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July 13, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- In July, there isn't a more competitive event than the finale of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League at the Peach Jam. The event at Riverview Park Activities Center is still king, but it isn't the only event in town because others have sprouted up around it. On Friday, 2015 five-star King McClure looked great in his return from injury at the Peach Jam, while the Peach State classic in nearby Aiken, S.C., gave lesser-known prospects a chance to shine.
McClure hasn't missed a beat
Make no mistake about it, Malik Newman is the best player in the class of 2015. Early Friday evening, though, the No. 16 player in 2015, McClure, and his Texas Titans got the better of Newman and the Jackson Tigers.
Except for four-star point guard Alex Robinson -- who was fantastic while nearly racking up a triple double -- the Titans are essentially a 16-and-under team playing up and McClure is their star. The 6-foot-2 five-star combo guard from Dallas (Texas) Triple A Academy is playing his first event after missing several months with a knee injury, and he doesn't look to have missed a beat.
A powerful scorer, McClure is strong off the dribble and does a great job of mixing in jumpers with his drives to the basket. His deep jumper wasn't falling at a great clip, but McClure used his physicality to get to the rim at will and earn lots of trips to the free throw line. He slowed down a little in the second half after a monster first half, but he finished with an impressive 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
"I was kind of nervous because I didn't know if my knee would hold up," McClure told Rivals.com. "After playing the way I have, I see now that I'm ready and it really feels good to be back."
Not surprisingly, McClure can have his pick of schools and he remains open. Two schools are standing out with their effort to recruit him.
According to McClure, he will visit the Hawgs and Jayhawks for their Midnight Madness events in October. He said Kansas has turned things up since the addition of assistant Jerrance Howard, who came from SMU. Others mentioned by McClure were Texas, Baylor, Indiana and Louisville.
Jones and Ulis engage in classic duel
In the game of the night, the nation's top point guard and No. 2 player in the class of 2014, Tyus Jones, and his Howard Pulley squad squared off with top 50 point guard Tyler Ulis and Meanstreets in an instant classic. By the time the dust had settled, Jones and his Minneapolis squad had claimed a hard-fought, 82-79 overtime win that featured big-time performances as head coaches from Duke, Kansas, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Illinois, Baylor, UCLA, Tulsa and many more looked on in approval.
We'll start with Ulis. His team lost and he's a lower-ranked player than Jones, but man was he impressive on Friday night. After losing four-star wing Paul White to a nasty arm injury less than two minutes into the game, Ulis refused to let his team back down. He set up teammates for easy looks, he scored from deep, and the 5-foot-8 floor general did an incredible job of scoring around the rim during a 22-point, 17-assist effort.
Ulis wasn't alone in playing well for Meanstreets. Class of 2015 combo guard Charles Matthews played up to his five-star status as well. A tantalizing prospect with length, ball-handling ability and 6-foot-5 size, Matthews always gives glimpses of a bright future but isn't always aggressive. Friday night, he played in attack mode. Matthews is electric along the baseline, and he can really attack off the dribble. He was impressive while scoring 20 points.
On the winning side, Jones was a little up and down early. But when it came to winning time late in the game and during overtime, the 6-foot-1 floor general did it all. Although he isn't the sturdiest guy with his build, Jones does a whale of a job in changing speeds and getting to the rim to score from every angle. His passes are always on the money, and he spends the entire game setting up shooters. Jones finished with 24 points, seven assists and three rebounds while making every play that had to be made.
Jones wasn't without help. Rugged power forward Reid Travis provided plenty of it. The beastly insider consistently got deep post position, and he finished again and again at the rim while chipping in 22 points and six rebounds.
The biggest contribution, however, may have come from class of 2015 guard Jarvis Johnson. A four-star who ranks No. 75 in the rising junior class, Johnson is a freakish athlete who has to play off the ball a lot because of Jones' presence. He's a point guard down the road, and he stepped up. When Pulley wasn't in a zone, it was mostly his job to guard Ulis. He did the best he could while chipping in 20 points.
"It's way different, because in Minnesota we don't have competition like this," Johnson said. "I had to guard Ulis the majority of the time and he's really good, but I thought I did my best and made some plays."
Sleepers can still emerge in July
Each afternoon the Peach Jam has a three-hour break, and Rivals.com made use of that pause to drive 25 minutes down the road to Aiken for the Peach State Classic. There were plenty of well-known players taking the floor there, but it was a trio of relatively lesser-known players who caught our attention and proved that July is an important month when it comes to earning offers.
We'll actually start with the one player who hadn't yet -- at least when we spoke to him -- gotten any offers. A 6-foot-6 wing, Shaun Kirk of Whiteville (N.C.) High looked terrific and scored in a variety of ways for the Carolina Raptors 16U team. He's lengthy, he's athletic and he's very quick off the dribble. He showed the ability to explode to the rim, get to the free throw line and hit jumpers when the defense relaxes. Kirk said that Clemson and N.C. State were the only two to really have any involvement and he has been on campus at both schools. Look for more to get involved as word leaks out if he backs up his Friday play.
A sturdy 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Oldsmar (Fla.) Christian, Troy Holston wasn't without offers headed into the Peach State. But thanks to his sharpshooting from deep and his ability to finish with some bounce at the tin, the three-star wing has added several offers over the past couple of days. Kansas State, Ole Miss, Murray State, Toledo, Western Kentucky and Rhode Island are on his list.
Probably the biggest revelation of Friday's jaunt to the Peach State, though, was the play of 6-foot-5 shooting guard Matthew Fisher-Davis. A rising senior at Charlotte (N.C.) Christian who turned 17 just a month ago, Fisher-Davis looked like one of the better jump shooters we've seen on the grassroots circuit. Whenever he released from deep the shot looked like it was going down, and with his size and ability to attack off the dribble, he looks like a player who will need to be seriously considered for the post-summer Rivals150. According to Fisher-Davis, he'd been lightly recruited heading into the Peach State but his play earned him offers from Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Charlotte, Western Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, Northern Kentucky and Ohio, among others.
"I don't think I played any different," Fisher-Davis said. "It was just getting the right exposure and people seeing me play."
More Friday notes
While McClure led the way as a scorer for the Texas Titans, he wasn't the only prime performer. As mentioned, Robinson nearly put together a triple double and was super aggressive in a 23-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist effort. Ranked No. 71 in 2014, Robinson is relatively lean but he plays with plenty of toughness. 2015 four-stars prospects D.J. Hogg and Tyler Davis each had his moments as well. Hogg is a tall combo forward who is known for his shooting, but he made plays slashing to the rim. Davis is a big and strong 6-foot-9 post man who has as good a feel for low-post play as anybody in the country.
There's no question that four-star point guard Lourawls Nairn is the driving force for MoKan Elite, and he was terrific while handing out 11 assists, grabbing five rebounds, scoring 12 points and playing all 32 minutes. However, it was the shooting and tough play of 6-foot-2 shooting guard Ben Richardson, who also went all 32 minutes, that proved to be the difference in a two-point win over the Spiece Indy Heat. A tough-as-nails wing who doesn't make mistakes, Richardson hits spot-up jumpers and makes smart plays and game-winning plays. He finished with 18 points and put himself in line for offers from hometown UMKC and Manhattan.
The No. 29 player in the class of 2015, Montaque Gill-Caesar played like an absolute man as the CIA Bounce came from behind to beat Boo Williams in a 16U game. Athletic, tough and willing to fight for every inch on the floor, the 6-foot-5 wing from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep simply took over during the second half. He grabbed contested offensive rebounds, scored through contact and even drained an important 3-pointer. He's played in the shadow of Andrew Wiggins and others, but "Tekki" is coming on quickly and rapidly developing skill to go with his elite-level effort and athleticism.
Finally, Team Breakdown's 16-and-under squad features a pair of lengthy, athletic and quick big men who will draw more attention and lots of offers at the high-major level. Six-foot-9 Juwan Durham was following misses with dunks, and he looked comfortable shooting 12-foot jumpers and running the floor. Six-foot-8 Dewan Huell from Miami (Fla.) Norland has the same slender build as Durham and some springs near the rim. He's also comfortable finishing with either hand, he can make a jumper, and he showed a nice ability to use the backboard and rim to shield defenders as he finished in traffic.