High-SchoolBoys-Basketball Archive: May 2012

Summer Schooled: Texas Titans

May, 31, 2012
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Julius RandleKelly KlineThe Texas Titans rely on forward Julius Randle, an "absolute beast," to dominate the paint.
Each week this summer leading up to the AAU National Championships in Orlando in July, ESPNHS will profile one of the nation's top AAU teams and tell you why you should be paying attention.

Team: Texas Titans
Location:
Dallas, Texas
Coach: Scott Pospichal

What you need to know about the Texas Titans:

The Texas Titans are just in their seventh year of existence, but coach Scott Pospichal has already developed his squad into an elite national program. Many of the key contributors on the Titans' 17U team have played together for the entire seven years, so they're extremely familiar with each other and with Pospichal's system.

"We've been together since the fifth grade," said Class of 2013 shooting guard Matt Jones. "We just know how to play together. As a team, we know what we want. We know where the ball should go, so we don't have to worry about that. We're just out there, playing and having fun."

Combine that continuity with the Titans' absurd talent level and you've got a recipe for a national championship contender. In addition to Jones, one of the sweetest shooters in the country, the Titans also have Julius Randle, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 100 and power forward Damian Jones, No. 70 on the list. And all of the team's stars buy into Pospichal's defense-first approach

"We're a very disciplined team," says Pospichal. "We want to be a tough defensive team. We're not trying to be great in transition, and very rarely do we take the first shot. We're a deliberate, half-court team and we pride ourselves on execution."

The Titans went 15-5 during Nike Elite Youth Basketball League play, tying for the fourth-best record during the circuit's regular season. That qualified the squad for the Nike Peach Jam, where they reached the quarterfinals in 2011.

Key Players:

Julius Randle, F, 2013: At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Randle is almost impossible to defend around the basket. "He's an absolute beast," says Pospichal. "He's a talent like I've never seen." Randle is the Titans' No. 1 option on offense, and he's posted 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during EYBL play.

Matt Jones, G, 2013: A pure shooter in the Ray Allen mold, Jones stretches defenses and makes opponents pay for double-teaming Randle. The Duke recruit hit 51 percent of his 3-point attempts in EYBL play and averaged a team-high 17.0 points per game. "I try to pick my spots when I want to score or attack," says Jones. "I want to focus on making my teammates better and helping our offense run with confidence."

Preston Troutt, G, 2013: Troutt doesn't get as much attention as his highly-recruited teammates, but the 5-foot-11 guard has been with the Titans since the beginning and understands how to run the system. "He's our third scorer," says Pospichal. "He's a really good jump shooter, and he plays an important role in spacing the floor for us." Despite playing through a shoulder injury, Troutt has averaged 7.0 points per game this summer while hitting 47 percent of his 3-pointers.

Damian Jones, F, 2013: A new addition to the Titans, Jones hasn't been in the system as long as lifers like Matt Jones and Troutt. But the Louisiana native brings a rugged low-post game and a willingness to do the dirty work under the basket.

Key Dates:

Great American Shootout: June 8-10 in College Station, Texas
Great American Shootout: June 22-24 in Pearland, Texas
Nike Peach Jam: July 18-22 in North Augusta, S.C.
AAU Super Showcase: July 24-30 in Orlando, Fla.

The Titans were one of the most impressive teams during the EYBL regular season, and they have to be considered among the favorites to win the Nike Peach Jam. The team has championship experience, as Randle, Jones and Troutt have all won national titles before in various age groups.

"It's something we've done before," says Pospichal. "Our younger teams have won national championships, and these guys expect to win."

Beyond Peach Jam, the Titans will also be playing at the AAU Super Showcase in Florida. Because of team's familiarity, they expect to be playing their best ball at the end of the summer.

"We've got a deep team," says Matt Jones. "The whole team believes we can win. When everyone is out there playing and performing their role, we can really get it rolling. We're just trying to get better with every game."

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).

Quick Shots: EYBL edition

May, 30, 2012
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LoVett Jr. makes splash for Mac Irvin

No freshman has ever scored more points in California history than Marcus LoVett Jr. of Providence (Burbank, Calif.). At the Oakland Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, however, he had to change his approach.

With his parents formerly residing in Indianapolis, the No. 5 player in the ESPN 25 was eligible to play with the Mac Irvin Fire of Illinois and decided to play up with its 17U club. The 6-foot lefty hadn't played with any other traveling team on the circuit this year and was fired up for the opportunity to play with ESPN 100 No. 1 recruit Jabari Parker.

"(Coach Mike Irvin) called my dad and asked us to play with them," said LoVett, who was named Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year after averaging 32.4 points per game last season. "I had been following them on YouTube and always wanted to play with the best player in the country (Jabari Parker)."

Playing with talented older players and coming off the bench, LoVett did a good job of distributing the basketball and though he didn't shoot particularly strong from the outside, he consistently broke down defenses with his quickness. Marcus LoVett Sr. is hesitant to allow his son to play on the circuit, preferring he focus on individual workouts, but both thought the Mac Irvin opportunity was a good one.

"At Providence, it's a lot different because I'm usually looking to score," LoVett Jr. said. "It's should be a good experience for me playing with so many different good players."

Boo Williams bounces back

Entering session No. 4 of the EYBL, Boo Williams Summer League (Va.) was tied for sixth place in Division D with Howard Pulley (Minn.) with a 7-7 mark. The team isn't short on talent, but didn't play well together in Minneapolis; Hampton, Va.; or Dallas during the first three sessions.

With its 72-63 victory over Baltimore Elite (Md.) on Monday, Boo Williams closed out session No. 4 with a 6-0 record to finish 13-7 and tied for fourth place with the Oakland Soldiers (Calif.). Boo Williams iced the win when Al Freeman (10 points) of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) converted a driving lay-up to make the score 68-60 with just under a minute remaining. The Virginians held off Baltimore Elite despite a 32-point performance from Kameron Williams of Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore), the EYBL's leading scorer.

Point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber of Hampton (Va.) led Boo with 19 points while forward Troy Williams of Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) added 12 points. Boo also got a huge lift from forward Rodney Bullock of Kecoughtan (Hampton, Va.), who made 6-of-8 field goals to finish with 17 points.

"We were written off for dead before coming here, but our best three players -- Troy, Cat, and Al -- just had to learn to play together," said coach Boo Williams. "Once everyone got on the same page, nobody cared who scored or got shots."

Barber was especially impressive in Oakland with his passing skills and uncanny athleticism. With his Boo Williams affiliation, comparisons to former Hampton area products Allen Iverson and Ronald Curry, both of whom played for the flagship AAU program, were inevitable. In light of his high regard for Iverson's ability, Boo Williams is a bit cautious of comparing his former lead guards.

"Well, Allen was in another world, but Cat is a quick player who knows how to run our team."

Pinson, CP3 finish strong

The CP3 All-Stars (N.C.) lost its opening game of the EYBL's Oakland session to All Ohio Red 66-50 to fall to 9-6. If the team didn't turn it around, it would have been in serious danger of missing out on the Nike Peach Jam tournament.

The scenario was avoided when CP3 won five consecutive games in a division of the EYBL where six teams finished 13-7 or better. CP3's winning streak included three Peach Jam qualifiers: E1T1 Elite (59-47), Team Texas Titans (59-55) and Mac Irvin Fire (64-57).

Forward Theo Pinson of Wesleyan Christian (Greensboro, N.C.) scored 25 points in the victory over E1T1. Ten players scored against the Team Texas Titans, including a team-high 10 from two guard Reggie Dillard of Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.). Pinson and Dillard led the way in Monday's win over Mac Irvin Fire with 14 points each. Against Mac Irvin Fire, Pinson made his presence felt by keeping plays alive on the offensive glass while Dillard's defense stood out.

"On the first night we didn't play up to par," said Pinson, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN 60. "Reggie really stepped up the whole weekend. He would guard the top player that was ranked on every team. He did a great job."

Field for EYBL finals set

The top five teams, based on win-loss record, in each of the EYBL's four divisions automatically qualified for the EYBL finals at the Peach Jam.

The four at-large teams that qualified to round out the 24-team field were E1T1 Elite (Fla.) in Division C (13-7), Baltimore Elite (Md.) in Division D (12-8), Bluff City Legends/Team Penny (Tenn.) in Division B (11-9) and Howard Pulley (Minn.) in Division D (11-9).

Parade All-Americans announced

The 2012 Parade All-American team was announced on Sunday, and as usual the list contains some of the country's biggest hoops stars. Five of the top 10 players in the ESPN 100 made the Parade team, led by No. 1 Nerlens Noel of Tilton (N.H.). Also making the cut were No. 2 Shabazz Muhammad, Parade's Player of the Year, No. 4 Kaleb Tarczewski, No. 5 Kyle Anderson and No. 9 Grant Jerrett.

Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona lead the way with three recruits each. Click here to check out the full list.

Mike Grimala contributed to this report. Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Montrezl Harrell embraces delayed spotlight

May, 29, 2012
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Montrezl HarrellCourtesy of William WiebkingAfter being released from his commitment to Virginia Tech, senior Montrezl Harrell is starting the recruiting process from square one. Now Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama and more are calling.

TARBORO, N.C. -- Montrezl Harrell has truly arrived.

He leans back in the tan metal chair inside the vacant lobby at North Edgecombe High School, interlocks his fingers behind his head, crosses his legs and smiles.

Perhaps it’s fitting that he’s lounging in the school where he dominated for three years in front of fans who never quite understood why he wasn’t getting much national hype because now the hype machine is about to overheat.

“I’ve always felt like I was underrated,” said Harrell, a 6-foot-8 forward who recently finished his senior year at Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.). “So it feels good to be getting all of this attention now even if it’s because of things I had no control over. I’m starting all over with my recruitment, and this is a different level, but I like it.”

Harrell, who is ranked No. 89 in the class of 2012 ESPN 100, originally committed to Virginia Tech last March, and was the prize of the Hokies’ 2012 haul -- a relentless workhorse who earned a reputation for his versatility and power dunks.

In February, Harrell threw down 18 dunks in a 122-119 overtime win over Fishburne Military School (Waynesboro, Va.). He finished with 51 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.

“I was definitely ready to put that kind of work in at Tech,” Harrell said. “I liked it there so much I committed without ever going on an official visit anywhere. I loved Tech.”

Montrezl Harrell
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMontrezl Harrell earned MVP honors at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game in Charlotte, N.C. in April.
That all changed on April 23 when Virginia Tech fired its head coach Seth Greenberg, who, Harrell said, was the main reason he picked Tech.

“Montrezl got really close to Coach Greenberg,” Harrell’s father Samuel Harrell said. “So when he was gone, Montrezl knew right away that he wanted to open things back up.”

Harrell eventually received a release from his scholarship on May 16, which green-lit calls from Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Xavier, Cincinnati, Auburn, Illinois and Baylor. North Carolina State also expressed interest in Harrell, but due to ACC rules, Harrell would have to sit out one year if he chose to transfer within the conference, unless he’s granted a waiver.

“I was definitely interested in State, but I don’t want to sit a year,” Harrell said. “I’ve got a lot of big time schools recruiting me now. It’s another level.”

Still, don’t get him wrong; Harrell is fully aware that he’s reaping the rewards of the recruiting dust settling.

“Some schools didn’t get the guys they wanted and now here I am,” Harrell said. “Now they want me. I know that. It definitely doesn’t bother me because I’m a confident player. Honestly, I kind of look at it like it’s about time.”

That’s the best approach, according to ESPN.com recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi.

“There’s a reason that he’s in this position,” Biancardi said. “When that kind of size and skill is on the board at this stage of the game you’ve got to have it. True, some teams didn’t get their guy, but he shouldn’t be concerned with why he’s getting the attention now. It’s here and he earned it, but he can’t let the attention get to him.”

Nerlens Noel concurred, and he would know.

As the top player in the ESPN 100, Noel received the recruiting process’s star treatment from some of the same schools before picking Kentucky.

“It can be stressful if you let it,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.). “Montrezl just has to do what’s right for him. Of course I think that’s Kentucky, but no pressure. When you’re getting this kind of attention it’s just a different level.”

Harrell certainly put up high-level numbers to validate the attention.

He averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for Hargrave, whose only loss came to Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), 87-76, in the National Prep Championship on March 7. In two postseason games – the Jordan Brand Regional and Capital Classic -- Harrell averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks per game. He took home MVP honors in both.

“I worked hard this year,” Harrell said. “I feel like all this is just a sign that’s it’s paid off. It’s weird having to go through the process all over again. I definitely learned a lesson though, and that’s to hear everyone out. I’m sticking to that plan.”

The short-term plan is to take three visits, the first of which will be to Louisville from May 31-June 2. Harrell has yet to decide which of the other schools will get the last two visits.

“I’ll decide that in the next week or so,” Harrell said. “But, like I said, I definitely want to go through the process because I didn’t do that last time. So nothing’s gonna stop me from doing that.”

Not even if Florida’s Billy Donovan will be his coach at the Team USA U18 National Team training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., from June 5-12.

“I guess that could be a little awkward since he’s recruiting me now,” Harrell said of Donovan. “But I’ll be OK. I’ll just be down there ready to learn. He’s a great coach. I’m not gonna let anything be stressful about my second recruitment. I’m in the position that I worked hard to be in. I’m happy even if I think the schools caught on late.”

Better late than never.

Aquille Carr: Who do you think you are?

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
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Aquille Carr and Nate RobinsonKelly Kline, Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty ImagesPoint guard Aquille Carr, left, is happy to be compared to Golden State's Nate Robinson, who is similar in size and build.
This summer, ESPNHS will sit down with some of the nation's elite players to break down their game, talk about the inevitable comparisons to college and pro players and get their take on who they pattern their game after.

Player: Aquille Carr
School: Patterson (Baltimore, Md.)
Position: Point guard
Height/weight: 5-6/145
ESPN 100: No. 78

Who is Aquille Carr?

This right-handed guard is arguably the most exciting player in high school basketball. Known for flashy offensive play, the diminutive Carr scored 1,990 points through his first three seasons of high school. As a freshman, Carr pumped in 25.5 points per game. As a sophomore, he averaged 32 points, six assists and five rebounds and led the Clippers to a 25-2 record and the Class 4A state title. Affectionately known as "The Crime Stopper" because the crime rates in Baltimore supposedly go down during Patterson games, Carr's continued improvement in translating his crowd-pleasing play into Patterson wins culminated in the state title game this year. The Seton Hall commit scored 28 points and dished out eight assists. Last summer, Carr solidified his status as one of the nation's top players by earning co-MVP honors at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 with 21 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and four steals. He set an event record for most steals and only Brandon Jennings dished out more assists in a single game.

Scouting report

According to ESPN RecruitingNation, Carr's quickness, explosiveness and confidence make him an elite talent in the 2013 class. On the flip side, ESPN's scouts believe Carr's size will limit him at some point if he doesn't tone down his game, make the simple basketball play and learn to play without the ball. Many of the abilities a player his size needs at the Division I level -- quick hands and feet, compact strength, court awareness and jumping ability -- he already possesses. The abilities Carr's game lacks right now -- a jump stop to avoid charges, a pull-up to keep bigger defenders off balance and a quick catch-and-shoot to offset his height -- he can learn. If he can channel his skills on the defensive end like he does with the ball in his hands, Carr will be an impact college player.

Most frequent comparisons: Nate Robinson, Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, Shawnta "Nut" Rogers

ESPNHS comparison: Nate Robinson

There are noticeable similarities between Carr and the current Golden State Warriors guard. Obviously their height (Robinson is listed at a generous 5-foot-9) and compact bodies stand out. Both can absorb contact and finish in the key. Robinson has won the NBA's slam dunk contest three times, while "The Crime Stopper" is a YouTube sensation for his highlight reel dunks and acrobatic layups. Many felt Robinson had a more realistic shot at a career in the NFL rather than the NBA. He was a top 100 basketball prospect, but earned a football scholarship to Washington, where he played both sports. Carr has a football background, too, playing Pop Warner as a ninth-grader. He's expressed interest in playing for Patterson, but basketball coach Harry Martin said he'd be considered, "one of the dumbest coaches in the country" if Carr got hurt on the gridiron.

Aquille's comparison: Nate Robinson

Carr loves the comparison to Robinson, if nothing more than to inspire improvement in his own game.

"It's a great comparison because our sizes are similar," Carr said. "He's a little stronger, but that comes from working hard."

With a unique confidence rarely seen in a player his size, Carr doesn't pattern his game after just any one player. He doesn't want to be the second anyone, just the first Aquille Carr.

Carr is also compared to a pair of Baltimore high school legends: former Dunbar sparkplug Muggsy Bouges, the shortest player ever to compete in the NBA at 5-foot-3, and playground legend Nut Rogers, the former Lake Clifton star who at 5-foot-4 was the 1999 Atlantic-10 Player of the Year for George Washington after leading the league in points, assists and steals.

"Aquille has played against Rogers and has spoken to Muggsy," Martin said. "I played against Rogers in high school and he was bigger in terms of weight and strength, but Aquille is much faster with the basketball. Muggsy was better defensively. He was phenomenal getting in and underneath his man. Aquille needs work on the defensive end, but he expends so much energy for us on offense we have him check the weaker guard. We want him to trap because he has great instincts."

If Carr improves in the areas Martin mentioned at Seton Hall, he could join Bouges (1987), Rogers (1999) and Robinson (2005) as winner of The Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the NCAA's best senior under 6-foot.

Despite his well-known bravado, Carr is savvy enough to understand that if he takes his game to the NBA level, he won't be the top scoring option for his team like he is now. Even if he doesn't want to, his game will have to pattern Robinson's.

"He's real scrappy and that's how he gets things done," Carr said.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Oakland EYBL notebook: Win streak ends

May, 28, 2012
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HAYWARD, Calif. -- Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League hit its fourth stop over the weekend as the 40 participating teams competed for one of 24 spots in the 2012 EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam July 18-21. The top five teams in each of the four divisions, plus the top four at-large teams, qualify. Here are some news and notes from the weekend of competition.

CIA Bounced -- Twice

Teams that didn't need any extra motivation coming in were in Division D. That grouping includes CIA Bounce of Canada, led by 2012 ESPNHS National Sophomore of the Year Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.). CIA Bounce entered the final session as the only unbeaten team with a 14-0 record, but lost its first two games this weekend.

Meanstreets (Ill.), which entered with a 12-2 record, recorded a 66-49 victory over the Canadian team behind a 22-point, seven-rebound performance from Kendrick Nunn of Simeon (Chicago). The 6-foot-2 guard used explosive drives to break down CIA's defense.

"It was just a lack of effort (that) we lost twice coming in," said Nunn, still uncommitted for college. "We're pretty much confident against whoever we play; it's just a matter of executing as we're supposed to do."

CIA Bounce then took on Boo Williams Summer League (Va.), which entered the game with an 8-7 record, and fell 78-68. Two-guard Al Freeman, who played last season at Olympic (Charlotte, Va.) but will spend his senior season at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), led Boo Williams by draining six 3-pointers and finishing with 25 points. Boo also got excellent play from lead guard Anthony Barber of Hampton (Hampton, Va.), one of the EYBL's quickest guards end-to-end.

"We played as a team in this game," said Freeman, who lists Kansas, UCLA, Villanova, Duke and Ohio State as college choices. "Individually, I thought about doing what I could to help the team. My mindset wasn't to shoot because I got hot. It was if I got an open look to take it."

In its third game, CIA Bounce rebounded to defeat The Southern Stampede, despite Wiggins sitting out most of the second half due to a strained back. Wiggins, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the ESPN 60, played the rest of the weekend as his team won three consecutive games after the upset losses. With off-the-charts athleticism and a feathery jump shot, Wiggins did nothing to dispel recent talk that he's developing into the nation's best player regardless of class.

No. 1 vs. No. 2

Jabari Parker of Simeon (Chicago) and Julius Randle of Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) would have something to say if Wiggins is crowned the nation's best player. Both possess the type of character to let their play do the talking.

On Sunday night, Parker's Mac Irvin Fire squad took on Randle's Team Texas Titans in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The intensity matched the hype, as both teams played within the team concept. Team Texas Titans jumped out to an early double-digit lead (18-8), but Mac Irvin Fire bounced back and kept it close before falling 63-59.

The main difference in the game wasn't the individual play of the two stars, but perimeter shooting. Mac Irvin Fire missed all 16 of its 3-point attempts, while Team Texas Titans made 7-of-13.

Parker, the No. 1 player in the ESPN 100 and a recent Sports Illustrated cover subject, made 6-of-14 field goal attempts (0-of-5 from 3-point range) and captured five rebounds, two assists and 14 points.

Randle, ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 100, made 6-of-10 field goal attempts (0-of-3 on 3-pointers) and had 13 rebounds and 23 points.

Re-retiring Famous Number

When Troy Williams entered Phoebus (Hampton, Va.) three years ago, he had some big shoes to fill. His uncle Boo Williams was an all-state selection at Phoebus in 1977 and subsequently had his No. 5 jersey retired. Troy asked his uncle, now a towering figure on the AAU circuit as the founder of the Boo Williams Summer League, if he could bring down the jersey from the rafters.

"There was a hint of excitement in him," Troy said about his decision to wear No. 5. "Most of what he said was, 'You don't have to play for me, play for yourself.'"

The jersey is now going back into retirement a year earlier than originally expected because the 6-foot-7 forward is transferring to Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) for his senior year. Unlike his decision to wear No. 5 at Phoebus, Troy's family was a bit split on whether he should join the defending POWERADE FAB 50 national champ or stay in Hampton.

"Half of them encouraged me to stay and the other half said it was my choice," said Troy, who has helped BWSL to a 12-7 record and five consecutive wins with one game remaining on Monday morning.

"When I talked to (Oak Hill) coach (Steve) Smith, he said he'll help me with my shot and strength. I think I'll bring high energy and be a big help to the team."

Bay Area Family Reunion

For former NBA forward Antonio Davis Sr., the EYBL's Oakland session was a family reunion of sorts. He was able to check out the action with longtime friends and family members, including brother Charles.

Session No. 4 was especially special for Davis' mother, Alice, because it was the first time she had the opportunity to watch Antonio Davis Jr. play AAU ball in person. The 6-foot-8, 170-pounder attends Buford (Buford, Ga.) and is a reserve wing for the Georgia Stars.

Davis Sr., a McClymonds (Oakland, Calif.) graduate, made his living on the defensive end as a rugged rebounder and physical presence. Davis Jr. spends more time away from the basket and has a finesse approach to the game.

"I know what it's like for him, so I have taken a step back," Davis Sr. said in regards to teaching his son. "I felt like I was forcing him to be something he wasn't because we play the game in different ways."

Another interesting dynamic to Junior's basketball education is the presence of his sister Kaela Davis, the No. 2 prospect in the HoopGurlz Super 60 for the class of 2013. She's 6-foot-2 and, like her father, uses her physicality to dominate foes.

"I try to do the same for both of them, but the biggest thing I've realized is they are two different types of players," Davis Sr. said. "My son hasn't even filled out yet."

No Rest for the Weary

Bobby Portis, ranked No. 12 in the ESPN 100, calculates he might be home for a week and a half this entire summer if he plays up to his own lofty standards.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Hall (Little Rock, Ark.) will attend the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp June 13-17 in Charlottesville, Va., the Amare Stoudamire Nike Skills Academy June 21-23 in Chicago and the Nike Skills School July 11-15 in Washington D.C.

With a good showing at Stoudamire's Skill Academy, he hopes to earn an invitation to the LeBron James U.S. Skills Academy July 6-9. Of course, there's also the matter at hand in leading the Arkansas Wings Elite, which is in second place in Division A at 12-7 entering Monday.

"I'm trying to get us to Peach Jam," said Portis, who does a good job moving his feet defensively and running the floor. "I think I'm playing pretty good. I'm working on my pull-up jump shot and staying low with my ball-handling."

Summer Job

School ended last week at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and since he's in his hometown, incoming Arizona freshman Brandon Ashley figured he might as well do something productive while he watches his former AAU running mates from the Oakland Soldiers battle for a spot in the Peach Jam.

Ashley is working the scorer's table for the EYBL games while enjoying his time home before college.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
Nate BrittKelly KlineNot only is Nate Britt the GM of his squad, the UNC pledge is also the starting point guard.
How would you construct the ultimate high school hoops powerhouse?

Do you begin with a high-scoring wing or grab one of the premier big men to run the offense through? Do you roll with a pass-first point guard or hand the reins over to a scoring floor general in the mold of a Russell Westbrook? Do you value a lockdown perimeter defender over a shot-erasing post?

After yesterday's new player rankings for the Class of 2013 and 2014 were released, the ESPNHS hoops staff, with an assist from recruiting gurus Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi and highly touted rising senior guards Tyler Ennis of St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) and Nate Britt III of Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), set out to answer these questions via our hoops mock draft. The rules are simple: each GM selected a starting 5 and one reserve from the rising senior and junior classes.

Take a look at how the draft played out and let us know which squad would have the best shot at winning a national title below.

Team Britt (@NateTheeeGreat)
G — Nate Britt, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)
G — Aaron Harrison, Travis (Houston)
F — Andrew Wiggins, Huntington Prep, (Huntington, W.V.)
F — Noah Vonleh, New Hampton School (Haverhill, Mass.)
C — Kennedy Meeks, West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
Sixth Man — Allerik Freeman, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)

GM's Breakdown: We would play an uptempo game, UNC style. We got Meeks inside; he's one of the best rebounders and outlet men in the country. He'll outlet to me and Aaron, and we can get it to Andrew and Noah. Freeman is a knock down 3-point shooter. Aaron and I like to get to the basket and Andrew can get to the basket whenever he wants. SportsCenter plays? Yes. All type of dunks, especially with Andrew. On D, our starting 5 is a big lineup. Meeks is a big body and can block shots. Noah is versatile and can guard 4s and 5s and Andrew is athletic. Aaron is a big 2, and I think I'm a pretty good on-ball defender.

Tyus Jones
Carlos GonzalezTyus Jones is the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014, but should continue to battle for the top spot.
Telep's Team Touchscreen (@DaveTelep)
G — Tyus Jones, Apple Valley (Minn.)
G — Emmanuel Mudiay, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)
F — Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago)
F — Bobby Portis, Hall (Little Rock, Ark.)
C — Dakari Johnson, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Sixth man —Nick Emery, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah)

GM's Brakdown: Now I know what the Cowboys felt like when they pulled off the Herschel Walker deal and robbed the Minnesota Vikings. There's a certain euphoria that comes with the turf when you pull off a heist of this magnitude. Ask Fran Fraschilla. Ask Chad Ford. I'm trying to get Jay Bilas to NOT tweet about my team but they all know: it's the real deal! Let me tell you about these Punishers. All Parker does is win championships. USA Basketball's Player of the Year and the Gatorade POY with the second pick? Then the best point guard in HS basketball, Tyus Jones, was still on the board at No. 11. My counterparts were asleep at the wheel while this juggernaut was being put together. Mudiay, Portis and Johnson round out my five. The Jones-to-Parker hookup is at least Stockton and Malone-esque. Those guys are great players, big time talents. However, when it came time to take a sixth man, there was no way Emery wasn't getting the call. Junior Jimmer is my Vinnie Johnson (for you under-30 kids that's "The Microwave," a huge scorer and sixth man from the Pistons title teams).

Auguste's Team Ball So Hard (@DAugusteESPN)
G — Andrew Harrison, Travis (Houston)
G — Matt Jones, DeSoto (Texas)
F — Brannen Greene, Tift County (Tifton, Ga.)
F — Jimmie Taylor, Greensboro (Ala.)
C — Trayvon Reed, Shiloh (Snellville, Ga.)
Sixth Man — Troy Williams, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)

GM's Breakdown: Great teams feature great play in the backcourt, and my squad features a four-guard rotation blessed with height, instincts, length and crazy scoring abilities. I'd like to see how many of these guy's 6-foot-1 point guards will be able to defend 6-foot-5 Harrison without bringing some help. And once they get sick of being abused by Andrew (and trust me, that will be the case), they'll have to bring an extra man. That's fine. Because my boy can dish the rock to prolific wing scorers in Greene and Williams, and to the best sniper in the nation (hands down) in Jones aka Jesus Shuttlesworth 2.0. My bigs may not be as heralded as say a Dakari Johnson or an Aaron Gordon, but they're both athletic, versatile guys who run the floor and board in addition to blocking shots. And I haven't even mentioned bringing in a near-20-point scorer off the bench. Now tell me, who wants to test this squad?

Grimala's Team Lottery (@MGrimalaESPN)
G — Billy Garrett, Jr., Morgan Park (Chicago)
G — Jabari Bird, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
F — Trey Lyles, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis)
F — Aaron Gordon, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
C — Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago)
Sixth Man — Wayne Selden, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.)

GM's Breakdown: I've put together the biggest, baddest team in this competition. I've got the best big man in Okafor, a stud power forward in Lyles and a super-sized SF in Gordon. That trio will pulverize opponents on the boards, and my backcourt of 6-foot-5 Garrett and 6-foot-6 Bird can bang, too. Throw in swingman Selden as my James Harden off the bench, and we can play big or small. If we slow it down, we can throw it to Okafor, the best low-post scorer in the country. If we get out on the break, I have two of the country's best above-the-rim finishers in Gordon and Bird. I may not have elite shooters on the perimeter, but with Okafor, Lyles and Gordon under the basket, I almost WANT my guards to miss shots -- those misses become easy putbacks for the best frontcourt in the nation. My team of grinders wouldn't win pretty, but we'd win -- against anyone.

Julius Randle
Kelly KlineJulius Randle showed out in the playoffs last week, erupting for 35 points.
Ennis' Team Canada (@tdot_ennis)
G — Tyler Ennis, St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.)
G — James Young, Troy (Troy, Mich.)
F — Rondae Jefferson, Chester (Chester, Penn.)
F — Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Dallas)
C — BeeJay Anya, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
Sixth Man — Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)

GM's breakdown: We would probably go with the run-and-gun. Everyone is athletic and everybody will like to run. They can all score. On D, I think we'll be able to guard anyone. If not, we'll go zone since everyone is tall and long. Our length will be crazy. James Young would be our best shooter and Stanley is solid off the bench because he can score, rebound and do the little things. We would have all the pieces: shooting, rebounding and leadership. We would finish No. 1, for sure.

Coach B's Team (@PaulBiancardi)
G — Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
G — Justin Jackson, Home-schooled (Houston)
F —Isaiah Hicks, Webb (Oxford, N.C.)
F — Chris Walker, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.)
C — Moses Kingsley, New Albany (Miss.)
Sixth Man — Keith Frazier, Kimball (Dallas)

GM's Breakdown: The most important position on the floor is the point, and with Hill, we may have one of the best in high school. We will utilize him as the primary ball handler with the green light to break off any set play. The strength of our team is our pure shooters (Frazier and Jackson), who we can put on the floor and stretch out any defense. We plan on pushing it hard with Hill and letting our shooters spot up in various spots. In the half court, we will run various types of pick and roll/pop action as well as some set plays. Look for us to utilize our shooters in off-ball screening action (down screens, flare screens and back screens) to create open looks. Our bigs can take opposing bigs off the bounce or facing up at the mid-post area. Defensively, we must speed up the game with some trapping, and because we are not overly big, use some zone in the half court.

ESPNHS fantasy draft results

May, 25, 2012
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The ESPNHS hoops staff, with an assist from recruiting gurus Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi and highly touted rising senior guards Tyler Ennis of St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) and Nate Britt III of Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), had some fun picking the ultimate high school basketball team. There was no time limit between picks (take that, David Stern) and the draft order was selected at random, with Nate Britt earning the No. 1 pick. Here are the results.

Round 1
  1. Team Britt: Andrew Wiggins, F, Huntington Prep, (Huntington, W.V.)
  2. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Jabari Parker, F , Simeon (Chicago)
  3. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Andrew Harrison, G, Travis (Houston)
  4. Grimala's Team Lottery: Jahlil Okafor, C, Whitney Young (Chicago)
  5. Ennis' Team Canada: Julius Randle, F , Prestonwood Christian Academy (Dallas)
  6. Coach B's Team: Kasey Hill, G, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)

Round 2
  1. Coach B's Team: Chris Walker, F, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.)
  2. Ennis' Team Canada: James Young, G , Troy (Troy, Mich.)
  3. Grimala's Team Lottery: Aaron Gordon, F, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
  4. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Brannen Greene G, Tift County (Tifton, Ga.)
  5. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Tyus Jones, G, Apple Valley (Minn.)
  6. Team Britt: Noah Vonleh, F, New Hampton School (Haverhill, Mass.)

Round 3
  1. Team Britt: Aaron Harrison, G, Travis (Houston)
  2. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Dakari Johnson, C , Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
  3. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Matt Jones, G, DeSoto (Texas)
  4. Grimala's Team Lottery: Jabari Bird, G, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
  5. Ennis' Team Canada: Tyler Ennis, G , St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.)
  6. Coach B's Team: Justin Jackson, F , Home-schooled (Houston)

Round 4
  1. Coach B's Team: Isaiah Hicks, F, Webb (Oxford, N.C.)
  2. Ennis' Team Canada: BeeJay Anya, C, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
  3. Grimala's Team Lottery: Trey Lyles, F, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis)
  4. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Jimmie Taylor, F , Greensboro (Ala.)
  5. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)
  6. Team Britt: Nate Britt, G, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)

Round 5
  1. Team Britt: Kennedy Meeks, C, West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
  2. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Bobby Portis, F, Hall (Little Rock, Ark.)
  3. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Trayvon Reed, C, Shiloh (Snellville, Ga.)
  4. Grimala's Team Lottery: Wayne Selden, G, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.)
  5. Ennis' Team Canada: Rondae Jefferson, F, Chester (Chester, Penn.)
  6. Coach B's Team: Moses Kingsley, C, New Albany (Miss.)

Round 6
  1. Coach B's Team: Keith Frazier, G, Kimball (Dallas)
  2. Ennis' Team Canada: Stanley Johnson, F, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
  3. Grimala's Team Lottery: Billy Garrett, Jr., G, Morgan Park (Chicago)
  4. Auguste's Team Ball So Hard: Troy Williams, F, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
  5. Telep's Team Touchscreen: Nick Emery, G, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah)
  6. Team Britt: Allerik Freeman, G, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Stanley JohnsonChris Williams/Icon SMIStanley Johnson's "meat and potatoes" game has powered the Oakland Soldiers this summer.
Each week this summer leading up to the AAU National Championships in Orlando in July, ESPNHS will profile one of the nation's top AAU teams and tell you why you should be paying attention.

Team: Oakland Soldiers
Location:
Oakland, Calif.
Coach:
Mark Olivier

What you need to know about the Oakland Soldiers:

The Oakland Soldiers are probably best known for being one of LeBron James' AAU teams back when the King was in high school, but the program has produced enough NBA talent in addition to James to form its own All-Star team.

Coach Mark Olivier says that's one of the reasons why the Soldiers are able to draw such elite talent, year after year.

"I think we have a history that makes kids want to play for us," says Olivier. "Guys like LeBron James played for us. And in the last couple years we've had Nick Johnson, Jabari Brown. That's a draw for kids."

The current roster is loaded with elite prospects, led by Aaron Gordon and Jabari Bird, both of whom are highly ranked in the Class of 2013. Gordon, a 6-foot-7 forward, can dominate the paint and play in the open court, while Bird is one of the nation's top scoring guards. Small forward Stanley Johnson is ranked No. 28 in the Class of 2014, with multiple Division I offers already on the table.

"We've got a really well-rounded team," says Gordon. "We don't have a lot of bigs, but we have a lot of athletes who can get out and run. We outrun other teams."

The Soldiers are currently playing without Gordon, who is resting a foot injury, and Bird has been forced to miss time with a shoulder injury. But the team has hardly missed a beat, compiling an impressive 9-5 record in Nike Elite Youth Basketball League play. Johnson has come up big, leading the team with 16.1 points per game in EYBL action.

"My role kind of changed when we had the injuries," says Johnson. "I went from basically having one-third of the scoring load to having two-thirds of the scoring load. I'm just trying to do a little bit of everything."

Key Players:

Aaron Gordon, F, 2013: Gordon is currently sitting out with a broken bone in his foot, but he's progressing nicely and expects to be back by the end of the summer. "He told me he could play right now if he had to," says Olivier. "But the foot needs rest. He'll be back at 100 percent." Gordon is No. 4 in the ESPN 100.

Jabari Bird, G/F, 2013: A 6-foot-5 swingman, Bird possesses a deadly outside shot. "I think he's the best mid-range shooter in the country," says Gordon. "I know that's a bold statement, but I really think he's the best." Bird is averaging 11.2 points per game during EYBL play. He's ranked No. 11 in the ESPN 100.

Stanley Johnson, F, 2014: A 6-foot-5 forward, Johnson has stepped up in Gordon's absence, averaging a team-high 16.1 points during EYBL play. He's also posting 6.6 rebounds per game and shooting 50 percent from the floor. "He's a meat-and-potatoes player," says Olivier. "He's just so fundamentally sound. He's the ultimate team player."

Key Dates:

EYBL Session 4: May 25-27 in Oakland, Calif.
Nike Peach Jam: July 18-22 in Augusta, S.C.
Fab 48 AAU Finals: July 22-28 in Las Vegas

The Soldiers came up short at last year's Nike Peach Jam but rebounded to take the FAB 48 title in Las Vegas. They would like to win both crowns this season, and once Gordon returns to the lineup, they may have to be considered the favorite at both events.

"When we had everybody playing, we were really good," says Johnson. "So I think as we start to get them back and the season goes on and we get more practice, I think we'll be able to compete for the final four at Peach Jam, or even win the championship."

"That's our main focus this summer," says Gordon. "We don't just want to get to Peach Jam, we want to compete and come out on top there."

Famous Alums:

LeBron James (Three-time NBA Most Valuable Player)
Kendrick Perkins (2003 1st-round NBA Draft pick)
Chauncey Billups (2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player)
Brandon Jennings (2009 1st-round NBA Draft pick)

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).

Quick Shots: Changes in Cali hoops

May, 23, 2012
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On May 4, the California Interscholastic Federation’s State Federated Council approved two measures that will have a big impact on the 2012-13 season and beyond.

The CIF, California’s governing body for interscholastic athletics, currently requires students who transfer schools without a valid change of residence to sit out varsity sports for one calendar year unless they are granted a hardship waiver. Beginning July 1, student-athletes in this situation will have to sit out of varsity competition for 30 days. For winter sports, which include basketball, student-athletes would re-gain eligibility on Dec. 31.

The change in transfer rules coincides with the rising legal costs the CIF has endured in recent years when many eligibility rulings were challenged in court. In one documented case involving a single student-athlete, the CIF endured legal costs of $150,000.

"The revisions to the transfer rule are designed to provide a better experience for students in California," said Rebecca Brutlag, CIF Media Relations Officer.

The State Federated Council also approved an open division for state boys and girls basketball championships beginning next school year. The open division will be comprised of the state’s best teams, regardless of the school’s enrollment or the strength of the league in which it competes in. Since the 1987-88 season, the CIF has conducted state championships in five divisions based on enrollment. Next season, there will be a sixth state champion crowned with the other divisions remaining intact.

The CIF hopes the open division will spark interest in an event that has seen attendance and interest wane in recent years. The transfer rule could create more powerful teams and possibly more interest if two nationally-ranked programs meet in the open division state final.

"The Open Division will allow the best teams in the State of California, regardless of division, to compete for a State Championship," Brutlag said. "We believe this will bring a renewed level of interest to the event that will be beneficial to all involved."

The weekly rankings compiled by ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports will play a role in which teams are selected for the open division. For more on the new open division, click here.

Recruiting updates: Readers beware

Amile Jefferson of Friends' Central, the No. 25 ranked player in the ESPN 100, signed a letter of intent with Duke after a long and exhaustive process the day before the end of the spring signing period.

According to Jefferson, some of the articles published on recruiting sites the past two months contained information that was just plain inaccurate.

"For a couple of months I've read stories where it said I was going to announce the next day, or that I had trimmed my list ... I wasn't sure where they made up that stuff from," Jefferson said.

He also read stories consisting of pure speculation and not based on direct quotes from the 6-foot-8 forward or his immediate family.

"People would say I was down to two schools or knew I wasn't leaving the state (of Pennsylvania) regardless of what schools I had on my list," Jefferson said. "People are going to say what sells or appeals to a certain crowd."

On the flip side, Jefferson stated he did read some good points of view once in a while on Twitter or Facebook that got him thinking, but the factors that eventually pointed him to the Blue Devils were the ones generated and discussed with his inner circle.

"I wasn't sure within myself, much less anyone else know what I was going to do," Jefferson said. "At the end of the day, I made my decision with my family. Some schools really recruited me hard and stuck with me and I'm glad for that. It was a tough decision but I feel I made the right one in the end."

Farmer stands alone

When Garfield Heights (Ohio) star Tony Farmer hits the court next winter, head coach Sonny Johnson is expecting a man-child.

He made that prediction largely based on Farmer's stellar play with All-Ohio Red so far this spring. Farmer has improved significantly playing alongside Ohio State commit Marc Loving and highly touted prospects Nigel Hayes and Zach Denny. Farmer is averaging 8.2 points in nine contests at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball as All-Ohio Red is off to an 11-3 start atop Division C in the EYBL standings at press time.

Farmer, 6-foot-6 forward, is coming off a monster junior campaign in which he pumped in 20 points and grabbed 10 boards per contest to lead the Bulldogs to the district finals. On the AAU circuit, he's displayed an improved handle and increased accuracy on his pull-up jumper.

According to Johnson, Farmer holds more than 10 offers with Penn St., Xavier, Illinois and Pittsburg all in the running for his services. He is targeting a September commitment date.

Tweet of the week

“I will not lose, for even in defeat, theres (sic) a valuable lesson learned, so it evens up for me. I gtta (sic) get #9."

-- @NerlensNoel3

Nerlens Noel, the No. 1 ranked player in the ESPN 100, received a boost in Twitter followers (now more than 53k) after committing to play for Kentucky in mid-April. Noel has continued to endear himself to Big Blue Nation with a series of tweets ending in the phrase, “I gotta get #9" -- a reference to the Wildcats’ pursuit of a ninth national title this upcoming season. The tweets have been well received by UK fans, resulting in plenty of retweets and multiple replies from fans who believe Noel will have an Anthony Davis-type impact in 2012-13.
Matt Jones and Ray AllenTravis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com, Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty ImagesDuke recruit Matt Jones, left, and NBA star Ray Allen are both prototypical shooting guards with range well past the 3-point line.
This summer, ESPNHS will sit down with some of the nation's elite players to break down their game, talk about the inevitable comparisons to college and pro players and get their take on who they pattern their game after.

Player: Matt Jones
School: DeSoto (Texas)
Position: Shooting Guard
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
ESPN 60: No. 22

Who is Matt Jones?
Rated the No. 9 shooting guard in the Class of 2013, Jones is a stone-cold assassin. His 3-point shot is already developed at an NCAA level, and he's capable of exploding at any moment. As a junior, he led DeSoto to the regional finals of the Class 5A state tournament, averaging 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Jones has been just as good during the summer season. Going against some of the most talented AAU teams in the country during Nike Elite Youth Basketball League play, Jones is averaging 17.7 points per game and hitting 48 percent of his 3-point attempts. Jones has committed to Duke, and he seems destined to continue the Blue Devils' tradition of lights-out shooting guards (Trajan Langdon, J.J. Redick, Jon Scheyer, Austin Rivers).

Scouting Report
According to ESPN RecruitingNation, Jones has the prototypical build for a shooting guard. He's athletic enough to make plays in the open floor and around the rim, but his calling card is his sweet jumper. Jones might be the purest shooter in the country, with consistent catch-and-shoot range out to 20 feet.

"He's an extremely respected shooter," says Scott Pospichal, his AAU coach with the Texas Titans. "Teams know not to leave him. We run him off screens, and he's good at the pull-up, too. He can really shoot the ball."

Most frequent comparisons: Ray Allen, J.J. Redick

ESPNHS Comparison: Gordon Hayward
Jones' range and size make observers think of classic snipers like Ray Allen and J.J. Redick, but we see his game resembling that of up-and-coming Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward. There is a size difference, as Hayward is one of the NBA's taller shooting guards at 6-foot-8, but everything else lines up. While Allen and Redick rely on deft footwork to curl around screens and pop long jumpers, Jones (like Hayward) is more of a spot-up shooter with less elevation on his release.

Jones also has enough length, athleticism and quickness to occasionally jump into passing lanes and disrupt things defensively. Gordon makes a living by deflecting passes, sneaking in for offensive putbacks and drilling 3-pointers (38.6 percent for his career), and we can see Jones evolving into the same type of player.

"I like to do a little bit of everything," says Jones. "I take pride in my defense. I can shoot off the dribble, and I have a quick first step. I try to contribute any way I can."

Matt’s Comparison: Ray Allen
Jones has been hearing the Ray Allen comparisons for a long time, and he takes it as a compliment.

"A lot of people like to compare me to Ray Allen or J.J. Redick," he says. "I just feel blessed and grateful to be compared to great shooters like that. Ray Allen is one of the greatest of all-time, so that's an honor to be mentioned with him."

Jones says he is trying to get stronger over the summer, and he's also working on his ball handling. Allen was an underrated slasher in his prime, so Jones will need to continue tightening his handle if he wants to be the next "Jesus Shuttlesworth."

Mike Grimala covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).

Toasting the Class of 2012

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
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Noel NerlensKelly KlineWe think UK recruit Nerlens Noel is headed toward a bright future both on and off the court.
With graduation right around the corner, it’s almost time to bid adieu to the class of 2012. Before the veteran ballers flip that tassel, we’re going to bless them with some last-second love and immortalize them in the form of senior superlatives. We’ll gaze into our crystal ball to make a few predictions as well as reflect on the myriad achievements of this talented crew.

These are our picks, but feel free to chime in with your selections on Twitter @espnhs.

Most important commitment
Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
Sure, Anderson’s commitment to UCLA might have been overshadowed by the subsequent pledges of Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker. But who knows if the Bruins would’ve landed those two prized recruits had it not been for Anderson -- the ultimate team-first guy and winner -- jumping on board first. Anderson's versatility will be valuable as the heralded class looks to restore UCLA's lore after a tumultuous last few years.
Runner-up: Baylor lands Isaiah Austin, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)

Most likely to succeed in the NBA
Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
We’re not the only ones envisioning Muhammad going toe-to-toe with Bron Bron and the rest of the league's heavyweights. The consensus among pro scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit was that ‘Bazz was the most pro-ready domestic prospect in the class. His Kobe-like demeanor and ability to get buckets in a variety of ways should bode well for whatever squad scoops him up in the Association.
Runner-up: Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)

Most likely to land an acting role
Nerlens Noel, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.)
The high top fade alone should be enough to land this menacing shot blocker in the reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or if they ever recast Kid or Play for the next “House Party.” Combine his tight 'do with his affable personality and his ability to take over defensively on the hardwood, and we could be looking at a star both on and off the court.
Runner-up: Justin Anderson, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)

Read More »

Summer Schooled: CIA Bounce

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
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Andrew WigginsNed Dishman/Getty ImagesAndrew Wiggins, the No. 1 prospect in the EPSN 25, is the leading scorer for CIA Bounce.
Each week this summer leading up to the AAU National Championships in Orlando in July, ESPNHS will profile one of the nation's top AAU teams and tell you why you should be paying attention.

Team: CIA Bounce
Location: Brampton, Toronto, Canada
Coach: Tony McIntyre

What you need to know about CIA Bounce:

With a roster comprised of players attending schools across two countries, CIA Bounce is often at a disadvantage when it comes to assembling for practices heading into the AAU season. But when the opening whistle blows, few teams can keep pace with this loaded squad. McIntyre and his staff have cultivated a program that stands out as one of the premier AAU clubs. Last season, the Nike-sponsored club finished 26-2 and won the AAU Super Showcase.

This year’s Bounce team is a veritable who’s who from the sophomore and junior classes, and is out to prove it can compete on the same level -- if not higher -- with its neighbors to the south.

"Our guys aren’t playing for scholarships; (they're) just playing for wins,” says McIntyre. "They play with a chip on their shoulder because they’re from Canada and sometimes people ask, ‘can you guys even play basketball up there?’ Our talent is phenomenal and people are starting to take notice.”

Those in attendance at the NIKE Elite Youth Basketball League session in Hampton, Va., were on hand to witness the squad's on-court dominance in late April. Bounce went 9-0 at the talent-filled event and took down perennial AAU contenders Team Takeover (D.C.) and King James (Ohio) in the process. They went on to run through the competition at the Dallas EYBL, highlighted by a monster Andrew Wiggins double-double (31 points, 15 boards). Few teams can match up with Bounce’s versatility and scoring punch when it employs its three-guard set. And on defense, the team’s length, instincts and quick switches makes it a tough unit to score on.

Key Players:

Andrew Wiggins, F, 2014: This 6-foot-7 athletic freak has insane bounce and an explosive scoring arsenal that has scouts labeling him the nation’s No. 1 pro prospect regardless of class. The Huntington Prep standout and West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year is the team’s leading scorer and an underrated defender.

Tyler Ennis, G, 2013: The reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year in New Jersey is a talented floor general who keeps everyone on the court engaged in the offense with a steady diet of easy buckets. Ennis is a deadly player in transition and will score in bunches when the situation requires him to.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G, 2013: A knock down 3-point shooter with a progressing mid-range game, Rathan-Mayes is beginning to rocket up recruiting charts. His perimeter scoring is crucial to the team's attack as it opens up driving lanes for his high school teammate, Wiggins, and Ennis and allows the bigs to go to work in the paint free from double teams.

Key Dates:

EYBL Session 4: May 25-27 in Oakland, Calif.
Nike Peach Jam: July 18-22 in Augusta, S.C.
Fab 48 AAU Finals: July 22-28 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Player breakdown:

Boasting the No. 41-rated junior (Ennis) and the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 (Wiggins), expectations are extremely high for this squad. But don’t expect Ennis and Co. to wilt under pressure; they’re intent on wrapping up the summer by bringing a championship trophy home to Canada.

“Our goal is to go undefeated and go as far as possible,” says Ennis. "I think it will come down to how deep each team is. We can go five on and five off and play with the same talent level. Outside of the talent, we have good chemistry and everyone on here loves winning. We’re gunning for that No. 1 spot."

Famous Alums:

Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavs, 2011 first round pick)
Anthony Bennett (No. 7 in the ESPNU 100, UNLV commit)

David Auguste is an associate editor and basketball writer for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @DAugusteESPNor email him at David.Auguste@espn.com.

Quick Shots: Jabari Parker graces SI

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
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The last time Sports Illustrated featured a high school basketball underclassman on its cover, it was a 17-year-old prodigy from Ohio named LeBron James. Now you can add Simeon (Chicago) star Jabari Parker to that exclusive club, as the junior will grace the front of SI's May 21 issue.

Parker was the Gatorade National Player of the Year this season, and he's ranked No. 1 in the class of 2013 by ESPN. Most scouts believe he's a sure thing to become an All-Star in the NBA, and SI even touts him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James." The smooth, 6-foot-8 forward has led Simeon to three consecutive state championships, and he's spending his summer playing with the elite Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.

This is a huge moment for Parker. Lots of players are ranked No. 1 at one point or another, but few reach a level where Sports Illustrated feels the need to put them on the cover. Parker will now have a ton of pressure placed upon him during his senior season, especially since he hasn't committed yet. His college decision is likely to become a huge national media story until he signs his letter of intent, and that kind of intense spotlight can have a negative effect on some players. After all, since LeBron in 2002, the only other high school baller on the cover of SI has been Sebastian Telfair (March 8, 2004), who never quite lived up to the hype.

But as the SI story points out, Parker is a humble, faith-driven kid who seems to have his head on straight. It's up to him whether he becomes the next Sebastian Telfair or the next LeBron James.

MCI drops post-grads

Maine Central Institute (Pittsfield, Maine) will drop its post-graduate basketball team, according to The Portland Press Herald. Last week, MCI’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the team beginning July 1.

Post-graduate teams traditionally exist to allow student-athletes an extra year after high school to raise their academic marks in order to meet NCAA athletic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and to further develop their basketball skills after their regular high school eligibility has expired. The school’s post-graduate team produced more than 130 Division I players and 10 who eventually played in the NBA, but MCI Athletic Director Earl Anderson told the newspaper, “the post-graduate basketball program no longer fit into the vision for MCI’s future.”

The school opened in 1866 and the student body is made up of both boarding and local students. According to the school's website, tuition for boarding students for the 2012-13 school year is $40,850.

In year’s past, prominent MCI post-graduates -- including future NBA players Erick Barkley and Caron Butler -- came under NCAA scrutiny in regards to who paid part of their tuition.

Last season, MCI’s post-graduate team went 10-17 while competing in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference after winning the NEPSAC's Class AAA title in 2011. During a 10-year period in the 1990s under former coach Max Good, MCI went 275-30, won five NEPSAC titles and managed a 79-game winning streak. Good developed nine of MCI’s 10 NBA players including Barkley, Butler, DerMarr Johnson and Brad Miller.

It's not clear at this time if MCI will compete only as a regular high school team in the Maine Principals' Association division of interscholastic activities.

More on post-grad front

The news about MCI dropping its post-graduate team came on the heels of The Winchendon School (Winchendon, Mass.) also leaving the NEPSAC's Class AAA ranks. The Winchendon School is looking to move down to Class C.

Despite the NEPSAC’s Class AAA ranks losing two members once considered flagship programs, the news shouldn’t be considered any sign of the demise of post-graduate basketball at prep schools in New England.

The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors recently implemented new eligibility requirements that will take effect in 2016 and those requirements will be tougher than ever for freshman eligibility. That will continue to make prep schools a desirable option for student-athletes looking to improve their academic marks.

Under the new NCAA academic standards, potential scholarship players must complete their required 16 core courses before their four years of high school are complete. That is likely to lead to an increased number of student-athletes leaving to a prep school prior to the completion of their senior season of high school in order to increase their chances of qualifying under the new guidelines.

NYC AAU figure passes

Ernie Lorch, the founder of the New York Riverside Church AAU program whose legacy was tarnished amid charges of sex abuse, died on May 13, according to the New York Daily News.

Lorch, who reportedly suffered from dementia and diabetes, was 80.

Lorch, a Manhattan-based lawyer, founded the Riverside Church program in 1961 as an avenue to help underprivileged New York City kids. Erick Barkley of Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) was one of the kids he helped and the NCAA ruled Lorch paid $3,150 of Erick Barkley’s tuition at Maine Central Institute for the 1997-98 school year in violation of its rules. During the NCAA’s investigation of Barkley’s eligibility for St. John's University, Lorch admitted to financially assisting many student-athletes over the years.

During the Riverside Church’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, the flagship program won countless national tournaments and produced future NBA players such as Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Malik Sealy, Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and 1989 Mr. Basketball USA Kenny Anderson. The 1996 unit that included Barkley, Artest and Elton Brand, was honored in July 2007 by the Grassroots Basketball Association of America as the best Nike-sponsored AAU team ever.

Over the last decade, Lorch’s legacy as an AAU pioneer was tainted by accusations of sex abuse. Because the incident was said to have occurred in the late 1970’s, New York’s statue of limitations laws prevented him from ever being charged. Massachusetts’ statue of limitations laws are different, and Lorch was indicted in that state but never extradited to stand trial on those charges because of his dementia.

Former dropout signs with D1 school

When a 6-foot-8 junior college transfer signs with a Big Sky conference school, it usually isn’t big news. When that player was a highly-regarded prospect in high school who dropped out of school before his senior season and is a main subject of a critically acclaimed book, however, it’s noteworthy.

Aaron Moore, who was a freshman standout at Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) in 2005-06, signed with Portland State for the 2012-13 school year after a standout season at San Bernardino (Calif.) Junior College.

Moore’s youth career and turbulent high school career was chronicled in George Dohrmann’s “Play Their Hearts Out.” Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a writer for Sports Illustrated, followed the triumphs and tragedies of a Southern California AAU team over a period of eight years. Based on the content in the book, it looked like Moore was going to be the most tragic figure among the players on the team and now he has a new chapter.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
Nick Emery and Jimmer FredetteDeseret News, Scott G. Winterton and AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliBYU commit Nick Emery, left, is a 6-foot-2 guard with ridiculous scoring ability and range. It's hard not to compare him to former BYU scoring machine Jimmer Fredette.
This summer, ESPNHS will sit down with some of the nation's elite players to break down their game, talk about the inevitable comparisons to college and pro players and get their take on who they pattern their game after.

Player: Nick Emery
School: Lone Peak (Highland, Utah)
Position: Combo Guard
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
ESPN 60: No. 52

Who is Nick Emery?
Emery is a smooth-stroking lefty whose game consists of seemingly endless range on his jumper, combined with an uncanny ability to get to the rack at will. The combo guard’s immense talents, non-stop motor and extreme competitiveness endears him to fans and coaches while frustrating opponents to no end. Emery pumped in 21.7 points, ripped down 4.3 boards and dished out 2.4 dimes a contest to cop Class 5A MVP honors this past winter. The BYU commit led the Knights to their second consecutive state crown in April and earned a spot on the ESPNHS Underclass All-American squad. He is the younger brother of former Cougar guard Jackson Emery and garnered Gatorade State Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.

Scouting Report
According to ESPN RecruitingNation, Emery is an extremely confident player who is a prolific shot-maker and can finish in the lane through contact despite not having prototypical 2-guard quickness. He is a calculated player who bides his time with the dribble before unleashing a textbook jumper and makes sagging defenders pay with his NBA range. When he’s not filling up the basket, Emery is adept at creating easy buckets for teammates. His knack for burying long-range daggers helps space the floor for other wing players and could make him an instant hit whenever he lands on BYU's campus.

Most frequent comparison: Jimmer Fredette, Manu Ginobili, Jackson Emery

ESPNHS Comparison: Jimmer Fredette
Come on, a 6-foot-2 guard heading to BYU with ridiculous scoring ability and range? You know you were thinking it, too. ESPN senior analyst Dave Telep cosigns the comparison stating, “During his formative basketball years, the guy Nick saw the most was Jimmer. It's easy to say, here's a white kid from Provo, Utah, going to BYU and think Jimmer. But I think with this kid it works. Someone else could try and take some of the things Jimmer could do and it would look fake. But this guy has that game and an unwavering confidence."

Before slaying Mountain West Conference defenders to the tune of 18.7 career points, Fredette made a name for himself at Glen Falls High (N.Y.) with his scoring punch. The 6-foot-2 scoring machine kept rolling once he got to BYU, emerging as Division I's premier perimeter shooter while leading the nation in scoring as a senior (28.9 ppg).

Emery's height, ability to play either guard spot and penchant for pulling up from long distance mirrors that of Fredette's. There’s no questioning either player’s ability to score, but one constant knock on their game is their ability to defend at the other end. Quickness and ball handling are other areas of concerns but take a back seat to the duo's production on the offensive end.

Nick’s Comparison: Fredette
Emery fully embraces the comparisons to Fredette and admits he models his game after the BYU legend.

“My brother was at BYU, so I watched Jimmer play a lot in college,” Emery said. “I try and emulate the way he moves and the way he finishes around the basket.

The similarities in Emery’s game can also be attributed to one-on-one sessions the two engaged in at BYU's practice facilities. There, Emery got a first-hand look at what catapulted Fredette to the 2011 AP Player of the Year.

"He likes to shoot from deep and I like to shoot from deep,” Emery says. "If I feel open once I cross halfcourt, I’m shooting.”

To become a more well-rounded player and a better offensive threat, Emery is looking to incorporate more of Ginobili’s repertoire into his own arsenal. This summer’s focus will be on honing his handle and crossover as well as fine-tuning an already potent euro step.

“I want to be a blend of those two guys and I love how crafty Manu is,” Emery said. “I love winning, and being in a winning environment. Both of those guys are winners.”

David Auguste covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @DAugusteESPN or email him at David.Auguste@espn.com.

Oak Hill Academy celebrates national title

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
3:15
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MOUTH OF WILSON, Va. -- When you've been running the same program for as long as Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith -- 27 years and counting -- you tend to build rituals that become part of maintaining excellence. Every year after the first three practices, Smith writes down what he expects of his team. He keeps the paper in his desk drawer in the basketball office alongside the numerous trophies and artifacts he's accumulated in winning 860 games against only 53 losses since the 1985-86 season.

"I felt like we'd probably lose a couple games because of our scheduling," Smith said. "I didn't tell that to the guys, of course, but they were 11 guys that bonded together and got it done."

In the end, the team exceeded expectations and set a school record with 44 victories. In a school assembly May 11, they were honored for that feat and for capturing their seventh FAB 50 national title. The Warriors’ received medals, special Jordan Brand shoes and the ultimate team prize, the 2011-12 POWERADE FAB 50 national championship trophy.

"This is awesome," said point guard Tyler Lewis of the 200-person assembly that included Oak Hill's student body, administration, longtime supporters and parents who make the trek from out of town to rural southwest Virginia. "Finishing No. 1 and winning a ring is the reason why you come to Oak Hill."

Lewis' season at Oak Hill embodied the makeup of this year's team. Traditionally, Oak Hill players transfer in from all over the world, usually just for a season or two. So when Smith's coaching brethren heard Lewis arrived from Statesville, N.C., they were a bit skeptical. Lewis, an N.C. State recruit, ended up being Oak Hill's 28th McDonald's All-American.

"I told them 'guys, I think this kid is a little better than you guys think,'" Smith said. "He helped ground the other players like D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. He knew what play to run, what side of the floor to run it on and knew what guy needed the ball."

In the spirit of this team-first oriented group, Smith named team tri-MVPs for the first time ever: Lewis, two guard Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and wing Jordan Adams (UCLA).

Smith has named team co-MVPs twice in his tenure -- in 1992-93 with Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff McInnis and in 2003-04 with Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo. Not surprisingly, all four of those players made the NBA and both those unbeaten teams are not only considered Oak Hill's two best ever, but two of the best teams in high school basketball history.

This season Oak Hill's sum was greater than its individual parts and 7-foot center A.J. Hammons (Purdue), the team's best rebounder, put it best.

"If somebody wasn't playing well, there was always somebody willing to step up," Hammons said. "We weren't the most talented team [at Oak Hill], but we came together as a team and with 44 wins and zero losses we made a statement."

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

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