Rivals.com analysts Eric Bossi and Jerry Meyer each offer three things they learned from last weekend's Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Session 01 in Hampton, Va.
Eric Bossi: What We Learned
1. EYBL is here for the long haul
Last Spring, when Nike first announced plans to change its tournament formats and run the Elite Youth Basketball League, it was met with some skepticism. Then, the EYBL was wildly successful during the first year.
Now in a second year, the EYBL looks as if it is here to stay. Players from around the country are trying to get onto Nike teams in order to play in the EYBL and it is different. From requiring coaches to wear slacks and polos, loading the kids with EYBL gear, keeping track of stats and standings, the concept is unique, creates a feel of organization and looks to be here to stay.
2. The Oakland Soldiers are still must see
While previewing EYBL session No. 1, we pondered whether or not the Oakland Soldiers were still going to be a marquee team after last summer. Well, the Soldiers' 5-0 performance throughout the weekend should have answered any questions about that.
Because they hadn't yet practiced there were some rough spots, but as the weekend wore on they dominated. Five-stars Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon played like five-stars. Point guard Dominic Artis had a strong weekend as the team's primary ballhandler while 2012's Richard Longrus displayed versatility and 2013 wing Jabari Bird played to his early four-star status. Keep in mind, the Soldiers were without 2013 twins Tyree Robinson and Tyrell Robinson, who check in as five- and four-star prospects, respectively.
3. Class of 2014 players made an impression
For the most part, it can be dangerous to play young prospects up more than one age group in a competitive event such as the EYBL. There is a huge maturity difference between competition on the 15U, 16U and 17U levels and some kids simply can't handle it. However, several class of 2014 players didn't just compete, but were factors on the 17-and-under level.
Leading the charge was Canadian wing Andrew Wiggins of the CIA Bounce. He was as athletic, active and confident as any class of 2012 prospect. CIA teammate Kevin Zabo impressed as well. Moving on, lean and athletic Theo Pinson is a major part of what CP3 does and experienced plenty of success in Hampton. For the Houston Hoops, shooting guard Justin Jackson displayed a high level of skill. Point guard JaQuel Richmond of the Charlotte Royals also looked comfortable and steady running the show, as did Clayton Custer of Mo-Kan Elite.
Jerry Meyer: What We Learned
1. Slow and in control
He goes by the moniker "Slomo" and for good reason. Kyle Anderson isn't very fast. But perhaps as one of the greatest paradoxes to come around on the grassroots level, it is his slowness that makes Anderson so great.
In a similar way that Larry Bird controlled a basketball game, so does Anderson. By staying under control and never rushing, he is able to access his superior basketball IQ and process the game at the highest level on the court. The slower he physically moves, the faster he is mentally. At 6-foot-8 and with a tremendous skill level, Anderson can execute pretty much any play in his own time. His deliberate style takes control of the game like a great quarterback or pitcher. Typically we think faster is better in basketball, but with "Slomo" slower is better.
2. Back on the rise
Sometimes it is a curse to be so good so young. This appeared to be the case with J-Mychal Reese, who achieved national acclaim as an elite basketball player before he ever reached high school. Now it looks as if the burden of high expectations is off his back, and Reese is playing great basketball.
Before he was a high school student, Reese was a starting guard for the Houston Hoops 17-and-under team and expected to be a star performer. Before long, he wasn't starting and national scouts questioned all the hype. As a rising junior, Reese was considered the third-best guard on the Hoops and his ranking was dropping. This weekend, however, it could be argued that Reese was the top guard on his team. Perhaps he is not pressing to meet unrealistic expectations. Perhaps we, as scouts, perceive him differently since we have dropped those expectations. Either way, just like a stock price that has taken a dip, now just might be the time to purchase stock in J-Mychal Reese
3. Kings of the high-low
Basketball is becoming a more guard-oriented game. The high ball screen is the en vogue offensive set and dribbling into the lane is the preferred mode of travel versus passing into the lane. The Memphis YOMCA, however, has an inside duo of Jarnell Stokes and Shaq Goodwin that prove talented big men can work together to dominate the game.
Especially on the travel team circuit it is rare to see big men get adequate touches, but the focal point of the YOMCA offensive attack is the big men and they take care of each other. Both Stokes and Goodwin are outstanding passers and receivers of the basketball, and they understand positioning and passing angles. No one on the travel circuit executes the high-low attack as well as these two. With the advent of contemporary guard-oriented play, it is refreshing to see a page out of the old school book.