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April 30, 2012

Hampton EYBL: Best of Sunday

MORE: Friday recap | Saturday recap | Preview

HAMPTON, Va. - For years, the Hampton locals have turned out in huge numbers to support the home-standing Boo Williams Summer League squad. Through the years, they've had plenty to cheer about as Boo has generally fielded one of the toughest teams in the country and has been awfully tough to beat on the home floor. This year, though, the hometown favorites had struggled and needed to end the Hampton session of the EYBL with a pair of wins. Anthony Barber and his teammates made sure that happened.

Meanwhile, elite prospect Julius Randle proved he should be considered for the top spot in the 2013 rankings.

Rivals.com's Eric Bossi spent the weekend in Virginia and has a full report from Sunday's action.

Randle making his case

Heading into the Hampton EYBL, the play of Julius Randle was something that we wanted to focus on. Ranked No. 3 nationally in the 2013 Rivals150, the 6-foot-9 Randle entered the spring a legitimate candidate for the top spot and he certainly made a compelling case over the course of the weekend.

Probably the most physical player in the junior class, Randle isn't just big and strong. He's big, strong, fast and skilled with the ball in his hands.

People look at the Plano (Texas) Prestonwood product and expect a guy who is going to be a low post bruiser. However, that's just not his game at this point. In fact, it's tough to pinpoint his game because as one high-major college assistant pointed out, it's almost as if Randle is playing his own personal video game out there.

For the Texas Titans, Randle is a dominant ballhandler who attacks the rim with aggression. When he doesn't finish, he often gets his own rebound and then finishes. He plays quick in the post, dominates the glass on both ends of the floor and can also be a very effective passer and playmaker for others.

Trying to make a comparison for Randle is tough because there simply haven't been many players with his size and type of inside/out game and ability to attack off the dribble.

On the school front, Randle elected not to give a list of programs under consideration but he was watched throughout the weekend by head and assistant coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, N.C. State, SMU and a host of others. Also according to Randle, he's yet to decide whether he will commit during the fall or wait until the spring of his senior year.

Barber school

Even though his team has long enjoyed success on the Nike circuit, Anthony Barber knows that he and his teammates can't ever take anything for granted. The local expectations for the Boo Williams team are always high, but so is the talent level in the EYBL.

On top of that, Boo's big three of Barber, Troy Williams and Allerik Freeman had struggled to get on the same page through the first seven games of league play as they labored to a 2-5 record.

Sunday, it was crucial that Barber and Boo pick up a pair of wins. When his team needed him the most, the 6-foot-2 five-star point guard from Hampton (Va.) High came through with several clutch plays during a double overtime win over the Albany City Rocks that started the day and gave Boo momentum to knock off the Jackson Tigers and move to 4-5..

"It's hard when you are playing in the EYBL," Barber told Rivals.com. "Every team is great. We had to come out and put everything behind us and get the win."

Though he's had some struggles early, Barber is still a big-time talent. He's the single quickest player in the country with the ball in his hands, he's tough and he's got the pedigree of a winner after leading his team to a state title as a junior. He also feels that he's growing as a player and still sees areas he can improve.

"Being a leader is where I've grown the most in the last year," Barber said. "I'm learning how to be a good point guard and lead my team. I'm always working on my game and my jump shot can still get better."

Because of his early success and lofty national rankings, expectations for Barber as an individual are also high but he's not feeling the pressure.

"It's not really pressure to me," said Barber. "When I started to play well I knew a lot of people would look at me so it doesn't bother me."

On the school front Barber says that he's getting hit the hardest by Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Alabama, N.C. State and Florida State.

When the time comes to make a decision, Barber says that he doesn't feel any need to stay home and that he'll pick what situation makes the most sense for him as a basketball player.

"Distance is not a big thing," Barber said. "I know that I've got to do what I've got to do for my future. I need to have a good relationship with the coach and with the players I'm playing with."

Quick hits

Damian Jones is a secret no longer. The 6-foot-9 junior big man from Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville Magnet went from a guy that many high majors were intrigued with to one they must have. On top of great size, athleticism and a body that can be built on, Jones has good scoring tools and a solid base of skill. He hit jump hooks with either hand, has pretty good feet and catches just about anything near him. LSU will make him a heavy target. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Alabama and Florida were on him early and will be joined by a big crowd. Currently unranked, look for that to change the next time the class of 2013 is updated.

At the mid- to upper mid-major level, Albany City Rocks combo guard Tyler Mcleod looks to be an intriguing option. At about 6-foot-2, he's a fine athlete and strong driver of the basketball who has a nose for getting to the rim and scoring. Also intriguing is City Rocks teammate Manny Suarez. A finesse big man who likes to face up, the skinny 6-foot-9 power forward has a pure stroke to the three-point line and is clever around the hoop.

We will focus on him much more when we attend the EYBL Dallas session in a few weeks, but Ohio State commitment Marc Loving was more than solid in Hampton. He looks to be every bit of 6-foot-7 and is perhaps pushing 6-foot-8 with a sweet looking jumper, improving strength and a versatile inside-out offensive game.

As good as Tyus Jones was on Saturday, the five-star point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.) High was even better for Howard Pulley during his final game Sunday. Actually, the 2014 floor general was flatout ridiculous. Unconscious from all over the floor as a shooter and setting up teammates when he wasn't scoring, the 6-footer put on a point guard clinic while racking up 37 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a win over the Bluff City Legends.

The Southern Stampede doesn't have a ton of size, but they have lots of quickness, play together and play hard. Leading the way at the point is Tahj Shamsid-Deen. Likely a bit smaller than his listed 5-foot-10, Shamsid-Deen is a jet quick floor general who plays with the heart of a lion and sets the tone for a scrappy, entertaining group. A three-star prospect from Decatur (Ga.) Columbia, Shamsid-Deen will get looks from the mid- to high-major level.

SMU made a buzz when it hired Larry Brown as head coach. On Sunday, Brown was in the house and flanked by two assistants at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. Not surprisingly, Brown made it a point to be in front of Texas teams and spent time watching the Texas Titans and Texas Pro.

Team United from Charlotte ended the weekend with a fine performance, knocking off previously undefeated California Supreme. Big man Kennedy Meeks isn't a speed merchant or a high flyer, but he does have outstanding, soft hands and can be a space eater and rebounder when he stays out of foul trouble. Sindarius Thornwell is a slashing and attacking wing guard while fellow shooting guard Matt Howard forces defenses to stay honest with his jump shooting.

Finally, Marquette is getting a good one in Duane Wilson. The 6-foot-3 point guard was recently elevated to four-star status and his climb in the rankings doesn't look to be complete. An athletic and attacking guard, Wilson complements his fearless drives to the hoop with the ability to shoot from deep, a short memory when it comes to negative plays and a willingness to share the ball when his offense isn't there. His improvement over the course of the past year has been quite significant.



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