While the EYBL’s depth may be lacking this year compared to 12 months prior, there’s no question that potential superstars continue to make their grassroots home with Nike and that the league’s games remain as competitive as ever.
Some of the country’s very best 2016 and 2017 prospects are striving to lead their teams toward the Peach Jam, the finale tournament that takes place in July.
Here’s a look at some of the weekend’s top players:
Class of 2016
Jayson Tatum (pictured above), WF, St. Louis Eagles — One of the three top contenders for the No. 1 ranking in the class, Tatum proved his excellence during the weekend. He has become stronger over the past nine months yet has retained his athleticism. Though not the most explosive player on the circuit, he possesses stupendous balance and the body control to finish contested runners at a high percentage. He also buries jump shots (albeit hit just 1-7 on threes) and handles and passes tremendously well for 6-8. Tatum averaged 20 points per game for a powerful Eagles squad that appears to be a genuine contender to win the league.
Harry Giles, PF, CP3 — Our current No. 1 and one of the other three contenders for the top spot (Josh Jackson, playing on the Under Armour circuit, is the other), Giles showcased a balanced game for a team that went 4-0 during the weekend. He has become increasingly powerful and less perimeter oriented as he has matured, a transition that some say will limit him in the eyes of NBA scouts, but in this opinion — given his body’s transition into more of a bruiser — he has needed to use his 6-10 frame to play more inside-out. He averaged a relatively modest 14 points per game during the weekend but shot 50 percent from the field and added seven rebounds and a block per game as well. One thing that continues to trouble him is his free throw shooting, however, as he converted just 8-14 (57 percent) in Hampton. Still, factoring in his overall impact on the game and considering that CP3 isn’t loaded with talent beyond him, Giles warrants credit for his team’s success.
DeShawn Corprew, SG, Boo Williams — The weekend proved critical for Corprew, who stood out as Boo’s most potent scorer despite being surrounded by more highly touted teammates. He sat out the team’s final game due to injury but in the three contests in which he played, he averaged 14 points while shooting 65 percent from the floor. Boo’s guards generally did not play well, enabling Corprew to stand out all the more. He’s very strong and always has been a capable driver and transition finisher, and building on his play for Quality Education Academy this past season, he has improved his jump shot. He buried 3-5 on threes in his trio of performances in Hampton. Look for his recruitment to take off in the coming weeks.
Ty Jerome, SG/PG, PSA Cardinals — While Villanova pledge Omari Spellman struggled big-time (he shot under 40 percent from the floor), Virginia commitment Jerome stepped in to lift PSA to a 3-1 record. There’s nothing scintillating about him, he simply fills the roles required of him for his team to reach the winner’s circle.
Jerome spent a great deal of time on the ball and didn’t assert himself as much as a scorer (10 points per game), but he shot 4-10 on threes and demonstrated toughness as a driver. He added five rebounds per game as well, and his progress makes him a candidate to win early playing time for Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers.
Tony Bradley, C, Each 1 Teach 1 — Very rapidly, Bradley has begun to win over skeptics. Previously stiff and mechanical, he appears to have gained flexibility and mobility, and his reflexes are pretty good for a 6-8 (not the 6-10 he’s listed) center. Lest you believe he’s undersized for the post, he possesses high shoulders and long arms and thus plays taller than his actual height. He scores adroitly with short jump hooks and uses big hands to move quickly from catch to shot. He also gobbles up rebounds and blocks shots. His positional defense impressed me as he already understands the concept of a wall, though at times he’s prone to fouling. His weekend numbers: 13ppg, 57% FG, 9rpg, 2bpg. That’s a great start for our No. 36 prospect.
Jonathan Isaac, WF/PF, Each 1 Teach 1 — Isaac impressed the coaches I talked to even more than Bradley. He’s one of those guys who’s painfully thin and a few years away from being consistently effective against the big dogs, but that’s exactly what I wrote a year ago with respect to Brandon Ingram — and now he’s poised to crack the national top five in the outgoing class. Isaac boasts a smooth jump shot that he can hit spotting up or off the dribble, and his array of moves includes a crossover and stepback.
|Isaac excels at mid-range shooting and playmaking|
His threeball tends to flatten out, however, so that’s an area to address. He’s also stuck in no man’s land defensively because he’s too thin for the post and a little stiff through his legs for the wing, but he creates all kinds of problems for opponents because of his versatility and a jumper that’s nearly impossible to block. He’s a modern style NBA player and, at No. 46, he appears to be too low on our list. Isaac’s weekend numbers included 15 points per game while shooting an efficient 61 percent from the floor. He also added two steals and two blocks each outing.
Marques Bolden, C, Pro Skills — This Texas-based club compiled a 4-0 record over the weekend and boasts impressive depth, but Bolden clearly is the main man. Blessed with long legs (high waist) and top shelf hand-eye coordination, he’s on his way toward a long and lucrative basketball career. Bolden averaged a solid 14 points per game on 59 percent from the floor, getting his share of dunks but also scoring through contact with his back to the basket. He’s particularly adept at shooting off the backboard, a talent that could serve him very well as he climbs the competitive ladder. He does need to rebound more authoritatively, however, as five boards per game is beneath his talent level, and his foul shooting (8-19) was quite poor in Hampton. Nevertheless, he possesses obvious, major league ability as a post scorer.
Class of 2017
Jeremiah Tilmon, C, St. Louis Eagles — Tilmon performed somewhat quietly in Hampton but certainly is a big-time talent. He scored 10 points per game but made the most of his shot attempts (including many at the rim), shooting 15-20 from the floor. He averaged under six boards per contest, however, an area for him to improve going forward. Tilmon is very solidly built and projects as a true center, not only in height but in weight. He had some impressive moments above the rim, including one athletic tip-dunk with his left hand.
Nick Richards, C, Expressions Elite — This young center is a big-time player who’s at least as good as our No. 22 ranking, and likely better. He’s ahead of the curve offensively relative to expectation, and what he does lack in polish he makes up with toughness. Richards shot 20 free throws in four games and converted 16 of those for an impressive 80 percent. He averaged 13 points per game on 48 percent from the field, a strong start for a young big man. He’s even better on defense, where he’s a rim protector and aggressive dunk-stopper who averaged three swats per game.
D.J. Harvey, SG, Team Takeover — Shot selection was not Harvey’s friend at times during the weekend, but there’s no denying his talent. He carries broad shoulders and utilizes an explosive first step to create opportunities at the basket, and he has the toughness to create contact and draw fouls. He shot 25 free throws in four games, a testament to what he does well, and now it’s a matter of improving his shooting — 39% FG, 52% FT, 23% 3FG. He has two years to address his touch, however, and additionally he averaged two steals per game and appears to boast outstanding defensive potential on the wing.
Brandon McCoy, C, Cal Supreme — Given that he’s playing up a class, 10 points and seven rebounds per game represented a solid start for this young big man. Colleague Josh Gershon is highly familiar with McCoy’s game, but this weekend enabled me to take my first, quick look and his heavy Pac-12 interest certainly is easy to understand. He runs the court well and already utilizes a drop step with his back to the basket, hopefully a sign of things to come. He also knocked in both of his three-point attempts, an encouraging beacon as he works toward becoming a fully balanced player.