EYBL Atlanta: Bossi's closing notes and takeaways
EMERSON, Ga. -- The third session of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League, the EYBL, wrapped up in the Atlanta area on Sunday. Star sophomore point guard Sharife Cooper and his A.O.T Rebels team lead National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi's final takeaways from the weekend.
A.O.T REBELS ARE A MUST WATCH
I'll admit it, I was dragging a bit Sunday morning. Top 35 sophomore Sharife Cooper and the A.O.T Rebels were exactly what I needed. They are loaded with talent, play to their talent level and the energy that they play with while playing team basketball picked my energy level up and would do so for anybody.
Along with Cooper, A.O.T features highly touted and top 35 ranked wings Brandon Boston, Christian Brown and Isaac Okoro, Auburn bound big man Babatunde Akingbola, talented big Jared Jones and many others. But, it's Cooper who serves as the maestro and pulls it all together.
He can score the ball off the dribble or from deep, he gets into the lane and makes things happen for teammates and he organizes A.O.T's pressure defense. Yes, he's a little slight of build but pound for pound he is as tough as any guard in the class of 2020 and his teammates feed off of his leadership and energy. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Florida State, Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M have all offered and more are sure to come.
ROCKET WATTS IS A TRUE SCORING MACHINE
There are some who would say that Rocket Watts hasn't met a shot he didn't like. I wouldn't argue with them. That being said, Watts is one of the most clever scorers in the class of 2019 and when he gets hot like he did Sunday morning (and most of the weekend) he can put up numbers as fast or faster than anybody in the country.
In my opinion, the argument about whether or not he's a point guard is a wasted one. Watts flat out gets buckets and whether or not you put him on the floor as a point or a shooting guard, if you are asking him to do anything other than score first you are playing away from his strength. The guy goes at the head of his defenders, has deep range and though he isn't the tallest guard, he doesn't lack for toughness.
After scoring 36 on Saturday night, Watts finished his weekend with 43 and is now averaging 25 points per game. Michigan and Michigan State have been mentioned prominently in his recruitment but Watts is a kid who could sneak out of his home state. Others like Mississippi State, Alabama, Marquette, Maryland, UConn, Florida State, Missouri and Providence are just a few of the programs trying to pry him away from home.
KEION BROOKS ALL AROUND ABILITY STANDS OUT
I wrote a little bit about Keion Brooks on Satuday but wanted to address him again. Rivals.com currently has him ranked a bit lower than many others in the recruiting industry and it feels like I had a knack for catching the 6-foot-8 forward during off performances and because of that I was a little skeptical. After watching yet another high level performance from Brooks in a spring that has been filled with them, I've got no more questions and can admit that I have probably been too tough on him.
Brooks looks like a legitimate five-star prospect at this point and barring something funky happening to change my thinking between now and the next update to the rankings in June, he will be ranked accordingly as we move ahead.
What stands out to me most is Brooks overall skill level and his feel for the game. I didn't realize until the last month or so just how well he surveys the floor, passes the ball and makes sound fundamental decisions. He can still fill it up with the jumper, but he's not settled and he's been much better defensively and on the glass as well.
LAST QUICK HITTERS FROM THE WEEKEND
* One of the best 16 and under teams that I've seen all spring is the Milwaukee based Phenom University group that won the 16U title in Atlanta. Their headliner is five-star small forward Jalen Johnson but the group is loaded with others. Johnson looks to be growing again and is now big enough to be used as a mismatch hybrid forward because of his all around game and terrific passing. And he's got weapons around him. Four-star power forward Jamari Sibley backed up his status as a top 100 player in 2020 with his activity around the rim and scoring in the title game. Also catching my eye was the backcourt of Reece Beekman and Desmond Polk. Beekman has good size, can score and moves the ball well while Polk can play on the ball or off of it where he is a very dangerous deep jump shooter. Even with all of those guys, the top long term talent on the team may be 2021 forward Patrick Baldwin. He's already at least 6-foot-7, skilled and has huge upside. This group is going to be one that is fun to watch.
* I'm going to be interested to see what happens with the recruitment of Team Why Not? guard Iverson Molinar. A native of Panama, he's a 6-foot-4 two guard who is a rugged driver and makes enough jumpers to keep defenders honest. He's not a kid with a big reputation but he's caught my eye at both EYBL stops that I've made and though he's off to a good start with offers from places like Tulsa, Toledo, Cleveland State, James Madison, East Carolina and others, he seems to be flying a bit under the radar.
* I do not seek out players who aren't in high school, but from time to time a middle schooler playing up will pass my way. That happened when Chris Livingston from Akron, Ohio crossed my path playing for We All Can Go's 15U team. Frankly, he's one of the best 8th graders I have seen in some time. Livingston already has good size at 6-foot-4, handles the ball proficiently, is very athletic and offense seems to come way easier to him than it should for a 17 year old much less the 14 years old he is. He's already pretty well known and after catching him myself I can see why.
One other 8th grader who caught my eye (on Saturday actually) was Amari Bailey of the Mac Ivin Fire's 16U squad. Bailey made waves when he committed to DePaul last summer (he's since decommitted) and he certainly has a promising future. He's also in the 6-foot-4 range, is tough and has a knack for scoring at the rim against players two years older than him.
* I'm a little surprised that skilled big man Zach Freemantle of the New Jersey Playaz hasn't created a bit more buzz. At about 6-foot-9 he's mobile, can shoot the rock and rebounds very well while playing with some toughness. St. Joseph's, Columbia, NJIT, Monmouth, St. Bonaventure, Bucknell and others are in early and he could see a lot more attention when coaches get back out in July.
* Rivals150 guard Boogie Ellis from San Diego looks like a Pac 12 guard to me. Playing with the Oakland Soldiers he shows good size, quickness, ability to shoot from deep and ability to be as good defensively as he is on offense. He will have to add some more strength but I think his value is increased because he looks capable of playing the point or shooting guard at a fairly high level. USC, San Diego, San Diego State, Nevada and more are actively involved.