The first April weekend in three years that college coaches were allowed to attend events and evaluate players also allowed Nike, adidas and Under Armour to hold competing events for their respective sponsored teams in Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh.
While adidas has some talented grassroots basketball teams wearing their stripes, and Under Armour has started to penetrate the market, the clear balance of power still lies with the swoosh.
For the last two years, Nike has organized what it calls the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), which pits its 40 sponsored teams against each other for four sessions on various weekends, and culminates in an August championship tournament — the Peach Jam — in North Augusta, S.C.
This weekend was Nike’s first opportunity to showcase its EYBL during an evaluation period, and college coaches responded by the hundreds. Teams played four games, which provided opportunities for coaches from virtually every conference to track the progress of players from their last chances to scout them, and make scholarship offers as a result.
Here were the standouts from Nike’s first EYBL session in Minneapolis:
Jabari Parker, 6-8, 2013, SF, Mac Irvin Fire
Fresh off winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Parker’s stock continues to soar. He showcased his talents in three contests, with Coach K, John Groce, Oliver Purnell, Tom Izzo and dozens and dozens of other high-major head coaches taking his game in. Parker showed the strength to guard taller and heavier centers, but also the handle and mid-range shot to dominate smaller defenders. Parker has a terrific combination of body composition and skill set. He presents a significant mismatch at the high school level, even against the best competition, and presents a legitimate argument to be allowed to enter the NBA draft out of high school. While playing on a talented team, Parker scored 16 points per game and grabbed 7 rebounds. He is the consensus top high school player in the country.
James Young, 6-7, 2013, SF, The Family
The wing forward from Michigan was shown to be an elite scorer and a Big Ten high-priority recruit. There was a heavy presence from Michigan State and Ohio State coaches and their competitors at all of his games, and he could not be stopped in scoring over 26 points per game. The lanky wing also pulled down and impressive 8 rebounds per game, and did everything but sell hot dogs at the venue, the High Performance Academy. Coming into the tournament, many believed Young was a top-10 national recruit, but he may have worked his way into the top-5 with this performance.
Tyus Jones, 6-1, 2014, PG, Howard Pulley
The event was held approximately 15 minutes from Jones’ high school, Apple Valley, and local fans responded in droves to check his play out. Jones took a team that exceeded expectations to several impressive wins. He is the most pure, fundamental point guard nationally in the 2014 class, and showed why most Big Ten schools, Duke and many others are hot on his tail and have tendered scholarship offers. He averaged better than 5 assists per game in the event, to go with 18 points. Jones is firmly a top-10 national recruit in the incoming junior class.
Andrew Wiggins, 6-7, 2014, SF, CIA Bounce
It may be time to put an asterisk next to his incoming junior high school class, as rumors were already flying that he may join the 2013 academic class in order to speed up his timetable to the NBA by one year. The Canadian native is an explosive talent that clocked a 62 percent shooting percentage, mostly due to an extreme number of dunks. Wiggins is constantly above the rim and possesses such unique talent that it is apparent even among other high-major talents. He scored 17 points per game during play, but more importantly his team was undefeated and Wiggins shined in pressure situations.
Kameron Williams, 6-4, 2013, SG, B-More Elite
Coaches with “scoring guard” on their checklist would be wise to include time to make trips to Baltimore this spring and summer. Williams is instant offense and scored from all three levels during his four games. Williams holds the title as the league’s leading scorer at over 27 poitns per game, which includes an absurd 58 percent 3-point percentage, on a healthy 36 attempts. There was no way to stop Williams in transition, where he both got the rim and also pulled up and hit mid-range shots and beyond.
Matt Jones, 6-4, 2013, SG, Texas Titans
There was plenty of reason for the Duke coaching staff, on hand for several of Jones’ games, to smile regarding Jones’ play. He was a workhorse for the Texas Titans, where he teamed with 6-9 power forward Julius Randle during a 3-1 session. Jones can handle, is a reliable scorer, and will present an intriguing option when he gets to campus, as he could team with incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Rasheed Sulaimon in a tall and skilled backcourt. Jones chipped in 16 points per game and showed reliable shooting stroke.