What we learned at Dallas EYBL
DALLAS -- There's a lot of elements to like with the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. For starters, the games have meaning. The end goal is to play well enough to earn a spot in the Peach Jam, which, of course, is a target-rich environment for college coaches. A spot in the July event is coveted and must be earned, therefore, there's a sense of pride that comes with playing for an EYBL team and a responsibility to win games with a bigger goal in mind.
Team Takeover setting the standard
Competitiveness at the EYBL is in full spring bloom. This year, the top squad is undefeated Team Takeover, which happens to be last year's reigning champion. Takeover doesn't have a single Top 25 recruit but it does sport a coach in Keith Stevens who holds his guys accountable and whips them into a hard-playing frenzy. There's a camaraderie and pride in playing for the team and wearing the specially-designed champions uniforms. Everyone wants a piece of Takeover but so far, through 10 games, no one has touched them.
Nabbing a recruit from Takeover is a feather in the cap for a college coach for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you know you've recruited a talented player. Secondly, right off the bat the young man understands what it means to be a part of something bigger than the individual and to a coach, that's an enormous intangible. Takeover's players are the most successful and the team doesn't have a big-ego guy on the roster. It's a healthy, competitive AAU situation.
"These guys just get together and they bond," Stevens said. "They have each other's back and everyone wants to be a part of it. They don't want to be the outcast."
Singling out the key guys for Takeover means not giving credit to the entire roster, which, as we just said, is the reason for the team's success. The heavy lifting is done by SF Jerami Grant (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha), PG James Robinson (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) and SF Arnaud Moto (Alexandria, Va./Episcopal). Class of 2013 C BeeJay Anya (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) also held his own against the No. 2 overall player in the 2012 class, DaJuan Coleman (DeWitt, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt), last weekend.
Grant is playing the best basketball of his young career and SG Patrick Holloway (Stafford, Va./Paul VI) is a baby-faced Stephen Curry knockoff for the team.
In an era of individualism in the sport of basketball, so far the top traveling team on the EYBL circuit happens to be the most cohesive and humble collection of talent.
Class of 2014 players fitting in
There are 20 members of the Class of 2014 listed on the rosters of EYBL teams, but some of them are freshmen in age only. Three of them carry themselves with no regard for their class status. Unless you glanced at the roster, there's no way you'd mistake CP3 PG Theo Pinson (Greensboro, N.C./Oak Ridge), Howard Pulley PG Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) or CIA Bounce SF Andrew Wiggins (Toronto, Ont./Vaughn) for freshmen.
Jones wasn't merely one of the best underclassmen in attendance last weekend; he was one of the best players. In his final game of the event, he dropped 45 points on an opponent. The scary part is that scoring isn't even his specialty -- he's an elite setup man with superior poise. Pinson came into the spring after distinguishing himself as the top underclassman at the Carolina Challenge. His feel for the game, shot-making ability and length will put him into the conversation for top wing prospect in his class. Wiggins, well, he's the next great one out of Canada.
PGs make their move
Our approach to the point guard class of 2012 entering the spring was extremely open-minded. We'd be the first to tell you that the confidence level in our own rankings was not particularly high. Translation: We were prepared for movement within our top 20 point guards. Last weekend, three players took big steps forward.
North Carolina commit Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Marr) looks like the top 2012 point guard in the EYBL. He's the best combination of floor presence, passing, leadership and scoring the league has. J-Mychal Reese (Bryan, Texas/Bryan) is the surprise of the group only in the sense that his game continues to mature. Future Florida Gator Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, N.C./United Faith) has the fewest weapons of the trio to work with, but dazzled with his shot-making abilities and his transition from the wing to the point is progressing.
Five who caught our attention
Mike Gesell (Sioux City, Neb./Sioux City) is the rare potential Super 60 recruit from Nebraska. He's a combo for All-Iowa Attack -- he's Paige's running mate -- but he'll slide over to the point in college. Iowa, Stanford, Nebraska, Harvard and Boston College want him.
One young man looking to go from prospect to player is power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, S.C./Edisto). A wafer-thin shot-blocker, Johnson's a weight room away from taking his jump shot to a BCS frontcourt. Clemson and Florida are high on his list.
Jordan Price (Conyers, Ga./SW DeKalb) can get buckets. The shooting guard for the Southern Kings hit his stride late in the weekend. This guy can provide offense at the high-major level.
In a few years, when you're watching March Madness and wondering who Craig Bradshaw (Greenbrier, Tenn./Greenbrier) is, impress your friends with this nugget: Bradshaw is a cerebral, thinking man's wing with a competitive edge who is razor sharp. Belmont (big surprise, huh?) offered him and Boston College and Stanford are looking.
Team Final is young and Michael Gilchrist is out of AAU eligibility so the squad is rebuilding. The rock they've elected to build around is Rondae Jefferson (Chester, Pa./Chester). The team's best player is morphing into a classic small forward and he's only a sophomore.
If it's shooters you like
They may not all sign with high-major programs but their range and shots will be put to use in college. After three days of wall-to-wall ball, these guys were the best we saw behind the arc. These are the five guys with a chance to shoot better than 40 percent from deep in college.
All-Iowa Attack SF Kale Abrahamson, 2012 (West Des Moines, Iowa/Valley)
Athletes First PG Stephen Clark, 2013 (Oklahoma City, Okla./Douglas)
Boo Williams SG Josh Fortune, 2012 (Hampton, Va./Kecoughtan)
Team Takeover SG Patrick Holloway, 2012 (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI)
N.J. Playaz SG Myles Davis, 2012 (Jersey City, N.J./Notre Dame Prep)
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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