BROOKLYN, NY – With 40 teams and just two days to do so, trying to sort out all of the high-caliber prospects in the 2016 edition of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League is a daunting task, for sure.
But, hey, I’ll give it a shot . . .
Games tipped off at 8 in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, in a four-court facility that normally serves as the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and wrapped up at about 10 p.m. Saturday and 5 o’clock on Sunday.
I watched 30 of the EYBL’s teams for at least one full game and saw at least half of those for large portions or all of a second game.
Full disclosure: Teams I didn’t see were Alabama Challenge, Albany City (NY) Rocks, Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC), Elfrid Payton (LA) Elite, Howard Pulley (MN), NSB Elite (FL), Southern Stampede (GA), Team Final (PA), The Family (MI) and We All Can Go (TN).
OK, onto some of the players I didn’t include in my “Top 12 performers for the weekend”:
DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Hillcrest Academy/California Supreme), Michael Porter Jr. (Columbia, MO, Tolton Catholic/Kevin Durant MOKAN Elite), Kevin Knox (Tampa Catholic/E1T1), Brandon McCoy (San Diego Cathedral Catholic/Cal Supreme), Jarred Vanderbilt (Houston Victory Prep/Houston Hoops), Billy Preston (Dallas Advanced Prep International/RM5) each had impressive moments when I watched them over the weekend.
And I have no quibbles with anyone who suggests that each is among the 10 best prospects in the national class of 2017.
But there were 12 athletes who played better when I was watching Saturday and Sunday.
More likely than not, all six would be included if the soon-to-follow list was strictly made up of “the 12 best prospects” I saw over the weekend.
And Marvin Bagley III (Chatsworth/Phoenix Phamily) played well when I watched his team knock off Preston and RM5 Saturday morning and, for the most part, looked the part of the consensus choice as the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2018 right now.
Others who had strong moments over the weekend but didn’t make the “Top 12 cut” included point guards Matt Coleman (Mouth of Wilson, VA, Oak Hill Academy/Boo Williams), Jose Alvarado (Queens Christ the King/New York Rens) and Marques Wilson (Edmond, OK, North/Team Griffin); forwards P.J. Washington (Henderson, NV, Findlay Prep/Team Penny), Justin Smith (Buffalo Grove, IL, Stevenson/Mac Irvin Fire) and Jordan Tucker (White Plains, NY, Stepinac/The Rens); “wings” D.J. Harvey (Hyattsville, MD, DeMatha/Team United/Team Takeover), Chuck O’Bannon (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman/Las Vegas Prospects); Walter Whyte (New Haven, CT, St. Luke’s/PSA Cardinals), Brandon Randolph (Westtown, PA, School/PSA Cardinals) and Jarrett Culver (Lubbock, TX, Coronado/Pro Skills); and centers Lance Thomas (Atlanta Norcross/Team United) and Brady Manek (Harrah, OK/Team Griffin).
Among the 10 teams I didn’t get to watch was Howard Pulley (based in Minnesota), with a roster that includes another Top 10ish prospect in the class, Gary Trent Jr., possibly – if not quite probably yet – the best shooting guard in 2017.
One other for sure Top 10 prospect in the class wasn’t in Brooklyn over the weekend.
Center Wendall Carter, who helped the Georgia Stars win the Peach Jam last July but has since joined CP3 (Chris Paul’s North Carolina-based EYBL squad), remained in Atlanta because he had a role in a stage production put on by Pace Academy’s drama program.
So, without further adieu, on to my Top 12 performers for the first EYBL weekend of the spring:
*Mohamed Bamba (6-11/Westtown, CT, School/PSA Cardinals): I watched PSA played two full games (vs. Cal Supreme on Saturday and vs. The Rens). In the process of helping team his knock off those very two gifted squads, he was the most impressive “big man” in a field that was packed with them.
*Brian “Tugs” Bowen (6-7/La Porte, IN, La Lumiere Academy/MeanStreets): No “big wing” played better at the event than did Bowen, who has improved remarkably – especially as a jump shooter – over the past year.
*Daejon Davis (6-4/Seattle Garfield/Rotary Select): After DeAndre Ayton, he’s the best “non-Californian” in the western class of 2017. His offensive approach for Rotary Select was “3E: economical, efficient and explosive.
*Hamidou Diallo (6-4/Putnam, CT, Science Academy/The Rens): As far as “buzz effect”, no one created more of it Saturday and Sunday. He dropped in a bunch of jump shots in the two games I watched (vs. NY Lightning and PSA). And the dunk he had over the top of 6-11 Deng Gak in the last game played Sunday has a good chance of being the most attention-grabbing I’ll see this spring and summer
*Quade Green (6-0/Philadelphia Neumann-Goretti/PSA Cardinals): An ankle injury kept Green from playing during the Pangos All-American Camp (in SoCal) and the NBPA Top 10-0 Camp (in Charlottesville, VA) last June and he was far from at full strength for WE R1 during the Fab 48 in Las Vegas in July. He used the weekend to show everyone what they missed seeing last summer. His decision-, play- and shot-making, as well as his defense, were superb. He’s a top five prospect at point guard in this class.
*Chris Lykes (5-7/Washington, DC, Gonzaga Prep/Team Takeover): Until someone demonstrates to me otherwise, this is the best “small” guard in the class. Dang, he plays so hard and fearlessly!
*Nicholas Richards (7-0/Elizabeth, NJ, Patrick School/Expressions Elite): His play-to-play focus and aggressiveness seems to have gone up several notches since I last watched him in January. His offensive skill level has made the same progress.
*Mitchell Robinson (7-0/Chalmette, LA/Pro Skills): He was the best shot blocker at the event and played hard – and with a purpose – until the final buzzer against the relentless E1T1 duo of Kevin Knox and Emmitt Williams. He’s committed to Texas A&M.
*Simola Shittu (6-9/Montverde, FL, Academy/CIA Bounce): Shittu’s performance during his team’s win over Houston Hoops bordered on stunning. He did everything you’d want from a power forward and passed better than any frontcourt player at the event. There can’t be five better prospects in the Class of 2018.
*Trae Young (6-1/Norman, OK, North/Kevin Durant MOKAN Elite): I watched Trevon Duvall (Dallas Advanced Prep International) played Friday night at the Under Armour event in Manhattan. He’s labeled by most as the No. 1 point guard prospect in the class of 2017. But I thought Young played even better on Saturday morning (vs. Indiana Spiece) than did Duvall. He could be the best passer in the class.
*Ethan Thompson (6-4/Torrance, CA, Bishop Montgomery/California Supreme): He’s as fluid and accurate a jump shooter as there is in the class – as he demonstrated on ESPNU Saturday while hitting all five of his shots from behind the arc against the PSA Cardinals.
*Emmitt Williams (6-8/Bradenton, FL, IMG Academy/E1T1): This was the best rebounder – especially on the offensive end – and finisher I watched. He plays so freakin’ hard. He was right there with Simola Shittu and Marvin Bagley III as the most impressive juniors-to-be I watched in Brooklyn.