A team that featured James Young, E.C. Matthews, and Wes Clark last year reloads with yet another trio of great players. Trevor Manuel, Eric Davis, and Edmond Sumner (Xavier), lead the way for the Family. We saw Davis at Run N' Slam the first weekend of May, and when he gets going, he can really get in a zone and turn into a scoring machine. Manuel is an eraser on the glass and extremely well coordinated for his size.
St. Louis Eagles:
A team that struggled last year through the EYBL has really turned it around this year. Led by Springfield PG Larry Austin, St. Louis SF Jordan Barnett, and up and coming center Ikenna Okwarabizie, the Eagles have redeemed themselves and are playing much better this time around. Larry Austin has typically played better when surrounded by other talent.
Team Texas Elite:
This will be a great opportunity to see one of the premier post players in the class of 2015 in Elijah Thomas. Thomas, who holds an Illinois offer, will be tested all weekend against several top bigs, including fellow 2015 bigs Skal Labissiere and Thon Maker.
This Wisconsin Playground team features players of different varieties. Rashad Vaughn is undoubtedly the top player for Playground, but a rising player in PG Sandy Cohen and Chicago wing Tyquone Greer help fill out the perimeter and give them scoring threats from all over the court. Playground has their work cut out for them with a tough schedule, but that also means they have a lot of opportunities to prove themselves.
The first of two Chicago-based teams, Meanstreets consists of names with which a lot of Illinois basketball fans are familiar. Rising junior Charles Matthews joins rising seniors Tyler Ulis, Paul White, and Vic Law on a team that can both get out and run as well as execute in the halfcourt offense. That's no surprise though considering all four of the above players are also intelligent and play well together. It will be interesting to see how Matthews handles playing a year up against guards who can match his length.
Mac Irvin Fire:
And the second Chicago-based team, the Mac Irvin Fire, boast an abundance of talent in the post in contrast to the perimeter-heavy Meanstreets team. Led by two top-10 players in 2014 in Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander as well as 2015 point guard Jalen Brunson, the Fire are a team that can beat you down in the post. Cliff Alexander has been playing like a monster this spring, especially in the absence of Okafor. But now with both back on the court together, teams will struggle to match up with the Fire.
Obviously CIA bounce isn't the same team it was last year, but losing guys like Tyler Ennis, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Andrew Wiggins will do that. Still, they have a few players who stand out. In 2014, PG Kevin Zabo paces them on offense, but a guy who is quickly on the rise is SF Montaque Gill-Caesar. The Huntington, WV product will be the man this year at his school, and this spring will be a good gauge of how ready he is to carry the load.
Spiece Indy Heat:
By now, most people know what the Spiece Indy Heat are all about, but if not, here's a quick refresher. It all starts with point guard Jaquan Lyle. The lead guard is a threat from anywhere on the floor. He's strong and takes advantage of mismatches regularly. On the other end of the lineup, center Trey Lyles has come back very well from his injury and is playing his normal skilled brand of basketball. The rest of the cast consists of Indiana-bound James Blackmon, who can really light it up from the field, and Trevon Bluiett, who can snipe from three with the best of them. Top to bottom this team is very complete, and if they get hot, they're tough to stop.
Keep checking back in here on IlliniPlaybook throughout the weekend for updates from the event!