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April 27, 2013
Point guards on parade at EYBL
HAMPTON, Va. -- Point guard play was at a premium on Saturday on Day Two of the second Nike EYBL session of the season, at the Boo Williams Invitational. The most highly thought of point guard prospects all brought their best efforts to the floor, with the ability to lead their team to a win being the criteria by which colleges evaluated them. Of all the stars, it was a four-star from Philadelphia and a top-five 2014 prospect from Minnesota who shined the brightest. Here's the best of Saturday from Boo Williams.
The ultimate measure of a point guard is being a winner. After leading his Howard Pulley Panthers team to two huge wins over the Wisconsin Playground Warriors and then an upset of Team Penny, five-star floor general Tyus Jones was the star of the day. Drawing head coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Baylor, Kentucky, Michigan State and Minnesota to his two games, Jones put on an offensive clinic.
The strength of Jones' game is his controlling tempo. As teams try different things defensively to stop him -- rushing him in the full-court being the current favorite -- Jones very simply handled that pressure under control, proving that he might be the only guard in the country who can't be sped up by full-court, double-team pressure.
Also elite off high ball-screens, Jones loves to make the extra pass, leading to assists for wide open 3-pointers to his sharpshooting teammates, or layups in the paint for Rivals150 forward Reid Travis. A competitor who embraces the fact that other guards are always going to give him their best shot, Jones went even further on Saturday to place himself among the nation's elite two point guards, the main reason why so many colleges are chasing him.
Few people would have predicted four-star point guard Ja'quan Newton, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Neuman-Goretti, to be the brightest star in his Team Final's matchup with the Oakland Soldiers. But after the game, there wouldn't be much of an argument that it was Newton's show.
The No. 60 prospect in the 2014 Rivals150 had a huge scoring game for Team Final, knocking down several long jumpers with a smooth shooting stroke on his way to a game-high 23 points, showing great competitive resolve in the overtime matchup.
Very crafty with his dribble and showing a nice burst of speed in his first step, Newton is a guard who can score on all three levels, and shows nice ability to shift directions around the rim to avoid shot-blockers. Showing that East Coast swagger and toughness to college coaches, Newton clearly improved his recruiting stock on Saturday morning, as the Team Final vs. Oakland Soldiers matchup was among the best-attended games for coaches on the day.
Newton told Rivals that Cincinnati, Xavier, Villanova, Missouri, Miami, Temple, Georgetown and LaSalle are recruiting him, and he plans on cutting his list down after the AAU season, but likely won't make a decision until a year from now.
In addition to the performances of Jones and Newton, point guard play was at a high level on Saturday in Hampton as guys such as Emmanuel Mudiay, Isaiah Briscoe, Shelton Mitchell and Joel Berry also impressed.
Mitchell, a Wake Forest commit, and Berry, a North Carolina verbal, are already off of the board, and both showed excellent understandings of the floor game on Saturday, starring for their teams, CP3 and Each-1-Teach-1, respectively.
The available guys among those four are Mudiay and Briscoe, both of whom drew a plethora of coaches to their games on Saturday.
A day after listing Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and SMU as places that he plans on visiting, Mudiay drew coaches from Kentucky, SMU, Baylor and Kansas to his game against The Family on Saturday. There, he put on a high-wire act early in the game, throwing down two big dunks in transition. Mudiay is different than the rest of the point guards on the list, as he has more athleticism and pure size, but is also a gifted passer and equally as efficient as a scorer. All of that explains why he is ranked No. 3 in the 2014 Rivals150.
A four-star 2015 prospect from the New Jersey Playaz, Briscoe looks like he would be as comfortable playing on the playground against young talent as he would in the local YMCA in the old-timers' league. A guard with different gears of speed, a strong upper body and nice shooting touch, Briscoe is a crafty point guard who shows a high basketball IQ for creating offense. Also a tough competitor, the 6-foot-3 sophomore clearly enjoys the challenge of the EYBL. After the game, Briscoe listed Ohio State, Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall among his top schools. All of them stopped by at least one of his two games on Saturday.
The fiercest competitor Rivals saw on Saturday was 2014 five-star forward Stanley Johnson of the Oakland Soldiers. In an overtime loss to Team Final on Saturday morning, the 6-foot-6 forward was special as he kept his team alive by pursuing loose balls, guarding multiple positions and scoring on coast-to-coast drives.
Johnson plays with a non-stop motor and a level of intensity other players his age lack. In the game, Johnson tallied 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals, showing an ability to impact the game in several ways. Noticeably more physically strong than last year, Johnson was able to use his strength and athleticism to score at the rim easily in transition, especially attacking the rim with a head of steam.
The Santa Ana (Cal.) Mater Dei forward has also established himself as one of the EYBL's most popular players among college coaches as well, drawing head coaches from Arizona, Kentucky and Duke, as well as assistants from Oregon and California.
On the line
With his Jackson Tigers team tied with Mokan Elite and only 10 seconds remaining, the top guard prospect in 2015, Malik Newman, knew that he had to get the ball in his hands for the last shot.
Newman cut through a double team up the half court and caught the ball, then showed an elite gear change to top speed as he blew by two more defenders and finished at the rim for a game-winning layup with just two seconds remaining. That shot pretty much summed up Newman's overall outing.
The high-scoring guard was at times dominant against Mokan, scoring a game-high 25 points. He used both a deep-shooting prowess and speed off of the dribble to create an offensive machine that is tough to stop.
Ranked third in the 2015 Rivals150, Newman is one of the top scorers in the EYBL, and despite double teams has the natural knack for scoring that can't be taught to even the most elite prospects.
After the game, Newman and his father listed Louisville, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas as schools that stand out, but also mentioned that many others are recruiting Malik, and that no list has been made at this point.
News and notes
Saturday at Boo Williams wasn't only about guard play. In fact, three underclassmen stepped up their play, showing that they can be elite rim-defenders in their respective classes. First up was 2016 star Thon Maker, a 6-foot-10 center from Boo Williams. Maker blocked shots at a high rate, ran the floor like a deer but showed a willingness to bang against older, thicker big guys in a Saturday morning game. Two other shot-blockers who drew attention were 2015's top prospect, Ivan Rabb of the Oakland Soldiers, and Team Scan's four-star 2015 center, Cheick Diallo. In a head-to-head clash won by the Soldiers, Rabb and Diallo had quite the battle in the paint, each having spurts. Right now, Rabb is a little quicker off his feet and has better length, but Diallo is more physically mature. Offensively, the title would go to Rabb, as he has a nice combination of back-to-the-basket and face-up skills, including a nice touch from mid-range.
Cliff Alexander drew a lot of coaches to his game on Saturday when his Mac Irvin Fire team took on CP3. The five-star power forward was active on the interior as he led Mac Irvin to a win in front of head coaches from Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina. One of the most physically dominant players on the Nike circuit, Alexander told media after the game that Kansas, Michigan State, Illinois and Kentucky are standing out, and that all have recently come by for visits. Also, Alexander hinted heavily that he is considering joining the recruiting tandem of Tyus Jones and five-star center Jahlil Okafor, both of whom have said they'll play together collegiately. Alexander said that both have been working on him to join, and that it is something he's seriously considering.
When covering the top performers of this event, it's hard not to mention four-star forward and Ohio State commit Jae'sean Tate. Friday night, Tate recorded a career game with 40 points, 18 rebounds and eight steals as All-Ohio Red defeated the Georgia Stars. Saturday, the 6-foot-5 wing forward followed that up with a 20-point and 11-rebound performance in a win over Nike Team Louisiana, with future head coach Thad Matta looking on. Similar to the attitude of Stanley Johnson, Tate is a blue-collar worker who competes every possession and can also score in a variety of ways around the rim with strength.