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July 23, 2012
Titanic struggle as youngsters break through
MORE: Fear the CIA | New guard
Championship Sunday at the Nike Peach Jam was worth well more then the price of admission. First, the 17u semifinals produced a thrilling overtime game, then, the 16u title game took two overtime sessions before the Texas Titans were able to defeat the Southern Stampede, finally, in the 17u championship, no clear winner was decided until the clock finally showed all zeroes. When the dust had settled, the Oakland Soldiers defeated Canada's CIA Bounce by a score of 51-50 to win the third annual Nike Elite Youth Basketball title. Here are the prospects that stood out amidst all of Sunday's drama.
The Texas Titans 15u (class of 2015) squad was able to pull off the near unthinkable in North Augusta -- win the 16u title at the Nike Peach Jam. In doing so, several of their prospects established themselves as future EYBL stars. Mickey Mitchell, Soso Jamabo, and Samir Sehic all proved that they belong on the list of top players in their class at the national level. But no prospect was as productive as 6-foot-3 guard King McClure. The Dallas native went off for a game-high 26 points in the title-game win. He went 9-for-10 from the foul line and McClure is even more dangerous in transition scoring at the rim. He's got excellent athleticism, is shifty in changing directions with the dribble, and knows how to get to the foul line. When the game was on the line over the course of the two overtime periods, McClure knew that the ball had to go through him with Mitchell on the bench after fouling out. The combo guard was able to score time after time, several of them coming in transition after he recorded one of his game high five steals. A future star in the Lone Star state, McClure had coaches from Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Florida State, and Kentucky checking him out.
STAMPEDE HASN'T STARTED
The Southern Stampede 16u squad finished its season as the second-best team on the Nike circuit. The scary thing for opponents is that the Stampede stars haven't even begun to scratch the surface. In Sunday's title-game loss, forwards Jakeenan Grant and Elijah Staley showed signs that they have a chance to become elite prospects. The two forwards are super athletic, long, and have the beginnings of wing skills with versatility. As they get stronger and continue to work on their offensive perimeter game, these two easily could become household names. The player who was the most productive for the Stampede, however, was guard Ahmed Hill. A 6-foot-4 scorer who can play the point of shooting guard position, Hill is a streaky shooter with unwavering confidence and a knack for hitting shots in the biggest of moments. Finishing with a team-high 18 points in the double overtime loss, Hill hit several tough shots to keep his team alive. Whether it's the deep jumper, a spinning shot in the lane, or a physical drive at the basket, Hill can score with anyone in his class. The No. 26 player in the 2014 Rivals100, coaches from Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas, Georgia, and Clemson all intently watched Hill on Sunday.
Chris Paul All-Stars wing Greg McClinton has long been regarded as one of the nation's premiere athletes as a 6-foot-6 high jumper. On Sunday, McClinton showed his future college coaches from Wake Forest a new level of skill that he had previously been lacking. The four-star small forward was all over the court in his team's semifinal loss in overtime to the Oakland Soldiers, finishing with a team-high 16 points (on an efficient 7/10 shooting) and a team-high eight rebounds. McClinton was throwing down alley-oop dunks, scoring the ball off the bounce in transition, and even showed a nice touch from the mid-range level on his jumpshot. The No. 98 prospect in the Rivals150, McClinton is a big boost to the Demon Deacons' recruiting class.
2014's No. 1 prospect in the Rivals100, 6-foot-7 Toronto native Andrew Wiggins, has been a subject of heated debate. With experts arguing as to if it is Wiggins or 2013's Jabari Parker who's the nation's top overall prospect, Wiggins' name is starting to gain serious momentum. One thing is clear, Wiggins is far and away the top prospect in his class. The small forward poured in 23 points in the one-point loss, the vast majority of those points coming late. Attacking the basket off the dribble, Wiggins has mastered the spin move as a weapon to not only score, but to go through the contact and draw the foul. It's that consistent aggressive play that makes Wiggins so good, and with his athleticism and skill set, he's near impossible to keep out of the lane. He rarely settles for jumpers because of that. Taking over a game level of the EYBL finals is something which very few prospects are capable of doing. On Sunday, Wiggins proved beyond any doubt that he is one of the few.
HEART OF A CHAMP
Playing through injury, 2013 No. 5 prospect Aaron Gordon, a forward out of California from the Oakland Soldiers, refused to allow his team to take a loss in his final game on the EYBL circuit. The 6-foot-7 Gordon displayed his top notch athleticism on Sunday, helping his team win two thrilling contests to clinch the EYBL title. He did this while showing noticeable signs of pain. Along with teammates Jabari Bird and Stanley Johnson, Gordon provided spurts of dominance by influencing the game in a variety of ways. The combo forward can score in the post, drive the ball to the rim, shoot it in the mid-range, and is a very good passer as well. College coaches love to watch intangibles, and that's where Gordon really shines. He's a positive teammate with great energy, starts his strong play on the defensive end, and plays with great confidence. The five-star forward was monitored by Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Washington, Oregon, and Stanford on Sunday.