2019 Hoophall Classic
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Rancho Christian's Evan Mobley #4 in action against McEachern during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Monday, January 21, 2019, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

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Evan Mobley is going places.

Near, far, you name it. It’s his choice. At the moment the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022 is going 2 feet above the rim, over another top-10 prospect, to dunk on the poor kid’s head.

“Annnd... that’s why he’s the best player in the country,” a Division I coach whispered with a laugh on Saturday, the first day of camp at USA Basketball’s Under-19 World Cup tryouts.

Like I was saying, going places. Someday when Mobley goes at or near the top of the NBA draft, remind your buddies the 7-foot Pogo Stick — a sweetheart of an 18-year-old, by the way — was one of those USA Basketball guys who rolled through town over at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

The journey starts, in earnest, right here, on three side-by-side courts in the heart of Colorado Springs. (It’s where the Nuggets will host training camp in the fall.) Yes, the recruitniks rank these future gazillionaires as early as middle school. But what I saw Saturday when 31 players arrived at the USOTC is a bunch of guys who suddenly don’t dominate everyone anymore. For a lot of them — including Mobley, a Harry Giles clone — it’s the first time the other guys are as good as them. For a lot of them that’s a shock, a first, a lesson in humility lesson you can’t overvalue.

“This is the most talent I’ve ever seen in one place,” Mobley said after an intensive 3-hour workout at 6,035 feet. “You have to play harder, or you’re going to get beat. It’s great. I love it.”

That’s the spirit, man. Scoring an invite just to be here — never mind making the final roster that’s chosen next week — truly is one of those blessings the kids like to tweet about.

“It’s a good group, talented group. We’re probably going to take a mix of the older guys, who are bigger, stronger, and the younger guys, who are really skilled,” said USA Basketball head coach Bruce Weber, who will make this one of the better defensive teams the U19 circuit has seen.

USA Basketball takes you places. It had UCCS coach Jeff Culver and DU coach Rodney Billups as court coaches on Saturday.

It’s taken Jalen Suggs to a pair of gold medals with USA Basketball, though he had a hand in the matter. Suggs was the best player I saw on Saturday. He’s from Minnehaha Academy in Minnesota, an 18-year-old quarterback with offers from Alabama and Tennessee. On the court think Jalen Brunson or Chauncey Billups, a point guard who dictates who goes where and what happens next.

“It’s not an environment that everyone can play in. You’ve got to be tough and have a tough mind,” Suggs said. “And you’ve got to have a strong will to be here. You might have to give up that star role that you have on your team back home. Everyone here is good.”

See what I mean? The program that signs Suggs is a Final Four contender the moment he steps on campus.

“I’d say right now I’m closest with Gonzaga, Marquette, Minnesota. I think those are my top three right now,” said Suggs, another 2020 star. 

They’re going places, and none originate from a more unique spot than Jayden Scrubb. These tryouts list underclassmen from the likes of Purdue, Louisville and Stanford, not to mention recruits signed with Villanova (three, ahem), Arizona (Zeke Nnaji, ahem) and Kansas State (Dajuan Gordon, a steal out of Chicago by K-State assistant coach Brad Korn). But Scrubb’s a sweet story. He’s a 6-foot-6 wing from John A. Logan College in Illinois. He can really play, and a junior college player has never made a final roster for one of USA Basketball in the U19s.

“Fantastic kid, too,” Logan coach Kyle Smithpeters said.

One place they’ll go is Greece, site of the FIBA World Cup later this month. Won’t be long till a few of these teenage prospects are in the NBA’s green room, going places.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

Sports columnist

Denver sports columnist for The Gazette

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