Last weekend was a big one in the world of college basketball recruiting. We’re in a time of year filled with AAU tournaments and circuits, with college coaches traveling both near and far to scope out their top prospects.
This past weekend, that meant they were likely in one of a couple places: Colorado Springs, Colorado or Los Angeles California. Almost the entirety of Iowa’s basketball staff, including Fran McCaffery, Sherm Dillard and Andrew Francis, were in the former. Why? The USA Basketball Under 18 National Team training camp.
The camp was invitation-only and played host to 33 of the country’s top under 18 basketball players. Among those in attendance were 2019 Iowa commit Patrick McCaffery and a number of top targets for the Hawkeyes, including Bettendorf PG DJ Carton, PF Trayce Jackson-Davis, PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and C Matthew Hurt. Nobody in training camp is rated below a 4-star by any recruiting service.
This is the gold standard. Put in the work to be the very best.— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 2, 2018
#USABMU18 training camp pic.twitter.com/wqzxxLeRqr
Without actually being in the facility for the camp, it’s hard to take too much away from the news that’s come out. There are some small details we can glean, however.
For example, Patrick McCaffery is a bit shorter than we’ve seen listed if you’re going based on the heights without shoes. He measured in at 6’7” and 177 lbs vs. the 6’9” we’ve typically seen him reported. The flip side of that is he will indeed be playing basketball in his hooping shoes and when measure in those he came in at 6’8.5”. Fine.
Perhaps more interesting was just how slight he is at 177 lbs and 6’7”. He actually weighs 12 pounds less than DJ Carton, who measured in 8 inches shorter (more on that in a moment). And the 6’6” wingspan is not what I would have expected.
What does it all mean? Nothing. Just because his measurements aren’t what we might have expected does not change his basketball abilities. He’s been tearing up 4A Iowa high school bball and the AAU circuit with those measurements and he’s been ranked as a top-50 kid based on those performances, not his height, weight and wingspan.
On the Carton front, he also measured in shorter than he’s previously been reported. Some places have listed him as tall as 6’3”, which is very solid for a PG. Over the weekend, however, he came in under 5’11”, which is on the smaller end for a big time guard.
But again, that may just make his abilities more impressive. A big guard dunking on people is one thing, a 5’11” guard rising up and throwing it down in the face of a power forward is incredible.
Some other notables, if you want to call them that, include Matthew Hurt, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. All of them measured in within an inch of McCaffery. The real difference is on build. None of them are within 40 pounds of Pat.
So should Iowa fans be concerned? I don’t think so. All those guys are more pure PFs, playing primarily in the post with some abilities out to 15 feet or beyond. Pat, on the other hand, is more in the Jarrod Uthoff mold, playing a much more outside-in game. He would complement those players well, which is why Fran has focused so much attention on them. He’s certainly slight for his height at this stage and his thyroid issue reportedly could make it difficult to add too much weight, but I have no doubts that as he continues to mature physically and spends extended time in a weight program at a D1 school, he’ll fill out just fine.
Here’s a look at the entire list of measurements.
The official measurements from the @usabasketball U-18 Trials pic.twitter.com/lFD1kkBH30— Andrew Slater (@Andrew__Slater) June 2, 2018
On to the actual performances.
As I said above, I wasn’t there (come on SB Nation - I swear it would be worth it for you to cover my expenses!) and all reports are second or third hand and pretty limited. But what we do know is this: these are the very best of the best in the country. It’s essentially the McDonald’s All-Americans plus a handful of guys who are on the cusp of that. So a poor performance here doesn’t exactly mean anyone is chopped liver.
There have been very few reports on how Patrick McCaffery performed. That’s likely an indicator he didn’t do great. That is to be expected, in my opinion, given the competition and where he fits. We knew going in he was probably in the back half of the group from a current talent level standpoint, but more importantly we knew he is currently a bit of a tweener based on build.
He’s a not-so-quick SF/wing and a not-nearly-big-enough PF/post. He’s a stretch 4 without much back-to-the-basket capability against guys who have an inch and 40 pounds on him. And that’s perfectly fine for the Hawkeyes because he has another year to work on adding a bit of bulk and continue to refine his game on the outside. He’s still going to join the program as the highest rated recruit of Fran’s tenure, higher even than Joe Wieskamp.
While the talk on McCaffery was pretty quiet, things were quite different for Iowa’s top target in 2019. The talk of the camp early was Bettendorf PG DJ Carton. Hawkeye fans have watched as Carton as ascended from relative unkown with few offers a year ago and a ranking outside the top 100, to a top-30 type recruit who will almost certainly end up with a 5th star.
For a lot of the blue bloods, this weekend was their first look at Carton. The dynamic guard made the most of the opportunity.
⚡️@DJCarton @twonster4080 with the POSTERS!— HoopFocus (@TheHoopFocus) June 3, 2018
FULL: https://t.co/VINhaglGeR pic.twitter.com/jZA1356tvJ
Monster dunks aside, Carton was able to attack the rim and get into the paint against the nation’s very best. Talent scouts like Jerry Miles and top coaches alike took note. Now Iowa fans and Carton should expect the offers from blue bloods to come rolling in. The team is coached by Kansas’s Bill Self and I’d be shocked if he didn’t end up offering Carton. The only question is who else will join the ranks.
At the end of the weekend, the training camp was cut down to 18 members. Patrick McCaffery didn’t make the cut. Carton, Hurt, Robinson-Earl and Jackson-Davis all did.
Here’s the full list.
NEWS: Eighteen finalists remain for USA Men's U18 National Team#USABMU18 » https://t.co/PfLKrYi2nA pic.twitter.com/RQvaAQFwbE— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 3, 2018
While the USA Basketball event was taking place in Colorado Springs, another top Iowa target was participating in another event further west.
2020 big man Xavier Foster of Oskaloosa is at the top the Hawkeyes’ board in the class. The 6’10” junior-to-be was at the Pangos All-American Camp in LA over the weekend. Like Carton in Colorado, Foster proved almost immediately that he belonged with some of the best in the country.
PP 2020 5 Xavier Foster makes Top 30 Cream of the Crop at Pangos AA Camp. This kids hard work is paying huge dividends for his future. #Prepproud pic.twitter.com/3JYt3hIc27— Pure Prep Academy (@PurePrepHoops) June 3, 2018
The competition for Foster is going to be intense. Skilled bigs don’t just grow on trees and Foster is slated to be a top-30 prospect in the country for next year. As he continues to show off his skills in events such as the Pangos camp, the offers are going to continue to roll in.
As of now, Iowa seems to sit pretty well with Foster. He told Rivals recently he really likes the Hawkeyes.
“I really like Iowa. I feel like i can relate to the coaches because I know their kids and stuff and we play together sometimes and little things like that.”
But Kansas has already been in contact and Foster made a couple pit stops following the camp last weekend - one to USC and another to (gasp) UCLA. Hawkeye fans should expect a number of other schools to continue showing interest.
If Fran were to manage to reel in either Carton or Foster, or somehow both (which may be more likely if he is able to land Carton), the landscape of Iowa basketball may be forever changed. If not, McCaffery and staff seem to be out big game hunting with some mutual interest from a number of other top-100 type players.
Stay tuned Hawkeye fans, it could be a fun ride.