “I’ve definitely got a lot more motivation this summer knowing that a lot more will be on my shoulders next season. I’m using this time to improve. I know I’ll have to produce even more.”

So far so good.

Coger scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead SEBL to a 73-67 win over Team Loaded (Va.) in the Reebok Showdown Series Southern Regional title game Sunday at the Gateway YWCA here.

“I just know that this is my summer,” said Coger who is averaging 18.7 points and 12 rebounds per game this AAU season. “I have been working really hard, and I know that this is the time to step things up and produce. It’s a lot different without Rodney, but I feel like this summer will set the tone for my senior year so I’m going hard at all times.”

Tyler Lewis and coach Steve Smith
ESPNHSOak Hill's Tyler Lewis and coach Steve Smith accepted the POWERADE FAB 50 national championship award May 11.
Lewis’ Mom the Ring Bearer

Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) point guard Tyler Lewis turned plenty of heads when he walked into the Reebok Showdown Series last weekend.

Most were looking to see if he was sporting his brand new national championship ring.

Lewis, a North Carolina State signee, and his teammates received their rings Friday at a ceremony where they were presented with a trophy for finishing No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50, posting a 44-0 record.

But Lewis said if people want to see his ring they’d have to ask his mother, Margaret.

“I ended up just giving it to her,” Lewis said. “The ring is crazy, and I didn’t want to lose it or have anyone try and steal it. It’s all hers.”

D-ONE has Young Studs

You’d be hard pressed to find any team in the country in the 17-and-under division with one seventh grader on its roster. D-One Sports (N.C.) has three.

J.J. Smith, Jordan Riley and Chris Wilson all log solid minutes for D-One who went 2-1 this past weekend at the Reebok Showdown Series.

D-One coach Kendrick Williams said, in the long run, the trio will benefit from the exposure.

“It’s about the maturation process and giving them a greater challenge,” Williams said. “All three guys have grown a lot already. It’s like deferred gratification. It’s tough for them now, but they’ll be very well prepared for this level well before they would normally.”

Just Two Years for Djitte

It’s hard to believe that Upward Stars (S.C.) big man Sidy Djitte has only been playing organized basketball for the last two years. The 6-foot-10 center was all the talk of the Reebok Showdown Series after averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks a game.

Djitte, a junior, came to Northwood Temple (Fayetteville, N.C.) in January from Senegal and his guardian, Craig Spradlin, said this summer is all about “getting him more and more exposure.”

“He came over here to have a better opportunity through basketball,” Spradlin said. “So he’s just working hard and we’re trying to get him in position to be seen by schools. He’s already had a good amount of schools inquiring about him and showing interest, but he’s got lots of potential. I think this can be a breakout summer for him.”

Tyus Jones stays calm amid pressure

May, 4, 2012
Tyus JonesCarlos GonzalezTyus Jones is the top point guard in the class of 2014.

HAMPTON, Va. -- Clearly, Tyus Jones is new to this whole “marked man” thing.

It’s not that he doesn’t agree, it’s more that he doesn’t want to come across as arrogant. But when pressed, Jones had to be honest when asked if he can tell that players on the AAU circuit this year seem to see him as an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

“I’d have to say, yes,” said Jones, who runs with the Howard Pulley Panthers (Minn.). “Guys go at me more and defenses are keying in on me more. It’s like they know who I am before the game and are ready for me. I just have to be ready at all times.”

Such is the life of the top point guard in the ESPN 25.

From ferocious face-guarding to box-and-one defenses to facing determined, energetic guards, Jones has noticed that his bull's-eye has grown from big to immeasurable.

“I forget sometimes that he’s 15 years old,” Panthers coach Antwan Harris said. “Just the way he handles kids going at him. They all know where he’s ranked and they want what he’s got. They want to be in his position. It’s become much more physical this year, but he’s up for the challenge.”

Rasheed Sulaimon said he’d better be.

Sulaimon, a senior shooting guard at Strake Jesuit (Houston), has faced the same intense attention on the court ever since he committed to Duke in February last year.

“Everyone is gonna keep coming at Tyus because he’s on top,” said Sulaimon, who is ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU 100. “The best way to deal with that is to work harder and keep getting better. It will only get more intense from here. It’s tough.”

Good thing Jones, a sophomore, has had a little practice.

It’s the same thing he went through this season at Apple Valley (Minn.), where he averaged 28 points and eight assists per game and led the Eagles to a runner-up finish in the Class 4A Section 3 tournament.

Jones’ secret?

“I don’t get rattled,” he said. “I just always stay calm. It’s crazy because people expect me to play perfect and never miss a shot and always make the right play and just be perfect. I know that’s crazy so it helps me to stay cool and play my game. I just go out there and try to get it done.”

So far, so good.

The Panthers (5-4) are third in scoring in the EYBL, putting up 69.9 points a game. Jones ranks third in scoring, dropping 20.8 points per game, and leads the league in assists with 6.6 per game.

“Tyus handles all of the attention very well,” said ESPNU national recruiting director Paul Biancardi. “He doesn’t force the issue. He makes the play that the possession calls for versus trying to get his. He’s very efficient and he’s under control, yet he plays the game at a fast pace. That’s what makes him elite.”

That and the fact that heavyweights like Kentucky’s John Calipari, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, among others, sat courtside for most of his games last weekend.

“The thing I love about Tyus is that he’s never satisfied,” Harris said. “He’s driven to be the best point guard in the country.”

Jones echoed those sentiments immediately, and when reminded that he’s already considered the top point guard in 2014, he was quick to point out that he’s “not just playing against players in my class.”

“I’m playing 17U, so I want to be the best of the best,” Jones said. “I think it’s important to have goals and that’s one of mine. I want to be the best point guard, period.”

AAU notebook: NCAA coaches inspire

April, 30, 2012
HAMPTON, Va. -- CP3 All Stars (N.C.) swingman Theo Pinson doesn’t mind admitting that when he glanced over to the sideline and saw coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, North Carolina State and others watching his every move, it gave him extra incentive to work even harder on the court.

Pinson and CP3 were one of 40 teams competing in the second of four sessions in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League here last weekend. The teams are vying for one of 24 spots in the Nike Peach Jam in July.

“Some guys say they block it out, but I don’t think that’s real,” said Pinson, a sophomore who is ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 25. “I definitely think to myself that I need to do the little things and play better defense and concentrate on playing harder. The coaches are the big motivator.”

Metro Hawks (N.Y.) junior guard Isaiah Lewis agreed.

He said that seeing the coaches who are recruiting him made him want to play harder to reinforce the fact that they want him.

“You don’t want that interest to drop off,” Lewis said. “There are so many good players in this league, and you just want to come out and play the best that you can. The coaches help you with that.”

Last of the Unbeatens

With the second session of the EYBL in the books, CIA Bounce (Can.) is the lone undefeated team. The Canadians won five games this weekend by an average of 18.6 points per game and now sit at 9-0.

Bounce guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said that even though they’re the last undefeated squad, there’s no pressure to remain perfect.

“We’re just going to keep going out and performing at a high level,” he said. “We feel we can go undefeated throughout the entire season.”

Parker Sits Out

Mac Irvin Fire (Ill.) had to compete without its biggest piece this weekend, swingman Jabari Parker who is the top player in the ESPN 60. Parker stayed back in Chicago to nurse a sprained ankle and to receive an award, according to his teammate Jahlil Okafor.

“We just had to keep playing hard without him,” said Okafor, a sophomore center who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 25.

The Fire went 3-2 this weekend without Parker, who is expected to be ready for session three in Dallas on May 11-13.

Randle’s Shoe Obsession

Julius Randle had to bring an extra bag on his trip to Hampton for the second session of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, but it wasn’t for extra clothes. Randle needed a bag to store seven pairs of shoes.

“I mean come on, I’m a ball player,” said Randle, a junior forward who ran with Team Texas Titans. “I’ve got to switch up my shoes for my different games.”
Randle wasn’t kidding.

From Kobe Bryant’s grey and blacks shoes to Kevin Durant’s black and blues, Randle wore a different pair each time he took the floor.

“I’m just a sneaker guy, I guess,” said Randle, who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 60. “That’s just my thing.”

Rim Bender

Mac Irvin Fire (Ill.) center Jahlil Okafor caused quite a stir in his game against the Georgia Stars in the morning session on Sunday. Okafor bent the rim down when he missed a dunk in the second half, stopping play for more than an hour.

Immediately, players and spectators ran from the adjoining courts to snap pictures of the bent rim.

Eventually, the game was moved to another court and Mac Irvin won 65-51.

Ballers dish on goals for AAU

April, 26, 2012
This time last year Rodney Purvis, a senior shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was intent on using the AAU season to improve his all-around game.

“I wanted to get better in every aspect of my game,” said Purvis, an N.C. State signee. “That was what I was focused on.”

A year later, Purvis has won a state title, was named North Carolina’s Mr. Basketball, made the McDonald’s All-American Game and won MVP of the Jordan Brand All-American Game.

He even won the ESPNHS Fans’ Choice Player of the Year award.

“Hard work pays off,” Purvis said. “Younger guys have to go into AAU with goals. That’s the key.”

We caught up with a handful of underclassmen and had them dish on their goals for the AAU season.

Julius Randle
High School: Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), 2013, PF
AAU Team: Team Texas Titans
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Gain a better understanding of the game and to learn to read defenses better. Right now I’m still learning when and how to attack the defense. They end up loading up on me. So I want to increase my basketball IQ.”

Tyus Jones
High School: Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), 2014, PG
AAU Team: Howard Pulley Panthers
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Become a more vocal leader and a better rebounder and a better defender.”

Isaiah Lewis
High School: Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG
AAU Team: NY Metro Hawks
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Be a top 50 player. I’ve been improving my game since my freshman year and I’m gonna show everyone this summer.”

Jahlil Okafor
High School: Whitney Young (Chicago), 2014, C
AAU Team: Mac Irvin Fire
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Be a better defender. I want to be able to be able to defend out of my area and become more of a shot blocker. I have most of the offense down, but I’m really concentrating on my defense to be more of a threat.”

Wayne Selden
High School: Tilton (N.H.), 2014, SG
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Improve my overall game and polish all of my skills. Coming off of an injury that had me out for almost three months I feel like I have a lot to gain this AAU season. I want to take my offensive and defensive game to another level.”

Brannen Greene
High School: Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG
AAU Team: Florida Rams
Committed to: Kansas
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Gain more exposure and play against the best competition. I want to become the best player that I can be. I already know where I’m going to school so I’m just working hard to get better and play in the Elite 24, McDonald’s and Jordan Brand.”

Austin Nichols
High School: Briarcrest (Eads, Tenn.), 2013, PF
AAU Team: M33M
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Have fun knowing that this is my last year. I also want to play to the best of my ability.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Quick Shots: Six start strong in EYBL

April, 24, 2012
After the first session of the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League last weekend, only six teams left Minneapolis, Minn., with unblemished records. Houston Hoops, Oakland Soldiers (Calif.), CIA Bounce (Can.), E1T1 (Fla.), California Supreme and Albany City Rocks (N.Y.) all went 4-0, and will head to Hampton, Va., this weekend for session two.

“To come out 4-0 is big time,” CIA Bounce coach Mike George said. “Guys picked up right where they left off. Our goal for this year is just to take it one game and one play at a time.”

Rams Run Vegas
The Florida Rams took home the adidas VIP Exclusive Run 17U title in Las Vegas on April 22 with a 77-64 win over the Garner Road Bulldogs (N.C.). Kasey Hill, a point guard at Montverde (Montverde, Fla.), was named MVP after dropping 16 points and dishing out eight assists in the win. Chris Walker, a forward at Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Brannen Greene, a shooting guard at Mary Persons (Forsyth, Ga.), added 17 points for the Rams.

Walker won the highly-anticipated individual matchup with North Carolina bound forward Isaiah Hicks of J.F Webb (Oxford, N.C.) by beating him on the glass, creating space in the paint and making an impact the entire contest. Hicks finished with eight points in the championship game. Anton Gill, a junior shooting guard at Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.), led Garner Road with 17 points.

The Florida Rams also captured the 16U title with a 64-56 victory over Indiana Elite. MVP Lance Tejada of Miramar (Miramar, Fla.) finished with 16 points. The victors also got a 17-point performance from 6-foot-4 Adonys Henriquez of Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.).

Edwards Shines in 15s
One of the players who made the biggest impression on scouts and college coaches last weekend in Vegas was Hyron Edwards of Central (East Chicago, Ind.). He led the Indiana Elite to a 86-76 victory over Dream Vision (Calif.) in the adidas VIP Exclusive Run 15U title game. The 5-foot-10 freshman impressed with his feel for the game, ability as a passer and knack for making the correct play after driving the lane. Edwards, who reportedly holds offers from Indiana and Purdue, finished with a game-high 30 points.

Leading the way for Dream Vision with 22 points was 6-foot-2 freshman Stephen Thompson Jr. of Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.). He's the son of former NBA player, Syracuse star, and Crenshaw (Los Angeles) standout Stephen Thompson, who Slam Magazine named one of the 50 best dunkers of all-time in 1999. Son doesn't quite have the bounce of his father, but his shooting stroke is much more promising.

Another freshman (2015) who impressed was Tyler Dorsey, a 6-foot-4 combo guard at Ribet Academy (Los Angeles). Dorsey played up with Belmont Shore (Calif.) in the 17U Invitational Division at the Pangos Spring Spectacular. Belmont Shore was one of the favorites to capture the 17U title, but they were beaten by Play Hard Play Smart Elite (Calif.) in the semifinals, 84-78. That team went on to defeat the Danny Granger D1 Ambassadors Elite (N.M.) in the championship game, 94-76.

Dorsey told ESPNHS he'll likely head to another school for his sophomore season. His coach at Ribet Academy last season, William Middlebrooks, is now the coach at Cathedral (Los Angeles).

Harrell Leads U.S. to Win
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points and snatched 12 rebounds to lead the U.S. All-Stars past the Capital All-Stars 105-93 in the Capital Classic April 21 at T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.).

Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) swingman Justin Anderson scored 17 points for the Capital All-Stars.

“It was a great honor for me to win MVP in that game,” Harrell said. “There was a lot of talent in that game, but I had a lot of fun just playing. It was a great honor to even have been in the game.”

Next year Bob Geoghan, founder of the Capital Classic, will hold the long-running all-star game for the 40th consecutive year.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC Notebook: Shabazz finishes strong

April, 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn’t really dawn on Shabazz Muhammad until he walked into Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, but when he thought about the fact that this was the last time he’d get the chance to lace 'em up as a high schooler, he could think of only one thing.

“It was important for me to finish strong,” said Muhammad, a UCLA-bound swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “This was the last time to go out and showcase what you can do with all of your friends, so it was important to finish strong and have fun.”

Muhammad had a ball leading the West past the East 99-95. He scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds en route to claiming the West’s MVP trophy.

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Rodney Purvis, a shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was named MVP for the East after scoring 22 points in the loss.

“We all had a lot of fun this week, but it was definitely important to go out with a strong performance,” Purvis said. “You want to set the tone for what you’re gonna do next season. Since I was playing in front of my hometown fans from NC State, I wanted to put on a good show.”

Noel’s Influx Of Followers
So much for the myth that once you commit to a college, you lose Twitter followers due to the fans of the schools you didn’t pick clicking the “unfollow” button.

When Nerlens Noel, a center at Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), announced Wednesday night on ESPNU that he was going to Kentucky, his Twitter-follower numbers skyrocketed from 23,000 to 38,000 that very night.

As of Saturday, he was up to 44,000 and counting.

“That’s the power of Big Blue Nation,” said Noel, who suited up for the East. “I knew they would have my back. That’s a major reason that I picked Kentucky. You can’t find better fans anywhere else on the planet.”

Parker Ready To Decide
Looks like we’re finally going to find out where Tony Parker is headed for college.

Parker, who is considering Duke, Ohio State, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown, Kansas and Memphis, said he’ll make his decision late next week at his school.

“I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but next week is the week,” said Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) who suited up for the East. “I’m just ready to get it over with. It’s been a long process, and I’m ready for it to be over. I’m still weighing things out, but I gave myself 'til next week. That’s when it’s happening.”

Bennett For Three
On April 7, after Team USA battled back from an 18-point deficit, World Select forward Anthony Bennett buried a 3-pointer, which was deep by NBA standards, to thwart any chance of a USA win. World Select went on to win 84-75 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

At practice for the Jordan Brand Classic, Bennett, a senior forward at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), re-enacted the big shot during water breaks, taunting the eight All-Americans who had suited up for Team USA.

“It was a pretty good shot, huh?” Bennett said. “That thing was pretty!”

None of the other players agreed. Go figure.

Harrell Leads East
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the East past the West 84-82 in the Jordan Brand Regional game.

Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) forward Montay Brandon led the West with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC Notebook: UNC recruits ready to go

April, 13, 2012
Jordan Brand Classic shoesUNC fans will be out in full force Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C., for the Jordan Brand Classic to watch future Tar Heels J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.P. Tokoto signed with North Carolina for the tradition, Roy Williams and to win a national title, but another big reason Tokoto was excited about being a Tar Heel was to have the chance to learn from swingman Harrison Barnes.

That won’t happen now.

Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson all declared for the NBA draft recently, and for Tokoto that meant just one thing.

“We’re gonna have to be ready to step right in and produce,” said Tokoto, a bouncy forward at Menomonee Falls (Wis.). “We’ve still got plenty of talent, but I think we may get called on a little earlier than most people thought we would.”

Brice Johnson feels the same way, and he said he’s ready for whatever the staff needs him to do.

Johnson and Tokoto are teaming up this weekend at Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the East. Another UNC commit, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) point guard Marcus Paige, was supposed to play in the game, but he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and couldn’t travel. Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) forward Joel James rounds out the Heels’ 2012 class.

“We’re all gonna need to be ready sooner,” said Johnson, a forward at Edisto (Cordova, S.C.). “That’s fine with me, though. Bring it on. I’m ready. I’ve just gotta gain weight.”

He’s contemplated giving up track, because the little weight he does gain ends up falling right off with training. But when you’re the reigning state champion in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, it’s hard to walk away.

“I’m about 210 now, but I’m gonna get it up,” Johnson said. “I eat a large pizza and a half of another large in one sitting, so I’m going hard at it. Either way we’re gonna be ready. All of us. I don’t want fans to drop their standards. We will show people next year. We’re gonna be a force.”

Starting Lineups

The probable starters for the West are Rasheed Sulaimon, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. The probable starters for the East are Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Rodney Purvis, Nerlens Noel and Tony Parker. Both lineups are as of Friday and could change by game time.

2K Challenge Owned by Wildcats

Last year, Anthony Davis took home the Jordan Brand Classic NBA 2K Challenge. Davis went on to win the Wooden National Player of the Year Award and be named NCAA Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the national title.

This year, Noel kept the Kentucky tradition alive when he and the Miami Heat took out Tokoto and the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime.

“It’s just the Kentucky swag already coming on me,” said Noel, who announced for Kentucky Wednesday night on ESPNU. “All we do is win, no matter what. What can I tell ya?”

Courting Parker

Once Muhammad announced that he would take his talents to UCLA next season, he made it clear what his first order of business would be with the Bruins.

“I’ve got to get Tony [Parker] to come along with me and Kyle [Anderson],” said Muhammad, a swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “I think we can get him. He’d just bring a lot to the team next year. I think with him in the class we’d be set.”

Anderson, who was the first to commit to the Bruins, will team up with Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), on the East against Muhammad at the Jordan Brand Classic this weekend. But if he has it his way, this will be the last organized game that the three are divided.

“We’ve got to get Tony,” said Anderson, a point guard at St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). “I think with me and now Shabazz coming at him, it’s even more appealing to him. We’ve been on him all week here. I think we’ll be able to get it done.”

Sulaimon is on Point

With West point guard Paige out, Sulaimon will have to step in and run the point.

“I’m very comfortable running the point,” said Sulaimon, a shooting guard at Strake Jesuit (Houston). “I’m willing to do whatever I’ve got to do in order for my team to get this win. That’s all I’m worried about. This will only continue to help me develop.”

Sulaimon, a Duke signee, said that the Blue Devils’ coaching staff has talked to him about running the point at times next season.

“I’ve talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski about it and they want me to be ready to play some point next season,” Sulaimon said. “I’m fine with that. I’ve always trained to be versatile in the backcourt and even though I’m a scorer first I know the importance of setting my teammates up. I’ll be ready to roll.”

Highlight of the Practice

East point guard Anderson threw swingman Tokoto an alley-oop and Tokoto caught it and did a 360 dunk. The gym went into a brief frenzy.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC stars reveal their No. 2 schools

April, 13, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brandon Ashley is finally ready to reveal a few universal secrets about the recruiting process, secrets that are so exclusive he can only tell you at the end of his senior season.

“Hey, I mean, this is the last event of the year and, either way, I’m headed to Arizona. Why not?" said Ashley, who will suit up for the West in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

That’s why his cunning grin said it all when he was posed with the first question: Do recruits really have a list of five to seven schools that they’re considering?

“To be honest, no,” Ashley said with a laugh. “That’s just something we put out there to keep it exciting. We put it out there in the media to build that suspense, but in our minds it’s like, 'I’m not going there.' It’s usually just two schools in the end.”

Rodney Purvis concurred.

He said that after a while, players get tired of the “same old boring questions that media guys ask” and decide to spice things up and make it fun.

“I would go on Twitter sometimes and say something like, 'It’s time to get away from my family and grow up,' and people would panic and say I was headed to UConn,” said Purvis, who will suit up for the East on Saturday. “I know for a fact that most of us do things like that, but Brandon’s right, it typically comes down to just two schools in the end.”

The operative questions are: Who came in second? And how close did it really come between the final two?

“Whoa, man, that’s some heavy stuff right there,” said Rasheed Sulaimon, who will suit up for the West. “That’s top-secret info right there. You sure you wanna know that?”

Oh indeed we do.

We caught up with a handful of Jordan Brand All-Americans and had them reveal which school they almost signed with.

Brandon Ashley
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), F
Signed to: Arizona

The school that came in second for me was …
“Oregon. I just had a great relationship with them and I just loved everything about that school. That said, I can honestly say that they weren’t anywhere close to Arizona for me. I don’t care what I said during the recruiting process. When I went on my visit to Arizona it was over.”

Rodney Purvis
Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), SG
Signed to: NC State

The school that came in second for me was …
“UConn. I gotta keep it real, it was super close. When I came back home from visiting there I said, 'I’m going to UConn.' Then I talked to my mom and she said to wait it out a little longer. The more I thought about it I knew that it was NC State. They were just in my heart. Coach [Mark] Gottfried did a great job recruiting me and every time I would shoot around at State it felt right. I remember when I was at UConn after we played pickup, I went back to the gym alone just to shoot around to see what feeling I got and it wasn’t the same. I didn’t sense that it was the right place for me.”

Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG
Signed to: Duke

The school that came in second for me was …
“North Carolina. I know I may lose cool points with my Duke fam for this one, but we’re keepin' it real tonight. Of the two schools, North Carolina recruited me first. I grew up a Duke fan, but at the same time when those letters come in you just get excited about who’s on you. North Carolina was leading for me. Then Duke came in and the separation was when I talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. We just got close really quick and built a strong relationship. I guess you could say Duke stole me away from North Carolina.”

Kelly Kline/ESPNHSKyle Anderson said that if UCLA didn't exist he'd be a Seton Hall Pirate.
Kyle Anderson
St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), G/F
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“Seton Hall. I’ve never told anyone this, but this is crazy. Exactly a week before I chose UCLA I had decided that I was going to Seton Hall. It was a done deal. Then I had another talk with my family the next day and I felt like it was UCLA. If UCLA didn’t exist I’d be at Seton Hall, no question. I just couldn’t turn down [UCLA], the tradition, the weather, the beach, all the pros that play there in the summer. Plus I’m cool with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, just everything about it. And I mean, c’mon, it’s L.A.!”

Shabazz Muhammad
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“I’m not just making this up either, but I promise you it could’ve gone either way between Duke and Kentucky. I promise. It was so tough saying 'thanks but no thanks' to those schools. With Duke, they needed a scorer and I knew if I added myself to that team it would really be successful with the guys they had coming back. Then with Kentucky, you’ve got Archie [Goodwin], Alex [Poythress] and Nerlens [Noel] coming in, and if I joined them I know we could’ve done big things. I’m telling you it was just crazy tough. UCLA was just the best fit for me in the end.”

Archie Goodwin
Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.), SG
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Kansas. I love coach Bill Self and I loved Kansas. The school was great, the fans were great and they did a great job recruiting me, but, honestly, there wasn’t anything they could’ve done to get me. I had been saying since the ninth grade that I wanted to play for Coach [John] Calipari. I tried to give everyone a chance, but I never got the same feeling I did with Coach Cal.”

Alex Poythress
Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), SF
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Vanderbilt. It was so close. They were recruiting me for the longest and I honestly had the best feel for that school. But in the end I just had to go with my gut feeling. But it was close.”

J.P. Tokoto
Menomonee Falls (Menomonee Falls, Wis.), SF
Signed to: North Carolina

The school that came in second for me was …
“Wisconsin. It was home and it felt right, but once I visited North Carolina and talked to the players and guys that were coming in, it was a no-brainer.”

Nerlens Noel
Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), C
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Georgetown. My mom really liked them a lot. She was sold on them. She loved how family-oriented they were and, like I said in my blog, my mom’s opinion was what mattered most to me. We had to sit down and talk and I had to really get her to take a longer look at Kentucky. Then when she did she started to like them a lot, too. But it was pretty close, man. It was pretty close.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC stars dish on their favorite Jordans

April, 12, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Back in February, when Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) forward Tony Parker learned that he’d be suiting up for the East in the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte (7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN), he was most excited about the fact that he’d get the chance to meet Michael Jordan.

“I’ve got to thank him for all these hot shoes he makes that have given me all this game,” Parker said with a laugh. “I wonder what Jordans we’re gonna hoop in. That’s important, you know.”

Indeed it is.

After all, Spike Lee, er Mars Blackmon, has been saying it in Air Jordan commercials since the early 1990s: "It's gotta be the shoes."

That begs the question: Which Jordans are the best to ball in?

We caught up with the Jordan Brand All-Americans to get the low down.

Shabazz Muhammad

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF

Signed to: UCLA

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d have to say the 9’s because I hooped in them all year and they’re really comfortable.”

Archie Goodwin

Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.), SG

Signed to: Kentucky

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d definitely have to say that the Concord 11’s are the best shoes to hoop in. They’re light and those colors really set it off. They’re just really comfortable and I honestly like all the Jordans, but if I had to pick one those are the pair I’d say.”

Tony Parker

Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), PF


The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“Definitely the 12’s for sure. They are just really comfortable shoes and they give great ankle support. I love playing in those.”

Rasheed Sulaimon

Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG

Signed to: Duke

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“Probably the 11’s. I’ve got every color of that shoe that ever came out. Love them because they’re light and they give great support. It’s a very stylish shoe too. It just raises the bar when you’re rocking the 11’s.”

Rodney Purvis

Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), SG

Signed to: NC State

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d have to say the Cool Greys. They have the best grip and they just feel good. They’re just swaggy.”

Isaiah Austin

Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), C

Signed to: Baylor

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I personally prefer the 11’s because they’re light weight and they’ve got good grip. Plus they’ve got a really smooth look.”

Danuel House

Hightower (Sugar Land, Texas), SF

Signed to: Houston

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d say the Retro-13’s because it’s got great ankle support and it’s stylish.”

Alex Poythress

Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), SF

Signed to: Kentucky

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I like the 10’s because they’re really comfortable and sturdy. Plus they’ve got good ankle support, which is important because I have ankle problems.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Noel welcomes lofty expectations at UK

April, 11, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The second Nerlens Noel spun around and showed the letters “UK” meticulously cut into the back of his head live on ESPNU Wednesday night, the lofty expectations were all over cyberspace before he could step out of the studio.

Noel picked the Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse.

“I know my Twitter is nuts right now,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.). “That’s just how Kentucky’s fans are, or should I say that’s how our fans are. I love it all.”

Even the inevitable expectation of a back-to-back title run?

On April 2, Kentucky held on to beat Kansas 67-59 and claim its first national title in 14 years. The last team to claim back-to-back titles was Florida in 2006 and 2007.

“I hope that Kentucky fans are expecting us to go back-to-back because that’s what I expect,” said Noel. “It’s championship or bust there, and I’m OK with that.”

Noel knows that most expect him to have an Anthony Davis-like impact as a freshman.

It’s relative.

Davis, a freshman who led Kentucky in the title game with six points, 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and three steals, was the top-ranked player in 2011. Noel is the top-ranked player in 2012. They’re both 6-foot-10 centers that have the innate ability to spike shots like volleyballs and make even the most gifted slashers think twice before coming into the lane.

But is it fair to compare a high school senior to the Wooden Player of the Year and the national title game’s Most Outstanding Player?

“He’s got the same abilities,” said Archie Goodwin, a senior shooting guard at Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) who will join Noel at Kentucky next season. “I feel like Nerlens could have a year just like Anthony so I’m excited to have him. With Nerlens in the lineup I’m OK with those expectations from fans.”

Alex Poythress concurred.

He said that having a player on the backline protecting the basket changes the complexion of the game “on a lot of different levels.”

“You can’t play the way you normally would with him down there and that’s great for us next year,” said Poythress, a senior swingman at Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.) who will join Goodwin and Noel at Kentucky next season. “With Nerlens on board now I think my expectations may be even higher than the fans.”

Ditto for Noel.

“We’re competitors so of course we want to win it all,” Noel said. “That’s why I came here; I plan to win a national title so I’m good with our fans expecting it. They should. I know I do.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Nerlens' Notebook: Pre-decision thoughts

April, 10, 2012
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Since then, heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, have scrambled to get him on campus next season. He recently narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s good, everybody. Like I promised, I’m back to check in with you guys and get a few thoughts out before I make my big decision.

It’s my birthday today, so I’m back home to celebrate with my family but also to sit down with them and talk about these schools and come up with a decision.

Before I get into that, I know everyone was talking about the game we lost the other night against the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit.

We were all feeling pretty down after the loss. It was tough. I thought we competed a lot better in the second half because coach [Kevin Boyle] made some good adjustments. He wanted us to pick it up defensively and we definitely did.

They missed their first 12 shots and that allowed us to get back in it, but they made some big shots in the end and got the win.

The locker room was a little quiet at first, but we had good leaders that spoke up and made us all feel a little better. Like Mitch [McGary], he just talked about how we were a family and that we were all brothers and that we played our hearts out. It made a lot of us feel better.

OK, so back to the announcement. Like I said, tonight we’re gonna have a group discussion and write things out and see where we’re most comfortable and what the best decision will be. The rumors about me already being committed are just crazy.

Anyone who knows me knows my mom, Dorcina, has to sign off on any decision and that she will play a major part in any decision. So tonight is when I’ll talk to her about it all.

Any “recruiting guy” who says he has some news from a “source” is funny, too, because the source would have to be me or my mom and they’re not talking to her and I don’t talk to anyone. Like I always say, only believe what you read here.

This is such a tough decision, though. I look at Syracuse and I love the way that the coaches say they’ll use me in their offense. I really like the family atmosphere there and I feel really comfortable there. Syracuse has been on me the longest of all three schools and that is big for me.

Then you’ve got Georgetown, and I really just like everything about them. When I went down there with my mom, it really opened my eyes to what they were all about. I have to factor in what a school like that can do for me, even away from being a basketball player. It’s just a great school and they have a history of developing big men. Georgetown is definitely a great option for me.

Then there’s Kentucky.

Of course they’re coming off the national championship, but I’d look more at how I’d be able to fit in and how I’d be used there. I’d factor in what my role would be offensively, like Anthony Davis with a lot of lobs and catching it at the high post and things like that. Defensively, I think it’ll take care of itself.

So as you all can see, this thing won’t be easy. Of course, me and Shabazz (Muhammad) will be deciding at the same time and I talked to him about that at the Hoop Summit, but we didn’t talk about schools at all. We never have.

I read the story where all the players gave predictions on where me and Shabazz would go. That was pretty funny. Man, they were sleeping pretty hard on the other schools, but everyone’s entitled to his own opinion.

Well, I’ve definitely got some celebrating to do and some discussing to do with my family, so I’m gonna head out now, everyone. Definitely check out the decision (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPNU) -- and again, I have 100 percent not made any decision yet because I really don’t know.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

I'll holler at y'all later.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Players predict where Muhammad, Noel will go

April, 9, 2012

Shabazz Muhammad knows that, on the surface, it seems glamorous to have the option of picking between heavyweights like Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, UNLV and Kansas.

Still, he’s quick to point out the flip side.

“The stress,” said Muhammad, a senior swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 100. “It definitely isn’t as fun as people think. It’s all you think about. It’s a tough decision.”

Nerlens Noel can attest to that.

As the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, Noel said it only makes it harder “when you really can’t go wrong wherever you decide to go.”

Both Noel and Muhammad will make their decisions live on Recruiting Nation's Signing Day Special Show at 7:30 p.m. ET April 11 on ESPNU.

“People don’t understand how tough this is,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.) who will choose between Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse. “It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. Everyone thinks they know where we’re going.”

Especially their peers.

We caught up with a bunch of players from around the country and had them weigh in on where they think the top two seniors in the country will land.

Matt Jones
DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas), 2013, SG
Committed to: Duke
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. I played with him last weekend at a tournament and you should’ve seen him watching Louisville play against Kentucky. It was like he could envision himself there.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Duke. He sees that he could come in and have the same impact that Austin Rivers did.”

Jabari Parker
Simeon (Chicago), 2013, SF
Noel’s headed to …
“Boston College. [Laughs] Just kidding, Georgetown.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UC Santa Barbara. [Laughs] Just kidding, UCLA.”

Mitch McGary
Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), 2012, F
Signed to: Michigan
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. Great recruiting class coming in and they just won the national title so that’s got to appeal to him.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. Same reasons as Nerlens.”

Isaiah Lewis
Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s a one-and-done type and that’s where you go for that.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. I think he and Kyle Anderson are gonna do work.”

Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), 2012, SG
Signed to: Duke
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s the second coming of Anthony Davis. He’s tall with very long arms that he uses to impact the game on the defensive end and rebound.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Duke. I really believe that Shabazz is gonna join me next year because he’s a competitor and wants to win. Coach K is the ultimate competitor and does great with guards like Shabazz. I believe we can do a lot of damage right away.”

Rodney Purvis
Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), 2012, SG
Signed to: N.C. State
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. That’s just my gut.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. That’s just my gut feeling on him too.”

L.J. Rose
Westbury Christian (Houston), 2012, PG
Signed to: Baylor
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s gonna be compared to Anthony Davis and have that type of impact.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. They’re just coming off a national title run and Rupp Arena will definitely be rocking next year with him there.”

Chris Walker
Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), 2013, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He saw what Coach Cal did for Anthony Davis and he’ll feel like he can do the same for him. He’ll be one-and-done just like him.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. It’s the perfect fit with it being close to home and then he’ll have a great guard like Kyle Anderson there with him.”

Kris Jenkins
Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.), 2013, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Georgetown. That’s where all the big men go to develop.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He thinks Coach Cal can help him reach his goal of the NBA faster.”

Brannen Greene
Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG
Committed to: Kansas
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He sees the impact that Anthony Davis had this year and probably wants to do the same.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. I think he wants to be one-and-done and he sees Kentucky as the perfect school for that.”

Wayne Selden
Tilton (N.H.), 2014, SG
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’d fit right in and replace Anthony Davis.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. I think he and Kyle Anderson would be a force in the Pac-12.”

Jahlil Okafor
Whitney Young (Chicago), 2014, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’ll replace Anthony Davis.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. He’ll team up with Kyle Anderson.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.