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May 12, 2012

EYBL Dallas: Okafor shines

MORE: EYBL Dallas preview

FRISCO, Texas- The third leg of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League tipped off Friday night with three rounds of games for EYBL Dallas at Fieldhouse USA in the suburb of Frisco. Headed into the event, the question had been whether or not 2014 five-star Jahlil Okafor could keep up his ridiculously efficient play and he quickly answered in the affirmative.

Okafor dominates paint in Mac Irvin win

One of the most efficient players that we've seen all spring, Jahlil Okafor has had it rolling for the Mac Irvin Fire. Friday night, the big man from Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young was at it again as he dominated on the interior in a win over Louisiana Select.

Already a big and strong kid, the No. 3 player in the class of 2014 looks to have grown to around 6-foot-11 and it's not like he needed any other advantages. Already one of the biggest, strongest and most skilled bigs in the country, it's almost a joke how advanced he is for a guy in the post.

Some watch him and say all he does is dunk and get layups. But, that's not because he's just big, it's because he has great footwork, uses his body to seal and punish defenders and has as good a set of hands as there is in the country. He can do more that dunk as well. The five-star sophomore has nimble feet, can put the ball on the floor and is a great passer. On the school front, he rattled off an impossibly long list that included pretty much every major program in the country.

Under the radar guards impress

Friday night was Texas Pro point guard Isaiah Taylor's first chance to play in the EYBL. New York Lightning point guard Dayshon Smith already had EYBL experience but it was the first time Rivals.com had gotten to focus on him during league play. Both the braided newcomer (Taylor) and "Scootchie" (Smith) acquitted themselves nicely in a Texas Pro overtime win.

Let's start with Taylor. A long and slim 6-foot-3 class of 2013 floor general from The Village School in Houston (Texas), he was shaky in the first half of the game. By the second half, though, he'd found his sea legs and was making play after play off the dribble. A guy who changes speeds, gets into the lane and scores with floaters or finds teammates, his on speed-off speed game kept his opponents out of sorts. He will need to get stronger, but it was easy to see why the three-star already has offers from Northeastern, Lehigh and San Jose State with interest coming from Illinois, Texas A&M, Pepperdine, Washington State, George Mason and Memphis.

On the other side of the ball, Smith gave Texas Pro all kinds of problems. At 6-foot-1 with a slim build, Smith is exactly what you expect from an NYC PG. He's quick, flashy with the ball, loves to get to the rack and oozes swagger with the ball. Smith loves to cross over defenders and has the ability to change directions in traffic with behind-the-back and between-the-legs dribbles while remaining under control thanks to a tight handle. He wouldn't be classified as a jump-shooter, but he made just enough on Friday night to keep defenders honest and become even more dangerous off the dribble. The three-star floor general has offers from Towson, Robert Morris, Fairfield, Quinnipiac and Duquesne with initial interest from Pittsburgh (he spoke with Jamie Dixon this week) and Miami with plenty more to come.

Quick Hitters

There were some that had been down on the performance of 6-foot-2 class-of-2013 shooting guard Kendrick Nunn so far this spring. The Chicago (Ill.) Simeon star would probably put himself in that group. Friday night, the tough off guard got it rolling for Meanstreets. Nunn first turned it up on the defensive end where he can be one of the best in the country when locked in. Once he got going there, his jumper started dropping and he got out in transition and started making plays. Ranked No. 22 in the 2013 Rivals150, he played up to his ranking on Friday night.

Ranked No. 69 in the class of 2013, combo guard Terrence Samuel is in Frisco moonlighting with the New York Lightning. One of the most physical guards in his class, Samuel's game is all about getting the rim and dishing out a little punishment while doing so. According to Samuels he's trying to set up a visit to Pittsburgh next weekend. In addition to an offer from Pitt, he claims offers from Louisville, Iowa State, Temple, Penn State, Cincinnati, Villanova and Rutgers to go along with interest from Connecticut, Memphis and Kansas.

Whether it be with his high school team at Chicago (Ill.) Simeon or during the spring/summer with his club team Meanstreets, Kendall Pollard shares the spotlight with some guys who have a lot of notoriety. However, don't sleep on the class of 2013 three-star wing. At 6-foot-5, Pollard is a big-time athlete with a nose for the rim and some scoring tools. His energy in the second half helped to turn a beating of The Family into a straight up beatdown. According to Pollard, he's been offered by Illlinois-Chicago, Bradley, Toledo, North Texas and LaSalle.

Not many observers gave Louisiana Select much of a chance against the loaded Mac Irvin Fire. But, that's why they play the games. The Fire did end up getting a win but they had to sweat for it and a big reason for that was tough as nails 6-foot-3 class of 2013 shooting guard Jerry Melton. A physical driver with strength and spring loaded legs, Melton made just enough shots to make defenders respect him from deep and then he used his physicality to finish at the rim. A product of Ruston (La.) High, he claims offers from hometown Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Lafayette and has some early interest from Baylor.

There's so much to like about imposing big man Dominic Woodson. First of all his body is already built for the rigors of big time college basketball and the 6-foot-9, four-star big man has skill to match. He isn't a high flyer and watching him play you can see why he gets comparisons to Zach Randolph because of his body type and skill facing the hoop. Once he channels his direction positively the entire time he's on the floor he will be a major force to be reckoned with.

The No. 3 overall player in the class of 2013, Julius Randle currently describes his game as "undefinable". For now, that's an apt description of the beastly 6-foot-9, let's call him a power forward, junior from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood. It really is like he's playing a video game at times as he brings the ball up the floor, makes plays off the dribble and totally hulks defenders with his strength. Randle recognizes that he's not likely to get the same freedom in college but for now he's good with going out and daring high school defenders to stop him from doing what he wants to do. Randle said that for now he's leaning towards signing in the spring and listed Texas, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Kentucky.



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