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July 10, 2014

Reebok Breakout: Better with Bacon

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- The Reebok Breakout camp on the campus of Philadelphia University has become the traditional starting point for Rivals.com's annual coverage of basketball's July Evaluation period. On the first night that college coaches could watch high school prospects during the month, five-star small forward Dwayne Bacon continued his breakout play on the grassroots circuit.

Everything's better with Bacon

So far, one of the biggest class of 2015 risers on the grassroots basketball scene has been small forward Dwayne Bacon. The 6-foot-6 Floridian who will play his senior season at Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill has risen to five-star status, and he showed why on the opening night at Breakout camp.

One of the premier transition finishers in America, Bacon was outrunning opponents to the rim and showing off his abundant athleticism. He mixed in a few 3-point jumpers and looked very much like the No. 22 player in in the Rivals150.

Bacon says that he feels some satisfaction about how his reputation has grown, but he is far from satisfied.

"I feel good about it," Bacon said. "I'm just trying to prove my point that I'm a big time player and that I'm worth being a McDonald's All-American, Jordan Brand and Elite 24 level player. That's how I'm playing. I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder and I'm going to continue to play like that."

When asked to discuss the programs with the best shot at him, Bacon sidestepped the question and said that everybody is on the same level. We saw head coaches from programs such as Louisville, Tennessee, USC, USF and Florida State in the in the gym to watch him play Thursday night, and several more are involved.

Bacon also said that he has no plans to commit any time soon and that he hopes to develop a list of 10-15 programs by the end of August.

As for his steadily climbing stock? Bacon hasn't ever been too concerned about his ranking, and he is going to continue to play as if he were an unknown.

"It's not what took so long because everybody has their own opinion," said Bacon of the timing of his rise to five-star status. "I'm a humble guy, and I feel like my time is coming. I got moved up to a five-star and I feel like I should keep moving up; but I'm not going to stop working hard just because I became a five-star."

Thomas makes return to the floor

Due to a tendon injury in his hand, the No. 11 player in the class of 2015 Elijah Thomas hasn't been able to hit the grassroots circuit. Making his debut after a long layoff, the five-star big man from Lancaster (Texas) High looked solid in his return to the floor.

Effective at using his size to create space on the interior, he is a crafty big man with skill around the hoop. Understandably, Thomas looked a little rusty -- he didn't finish as well as usual -- but for the most part looked pretty good operating in the low post.

Thomas was happy to be back on the floor and surprised by the level of defense he saw.

"I haven't ever been double-teamed at a camp before," said Thomas. "A couple of times I turned and it felt like there were four or five guys there."

Littered throughout the crowd on hand to see him were SMU's Larry Brown, Memphis' Josh Pastner, USC's Andy Enfield and assistants from places such as Illinois and Oklahoma State.

Thomas isn't worried who is watching him just yet and is just happy to be back on the floor showing what he can do.

"I felt pretty good," said Thomas. "It's been like four months since I played. I haven't played any five-on-five, haven't practiced or anything."

More Wednesday notes from Philadelphia

Formerly committed to Oregon State (he opened things when Craig Robinson was let go), class of 2016 point guard JaQuori McLaughlin is an intriguing prospect. He has good size at 6-foot-2, tremendous instincts as a transition passer and can stick a jump shot. He's not yet strong and doesn't look to have matured much physically at all, so he has the look of a player with lots of upside. He has an offer from the new Beavers staff and offers from Washington, Washington State, Memphis and Boise State. Gonzaga and Oregon have also showed recent interest.

One of the most athletic point guards in the country, Corey Sanders can get wherever he wants on the floor. He's not just explosive off the dribble, the 6-foot-1 floor general has strength and shake in his game. Sanders is looking at various prep schools for his senior season and said that it was fair to say that a group of Wake Forest, DePaul, Wichita State, Texas A&M, UNLV, Auburn and South Florida were starting to stand out to him.

When the 2015 Rivals150 was updated just over a week ago, power forward Kerry Blackshear just missed the cut. Wednesday night the big man from Florida looked like somebody who won't be denied the next time around. He has a big frame that he will grow into, plays tough around the rim and has a good level of skill. Blackshear says that he would like to cut his considerable list -- he rattled off 26 offers -- to a more manageable five to 10 schools after July and that he would like to decide in the fall. Of those who he said have offered, we noticed Clemson, Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Boston College, VCU, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Florida State, George Washington and South Florida checking in on him Wednesday night.

Last week, Abdulhakim Ado debuted in the class of 2016 rankings. The 6-foot-10 post player entered the rankings as the No. 17 player in his class and backed up his early five-star ranking. He protected the rim, ran the floor and showed immense upside and was easily one of the best big men on the floor in any of Wednesday's games. Ado listed offers from Memphis, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to go with interest from Louisville, Arizona State, Ohio State, California, West Virginia and Florida.

Chimezie Metu looks like he has made a good choice in selecting USC. The 6-foot-9 four-star power forward who ranks in the top 50 of the class of 2015 is a springy athlete with touch on his jumper who can really run the floor. He is still gaining experience and a command of what he is capable of doing, but he has all the tools to be a strong player for the Trojans.

Though they attend high school on opposite sides of the country, 2016 guards Derryck Thornton and Tyus Battle have been talked about as a potential package deal. They both looked good on opening night. Thornton ran the show and set up teammates while playing tough defense, and Battle was knocking down jumpers. Notables watching them play were John Calipari of Kentucky, Michigan's John Beilein and Connecticut's Kevin Ollie.

Iowa fans are going to like the approach of Brandon Hutton. The 6-foot-5 wing is a big-time athlete with long arms, burst off the dribble and loads of toughness. He's not much of a jump shooter just yet, but he can really lock up defensively and has a take no prisoners approach on the floor that is easy to like.

Wednesday night was our first look at swingman Andrew Robinson, and he made a very good impression. At about 6-foot-5, he is a very confident jump shooter who finds open spots on the 3-point line and lets it fly.

A couple of other five-star prospects who played to their rankings were guard Justin Simon and big man Skal Labissiere. Simon is outstanding in the open floor and has a great blend of size and athleticism. Sean Miller is certainly going to love him at Arizona. A long, agile and skilled big man, Labissiere was disrupting shots, scoring near the rim and playing with a good activity level.

There were a lot of head coaches in the building on opening night. Among the programs we saw represented by their head coaches were Oklahoma, Kentucky, Washington, Michigan, St. Joseph's, Boston College, SMU, N.C. State, UConn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Creighton, Rhode Island, Quinnipiac, Kansas State, Louisville, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Fresno State, Villanova, Clemson, Iowa, Alabama, Providence, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Memphis, South Florida and Penn State.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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