Sweet Georgia Peaches
Another summer at Nike Peach Jam doesn’t disappoint.
With Nike making the relatively unprecedented move of creating it’s EYBL this summer, it sent a few shockwaves throughout the AAU circuit. Not only did Nike stop sponsoring so many teams, but it gave them a reason to compete. Holding three sessions of the EYBL in various locations (Virginia, Houston, L.A.) and tallying every teams record, it only gave it’s top 24 teams the right to compete in the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC.
Just across the South Carolina/Georgia border, hoopheads, media, and college coaches alike all conglomerated in the North Augusta Rec Center. A great facility with even greater hospitality, the Peach Jam was much easier to cover than your usual run of the mill AAU tourney. Instead of speeding to gyms that are 30 miles away from your previous location, everyone was able to relax under one roof (with air conditioning) and take in all of the action. Certain games were so hyped that you couldn’t find a seat in the house, but that was moreso due to virtually EVERY DI in America being represented at least one point or another.
Team Takeover out of the DMV took home the 17-U crown after knocking off the St. Louis Eagles. James Robinson and Michael Gbinije led the way with 26 and 19 respectively, but it was Mickael Hopkins who had the play of the game with this poster on a defender who rotated a bit too late. In 16-U play, the Georgia Stars narrowly beat BABC 59-57.
Through the four days, we were able to see a lot of the nation’s top PUNKS, along with a few sleepers. Here are some guys who caught our eye:
Anthony Davis | 6-10 | PF | 2011
The man known as the “human headband” came through with the dunk of the tournament, while leading his Meanstreets squad to the elite 8. After growing seven inches in the past year, we were on hand when he EXPLODED on the national scene at Spiece in May. The incredibly lanky Davis blocked a ton of shots, was a beast on the front of the press, and surprised some with his ability to shoot the rock from the perimeter. His play was so good in fact, that many recruiting analysts even flirted with putting him No. 1 in the class. The Chicago native is surely a coveting one, narrowing his list to Kentucky, Ohio State, and Syracuse with North Carolina looking to get in late and stir the pot.
Austin Rivers | 6-4 | SG/PG | Each 1 Teach 1 | 2011
While he wasn’t the leading scorer in Augusta (he was 2nd at a hair over 25ppg), he was easily the most feared scorer in the EYBL. Doc’s son was face-guarded in just about every single game, yet he was still able to get off just about as well as anyone else. If you play off him, he”ll bust a 3 in your eye. If you play him too tight, this will happen. Austin still isn’t ready to run the show full-time yet, but is destined to be a star combo guard in college wherever he lands. Duke has the lead right now though, and Rivers will certainly be in the mix for the top spot in the next batch of 2011 rankings.
Brad Beal | 6-4 | SG | St. Louis Eagles | 2011
Although he doesn’t have quite the flair of Rivers, a case could be made for Beal as the most efficient scorer of the tournament. He led his squad to the finals with a series of pull-up Js, NBA 3s, and old school takes through traffic. Not a guy who will blow you away with his speed or athleticism, his high basketball IQ and feel for the game enabled him to dominate enough to take his squad to the finals. It should also be noted that the future Florida Gator was fresh off of the plane after being the leading scorer for Team USA in the U-17 World Championships in Germany. It will definitely be a fun ride in Gainesville once Beal touches down on campus.
Ben McLemore | 6-5 | SG/SF | St. Louis Eagles | 2011
With Brad Beal still trekking his way back from Germany during the first few games, McLemore stepped up and was the man for this team. He’s probably the only player in the Fresh 50 who comes off the bench for his AAU team, which is moreso a testament to his fit than his actual game itself. He was arguably the illest dunker in the tourney, mixing in a handful of posters and tip dunks in with a wicked jump shot. McLemore has mad potential on the defensive end both as a man to man and helpside defender. With all this said, its easy to see why coaches from practically every high major were at most of his games in Augusta.
Roosevelt Jones | 6-4 | PF/SF | St. Louis Eagles | 2011
You may ask yourself “how does a 6-4 PF make this list?”, especially when he can’t shoot exceptionally well, can’t dribble exceptionally well, and isn’t a freak athlete. Simple: This kid is the epitome of a glue guy. He”ll defend your best player, take charges, and keep balls alive on the offensive end. He”ll handle it a little in open court, finish in transition, and dive on the floor for loose balls. Guess where he’s headed? Butler. While no one is expecting them to immediately repeat as National runners-up, he’s definitely going to be a key piece in their attempts to get back.
Marquis Teague | 6-2 | PG | Spiece Indy Heat | 2011
After missing the first two games due to travel, the U-17 Gold Medalist showed out at the Peach Jam. After taking a bit of hiatus from the AAU circuit, he stayed loyal to his EYBL roots and was at every event. It was honestly insane at times to see how easy the Kentucky recruit was able to get to the cup with his ability to change paces on the drop of a dime. The package of explosiveness, nasty court vision, and potential on the defensive end are what set him apart as the top point guard in the class in my eyes.
Michael Gilchrist | 6-7 | SF | Team Final | 2011
Gilchrist led his squad to the Final 4 of Peach Jam after also missing the first two games after getting his gold medal. He carried his usual swag and played harder than just about anyone on the court. “Gilly” was really a problem to defend due to his ability to play inside and out, along with his tenacity on the glass. Arguably the top player in the class, he showed off an improved J and looks to be right in the mix for top player in 2011 for the next set of rankings.
Michael Carter Williams | 6-5 | PG | BABC | 2011
The leading scorer in the Peach Jam wasn’t the most explosive or athletic guy, but compensated for his lack of flair with knowledge for the game and poise. MCW’s 44 point outing was a quiet but efficient one, given his 20+ free throw attempts in the game. The Syracuse commit has great size for a point guard along with NBA range, which should make him an immediate impact player in the Orange’s deliberate style of play. The quiet assassin should have a chance to come in and compete for a starting spot right away, too.
Nerlens Noel | 6-10 | C | BABC | 2013
After just reclassifying to 2013, Noel (who JUST missed the Fresh 25 for 2012) exploded on the 17-U level as the best shot blocker at Peach Jam. Even though he’s coming off a knee injury, his terradactyl-esque wingspan and superb timing enabled him to swat almost 5 shots a game and alter plenty more. Nerlens offensive game is still a work in progress, but the dominance that he shows on the defensive end will surely land him in the top 10 for 2013.
James McAdoo | 6-9 | PF | Boo Williams | 2011
Fresh off the plane, McAdoo didn’t seem like he had jet legs at all and dominated from the second he stepped out on the court. He mixed in his explosive leaping ability with his smooth game facing the basket to be a force for Boo. Unfortunately, the UNC commit didn’t get the rock anywhere near as much as he should have throughout the tourney due to the guard dominated nature of AAU basketball. Regardless, Bob’s nephew showed why he is a consensus top 10 player in the Class of 2011.
Justin Anderson | 6-5 | SG | Boo Williams | 2012
Anderson straight put the clamps on whoever he was matched against. His role was merely to stop the opposing team’s best player, which he did a pretty damn good job at doing. The rising junior face-guarded both Marquis Teague and Austin Rivers for the majority of their games and talked hella junk in the process. Justin’s jumper wasn’t falling too well throughout the week, but he had a few dunks that were right up there with exhibits A. and B.
Ricardo Gathers | 6-7 | PF/SF | Louisiana Select | 2012
“Rico” was probably the biggest man-child the event had to offer. Looking like he’d be a top 10 defensive end in the country, he mixed in his power with a surprising skill set and handle for a big guy. Gathers is an animal on the glass and caught a few unsuspecting defenders slipping and put them on posters. While he’s still stuck in between positions a bit at this point, Gathers is definitely one of the better players in the Class of 2012.
Levi Randolph | 6-5 | SG | Alabama Challenge | 2011
I’ll admit, I caught myself slipping in the last Fresh 50 rankings on Randolph. I honestly had no idea the guy could get buckets like this, having not seen him since the previous summer. While his squad didn’t fare so well, Randolph showed off a complete scoring game, throwing a jumper from beyond the arc in with a solid pull-up and the ability to get to the cup. Alabama got a really good one here and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to lead all freshman in the SEC in scoring next year.
Tyrus Jones | 6-0 | PG | Howard Pulley 16s | 2014
While it’s mad early to be writing about a player this young, Jones was THAT good at Peach Jam. I wasn’t even planning on watching too much of the 16s and was waiting for a few friends to get done so we could go get some grub, then I saw this guard zig-zagging through the D and dropping dimes like it was his job. Looking through the roster, I was just expecting him to be a really solid 2012 kid. Once I saw he was only in the 8th grade, my jaw dropped. Watching 8th graders really isn’t my cup of tea, but he’s one of the best that I have seen….although he doesn’t touch Andrew Wiggins.