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Bronny James: The mysterious recruitment of LeBron James, Jr.

Jamie Shaw08/13/22
Article written by:On3 imageJamie Shaw

JamieShaw5

BronnyJames
2023 four-star Bronny James (photo cred- Christian Petersen / Staff Getty Images Sport)

For as long as I can remember, Bronny James has been the most famous high school athlete. It has been truly astonishing what he has been able to do, bringing others along with him and somehow staying out of the spotlight himself. James’ middle school travel ball team, North Coast Blue Chips, had players like Gabe Cupps and Mikey Williams, who both went on to be viral NIL sensations. 

However, the reason why this North Coast Blue Chips team got so much exposure was because of Lebron “Bronny” James, Jr. Bronny James is ranked No. 1 on On3’s High School Basketball NIL Valuation, Mikey Williams is No. 2, and Gabe Cupps is No. 6. James has been able to stay out of the limelight while being right in the middle of the spotlight.

Throughout his high school career there have been many Bronny James narratives swirling around, most of them unfounded. 

Now, James is entering his senior year, which means college is on the horizon, which means recruitment. 

For starters, this recruitment is not for you if you are not a Nike-sponsored program. A quick scan through the five schools reported to be recruiting four-star Bronny James – Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Southern California, and UCLA – and you see five flagship Nike or Jordan Brand programs.

The five schools also all make sense for James. Ohio State is the local program LeBron James grew up around. They are a Nike-sponsored school. Michigan’s head coach is Juwan Howard. Howard played with LeBron James for three seasons and then coached him for two seasons with the Miami Heat. They are a Jordan Brand program.

Oregon is Nike’s flagship school, and Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight is a proud alum. Southern California and UCLA are in entertainment mecca Los Angeles, where James currently lives and attends high school. UCLA is Jordan Brand, and Southern California is Nike.

For a situation that has been kept so close to the vest, Bronny James‘ recruitment is starting to take shape. And for the first time, we are able to see the pieces fall into place.

It started with Peach Jam

Coming into Peach Jam, James’ recruitment was unknown. The last – and only – publicly reported offers for Bronny James was North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T in January of 2020.

Bronny James took off during Peach Jam. The gym sold out for every game he played. During the live evaluation portion of the event, hundreds of coaches and NBA personnel lined his court. And while we reported heavy hitters like Penny Hardaway and Jon Scheyer were watching, there was no buzz about actual recruitment.

247 Sports wrote an article during Peach Jam that quoted Adam Finkelstein from a podcast saying, “Well, I don’t know that anybody’s really recruiting Bronny James. I think the perception is that Bronny James is not going to play college basketball.”

In front of sold-out crowds and hundreds of scouts, Bronny James was good at Peach Jam. In fact, he may have been better than good. James averaged 15.8-points, 5.8-rebounds, and 1.3-steals per game. The 6-foot-2 James also showed he is a more than capable point guard, with 2.5:1 assists to turnover ratio through the six games.

His consistently high-level play at Peach Jam helped James jump 12 spots in On3’s 2023 rankings update to No. 38 in the class.

Earlier this week

ESPN’s Paul Biancardi opened pandora’s box when he wrote in an ESPN+ article that five schools were recruiting Bronny James. With Michigan, UCLA, Ohio State, Oregon, and Southern California’s recruitment being made public, an active recruitment is taking shape.

But what happened in the three weeks between the 247 Sports report and ESPN’s report? Although they give conflicting information, both reports can absolutely be 100 percent accurate. In the three weeks since a great Peach Jam showing, James’s recruitment seems to have kick-started.

After reading Biancardi’s report, On3 made some calls to people close to the recruitment to confirm which programs are actively recruiting James

As we noted above, each program mentioned by Biancardi has a direct tie. There is a feeling these schools were hand-picked to recruit Bronny. There has been contact, and we have heard mention of some Zoom calls.

Now that a direct line has been established with mutual interest, we are told the next step is visits. Even though the schools are now public, there is still a quiet nature surrounding this recruitment. However, the signs that are heavily pointing toward the college route are confirmed.

Bronny James’s evolution as a prospect

With it looking like Bronny James is going to college, and he has zeroed in on a list of schools, let’s go through how we got here with James as a prospect.

James is a legitimate top-50 prospect on the floor. Currently, he is ranked No. 38 in On3’s 2023 rankings.

Last summer, James played up on the 17u Nike EYBL Circuit after coming off February surgery for a torn meniscus. He played to mixed reviews but showed flashes just like he had throughout his high school career.

James, while probably always the most famous player on each of his teams, shared the floor with older alphas like Amari Bailey, Kijani Wright, Ziaire Williams, and BJ Boston. James played his role, never griped or groaned.

Over his first three years of high school, James showed he could defend the point of attack at a high level and adequately play the point guard role. He was never asked to score because look at the talent around him. He did his part.

‘Doing his part’ brought questions. After all, his name was LeBron James, Jr. His father is in the conversation of the best player of all time and still playing in the league at a high level. Fairly or not, Bronny was subjected to that comparison; he took it in stride.

Fast-forward to this summer and a Strive for Greatness travel team built around James. For the first time in his career, while the spotlight has always been on him, he was the featured alpha.

It took some getting used to

Bronny’s first Nike event of the summer, EYBL – Orlando, James averaged 7.3-points and 2.3 rebounds. New role, new team, it was expected.

Progressively through the Summer, the 6-foot-2 James became more and more comfortable. The culmination was his 15.8-points, 5.8-rebounds, and 1.3-steals week at Peach Jam.

A six games in seven days stretch that saw James shoot over 35 percent from three. A 25-point, 10-rebound, five-assist game against Tyler Herro’s program opened up all the conversation, where James went 4-of-5 from three.

But after that game, you look back at the week James had and turn on the film; you see he went for 25 or more points twice, and he dished out five or more assists four different times. James had comfortably stepped into his role on the team, as he has for his entire career, and helped make things run smoothly.