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May 15, 2013

EYBL: What we learned


EYBL: Sunday | Saturday | Friday

The Dallas session of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League was certainly an entertaining one. Almost 60 percent of the players currently ranked in the classes of 2014 and 2015 were on hand and many of them were playing at a really high level. After taking a few days to digest the action, here's a look back at what we learned.

Newman the new man at No. 1?

Make no mistake about it, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman are elite prospects and are having great springs. However, as the two players currently ranked ahead of Malik Newman in the class of 2015, they are probably feeling a little heat.

A 6-foot-4 combo guard from Jackson (Miss.) Callaway, Newman was fabulous for the Jackson Tigers. Equal parts Ben and Eric Gordon with a little of O.J. Mayo thrown in when it comes to playing style, Newman is the quintessential combo guard. You can't really call him a point because he doesn't initiate the offense on a regular basis but you can't label him an off guard because he is very comfortable with the ball in his hands and is certainly a ball-dominant guard.

Newman is strong, he's athletic, he's quick and best of all he is quite skilled. His shot selection can be a little poor at times and he can get a little overzealous with the dribble, but he can make shots. Newman can make all kinds of shots, too. Floaters, pullups, deep jumpers and conversions at the rim are all a part of his scoring repertoire.

Of course, Newman has to keep working hard and developing over his next two years of high school. But at this moment, he has made a strong case to be considered best in the class. Newman's father Horatio Webster said Newman has been offered by basically the entire SEC -- save for Kentucky, which seems right on the verge of an offer -- and that Arizona, N.C. State, North Carolina and Michigan have inquired.

Houston Hoops an impressive group

After three sessions of the EYBL, the Houston Hoops' record stands at 12-1. Surprisingly, that's only good enough for second place in a loaded Division C of the League, where D.C.-based Team Takeover is sitting at 13-0. The Takeover bunch is outstanding as well. They are deep, tough and very talented. Takeover has to be one of the favorites to take home the Peach Jam title. But for right now, we are going to focus on the Hoops, mostly because we got a better look at them than Takeover in Dallas.

Like Takeover, the Hoops have to be considered one of the early favorites for the Peach Jam. They have a high-end trio of wings from the class of 2013 in No. 10 Justise Winslow, No. 14 Justin Jackson and No. 27 Kelly Oubre and those three have all lived up to their billing. Winslow is an impressive wing because of his toughness, versatile game and all-around playmaking. Jackson is arguably the most efficient offensive player in the EYBL while Oubre is a tall, shot-making wing and has some strength at the rim. The Hoops are more than just those three, though.

Big man Khadeem Lattin is a four-star, shot-blocking center who ranks No. 85 in the class of 2014. He can run the floor and is an excellent last line of defense. Combo-forward Leon Gilmore was relatively unknown to the recruiting world until recently. Now the three-star is getting looks from upper-major schools and probably deserves consideration for the 2014 Rivals150 when it gets updated. The Hoops also have two outstanding freshmen in big man Khalea Turner and scoring point guard DeAaron Fox. Bottom line, the Houston Hoops are stacked and have performed every bit as good as anybody could have expected.

Grown man basketball

In each class, there are a few guys who play "grown-man" basketball. They are physical bulls, they have an old-school feel for the game and they are tough on both ends of the floor. Last year Wayne Selden was one of those guys and this year Stanley Johnson has established himself early as a grown-man-style player. Go ahead and put JaQuan Lyle the Spiece Indy Heat into that category.

A tall and strong combo guard, Lyle is skilled, versatile and can do a number of things. He can get others involved, he can lead a fast break and he go into scoring mode and get you buckets at the rim, from the mid post and with his jumper. He's also a pretty good defender and rebounder. Watching him play, he doesn't ever seem to be in a rush and at times he almost seems to purposely be going as slow as possible just so he can toy with defenders.

Some worry that his strength is currently masking a lack of high-end athleticism or that his attitude can get the best of him. Those are fair things to wonder about. However, his overall skill and understanding of the game of basketball are much more valuable and his four game output in Dallas was sensational. While shooting 67 percent from the field and only turning the ball over six times in four games, Lyle averaged 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists.



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