By David Teel
1:25 PM EDT, April 29, 2013
Long, rangy wings who lead the break and make contested threes; clever, slightly undersized point guards who pass unselfishly but score when needed; a power forward who rebounds more than he shoots.
So appeared the ACC’s future during last weekend’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball League sessions at Hampton’s Boo Williams Sportsplex.
The event featured at least five class of 2014 players who have committed to ACC programs and scores more targeted by the league’s coaches — I saw 13 of the conference’s 15 head coaches in Hampton, the exceptions Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik.
Two of the five ACC pledges are North Carolina-bound: 6-foot-1 point guard Joel Berry of Apopka, Fla., and 6-7 wing forward Justin Jackson of Houston. As you would expect of coach Roy Williams, they are acclaimed, blessed with the talent and potential to keep the Tar Heels among the nation’s best.
Jackson’s most complete game came Saturday morning, when he scored 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting for Houston Hoops against California Supreme. He made all three of his 3-point attempts, collared five rebounds and blocked three shots.
Jackson’s SportsCenter moment occurred Saturday night as he led a fast break against the St. Louis Eagles and lobbed a pass toward the rim, where 6-5 Justise Winslow converted the dunk. Like Jackson and teammate Kelly Oubre, Winslow is rated among the class’ top 30 prospects by Rivals.
Simultaneous to the Jackson-Winslow hook-up, Berry was leading Each 1 Teach 1 against the home team, Boo Williams. He finished with 17 points, five assists and five steals in a game I missed — there’s simultaneous action on eight courts.
My longest glimpse of Berry was Sunday morning, when he went head-up against CP3’s Shelton Mitchell, a Wake Forest commit from Waxhaw, N.C. Neither shot well — Berry was 4-of-15, Mitchell 3-of-8 — or attempted a 3-pointer, but both passed creatively and eagerly, Mitchell assisting on eight buckets, Berry five.
Mitchell is listed at 6-3, two inches taller than Berry, and he was sharper in this game, hardly predictive of college results. Also, the left-handed Mitchell has a very funky release on his jump shot.
In naming Mitchell its region player of the year, the Charlotte Observer reported last month that Mitchell will play next season at Oak Hill Academy in southwestern Virginia, the same prep school that former Phoebus star and Indiana-signee Troy Williams attends.
ESPN recruiting maven Dave Telep writes that Mitchell is Wake Forest’s top-rated prospect since Bzdelik arrived in 2010.
With reigning national champion Louisville entering the ACC in 2014, I found Cardinals commit Shaqquan Aaron, a 6-8 forward from Seattle. Talk about a natural fit for Rick Pitino’s swarming defense.
Aaron’s wingspan and quickness give him tools to a premier defender. If he has the want-to and absorbs Pitino’s teaching, he’ll be great.
Oh, and the young man can score, too. From anywhere. He creates off the dribble like a shooting guard and is very comfortable beyond the 3-point arc — he made 4-of-8 from deep against Boo Williams.
The obvious comparison, right down to the No. 35 jersey, is Kevin Durant. Not to suggest Aaron is all that as a high school junior, but he does model his game after Durant’s.
Showcasing at least three ACC targets, the best game I saw was Saturday’s between Minnesota’s Howard Pulley and the Wisconsin Playground Elite.
As he usually is, the best player on the floor was 6-1 Pulley point guard Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, Minn. He defends and passes with remarkable instincts and has a keen understanding of angles and leverage.
Jones contributed 23 points, 10 assists and four steals as coaches such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Ohio State’s Thad Matta sat courtside. Jones is considering those schools, along with Kansas, Baylor and Minnesota.
Most intriguing, Jones and 6-10 center Jahlil Okafor of Chicago, the consensus No. 1 2014 prospect, say they hope to choose the same school. Okafor traveled to Hampton with his Mac Irvin Fire teammates but did not play because of an ankle sprain.
Complementing Jones on Saturday, Reid Travis, a 6-7 forward from Minneapolis, had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The ACC’s Boston College and Notre Dame are among the 20-plus schools that have offered Travis in basketball — he’s also a quarterback, with football offers from BC, Iowa and Rutgers, according to Rivals.com
Also from Minnesota, but playing for Wisconsin Playground, is 6-5 shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, just missing a right-wing jumper at the buzzer as overtime expired in an 84-83 defeat.
The ACC’s North Carolina, Miami, BC, Florida State and Syracuse are among Vaughn’s myriad offers.
Syracuse commit Chris McCullough, a 6-10 forward from the Bronx, played at the Booplex but escaped my attention, an unintended oversight. A check of the boxscores reveals he grabbed 47 rebounds (9.4 per game) while attempting 39 shots and averaging 9.6 points.
The most impressive Virginia/Virginia Tech target — the Cavaliers already have a 2014 commitment from B.J. Stith, son of former U.Va. All-American Bryant — I saw was Team Takeover’s Dion Wiley, a 6-3 guard from Oxon Hill, Md. He averaged 15.8 points in five games and made 17-of-33 from beyond the arc, 51.5 percent.
Miami, North Carolina State, Florida, Georgetown, Maryland and Villanova are among the others offering Wiley, Rivals reports.
Duke pledge Grayson Allen, a 6-4 guard from Jacksonville, Fla., played with the Southern Stampede a week ago in California but was not with the team in Hampton. Allen is the start of what could be, if Jones and Okafor follow suit, a benchmark class for Krzyzewski.
Judging from the talent displayed in Hampton by other ACC prospects, he may not be alone.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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