SACRAMENTO, Ca. – Session 1 of the 2014 version of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League tipped off Friday night at the Jackson Sports Academy.
I was courtside for two of the 10 games played, which allowed me to zero in on – up-close and personal – two of the five best players in the national class of 2015.
And Cheick Diallo (Team SCAN/Centerreach, NY, Our Saviour New American) and Allonzo Trier (Athletes First/Rockville, MD, Montrose Christian) more than delivered the goods.
The six-foot-eight Diallo (who came to the United States, from the African nation of Mali a little more than two years ago) dominated play, in and around the lane, while helping his team edge Canada’s CIA (Christians in Action) Bounce club, 46-44.
He was the only player on his squad to score in double figures (with 20 points; he also grabbed five rebounds) while CIA Bounce got double-figure production from guard Jamal Murray (15 points) and forwards Dillon Brooks and Montaque Gill Caesar (10 apiece).
Athletes First (based in Oklahoma City) and Northwest Elite (a combination of players from Washington and Oregon) were part of the second set (tipping off at 8:30) games.
And the 6-4 Trier wasted little time in showing why he – and not Malik Newman of Jackson, MS (who didn’t show up to play for the Jackson Tigers; he instead was playing for a team in the Under Armour-fronted event in Kansas City) – very well could be the No. 1 shooting guard prospect in 2015.
Trier finished with 35 points in efficient fashion: He hit nine of 14 shots from the field (including one of three from behind the arc) and all 16 of his free throws.
Leading the way for Northwest Elite, with 21 points, was another of the better shooting guard prospects in the Class of 2015, 6-4 DeJounte Murray (Seattle Rainier Beach), who missed 13 of the 21 shots he attempted but finished with 21 points.
In one of the games I wasn’t able to watch, Ben Simmons scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help Florida-based Each 1 Teach 1 past the Newman-less Jackson Tigers, 77-62.
The 6-8 and left-handed Simmons, who played this past season for Montverde Academy in Florida after migrating from Australia, is – conservatively – is another of the Top 10 prospects in the Class of 2015.
Fifty-eight games down with 30 more on tap for Sunday.
That’s how Session One of the 2014 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League stood after Saturday’s second day of play at the Jackson Sports Academy during the first week of the Nike EYBL spring “season”.
I did my very best to zero in, from courtside – from start to finish – on seven of those games Saturday.
Here are some of my observations – often of the “random” variety:
*The “Lawson Brothers” put on a nifty display while helping Team Penny (with players from in and around Memphis) the St. Louis Eagles during one of the 9 o’clock games Saturday morning.
Six-foot-eight Dedric Lawson has been rated a lot nearer the top of the Class of 2016 national “ratings” (be that as they may) than has older sibling Keelon Lawson (all 6-7 or so of him) in the Class of 2015.
But Keelon’s “national” shine is sure be enhanced rapidly if the next three EYBL sessions (in Dallas, Hampton and Minneapolis) prove to be every bit as fruitful for him.
They’ve been teammates at Hamilton High in Memphis (where their dad, Keelon Lawson Sr. has been their coach) but apparently will be transferring to Arlington County Day in Jacksonville, FL for the next school year and basketball season.
Also turning in impressive efforts for the Eagles were two of the better players from the Midwest in the Class of 2016, forward Jayson Tatum (St. Louis Chaminade) and guard Quentin Goodin (Taylor County in Campbellsville, KY).
The 6-6 Tatum already has a lot of national “cache” among the recruiting “analyst-types” and Goodin should be on that level pretty soon, as well.
*Six-four King McClure (by way of Triple-A Academy in Dallas) hit a pull-up jumper from the left baseline at the buzzer to give the Texas Titans a one-point victory over Alabama Challenge.
McClure is one of the better “small forward/shooting guard-types” in Texas and his team also need the long-range jump-shooting accuracy of 6-1 Grant Troutt (The Episcopal School in Dallas) to knock off a squad with a least a half-dozen low- to high-major college prospects that include one Florida-based prospect from the Class of 2016 in Landon Trent Forrest (Chipley High in the city of the same name).
Forrest was one of the better point guards I saw Saturday.
*Leo Papile – as good a coach as there is on the national “travel ball” – has another strong Boston Area Basketball Club (BABC) squad, as was quite apparent as it improved to 3-0 in this event with wins over Howard Pulley (Minnesota) and The Family (Michigan) on Saturday.
Papile has two of the better eastern-based prospects from the Class of 2015 in pick-and-pop forward Jeremy Miller (New Hampton School in New Hampshire) and 6-4 combo guard Terance Mann (the Tilton School in; all in New Hampshire).
*Jalen Brunson (Chicago Stevenson) is as nationally respected as any point guard prospect from the Class of 2015.
But the standout for Chicago-based Mac Irvin during its victory over Houston Hoops Saturday afternoon was one of the best jump shooters anywhere on the EYBL circuit – 5-10 Luwane Pipkins (Chicago Bogan).
He knocked in 28 points against Houston Hoops, hitting five of nine shots from behind the arc.
*Spiece Indy Heat has one of the better post combinations in the EYBL this season and if you don’t buy into the declaration you didn’t watch 6-7 Deyonta Davis (Muskegon, MI) and 6-8 Caleb Swanigan (Ft. Wayne, IN, Homestead) pound the team to wins over Team Takeover and the Arkansas Wings Saturday.
Swanigan (Class of 2016) averaged 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the wins while Davis – who has committed to sign a letter of intent with Michigan State in November and is as quick a jumper as there is in this event – averaged 22.5 and 10.5, respectively.
*Six-four DeJounte Murray (Seattle Rainier Beach) played well in the Northwest Xpress loss to Athletes First Friday night and I watched him score 25 points Saturday night in his team’s victory over the Travelers Basketball Club.
*I didn’t see either game Saturday but the best perimeter player in the event – 6-4 Allonzo Trier (Rockfield, MD, Montrose Christian) of Athletes First – was proving that statement correct once again.
Trier, who scored 35 points Friday night, scored 29 in his team’s win over Jackson Saturday morning and 24 – including the buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer – Saturday night against New York Lightning.
SACRAMENTO – Forty teams combined to play 79 (give or take) games during the first weekend of the 2014 season of the Nike-fronted Elite Youth Basketball League.
Anyone who suggests that they can offer a concise rundown on the bulk of the players who showed up in the Jackson Sports Academy is either prone to considerable exaggeration or is a bald-faced liar (as opposed to a “full-bearded fibber”, I suppose).
I feel comfortable is suggesting that I don’t fall into either category.
So there will be no pretense of a complete rundown for the time being.
What I will offer up, though, is a list – say, 13 deep – for the guys who did the best job of impressing over the weekend, either based strictly on how well they played or my reaction upon watching them, in person, for the first time.
Let’s get started with the top players I witnessed on the perimeter and the post.
And they were:
*Allonzo Trier (6-foot-4/Class of 2015/Rockville, MD, Montrose Christian/Athletes First) gets the very enthusiastic nod on the perimeter for the way he scored so easily and efficiently (28.5 points per game/54 percent from the field, overall, including 48 percent from behind the arc) while leading his team to four victories in as many games.
There are those who continue to cling to the notion that Malik Newman (Jackson, MS, Callaway High) is the No. 1 shooting guard prospect in the national Class of 2015.
Newman might have sold me on that concept had he, in fact, been in Sacramento playing for the EYBL Jackson (MS) Tigers instead of a team in the Under Armour-sponsored event in Pittsburgh over the weekend.
A Trier vs. Newman head-up matchup could have been one of the only highlights of the spring “live NCAA evaluation period event”.
*Cheick Diallo (6-8/2015/Centerreach, NY, Our Savior/Team SCAN) needs to expand his offensive repertoire from dunks and the occasional jump hook or turn-around jump shot.
But no one rebounder more spectacularly or played any harder than he did while – IMHO – demonstrating that he was the best of the post players in attendance, regardless of class.
And, 11 more:
*The Lawson Brothers from Team Penny (Hardaway), 2015 Keelon Jr. (6-8/Jacksonville, FL, Arlington Country Day) and 2016 Dedric (6-8 and ditto) played hard and unselfishly – a pretty cool combination – over the weekend.
*Spiece Indy Heat is another club that went 4-zip on the first weekend, largely behind the post play of Michigan State-committed Deyonta Davis (6-8/2015/Muskegon, MI, Muskegon) and Caleb Swanigan (6-8/2016/Indianapolis Arsenal Tech).
They combined to average 36.7 points and 18.8 rebounds per game as their team won its four games by an average margin of 13 points.
*This was my first opportunity to see 6-6 Jayson Tatum (St. Louis Chaminade High) and he more than delivered on the hyperbole while averaging 21.2 points in the St. Louis Eagles’ four games.
I might prove to be more than just a tad conservative on this assessment but he’s at least somewhere among the 10 best prospects in the national Class of 2016.
*Canadian players, largely via the Nike CIA program, have made a major impact on college hoops of late.
Soon to join that group is 6-4 guard Jamal Murray, by way of Toronto.
Another Class of 2016 standout, Murray was terrific over the weekend two weeks after playing well for the World Select squad in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.
*Six-eleven Udoka Azubuike (Jacksonville, FL, Potter’s House Christian) used four games with Nike Team Florida over the weekend to show all in attendance why he is one of the very best centers in the Class of 2016.
His skills are still very raw – he came to the U.S. from Nigeria a little more than a year ago – but there is no doubt that, at about 260 or so pounds, he is going to be dominating force on the high school ranks for the next two years.
*Eric Davis (Saginaw Hill) and Jalen Brunson (Chicago Stevenson), doing their respective things for The Family and Mac Irvin, put their point guard skills on display over the weekend.
Brunson may be the consensus choice as the best PG prospect in the Class of 2015 and Davis might not be too far behind.
Another exceptional 2015 PG – although he could also be called a “combo” at his size (6-4 plus) – over the weekend was Terance Mann, a BABC standout who attends the New Tilton School in New Hampshire.
*Jump shooter-deluxe Malik Monk (Bentonville, AR) was outstanding when I watched him on Saturday with Arkansas Wings.
And then the 2016 standout dropped 59 points (including 10 3s) Sunday morning in a loss to All-Ohio Red (caveat: I didn’t see the game).
Just guessing: That’s a single-game EYBL record.
There were dozens of others who impressed me to various degrees over the weekend.
I’ll re-visit them in two weeks when I’m in Dallas for Session II.