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May 13, 2012

Next Level Baller: Saturday's stars

MORE: EYBL Dallas Friday | Weekend preview

FRISCO, Texas Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League isn't the only game in town in Dallas this weekend. Saturday, Rivals.com split time between the EYBL and the Next Level Baller spring tournament where several of the top 16-and-under teams were on the floor of the IAD facility in Carrolton playing while their older counterparts were at Fieldhouse USA in Frisco.

In the younger ranks, Team Thad and the Texas Titans were among those showcasing stacked squads early in the day before the Jackson Tigers showed off maybe the most productive pair of young players in the EYBL and Derrick Griffin and the Houston Hoops shut things down to end a big day of roundball.

Team Thad is stacked with talent

Saturday started off with a look at Memphis-based Team Thad (named after benefactor Thaddeus Young), and head coach Norton Hurd's team didn't disappoint in the least. Stacked top to bottom with skill, length, athleticism and talent, Team Thad picks up full court from beginning to end and plays with relentless intensity.

Ranked No. 20 in the class of 2014, athletic and tough combo forward Leron Black leads the way for Team Thad. The 6-foot-7 product of Memphis (Tenn.) White Station is a non-stop ball of energy who attacks the rim, rebounds and defends like crazy. According to Black, he's got offers from Connecticut, Georgetown, Missouri, Memphis and Georgia Tech.

One of three capable point guards on the team, southpaw floor general Anton Beard played up to his four-star status. He isn't the biggest guy at about 5-foot-11, but he can really shoot the ball and he understands how to run his team's high octane offense. Beard reports that he already has offers from Missouri, Memphis, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgetown, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State.

He wasn't big in the scoring column during the game we watched, but it was also easy to see the talent of Marcanvis Hymon. A high-level wing athlete with long arms and strength, he's a high flyer who can run the floor and has offers from Missouri and Ole Miss.

Also impressing was 6-foot-4 combo guard C.J. Anderson who reports early interest from Arizona State, VCU and LSU. Sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza is flashy with the ball and has heard from Missouri, Ole Miss and VCU. Finally, freshman wing Dontae Fitzpatrick looks to have the tools to be another high level player from Memphis.

Titans 16's roll

Just as impressive as Team Thad on Saturday in the 16 and under division were the Texas Titans. Although they are actually up entirely of class of 2015 prospects, the group is playing up an age division and they are playing well.

Already well recognized in recruiting circles, 6-foot-6 wing Mickey Mitchell gets things started for the Titans. A high level athlete who can get to the rim in transition, Mitchell (who is a quarterback in football) is an excellent passer with superior court vision. Once teams start focusing on him, his teammates go to work.

One who does a lot of damage and has a high ceiling is 6-foot-3 shooting guard King McClure. The freshman is powerfully built, can create for himself off the dribble and simply has a knack for scoring the ball whether it be after a few bounces or curling off a screen to catch the ball.

Not so well known, even locally in Dallas, Soso Jamabo looks to be on the verge of breaking out. A solidly built 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Plano (Texas) West, Jamabo is an outstanding transition finisher. However, he's also a fine jump shooter with a crisp stroke and he can't be left alone behind the three-point line.

Griffin is a two sport stud

In the class of 2013 there are athletes, and then there is Derrick Griffin.

The 6-foot-6, maybe 6-foot-7, forward from Terry High School outside of Houston is an absolute freak of an athlete. Not only is he explosive, but the No. 46 player in the class of 2013 plays with a nasty disposition around the rim and takes it personally whenever somebody tries to score around him.

Against Boo Williams on Saturday night, Griffin totally dominated the action on both ends of the floor with his activity, athleticism and toughness. Afterwards, he said that he was doing it on a bum ankle and to watch out for him when he gets healthy.

Also a standout on the football field as a receiver, Griffin is the top dual-sport athlete in the country. Committed to Texas A&M he says that he wants to play both sports for as long as he can in college.

Jackson Tigers showcase young guns

No team in the EYBL relies as heavily on two very young players as much as the Jackson Tigers do. On Saturday, freshman sensation Malik Newman and eighth grader Thon Maker were incredibly productive playing against older players.

A 6-foot-5 combo guard out of Jackson (Miss.) Callaway, Newman entered high school with a huge reputation and it's easy to see why. He's fast with the ball, has tremendous explosion out of his first step, changes speeds and can knock down enough jumpers to put defenders on their heels. He cooled off a little in the nightcap scoring 11 after going for 26 during a morning game, but he looked more than comfortable playing up two age groups.

Then there's Maker. We wrote about him at the recent Under Armour Grind Session and we don't want to go too far just yet because of his youth, but the near seven-footer was something else. Skinny and long, Maker plays with a high level of skill and overall understanding for scoring the basketball on the offensive end of the floor. He will score over either shoulder, takes defenders off the dribble and is a very good jump shooter with range to the three point line. He had 19 points and eight rebounds to close out the day against Athlete's First after getting 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks to start the day against Baltimore Elite. He has to get a lot stronger and more explosive off the floor, but again we are talking about a kid who hasn't even started his high school years.



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