This is an excerpt from the “Nothing but the Notes” package at our partner site WILDABOUTAZCATS.com. That site is also running the Bear Down Leader competition, basing the tournament on who best represents the University of Arizona athletic community.
Class of 2011 recruit Nick Johnson is one of many recruits taking part in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in Los Angeles this weekend (Nick Johnson photo)
In the old days, Memorial Day weekend for potential basketball recruits meant hanging out with buddies at the playground, developing their skills against some guys from down the street. Nowadays, high school standouts of all ages work on their game and show their wares to potential recruiters (either in person later this summer or via film in this time frame) in elite-level national tournaments.
Such is the case this Memorial Day weekend, as two top-flight traveling-team tournaments will take place in Los Angeles and various sites in North Carolina. Potential Class of 2011 recruit for Arizona — Damien Leonard of Greenville (S.C.) J. L. Mann High School — started competition Friday night in the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions on the North Carolina campus. Starting today in Los Angeles at the Hangar Athletic Xchange (HAX), these UA targets will compete in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL): Sidiki Johnson, Angel Nunez, Anrio Adams, Jamal Branch, Torren Jones, Dominic Artis, Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Jabari Brown, Brandon Ashley and Jahii Carson.
Since this is not an approved summer evaluation period by the NCAA, college coaches can not attend these events, but they can receive video to watch.
Of particular interest is Leonard, Sidiki Johnson of Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill, Nick Johnson of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay, Carson of Mesa, and Nunez of Winchendon (Mass.). Those names have been mentioned the most as potential Class of 2011 recruits for UA coach Sean Miller. Leonard, Nunez and Nick Johnson have already unofficially visited the UA campus and Carson is scheduled to unofficially visit after the current UA players report for the first summer session June 7.
Sidiki Johnson has already verbally committed and he told us this week that he wants to use the HAX event as a way to “get better with my foot work, work on my outside game, and just become an all-around player on both ends.”
He should only improve in top-flight tournaments such as this one, whereas in years past, most of an athlete’s maturity came in the first two years at the collegiate level. It’s a Catch-22 for recruiters such as Miller. Welcoming a more developed player is a plus at the outset of his collegiate career, but it also invites the opportunity for an early departure to the NBA, or at the very least an increased demand for playing time.
If the AAU circuit was as significant 25 to 30 years ago as it is today, who knows if Sean Elliott would have stayed his entire four years at Arizona? If Elliott left after a year or two that changes the face of Arizona basketball as we know it today.
The other players listed that will play in the HAX event include Adams, a Class of 2012 point guard from Seattle Franklin High School (the same school that produced Jason Terry; Branch, a Class of 2011 recruit from Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep has verbally committed to Texas A&M but was offered a scholarship by Arizona; Torren Jones, a Class of 2013 small forward from Chandler Basha who has already received a scholarship offer from Miller; Artis, a Class of 2012 point guard from Vallejo (Calif.) Salesian who is gaining interest from every Pac-10 school and others such as New Mexico and UTEP; Turner, a Rivals.com Five-Star Class of 2011 recruit from Sacramento who is a long shot for Arizona (Kansas may have a slight edge), but Miller and Co. have shown interest; Brown (Class of 2011) and Ashley (2012), teammates for an AAU team based in their native Oakland who have received strong interest from Miller, but it appears Brown has become more of a national recruit while Ashley is evolving more that way.
After the opening night of the Bob Gibbons TOC on Friday, Rivals.com recruiting expert Jerry Meyer had this to write about Leonard: “Leonard doesn’t do that much inside the arc, but is he ever lethal outside the arc. He is proving to be one of the top deep shooters in the class.”
Scout.com recruiting expert Dave Telep is also in Chapel Hill and he offered a peculiar report on UA recruiting target Kadeem Jack of Manhattan (N.Y.) Rice. Jack is bound for South Kent (Conn.) Prep next season but remains heavily involved with Miller and assistant Book Richardson.
“(Jack was) claimed on two opening night rosters,” Telep reports. “He must have not cleared waivers because the free agent was nowhere to be found. (We’re kidding, there are no waivers in AAU ball but it’s late at night).”
NOTE: Gary Randazzo, a Los Angeles-based contributor to WildcatSportsReport.com, will attend the EYBL tournament and has offered to share with us his reports and some video from the event. Please first visit WildcatSportsReport.com and keep an eye out for his reports here and at WILDABOUTAZCATS.com.