Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The first night of the April Live Periods kicked off in tournaments around the country on Friday evening. Division I coaches packed the gym at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, Va. for the first night of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), with each of the 40 programs getting one game on eight courts running for three sets.
Here’s a notebook from the action:
Bradley, Richards clash in battle of high-major bigs
The most intriguing interesting matchup I watched at the first season took place during a second-set game between Each 1 Teach 1 (Fl.) and Expressions Elite (Mass.). E1T1 big man Tony Bradley, Jr. (2016/Bartow), a 6-foot-10, 230-pound power forward went up often against Expression’s 6-11, 230-pound center Nick Richards (2017/St. Patrick School).
Head-to-head it was almost a dead draw, with Bradley going for 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while Richards had 16 and 10, but it was E1T1 that won 62-54. The two certainly have different styles, however.
Richards is a true center, with a very solid frame and very good athleticism, which he showed off with three big-time rejections. Bradley’s frame is closer to that of a young Tim Duncan, with a more slender torso and longer arms, but he’s got the ability to put the ball on the floor and has a nice face-up game to boot.
Bradley, a year older and that much more polished than his slightly larger opponent, has a litany of high-major offers already on the table. North Carolina, Florida, Cal, NC State, Vanderbilt and Auburn are among the 25 schools that have extended scholarships to the athletic power forward, and he’s already taken one official visit, to North Carolina.
“That was my very first official visit, I enjoyed it,” he said. “Coach Roy [Williams], he’s a great coach, and I spent a lot of time with him that weekend, it was a great experience.”
He didn’t offer much beyond that in terms of where his recruiting might lead, saying he was still considering all schools involved, hadn’t cut down his list yet and didn’t have any leaders for who else he might take official visits; all he did say was that he would be taking his four remaining officials, after the AAU season is over.
Richards said even less about his recruitment, saying he “can’t talk about” the schools that are pursuing him “right now,” but he did add that there were “a lot” of schools in pursuit.
However, he did mention he’s visited Villanova--and head coach Jay Wright was courtside with top assistant Baker Dunleavey for the matchup.
“I think he’s a good coach, he knows how to run an offense,” Richards said, adding that he’s looking for a “place that will give bigs the ball, and makes everybody happy.”
Brown leads young Las Vegas Prospects
The youngest roster in the EYBL belongs to one of several new teams in the league, the Las Vegas Prospects. Only three of the LV Prospects’ 10 players are rising seniors, and most of their big contributors are only rising sophomores.
This team has plenty of talent, led by Centennial (Nev.) 2017 guard Troy Brown, Jr. The 6-6 guard already has offers from Duke, Louisville, Kansas and more; fellow 2017 guard Markus Howard, a 5-11 point guard, recently de-committed from Arizona State.
But it’s not talent that Brown thinks will help the Prospects stand out.
“Because we’re younger, a lot of teams see us and they try to take us for granted, and bully us and stuff like that,” he said. “But we play hard, we play defense and we try to do what other teams won’t do on the court, and that’s out-hustle them and stuff like that. I feel like we have a lot of heart, even though our age is young, I feel like we can out-play a lot of teams.”
Howard led the team with 25 points in a loss to the Oakland Soldiers (Cali.), with Brown contributing 12 points and four assists. Though Howard is more of a natural point guard with his size and quickness, the schools that are recruiting Brown are doing so to run their offenses, and it’s the position he prefers to play.
“Right now I’m trying to work on being a point guard, facilitator,” he said, and that involves being a lot more talkative on the court. “If you talk to your teammates a lot it makes them feel like there’s always hope and there’s always somebody back there, a leader, somebody always has their back.”
“I try to talk as much as possible and make those guys as comfortable as I can.”
Team Final wins EYBL opener
The only Philly-area squad in the EYBL is Team Final, which features plenty of names familiar to those who follow the local high school and recruiting scene.
This year’s 17U group has plenty to live up to, considering last year’s squad (led by Malachi Richardson, Levan Alston, Trey Lowe, Lamarr Kimble, Derrick Woods and more) had the best record during the EYBL’s regular season, and they got off on the right foot with a 65-54 win over Southern Stampede (Ga.).
Tony Carr (2016/Roman Catholic) picked up right where he left off after a strong performance in the 2014 16U Peach Jam final, leading the way with 17 points (on 7-of-9 shooting), with seven rebounds and six assists. Lamar Stevens (2016/Roman Catholic) also enjoyed a strong performance with 15 points and six rebounds, carrying Final out to a big lead early on.
In his first official event with his new program, Hershey (Pa.) 2016 big man Dylan Painter had 13 points and six rebounds, showing range out to the 3-point arc. Tucker Lescoe (2016/Cocalico) provided a nice spark off the bench at the end of the first half, hitting two quick 3-pointers for his six points.
Watching Team Final’s game were Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, GW head coach Mike Lonergan, Penn State’s Pat Chambers, Delaware’s Monté Ross and George Mason’s Dave Paulsen, as well as assistants from Villanova, Drexel, La Salle, Lehigh, Clemson, Yale and more.
Team Final's second of four games on the weekend is Saturday at 11:00 AM against Spiece Indy Heat (Ind.), with another game at 8:00 PM against Mac Irvin Fire (Ill.).
--Best shooting performance of the night goes to Folsome (Cali.) point guard Jordan Ford, who was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc as part of his 34-point performance to power Oakland Soldiers past the Las Vegas Prospects. The 6-1, 155-pound guard said he’s been spending the last month working on removing a hitch from his jumper so that he can shoot more like his favorite NBA player.
“Just working on it, getting better, trying to get the Curry release,” he said. “It’s less strenuous because it felt weird shooting it with the hitch, so it feels more natural shooting it in one motion.”
Ford has offers from “Gonzaga, UCSB, Cal, UTEP, UC-Davis, UC-irvine, Cal State-Northridge and Pepperdine” with interest from “Stanford, Colorado, Sacramento State and Oregon State;” he’s already taken an official visit to Gonzaga and said he wants to visit Cal, but doesn’t have any current leaders for his recruitment.
--California forward Felix White (2016/Besant Hill) has a small Philadelphia connection, having played last season on the AAU circuit with the Hunting Park Warriors. He’s taking a big step up this year, playing with Las Vegas Prospects in the program’s first year on the EYBL, and is hoping his recruitment starts back up. He was offered by UTEP last April but hasn’t gotten any scholarships since.
--E1T1’s Maverick Rowan (2016/Cardinal Gibbons, Fl.) was a no-show, which will add plenty to the speculation that the former Lincoln Park (Pa.) star is reclassifying to 2015 and could commit soon. The former Pitt commit has added offers from Louisville, Florida, UCLA, Wisconsin, Virginia and more since moving to Florida last summer.