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August 4, 2012

Coming to America: Exum says 2014 the year

MORE: Big class Bruin

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- Adidas Nations tipped off on Friday morning with a lot of picture-taking, a lot of stretching, and a whole lot of individual drills.

But finally, as the sun went down in Southern California, more than 100 of the top athletes on the planet went to work and competed on the basketball court, revealing plenty of skills and even more news and notes.

Ready to go

As Nerlens Noel swatted shot after shot and grabbed rebound after rebound on Friday during the college counselor portion of the camp, the only thought on everybody's minds was, "So when are we going to see him do this in a college uniform?"

Well, after Noel finished showing off his sky-high potential, he told Rivals.com the exact date.

"Aug. 19," the No. 2-ranked player in the 2012 class said of when he'll officially arrive at Kentucky. "I'm looking forward to being down there and working on my game. Working on every aspect of my game, getting acquainted with the plays, the coaches and going to work."

Because of his reclassification from the 2013 class to 2012, Noel was unable to enroll in Kentucky earlier this summer like most student-athletes.

He said the waiting was hard, and not playing with his new team was harder, but he's glad it's all over and he's just two weeks away from Lexington.

"It's been tough, but I had to do what I had to do," the 6-foot-10, 200-pound center said. "Take care of my classes, my academics for the summer for reclassifying. That was something I had to do. Now that it's done with, I can just focus on getting better, focusing on Kentucky basketball and academics when I get out there."

Noel's projected arrival date at UK is just three days before the start of the fall semester.

Road trip for trio

With more than a dozen five-star prospects in attendance at this week's camp, and UCLA's campus just a 45-minute drive away from the Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, there was no way Ben Howland and the Bruins were going to miss out on luring a few athletes to Westwood.

Heck, five-star 2014 guard Isaiah Whitehead said he stepped off the plane on Thursday and was already on his way to UCLA.

"As soon as I got off the plane, I just went," Whitehead said. "They were practicing -- I watched a little bit of practice, walked around campus, saw the site for the new gym they're building. It looked pretty good, so it was a successful visit."

Whitehead wasn't the only one to visit before the adidas camp too. Five-star 2014 prospects Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor also took a stroll around UCLA's campus, taking in the sights and sounds of Southern California.

"We just enjoyed the environment and it's one of the nicest campuses probably in the country," Winslow said. "We just enjoyed the vibe of being in L.A. and the palm trees and stuff like that."

The five-star trio could be just the tip of the visiting iceberg for UCLA. Four-star forward Devin Williams said he's trying to make it out to both UCLA and USC this weekend, and four-star 2014 power forward Craig Victor said he's targeting Monday for a Westwood visit as well.

Noah Vonleh, Allerik Freeman and Jarell Martin are all strong candidates to visit these next few days too.

Even the Bruins' lone commitment of 2013, four-star guard Zach LaVine, said he got a Westwood trip in this week.

"UCLA has a really nice campus, always have nice weather, the coaches are great, the players looked like they were having a good time," Okafor said. "I enjoyed my visit."

Coming to America

Two of the most intriguing prospects on Australia's national team are both contemplating permanent trips to the United States these next few months.

Both Ben Simmons, an elite 2015 forward prospect, and Dante Exum, a three-star 2014 guard, could be making their way to America soon.

Exum said he's ruled out coming to the States for his senior year, but he'll definitely be heading to college in America in 2014.

"My dad is from over here," said Exum, who's father Cecil was a member of the 1982 national champion North Carolina squad. "So that kind of influenced me to play college ball."

He has no idea where he wants to play for, however. He claims offers from LSU, Boise State and SMU right now, but admittedly hasn't even peeked into a college decision yet.

"I haven't really looked like deeply into schools," he said. "Like what really interests me with the coaches and some of the players that they have and the education."

Simmons, meanwhile, doesn't have his future quite as planned out. He's still thinking about maybe heading to America this upcoming year for his sophomore season, even though that appears unlikely at the moment.

"There's more athletic people over here," Simmons said. "So there's more competition."

He also has a brother, Liam Simmons, who conveniently coaches a boys basketball program at a smaller high school in Arizona. Then there's his sister, who lives in Chicago, surrounded by several top high school basketball programs as well.

And, of course, there's Huntington Prep and Kingdom Prep, who are both recruiting him to play for their programs. But for now, the plan appears to be to stay in Australia for one more year, then seriously contemplate the move to the States for the final years of high school and the four years of college.

"I guess staying in Australia and coming over for college would be better in some ways," Ben said. "But coming over here, I would get more exposure, so that would be a lot better."

Quick hits

Simmons and Exum provided the highlight of the night Friday, when they led Team Australia to a huge upset victory over USA 2013 Red, which featured Kasey Hill, Chris Walker and so many more top talents. Simmons scored the game-winning dunk with less than five seconds left on the clock.

Whitehead said he has a tentative top five right now: Syracuse, Kentucky, UCLA, Iowa State and Florida State. All except Kentucky have offered.

Winslow said he's targeting Aug. 22 as a date he'd like to take a visit to Duke. The five-star also said he recently picked up a UNC offer.



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