There aren't many events on our schedule where we're going to learn more about participating prospects then the Boo Williams Invitational. With the 17-and-under portion of the event being played as a session of the Nike EYBL, winning is put at a huge premium. There's no doubt that college coaches love the level of competition that Boo Williams provides each year. Not only was every top-25 program in the country represented at the event, they were there for multiple days and usually with multiple staff members. After three days of intense competition, here's what we learned over the weekend.
To win in the Nike EYBL, you have to have great point guard play. That sentence might as well be on the league rule sheet. Looking through the standings, every team on the list has a four- or five-star point guard and just about every one of them performed at a high level.
Guys such as Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Tyler Ulis, Ja'Quan Newton, Alex Robinson[/db], Shelton Mitchell, Anton Beard, Joel Berry and combo guard Ahmed Hill proved that they are worth every bit of their four-star status in the 2014 Rivals150, while the five-star trio of Tyus Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay and JaQuan Lyle starred as well.
With all of that talent present in the 40-team league, there are inevitably going to be some matchups between the best. Rivals got a chance to watch Hill battle Beard, Mudiay take on Jackson-Cartwright and Berry face off with Mitchell.
But after a weekend of being treated to excellent guard play one thing was clear: There's no better pure point guard in the Nike EYBL then Tyus Jones. When it comes to winning close games down the stretch, Jones is the guy you want on your team. The No. 3 prospect in the 2014 Rivals150, Jones is as unselfish as it gets.
The Apple Valley (Min.) prospect showed maturity in the high pick-and-roll game, consistently making great decisions that resulted in wide open shots for his team. Besides that, Jones played particularly well against full-court pressure, dictating the pace even while being swarmed by defenders.
Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State were among the most noticeable schools at Jones' games with the Howard Pulley Panthers, but the five-star said that he hasn't made any changes to his list.
Kids are all right
It's hard enough to be productive in the Nike EYBL as a rising senior, but over the weekend several rising-juniors (or class of 2015 prospects) proved that age lives only in the mind. They more than just survived against the elite competition.
A few young players who stood out were five-stars -- Ivan Rabb, Malik Newman, Elijah Thomas and Skal Labissiere -- as well as four-stars - Cheick Diallo and Isaiah Briscoe.
In particular, it was the big men in Rabb, Thomas, Labissiere and Diallo who stood out, proving to Rivals that the post players in the class of 2015 are going to earn a lot more coverage over the next few years.
Rabb is the No. 1-ranked prospect in the class, and he played like it all weekend long with Oakland Soldiers. The 6-foot-9 power forward is long and quick off his feet as a shot blocker, and he made an impact on the defensive end in the games we saw against Team Final, Meanstreets and Team Takeover. On offense, he has a chance to develop into a special talent, because he shows nice touch on his midrange jumper and he has the length to shoot an unblockable hook shoot around the rim. Rabb will have to get stronger to hold off the other elite big men for the No. 1 ranking, but he has undisputed top player talent.
The other big who really stood out was Labissiere. In a Friday night clash between his Team Penny squad, out of Memphis, Tenn., and the Southern Stampede, Labissiere looked like one of the players who could challenge Rabb for the top spot in the class. He dominated both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-11 center is an excellent shot blocker who like Rabb has an elite wingspan to counter his lack of strength, and he is a very good run-and-jump athlete for a sophomore his size. The Haiti native produced on offense, recording four tip-dunks, scoring with length around the rim and even facing up from 17 feet and putting it on the floor or shooting a soft jumper.
Labissiere and Rabb drew attention from an abundance of college coaches, and Labissiere told Rivals that Kansas, Memphis and Kentucky are standing out to him the most.
Like we said in the beginning, the Nike EYBL is all about winning. So it would only make sense that we end this piece by giving an update on league standings after two sessions of play.
Halfway through the regular season, two teams are undefeated at 9-0. Those teams are perennial contenders Team Takeover, out of Washington, D.C., and newcomers Expressions Elite, out of Boston.
The Houston Hoops are considered the top team in the league through two sessions, having dropped only one contest to sit at 8-1. Additionally, Boo Williams (Virginia) and BABC (Boston) are 8-1 heading into the third weekend in two weeks.
Finally, two other teams have standout records. Meanstreets (Chicago) and the Chris Paul All-Stars (North Carolina) are 7-2.
With the majority of the other teams sitting somewhere from 6-3 to 3-6, the last two weekends of the Nike EYBL regular season are going to be more competitive than ever as teams compete like crazy for spots in the season finale, the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam during the July evaluation period.
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