ORLANDO, Fla. -- During this AAU national tournament and the Super Showcase, we had the opportunity to witness some of the top high school players in the country compete at the highest level. Of course, at events that feature this many players, there are bound to be some unknowns making some noise and opening the eyes of college coaches. The AAU nationals are the final tournament of the summer circuit. This year's event concluded with All Ohio Red taking the championship in the under-17 division. This was a special group; these same players on All Ohio won the under-15 and under-16 divisions the past two years.
After a few months of evaluating all over the country, we will come out with our new rankings in mid-August. However, here are five things we learned over the past two weeks while covering the AAU action in Orlando.
1. Jared Sullinger could be the top big man to attend Ohio State in the Thad Matta era.
We are not joking here. Originally, the idea that Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) would be the best big guy to attend Ohio State in recent history sounded ridiculous. After all, the Buckeyes' roster of recent post players includes 2007 No. 1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden, and first-rounders Kosta Koufos and B.J. Mullens. If you take away potential, however, you eliminate Koufos and Mullen. They were not as dominant and productive as high school players as Sullinger has been, nor did they win as much. Sullinger's numbers might be better during the high school season when the competition might not be up to par, but on the summer basketball circuit where the competition is fierce, it still is all Sullinger. He makes sure his teams win. Now let's look at Oden. He is a dominant defensive player, and is better at blocking shots and taking away the rim than Sullinger is ever going to be. But Sullinger might have him beat in terms of offensive ability. Sullinger is a better rebounder, passer and scorer. You also can add in the fact that he might stay more than one year at OSU -- none of the other players we mentioned did. This is not saying he is a better pro prospect than any of the other three, but statistically, he could be the top big man to attend OSU in recent memory.
2. The 2012 and 2013 classes have a chance to be special.
The 2012 and 2013 classes have a rare group of skilled bigs and exceptional point guards. The class of 2012 has been aided by a couple of reclassified kids joining the group. Six-foot-10 post Andre Drummond (Hartford, Conn./St. Thomas More) and PF Khem Birch (Pierrefonds, Canada/Winchendon Academy) have been added to the class, and both are top-10 talents. Several players in the incoming freshman class have played up with older age groups for years on the club circuit. Some of the top players in this group include G Rodney Purvis (Raleigh, N.C./Upper Room Christian), PG Kasey Hill (Eustis, Fla./Mount Dora Bible), twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Houston/Strake Jesuit), and PF Thomas Hamilton (Chicago/Whitney Young).
3. The All Ohio AAU program could be the nation's best club.
There are three age groups in summer basketball that are followed by the fans and media: 15 and under (generally just finishing freshman year of high school), 16 and under (finishing sophomore year), and 17 and under (finishing junior year). This season, the All Ohio program won the AAU national tournament in all three age groups. The 15 and under was won by All Ohio Purple in early July. The All Ohio Red 16 and under team won the national tournament this week, and the 17 and under team beat a tough Boo Williams this past weekend. It's no surprise when you look at the talent each squad boasts. The oldest All Ohio squad is led by Sullinger, but it also includes high-major prospects Aaron Craft (Findlay, Ohio/Liberty Benton), Kevin Gray (Reynoldsburg, Ohio), Adreian Payne (Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson Township) and Juwan Staten (Dayton, Ohio/Oak Hill). Not to be outdone, the 16 and under team has talented prospects such as Trey Burke (Columbus, Ohio/Northland), Elijah Macon (Columbus, Ohio/ Marion Franklin), Traevon Jackson, (Westerville, Ohio/ Westerville South) and Trey Lewis (Garfield Heights, Ohio).
4. Chris Jones is a scoring machine.
Chris Jones (Memphis/Melrose) was terrific at the Tournament of Champions in May, where he had a few games of more than 30 points. He continued to score a ton of points for the Memphis Stallions in Orlando and will be at the top of many recruiting lists after the July evaluation period. Jones is a 6-foot scoring point guard who knows how to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. Don't let Jones' size fool you -- he is as tough and fearless as they come. He is cat-quick and can knock down the deep 3 off the catch or dribble. He has a great middle game as well. Jones has the ability pull up and knock down the jumper in the lane when a taller second defender attempts to stop his penetration. He shoots step-back jumpers going right or left, and when he gets all the way to the rim, he can finish with either hand. He is a variety pack, scoring wise. He also is a willing passer, but he can take over the game offensively when he needs to.
5. Glue guys win games.
A few glue guys made names for themselves with their consistent play and ability to do the dirty work for their teams. These players are not household names, but their teams would not be as successful without their services. Without a doubt, their recruiting will be on the rise, as schools that were recruiting them become more excited and new schools attempt to get involved in the process. These three players have all the skill and determination to be important role players at the college level.
" Trevor Fuller (Dallas/Episcopal) of Team Texas Elite is an undersized power forward for the class of 2010 who is strong, physical and rebounds on both ends. He runs the floor and finishes above the rim with a clear path. He is an excellent shot-blocker and hits the 15-17-foot jumper with time. He also can defend both forward positions.
" Chad Jackson (Georgetown, Ky./Scott County) plays for the Shining Stars Sports-McFarland travel team. He is an excellent athlete who can play both guard positions and defend both as well. He is a skilled defensive rebounder and has the ability to start the break off the glass. He is strong and can score in transition or with his middle game, which is most productive once he enters the lane. Jackson needs to give his shooting immediate attention, but he can penetrate and find the open man. When Jackson is on the floor, things get done.
" Weedlens Beauvil (Winter Haven, Fla./Bartow), of the Florida Elite club, is a shooting guard who plays with great energy and effort the entire time he is on the court. He sprints the lane in transition and spaces in the half-court to display his 3-point shooting touch. He competes for loose balls and does a great job transferring his effort to the defensive end, where he applies excellent ball pressure.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis University, is the national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in the 2003-04 season. He is on the selection committees for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and the McDonald's All-America Game.
Reggie Rankin covers basketball recruiting for Scouts Inc.