Nike EYBL

EYBL Houston Day 1: Jayson Tatum battles Dennis Smith; Curtis Jones, John Petty Jr. stand out

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HOUSTON — The third session of the Nike EYBL in Houston tipped off on Friday night as the league is getting closer to deciding which teams will head to Peach Jam. Boo Williams had strong performances from Deshawn Corprew and Curtis Jones in a win over the Mac Irvin Fire while top-five prospects Jayton Tatum and Dennis Smith Jr. took the floor for the same contest. Alabama Challenge guard John Petty Jr. closed out the night with a strong performance and proved why high-major programs are flocking to him.

Corprew and Jones lead Boo Williams

Starting off the session in Houston, Virginia-based Boo Williams picked up a win over Mac Irvin Fire as Class of 2016 wings Deshawn Corprew and Curtis Jones took over down the stretch. The three-star Corprew, who has offers from Kansas State, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Washington State and Wichita State, was tremendous in the open floor and in transition as he for 24 points, six rebounds and three steals. Strong and athletic at 6-foot-5, Corprew even mixed in a 3-pointer and played hard on both ends of the floor.

After a strong-shooting first-half from the perimeter, Jones cooled down a little bit, but he still tallied 18 points and knocked down four 3-pointers. Jones has a bit of a low release on his jumper, but he did a nice job of adjusting his offense when the Fire ran him off the 3-point line. Jones, ranked the No. 54 prospect in the class by Rivals, also added five rebounds.

Jones told NBCSports.com that he has scholarship offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Xavier. He would like to take unofficial visits to Georgetown and Indiana at some point.

Jayson Tatum vs. Dennis Smith doesn’t go as planned

Five-star Class of 2016 point guard Dennis Smith normally doesn’t play on the Nike EYBL, but with adidas having the weekend off from events, the electric 6-foot-2 joined up with Team Penny along with talented four-star wing Braxton Blackwell.

The duo took an already talented Team Penny squad head-to-head with Jayton Tatum and the St. Louis Eagles and it meant that two top-five players in the Class of 2016 (Smith and Tatum) would play against one another.

Game officials, however, had other ideas. The game was marred by miserable whistles, an inept shot-clock operator and a lot of foul trouble between both teams. It also didn’t help that Smith, playing with a new team, received limited touches and only finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes of action before sitting much of the second half with injury.

Tatum, a five-star wing, had a solid, but not great, effort as he had 22 points, six rebounds and three steals. The smooth and skilled wing can do a little bit of everything on the floor, but it’s tough to say if he’s elite in any one category.

On talent alone, Smith and Tatum both look like top-five prospects at the current juncture, but there’s a long time to go until the final rankings come out at the end of senior season. The St. Louis Eagles ended up winning 74-66 on Friday night.

John Petty Jr. showcases a lot of ability

Alabama Challenge is off to a solid start in the EYBL and 6-foot-5 shooting guard John Petty Jr. is a big reason why. Petty picked up a Kentucky offer just this week and is also hearing from a lot of SEC schools as they all try to get the talented scorer in the fold.

The Class of 2017 guard knocked in some tough 3-pointers, caught a two-handed alley-oop well above the rim and also made some timely stops in a tight win over Team Takeover. Petty was only 6-for-15 from the field, but he still finished with 18 points as he hit some tough shots in a very close game.

Petty is currently a four-star prospect and the No. 39 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, and he could be in-line for a bump up the rankings if he continues his strong play. There’s a lot to like about his game going forward.

Besides the recent offer from Kentucky, Petty claims offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and Texas Tech.

Nike EYBL Day 2: Malik Monk gets busy; Harry Giles has a quiet outing; Wendell Carter steps up

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LEXINGTON — Five-star guard Malik Monk showed why he’s one of the elite prospects in America with a dominating performance on Saturday against All Ohio Red.

Once the 6-foot-3 Arkansas Wings guard made his first three 3-pointers of the game — all from the left wing — in the first 80 seconds of the game, the packed court at the Kentucky Basketball Academy began buzzing. Monk, the No. 7 overall prospect in Rivals‘ Class of 2016 rankings, finished with 39 points, five assists and four rebounds as he went 11-for-17 from the field and 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

“I did what I had to do,” Monk said after the game. “My teammates, they set me up a lot. I just executed and hit open shots.”

Monk has been known to deliver big performances before and Saturday’s performance was certainly no different. While the ability to score from all over the floor has always been there for the electric guard, he also showed that he was a capable passer with five assists on the afternoon. Monk certainly took some heat-check shots on Saturday, but he also picked his spots and didn’t try to force that much.

With an electric first step and range out to the NBA line, Monk is as tough to cover as anyone in the Class of 2016 when he gets rolling.

Harry Giles needs to be assertive

There is no question that five-star forward Harry Giles is a premier talent and one of the best prospects in the class, but the North Carolina native didn’t show much consistency in a loss on Saturday to the Georgia Stars.

Playing against the Stars was an intriguing measuring stick for the No. 2 overall player in the Class of 2016 because Giles was going against multiple five-star big men in 2016 center Udoka Azuibuke and fast-rising 2017 big man Wendell Carter.

Giles showed flashes of greatness by going for a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but he wasn’t aggressive when his team needed him to come through in tight spots. Part of that blame certainly goes on the CP3 guards, who didn’t do a great job of giving Giles good touches to work out of. But Giles also has to command the ball and draw in the defense in those spots and he was fourth on the team in field-goal attempts in the Saturday loss.

Showing ridiculous burst as a rebounder, and some of his tremendous passing ability for a front-court player, Giles didn’t play poorly, but going against elite competition, it certainly wasn’t his best effort.

Wendell Carter continues to break out

One Class of 2017 player who is receiving a ton of chatter among college coaches and national media is the aforementioned Wendell Carter. The 6-foot-10 big man is apart of a three-headed monster of talented big men on the Georgia Stars, and on Saturday, he took center stage with an efficient 16 points and 13 rebounds on 5-for-7 shooting.

The No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class, according to Rivals, Carter was looking forward to facing an opponent of Giles’ caliber and took the matchup very seriously.

“Of course Harry Giles is a phenomenal player and he’s one of the best players in his class, but when I get a chance to go against people of that caliber, I take it as an honor,” Carter said. “I can learn from him while I’m playing. I just play like my life is on the line.”

Basketball, of course, is just a game and not a life-or-death matter, but Carter’s sense of urgency on both ends of the floor in Saturday’s win over CP3 was impressive. Carter hit the glass on both ends, used his size and physicality to create buckets on the interior and even got on the floor for a loose ball.

While it’s only one game, Saturday’s outing for Carter signifies that he’s starting to enter the discussion of the nation’s elite big men, regardless of class.

Kobe Bryant rips AAU basketball

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Much has been made over the past few years about the American model of youth basketball, and specifically, AAU. We’ve already heard from retired NBA players like Charles Barkley and Robert Horry on the matter, but one of the game’s greatest players spoke up against it on Friday night.

After a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant opened up about his disdain for the AAU model and how basketball players are developed in the United States. Bryant has an interesting background to speak on the subject since he was raised in Italy for part of his youth and honed some of his basketball skills overseas before becoming a high school prodigy and going straight to the NBA out of Lower Merion High School.

ESPN.com‘s Arash Markazi had plenty of Kobe’s takes on how European players and American players are trained.

“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant said Friday night. “They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. … They’re more skillful. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way.”

The main culprit, Bryant believes, is AAU basketball:

“AAU basketball,” Bryant said. “Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. It’s stupid.”

But Bryant went even further. He knows that the American youth basketball model isn’t going to change overnight, so he lamented on how the players are often treated as “cash cows” and how everyone is trying to profit off of them. He has some ideas on how to change the model:

“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” Bryant said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”

“That’s a deep well because then you start cutting into people’s pockets,” Bryant continued. “People get really upset when you start cutting into their pockets because all they do is try to profit off these poor kids. There’s no quick answer.”

This is one of the more fascinating bits I’ve seen in regards to a NBA player speaking on the youth basketball model, mostly because Kobe Bryant is indirectly criticizing one of his employers: Nike.

Instead of playing AAU, top American basketball prospects often play in shoe company leagues like the Nike EYBL, the adidas Gauntlet and the Under Armour Association. The shoe companies are the ones who gobble up all of the elite talent at the high school level and put them in leagues and camps all spring and summer to cultivate a potential future client while also honing basketball skill development.

Nike, in particular, set the agenda for how the current American youth basketball dynamic works with the creation of its Elite Youth Basketball League in 2010. Under Armour and adidas have since followed suit with leagues of their own and it’s where 95 percent of the high-major talent in America plays before they move on to play college basketball.

Bryant’s take on the American basketball model isn’t incorrect, though. Youth basketball players in the United States spend way too many weekends playing in meaningless weekend tournaments to showcase their abilities in front of national scouts and college coaches. Wins and losses don’t matter as much when there is another game to play in a few hours. If a player gets disenfranchised with a coach or a lack of playing time, they can simply hop to another team or another league with no consequences. Instead, these players could be working on skill development and trying to focus on weaknesses in individual or group workouts.

But playing in games and playing on an elite travel team has plenty of perks, as well. Besides all of the cool shoe company gear that kids get if they play for one of those shoe company teams, they’re playing in organized leagues that feature the best talent in the country. All three leagues are working to integrate a shot clock, something that many states still don’t have in high school basketball.

In some shoe-company games it’s not out of the realm of possibility that all 10 players on the floor are high-major talents, with even more high-major talent coming off of the bench. The overall talent on these teams often far exceeds what these players see game-in and game-out during the normal high school season. And there are plenty of really good grassroots coaches as well who focus on skill development and actually making players better.

While peers like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry specifically work with elite high school players every summer, Kobe has been absent from this scene for many years. Bryant still holds a youth camp every summer, but it’s for kids ages 8-to-18 and you have to pay (or receive a scholarship from a charitable organization) to participate. I’m not blaming Kobe Bryant for not working with the elite high school basketball players in America. He’s still chasing rings and Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list. But he’s pointing fingers at a model he could help fix with more direct involvement.

If Kobe Bryant wants to help fix American youth basketball, he’d be best served talking to Nike and figuring out the most effective way for the organization as a whole to develop the skills of American basketball players. Bryant carries an incredible amount of clout because of his legendary credentials and jaw-dropping work ethic and he’s seen how things work in both Europe and the United States. It would be really interesting to hear Kobe’s ideas on how to change things and how he would implement those changes.

But until then, we just have another NBA player groaning about the youth while doing little to actually help out.

Nike EYBL record holder commits to Eastern Illinois

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During the 2013-2014 season, Eastern Illinois shot 32 percent from beyond the arc, which was the third-worse percentage in the Ohio Valley Conference. Deep shooting should improve when Casey Teson steps on campus in the fall of 2015.

The 6-foot-2 sharpshooter committed to Eastern Illinois on Friday evening, according to Evan Daniels of Scout.

In May, Teson tied a Nike EYBL record when he connected on 10 3-pointers in a single game. Teson, who played with MOKAN Elite out of Kansas on the grassroots circuit, dropped 34 points — shooting 10-of-12 from deep — in a 105-70 win over Team Takeover during Session Three of the EYBL regular season on May 17 in Hampton, Virginia.

Teson went on to average 10.2 points, connecting on 43 threes in 16 EYBL games. He shot 49 percent from three on the circuit.

He is the first commitment for Eastern Illinois in the Class of 2015.