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February 15, 2012
Scouting the EYBL
Part 2

by Drew Cannon


Last week I went over the top-ranked players who spent time in the summer 2011 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, using the most complete stats ever released for high-level AAU basketball. Today, I'll go through the ESPN-ranked talents with the most impressive numbers. In the near future, I'll look at the most productive unranked talents, and, finally, I'll re-order the ranked players in each class by their summer statistics (which, and for the love of Wooden I hope people remember I wrote this every single time I mentioned it, will absolutely not be how I think the players should be ranked).

No. 18. Jarnell Stokes
(ORtg: 123.3, %Poss: 27.4, PET Rank: 4 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Stokes has almost a third as many minutes played at Tennessee at this point as he had over 22 EYBL games with Memphis YOMCA this summer. He hasn't been bad, certainly, but I have to admit I expected a little more, despite the additional difficulty of a January enrollment. That's because, on the whole, Stokes had likely the most impressive numbers of anyone in the league. Check out his four factors on offense: Shooting percentages of 64/0/60 (at a high offensive load for the runner-up in the league championship tournament, the Peach Jam), 11 percent offensive rebounding, 12 percent turnover rate, a free throw rate in the top 20 percent of players. Add in a surprisingly high assist rate (18 percent), and defensive rebounding and shot-blocking rates both in the Top 20, and you've got an extraordinarily impressive resume. The big knock on Stokes was that his effort level could fluctuate from game to game, but typically that makes itself known with lower usage rates on the stat sheet. Most of Stokes' numbers in the early going in Knoxville have been aggressively similar. His free throw rate, usage rate, rebounding, and shotblocking are indistinguishable. But his shooting percentages are down to 51/0/50 (predictable), his collegiate assist rate is less than half his EYBL rate (understandable), and his turnover rate is an alarming 26 percent. I'm not too nervous about this, though -- seven of his 20 season turnovers came in one particularly ugly game against Vanderbilt, while defended by the excellent Festus Ezeli. The sample size is small, but Stokes is already succeeding in a lot of the same ways he did in AAU ball. My confidence is high, and my trust in how well these numbers translate is growing.

No. 30. Brice Johnson
(ORtg: 139.3, %Poss: 18.9, PET Rank: 13 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Brice Johnson is a lean, athletic face-up 4, committed to North Carolina. Johnson bloomed late, and before the Peach Jam his numbers were just solid. Once the season ended, though, he led all players in offensive efficiency and two-point percentage (74 percent) and wasn't far from the top in defensive rebounding and block rate. Johnson was one of just 24 players with a turnover rate below 10 percent and made a significant contribution on the offensive boards. North Carolina's frontcourt could look many different ways, depending on how the 2012 NBA draft shakes out, but I expect Johnson to be a highly efficient bench contributor, at the very least, from day one.

No. 40. Willie Cauley
(ORtg: 121.3, %Poss: 20.9, PET Rank: 31 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Cauley's one of those players whose impressive length and athleticism was more unique earlier in his high school career, but who's seen his once-higher stock drop some as others' bodies have developed. Cauley's a more impressive specimen than player at this point, but, while his strength and post moves aren't elite, he was very productive using the skills he has. It's arguable that only Julius Randle rebounded on both ends as well as Cauley, and his shotblocking ranked in the EYBL Top 20. And while he doesn't have an unstoppable post game, he does understand his limitations, keeping turnovers down and shooting 57 percent inside the arc. Like North Carolina, Kentucky's frontcourt will vary heavily on draft decisions, but the Wildcats' may also be changed dramatically through recruiting. In addition to already-signed big men Cauley and Alex Poythress, UK is involved with Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Tony Parker, and Amile Jefferson. It's entirely possible that Cauley gets lost in the shuffle, but he may provide too much defense and rebounding to sit for too long.

No. 52. Omar Calhoun
(ORtg: 125.4, %Poss: 31.5, PET Rank: 1 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Calhoun, a UConn commit, carries with him some question marks. His jump shot is fundamentally unusual, he can get a little ball-dominant (especially for a 2-guard), and he could do with adding some muscle. That said, he was an outstanding scorer in 15 EYBL games with the New York Gauchos. He shot percentages of 44/43/89, including nearly 100 three-pointers in just over 400 minutes. Calhoun's been a little hit-or-miss during the high school season, which is cause for concern. The biggest reason I think that the stats are right, and that he's undervalued as a player, is that his turnover rate is very low and, more importantly, he both gets to the line and makes his free throws. These skills are hard enough to catch with pure scouting on the college level, and even more difficult in a more chaotic AAU setting. But Calhoun hit 113 free throws in 15 games, one behind Brandon Ashley (who played in 21 games) and two behind league leader Jerami Grant (who played in 20). I'd rate him understanding his game like this: Calhoun's post-summer rating in the high 30s/low 40s was probably too low, because his skill set can be hard to pick up with the eye test. But his dropoff since needs to be noted. I'd probably stick him in the low 30s somewhere. If he goes someplace where he can be a primary ball handler -- whether that's UConn, or to some other, more tournament-eligible institution -- I think Calhoun thrives, even if his rate stats suffer a bit until his strength comes in. But he's a better shooter than he seems and he's effective in quiet ways.

No. 59. Jordan Price
(ORtg: 111.8, %Poss: 33.8, PET Rank: 6 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Give Jordan Price this: He is not shy. Not only did he use nearly 34 percent of the Southern Kings' EYBL possessions, but he finished third in scoring at the June NBPA Top 100 camp, surrounded by many higher-rated players. It appears that Price's biggest issue is turnovers -- his rate was slightly worse than average. But he shot 56/38/71, found the time to mix in a few assists, and made a surprisingly large contribution on the defensive boards. Price will play from early on at Auburn, and he will take shots. He will definitely take some bad ones, and that might sour some people on him. But if he can make his shots at a rate anything like this, he's got a very good shot at being the first Tiger to make the SEC All-Freshman team since DeWayne Reed in 2007.

No. 69. Georges Niang
(ORtg: 127.3, %Poss: 26.6, PET Rank: 2 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Georges Niang just puts the ball in the basket. He's not quick enough, he's not athletic enough, he's not strong enough. He doesn't battle contact well enough -- his free throw rate is pedestrian, although he did hit 84 percent from the line. Niang is special because, despite all this being true, he shot 63 percent on his twos while taking a significantly larger role in the offense than his No. 1-ranked teammate Nerlens Noel. Iowa State has an artisan of the low post who can score off cuts and must be respected from midrange.

No. 13. Allerik Freeman
(ORtg: 100.5, %Poss: 31.6, PET Rank: 53 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Among juniors, only Julius Randle took a larger role in his team's EYBL offense than Freeman. Considered merely a good prospect before the spring, Freeman's March and April put him squarely in the elite class. He's unusually strong and has high-major athleticism as well as feel. He's a great passer and rebounder from the wing. His statistical profile is very interesting when considering Freeman as a scorer. He's not known as a lights-out shooter, but he is known as someone who can attack the basket and finish. Surprisingly, though, his two-point percentage (35 percent) was awful while his free throw accuracy (82 percent) and three-point shooting (47 percent) were excellent. I'm sure sample size factors in somewhat, but he tracks as someone whose game may be changing faster than the evaluations of him. Freeman's recruitment is still taking shape, but Kansas, Villanova, Arizona, Kansas State, Georgetown, and NC State have all offered.

No. 22. Matt Jones
(ORtg: 112.2, %Poss: 27.0, PET Rank: 23 of 264 over 200 minutes)
The future Blue Devil plays alongside Duke target Julius Randle for Team Texas Titans, and, while Jones can't touch Randle as a rebounder, his effectiveness is a scorer is at this stage fairly even. Randle uses many more possessions, but Jones is significantly more efficient. His turnover rate is less than nine percent, and he shot a respectable 49/37/69. Only three-point specialists Isaiah Zierden, Jodan Price (not the same player as Jordan Price, mentioned above), and Myles Davis made more three-pointers over the course of the season. If he improves at a typical rate, he'll be near the tops of more leaderboards next year.

No. 39. Semi Ojeleye
(ORtg: 121.1, %Poss: 22.0, PET Rank: 24 of 264 over 200 minutes)
Ojeleye's statistics and scouting clash the opposite direction of Freeman's. While Ojeleye's catch-and-shoot game is seen as being ahead of his ability to score inside, he shot percentages of 61/31/77. He only attempted 26 three-pointers in the 254 minutes he was on the floor. However, if his three-point shooting is a problem of sample size, then his current production is likely even more underrated than it appears it is now. Also, like Freeman, his rebounding and passing are strong for a combo wing. Ojeleye's list includes Northwestern, UCLA, Kansas State, Missouri, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Harvard, and Wisconsin.

No. 6. Wayne Selden
(ORtg: 120.9, %Poss: 26.4, PET Rank: 8 of 264 over 200 minutes)
To give you a sense of how impressive Selden's PET Score is: Only one other sophomore (ESPNU No. 3 Tyus Jones ranks No. 22 in PET Score) cracked the Top 50, and the highest-ranked junior was Randle at No. 20. Selden was the first man off the bench for a loaded BABC squad that won the league title at the Peach Jam. He's very strong, if not a fantastic shooter (22 percent from three-point range, 56 percent from the free throw line). But at 6-4, Selden shot 66 percent on his two-point attempts. The fear is that he doesn't grow or increase his explosiveness, but he's a very good passer and ball handler. He'd have a very unusual skill set indeed. Kentucky is a major player in his recruitment, while Providence and UConn are also involved.

Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.

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