Championship day at the EYBL Peach Jam is the culmination of the season long quest for superiority in each age classification with some yearlong bragging rights at stake as well. With that in mind, let’s look at the standout players in each of the 3 contests starting with the 15u game:
15u Championship final – The Family (MI) over Arkansas Wings 77-57
Jalen Terry 5’11” CG 2020 The Family (Mott Middle College/Beecher HS, Flint, MI) – Having not seen any of the 15u action during the week at an off-site location, we settled in to watch the final and was immediately impressed with Terry as he knocked down 3-from-4 from the arc, hit a couple mid-range shots. For good measure, he got to the rim with quick bursts to hit on some layups in traffic and finished the 1st half with 20pts while leading his team to a 17 point halftime lead. He facilitated the offense to near perfection and in the second half only attempted 5 shots while controlling tempo helping them to a 20-point win. He finished with 28pts (9-11 FG, 3-4 3FG, 7-7FT) 6reb 4asts and was clearly the team’s most valuable player. His shot is pure with good rotation and he has a quick release giving defenders fits trying to close out on him. His handle is tight with change of speed and direction part of the arsenal. Passing the ball is an asset as well and he made several on the money deliveries for easy baskets to help ground the Wings early. He engages on the defensive end as well causing turnovers and rushed shots from his opponents who struggled to stay within striking distance all game long. Terry to me was the best player on the floor in this contest easily and we see a big future ahead for this young man.
Isaiah Jackson 6’6” PF 2020 The Family (Lutheran Northeast HS, Waterford, MI) – With Terry controlling the perimeter Jackson took up the mantel of interior presence and did it well notching 10pts 11reb 3blks while basically putting a stop sign on the basket as the Wings shot just 33% from the field and 26% from the arc. Maybe Jackson’s spectra loomed over the Arkansas kids too much as they shot only 56% from the line even though Isaiah couldn’t alter those attempts. Jackson has good timing in going after boards or blocking shots and he runs the floor like a wing player despite the fact he plays mostly on the interior for The Family. He takes high percentage shots (5-7 FG) with a fluid release and good balance even when he encounters some low block contact. As he progresses he’ll clearly need to bulk up and get stronger but the tools are there and the future looks bright.
Chris Moore 6’7” PF 2020 Ark. Wings (West Memphis, AR HS) – With the entire staff from Arkansas in the stands for the 10am tilt, Moore did his best to stem the tide that engulfed the Wings from the outset. Moore was relentless around the glass battling for every rebound and defending the paint with hustle and energy that didn’t unfortunately spread to his teammates. While he is undersized to play center, we could see him making the transition to PF in college as he can move up and down the floor easily and then settle in to bang down low and productive. He netted 16pts to lead the team and was the only player to shoot over 50% (6-11 FG) for the Wings on the day. He added 8reb 2asts and 3stls to contribute in other areas and if an MVP award was given to both teams Moore would be the Wings choice easily.
16u Championship final – Team CP3 (NC) over AOT Running Rebels (GA) 75-59
Wendell Moore 6’6” SF 2019 Team CP3 (Cox Mill HS, Concord, NC) – In a game that defined the phrase total team effort you could post a picture of this CP3 squad and say yeah we agree with that. Moore put his immense talents on display leading the team with 14pts 9reb yet never strayed from the team first mantra they carried into this game leading to their surprising margin of victory. Officially, he took only 5 shots but getting to the rim was his forte on this day and while he didn’t earn a single And 1 opportunity he did make a living on the line hitting all 10 of his attempts. He got to the basket with quick slashing drives or mid lane pull-ups and in the past we’ve seen him knock these down. He rebounded in and out of his area and was quick to start the break with a crisp outlet then follow the play looking to rebound a miss or assist in a screening action to get his team a score. He also worked hard on defense holding his ground to make opponents earn what they get by contesting every shot or pass in his coverage area. CP3 won this game with teamwork as only 6’4” Isaiah Wilkins took more than 6 FGA and Wendell Moore was a big part of that equation.
Kobe Langley 6’1” PG 2019 CP3 (Wesleyan Christian, High Point, NC) – In the games opening minutes, Kobe was a whirling dervish of activity getting a driving layup past a surprised AOT big man then getting a defensive rebound and pushing the ball in transition. He showed his pull up capability from 20 feet and nailing a trey, then grabbing another missed attempt and racing end to end for an in traffic layup and a quick timeout from a shell shocked Running Rebel side. This contest was only six minutes in and Langley had 7pts 4reb but more importantly CP3 led by 20 and AOT never recovered. Langley scored only three more points the rest of the way and did not grab another rebound but after his initial outburst, he established the tempo and team first game plan that allowed his team to control the play until the final horn. He played with his head on a swivel scanning the floor and finding open teammates for baskets or free throw opportunities and his ball handling was instrumental in chewing up clock until the best shot presented itself. He finished with 10pts 6asts while running the show and leading his CP3 guys to victory in very workmanlike fashion.
Brian “BJ” Mack II 6’8” PF 2019 CP3 (Oak Hill Academy, VA/ Charlotte, NC) – Mack is one big young man with a wide frame to carve out space on the block as well as bang down low with any opponent willing to trade paint with him near the basket. In this contest he had 10pts 8reb and used his ability as a low post passer to muster up 2asts as well. His points came mostly in the paint with the exception of a sweet 12 foot baseline jumper that he rattled home and he worked hard in the paint for his 8reb including three on the offensive end. At 320 lbs. however he does tend to wear down a little and so the coaching staff used him smartly spelling him to keep him fresh. Despite his size, he is deceptively quick and he has good ball instincts when he crashes the boards. For Mack the future holds much promise and his decision to go to Oak Hill can be seen as a positive move to dedicate himself to getting in the best basketball shape he possibly can and then proving the skeptics wrong by becoming a high major factor and not just a big body.
Isaac Okoro 6’6” SG 2019 AOT Running Rebels (McEachern HS, Powder Springs, GA) – Okoro was AOT’s most consistent player in the game despite battling foul problems throughout. Eventually succumbing to fouls with about a minute and a half to go, it says a lot about his determination to keep his team in the game when things were not going very well for them. With 6’0” PG Sharife Cooper (6 TO’s) having a rough game until the last several minutes, Okoro took on more of the leadership role supporting his teammates and trying his best to prop up their spirits even as the clock wound down on their fate. In the end, it was not enough but the effort he put forth was commendable nevertheless. He finished with 18pts 6reb 6asts before fouling out playing thru his own rough spots that seemed to plague the whole AOT squad. Cooper recovered from his tough outing late in the game finishing with 14pts 5asts but it seemed that he and Okoro never played at a high level at the same time, which was an obvious contributing factor in the loss.
17u Championship final – Oakland Soldiers (CA) over Team Takeover (DC) 70-63
Kihei Clark 5’10” PG 2018 Oakland Soldiers (Taft HS, Burbank, CA) – In the previous four days 6’1” James Akinjo wowed the fans and opponents alike with his scoring and passing wizardry, while Clark toiled in relative obscurity biding his time until the biggest stage to appear magically like a savior. He delivered it to his guys the coveted Peach Jam chip and be carried off the court as the conquering hero just like a Hollywood movie right. I mean he does live in Burbank right. If anybody thought that then they probably weren’t paying attention as Akinjo and Clark made a pretty fearsome tandem before the final it’s just people kept overlooking Clark’s contribution to the Soldiers winning ways. After racing to a double-digit lead by HT and Akinjo in foul difficulty the squad from Cali adjusted their game plan a bit and the diminutive Clark became the featured offensive weapon scoring a team high 18pts with 3 treys and 3asts and making key plays whenever Takeover seemed poised to make a run. Clark was in the middle of things all the way thru even after Akinjo was lost to fouls with over 5 minutes to go. When the Takeover run got to within 3 late in the contest it was Clark who hit 3-4 FT’s to hold them off at the finish. Clark held the team together in those last several minutes when for a brief instant you thought Takeover would come back from double digits for a second straight game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but he rallied the troops and the Soldiers became the first 2-time Peach Jam champ in the EYBL era.
Taeshon Cherry 6’10” PF 2018 USC commit – Oakland Soldiers (St. Augustine HS, San Diego, CA) – After a sub-par performance in the semi’s Cherry, most would assume, would need a bounce back game if the Soldiers had any shot to win this thing. Well the Soldiers did win and Cherry did play better but he was not vintage Taeshon at times. He did make plays in crucial spots however to help in the big W. He hit just 3 of 9 three pointers yet all 3 came as the Soldiers were building a big lead. He ended the game with 9reb and it seemed as if every one of them was important to the outcome of the contest. His 13pts were second most on the team despite shooting 5-13 from the field but one of those buckets came when Takeover cut it to 3 and he appeared to stop the bleeding when he grabbed a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession that looked like a sure put back for Takeover going over 6’10” Jalen Smith to snag it. The talent that Cherry shows on most nights is why USC will welcome him with open arms knowing that sometimes in a game you can have missteps but the true talent can make enough plays on a night when you’re a bit off and come away victorious.
Brandon Slater 6’6” SF 2018 Villanova commit – Team Takeover (Paul VI HS, Clifton, VA) – Slater started slow in this contest but boy did he pick up the pace by games end finishing with a game high 19pts while collecting 6reb in the agonizing loss. The Soldiers had built up a big lead by HT and Takeover seemed out of sorts as a team committing silly turnovers and taking bad shots to be precise. With time winding down it looked as if the young men from DC had nothing left in the tank to stage another miracle comeback then on a routine drive to the cup Slater knifed inside two defenders for the basket and foul and as if on cue the team suddenly became animated again reaching down inside themselves to make one last charge giving everything they had left no matter the outcome. Slater missed the FT but Takeover turned up the heat on D and for the final 3 minutes made it a very entertaining finale. Two possessions later Slater would get another 3-point play opportunity and hit it. Slater hit two more FT’s as the momentum was clearly shifting then as the saying goes “big time players make big time plays” he curled off a screen and hit a catch and shoot 3 while being fouled nailing the FT to the delight of the Takeover followers who were going slightly crazy at this point. However, this was not a Hollywood movie as I pointed out earlier and Takeover couldn’t sustain their run and went down to defeat. For Slater he showed a lot of heart in leading his teammates back when it looked like this game was hopelessly lost proving once again the unpredictability of summer hoops.
That wraps up our coverage of the first live recruiting period.
Tag(s): Event/Tourney Coverage