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April 23, 2013
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - The talent pool at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League held this past weekend at Next Level Sports Complex was as deep as it gets.
With the likes of five-star prospects Stanley Johnson, Cliff Alexander, Emmanuel Mudiay, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow in attendance, it was easy for lesser-known players to get lost among the cream of the crop.
There were a number of players who didn't shy away from playing against the best and in front of many of the top coaches that college basketball has to offer. Those players surely left California with a heightened sense of pride, and maybe even a higher profile on the recruiting front. I'll start with Jamil Hood.
Jamil Hood Jr., PG, Albany City Rocks - Hood struggled in his first two games at EYBL, but it only takes one game to get noticed, and that game for Hood was his stellar performance against the Oakland Soldiers on Saturday afternoon.
Hood led all scorers in Albany City Rocks' 62-60 upset win over the Soldiers with 21 points on 6 of 13 shooting, including 8 of 14 from the charity stripe.
The 6-foot-3 point guard seems to be more of a scoring guard than a distributor, but Albany relied heavily on him to handle the ball and break down the Oakland Soldiers' pressure defense.
Hood blew by his defender, got to the basket and finished with ease. He also showed good mid-range touch and a crafty floater that he can hit from anywhere in the paint.
The class of 2015 guard is also as athletic as they come. In one possession, Hood knifed through the pressure, penetrated the middle and threw down what could've been the dunk of the tournament on Johnson who was attempting to block the shot. That play really took any wind out of the sails of the Soldiers.
Hood finished off his EYBL experience with a solid performance against Indy Spiece. He scored 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting in a 61-56 loss while going head-to-head with five-star, class of 2014 guard Jaquan Lyle and four-star, Indiana commit James Blackmon.
Skal Labissiere, F/C, Team Penny/Bluff City - Labissiere was not listed on the Team Penny roster in the EYBL program, but anybody who watched him play knew his name before they left the gym.
Labissiere is listed at 6-feet-9, but was easily two inches taller than Alexander from Mac Irvin Fire, meaning he's near seven-feet tall. He used that frame to average just over 12 points in the four games played over the weekend.
The class of 2015 forward plays with great energy, has great rim-to-rim speed and never takes a play off. He is extremely long with good timing and instincts when it comes to shot blocking. At 200 pounds, Labissiere would benefit from some time in the weight room, but he never responded well and didn't back down from contact.
His best performance came on Sunday against Alexander and Mac Irvin. While it seemed everybody's gas tanks were on empty, Labissiere looked like he had just filled up. He scored 15 points on 6 of 9 from the field and pulled down 11 rebounds in Team Penny's 66-52 win over Mac Irvin on Sunday.
Yes, Labissiere is a five-star recruit (No. 6 in the Rivals150 for the class of 2015) and holds offers from Kentucky and Memphis, so how is he a lesser known player? Well, I had never heard of him, and now I know who he is. Labissiere is really, really good, and his impression will be a lasting one.
Ajon Jefferson, PG, ICP Elite - Jefferson, who plays his high school ball at Gardena (Calif.) Serra was playing just a stones' throw away from his hometown, and he looked very comfortable defending his home turf.
Jefferson measures just over six-feet tall, but his confidence level is off the charts. The class of 2014 guard has a lightning quick first step and good speed in the open court. He did a stellar job of finding his way into the teeth of the defense for a bucket or a pass to an open teammate. Jefferson is the ultimate competitor, who gave maximum effort on both ends of the floor.
Jefferson scored 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting in ICP's 64-53 win over Baltimore Elite on Friday. After his team lost both of its games on Saturday, he took it upon himself to try and will ICP to a strong finish on Sunday.
Jefferson finished strong himself, but ICP dropped their final game to Wisconsin Playground, 78-63. Jefferson scored in every way imaginable, and finished with 34 points on 15 of 25 shooting.
D.J. Hogg, G/F, Texas Titans - Hogg is already a four-star recruit who has been seeing interest from a number of high-major programs, but held no offers. After his performance at EYBL, Hogg should be hearing from a few more schools on a more serious level.
Hogg averaged 17 points in his four games, including a 29-point performance in a 65-54 win over Seattle Rotary on Saturday. The 6-foot-7, class of 2015 recruit is very smooth on the basketball court. He has great form on his jumper and can get to the hoop at will.
Hogg is a very deceptive athlete. He is quick off the hardwood with good bounce, shown by a handful of paint-controlling blocked shots. He was able to take rebounds off the defensive glass and lead the break, as well.
Session No. 1 of EYBL was good to the aforementioned players, and there will certainly be other breakout players on the Circuit. So, it's up to them to make sure they keep their name in the minds of coaches and scouts.