Southern California — The Memorial Day weekend hoops festivities consisted of roughly 35 hours of gym time spread across four gyms in four days.
From Garden Grove to Thousand Oaks and back to Garden Grove and then to Orange Lutheran, it took a good amount of gas, hardly any food or sleep and about 20 cups of coffee.
All bitching aside, the quality of basketball seen was so good it was more than worth it.
Here’s a day-by-day, event-by-event breakdown of what I watched over the weekend, which will be released in a three-part series.
Friday: CP3 Memorial Day Classic at Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove
This stop was the shortest - both time-wise and distance-wise - from the homestead in Huntington Beach, but provided plenty of intriguing hoop on the local and national levels.
Sophomore-to-be Scottie Barnes of Nike Team Florida was all the buzz that evening, showcasing an impressive skill set for his size. At 6-feet-7 with broad shoulders and imposing length, Barnes has impeccable timing as a rim protector, swatting away numerous shot attempts at the basket and changing a host of others.
Offensively, Barnes can do a little of everything. He has the ball skills, basketball IQ, vision and passing ability to play a point forward-type role, but can also play on the wing where he can shoot it from 3-point and mid-range and attack the basket off the bounce.
Barnes’ teammate and classmate, Malachi Wideman, was another Nike Team Florida member to open some eyes, though football may be his true calling.
Wideman stands around 6-feet-5, but is an explosive athlete who looks to dunk everything around the rim. He uses a lightning quick first step to blow-by defenders on the perimeter and get to the basket.
Area local and class of 2019 California United point guard Jonathan Daniels had himself a game against Chicago-based Mac Irvin Fire.
Daniels, who recently transferred to Paraclete from Heritage Christian, was using improved speed and burst to get to his consistent mid-range jump shot and bringing much-needed leadership to the floor. He capped his evening with a game-winning 3-pointer.
California United benefitted from good performances by way of 2019 SoCal product Darren Jones (Cajon High) and 2020 Julian Strawther who had a standout freshman campaign at Liberty high school in Las Vegas this past season.
Jones is a freak athlete who plays with a ton of energy and has skill to boot. At 6-feet-8, Jones is a terror to deal with in transition as he can fill the lane and finish off the wing or sprint the middle of the floor and hit a trail 3-pointer or finish through contact.
Strawther runs about 6-feet-7 and is as smooth as they come on the perimeter. He has solid ball skills and feel on the perimeter for his size. He can initiate offense with his basketball IQ or create his own shot.
Seattle Rotary gave the Truth a run for their money in a competitive, late-night 15U contest, but Fresno-area wing Jalen Green was too much to handle in overtime.
Green’s ability has been well-chronicled through his freshman campaign at San Joaquin Memorial and time spent at USA Basketball and the 6-foot-4 hyper-athlete used his long strides and springy leaping ability to get to the rim and rise up for dunks.
Rising ninth grader Paolo Banchero of Seattle Rotary cemented himself as a prospect to keep an eye on with a strong all-around skill set. At 6-feet-6, Banchero is mobile and athletic with soft hands, ability to finish around the basket with either hand and has touch on his shot out to 15-feet. He’s also a highly-regarded football prospect at the quarterback position.
Saturday: Nike EYBL Session Four: “Los Angeles”
After a 5 a.m. wake-up call and a quick stop in Long Beach to pick-up fellow scout and friend Joel Francisco, we made the 80-mile drive to Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, the site of Nike EYBL Session Four, which is 50-odd miles outside of Los Angeles.
The consensus top-rated recruit in the class of 2018, Marvin Bagley III of Nike Phamily, didn’t have to travel far from his current home to showcase his immense individual talent.
Bagley averaged 27.8 points and 15.3 rebounds in four games on the weekend as his Phamily squad went 2-2 in those contests, picking up its only two victories in EYBL play.
Sharp shooting All-Ohio Red point guard Foster Loyer showed no signs of jet lag or a lack of sleep in the 8 a.m. game as he punished defenders going under screens by knocking down five of his eight 3-point attempts in a two-point loss to Oakland Soldiers.
James Akinjo was a big reason why the Soliders were able to pull of the above-mentioned win, scoring 23 points on 6 of 11 shooting, while dishing out five assists. San Diego-native Taeshon Cherry brought his usual energy to the floor and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in the win.
Tyrese Maxey of RM5 Elite had an impressive early performance in a 66-50 win over Phamily, scoring 15 points on an efficient 5 of 8 shooting and 3 of 5 from deep. Highly sought after recruit Gerald Liddell didn’t have his best outings of the circuit in LA, but definitely had flashes of why he’s coveted by high major programs across the country.
Cal Supreme, led by Santa Ana Mater Dei teammates Bol Bol and Spencer Freedman, drew the most viewership on the weekend with crowds packed in like sardines around each court it played on.
Cal Supreme center Bol Bol had his full skill set on display at EYBL Los Angeles Saturday. Photo Credit: Matt Moreno, GOAZCATS.com
Bol, the skilled 7-foot-2 center who hardly has to leave to ground to dunk the basketball, poured in a couple double-double efforts on Saturday, while Freedman picked apart defenses with his basketball IQ and passing ability. Freedman dished out 17 assists in three games while only committing three turnovers. Cal Supreme finished the weekend a perfect 4-0.
Kamaka Hepa of Portland Basketball Club went off for 27 points, hitting 6 of 8 from 3-point range, and nine rebounds in leading PBC to an upset win over Each 1 Teach 1.
One of the more anticipated matchups of the weekend was between Howard Pulley and PSA Cardinals which feature two of the top point guards in their respective classes in 2018 Tre Jones (brother of Tyus Jones) and 2019 Cole Anthony (son of Greg Anthony).
Jones dominated the game from start to finish, finishing with 18 points and six assists, while holding Anthony to six points as his primary defender. Howard Pulley led by as many as 20 points and won the game, 75-59.
Team Penny has an intriguing trio of 2019 prospects at its disposal in D.J. Jeffries, Chandler Lawson and James Wiseman.
Jeffries is an athletic load to deal with all over the court. At 6-feet-7 and 200 pounds, he has the strength to deal with bigs in the paint and ball skills which lend to his ability to rebound and push the break where he can find teammates or finish above the rim with authority.
Lawson is a long and smooth athlete at 6-9 and thin 190 pounds. He can stretch the floor with a consistent stroke from 3-point range, but he’s also a talented and willing passer who operates well out of the high post.
Wiseman is a superb athlete at 6-10 with a big-time motor who gets up and down the floor well. He has exquisite timing on his shot contests and blocks, sprints the middle of the floor on the break and uses a soft set of hands and quick leaping ability to finish around basket.
Rising senior point guard Darius Garland of Brad Beal Elite had himself a marvelous Saturday session with his ability to create his own shot while also getting teammates involved. Garland is of the new-age point guard mold, and a talented one at that, at 6-4 with explosive scoring potential and precision passing ability.
The City Rocks shooting duo of Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III put on quite the fundamental mechanics display from 3-point range, but it was teammate Nahziah Carter who provided a couple show-stopping moments.
Carter played well in front of his uncle, music mogul Jay-Z, scoring 22 points in a win over Pro Skills Saturday and then one-upped himself with a poster dunk on Marvin Bagley on Sunday.
Jontay Porter, brother of college basketball’s best incoming freshman Michael Porter, dominated against Mississippi Express, scoring 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting, while pulling down 16 rebounds. Porter is a smooth and crafty lefty with a pure shooting stroke from 3-point range.
Vernon Carey, Jr. of Nike Team Florida was another big man to show a splendid all-around skill-set. At 6-feet-9 and 245 pounds, Carey is light on his feet and has advanced footwork in the painted area. He can finish with either hand around the basket and knows how to use his size to carve out space inside. Carey also stepped out on the perimeter with touch to 3-point range.
It’s very difficult to find any “under-the-radar” players on the EYBL circuit, but if there’s one who might be, it’s New York Lightning point guard Anthony Nelson. Nelson is quick and strong at 6-foot-3 and possesses high basketball IQ, plays with great pace and can stretch the floor with consistency from 3-point range.
One of the highest potential players on the weekend was clearly Cameron Reddish of Team Final. The 6-foot-8 small forward has a polished perimeter game, high-level dexterity and athleticism and an elite overall feel for the game.
Team Final's Cameron Reddish showed flashes of unlimited potential Saturday at EYBL Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Matt Moreno, GOAZCATS.com
Reddish’s teammate Louis King is another 6-foot-7 guard type with an alluring skill set. King serves as the point guard for Team Final due to his ingrained unselfishness and great court vision.
The Family was one of the last teams I watched late Saturday night and came away impressed by Michigan-commit David DeJulius. The burly 6-foot point guard is reminiscent of former Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe in knowing how to use his size and strength to get where he needs to in order to create for teammates. DeJulius has a more consistent jump shot at the same stage.