I've made it to the Norfolk Airport and now that my flight to Kansas City (connection in Chicago) is about an hour and a half late I've got even more time than expected to reflect on the last day and a half of Boo Williams.
As far as any opening weekend for an event can go, Nike has to be pretty pleased with how the first weekend of the Elite Youth Basketball League played out.
Beal/St. Louis Eagles Score Win Over Rivers and E1T1
I hadn't initially planned to watch the matchup between the Saint Louis Eagles and Each One Teach One. However, the storyline of the Eagles 6-foot-4 scoring whiz Brad Beal going head to head with Austin Rivers -- who like Beal pledged to Florida before backing off late last week -- was too good to pass up. Even though the two didn't guard each other all that much, it was certainly an entertaining battle as Beal dropped 37 (including 22 in the 2nd half) and Rivers pumped in 34 as the Eagles erased a 12 point halftime deficit to take the win and finish their weekend 5-0.
Needless to say, the question of who is better was quite the hot topic amongst everybody in attendance. The truth is that you really can't go wrong with either but for now I'll take Beal. The reason for that is because he doesn't seem to dominate the ball near as much as Rivers -- who is a big fan of the dribble across halfcourt and take a shot without passing move -- and does things within the structure of the team. That's not to knock Rivers because Austin is a special player in his own right and likely the better long term (ie NBA) prospect than Beal. But for college, I'd rather have Beal.
In terms of what he did, Beal hit on deep threes, he attacked the rim and scored with either hand and showcased his beautiful mid range game. He's also a willing defender, rebounds his position and probably doesn't get enough credit for his athleticism. Bottom line, he's built to score and has an incredible arsenal to choose from.
Rivers, on the other hand, is a bit more dominant with the ball. He's impressive in the screen and roll, has some explosion off the dribble and has a pair of huge hands that really help him to control the ball through contact. He shoots with range and sometimes is a little too willing to forget his game attacking the basket to launch deep, contested threes.
Also interesting to note is that even though they are both members of the class of 2011, Rivers turned 18 during December while Beal is only 16 and won't hit 17 until the end of June.
More Top Performers
Stevie Taylor, PG, All-Ohio Red- Generously listed at 5-foot-10, the diminutive and skinny point guard from C-Bus was on fire from deep. Doing his best Isaiah Thomas (the Washington one) impression, he imposed his will on the game and led All-Ohio to a hard fought win over a deep and talented Oakland Soldiers team. He's got a big time motor and high major skills, the question will be whether or not bigger programs will be willing to overlook his smallish size.
Michael Carter-Williams, SG/PG, BABC- When I last saw him play in February, the 6-foot-4 combo guard was a scoring machine. Moving ahead to Boo, he was up to his scoring tricks again. Very skinny, he's a clever ball handler and shot creator who has easy range to the three point line. Credit him for playing through pain and he's a guy who should contend for the McDonald's All-American Game before it's all said and done. Syracuse got a good one!
Josiah Turner, PG, Drew Gooden Soldiers- At the end of last summer, Turner looked to be more of a combo guard who had a reputation for not always bringing it. A year later (and with a new team in the Soldiers) he's solidified himself as a scoring point guard with good size and a newly found killer instinct. Not a jaw dropping athlete, but he changes speeds and goes right or left with ease and really puts pressure on defenses. When pressured or cut off, he does a good job of finding teammates. Big weekend for the young man from Sacramento.
Jabari Brown, SG, Oakland Soldiers- At 6-foot-3, Brown is a strong and compact wing scorer who just goes out there and gets buckets. He's going to score a lot of points in the Pac-10 (where he lands I don't know, but I bet it will be in the Pac-10) when he gets to school and his strength and ability to catch and shoot should help him make the transition.
Keep an Eye on These Guys
Elijah Macon, PF, All-Ohio Red- One of the more impressive 2012 prospects in attendance, the 6-foot-9 power forward has exceptional quickness. He's got pretty good touch in the lane, competes for loose balls and has an ideal basketball body with long arms and shoulders that will allow him to fill out. Freshly de-committed from West Virginia, he's easily a high major prospect who could play just about anywhere in the country.
Bryce Johnson, PF/C, Carolina Ravens- Another 6-foot-9 big man from the class of 2012, Johnson is a skinny and swift insider. Runs the floor well, explodes for dunks in traffic and is a good positional shot blocker. He's got very narrow shoulders which is a bit of a concern looking down the road and projecting how well he'll be able to add weight.
Brandon Ashley, PF/C, Drew Gooden Soldiers- I'm on a roll with 2012 big guys so I'll talk about Ashley next. A legit 6-foot-8 (at least) and still growing, he's come along nicely over the last year. Gets on the glass, runs the floor and blocks shots. Has some offense in the paint but doesn't get a ton of touches with all the Soldiers guard talent.
Isaiah Zierden, SG, Howard Pulley- Hey look, another 2012 guy. He probably wouldn't be the first guy picked in a pickup game, but this undersized shooting guard can flat out shoot the ball and is quite clever in freeing himself for shots. He's got high major skill level, but at about 6-foot-1, his lack of size could mean good things for the quality mid major programs that are going to drool over him.
Mikael Hopkins, PF, Team Takeover- He's still lacking a bit for strength, but the 2011 big man is progressing quite nicely. He scores around the rim and is a high level rebounder both in and out of his area. Overall his fundamentals are solid (not surprising given he plays for a great coach at DeMatha in Mike Jones) and he plays with purpose.
Final Notes From Boo
Honestly, I'm not really sure what to make of Shabazz Napier. The future UConn Husky has good quickness, can score and plays with plenty of confidence. However, at about 5-11 he's also a shot jacker who loses focus of his job to get others involved on a regular basis. If I had to ballpark it, I'd say he's a bottom end top 100 type of player. Napier's BABC teammate Nerlens Noel looks pretty good but the skinny 6-foot-9 power forward/center is still a little limited while he recovers from a knee injury. Like the way he runs, the way he's attacking the rim and how he's getting involved as a shot blocker. He remains an intriguing guy in the class of 2012. ... Loved watching SG/PG Alex Carr of the Birmingham Storm. The 6-foot-2 shooter was nailing shots from all over and also displayed excellent quickness off the dribble. Looks like a solid mid to upper mid major prospect. ... He's not going to get much ink elsehwere, but I LOVE watching Carolina Ravens power forward Fred Mattison. Undersized a bit at 6-foot-6, he's just a hard working kid who uses his athleticism and desire to make a lot of little plays that go unnoticed. Solid mid level prospect. ...
Pound for pound, there's probably not a tougher guy in the country than 5-foot-8 Kiwi Gardner. West coast high majors are going to have to take a long look at him because he's a productive dude and a natural leader. ... Twins Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart have a younger brother named Hikeem who is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard. He's pretty athletic, lean, long and can stroke the rock a bit. He'll be interesting to watch as a senior at Rainier Beach and figures to get at least mid to maybe even upper mid major looks. His Seattle Friends of Hoop teammate Brett Kingma is a bigtime shooter but is pretty small for a shooting guard at six feet (at most) tall. Also like FOH's 6-foot-6 wing Jeffrey Perkins. Good size, athleticism and a nice looking stroke. Could be a late blooming sleeper. ... Johnny Woodard a 6-foot-4 wing from Duluth (Minn.) East is an intriguing guy and will get some high major looks. Explosive athlete who can shoot it a bit and still has a few years to improve as a 2012 kid. Looked very good for Howard Pulley. ... Really wish I could get a better feel for 6-foot-7 PF/SF Jakarr Sampson of King James Shooting Stars. He's a deluxe athlete with good length and quickness. But, he's skinny and is kind of without a true position. ...
Want to also make sure that the St. Louis Eagles Roosevelt Jones gets some love. Built more like a football player, the 6-foot-4 wing is a playmaker off the dribble who gets a lot done. He is a tough defender, junkyard dog on the glass and always seems to make good things happen. It's hard not to imagine him having a potential future in a conference like the Missouri Valley. ...