EYBL Session 1 Notes (Michigan Targets)

GoBlueWolverine was in Minneapolis this weekend to watch a number of Michigan's top basketball targets in action. Spring, TX SF, Justin Jackson, Moss Point (MS) G, Devin Booker, and Jersey City, NJ SF, Reggie Cameron all took turns impressing. Later we made our way over to Bloomington, MN to check in on Lisle (IL) C, Sean O'Mara. For recaps of their performances and recruiting notes check inside.

For those that missed day one notes from EYBL Session 1, click here.

SF – Justin Jackson (2014) – Houston Hoops 17U

John Beilein was on hand for a nice early morning match-up between Justin Jackson’s Houston Hoops and Reggie Cameron’s New Jersey Playaz. It marked our second time seeing Jackson in as many days, and this time around he was more effective… but not in a way that most would expect from a five-star player ranked #2 at his position by Scout.com.  He did not take the most shots on his team, nor did he lead it in scoring.  What he did do, however, was show even more versatility in an extremely efficient offensive outing.  When the curtain fell on in Houston’s 61-53 victory, Jackson had gone 6/8 from the field, 1/3 from three-point range, notched 13 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished two assists. (In a 67 – 44 victory over the Jackson Tigers later in the day he went 4/6 from field to score eight points.  He also had four rebounds and four assists).

Whereas Friday he scored mostly with his back to the basket, against New Jersey he showed his face up skills by putting the ball on the floor and finishing with runners and/or knocking down jump shots.  He has previously mentioned being compared to Kevin Durant -- and while he lacks the sheer explosion and aggression Durant showed at the same stage of development -- that Jackson is so skilled at his height gives the comparison a degree of merit.  As he gets stronger he will play through contact better, but what he already has is a great understanding of the game and a willingness to contribute in ways other than scoring.

“I like to play basketball the right way,” he explained.  “I know college coaches don’t like to see ball hogs. I’ve always grown up looking to pass and playing basketball the right way.” 
That quote is probably like music to John Beilein’s ears.  Prior to watching Jackson Saturday morning, Michigan’s headman had previously traveled down to the Lone Star state to see him.  So too had assistant Jeff Meyer.  Getting Jackson to return the favor, though, could be easier said than done.  When asked if he will be taking a trip to Ann Arbor he replied. “I might.  It’s getting pretty hectic. We’re going to try to figure that out.”

If they can get him to visit the Great Lake State then Michigan will have a puncher’s chance against the schools that he has already visited like Ohio State (offer), Texas (offer), and North Carolina

SG/PG – Devin Booker (2014) – Alabama Challenge 17U

Devin Booker’s sweet stroke was again on display on day two, but the increased physicality defensively by Saturday’s opposition bothered him at times.  The entire Alabama Challenge squad was bothered in its first game of the day, shooting a paltry 34% from the field in a 59-35 loss to the Arkansas Wings.  Booker was the lone offensive bright spot, going 4/8 from the field, 1/2 from three, and 6/6 from the charity stripe.  His 15 points and five rebounds paced his team, but the Wings did force Booker into committing four turnovers by getting into him physically.

The Challenge bounced back in game two on the day, notching a 66-46 victory over Texas Pro.  This time Booker registered 14 points on 6/11 shooting, five assists, and three rebounds, but he again had four turnovers.  The Challenge coaching staff made a good adjustment by running Booker off of a few screens for clean catch-and-shoot looks that he nailed.

As is the case with Jackson, it just a matter of adding size and strength for Booker.  He is extremely skilled with a beautiful jumper, a nice handle, great length, and impressive court vision.  But since he won’t make a habit of blowing by the opposition with quickness, he’ll have to get stronger to better protect the ball on his way to the basket.  That will also help him on the defensive end of the floor.  That said, Booker’s upside is substantial.  With two years of high school ball left and a father that also played college ball, he’s a good bet to reach it.

The Michigan Wolverines saw that potential early on, and that recognition still resonates with Booker.  “Michigan was the first school that ever started with me, so they’re always going to have a place with me,” he said. 

Assistant Bacari Alexander is the point man in the recruitment, having made it down to Mississippi a few times during the season and Booker’s first EYBL game Friday.  John Beilein has put his stamp on the interest as well, making it down to Mississippi a few times… (most recently last Wednesday)... and catching both of Booker’s EYBL games Saturday.

SF/PF – Reggie Cameron (2013) – New Jersey Playaz 17U

The hottest recruitment on the docket for the Wolverines just may be Reggie Cameron, and it didn’t take much game action to see why.  Cameron is a sweet shooting forward that would fit nicely in to Beilein’s perimeter-oriented attack.  In New Jersey’s Saturday morning 61-53 loss to Houston Hoops Cameron was 4/8 from the field and 2/3 from long range to finish with 10 points four rebounds.  He was even better from deep in game two despite a rough start in a 56-46 victory over Baltimore Elite.  After knocking down his first triple Cameron air-mailed the next two due to not being square to the basket when he launched the attempts.  A brief visit to the bench to regain his composure and dialed in again.  He nailed the next three three-pointers.  When the dust settled he was 5/8 from the field, including 4/6 from three, for 15 points and two rebounds.

Cameron’s shooting ability at his size makes him a particularly intriguing option in Beilein’s offense, where he could conceivably get minutes at the four-spot.  One of the most appealing things about his game is he doesn’t try to do too much.  Opponents will have to respect his jumper, which opens up opportunities to occasionally get to the basket.  But you won’t find him forcing things.

“I’m not the most athletic guy in the world, so I gotta outsmart people and try to play a step ahead.  I almost 6-8 and use my length to my advantage.“

A number of schools have already lined up with scholarship offers.  Among the notables are Florida, Miami, Villanova, Rutgers, Seton Hall, DePaul Providence, Xavier, Cincinnati, Massachusetts, and Northwestern.  Michigan hasn’t offered as of yet, but Cameron feels the Wolverines may be close.

If the Wolverines do take the plunge, they’ll have a few feathers in their cap.  One are Cameron’s connections to Beilein (for instance, he knows former West Virginia star Da’Sean Butler... who has given Beilein a ringing endorsement). Another is Cameron’s burgeoning relationship with Bacari Alexander.

“He is a really cool dude,” said Cameron regarding Alexander.  “He just seems like a nice guy.  He is really straight forward.”

C – Sean O’Mara (2014) – Illinois Basketball Academy 16U

About 20 minutes away from the EYBL tourney, the Best Buy Spring Classic took place on Bloomington Minnesota. There, c/o 2014 Michigan big man target, Sean O’mara and the Illinois Basketball Academy went undefeated in their pool to earn a spot in the Gold bracket.  In the opening game of bracket play they matched up with Chicago Magic.  The gritty Windy City squad gave both O’mara and IBA all kinds of issue.  O’Mara’s distinct size advantage in the post was mitigated by the Magic’s superior quickness and impressive strength. On the occasions when O’mara was able to establish decent post position, Magic defenders contested shots thanks to their leaping ability or forced turnovers with their quick hands.  The Magic was also successful in making the contest more of an up and down affair.  The IBA coaching staff did a good job of keeping their big man fresh by getting him to the bench for frequent rests.

On the game O’Mara was limited to four points in regulation and six points overall.  Two clutch free throws in the extra session were his final points in a game that ended in a two-point victory for IBA.
Looking back on the contest, it just wasn’t the most favorable match-up for a pure center whose comfort zone is in the low post with his back to the basket. Noteworthy, however, is the fact that O’mara is working hard to diversify his game.

“I’m really starting working on my face-up game a lot more,” he said afterward.  “It’s starting to really come together.  I’m starting to hit a lot more jump shots and not just being strictly a back to the basket center.  I’m not out to the three (with his range), but I’m 15 feet out… I’m at the free throw line.  I’m working on my free throws too.  That’s coming together.”

On the recruiting side of things, Bacari Alexander watched O’mara in action Friday evening, while Beilein caught him Saturday.  Michigan appears to be keeping close watch on his progress along with Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.  His lone offer currently is from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine throughout the week for video interviews with and highlights of all the aforementioned prospects.

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