I was concerned that USA Basketball's U17 trials would take a little bit away from the final weekend of the July recruiting season, with many of the top 2015 and 2016 players being in Colorado Springs instead of Las Vegas.
But as always, there were plenty of compelling players to watch, talk to and write about. Some final impressions:
-- UA commits Ray Smith and Justin Simon appear to be quality guys. It didn't take long for Sean Miller to attract five-star talent at UA but he's now able select from that narrower pool of talents who are also good characters.
Simon was personable, enthusiastic and funny. He seemed to enjoy the countless interviews he did over the weekend with the large Arizona media on hand.
Smith showed up for many of his Dream Vision team's games, even though he had to hobble around on crutches after knee surgery a week earlier, and he was also remarkably upbeat about his torn ACL.
-- Simon is fun to watch, a guy who does a lot of things well. The combo guard is not a great shooter yet but is a good passer, has good court awareness, and uses his size and athleticism to get to the basket and play defense. Once he popped up out of nowhere to easily block a shot from a bigger player.
-- Chance Comanche may be the most likely of UA's big man targets to sign with the Wildcats in November. Chase Jeter looks all but set to go to Duke, while there's no telling if Stephen Zimmerman will last much past the preseason ceremonies he is scheduled to attend at Kansas and Kentucky (Zimmerman will miss the UA Red-Blue Game, having scheduled his UA visit for Nov. 7), and Ivan Rabb says he used to get "irritated" that everyone assumes he's going to play for the Wildcats.
That said, Miller has been known to pull off a surprise during the stretch run of recruiting, with guys like Josiah Turner and Kaleb Tarczewski picking UA when they were hardly expected to at the end of July before their senior seasons.
Simon, for one, said he thinks he could be part of the No. 1 recruiting class in 2015.
-- Even without Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei continues to attract UA's heavy attention because of power forward M.J. Cage. The son of former San Diego State and NBA standout Michael Cage, M.J. could be one of UA's top 2016 targets. He's smart on the court, with good touch in passing and shooting. Plus, he's a documented gym rat, driving from L.A. to San Diego's Muni Gym to play pickup ball with his father often, sometimes several times a week.
-- Ollie Goulston has done it again. After building up the program at San Diego's Hoover High School, partly because of Angelo Chol's presence, he left Hoover because of what he saw was a lack of support. Now he's been hired to start up a potential powerhouse national program at Balboa City School, featuring possibly the nation's top 2017 player in DeAndre Ayton.
-- Hal Pastner is running out of metals. The basketball-a-holic father of Josh Pastner said he had 825 teams in his Las Vegas Classic, requiring him to divide them into a myriad of 32-team brackets for championship round play.
For the U17 teams alone, the Las Vegas Classic had divisions entitled "Platinum Elite," "Platinum," "Gold," "Silver," "Bronze," and "Copper."
-- Nobody's recruiting is covered heavier than Arizona's. While many high-profile programs have an affiliate from Scout or Rivals around, or a newspaper beat writer, Sean Miller's efforts in Las Vegas were being covered by us, WildcatAuthority.com, Goazcats.com and allsportstucson.com. I didn't run into the pointguardu guys but they're typically everywhere, too.
-- The three big tournaments in Las Vegas do a nice job providing rosters and schedules to coaches and media but rosters simply aren't always accurate. They can't be, because players change travel-ball teams often, because some just don't show up, some change their listed uniform numbers and some wind up playing for a club's "Elite" team instead of its "Gold" team, or play up from a U16 to a U17 team, or ... well you get the point.
Much of the time, you simply have to ask people what's going on. So many thanks to folks such as Scout's Josh Gershon, 24/7's Jerry Meyer, Wildcat Authority's Jason Scheer, Allsportstucson's Javier Morales and Goazcats' Matt Moreno for filling some of the gaps. Also too to the coaches of the N.J. Playaz for telling me exactly which of the 157 (well, at least it seemed that way) N.J. Playaz teams that Isiaiah Briscoe was actually playing for, after I drove 30 minutes and watched a Playaz game that did not feature him...
Several UA recruiting targets are off to Dubai with the USA Basketball U17 team for the U17 World Championships: Ivan Rabb, V.J. King and Caleb Swanigan.
Washington picked up a commitment from a big point guard out of British Columbia from the class of 2016 in Jermaine Haley.
CBSSports' Matt Norlander has an interesting read about how the transfer trend is affecting coaches' recruiting philosophy. More coaches are keeping scholarships open until the spring so they can offer one immediately to a transfer.
UA coach Sean Miller says he plans to sign about four players this fall and add one for another player. Of course, the scholarship situation is a little different for Miller and other high-major programs: He actually only has two on paper for 2015-16 (those to be vacated by T.J. McConnell and Matt Korcheck) but could have up to four or five more depending on who leaves early for the 2015 NBA draft or transfers.
Then again, there's one blog saying the transfer trend really isn't an epidemic.
Loaded with long, athletic juco transfers, ASU is hoping to dig in its heels defensively next season.
Jack Murphy has added former ASU and UNLV guard Kevin Kruger to his staff at NAU.