BDN Premium has Andrew Slater and Varand Khacadouri covering the Nike EYBL event in Los Angeles this weekend and their reports are coming in via the message board and our twitter site. We'll have player interviews coming this week and much more including some members take on the prospects.
In fact, one of our knowledgeable members, Caleb has shared his early take on the kids and here they are while we await more reports from California.
Here are some thoughts and comments from what I saw this weekend -
Julius Randle: From what I saw he's the player I most like from the class of 2013. He looks to be a legit 6'-9" from looking at him. He is strong with the basketball and aggressive. Likes to use the glass alot when shooting in and around the paint. He has a good feel for the game and attacks the basket hard. He handles the ball well...but would be a serious matchup problem at the four. He was double teamed a lot by defenses yet still scored strong when I watched. When you watch him play it's hard to believe he is class of 2013! Very mature game.
Jabari Parker: Really [private] good all around player. Very smooth. Understands the game at a high level. Not super quick or fast but he is athletic. Fundamentally sound...gets team- mates involved well. Not as big or strong as Randle...more of a 3/2. His game reminds me of a slightly less explosive Grant Hill. I think with added strength he will be a special player. Very un-selfish. He is a very pleasant kid. Duke would be fortunate to get Jabari.
Nerlen Noels: I hope that Duke really goes after this kid. He blocks shots like he is on a pogo stick! He can go up down and then back up again really quick. I saw him block shots with both right and left hand. He can block jump-shots! He's just so long and makes you change your shot when driving to the hoop. On offense he plays within himself and doesn't force much. With time his offensive game will improve. He is not a liability at all on offense and he does display some touch around the basket. He does need some added strength. He will be a wiry, strong type of athlete.
Tony Parker: I like Tony. I hope Duke gets him. He really grew on me this weekend. Varand described his game well. He has good footwork...especially this strong low post spin move that he uses well to score with. He's definitely a power forward/college center. He seems to be a legitimate 6-8+ but the days of 270lbs are over. Some are saying he hasn't been playing well of late...if that is the case, he may be adjusting to playing at a lighter weight. Regardless, he played well this weekend. He plays best when he's getting the ball. He is a good kid...I repeat he is a good kid.
Alex Poythress: Effortless leaper. Long and athletic. Offensively he is a 4/3... defensively he could probably guard the 2 and 3 very effectively. Could develop into a passing lane nightmare. He had a two handed dunk where he literally glided through the air without much effort and with plenty of hang time. It would be hard not to take this kid if he wanted to commit. Seems to be tight with Tony Parker. Another really good kid.
Theo Pinson: Very gifted but young. When it's all said and done he'll be a great one. Displayed a nice shooting touch out to 3. His handle is good. He can dribble with both hands. He was active around the basket at times but definitely needs more strength to finish inside. The game I saw him play was against Houston Hoops, (Rasheed's team). It was probably a little tough for Theo to shine against such a talented trio of elite level Houston Hoop guards...led by Rasheed. Theo's dad is really cool and level headed. He mentioned that the experience of playing in such a high level game would only help Theo get better. Lots of up-side.
Rodney Purvis: I think we're all fairly familiar with Rodney's game. He is strong and really has the look of a player. Very confident player and he traded baskets with Rasheed a couple of times. I think Varand mentioned that he deferred a little too much during crunch time against Houston Hoops but he will be big time. He is a legit 6-3 and he can take it to the hole strong. After the game against Houston Hoops which was easily the best and most competitive game that I saw, Rodney was very nice and forthcoming with answering questions and picture taking. I would really like to land him.
Rasheed Suilamon: He has the tools to be great. In what was probably the best game of the weekend (Houston Hoops vs. CP3) he was the best player. His handle is legit. He can lose a defender with his cross-over and changing of speeds. Once he gets past his defender he attacks the basket hard. With added strength he will finish more consistently. He can knock down the deep three or pull up for his jumper off the dribble. He's an energy player who can defend well. His personality is magnetic...I really like him and predict he will be one of my all-time favorite's when he leaves Duke. He will represent Duke very well.
Thanks again to Andrew and Varand for a great weekend! [/private]
In February, junior 6'3" Rasheed Sulaimon became the second commitment for Duke in the 2012 class. The Houston-area product helped lead his Strake Jesuit squad to a 26-4 record, before getting upset by one point to Lamar in the second round of the Texas playoffs. For the season, the high-scoring guard with an improving defensive reputation averaged over twenty-one points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals for the Crusaders.
An articulate, personable and religious young man, Sulaimon has tried to help recruit Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker to the Blue Devils and is friendly with Rodney Purvis. Last year, his young Houston Hoops team struggled in Nike's inaugural EYBL . This year, Sulaimon, has helped lead his Houston Hoops squad to a 9-1 record and averaged thirteen points through the first ten games played at Boo Williams and in Dallas.
Recently, he spoke with Blue Devil Nation.
How do you feel you've played so far?
I feel I've played pretty well. We've had some pretty close games, but our team has persevered. We won and 3-1 right now here, so, overall, it's been a good weekend.
You guys went undefeated at Boo Williams.
Can you compare this with last year where you struggled a bit last year because you guys were so young?
You know, last year, we were young. We were coming into something that was new and, you know, we kind of struggled. We kind of relied on our talent. We didn't play as a team and our work kind of suffered because of that. This year, we knew what we were going into it, prepared better, playing like a team. We're playing great defense and the record is showing it.
Did the experience of being thrown into the fire, so to speak, pay a lot of dividends for you this year?
Yeah, I think so. I think it helped us grow and mature faster than even we wanted to. So, you know, putting us in that situation made us grow a lot faster.
Rasheed talks about recruiting for Duke, his improved defense and much more in the rest of this interview. This is the fouth interview in four days, so join BDN Premium for full site access and then take a look at what Nerlens Noel, Juilus Randle and Theo Pinson had to say. Then talk about the latest on the BDN Premium message board. Check out BDN Premium, you'll be glad you did! We dare to compare our Duke-centric experience with any other service. [private]
Can you talk about what you felt last year versus what you're feeling right now?
Last year, you know, it was kind of frustrating.
Was it was mentally difficult?
Yeah, yeah, but you know this year we're trying not to get down on ourselves and, you know, we unfortunately just had our first loss.
Yeah, I was there. I thought I was a curse. I need to get out of here.
(laughs) No, no. We've just got to keep going out there and proving it and trusting ourselves.
You guys, especially the three of you, have really good chemistry out there.
Yeah, yeah, we do.
Individually, what are you hoping to accomplish this summer?
I'm just trying to work on getting stronger and getting quicker.
Your defense is a lot stronger this year.
Yeah, yeah, that's one thing I really strive for. I've been trying to work on my lateral quickness and everything like that. You know, at Duke, we really have to focus on defense. That's one thing I'm really trying to improve on. Just trying to get prepared as best I can.
In terms of your body, what are you trying to work on this summer? You're obviously in great shape, but are you trying to get bigger? Are you trying to get leaner? You mentioned the lateral quickness.
Yeah, yeah, I'm just trying to get quicker and stronger and, like you said, not only just putting on more weight, but trying to get stronger.
Yeah, exactly. Lean muscle. That's one thing I'm really focused on right now.
In terms of shooting, where do you feel comfortable right now?
I feel pretty comfortable doing everything..off-the-dribble, off-the-catch. I just try to keep working on that and stay in the gym.
You're working on your mid-range?
Yeah, my mid-range and I just continue to stay in tune with that.
What has the staff asked you to work on, if anything?
Basically, the same things we've been talking about. You know, continue to get stronger, continue to get quicker, continue to play hard on both ends. Just stay in tune and continue to work out.
Now for next year, in high school, what are your goals for next season? Maybe making the McDonald's All-American game and winning a state title? What are some things?
Yeah, those are some really high goals that I'm trying. You know, like you said, the All-American games and, I think, most importantly, from a team aspect, I want to win a state championship.
How did you guys finish up this year?
This year, we finished #1 in the Houston 5A, but, you know, we kind of got upset in the second round.
Who was the bad guy?
Oh, you know, Lamar High School. We were ranked ahead of them and they ended up getting us by one, so that was disappointing. But you know, I think that will help us this year. We'll learn from that experience and we'll go further next year.
In the past, you went to school with the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron. Do you guys still have a relationship?
Oh, yeah, yeah. We're still pretty cool. We see each other at AAU events. Yeah, yeah.
In terms of recruiting for Duke, Quinn was saying he was going after Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Murphy, and Tony Parker. Who are you going after, if anybody?
(laughs) Yeah, I'm going after Shabazz and Tony Parker, too. It's really those two that I'm concentrating on.
So, those are your two as well? Double-teaming?
(laughs) Yeah, yeah.
In terms of what position they want you to play, what's been said so far?
It's really all up to the coaches, but they feel that I can play really all three positions. On offense, they feel like I have the versatility to play the one and the two.
I've watched you a lot, but I've never spoken to you. Which do you feel more comfortable playing?
You know, in AAU, I'm more comfortable playing off of the ball because of L.J. and, you know, in high school, I play more of the one. I can play both positions, so it really doesn't matter to me.
Are you going to be playing any big high school tournaments this year?
Oh, yeah, we're going to a high school one in North Carolina. I think it's in Durham. We're going to another one in Sacramento. Just try to play out there against some really good talent.
Academically, you have a reputation for being a very good student. Do you take pride in that?
Yeah, yeah. My parents have always been pushing me and my siblings to always take academics seriously. In my household, if you didn't get good grades, you couldn't play basketball, so that was always important to me.
Yeah, yeah. That's another reason that I picked Duke. They've got great academics and I know that they'll always be looking to push me. It just felt like a great fit.
Now, you also go to a Jesuit school, like I did. Those guys don't play around.
(laughs) Yeah, yeah, they don't.
What would you like the audience to know about you off of the court? Maybe you can touch on your family?
Yeah, I'm a very family-oriented guy. I'm pretty strong in my faith. I have three older sisters, an older brother, and a younger sister.
There are six of you?
Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, there are six of us.
And I'm sure they're all proud of you.
Oh, yeah, they're all very proud.
Are they all in the Houston area?
Yeah, they all live in the Houston area, but one of my older sisters is in the army.
Now, have you thought about entering the military after you're done with basketball?
(laughs) Oh, no, no. Not at all.
What are some things you'd be interested in doing after basketball?
I'm really interested in getting into business. So, when I go to Duke, that's one thing that I'd really like to study.
I was an economics major, too.
Oh, you were?
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
I really feel like my strength right now is my shot. I feel really comfortable shooting. If I get the ball, I feel pretty confident that I can knock it down right now. I feel like my defense is one of my strengths as well right now. I feel like I can really get up onto the opponents and force them to do something that they don't want to do. As far as weaknesses, I feel that I can improve on my ball-handling more and getting stronger and finishing at the rack. Getting "and ones."
You draw a lot of contact.
Absolutely, one of my main goals right now is to get stronger so that when I draw contact, I can still go through it and finish at the free throw line.
In terms of free throw shooting, how good of a free throw shooter do you feel you are right now? I guess it's around 80%?
Yeah, I shot around 82% this year. (laughs)
Wow, pretty close. Therefore, when you draw contact and you're able to finish through it, you're able to rack up points Kyrie Irving-style, getting "and one" after "and one."
(laughs) Yeah, that's the hope.
Who's been the most difficult player for you to defend so far?
That's a tough one. I don't know that there was a player that was tough to guard, but, as a team, was California Supreme. They had a couple of guards that could combine to really hurt you. They're very effective as far as scoring points.
What do you think of the rise of Texas as far as basketball on the national level?
Well, you know, Texas is known for being a football state, but, you know, we're trying to prove that we're just as good at basketball as well. There are a lot of athletes in Texas and, you know, there are a lot of guys that are unknown nationally that are pretty good.
Maybe you could mention some names for the audience to check out.
Oh, sure, the forward.
Yeah, it's just very competitive down here in Texas.
In terms of a position, what do you feel you are naturally? Or are you just a player?
I like to classify myself as combo guard. I feel comfortable with that.
So you really like that label? Some guys want to be viewed as one or the other.
Have you watched Tony play at all this week?
Actually, I haven't been able to. I haven't had a chance because of the schedule.
I caught a few of his games. He played well at times. Who do you try to model your game after? Is there any one guy?
I wouldn't say there's really one guy, but the guy that I like to watch a lot of tape on are Michael and Kobe.
I know, on Twitter, you're always mentioning about Kobe.
Yeah, those are my guys. I like to watch tape to see how Kobe scores and how he moves around without the ball.
I noticed in this game, for example, you stole one of his moves when you came around the elbow screen and then hit a baseline jump shot.
Yeah, yeah. I tried. (laughs)
Well, he's an excellent guy to model your game after.
Yeah, yeah, he is.
He's got that killer mentality.
He's got that killer instinct and everything like that. A scoring mentality too.
What was the experience like playing in the All-American game in Houston a few weeks ago? I thought it was a great idea to incorporate juniors into the game.
It was a great experience, you know, going to the place during the Final Four weekend. Meeting a lot of guys that you see a lot, but you never really talk to them, so it was great. A chance to interact with them, and everything like that. I developed a lot of relationships. It was great. The game was great. It was great on and off of the court.
Who are some guys around the country that you're friends with the people might not realize?
I'm pretty good friends with Myles Davis and Kyle Anderson. Yeah, from the Playaz. Rodney Purvis is another one. A lot of guys.
Obviously, you're very close with L.J. (Rose) and (J-Mychal) Mike (Reese). What kind of advantage does having that well-earned chemistry, through all of the years of playing together, give you on the AAU circuit?
It's a definite advantage because we've been playing together since we were in second grade. We already have that chemistry. We know where we like to score. We know where each other is without even seeing them, but it really becomes just a feel thing. Coming from the high school, we're just able to instantly gel, whereas other teams take time. And we're always together, so it's definitely an advantage. We don't need to find one another, we already know where we are.
Who are some other back courts that have really impressed you guys?
Oh, the Alabama Challenge is pretty good. They had some pretty good guards. And California Supreme, with Max Guercy and Katin Reinhardt. They're a pretty good pair.
I appreciate this very much.
Yeah, yeah. No problem.
ATTENTION PREMIUM MEMBERS - Be sure to sign up for the members only message board which requires separate log in. Once you have done so, we'll approve your account within 24 hours [/private]
HAMPTON, Va - By the end of the Nike EYBL Session I, many were talking of the improvement in Alex Poythress game from a season ago. In one game he matched teammate Tony Parker's numbers of 17 points and 11 rebounds and he used that game as a springboard. When Parker had to sit out with back spasms, Poythress picked up the slack.
Poythress is a 6-8 combo forward that has gained a lot of confidence of late. He would mix it up with anybody during this past weekends Nike EYBL, exploded around the basket and was very aggressive in his movements. He has developed more of a jumper as well and displayed all the improvements on the Nike stage for all evaluators in attendance to see. Here is a video clip and interview of Poythress. [private]
His current list consists of Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Memphis, Stanford, Alabama, Texas, Marquette and others, but he'll be getting plenty of new calls this coming week. He is open to Duke and ACC schools, so we'll see if his newly formed game translates into interest.
What is your current height and weight?
What do you feel like your strengths are at this time?
My strengths are probably taking bigger defenders off the dribble and small guys, I post up. I need to improve my ball handling.
Who has offered you to date?
Alabama, Vandy, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Marquette, Stanford, um, there is c couple more.
There has been a little bit of vague interest between you and Duke. Can you talk about that?
Duke is a good school you know, it's one of the top schools in the country.
Have you spoken to any of their assistants?
How would it impact you if they became more aggressive?
Um, I'd probably take a look at them.
Are any of the schools recruiting you harder than others?
No sir, they are pretty much the same.
Did you have a dream school growing up?
Do you pattern your game after any player?
No sir. I just play out there.
What do you need to do to get readt for the next level?
Probably hit the weights more, be more physical.
How would you feel if you were recruited as a power forward?
I'd be okay with it. I just want to find a place I am comfortable playing.
What do you think your position will be in college? Do you consider yourself to be a hybrid type of forward?
HAMPTON, Va -Make no mistake that Anthony Bennett is a top notch prospect, physically gifted with a good amount of upside. Bennett didn't exactly sneak up on anybody during the Nike EYBL Session I in Hampton, Virginia this past weekend, but he did have a monster first game and that started the talk amongst analysts.
There was a throng of media surrounding him after his performance but you had to listen carefully to realize he was not at all familiar with the makers and shakers of college basketball. In fact, when asked about his play against Julius Randle he [private] acted as if he knew who he was but really didn't. He admitted that when I asked him of the two.
So, here is a kid that doesn't really know who he is going up against in that he has never really done anything but go out and play the game of basketball. It didn't take me long to see that he was unaware of the Duke's and Kentucky's of the world, so I said, "you really don't know much about these schools, do you?" and he responded by saying, "not really, I am still learning the scene in college basketball in the United States."
Bennett is also being represented by a handler, not uncommon these days. The bottom line is the recruiting process is just getting going with 6-8 2012 star despite what you might read. Bennett said that Florida State from the ACC has been in touch and that he has heard of Duke from his handler and AAU coach. So, there is little direct contact with the budding prospect.
"I feel free in AAU ball," said Bennett. When asked what he meant, he referred to the structure that was in place on his high school team, Findley Prep. Bennett is an aggressive player who runs the court well. He was very active in his CIA Bounce Teams games and showed the ability to score on drives and put backs but needs work on his perimeter offensive game.
But as good as he was, you could see little holes in his game and that is not suprising. "I have only been playing basketball for four years," said Bennett when BDN asked of his experience. Considering the short time he has played organized hoops, his game was even more impressive.
I then asked when he became serious about his hopes of playing college basketball and then beyond. Bennett stated, "I got serious about two years ago in Canada. I was like 6-4 and everybody said I was a great basketball player." That's when he decided to take his game stateside landing at the aforementioned Findley Prep.
He said his weight was 220 or 230, and we'll go with 220 from our views. "I like to try and be aggressive and get everything that comes off the rim," said Bennett and it is statements like that that make college coaches drool.
"I really like to get out and run and I just try and be a part of every play,' quipped the rising prospect. And while he may not know the names thrown about y the guru's asking the questions, he makes it clear with this statement, "I just go out and play, it doesn't matter to me who I am going up against, be it Julius Randle or anybody else."
Bennett said he would take his time in making his choice with concerns to collegiate basketball. He will site down with his parents and Mike George his AAU coach in due time.
"I am a forward, a small forward, but a lot of people see me as a big at the next level but I think I will be a small forward," said Bennett but you will have a hard time convincing seasoned coaches that he is anything but a power forward in my opinion.
We have some more questions and answers on the cutting room floor with Bennett that we hope to get to, so stay tuned for more EYBL coverage at BDN. [/private]
There was a lot of young talent on display at this past weekends Nike EYBL event held at the Boo Williams Facility in Hampton, Virginia. One of those young talents is 2013's Nerlens Noel of BABC. Noel is a 6-9 front court player from Everett, MA and he went up against the likes of Tony Parker and held his own as his team went undefeated.
Noels told BDN [private] that he had no dream school while growing up and that they were all equal in his eyes. When asked to describe his game, Noels said:
After three games Noel was shooting 75% from the floor, averaging 13.o rebounds and 4 blocked shots per game.
"I try to be the defensive anchor for my team, stop fast breaks off blocks and contribute offensively as much as I can and keep everybody involved. It is important to keep good team chemistry."
"I have done a lot of work with my head coach at Tilton School. My confidence is soaring in knowing what I can do and the skill set I can improve upon."
Noels rocking his Kids n' Play haircut is a focused young man on the court and his skill set has already earned him major interest from Kentucky, Florida, UCLA, Syracuse and others. "I like ACC, Big East and SEC schools the most," said Noel.
When asked of ACC schools, Duke in particular, Noel said "If I hear from them I would probably take a good long look at them." He went on to say that he was wide open and that it was early in the process for him. Noels said that Duke, North Carolina had shown interest but he has yet to really hear a lot from the two rival schools.
Noels is an athletic type that plays hard and loves the game. He will surely be in the top ten players in the class of 2013 and he is they type kid all the major schools will take a look at. He runs the floor well and is very aggressive around the basket and loves to dig on on the defensive end. BDN will keep tabs on Noel in the future and it wouldn't surprise us if the Blue Devils staff takes a good look at him when they can get out on the road.
This is the first of many prospects we'll touch base on this week,for our coverage is just getting started. [/private]
Day One is in the books at the Nike EYBL Session I, otherwise known as the Boo Williams Invitational. There were several Duke targets playing Friday evening, including the nation's top rated big man Tony Parker. We'll have plenty of video coming your way as we go into next week, although just about every Duke site imaginable was on the same players at the same time this evening, meaning a lot of the same stuff.
Parker showed off his newly chiseled body where he has lost some of his body fat from last season. He ran the court well for his Georgia Stars as they walked through their opponent.
Parker played sparingly and that was an effort to [private] save his legs for the rest of the session and foul trouble. Parker spoke highly of Coach Krzyzewski and said he talked with him often. He mentioned that UNC had offered but he has yet to talk with Roy Williams.
It was clear that Duke is a big player for his services but this one could go on for a bit. Parker said he'd sit down with his parents and advisers before making a decision and mentioned that he would visit Duke and UNC in the coming months. I feel much better about the Blue Devils chances with Parker after the interview.
Rasheed Sulaimon told BDN he'd been working on his game and that he was quicker on and off ball. Sulaimon scored 12 points in the first half but was scoreless in the second as his team cruised to an easy victory. We'll have more on Sulaimon a bit later, including videos, interviews and the like. Sulaimon has a sweet stroke and runs around the court like a water bug. He is confident in his abilities and the way he spoke to media gives me the impression he is up for any challenges. He said he loved playing with LJ Rose, a kid Duke once recruited. Rose point blank told me, he still loves Duke and wishes they'd recruit him. Not one Duke site payed any mind to him but now that I just mentioned this tidbit concerning his interest, watch his name magically appear elsewhere, wink, wink. Still, Duke seems set with Quinn Cook, so it'd be a long shot for them to offer at this time. Rose has a long list of suitors.
BDN talked with Theo Pinson as well, a kid who moved from D-One Sports to CP-3 this season. He is but 15 years old and playing with the big boys and he can already hold his own. He is fleet afoot and we'll have more on his game with an exclusive interview before the weekend is out. We already have tape of him from the gang of Duke sites rushing to speak with him. I have a ton of background on this sure fire prospect.
A lot of Duke fans have heard the name Brandon Ashley tossed about but trust me in that he is a long, long shot. He mentioned UNC when I was questioning him, glowing and the IC guys swooped in. I also talked with Oakland Soldiers teammate Aaron Gordon who had a monster game with some big time highlights. He has a ton of potential and said he has not heard from Duke or ACC schools. He has not list other than PAC-10 schools.
Anthony Bennett of CIA Bounce 17 played well tonight. He loves to get into the lane and mix it up and has the ability to become a beast. Bennett is of course Canadian and during the interview I felt he was unfamiliar with college hoops and asked him about that and he admitted he didn't really keep up with it growing up, not knowing much of the traditional powers. His list was long and growing and he is at the beginning of the process. He spoke of being free in a more open system than that his high school team plays. He seemed a bit surprised at the attention but liked it.
I spoke to Julius Randle as well and he loves to float outside despite his height. He went up against the aircraft carrier known as Sim Bhullar, listed at 7-5 and over 300 pounds. [/private]