Try saying Nike EYBL five times fast — it’s tough, but after this past weekend, it’s fairly easy to write. When the best players in the country come together for a three-day weekend leaving everything on the court because a Peach Jam appearance is on the line, you get the best prep basketball in the country. From excellent shooters to freak athletes to dominant big men, the Los Angeles EYBL had it all this weekend and it also gave us a chance to get some updates from prospects regarding their recruitment. And remember that guy Kevin Ware (yes, this Kevin Ware)? Well, he committed… again.
What They’re Saying
- Josh Gershon on L.J. Rose‘s (#20) recruitment: “L.J. Rose says UCLA and Texas lead. He’ll visit UCLA on Monday and also check out UT again.”
- Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on adding a school to his list: “Adding Coach [Josh] Pastner and the Memphis Tigers to my list of schools….” On the best player in the Class of 2013: “[Power forward] Julius Randle (Watch List) is way better then advertised. Hands down best player in country in his class!.”
- Lis Mack, mother of senior Kevin Ware, on her son’s commitment to Louisville: “The visit was pretty much the deal closer. We had a comfort level that he developed and he thinks it’ll be a great place for him. On top of the ability to learn and they have a great fan base.”
- Sophomore standout Jairus Lyles on his favorite school: “I wanna go to Wake Forest… that’s my dream school.”
- Senior Sidiki Johnson (Arizona) on who he’s recruiting among the sophomores and juniors: “[Class of 2013 shooting guard] Chris Thomas (Watch List), he’s a great player… [Class of 2012 power forward] Danny Dingle out of New York, he’s pretty good… and this kid from California, [Class of 2012 small forward] Shabazz Muhammad (#3), that’s about it.”
- Sophomore sensation Kuran Iverson (Watch List) on location factoring into his recruitment: “Well, my mom may say something about it, but I don’t really care.”
What We Learned
Kevin Ware Commits… Again. With the drama from the Central Florida recruiting scandal dying down, Class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Louisville over the weekend. After de-committing from both Tennessee and UCF in the past couple of months, Ware joins a Cardinal class that includes shooting guard Wayne Blackshear (#22), small forward Angel Nunez, power forward Chane Behanan (#35) and center Zach Price. With this addition, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino now has a top ten class and will be moved into either the #8 or #9 slot when I update my 2011 Class Rankings later this week. However, keep in mind that Ware cannot make a binding agreement since the spring signing period ended and what he will be signing is non-binding grant-in-aid papers until he enrolls in classes. This means he has the opportunity to de-commit again without penalty if he chooses to do so (but to see why it’s likely that Louisville is where he’ll attend college, check out what his mother had to say in the “What They’re Saying” section above). Ware is a great athlete who excels in transition and is a tremendous finisher above the rim. He is a spectacular slasher from the wing and has improved his perimeter shooting so it too is respectable now. However, he needs to continue to get better at shooting in both catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble so he can be a scoring threat in a variety of ways on offense. He can also become a better ball-handler since he commits too many turnovers as the secondary ball-handler. Look for him to be a three to four year player for the Cardinals since despite his fantastic athleticism and raw talent, Pitino could really help him develop into an elite player when he’s an upperclassman.
Team Takeover Finishes Nike EYBL Undefeated (15-0). Team Takeover finished the Nike EYBL regular season with a perfect, unblemished record of 15-0, giving them the best record heading into the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina, from July 12-15, 2011. This is the first time a team has ever gone undefeated in the EYBL regular season (although the NJ Playaz went 13-1 last year and the Oakland (CA) Soldiers and BABC (MA) went 14-1 this year). Although this is a huge accomplishment within itself, it’s even more surprising considering no one on Team Takeover is a top 50 prospect, going against the widely-held belief that AAU basketball promotes selfishness and individual production over team success. Head coach Keith Stevens has done a great job with this group and has gotten production from his team on both ends of the court since Team Takeover is in the top ten in scoring with over 70 PPG and top ten in points given up with less than 65 per game. They are also in the top five in rebounding with close to 40 a contest and have a spectacular field goal percentage defense of about 40%. They are top ten in blocked shots as well with around four per game. A couple of standouts for Team Takeover have been DeMatha (MD) Catholic High School and Class of 2012 small forward Jerami Grant and Class of 2013 center BeeJay Anya since Grant has consistently gotten to the charity strike and made his free throws with about nine per game and Anya is one of the best shot-blockers at the EYBL with close to two a game. Anya currently lists Georgetown, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia and offers from Ohio State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Texas and UCLA, whereas Grant has Georgetown, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia Tech on his list and offers from Clemson, Georgetown, Maryland, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. Grant also said he hopes to commit before his senior season begins.
Final 24 Teams Set for Nike Peach Jam. After the third session of the Nike EYBL was completed in Los Angeles, California, this Memorial Day Weekend, the final 24 teams have been set to compete in the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina, from July 12-15, 2011. The six teams with the best records in each division advanced to the Peach Jam and the four teams that finished with the best overall records were Team Takeover (DC, 15-0), Oakland Soldiers (CA, 14-1), BABC (MA, 14-1) and YOMCA (TN, 13-2). Most of the top players made the postseason tournament too as Class of 2012 stars center DaJuan Coleman (#5) and shooting guard Ricardo Ledo (#9) led Albany City Rocks (NY, 7-8) to a playoff berth and the best guard in the country, shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7), led CP3 (NC, 11-4) to a playoff appearance. Youth dominated throughout the Nike EYBL regular season as well resulting in Class of 2013 Watch List star big men Nerlens Noel, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle leading BABC, Mac Irvin Fire (IL, 11-4) and Team Texas Titans (8-7) to Peach Jam appearances. CIA Bounce (CAN, 12-3) is another team to keep an eye on since they are one of the teams that made EYBL history by becoming the first international team to make the postseason. They also star one of the best Class of 2014 players in the country, small forward Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is a great athlete who is a tremendous slasher and is versatile enough to play three different positions. Between all of this individual and team talent, the Nike Peach Jam will be very entertaining to watch and will give some under-the-radar prospects a huge platform to break out on.
New York Gauchos Just Miss Out on Peach Jam. The New York Gauchos fell on the wrong end of multiple close games this weekend as they finished the Nike EYBL regular season 5-10 and missed out on the Peach Jam. The toughest loss for the Gauchos to swallow was their 71-70 loss against the Justin Anderson (Virginia — #45) led Boo Williams (VA, 9-6) squad in which Anderson went off for 26 points and 11 rebounds (read more about his performance below in the “Seven-Day All-Americans” section). The New York Gauchos have a lot of talent on their team and disappointed throughout the Nike EYBL regular season. However, they were in a tough division that included Boo Williams, CIA Bounce (CAN, 12-3), Playaz Basketball Club (NJ, 11-4), Georgia Stars (11-4), All Iowa Attack (10-5) and Athletes First (OK, 8-7). The NY Gauchos features Class of 2012 talent such as shooting guard Omar Calhoun and center Mike Tobey (Virginia) but will have a tough time rebuilding for next year as they don’t have as much Class of 2013 and Class of 2014 talent as they would like.
Marcus Paige, North Carolina, Point Guard — Paige was excellent all throughout the weekend at the Nike EYBL and displayed a tremendous ability to lead his team, manage the game and create scoring opportunities for his teammates, all reasons why he is the best point guard in the Class of 2012. He is consistently excellent and also plays well on defense, using his lateral quickness to keep his opponents in front of him. In addition to creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, he showed the ability to score himself by utilizing a beautiful mid-range game. Because of his quickness and speed, he is able to constantly get by his defender and if he developed an outstanding floater in the lane, he would be absolutely deadly. He can also improve by getting bigger and stronger so his body can better handle the daily beating it suffers from the nature of the game.
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke, Shooting Guard — Sulaimon is good in all parts of the game and is an elite perimeter defender. He also showed the ability to consistently hit mid-range and perimeter jump shots and did a good job slashing into the lane. Sulaimon displayed nice passing skills and court vision as well and can drive-and-kick which is perfect for Mike Krzyzewski‘s offense at Duke. He, along with Class of 2012 point guards L.J. Rose (#20) and J-Mychal Reese (#38) led Houston Hoops (TX) to a first-place finish in a tough division that included Baltimore Elite (MD, 11-4), CP3 (NC, 11-4) and California Supreme (10-5). Houston Hoops also finished fifth overall in the regular season and Sulaimon will be a determining factor regarding how far his team makes it in the Peach Jam.
Justin Anderson, Virginia, Small Forward — When Anderson plays like the way he did at the Nike EYBL this weekend you literally can’t stop him, you can only hope to slow him down. He again showed off his freakish athleticism and elite slashing skills every game he played in and led his Boo Williams (VA) squad to a one-point, 71-70, victory over the New York Gauchos, helping his team to a Peach Jam appearance. He also grabbed 11 rebounds but more importantly displayed an improved three-point shot, something we said he needed to do if he wanted to be an elite prospect. His shot has more arc on it now and makes him impossible to guard when he’s knocking the perimeter shot down. Look for him to be the biggest mover when we update our Class of 2012 prospect rankings and to definitely crack the top 25.
Brandon Ashley, Undecided, Power Forward — Ashley is one of the most versatile players in the Class of 2012 and continues to show it as he scores from inside and out, leads the break and finishes in transition like few others. He utilizes his quickness and length beautifully and also plays the game intelligently. He makes a scary duo with Class of 2013 power forward Aaron Gordon (Class of 2013 Watch List) as they are identical players who dominate all facets of the game. Ashley is simply a great combo forward who has a very high ceiling and still has another year to improve his game before he goes off to college. Regarding his recruitment, he says he still doesn’t have a list and doesn’t have an exact time-table although he did say he plans on making a decision by the end of the summer.
Sim Bhullar, Xavier, Center — The 7’5 Indian giant was unstoppable at the Nike EYBL and the only thing that slowed him down in some games was his conditioning. Because he is around 330 pounds, it’s often difficult for the Class of 2012 big man to get up and down the court but every time he steps on the court he seems to dig a little deeper so he can play more minutes. A lot of times, Bhullar can simply use his height to shoot over defenders and get rebounds but he continues to improve his basketball skill set whether it be his pillow-soft hands, impressive touch around the basket or his positioning on the low block. The biggest and most obvious area of improvement for him is his conditioning but he can also get better at boxing opponents out, getting stronger and developing interior scoring moves.
Jabari Parker, Small Forward, Sophomore — Parker helped Mac Irvin Fire (IL, 11-4) in many ways this weekend whether it was crashing the boards offensively, slashing to the basket to get easy buckets, hit mid-range jumpers or show off a couple of nice scoring moves in the low post. He also made some impressive passes and clearly showed he’s all about winning and would rather get the victory than have a good game individually. One of my favorite moves that he displayed this weekend was a turn-around jumper that is practically impossible to guard. However, he needs to improve on his ball-handling and strength so he can keep getting better. Parker currently has a list that includes Georgetown, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State and Washington.
Jahlil Okafor, Power Forward, Freshman— Okafor was tremendous this weekend at the Nike EYBL and was the one of the best, if not the best, freshman at the event. He is one player I really look forward to seeing more of because he has a lot of skill now but still has a lot of room to improve because of his high ceiling. He displayed the ability to play in and around contact and has good hands and feet that you love to see in a big man. He also played well around the rim and even stepped out to hit a few mid-range jumper but can improve his conditioning and work to become a little more athletic. Okafor doesn’t have a list as of yet but is very likely to be considering his native Illinois.
Julius Randle, Power Forward, Sophomore — Randle single-handedly kept his Team Texas Titans (8-7) squad in the game against BABC (MA, 14-1) and dominated Class of 2013 star center Nerlens Noel (Watch List) who is the best defensive big man in the country among the sophomores. He used a variety of post-moves throughout the weekend which worked against everybody and used his strength in the interior to bully people around. He has the ability to simply take over games but is turnover-prone at times and can be of little impact for stretches that last too long. Randle said this weekend that he has offers from Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas and that Baylor and Duke have shown interest in him.
Nerlens Noel, Center, Sophomore — Noel is the best defensive big man in the country and again proved it this weekend at the Nike EYBL as he dominated the interior by blocking shots and influencing shots even without laying a hand on them (except for his match-up with Randle as noted above). Not only does he possess tremendous athleticism and length, but he understands the nuances of the game and plays intelligently so he times his jumps well on the defensive end and seems to always know what his opponent plans on doing. Noel is also productive on the offensive end and has a couple of scoring moves, although that is a definite area of improvement. He can also get stronger but he is simply outstanding overall and does a lot of little things well. He says he has no list right now although he is talking to others on the EYBL circuit about certain schools including Class of 2012 shooting guard Ricardo Ledo (#9).