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July 24, 2014

Fab 48: Five-star Brunson shines in Vegas

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

LAS VEGAS -- The third and final July open evaluation period kicked off on Wednesday night. While there are events all across the country, nowhere has more teams and events than the city of Las Vegas. On opening night, Rivals.com checked in on the Fab 48, where five-star point guard Jalen Brunson did his thing; Matt McQuaid talked his decommitment from SMU; and Deandre Ayton celebrated his 16th birthday and showed why he will likely start off at No. 1 in the rankings for the class of 2017.

Brunson to set visits in August

For much of the last four months, Jalen Brunson has been engaged in a battle with Isaiah Briscoe to hold the honor as top point guard in the class of 2015. Briscoe currently holds a slight edge checking in at No. 13 overall, while Brunson slides in at No. 15 in the Rivals150.

While leading his Mac Irvin Fire squad to a come-from-behind win over Belmont Shore, the compact 6-foot-1 floor general showed exactly why he is so highly regarded.

A master of changing speeds, using hesitations and mixing up his left and right hand, Brunson is a high skill level point guard. He isn't an elite athlete, but he plays fast and is powerful off the drive and as a defender where he really knows how to use his physicality.

Brunson plugged along having a solid game and then helped to take over late. He drained smooth looking threes, got into the lane at will and then turned up the pressure defensively. Belmont Shore started throwing the ball all over the place, and like a shark sensing blood in the water, Brunson attacked to finish with 27 points and the win.

One of the most heavily recruited players in the country, Brunson will look to narrow things down and set up visits soon.

"I think that I will probably use two or three official visits," Brunson said. "I don't know who I will for sure visit yet, but I will be deciding that in the first week of August."

Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Illinois' John Groce were among the head coaches Rivals.com was able to spot in the crowd along with assistants from Kansas, Michigan and Temple.

McQuaid discusses de-commitment from SMU

On Sunday, four-star shooting guard Matthew McQuaid shook things up when he announced that he would back off his commitment from SMU. Given that he is a local product and plays at Duncanville (Texas) High, the fit seemed like a good one.

However, the No. 87 player in the class of 2015 decided that he had pulled the trigger on a commitment too soon and opened things back up.

Wednesday nigh, McQuaid got off to a hot start for Nike Team Texas hitting three quick threes before cooling off a bit as his team fell to New Heights in the night's opening game.

"I felt like I needed to take a step back and compare my options," said McQuaid. "I'm still considering SMU, though."

While it wasn't an easy call to make, McQuaid said that Mustangs coach Larry Brown took the news pretty well.

"Coach Brown's reaction was one of understanding my decision," said McQuaid. "He was upset that I de-committed but he understood my reasons why."

Since he opened things up, Baylor, Creighton (the entire staff Jays' was watching on Wednesday) and Texas have resumed their pursuit of McQuaid and have offered. Indiana (head coach Tom Crean was on hand with an assistant) and LSU (Johnny Jones and two assistants watched) have offered as well. North Carolina and Villanova have also gotten involved but haven't yet offered.

McQuaid said that the programs previously involved may have a leg up but that he has no real timetable to make a choice and is in no rush to make a second decision.

Morrow getting visits in place

While Brunson was the leading scorer for the Mac Irvin Fire on Wednesday night, 6-foot-7 power forward Edward Morrow provided plenty of interior toughness.

The 6-foot-7 listing might even be a bit generous, but with his long arms, strong shoulders and bouncy athleticism, Morrow plays pretty big. Near the rim he tries to dunk everything and he has very good hands. He rebounds, he does dirty work and the No. 104 player in 2015 makes plays that help teams win games.

Morrow downplayed his effort saying that he was sluggish from traveling earlier in the day, but in the eyes of Rivals.com he played plenty well.

Morrow is also in the process of setting up official visits.

"I have two that I'm going to take to Iowa and Nebraska," said Morrow. "I haven't got the dates set yet but I'm visiting them. I'll pick more from the other schools recruiting me.

The other schools that have offered and are in the running for Morrow are Minnesota, SMU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and La Salle.

Wednesday night notes and news

Watching Skal Labissiere on Wednesday night, we realized that we may need to start looking at him a bit differently. In the past, we have evaluated the near seven-footer as a center because of his shot blocking ability and a frame that can carry more weight to bang. Soft touch has just been a bonus. Wednesday, though, Labissiere looked like a legitimate power forward with a high level of skill facing the bucket. He hit one pretty jumper after another between 12 and 17 feet, created space off the dribble and attacked the offensive glass.

For a night, the No. 14 player in 2015 looked more like a top 10 or even top five type of prospect. Truth be told, he had a very advantageous matchup for much of the night, and he has to have more consistent efforts like Wednesday's. But, it is pretty clear that Labissiere has all of the tools to make money at the highest level. Memphis head coach Josh Pastner was prominently watching.

A guy who is working his way onto more and more high-major radars is 6-foot-4 combo guard Dupree McBrayer. Thin and quick, McBrayer loves to pull up for threes in transition and he can get to the hole. He does need to get stronger, but the three-star has been very impressive during the month of July for New Heights.

According to Ollie Goulston, who coaches seven-footer Deandre Ayton at San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City and with Supreme Court, the class of 2017 stud celebrated his 16th birthday on Wednesday. His team suffered a tough loss to the Las Vegas Prospects, but Ayton was more than impressive. Ayton isn't just a quick leaper, he is freakishly quick given his size and age period. He follows plays to conclusion -- for instance, he made a great pass to a teammate out of the high post and instead of celebrating the pass he busted his tail to the rim and dunked home the missed shot -- and has exceptional reaction time as a defender. Everything about Ayton is big-time and barring a major change, he will be No. 1 in the first class of 2017 rankings later this summer.

Ayton has two impressive teammates at Balboa City and with Supreme Court. Six-foot-3 combo guard Renathan Ona Embo is a class of 2017 prospect like Ayton. He is a confident scorer, very slick with the ball and can knock down a jumper. Rising senior power forward Abdul Shanun plays with a high energy level. Bouncy and quick, he was all over the glass and has a body that can easily be bulked up in the weight room

Many of the coaches lined up to see the likely No. 2 player in 2017, Troy Brown, as his Las Vegas Prospects matched up with Ayton and Supreme Court. The 6-foot-6 point guard showed a few flashes of his brilliance but was for the most part quiet. However, rising senior Anthony Townes really stepped up. A 6-foot-6 (at best) power forward with long arms and athleticism, Townes was a high-energy guy. He ran the floor, battled for rebounds and showed that he can play above the rim. A three-star prospect, Townes looks like an outstanding pickup for Pacific.

With developing big men, you have to give them time. Still, it is always much more encouraging to see steady progress. Three-star rising senior Jordan Dallas from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly is showing that progress. Dallas still must get stronger, but he is getting more aggressive offensively, has soft touch to 12 feet and has a nice array of back-to-the-basket and turnaround moves. UTEP, Tulsa, Liberty, Weber State, Cal State Fullerton and Northern Arizona have offered while Iowa, Washington State and Oregon State are keeping close tabs on his progress.

There simply aren't many better pure scorers in the class of 2015 than 6-foot-4 shooting guard Brandon Sampson. Playing for the first time since suffering a concussion in late June, the four-star prospect showed off his smooth offensive game and scoring prowess. His Louisiana Elite team took a loss at the hands of DC Premier, but his play had those associated with Premier's program singing his players and validating his baller status. Oklahoma State, California and LSU all had head coaches present, while St. John's and UCLA had assistants watching and should be considered major competitors for his services.

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


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