The first session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League was held at the Boo Williams Sportsplex this past weekend in Hampton, Va.. The games were intense and the energy level was high the entire weekend. Here are five things we learned as we evaluated players.
1. Marquis Teague has stepped up his game
The No. 4 ranked player in the ESPNU Super 60 took his game to the next level this weekend against top-notch competition. Marquis Teague (6-1,185, Indianapolis/ Pike), of the Spiece Indy Heat, got to the rim at will. His ballhandling was flawless and defenders were at his mercy. He would use stutter steps and hesitations to confuse the defense then complete the move with above-the-rim explosion. He looks to have added strength to his upper body and he welcomed contact when he attacked the lane. Teague also displayed a refined midrange pull-up jumper and hit occasional 3s to keep the defense honest. Teague had the killer instinct on the offensive end of the floor. He is as good, if not better than Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla. /Winter Park) at making scoring plays with the ball in his hands.
2. Ben McLemore is no longer an unknown.
The fresh face on the St. Louis, Eagles made it very clear he will be a force to be reckoned with this spring and summer. Ben McLemore (Wellston, Mo./ Wellston) had the fans saying "who is that kid?" This long, athletic wing played power forward for his high school team last season before being moved to the perimeter this season and his game has blossomed. McLemore is very athletic. When he dunks, it looks like he is doing a chin-up on the rim. He has a quick first step and is an explosive leaper. He has hits midrange jumpers and 3s with ease. When he has the ball in his hands don't look away, you might miss something spectacular. He has not even scratched the surface on how good he could become.
3. Shabazz Napier is the real deal.
All the reports out of Boston indicated that Napier, of BABC, can score and take over a game by playing the point guard position or off the ball. That intelligence proved to be true. Napier (Randolph, Mass./Lawrence Academy) can get buckets in a hurry and it does not matter who or how many defenders are guarding him. Napier, a UConn commit, attacks the lane and knocks down NBA 3s without hesitation. On one occasion, Napier shot a deep 3 in the corner on which he caught the ball while he was not facing the basket. On the catch, he turned in the air found the rim for a 23 footer. His offensive confidence is a thing of beauty.
4. The 2011 class is full of outside assassins
Shooting has become a lost art over the years but Bradley Beal (Chaminade. / St. Louis; St. Louis Eagles, Committed to Florida) Trevor Cooney (Sanford/Wilmington, Del.; Team Final) Kentavious Caldwell (Greenville, Ga./ Greenville; Georgia Blazers) and Jabari Brown (Oakland, Calif./ Oakland; Drew Gooden Soldiers) can flat-out shoot the ball. All four have great size and pretty strokes. They all deliver the ball smoothly and effortlessly. They can shoot the spot-up deep ball, come off screens or attack the defender and knock down the midrange jumper. Opposing defenses must know the scouting report on these quick-trigger assassins because they can change the scoreboard and put the game out of reach in a hurry.
5. The Nike EYBL is a great idea.
This concept of a running club league makes every game much more valuable. The 35-second shot clock was a welcomed addition. This league allows the teams to compete and earn the right to play for a championship in July at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C. Expect the intensity of the games and the competitive fire of the coaches to heat up as we get closer to July. This could be considered the March Madness of high school travel team basketball.
Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986-90 and was an All-MAC first-teamer his senior season.