April 27, 2014

EYBL recap: Day Two

MORE: Class of 2014 Rivals150

Saturday marked Day Two of the Nike EYBL Sacramento session, and included strong performance from numerous four and five-star prospects.

Lawson brothers lead Team Penny

With Memphis coach Josh Pastner on hand, 2015 Memphis commit Keelon Lawson and his uncommitted younger brother, 2016 five-star Dedric Lawson combined to score 43 points in Team Penny's opening game victory over the St. Louis Eagles.

Dedric, the higher-ranked of the two brothers, backed up his ranking on Saturday morning. He finished around the rim in multiple ways, initiated the break, and grabbed eight rebounds. Keelon was also excellent and was actually more efficient from the floor (8-14 compared to 9-18 for Dedric); he added 13 rebounds.

Keelon Lawson, the nation's No. 36 player in the 2015 class, made a verbal commitment to the University of Memphis last October.

"I know what to do to come in and perform as a freshman," Keelon explained. "It's a hometown (school). And it feels welcome. (Coach Pastner is) a good coach and he keeps his promises."

Keelon said that he's still a solid commit to Memphis but that other schools continue to recruit him though he didn't identify any of those programs.

Keelon's commitment has an impact on Dedric's thought process, even though Keelon isn't pressuring Dedric to join him at Memphis.

"It's a big factor in my recruiting because I love playing with my brother," Detric said. "It's always fun to play with a sibling on a high level. It really has a big deal with it."

Not surprisingly, Memphis is a favorite in Dedric's recruitment - but they're not his only leader. Kentucky is also one of Dedric's top schools, and Wildcat coach John Calipari was sitting courtside for Team Penny's game.

"Memphis and Kentucky, those are like the only two schools that have been recruiting my since my brother ended up committing," Dedric said. "It's like everyone already thinks I'm already going to Memphis because my brother committed. But that's not the case, so really just Kentucky and Memphis have been on me real, real hard."

Dedric shared his thoughts on his co-leaders.

"The best thing about Memphis, it's your hometown," Dedric said. "You know you're going to have family that wants to come to the games to support you. I like Coach Pastner. Coach Pastner's a real good guy. He always comes to support us."

"And Coach Cal, Coach Cal runs the one-and-done system. He gets you in, he gets you out. Both programs are good collegiate programs that I want to go and produce my talent in."

Soldiers draw a crowd

After suffering one of the more surprising upsets of the day in the morning, the loaded Oakland Soldiers squad bounced back with a solid victory over Team CP3 in the afternoon game.

The Soldiers feature arguably the best frontcourt of any AAU team in the nation with the country's No. 2 prospect Ivan Rabb and No. 4 prospect Stephen Zimmerman. Add in 6-foot-9 inch forward Chimezie Metu, who's ranked No. 46 in the country, and versatile four-star guard Rex Pflueger, among others, and it's easy to see why the Soldiers are considered such a powerhouse.

After starting all three of their touted post players (Rabb, Zimmerman and Metu) in their morning loss, the Soldiers took a different approach in the afternoon, bringing Metu in off the bench and playing most of the game with only two forwards. The strategy paid dividends.

Playing in front of many of the nation's top college coaches (including John Calipari, Sean Miller, Mike Krzyzewski, Dana Altman, Mick Cronin and Andy Enfield, among others), the Soliders' five-star prospects didn't disappoint.

Rabb did about everything a 6-foot-11, 220-pound power forward could be expected to do on the basketball court. He hit a contested fade-away, made several nice passes, finished with his left hand, and even drove the length of the court to score after grabbing a defense rebound.

Zimmerman's midrange shot was off in the afternoon session, but he, too, showed why he's such a heavily recruited prospect. The 7-footer made several agile moves in the post as part of an eight-point performance, and, like Rabb, passed the ball well.

Though he did show his leaping ability on several impressive rebounds and blocked shots, Metu's offensive game is not nearly as polished as his frontcourt counterparts. The four-star prospect was held to only two points and also committed three turnovers and generally never found any sort of offensive rhythm. Metu's athleticism, however, is quite apparent.

Metu and the Soldiers' post players also have to manage the adjustment of playing with such a tall frontline.

"It's a little bit different playing with two other big guys, playing a new position, sort of," Metu said. "They're good at what they do so it just make it easier on me."

Along with Rabb, Soldiers point guard Max Hazzard led his team with 11 points. Four-star Rex Pflueger's outside shot wasn't falling but he had a nice all-around game and even ran point for stretches.

On the recruiting side of things, Metu listed USC, Harvard, Cal and Arizona State as some of his standouts. Arizona, Oregon and Stanford are also still recruiting him. .

Metu briefly touched on what stands out about his top schools.

"USC, I love their coaching staff. And they're the hometown school so I have to consider them."

"Harvard, I mean, it's Harvard."

"Arizona State, I like the way they play. They get up and down."

"Cal, they just got a new coach but before I like the way they played. I like the way they move the ball around and get good shots."

Metu said that some schools are recruiting him to play small forward, others power forward, and others haven't specified.

Metu is considering taking more college visits but also could make a decision by the end of the summer.

Zimmerman said that he's thinking of releasing a list of favorites sometime after this weekend's EYBL Tournament. He did host Steve Alford of UCLA for an in-home visit and is in the process of scheduling a visit to North Carolina.

"Probably the biggest factor (in my decision) is development," Zimmerman said. "Whatever school I go to I want to make sure that they can develop me and make me better as a person and as a player. Also winning is obviously a big thing."

Pflueger said that he's considering Florida, Stanford, USC, UConn, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, San Diego State and Virginia.

The four-star guard recently took a pair of unofficial visits to the Northern California Pac-12 schools, and hopes that additional trips to other programs will help him narrow down his list.

"The first one was at Stanford where I stayed with a good friend of mine whose alma mater is my high school, Mater Dei, Andy Brown," Flueger said. "He just kind of showed me the ropes. He's a fifth-year senior so he knows a lot about it, the ins and outs of it and told md how great of a program it is."

"Cal, I only got a brief stay with them. I got to see them on one afternoon. I got to meet the new coaches - it was great to meet them and they were really cool."

Pflueger plans to make his decision before the start of his senior season.

Boston-area team surprises; Boston College to benefit?

Aside from the Oakland Soldiers falling in their first game of the day, perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament has been the success of Boston-based BABC. Despite having only one four-star recruit on its roster, BABC has gone 3-0 through the first two days of competition.

"People doubted us, definitely," said 2015 guard Terance Mann. "Especially in the Boston area, they were like '(we) don't have anybody.' So they doubted us."

But as the three games of competition showed, BABC does have talent, even if its players aren't as highly touted as many of its opponents. And several of those players could stay in the Northeast and attend Boston College.

One BABC standout is already committed to the Eagles. 2015 6-foot-10 (he's recently grown an inch) forward Jeremy Miller, who has averaged over 13 points a game during the first two days of the tournament, is an athletic and strong interior presence who's also a very good shooter.

Miller committed to Boston College in February and remains committed to the Eagles despite a coaching change.

"Well, when (former BC head coach Steve) Donahue was there the style of play really fit mine," Miller said. "I'm a stretch four, I like to shoot it a lot. And they run their set offense through their bigs. So I really liked that. And (new Boston College coach) Jim Christian said he's going to do the same thing so I'm going to stick with it."

Other schools have contacted Miller since the coaching change, including Temple, Minnesota and Providence, but the three-star prospect is happy with Boston College.

"I've been calling them off since I committed," Miller said.

What is he most looking forward to about joining the Boston College program?

"Just the college life, to be honest with you," Miller said. "The school itself is a great school. You can do anything with a Boston College degree so that's the reason why I wanted go. Plus, the basketball is good too."

Miller could be joined in Boston College by Mann, a four-star prospect ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 92 player in the class of 2015. Though he didn't display great touch shooting from the perimeter in his team's Saturday afternoon win over Detroit-based The Family, Mann showed great athleticism and passing ability, several of the qualities that could allow him to play point guard at the next level.

Mann said that Florida State, Boston College, Creighton and URI are some of the main schools involved in his recruitment but that he doesn't have a timeline for narrowing down his options.

"I don't know when I'm going to commit though," Mann said. "There's no timetable. I'm just letting it come to me."

Mann said that he and Miller have discussed the possibility of playing together at the next level

Schools are recruiting Mann to play point or shooting guard. Improving his feel for the point guard spot is an area of emphasis for Mann this offseason.

"(I'm working on) just getting better at the point guard position (and) handling the ball in pressure," Mann said. "Especially in the EYBL it's the best of the best, so I'm playing against the better point guards. I'm not even a real, real point guard yet, so it's fun."

Mann hasn't had any in-home visits and doesn't have any trips currently scheduled. He has taken unofficial visits to Georgetown, VCU, George Washington, URI and Boston College.

Other recruiting notes

  • The nation's No. 13 player, Ohio standout Luke Kennard, verbally committed to Duke last month. A skilled shooting guard, Kennard isn't having any doubts about his decision.

    "I took an unofficial visit there the weekend of the North Carolina game," Kennard said. "I had a great time. I got there, we took a tour of the campus with the coaches. The campus is beautiful. Coach K, best coach in America and the world, actually. The coaching staff is great. I love the way they play. The atmosphere of the campus and at the basketball games, it's just top-notch. And the good thing I like about it is it's small-town feel but on such a big stage. I really like that about it. Academically, I take academics seriously, and it's a great academic school."

    Kennard said that other schools haven't been in communication since he made his commitment.

    "Not really," Kennard said. "I think everybody knows. So I have a lot more time on my hands to do stuff without all of the other coaches trying to contact me. It's kind of just Duke right now."

  • V.J. King, the No. 7 player in the class of 2016, is still taking the recruiting process slow. Though he's received recruiting attention from numerous schools, King doesn't have any favorites, or even a more general list of schools that he is considering.

    Moreover, he said that he's only taken a pair of visits since his recruitment has begun, one to NC State a few years back and one to Ohio State around eight months ago.

    "Both schools were awesome," King said. "The facilities were awesome. They're just great places to be, in those environments, working all the time. It was fun to be out there."

  • Point guard Jamal Murray, the No. 16 player in the 2016 Rivals rankings, is still waiting on his first college offer. He did mention that Michigan and Michigan State are among the schools that are involved in his recruitment. Murray has only taken one visit thus far, to Michigan, to watch the Wolverines play Indiana.

    Murray said that he hasn't really given the recruiting process much thought and is instead focusing on his team and schoolwork.

  • Four-star 2015 prospect Montaque Gill-Caesar recently decided to stay in the 2015 class instead of reclassifying to 2014, which he had considered.

    "I just thought that it was the best decision for me from a development standpoint," Gill-Caesar said. "I'm comfortable where I'm at, at that school. I don't feel like I need to rush anything. So I feel like if I went 2014 I'd be kind of rushing my development. So that was the main reason behind it."

    Gill-Ceasar listed Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida State, Providence, Illinois, West Virginia and UCF as the main schools currently involved in his recruitment

    Though Michigan State is frequently speculated to be one of Gill-Caesar's top choices, the four-star recruit denied that the Spartans - or any program - have an edge.

    "I have no leader right now," Gill-Caesar said.

    The nation's No. 22 prospect said that he hasn't had any in-home visits with college coaches.

    He took unofficial visits to West Virginia and Kentucky earlier in his junior year.

    "Both of their fan bases are really crazy," Gill-Caesar said. "You already know, Kentucky has probably the best fan base out of all of college basketball. And West Virginia is kind of crazy too."

  • Five-star New Jersey point guard Isaiah Briscoe said that Arizona, St. John's, Rutgers, Seton Hall, UConn and Louisville are among the schools recruiting him the hardest.

    Briscoe hasn't narrowed down his list of college choices.

    "Probably I'll do it after this live period, see who's backed off and see who's coming in even harder," Briscoe.

    The nation's No. 19 player has taken unofficial visits to Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers and Arizona. He's yet to host any coaches for in-home visits.

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