GULFPORT, MS - With some of the top programs in the nation watching, a number of highly ranked players took the court, while several unranked studs stole the show on day two of the Gulf Coast Hoop Fest. With Duke, Arizona, Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Memphis, Georgetown, NC State, Illinois, Ohio State, Baylor and many more in attendance, the opportunity to gain exposure was at a maximum.
Norris Makes Debut
Some compare his game to Chandler Parsons, while others say he has similarities to Gordon Hayward. It's still early, but the key to success for Team Thad (TN) this year will be Riley Norris.
The 2014 combo forward out of Albertville (AL) was not presented at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest for Thad, but on Saturday he made up for the missed time.
Able to play the 2/3/4 on the court, Norris attacked the rim, made smart passes, made an impact on the perimeter and in the post, and began to shoot it better as time went on. With range that extends all over the court, Norris is an extremely rare do-it-all prospect. College coaches have caught on early, though.
He holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Clemson, Virginia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and UAB, while Kansas, Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee have shown interest.
Still racking up offers and interest, the rising senior plans to become more serious with his recruitment after July. He is looking for early minutes, academics and style of play as far as factors in his recruitment go.
With size, a motor and the ability to create second opportunities for his Louisiana Future squad, James Thompson has lived up to his billing and more as the No. 114 prospect in the nation.
A class of 2014 power forward, Thompson is long and lean but hits the glass with authority. The Parkview Baptist (LA) product did a tremendous job of finishing around the rim after grabbing a number of rebounds, and running the floor extremely well. Still an unfinished product, he has a chance to be elite and boost his stock even further this summer.
Memphis, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, LSU, Louisiana Tech and Baylor have offered, but he caught the attention of the Florida Gators, with Billy Donovan in attendance.
"Memphis, Oklahoma, LSU and Louisiana Tech are pursuing me the hardest," Thompson told Rivals.com. "I recently had an in-home visit with Oklahoma State's staff, too."
With no expectations of focusing on his recruitment until after the summer period, Thompson's stock could blow up in the near future.
To kick off the second day of the event, the Milwaukee Running Rebels and the No. 8 prospect in the nation, Kevon Looney, took on New Orleans Elite and the No. 24 prospect in the nation, Craig Victor. With a packed house full of college coaches for an early game, bragging rights were at stake, and Looney got the best of it having an outstanding performance defensively.
The 2014 power forward from Milwaukee Hamilton (WI) was super by changing the game on defense through blocking shots and rebounding due to his length. Offensively, Looney impressed as he showed some wing skills as he was able to take his defender off the dribble from just outside the three-point line. Using a variety of moves, he showed an improved mid-range jump shot which showed how good he could be in the long haul.
With the ultimate goal of being a combo forward at the next level, Looney must make a big decision before getting there. With constant contact between him, his family and the coaches, the rising senior told Rivals.com that Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Stanford, Georgetown and UCLA - despite the staff change - are staying in touch with him the most.
After recently conducting in-home visits with Wisconsin, Florida, Duke, and one school that had to cancel due to complications, Stanford, Looney hopes to have a top-five by the end of July, and from there take his official visits in the fall.
As the history of players to come through the program will matter, along with style of play, the Wisconsin native will become more entangled in the recruiting process as things become heated this summer.
2014 St. Augustine (LA) power forward Craig Victor was the ultimate competitor, so much so that he played through an injury in which his bone popped out of his finger.
A face-up four man with size, speed, versatility and a high IQ, Victor does a great job of creating space from his defender when attacking the rim or shooting from outside of the free throw line. With a similar game to Tahj Gibson, Victor will continue to be carted as one of the top power forwards in the country.
After recently wrapping up in-home and school-visits with Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, UCLA, LSU, NC State and Florida, Victor remains wide open but told Rivals.com that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arizona have been tracking him the hardest. Cowboys assistant Butch Pierre and Wildcats assistant Joe Pasternack have been the most visible coaches to Victor as of late, and he knows of one school he wants to visit in the future.
"I definitely want to visit Arizona when I take my official visits," he told Rivals.com.
Victor plans to cut his list to seven, and from there take visits in August with the ultimate goal of making a college decision by the end of the summer.
Chiozza, Black Thinking Alike
The stock of the No. 16 prospect in the Rivals150, Leron Black, is at a constant as he has missed the two April live period sessions due to a sprained ankle. College coaches are still carting him, and trying to identify different ways of obtaining his services. One idea may be a package deal.
Ohio State and Florida are the two schools who are looking to potentially draw in Black through a package deal with his White Station/Team Thad (TN) teammate and friend, Chris Chiozza, the No. 90 prospect in the nation.
"Those two schools are recruiting us together and we will end up visiting both together," Black told Rivals.com.
Whether a package deal is in the works or not, Black is trying to hold off others in an attempt to remain a five-star prospect and All-American candidate. The former Baylor commit recently had in-home and in-school visits with Baylor, Georgia Tech, NC State, Illinois, Ohio State and Tennessee, while UConn and Florida will try, as well. These schools, primarily, are recruiting Black the hardest.
Searching for a school that runs, has versatile players and preaches a strong Christian background, Black is wide open and looking to decide in the fall after he takes a few visits.
Chiozza, the 2014 point guard, has been excellent the past two weekends, including this weekend where he has put the team on his back at times. With Phil Pressey comparisons surrounding him, the four-star talent is humbled, but isn't settling.
"It's a great start to have to be compared to a future pro player, but I want to develop my own name."
As his jumper, court vision and defensive swagger were on display, his big performance could land him many more offers.
USC, Tennessee and Butler offered this past week, to go along with Ole Miss, Auburn, Missouri, VCU, Richmond, UMass, Virginia Tech and Murray State. His interest ranges from Florida to Ohio State to Baylor to UConn to Vanderbilt and more. After a huge performance this weekend, though, the Gators could offer a scholarship, which would put them in good shape.
"If Florida offers, they would be in my top three," Chiozza told Rivals.com. "I don't know who else would be there, but they were one of my favorite teams growing up. That's as big as it gets."
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of more schools who could end up offering in the coming weeks and months.
Ranked No. 18 in the class of 2015, Dwayne Bacon is developing his wing and guard skills further.
He has improved thoroughly in the past year by being more aggressive when getting to cup, not settling for jumpers and pushing the ball. Still, he needs to utilize his size and guard skills and become more of careful with the ball. If he can pass on a few shots in order to find his teammates for better ones, the sky is the limit for the wing prospect form McKeel Academy (FL).
With a jumper that still needs work, the likes of Marquette - who offered this week - Baylor, Florida State, Old Dominion, Xavier, UCF, South Florida, Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern have offered. Florida and Mississippi State are still exploring the run and gun style player.
Bacon is very interested in the Golden Eagles as they extended a scholarship to his Showtime Ballers (FL) backcourt mate, Corey Sanders, as well, and have been coming on very strong as of late.
Hype Surrounding Hymon
With all of the top performers on Team Thad this spring, the most appealing player not named Chiozza or Black may be Marcanvis Hymon, a 2014 small forward out of Whitehaven (TN).
WIth a high motor, Hymon rebounds on both ends, has a developing mid-range game and does a good job of finishing around the rim.
"With Leron (Black) out, I have to play a bigger role," he told Rivals.com. "I think I've done a good job of assisting my team."
Being recruited as a combo forward at the next level, schools and scouts have been impressed by the contributions from the No. 86 player in the nation. He currently holds offers from Memphis, Missouri, Arkansas, UMass, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, with Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Kansas State interested.
After July, he hopes to cut his list to five or six schools, and possibly do in-home visits with Auburn and Mississippi State, which he was not able to accomplish within the past few weeks. The rising senior has already visited Missouri, Ole Miss, Memphis and Mississippi State, but wants to trip to Auburn and Arkansas in either late May or early June for unofficial visits. Hymon hopes to make a decision in the fall.
Ranked No. 104 in the Rivals150 in the class of 2014, Damontrae Jefferson's move to 2015 will pay dividends. An Arlington Country Day (FL) product, the 5-foot-8 point guard had a strong Saturday with the Milwaukee Running Rebels. With speed, handle and an improving shot, Jefferson is the closest player who compares to the game of Aquille Carr. With an attitude that shakes opponents on the court, his game has attracted a wide variety of schools, including Cleveland State, New Mexico, UC Irvine and New Mexico State, who have offered. With high-majors lurking around, Jefferson has been impressed by the persistence of Cleveland State and UC Irvine. However, he hopes to visit New Mexico sometime in August.
On a stacked U17 Team Thad (TN) team, Jaylen Fisher is the lone member of the class of 2016 with them. A constant contributor, the young guard flourishes in transition with great handle, and an ability to attack the rim at will. In only his second year of AAU, Fisher isn't that confident yet, but his talent is apparent. LSU, Tulsa, UAB, Ole Miss and Penn State are expressing some early interest in the Bolton (TN) product.
Newly minted 2015 guard Zachary Johnson made the move to repeat his junior year earlier in the week. His goal is to improve on being a point guard, and developing his game overall. Still an unfinished point guard prospect, Johnson's emergence for Team Breakdown of Florida this spring and summer could make or break the squad. South Florida offered earlier in the week, while Murray State and Florida International have done so, as well. USC, South Carolina, La Salle, Florida and Florida State are expressing interest.
2015 New Orleans Elite (LA) point guard DaRon Curry entered the Gulf Coast Hoop Fest without a scholarship, but left with two. Xavier and UTEP offered the Trent International (TX) sophomore, who holds a lot of upside and positive potential to his game.
For the latest in college basketball recruiting, head to TheRecruitScoop.com for the latest details and notes on offers, visits, commitments and more. To contact Alex Kline, you can reach him by email at MaryKlineClassic@gmail.com or on Twitter at TheRecruitScoop.