Saturday, May 17, 2014

Report from Dallas session of Nike EYBL

FRISCO, Tex. -- Shooting guards Antonio Blakeney and Shake Milton both enjoyed big first days at the Dallas session of Nike's EBYL on Saturday at Fieldhouse USA. Four-star Blakeney solidified his reputation as one to watch, while Milton created his own reputation. Both players are members of the class of 2015.

Blakeney feeling no pressure

Antonio Blakeney is getting interest from several high-major programs.
When you are a scorer, it is important to have a short memory, plenty of confidence and to not be rattled by pressure. Antonio Blakeney checks the box in the all of those areas.

The No. 29 player in the class of 2015, Blakeney is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge who scores with ease at all levels. He drains threes out to 22 feet, shows tremendous burst on drives to the rim and is developing a nice pull-up game between 12 and 17 feet.

The Floridian has been on a steady rise since bursting onto the scene last summer and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. He went for 18 points, five rebounds and two assists in an afternoon game as Each 1 Teach 1 pulled away late to handle Expressions Elite 97-84.

Blakeney mentioned that Florida, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, USC, Florida State and LSU continue to chase hard and he has his recruitment in perspective.

"I probably won't cut it down until after the summer sometime," Blakeney said. "I just want to focus on my last summer of AAU and finishing well in the classroom."

When he does sit down to cut his list and make a decision, Blakeney will play close attention to the relationship he is able to develop with his future head coach.

"A good situation to me is somewhere that I have a real good relationship with the head coach because he'll be making the decisions with the team and me," said Blakeney. "Also I know that I am going to have to work for playing time wherever I go but I'm looking for a good situation playing time wise."

Shake it up

Shake Milton has offers from SMU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
While recruitniks may be slow to catch on, Oklahoma shooting guard Shake Milton isn't a total unknown with college coaches. The 6-foot-4 junior who plays with MoKan Elite already lists offers from Texas A&M, Creighton, SMU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa.

Saturday, Milton -- who will certainly factor into the next batch of 2015 rankings -- began to build his national profile with two strong performances in MoKan wins.

Highly skilled with the ball, Milton is a deft ball-handler, slick passer and dangerous pull-up jump shooter. He doesn't overwhelm with athleticism, but his feel for the game and sense for when to turn on the offensive juice makes him a load to deal with.

In the final game of the evening, his team was locked in a tight contest with the Spiece Indy Heat and he scored eight of his team-high 20 points in a one-minute span that included two and-one plays. The first came on a nasty step back move that he set up with a back-to-front, between-the-legs dribble before getting fouled on a jumper and the next came when he shielded his defender with his body, turned the corner and finished at the rim.

"I knew that the team needed me to make plays late," Milton said. "We had gone through some dry spells on offense and coach called my number to make something happen."

Maybe most impressive about Milton is the efficiency with which he plays. He doesn't seem to force anything and his naturaly ability to be aggressive while under control has to be frustrating for defenders.

"That's something I've done my whole life," said Milton of his efficient play. "I think I can play a combo guard role. I really like to pass to my teammates. I stay in the gym and work hard and I try not to take bad shots."

More Saturday notables

At No. 56 in the country, Henry Ellenson is simply ranked too low and that is something that will be rectified. The 6-foot-9 big man for Playground Elite was quite impressive on Saturday for several reasons. He has always been able to shoot the ball, but at times he settled too much for deep jumpers. Now, the rising senior is doing a better job of mixing his jumpers with working in the paint and crashing the glass. Most of all, Ellenson has worked hard to get himself into terrific shape and that has improved his athleticism and stamina making a huge difference in his overall game.

When D.J. Hogg has his jumper clicking like he did on Saturday, the 6-foot-7 four-star wing can be a load offensively. When he mixes in smart drives and uses his size to shield defenders, he is almost impossible to stop. When you add in the attention that big man Tyler Davis commands in the post, well then defenders have a big problem on their hands. In a win over Nike Team Florida, Davis established early post dominance and then Hogg did his thing from the perimeter at a high level. While Hogg can shoot and has offensive skill, Davis' ability to set up, hold position and then score with skill on the low block is something that you don't see in many young bigs.

Four-star junior big man Raymond Spalding is a long-term proposition. While skinny, he has good size, moves extremely well and gives flashes of the future. He will rise above a crowd for an offensive rebound on one possession and the next he'll jab step a defender and rise for a 15-footer. Now, the key is to put it all together and become more consistently productive. Make no mistake, though, it is easy to see why Spalding is coveted by high-major programs.

Early in Team Scan's game against Each 1 Teach 1 in the morning session, Scan was in big trouble. Then, five-star big men Thomas Bryant and Cheick Diallo took total control of the interior. The duo used their combined 13 feet and seven inches of size to totally dominate. Diallo is all fast-twitch muscle with a non-stop motor while Bryant has a great motor and strength to go along with it. By the time they were done, Diallo and Bryant combined for 40 points and 14 rebounds and completely turned a game that wasn't going their way.

It is obvious why there has been a recent feeding frenzy over the play of Malik Beasley. The Rivals150 wing has really filled out, improved his athleticism and likes to bury left-wing jumpers. He'll be making a move up in the next set of rankings.

Recent SMU commit Matthew McQuaid had it rolling during the afternoon session. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard was cutting hard off screens, catching and burying jumpers from deep. McQuaid isn't the thickest guy around, but he has some wiry strength and is a tough customer. He'll be counted on to make shots at the next level and there is no doubt that the four-star wing can do that.

One of the top players in the class of 2016, V.J. King's strength is how easy he makes the game. That, and his ability to bury pull-up jumpers. There is little wasted motion in the five-star small forward's game and he doesn't play around off the dribble. If he doesn't find something within two or three dribbles he gets rid of the ball and lets the offense get started all over again. He was big in a win over Team Texas.

Also big for the King James Shooting Stars was Ohio State-bound point guard AJ Harris. What Harris lacks in size he makes up for with long arms, tremendous heart and clever playmaking ability. He is a major competitor and played mistake-free basketball in a 77-73 win over Team Texas to finish with 18 points and eight assists.

Connecticut-bound wing Prince Ali needs to continue to work on his left hand. But, the 6-foot-4 guard is a hard-charger with a great frame, plenty of athleticism and desire to get to the rim. He is awfully tough to stop off the dribble and his physical tools allow him to be one of the most physical finishers in high school basketball. He's continuing to work his way up the charts.

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