FISHERS, Ind. - Last summer, Nike changed things up when it implemented the Elite Youth Basketball League. Records mattered during preliminary events and teams had a summer end goal of making the Peach Jam to work towards. This year, the EYBL is back and Friday night there were 16 teams taking the floor at the EYBL qualifier just outside of Indianapolis in hopes of being one of two teams to fight their way into the league's 40-team field. Standing tall on Friday night was Devonta Pollard.
Pollard gets loose
Already a highly regarded four-star prospect, who ranks No. 29 in the class of 2012, Devonta Pollard looked, if anything, to be a bit underrated during his sensational night for the Southern Phenoms.
Although he's not the 6-foot-9 that he's listed on the Phenoms' roster, he's at least 6-foot-7 and has tremendous size for the small forward position. The lefty also happens to be in possession of a basketball body, elite-level athleticism and quickness off of the dribble.
The Porterville (Miss.) Kemper County star hit some deep threes, blocked shots, grabbed rebounds and got to the free throw line. However, the self-described "four-man" displayed tremendous quickness and ability to attack from the perimeter off the dribble.
Left or right, nobody could keep Pollard out of the lane as he shook off a rough start to score 22 of his team-high 25 during the second half.
"I play the four but I can put the ball on the floor and get to the bucket," said Pollard. "I can play multiple spots, that's what makes me different. If I have a big guy I'm too quick off the dribble or I can take a little guy into the post."
Fred Thomas, SG/SF, Southern Phenoms- A lanky, wiry and pretty fluid 6-foot-5 wing athlete, Thomas can really shoot the ball from deep. Left wing, right wing, it doesn't matter because he's going to let it fly from anywhere out to 24 feet. His game needs some work off the bounce, but he's got athleticism and length to go along with a pure stroke.
Justin Jenkins, SG, NY Elite- A skinny, 6-foot-2 shot-maker who loves to attack off of the dribble and pull up for jumpers from between 12 and 17 feet, Jenkins had it rolling Friday. His NY Elite team has a couple of guys on it who came in more highly regarded, but Jenkins was the man for his team in an opening loss to the Southern Phenoms. He finished with 27 points on the evening.
Tevin Glass, SF, GT Elite- He's rail thin, but the junior has a good skill level, plays hard and is always trying to make plays. Not too bad off the bounce, he's pretty adept at getting to the rim when popping up top off of a screen, catching, facing and using a quick first step that covers a lot of ground to get to the rim. It's possible to bully him a bit physically, but he doesn't shy away from contact.
Shaquille Johnson, SF, GT Elite- A Rivals150 three-star prospect who has committed to play at Auburn, Johnson is among the nation's truly elite run-and-jump athletes. Regarded as a defender and a transition slammer, he looked the part. It was a good sign to see him burying some deep jumpers.
Danuel House, SF, Texas Pro- A lengthy 6-foot-5 wing athlete, House gets to the rim in a flurry in transition. He attacked the cup on some one and two dribble drives while also making a few jumpers. Last summer he showed athletic promise, it looks as if he's been working on his game.
Chicken Knowles, PF, Texas Pro- The artist formerly known as Danrad is a slim and long-limbed four-man who can run the floor. Even though he's lean, Knowles has added some strength to his at least 6-foot-8 frame and is capable of scoring. He's up and down, but shows a lot of potential during his up times.
Kevon Looney, SF, Running Rebels- One of the younger prospects making some noise, Looney is an athletic, long and energetic wing from the class of 2014. A product of Milwaukee (Wisc.) Hamilton, he shows good form on his jumper and has an ideal wing's frame. Looney and high school teammate David Burrell make for a nice-looking pair of freshmen wings.
Clayton Custer, PG, MoKan Elite- MoKan featured a pretty balanced attack during their opening session win against the Running Rebels from Milwaukee. A big part of MoKan's balance and success could be attributed to the point guard play of Custer. A class of 2014 floor general, he made good decisions, knocked home a few shots and steadily ran the show during his debut on the 17U level. He can get flustered a bit and is playing against a new level of athleticism so this weekend is a good test for him.
Chris Thomas, SG, Colorado Hawks- He'll be watched much more closely on Saturday, but it wouldn't be right to not mention his dominance. You know a guy is doing work when people spend more time craning their necks to see him than watching the game in front of them. A physical scorer off of the dribble, he was good for 32, 25 of them coming in the first half.