EYBL Hampton: Day Two

HAMPTON, Va. — After Friday's very productive look at a strong national field of 16-under teams, the big boys took center stage all day on Saturday. Nike's best and brightest by and large performed to reputation, and a few sleepers emerged as well.

One of the day's primary storylines was the return of top-ranked 2016 forward Harry Giles. The 6-9 CP3 product took the court after missing 11 months, having suffered a severe knee injury last June. More on that below. Additionally, several top-10 rising seniors donned their uniforms and continued to bolster their national appeal.


Malik Newman, SG, Jackson Tigers — Newman could be the top player in the class. Will he? That may prove difficult given that the other contenders — such as Ivan Rabb and Ben Simmons — stand much taller. But as a scorer, with the ability to drain threes, contested pull-up jumpers or drive all the way to the bucket and finish in traffic, no one does it better. He's a terrific shot-creator, so much so that he should be able to steer himself all the way to the highest level of the sport. From there, he needs to cultivate better shot selection and improve his dribbling against pressure, particularly if he aspires to transition to point guard in the NBA. But if you love production, and explosive scoring, Newman's first Saturday outing (36 points, 13-22 shooting) would have made you a believer. If that didn't work, then his second game (33 points, 9-17 shooting) would have done the trick. I criticize his shot selection, too, but he was potent and efficient on Saturday.

Antonio Blakeney, SG, E1T1 — Based on this weekend, one might make the case for Blakeney in the national top 15. That's how good he's been. Maybe that's unrealistic unless he performs at this level consistently — and, to be, clear, he has been close at prior EYBL sessions — but at this moment he appears to be a probable McDonald's All-American. His 42-point outburst against Team United opened his Saturday, but he followed that up with 24 points in a narrow evening defeat to the Travelers. Most impressive: He hoisted 15 total threes in those two games, while also going shooting 20 total free throws. That's the sort of balance that suggests big things.

Kenny Williams, SG, BWSL — It's not often Boo Williams' team gets blown out on its home floor, but that transpired during the morning round. Still, Williams once again proved he's one of the purest shooters in the class. His smooth release finds the mark from any and all angles behind the arc, and he's at least quick enough not to be supbar. He'll still be identified as a shooter for the college of his choice, but he won't get categorized as a one-trick horse because of his solid floor game. Besides, is being known as a shooter a bad thing?

King McClure, SG, Texas Titans — This recent Baylor commitment is one of the strongest guards in attendance. Like many Lone Star hoops products over the years, McClure looks like he could star in either basketball or football. He's muscular and chiseled and utilizes his brawn to bully defenders on his way to the rim. He doesn't change direction all that well and is prone to offensive fouls, but the muscle and the attitude will serve him well. He also hit a couple threes during the game I watched and should become a multi-year starter for the Bears.

Esa Ahmad, PF, All-Ohio Red — Ahmad is a hybrid forward who handles very well, passes effectively even on the move and can knock down a three-pointer (albeit with a low release). He's also very consistent, scoring in double figures in seven of his team's nine games yet never topping more than 20 points. He plays the game within himself and chooses opportunities to score while never abandoning the team concept. Not a stretch, he does dive inside and post on occasion and scores on reverses and draws fouls. He's also an effective handler and finisher on the break. Ahmad doesn't scintillate in terms of athleticism, but he's no sloth, either. He's a high-major all the way and appears to be undervalued nationally.

A.J. Harris, PG, King James Shooting Stars — It seemed each time I looked over onto a King James court, Harris was up to something. The lefty either drilled a three, or ran the break confidently, or harassed someone on defense. He plays a lesser role in terms of reputation to both Luke Kennard and V.J. King, but Harris was by far the team's best player versus the Jackson Tigers. He scored 26 points — his third straight outing topping the 20-point mark — and, perhaps most impressively, coerced Malik Newman into several turnovers with his defensive pressure. Harris competes on both ends of the court and is 12-26 on threes in the past six games. He committed to Ohio State last year and will be a fantastic addition to the Buckeyes' lineup.


Harry Giles, PF, CP3 — There's no reason to understate the obvious: Giles is a long way from peak form. Understandably out of shape and tentative given that this weekend marked his long-awaited return, he played in short stretches and also iced his knee. It's going to be a process and gradual return to form, and becoming comfortable and confident loom as greater priorities than his actual performances. He has grown at least a half inch since he last played but appears to compete with the same face-up style, and by the opening of his junior season, at the latest, he should be ready once again to dominate.

Rodney Miller, C, N.Y. Lighting — Miller won't wow you with production and must improve every aspect of his game, but he has sprouted from 6-9 to 6-11 and now has outstanding size for a true collegiate center. He runs the floor fine and gets his hands on rebounds, blocks a few shots and can finish at the rim. Those aren't effusive compliments, obviously, but it's a start. We'll certainly track his progress going forward.

Moustapha Diagne said that Syracuse and Memphis hold the edge for his services. …

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