REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — 2016 forward and longtime Indiana target T.J. Leaf has recently seen an explosion in his recruitment. Just in the past week, the 6-foot-9 junior, the No. 18 prospect in the 2016 class according to the 247Composite, has received offers from Florida and Louisville.
On Thursday, Inside the Hall caught up with Leaf at Battle at the Beach after he recorded 31 points, five rebounds and three blocks in two evening games for Compton Magic Elite in front of multiple college coaches — including Indiana associate head coach Tim Buckley.
Our full conversation with the Foothills Christian (Calif.) forward is posted below:
Earlier this summer, you talked about hoping to become more of a wing player. How do you feel that adjustment has gone, so far?
“I think I’m definitely evolving my wing skills to be more of a 3-4 instead of a 4-3. So I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that.”
What other parts of your game have you been working on recently?
“Just continuing to get healthy, a consistent jump shot, those are pretty much the main things. And then just continuing my wing skills and dribbling.”
Your first game tonight, your team won by 20 points. How were you feeling out there?
“I felt pretty good. I mean all our guys got to play a lot, so it’s good for everyone to get looks out there in front of the college coaches.”
LAS VEGAS — For class of 2015 Sagemont (Fla.) guard Prince Ali, the biggest lesson he learned from the LeBron James Skills Academy last week wasn’t from any particular move or on-court observance that he could add to his own game.
The biggest lesson the No. 38 prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite, is that confidence must come from within.
“It’s that I can withstand any type of adversity,” Ali told Inside the Hall on the final day of the camp on Saturday. “I can overcome it, because the first day, the first day and a half I wasn’t playing very well. But as I went on I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Ali said he viewed his inclusion in the camps as “a tremendous honor,” especially considering he was just one of 80 high school prospects in the entire country invited.
He wanted to learn from the best, and there he was playing amongst them.
“The competition is great, basically the best talent in the country,” he said. “So you know, the competition is great. We compete in every game and every drill, and that’s how you get better.”
Finding a skilled big man on the recruiting trail is a difficult task, but Indiana is hoping that one of the top post players in the class of 2016 chooses to stay home.
On Tuesday, Tom Crean offered a scholarship to Southport’s Joey Brunk, a 6-foot-9 center who is on the rise nationally. In the latest 247Composite rankings, Brunk is slotted as the No. 68 player in the country and the No. 10 center in his class.
“I’ve had a little bit of contact with them, on and off, as the high school season went on,” Brunk said of the Hoosiers. “IU was one of the first schools to text me after June 15, during that period. And then coach Crean was at my game (in Indianapolis) and he’s been watching me and he’s been closer than what I think.
“He’s been watching film and that kind of stuff. And he watched my last game, said he was impressed with my work ethic and how much better I’ve gotten and thinks that I’d be a good fit.”
The last game that Brunk is referencing was last weekend in Indianapolis at the adidas Invitational during the first evaluation period.
Less than two days after his strong showing in that event with Grassroots Indiana, Brunk was having a conversation with Crean, who delivered a scholarship offer.
When 2015 prospect Shake Milton found out at the Nike Guards Academy in late June that he was invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy, his reaction was instant excitement.
“There was so much excitement,” he recalled on Monday. “Not a lot of people got to do it, so just being able to have that opportunity and to learn from some of the guys, it’s really helpful.”
Little did the 6-foot-4 Owasso (Okla.) guard expect, though, that he would actually play alongside James at the camp. Doing so this past week in Las Vegas, Milton took note of what made James such a successful player after his up-close examination of the “best basketball player in the world.”
“Just the way he leads, it doesn’t matter who he’s playing with,” Milton said. “The way he puts in effort, he always tries to be the leader of the team.”
Milton said he could take and apply those lessons to his own game. Especially as his recruitment has picked up, he valued his experience at the LeBron camp — in front of several college coaches — not just for on-the-court improvement, but also for off-the-court values.
LAS VEGAS — The summer of 2014 has been a bit of a whirlwind for class of 2015 L.C. Bird (Va.) guard and Indiana recruiting target Kenny Williams. Traveling across the country, Williams spent last week in Las Vegas as a participant in the LeBron James Skills Academy.
On Saturday morning, Inside the Hall sat down with the 6-foot-4 Williams to discuss his experience this summer and his overall recruitment. Our conversation with Williams is posted below:
What has the experience of being at the LeBron James Skills Academy been like, for you?
“It’s been great. All of the top competition in the country, and then you have LeBron playing with us a couple times, it’s always good to see how you match up against the top players in the class. You know you can’t take a day off, and you know how you stack up with them. And I think I stack up well with most two guards in the country.”
Was that something you expected coming in or was it something you learned through your experience?
“I really expected it just because I had confidence in myself. I know what I can do and I know I can stack up with the best in the country.”
What has your summer been like, for you? And when did you find out you would be heading out to Las Vegas?
“It’s been real busy, but I’ve just been learning as much as I can in the camps and using it outside of them. They gave me the invitation at the (Nike) point guard camp (from June 23-25). It was all really exciting.”
What has it meant to you to be at the LeBron James Skills Academy?
“This is my first time out in Vegas. It just means a lot to know that I’m getting some recognition as one of the top players in my class.”
With the end to your recruitment in sight going into your senior year, how often do you think about what your commitment will be like?
LAS VEGAS — Caleb Swanigan is not satisfied.
Playing at the LeBron James Skills Academy this past week more than a thousand miles from his Fort Wayne home, the 6-foot-8 big man has measured himself against some of the elite players of the 2015 class.
And though he is rated the No. 17 prospect in the class he recently reclassified to (from 2016), Swanigan found himself not fulfilled during his final day in Las Vegas.
“I’ve got to keep working on what I’ve been working on,” he told Inside the Hall on Saturday. “It’s not at the level it needs to be. Like my athleticism and stuff, there’s still a lot of improvement. I’ve improved a lot, but it’s still not there.”
What Swanigan had, however, was hunger. Eager to get his looks of the top players not only in high school, but the college and professional ranks, too, he wanted to specifically learn what he could do to get better.
He was able to do just that.
LAS VEGAS — When class of 2015 La Lumiere guard Jalen Coleman heard late in the Nike EYBL season that he was invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy, the Indianapolis native couldn’t hold back his excitement.
Though he was rated as the No. 27 overall prospect in his class, according to the 247Sports Composite, he hadn’t yet experienced this summer playing with and against only the top talent in his class.
“You can test out everything you’ve been working on,” Coleman told Inside the Hall on Saturday. “As far as putting everything into it, this is where all of your working out, practicing and doing all that stuff shows.”
For the 6-foot-3 Coleman, he specifically wanted to use the Cashman Center stage as a proving ground.
With college coaches watching on, he wanted to prove to them — and himself — that he could hold his own as a true combo guard, especially while playing against elite competition.
“I’ve got a lot to show as far as being a point guard and a two,” Coleman said. “I’ve just been trying to show people I can play the one and be efficient, as well.”
And while he was satisfied with the way he played over the course of the camp, which ran from July 9-12, he admitted there were significant challenges that came with it.