Junior PG Brantley a pied piper?

The transformation of Jaylen Brantley

The last time the city of Springfield, Mass., was this excited about a hometown product, Travis Best was headed to Georgia Tech and Derek Kellogg was destined for UMass. The next man up from the town is Jaylen Brantley (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson).

Brantley is a fast-rising junior point guard. His rise coincided with the dominance of BABC last spring and summer. Surrounded by talent, Brantley grew as a leader and player. On track to be a nice mid-major prospect a year ago, Brantley’s grown out of that label.

“Him making an adjustment from a public to a prep where the scheduled challenged him to improve his game has helped,” W&M coach Chris Sparks said. “BABC has helped him a tremendous amount. Honestly, he’s worked his butt off. He’s gotten stronger; he’s put on weight. He’s so dialed in. When a kid sees how much better he can get he doesn’t want to waste the opportunities. He’s now a high-major guard.”

Georgetown, Virginia, Florida, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have all offered. Syracuse is calling him and for good reason. Not only is Brantley a good player, he’s also got some traits of being a pied piper. Guard Wayne Selden (Boston, Mass./Tilton) is one of his boys and he’s a member of the BABC crew. Another guy he counts as a good friend is No. 2 junior Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton).

“If you look at this group of kids and every year some of them seem to stay together (off the court),” Sparks said of the BABC connection. “It’s a really tight group of kids that have formed a bond. For whatever reason, these guys love the personality and presence of Jaylen. They just love him.”

The pressures of a decision

Andrew White (Chester, Va./Miller School) is likely to decide very soon (maybe by the time you read this, maybe not). This blog entry isn’t about his decision. It’s about what the pressures of a college decision can do to one’s psyche.

Over the last year, I’ve become very familiar with his game. There aren’t many wing players who have improved as much as White has in the last 15 months. During the summer, he was ripping it from deep with confidence. Last weekend, I saw White and he wasn’t of the same mindset.

During two games at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, White shot 5-for-21 from the field, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range. I can say with conviction that White is exponentially a better shooter than that performance. To his credit, he made no excuses and didn’t hang his poor shooting on his college decision. In two games, he did come up with 18 rebounds.

Since White wouldn’t say the decision was weighing on his mind, I’ll say it for him. What’s happened in the past is kids will deny the pressure and then once the decision is made a sense of relief brings normalcy to their lives and it’s back to business as usual.

These are high school kids making big decisions. Some have a more difficult time with it than others. White is either having trouble saying “no” or he’s unsure of the “fit.” Either way, he’s had too many schools on his list and the process and pressures may have snowballed on him. It’s OK, it’s happened to others before. The finality of the decision – when it comes and it may on Dec. 2 – will be a weight off his shoulders.

From an evaluation standpoint, White’s 5-for-21 shooting performance is something to delve into. For me, that kind of an effort gives you pause. When a guy is so far removed from whom you think he is, unless you have all the information it can skew your evaluation. This happens a lot. For example, you could be watching a kid in the summer and he looks awful but has a great reputation. It might be your only look at him, or one of very few. You come away shaking your head. At that point, it’s your job to find out what the real deal is. The guys who don’t take the time to gather this intelligence will offer incomplete evaluations. My point is, as an evaluator, when there’s cognitive dissonance, you better find out why. In White’s case, he’s got too much on his mind.

If White decides soon and we see him in January, I’d be shocked if he went 5-for-21 again. Won’t happen. “I’m ready to get it over with,” White said on Thursday.

Young N.C. forwards tangle

CLAYTON, N.C. -- On Tuesday, a pair of Division I recruits from North Carolina got after it. Junior Nigel Holley (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover) and sophomore Gary Clark (Clayton, N.C./Clayton) faced off. It’s not often Division I forwards get a chance to face off which made it strange that only UNC-Greensboro sent an assistant.

Holley is a 6-7 four man. This is a significant season for him. Over the next few months, he’ll determine whether he’s a SoCon/Big South recruit or a CAA/A-10 player. Either way, he’s a scholarship big. He had 14 points and six rebounds. Holley can run and will face to mid-range. His area for improvement is in the mental game. Can he assert himself enough to get comfortable as a team-carrying big man?

On the flipside, Clark is undoubtedly Clayton’s best player. He started off slowly but picked up steam in the second half. This young man has huge feet but he’s about 6-6, relatively the same height as he was last year. Clark has touch, bounce and is a committed rebounder. With 2½ years of high school ball remaining, he’s safely in the mid-major recruiting zone with a chance to be higher depending on his skill development and physical growth.

Despite the presence of two scholarship bigs, senior shooting guard Kadeem Allen (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover) took center stage. Allen shot 7-for-7 in the first half before missing all three shots he took in the second. Allen had 20 points. Word is he’s going to need junior college and two years from now, he’ll be another mid-level prospect.

And One …

Torian Graham (Durham, N.C./Arlington Country Day) is destined to be one of the spring’s biggest targets. Graham, who lost his mother a few months ago, showed little interest in signing early. Memphis, Louisville, Arizona and Florida State, according Graham’s guardian, have offered. We’ve also heard rumblings of Xavier milling around the former NC State commitment.