What to watch for: July evaluation period

reggie_cameron02[1]AAU basketball kicks into full gear again as the calendar turns to July. The month features three five-day periods of live recruiting evaluation by college coaches and a number of prestigious events. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, coaches will hit the road and cram into gyms from Indianapolis to Orlando to Las Vegas. Here’s a look at what we’ll be watching for at the start of this year’s July period.

Will Michigan add to the class of 2013?

John Beilein’s 2013 recruiting haul is already well regarded by local, regional and national pundits. Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal and Zak Irvin are all rated top-100 national recruits by at least two of the three major scouting services. However, there’s still a strong possibility that Michigan could look to add another cog to the 2013 class.

The two leading candidates for that additional spot are shooting combo forward Reggie Cameron and Bowling Green, Ohio big man Vitto Brown

Cameron has been on the Michigan radar since before the spring evaluation period, and his stock continues to surge with strong shooting performances on the Nike EYBL circuit. Cameron has been high on the Wolverines for some time but his recruitment continues to grow as Michigan steadily works to try and lure to New Jersey native on campus for an unofficial visit. Brown, one of the stars of Michigan’s College Practice Camp in June, has earned the attention of Wolverine coaches. He took an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor in late June and will be one to watch this July with the potential to play his way into a scholarship offer.

image All Eyes on Indianapolis

There’s no shortage of major AAU events and prestigious camps this July. There are the major tournaments in Las Vegas, AAU nationals in Orlando and the Nike EYBL culminates with the Peach Jam in Augusta, Georgia. But to start the live period, all eyes – especially from a Michigan perspective – will be in Indianapolis for the adidas Invitational. The adidas Invitational final will even be broadcast nationally this Sunday (3 p.m.) on CBS College Sports Network.

Michigan will be well represented. Not only will Michigan’s class of 2013 commitments be in action, two of the three players (Booker and Bluiett) that Michigan has offered in the class of 2014 will be playing as well. Expect a strong presence from John Beilein and his staff in a state that has emerged as a recruiting priority for the Wolverines.

What’s the next level for 2013 Michigan commits?

Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal and Zak Irvin all had strong junior seasons and showed improvement on the spring AAU circuit. All three players are regarded as top 100 players but all are looking to take the next jump in the rankings. Here’s the one element of improvement that would be ideal for each player.

  • Derrick-Walton-at-Michigan-OSU-Game-597x398[1]Derrick Walton: Three point shooting.
    Walton might have improved his three point shot more than any other aspect of his game since his commitment last summer but shooting is something proven with consistency. AAU ball is far from the best measurement of shooting ability as legs wear out quickly but if he can master the perimeter jumper, Walton is nearing complete point guard status.
  • Zak Irvin: Efficiency.
    Irvin proved his ability to score points in a hurry on the AAU circuit this spring. He routinely tallied up four or five three point makes in any given game and emerged as the primary offensive scorer on a team loaded with future high-major players. The downside with developing that “go-to mentality” is that Irvin has the tendency to force the issue at times, developing into a bit of a volume shooter. He can take his game to the next level by becoming slightly more judicious with his shot selection and becoming even more of a facilitator.
  • Mark Donnal: Demand the ball offensively. Donnal has proven that he has the skillset required to play in the front court for John Beilein. His range extends beyond the three point line and, given time, he can rely on an array of post moves to score in the paint. The next step is to prove it every time he steps on the court. Donnal needs to demand the ball in the block and needs to continue to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor, as he does that his game will elevate to another level.

Prioritizing the class of 2014

Michigan has extended three offers in the class of 2014 – Devin Booker, Keita Bates-Diop and Trevon Bluiett – and Wolverine coaches will be in hot pursuit of all three prospects. All three are regarded as top-50 prospects nationally, with Booker flirting with five-star status. A strong summer period from any of those three players could easily cement a top 30 ranking and a host of additional high major interest.

Booker’s recruitment is considered a Michigan-Missouri battle with Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans planning an unofficial visit to East Lansing. Keita Bates-Diop is thought to have Michigan and Purdue near the top of his list, continually citing the importance of a top notch engineering school at his destination. A recent visit and offer for Trevon Bluiett has also allowed the Wolverines to climb his list, although work remains to be done and Indiana has long been considered in a strong position.

An August decision for one or two players in this group wouldn’t be shocking, but the bigger question this July is what other prospects emerge on the Michigan radar? Are there more scholarship offers in the bank and who does John Beilein target as his plan B recruits. The most knowledge might be gained by who John Beilein is watching when he isn’t watching one of his top priorities (offerees) or class of 2013 commitments. Notable remaining 2014 targets include big man Sean O’Mara, shooters Peyton Allen or Bryant McIntosh among others.

Luke-Kennard-2015_424_500_imagesvwatermark-sml.png_300_200_30_r_b_-11_-11_rot270_500_424_061df1133d2dcfac_rot90[1]Early focus on class of 2015

Luke Kennard has emerged as a Wolverine priority in the class of 2015. He’s impressed at Michigan’s team camp two years running and has also drawn John Beilein to high school and AAU games before and during his freshman year of high school. He’s almost certain to receive a Michigan scholarship offer on June 15th, 2013. However, he’s also been racking up other offers quickly, most recent to join the fray was Indiana head coach Tom Crean who extended Kennard a scholarship offer last week.

As the summer progresses, Michigan will also continue to pound the pavement in looking after other young 2015 prospects. Here are some names to follow this spring in the younger grades:

  • Ryan Fazekas – Top notch shooter in the class of 2015, perhaps the best in the state of Indiana, has already unofficially visited Michigan multiple times.
  • AJ Harris – AAU teammate of Luke Kennard and arguably the top 2015 point guard prospect in the state of Ohio.
  • Chandler White – Strong and athletic combo guard from Indiana, White has unofficially visited Michigan and attended Beilein’s College Practice Camp in June.
  • Hyron Edwards – A top 20 national prospect from Indiana, Edwards was planning a recent trip to Ann Arbor before having to reschedule due to car issues.
  • Brennan Gillis – Another Indiana native hearing from Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Nebraska.
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