Julius Randle rounds out impressive weekend, shines in Under Armour Elite 24

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For those who were expecting a defensive battle in the 2012 Under Armour Elite 24 game, you, not surprisingly, didn’t get it.

But on the concrete in Venice Beach, Calif., Saturday, there was scoring and lots of it, as 24 of the best high school players in the nation gathered for the seventh annual contest.

The Raymond Lewis Squad, coached by Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, defeated the Marques Johnson Squad, coached by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, 164-138.

Three players led the way for Raymond Lewis in the victory: Julius Randle, who had 27 points on 13-of-14 shooting, Aaron Gordon, who had 25 points on 12-of-18 shooting and added seven rebounds, and Aaron Harrison, who had 25 points.

All three won MVP honors, along with Marques Johnson’s Justise Winslow, who had 21 points.

The most impressive overall weekend, though, was Randle’s, after he won the Slam Dunk Contest on Friday night by beating sophomore Jamar Ergas, then came back in the All-Star Game and went for a game-high 27 points.

Randle, a 6-9 Texas native, is a top-3 player in the country who is being courted by elite programs across the country, including UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas, Baylor, NC State, and others.

In the absence of Canadian phenom Andrew Wiggins, who was selected for but unable to attend the event, Randle shined.

He and Wiggins famously battled at the 2012 Nike Peach Jam, where Wiggins got the best of him in a head-to-head matchup and perhaps cemented himself as the best player in the country.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Under Armour Elite 24 features some must-see stars

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The newly re-branded Elite 24 all-star game tips at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPNU) and is sponsored by Under Armour, having taken the game’s reins from Boost Mobile. The contest is unique in that August is usually a quiet month for high school stars, having been put through a grueling July evaluation period. The first year of Under Armour at the helm of the game is notable for a great crop of incoming senior and underclass stars, as well as NBA player coaching staffs.

The game has been a high-flying, dunk-filled affair in the past, and this year’s edition is expected to be no different, despite the late scratch from the game of Baltimore star Aquille Carr, due to his recent arrest. As always, with a game featuring young players on national television, defense will be at a minimum. This event is also a measuring stick for selection to the McDonald’s All-American game, as it should be accessible for all voters to view.

The Raymond Lewis team, coached by young NBA stars Brandon Jennings and Derrick Williams, has a devastating quartet from Texas as its headline players. With three of the top five seniors in guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and power forward Julius Randle, as well as elite junior point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Jennings has some terrific Lone Star State talent at his disposal. Keep an eye on glue guy Rondae Jefferson, and another high-flying Texas forward Justise Winslow. Also, expect hometown SoCal talents guard Isaac Hamilton and center Marcus Lee to put on a show for local fans.

Kemba Walker and DeAndre Jordan’s Marques Johnson squad took a hit in losing Carr, and doesn’t have the top to bottom star power that Jennings’ team has. Still, the land’s best high school basketball player, Andrew Wiggins, will have the opportunity to put on a show in front of a nationwide audience, and top 5 senior talent Aaron Gordon will have his chance to prove that he has completed his transition to small forward, and shaken off the effects of a spring injury. Keep an eye on mismatch forward Kuran Iverson, who was solid during the summer, and junior Chris Paul-clone Tyus Jones could demonstrate he is the best pure point guard nationally.

The festivities start on Thursday with what should be an at least entertaining dunk contest, with the participants still to be announced. ESPN’s selection team put together two very talented an intriguing rosters, who should have the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable talents against some big names.

Fans of Kansas (Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene), Syracuse (Tyler Ennis), Washington (Nigel Williams-Goss) and North Carolina (Nate Britt) can get a glimpse into their futures, as they have players that have made non-binding verbal commitments participating in the game. Also, expect UCLA and possibly other programs to benefit from the game’s location with unofficial visits by some of the game’s participants.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton signs endorsement deal with Under Armour

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Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton has signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour, he announced via his Twitter page Wednesday.

Barton, who averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this past season for the Tigers on his way to winning Conference USA Player of the Year, was drafted 40th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in this year’s NBA draft.

Under Armour is a Baltimore-based company that has strong ties to the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, meaning Barton’s signing digs those roots in further.

Barton is a native of Baltimore who starred for Lake Clifton (Md.) before moving to Brewster Academy (N.H.) for his senior season.

Barton is added to an Under Armour lineup that is headlined by Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, along with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams.

Greivis Vasquez, a former guard at Maryland, is also under the UA umbrella, as is his alma mater. Under Armour has made in-roads on the grassroots basketball scene, as well, with their logo adorning the jerseys of prominent AAU teams that include DC Assault, UA Baltimore’s Finest, and Sports U (N.J.).

Outside of the basketball court, the company has signed a deal with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who also hails from Baltimore.

As for Barton, he signed a three-year deal with the Blazers on July 18 and played well for the team during Summer League competition.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Pangos All-American camp full of future college players

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The list of former Most Outstanding Player selections from the Pangos All-American camp in Long Beach, California is a laundry list of current and future college basketball stars and NBA players. James Harden, Brandon Jennings, John Wall, Harrison Barnes, Myck Kabongo and Shabazz Muhammad are among the names of the former stars, when they were in high school, from the camp.

The Pangos All-American camp is annually one of the top non-shoe company affiliated camps, and draws talented high school basketball players from across the country, and especially from the west coast. The organizer, Dinos Trigonis, runs the Belmont Shore grassroots basketball team and is one of the top grassroots basketball event promoters in the country. This year’s camp was loaded with a variety of talent, and took place over the weekend at Cabrillo High School.

The first takeway from this weekend’s camp, the tenth annual, was that 6-9 center Cliff Alexander, a Chicago-based 2014 player from Curie High School, can be added to the aforementioned prestigious group of camp alumni. The bullish, athletic and tough big man evoked memories of Elton Brand as he earned the title of the Most Outstanding Player in a camp that included literally dozens of future high-major college basketball players. Alexander has a strong, thick frame, and patrolled the paint with authority. He’s arguably a top-5 prospect in the 2014 class nationally and has a nasty streak that was hard to battle against for opponents.

Alexander wasn’t the only star in the camp, though, as Louisiana high school forward Jarrell Martin, a 2013 player, turned plenty of heads and was arguably just as good as Alexander. He is a heavy priority for LSU’s new coaching staff to land in order to turn their fortunes around, but they’ll have numerous competitors. The 6-9 forward showed the ability to handle the ball, hit plenty of 3-pointers, and showed athleticism and length that cannot be taught. On the break, Martin could not be stopped. At his size and with the ability to play small forward on the next level, Martin has a rare combination and skill set.

Two current high-major verbal commitments, 6-1 point guard Conner Frankamp (Kansas) and 6-3 shooting guard Anton Gill (Louisville) were selected to the Top-30 game that concluded the camp. Both have one season left of high school basketball, but starred all weekend long during the event. Frankamp is a heady, fundamental guard that showcased his automatic trigger from 3-point range. Likewise, Gill showcased a scorer’s DNA and continually put up points in a variety of ways. Both could be ready to contribute as freshmen.

It’s also safe to say that Harvard commit Zena Edosomwan, a 6-8 power forward headed to prep school, will be ready to play in the Ivy League. He’s so strong and controls action in the paint. He’s physically ready to play college basketball next season, and a year playing prep school basketball should help his skill level grow. Make no mistake, Edosomwan is a top-100 player in the country, and a huge future player at Harvard.

Several other players committed to D-1 schools turned some many heads of scouts and recruiting analysts at the camp. 6-4 point guard Billy Garrett showed why he’s going to be a key player for DePaul in the future with his heady influence in the backcourt. Also, a pair of guards already committed to Penn State, Brandon Austin and Geno Thorpe, were among the better backcourt players in the camp. They’ll help early for the Nittany Lions. The same can be said for point guard Julian Jacobs, who will be ready to hit the ground running when he arrives at Utah after next season.

Recent Georgetown pledge Stephen Domingo also showed why he’ll be perfect for the Hoyas system. He was a deadly sniper from long range, good passer and has a high all-around skill level. Also, UNLV appears to be amassing a core group of terrific post players. 6-8 power forward Chris Wood is already pledged, and he had a great camp.

Several uncommitted players from the 2013 high school graduating class were also impressive. 6-9 center Karviar Shepherd of Texas, 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams of Tennessee, 6-9 forward Jermaine Lawrence of New York, 6-7 forward Vince Hunter of Michigan, 6-1 point guard Solomon Poole of Florida, 6-3 guard Zach LaVine of Washington all had outstanding moments and were among the most talented players in the camp.

Another storyline that college basketball fans haven’t heard the last of involves 6-8 forward Ben Simmons, a 2015 prospect from Melbourne, Australia. It remains to be seen just when Simmons will play hoops in the United States, but it does seem like an eventuality. The smooth and athletic forward would be a top-10 prospect in the United States, and is a member of Australia’s U17 team. Simmons remains a name to file in the back of your mind for the future.

Though college coaches could not attend for evaluation due to NCAA rules, the Pangos All-American camp was a success. Over 100 players tested their talents against each other, and in some cases determined what they need to work on to perform better in front of the coaches in July. The Long Beach setting was ideal for some of the nation’s top talent to converge upon, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Aaron Moore, another ‘Play Their Hearts Out’ success story

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Earlier this week, Jabari Parker — a high school junior from Chicago — was put on the cover of Sports Illustrated, where he was dubbed the “Best high school basketball player since LeBron James.”

And while Parker has the most unique back-story of an elite hoops recruit that I can remember, he’s not the first kid to be dubbed the next LeBron before attending a high school prom. Back in 2005, it was Demetrius Walker who was called “14 going on LeBron.”

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid that’s not even in high school yet, and as the terrific book “Play Their Hearts Out” documents, the article was just a part of the reason that Walker went from being “the next LeBron” to coming off the bench for New Mexico.

Walker gets the majority of the attention because he is the guy that had Sports Illustrated write about him as a 14 year old, but the fact of the matter is that the book is about an entire team, and Walker was far from that team’s most heartbreaking story.

That title goes to Aaron Moore. Moore was a 6-foot-7 freshman that worked his way into Compton’s powerhouse Dominguez program, which has produced talents like Tyson Chandler and Brandon Jennings. But Moore’s upbringing was quite upsetting to read about. He was molested by his step-father before he even entered elementary school. He was propositioned — although, according to the book, never assaulted — by convicted child molester and former Dominguez head coach Russell Otis. His mother, who was receiving payouts from Otis for her son to play at Dominguez, tried to get Moore to return to the school to keep the money coming in. He was missing class and games as early as his sophomore season, and when he should have been attending prom and picking a school to attend, Moore was a homeless dropout.

Remember, this is a kid that had a chance to commit to Washington as a freshman in high school.

There is a happy ending to this story, however.

After getting his academics, and his life, in order at a couple of different Junior Colleges, Moore has finally earned himself a Division I scholarship. He signed a letter of intent to play his final two years of eligibility at Portland State in the Big Sky Conference.

Portland State isn’t exactly a gateway to the NBA, which is something that Moore had been promised since he was 13 years old. But it is a way for him to get a college degree. And given what he has been through in his life, it is impossible to call him anything other than a success story.

Image via here.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

The next Jimmer Fredette? Lone Peak’s Nick Emery downplays the comparisons

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PHILADELPHIA—It’s the easy storyline, to see a sharpshooting guard from Utah who is committed to BYU and immediately draw a connection to the former all-American who gave birth to the term “JimmerMania.”

But Nick Emery, a 2013 guard from Lone Peak High School (Utah), not only has to field comparisons to Fredette, he is also working to make a name for himself after his brother, Jackson, averaged nearly 11 points per game in his career at BYU.

He tries to focus on the less sensational similarities.

“My brother Jackson hates to lose, and that’s me too,” Emery told NBCSports.com at the Hoop Group Jamfest in Philadelphia. “I like the way Jimmer plays. I make my game like his. He’s crafty. I like that style and I mimick that a lot.”

Emery, a lethal three-point shooter, averaged 31 points and seven rebounds for a Lone Peak team that went 22-3 this past season.

He is a Top 50 player in the Class of 2013 and broke out at the 2012 Brandon Jennings Invitational, where he poured in eight threes and won the MVP.

Emery is a 6-2 lefty with a smooth stroke and, by the time he gets to BYU, will be paired with another lefty guard in the backcourt, Matt Carlino.

“We’re going to have a great team,” he said. “BYU is a great program. They have a winning record every year. Coach Rose’s offense is the same pretty much as ours. I like to run.”

He says religion was also a motivating factor in his decision, though not the only one.

“[Religion] helps. I kept my options opens a while,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of playing [at BYU]. It’s jam-packed. They get 22,000 there every game, so I’m excited to go.”

In the first game of the Jamfest in Philadelphia on Friday night, Emery went for 34 points and 12 rebounds, including seven three-pointers.

Check out some of his highlights from the 2012 Brandon Jennings Invitational here.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_