The fourth annual NIKE Elite Youth Basketball League is back in Southern California following a one year hiatus. The top NIKE teams from throughout the country faced off at the Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove and put on quite a show for fans and the masses of Division 1 coaches in attendance. Here are a number of story lines and standouts from Friday's action.
5-Star Bigs Battle As Johnson Hits Game Winner For Oakland SoldiersThe battle between the top overall players in the class of 2014 and 2015 was not meant to be, as top ranked 2014 prospect Jahlil Okafor is out due to injury. However, top ranked 2015 prospect Ivan Rabb of the Oakland Soldiers certainly found an adequate challenger in the fifth ranked 2014 prospect, Cliff Alexander of Mac Irvin.
Both prospects had their moments. Alexander is simply a physical specimen and the 6'10 250 center is unstoppable in the paint. He finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds while battling foul trouble. Rabb certainly got the better of the individual matchup with a huge second half, as the Soldiers overcame a 10 plus point deficit.
Rabb has great hands and uses his wingspan well to contest shots and gobble up rebounds. He had 19 rebounds in this one and finished with 15 points, as he is beginning to gain confidence on the offensive end with his perimeter post game of fade aways and mid range jumpers.
Josh Cunningham led Mac Irvin with 17 points. The 4-star small forward hit a multitude of perimeter jump shots. Marcus LoVett had 6 points and 4 assists in his 2013 debut with Mac Irvin in his backyard of Southern California. The former Providence High School standout indicated he has not made a decision regarding where he will be attending school in the fall.
The superb 2013-2014 year for Stanley Johnson has continued. The 5-star prospect who is coming off a dominating performance in the California State Basketball Championship Game, was not his best offensively Friday night but did all the little things, including win the game. He struggled from the perimeter, shooting 5 for 13 but he had 12 rebounds and 12 points, the last 2 were the most important as Johnson drove hard to the basket and finished a lay up with under 10 seconds left to win the game, 64-62.
Trevor Dunbar also played well for the Soldiers. The San Francisco native has waited his turn and looks ready to shine as the full time point guard for his high powered travel team. He is a change of pace point guard, who excels in transition and getting opportunities for others. He finished with 6 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and just one turnover. Dunbar recently picked up his first scholarship offer from Florida A&M and if he plays like how he did on Friday, I expect that to be the first of many.
Gabe Vincent was one of the spark plugs for the Soldiers' double digit rally. Vincent is a knock down outside shooter and good on the ball defender. He hit 3 three-pointers en route to 12 points. The 6'2 guard certainly fits the bill of the mid-major shooting guard his scholarship list equates to.
Other StandoutsDevin Booker, the Mississippi combo guard, was the best player I saw in Friday's 3-game slate. The 4-star guard has grown to 6'5 and has an advanced game. He plays with patience and is very skilled. Booker has an excellent jump shot with range extending to the three point line and he also showed a post game, as he used his size to back down a guard and score inside. He finished with 21 points and 4 assists.
Chris McCullough, the future Syracuse Orangeman, played very well and led Team Scan to a victory in front of his college head coach Jim Boeheim and assistant coach Adrian Autry. He has impressive length and athleticism and is a highlight film in the open floor. He had 4 dunks en route to 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also showed a developing pick and pop perimeter game.
Jae'Sean Tate, the future Ohio State Buckeye, plays with great energy. He is a physical player with his 6'5 220 frame. He finishes well inside, as most of his team high 18 points were around the basket.
L.J. Peak was arguably the lone bright spot for CP3. The South Carolina native has transferred back home to South Carolina and is adapting well to his new travel team. Peak is an athletic wing player that can get to basket and finish from outside. He hit 2 three-pointers en route to a team high 20 points.
News and NotesThe Soldiers/Mac Irvin game had arguably the biggest coaches crowd of the evening. John Calipari, Steve Alford, John Beilein, Tom Crean, Sean Miller, Shaka Smart, Andy Enfield and Josh Pastner were among the many coaches.
The Los Angeles Clippers were well represented at the EYBL: Chris Paul was watching his travel team CP3 All Stars, Eric Bledsoe was in attendance to see his former travel team Alabama Challenge, and head coach Vinny Del Negro was in attendance to see his nephew Bob Ahearn of BABC.
Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre was also in attendance.