NORTH AUGUSTA, SC — This is the last AAU summer for Bronny James, the NBA superstar’s son LeBron James and the 6-foot-2 combo guard left here on a high, cementing a good impression on the multiple scouts and NBA executives who were at Nike’s Peach Jam.
Every summer, the best teams from Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League come to this city. The gyms are small and packed for every game and it’s a one-of-a-kind atmosphere to get an early glimpse of the next level of NBA talent to come. For the James family, Peach Jam has always been a family affair.
Since it was Bronny’s last summer before his senior year of high school, the entire team showed up for all but one of his games. His mother Savannah, his sister Zhuri, his grandmother Gloria and of course his father were there to support Bronny and his team, Strive For Greatness. His younger brother Bryce played on the 16U team, with the family rotating between gyms to support both players. Last year, LeBron was on the bench to coach the team; this year he’s stayed on the sidelines, sometimes pushing players away on free throws or dead balls.
To secure a spot for one of Bronny’s games, fans, college coaches, and NBA staff had to arrive up to two games early before the gymnasium reached capacity. One of the craziest AAU games of the summer came when Bronny squared off with Duke’s five-star signing Caleb Foster. The chairs on the sideline have been raised to make room for the coaches standing behind them. Over 30 professional photographers were scattered around the gym, recording Bronny’s every move. There has never been a game at Peach Jam where NBA coaches and scouts lined up shoulder-to-shoulder the full length of the gymnasium and both baselines to essentially watch a few players.
“The atmosphere was crazy and I had never really played a game like this before,” Foster told Yahoo Sports after the game. “It’s probably like, the first two of my career. Crowded gym, NBA scouts, coaches, NBA royalty and fans all in one building. There’s nothing quite like Peach jam.”
“It’s an honor to have NBA legends like LeBron [James] and Carmelo [Anthony] come and support us,” Foster added. “It means a lot and shows that all the hard work I’ve put in is paying off.”
Foster and his team, Team Thad, took the win 92-74. The Duke-bound guard finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. James had 16 points and added five assists.
“The most impressive thing about Bronny at this age is his composure on the court and the way he consistently makes the right decision,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He’s a hell of a defender and you can see he’s started to grow a bit more into his body.”
Bronny has had its ups and downs over the AAU spring and summer season. Last week was the most consistent streak he’s had all year. James left his last Peach Jam averaging 16 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in six games.
One of James’ biggest game improvements is reading the pick-and-roll as the primary ball handler. In years past, he was more of a catch-and-shoot option with players like UCLA’s Amari Bailey, and NBA guards Zaire Williams and Brandon Boston Jr. creating for him in the lane during his high school career. If his defender slips and there is no hurdle, James lets him fly without hesitation. It’s a very high-level NBA read, and definitely something his dad worked on with him in the gym.
“You can see the improvements he’s made in his game from last year to this year,” another NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He’s proving to be more than just a name and has a positive impact on the game, whether it’s making the extra pass or attack or falling for stray balls in the defensive post.”
The final stops of Bronny’s AAU career will be in Las Vegas this week for the Big Time Finale tournament.
Bronny will be playing his senior year at Sierra Canyon High School outside of Los Angeles. His recruitment has been kept secret throughout his career but the schools involved are widely known. Duke, Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, Kansas, Tennessee, USC and Kentucky have all shown interest in Bronny during his career. James will most likely make his official visits starting in the fall, but like his recruitment, they will not be announced or made public.
The verdict is still out on whether Bronny will be a unique prospect, but the way he continues to improve his game is being noticed by NBA scouts. No father-son duo has ever played in the NBA at the same time and it was only a few years before that happened. Regardless, Bronny has made quite the first impression on some NBA talent evaluators as his final AAU season wraps up and he enters his senior year.