BROOKLYN, NY – It didn’t’ take long for the national spotlight, of sorts, to turn onto the first day of the 2016 Nike Elite Youth Basketball season.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday one of the fifth set of games in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal – converted into a four-court hoops facility by Nike for the event – was televised by ESPN2.
And the California Supreme and PSA Cardinals squads more than held up the league – and themselves –well in the glare of the extra lighting and the focus of the ESPN cameras.
Those who follow grassroots basketball closely saw the game as a showdown of three of the very best “big” prospects in the Class of 2017.
And Cal Supreme’s Brandon McCoy (San Diego Cathedral Catholic) and DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Hillcrest Academy), and PSA’s Mohamed Bamba (Westtown, PA, School) certainly looked the part of that tag throughout the contest, which was won by PSA, 69-68, in a contest much more well-played and entertaining than you find in other ESPN-televised tilts.
McCoy (17 points, on five of 15 from the field and seven of 12 on free throws, with 6 six rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal) and Ayton (seven points on three of nine from the field and one of two free throws, to go with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot) each had moments that offered compelling evidence as to why each has a claim to the top spot in the national “6-foot-10 or taller” pecking order in the class of 2017.
But so did Bamba, especially in the second half when he snared nine of his game-high 13 rebounds. He finished with 13 points (seven of those after intermission) and is presence in and around the lane helped keep McCoy and/or Ayton from dominating the proceedings.
The most intriguing “head-to-head” sequences came in a second half in which neither team led by more than three points.
McCoy and Mohamed each scored over the top of one another, McCoy via a highly contested turnaround-12 footer and Mohamed with a jump hook that was delivered awkwardly but still managed to get over the right hand of McCoy and safely into thru the net due mostly to Bamba’s stunning reach (which may exceed that of McCoy and Ayton).
In what was perhaps the game’s most “wow!” defensive moment, Ayton caught a pass within 10 feet of his bucket and had Bamba sealed.
Ayton attempted to lift Bamba off his feet with a quick head fake only resulted in Bamba staying down and holding his ground as Ayton was called for traveling 1:25 remaining and PSA up by a bucket.
But Ayton, Bamba and McCoy weren’t the only ones to impress in front of a very large gathering of prominent college head coaches and a television audience.
Quade Green (Philadelphia Neumann Goretti) used the game to show why any discussion of who might belong in a top five pecking order of the top point guard prospects in the class of 2017 has to include him.
The 6-1 Green, whose ankle injury kept him out of last summer’s Pangos All-American and NBPA Top 100 camps, scored 17 points (six of 14 from the field, including a 3, while hitting all four free throws) with seven assists, two steals, two rebounds and three turnovers.
And his poise, patience and decision making were every bit as impressive as those numbers – especially down the stretch.
With his team holding a one-point advantage (at 66-65), Green, after consecutive timeouts, was able to deliver a 14-footer just as the shot clock was about to expire with 30-some-odd seconds in regulation.
McCoy and Bamba exchanged a free throw apiece and then superb freshman Cassius Stanley (Studio City, CA, Harvard-Westlake) scored on a drive for Cal Supreme with 8.8 tics in regulation.
After Brandon Randolph (a teammate of Bamba’s at Westtown) missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity, Cal Supreme had an opportunity to pull the victory out but Stanley’s pass, after a short baseline drive, went just out of the reach of Ayton and out of bounds with a second remaining.
Along with the aforementioned three of “bigs” and Green, Randolph and another one of 2017’s top shooting guard prospects, Cal Supreme’s Ethan Thompson (Torrance, CA, Bishop Montgomery), also delivered very well in their national TV exposures.
Randolph scored 14 of his 17 points via a five of seven jump shooting performance – including four 3s – in the first half.
Thompson didn’t miss a shot (a short jumper) until about 50 seconds remained in the contest.
Prior to that he hit seven jump shots – including five 3s – while scoring a game-high 19 points.
And Stanley – who didn’t have an opportunity to demonstrate his near-stunning vertical and horizontal explosiveness, but did score six points on only four shots with two assists and a blocked shot – wasn’t the only prospect from the class of 2019 to play well on Saturday.
Six-one Cole Anthony (New York City’s Archbishop Molloy) has some impressive “point-guard genes” in his makeup: He’s the son of former UNLV and NBA playmaker, turned-broadcaster Greg Anthony.
He scored five points (all in the first half) and showed remarkable skill and poise with the ball in his hands.