We are into the heart of the spring grassroots basketball season. After mega-events such as the Pitt Jam Fest, Real Deal in the Rock and Nike's first EYBL session in Hampton, Va., things slow down a bit this weekend. However, Rivals.com national analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi will be on the road this weekend to cover the King James Shootout in Akron, Ohio, and the Nike Spring Showdown in Merrilville, Ind.
King James heavy with talent
Because college coaches can no longer travel to April grassroots team events, the King James doesn't bring in quite as many teams from across the country. However, it still remains the weekend's premier event and is loaded with regional and Northeast talent.
One of the guys that we'll be most anxious to see is 2012 shooting guard Omar Calhoun of the New York Gauchos. The 6-foot-4 junior was sensational at the first EYBL event and appears to be poised for a move up the rankings if he is capable of continuing the same high level of play. His Gauchos will match up with the Michigan Mustangs in pool play and four-star Michigan State commitment, 6-foot-5 power wing Denzel Valentine.
After a slow start in the EYBL, we'll also be interested to see how the Southern Kings bounce back in Akron. Class of 2013 wing Brannen Greene was a nice find in Hampton but the Atlanta-based group will need more consistent efforts from Virginia-bound junior wing Evan Nolte and power wing Jordan Price if it wants to get things headed back into the right direction.
One of the more intriguing pool-play games should come in the Pool C where the always loaded DC Assault will match up with Florida-based Team Breakdown. The Assault will be led by one of the nation's top 2013 combos of point guard Nate Britt and inside-outside forward Kris Jenkins. Team Breakdown is anchored in the middle by skilled, four-star big man Demetrius Henry and always features a seemingly endless supply of athletic wings and guards.
The award for most loaded pool, at least on paper, would go to Pool G. The pool features the Worldwide Renegades, who feature a four-star tandem of shooting guard Chris Bolden and whirling dervish big man Charles Mitchell. The CIA Bounce from Canada have proven to be a formidable group this spring led by four-star power forward Anthony Bennett from the class of 2012 and likely 2014 five-star Andrew Wiggins. Finally, the Florida Assault-Showtime Ballers have intriguing three-star wing Billydee Williams and always seem to produce a surprise or two.
Finally, the weekend should give Rivals.com our first spring look at 2013 five-star Jabari Parker. The 6-foot-7 do-it-all wing will be in town with Chicago-based Ferrari and is a guy who could compete for the national top-five in the sophomore class when it's all said and done.
Nike Showdown to feature top Chicagoland/Indianapolis talent
While Jerry Meyer will be covering all of the action in Akron, Eric Bossi will be on hand Friday and Saturday in Merrilville for the Nike Showdown. The event looks to feature a pretty heavy mix of the top talent along the Chicago/Indianapolis corridor.
Among those headlining the field are the always dangerous Indiana Elite, featuring five-star big man Hanner Perea and co-Indiana commitment, five-star point guard Kevin Ferrell. Another Indiana commitment, four-star Jeremy Hollowell, is out with an injury but forward Abdel Nader is coming off a strong high school campaign.
Playing for the D3 Pride, one of the event's top wings is four-star Gary Harris of Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern. The athletic 6-foot-4 wing is knocking on the door of five-star status and is one of the most hotly recruiting wings in the country.
Mike Mullins runs one of the top grassroots programs in the country in the Illinois Wolves. His teams are always well-coached and feature plenty of talent on their 15U, 16U and 17U teams. In particular, Rivals.com will be looking forward to getting a peak at the Wolves 16-and-under group that features Purdue commitment Kendall Stephens and highly regarded point guard Jalen James. The Wolves 17-and-under group features another Purdue pledge, four-star power forward Jay Simpson of Champaign (Ill.).
Other top players scheduled to be on hand are 2013 four-star Kendrick Nunn, 2014 Michigan wing Drake Harris, 2012 forward Jordan Hare, 2012 Steve Taylor, 2014 big man Jahlil Okafor and several others. Top teams scheduled to be in attendance are the Mac Irvin Fire (15's-17's), Illinois Warriors (16's/17's), Illinois Wolves (15's-17's), Dorian's Pride (15's-17's), Meanstreets (15's-17's), Indiana Elite (15's-17's) and others.