2014 Nike Peach Jam: What We Learned About Top College Basketball Recruits
Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) featured most of the biggest stars in high school hoops this summer, and the 2014 Nike Peach Jam capped the season in correspondingly high style. The New Jersey-based Playaz Basketball Club took home the title, but it was far from the only squad to feature highly anticipated Class of 2015 (and 2016) talent for college coaches to covet.
One member of the former group who put on an especially impressive show was Isaiah Briscoe. The hero for the victorious Playaz just missed a triple-double in the title-game win over Team Penny, capping a weekend in which he showed just how much he's earned his considerable hype.
Herein, a look at Briscoe’s brilliant tourney, along with the impressions left—for good and bad—by the rest of the 20 most prominent individual standouts who competed in South Carolina this weekend.
Note: All statistical averages and rankings are for the five games of pool play, unless otherwise specified.
Allonzo Trier, Athletes First
For Allonzo Trier to have come up with any kind of fitting encore to his overwhelming regular-season scoring performance—29.4 points per game, the league’s best by miles—would’ve been scary enough.
Trier actually got better in the finals.
Not only did he average 30.8 points per game, again lapping the field, but he posted the weekend’s high game with 42 points against Playaz Basketball Club in one of the marquee matchups of the tourney.
Overshadowing the best player (Briscoe) on the tournament champs in a head-to-head battle is pretty much the definition of rising to the occasion.
Harry Giles, Team CP3
Although Harry Giles didn’t manage the sustained excellence of some big men at the Peach Jam, he stood tallest when the stakes were highest.
Facing a win-or-go-home play-in against The Family to open the weekend, Giles blew up for 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds (plus two blocks).
Overall, the 6’8” North Carolina product scored a pedestrian 12.6 points a game for the tourney, though he did grab a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per contest.
Considering that the Class of 2016 phenom was playing up a year in age against a league with an unusually deep crop of big men, it’s hard not to be impressed with his potential for the long haul.
Cheick Diallo, Team SCAN Cardinals
The best of many overwhelming EYBL centers in the regular season, Cheick Diallo gave himself a tough act to follow. Even with more reasonable expectations, though, Diallo would’ve disappointed at the Peach Jam.
The 6’9” Mali native managed a paltry 10.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game after averaging a regular-season double-double with ease.
Even with his usual shot-blocking still riding high, Diallo played so badly that a lot of old questions about his clumsy offensive game will be coming back with a vengeance.
D.J. Hogg, Texas Titans
It’s never fun to demonstrate one’s resilience, which inherently requires having something bad from which to bounce back. Still, D.J. Hogg deserves credit for his recovery from an awful Friday to shine in Saturday’s Peach Jam action.
The sharpshooting forward had opened with a pair of 20-point games, but he scored a grand total of 17 against Team Penny and Southern Stampede on Friday.
Rather than hang his head, he helped push his squad into bracket play with 22 points against Wings Elite, then poured in 27 of the team’s 59 in a tough loss to Playaz Basketball Club in the quarterfinals.
Malik Monk, Wings Elite
Malik Monk’s 40-point outburst against Team Penny was one of the biggest individual explosions of the weekend. The surprise, though, was Monk’s performance in Wings Elite’s other four games.
The Class of 2016 star largely fizzled as his team went 2-2, with the 6'3" guard managing just 54 total points in the four contests.
For a player who depends on his scoring production for much of his lofty reputation, that kind of inconsistency isn’t an encouraging sign.
Jalen Brunson, Mac Irvin Fire
Jalen Brunson is already touted as both a top-flight playmaker and one of the best shooters at the point guard position in the Class of 2015. This weekend, he showed that he also knows how to mix it up.
The 6’2”, 180-pound son of former NBA player Rick Brunson showed his dad’s toughness by amassing 54 free-throw attempts (third-most in the field) on his way to a 20.8 point-per-game average.
Given his long-range touch, it’s no surprise that the gutty Illinois native converted on 75.9 percent of all those foul shots.
Caleb Swanigan, Spiece Indy Heat
After playing a 10-man roster over the course of the EYBL season, Spiece Indy Heat brought only a core seven-man rotation to South Carolina.
The results were disastrous, with a double-overtime contest in the squad’s second game exhausting everyone on the short roster, but especially hulking center Caleb Swanigan.
The 6’8”, 275-pound center has faced concerns about his endurance before, and his inability to stave off a last-place finish here (after a 9-7 regular season) makes them a lot more immediate.
His numbers weren’t all bad—he still led the field with 11.4 rebounds per game—but his scoring dropped more than three points per game and he continued to be a non-factor defensively.
Jessie Govan, New York Lightning
In the EYBL season as in the national recruiting rankings, Jessie Govan had been getting lost in the shuffle of a class piled high with elite big men. He made a major dent in that anonymity with his efforts on the glass in South Carolina.
Govan’s 10.2 rebounds per game ranked him sixth in the field, ahead of such notable names as Ben Simmons, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman.
Add in his solid 14.4 point-per-game scoring effort, and the Georgetown commit has a good case for a bump in his unremarkable placement within the 2015 recruiting class.
Ivan Rabb, Oakland Soldiers
Had his Oakland Soldiers done better as a team this weekend, no one would have objected to Rabb’s unremarkable individual stats. After all, sharing the ball is one of Rabb’s many strengths.
Still, when the putative top-ranked recruit in the 2015 class averages just 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for a team that barely makes it to bracket play, it’s time to ask some questions.
Rabb’s inability to take over games (or even keep his 3-2 squad realistically in the championship picture) doesn’t look good for his hopes of staying atop the national leaderboards for very long.
Ben Simmons, Each 1 Teach 1
Ben Simmons would have been the defining player of the tournament if Each 1 Teach 1 had earned the title this weekend.
Even with a quarterfinal exit, the Australian forward turned in a spectacular performance that expanded on the versatility he’d already flashed in the regular season.
A strong scorer at 17.8 points per game, Simmons is also a wonderful passer (3.8 assists per game, tied for 12th in the field even with all the point guards included) and defender (1.8 steals per contest).
He also made a significantly bigger impact on the glass this weekend, jumping from a regular-season figure of 6.1 rebounds per game to 9.0 at the Peach Jam.
Malachi Richardson, Team Final
There was no shortage of high-scoring guards at the Peach Jam, but Malachi Richardson reminded everyone of the value of versatility.
The Syracuse commit didn’t ignite the points column in the same manner as the top-echelon wings—though 15 per game is hardly a failure—but he made important contributions elsewhere.
Richardson, a solid rebounder at 6’6”, got even more good out of his length with court vision (2.6 assists a game) and passing-lane coverage (2.2 steals per contest).
The one piece of bad news for the would-be marksman is that he still couldn’t find his stroke from beyond the arc, shooting a forgettable .321 from deep after a similarly quiet regular season.
Tyler Davis, Texas Titans
In the EYBL’s regular season, Tyler Davis was a respectable but unremarkable center. This weekend, he looked like Dwight Howard.
Davis saw his averages soar to 18.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game despite facing many of his toughest competitors in the Class of 2015 frontcourt rankings.
The 6’10” juggernaut topped it off with yet another double-double, albeit in a losing cause, against eventual champion Playaz Basketball Club.
Stephen Zimmerman, Oakland Soldiers
Nevadan 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman gets a lot of credit for his ability to make plays away from the basket. This weekend, his Oakland Soldiers coaches would’ve been happier to see him make a few more plays near it.
Zimmerman’s 8.6 points per game and woeful shooting performance—.421 from the field—belied his consistent height advantage and contributed appreciably to his team’s disappointing 3-2 finish.
On the plus side, he did edge out the heralded Rabb for the team lead in both rebounding and blocked shots.
Dedric Lawson, Team Penny
Team Penny’s ability to compete with (and beat) most of the top forwards in the 2015 class owed a lot to the 2016 class.
Dedric Lawson, the younger of his team’s two sibling stars, controlled the glass all weekend, to the tune of 10.6 boards per game (the tourney’s third-best mark).
The bigger Lawson brother also provided a welcome shot-blocking presence against his older opposition, swatting 1.6 per contest.
Only Playaz Basketball Club found an answer for Lawson, whose 5-of-17 shooting skid helped the champs edge Team Penny in a thrilling final game.
Antonio Blakeney, Each 1 Teach 1
College coaches hoping to get a scoring machine by recruiting Antonio Blakeney have known for some time that he has serious potential in that department. Coaches hoping to get anything else have been reminded this weekend that he has a long way to go.
Although Blakeney generated points in bunches—20.8 per game, the fourth-best mark in the tourney—he did hardly anything else with any level of effectiveness.
As such, when his shooting deserted him against Team Penny in the quarterfinals (14 points on 4-of-11 from the field), he had nothing else to contribute and his Each 1 Teach 1 squad got slaughtered by 17 points.
K.J. Lawson, Team Penny
K.J. Lawson nearly came up as the hero of the Peach Jam, lighting up Playaz Basketball Club in the title game for 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Only a similarly multifaceted showcase from Briscoe kept Team Penny out of the winner’s circle, a position Lawson’s performance this weekend would certainly have merited.
Lawson (who’s already committed to stay home in Memphis and play for Josh Pastner) rang up 17.8 points per game as the second-best scorer on the runners-up.
The elder Lawson brother also grabbed 6.0 rebounds per game, no mean feat for a 6’7” wing player in this towering competition.
Deyonta Davis, Spiece Indy Heat
Like so many Tom Izzo forwards of the past, Michigan State commit Deyonta Davis has shown himself to be a valuable complementary player. Taking over as a star, though, is still beyond him, as Spiece Indy Heat learned this weekend.
With plodding center Swanigan rendered mortal by a packed schedule and a lack of subs, Davis couldn’t pick up the slack.
He shot efficiently (and blocked shots as well as anyone in the field), but his scoring and rebounding both dipped just as his team needed someone to overachieve in those categories in order to survive.
Thomas Bryant, Team SCAN Cardinals
With Team SCAN Cardinals in desperate need of scoring as Diallo slumped, Thomas Bryant came through.
The 6’10” forward bounced back from his own offensive disappointments in the regular season to average 16 points a game in leading his squad to the Peach Jam semis.
Bryant also continued his terrific work on the glass, placing fourth in the field with 10.5 rebounds per contest, and outdid even the celebrated Diallo by blocking 2.5 shots a game.
Although he regressed to his regular-season form in bracket play as the Cardinals fell to Playaz Basketball Club, Bryant’s assertiveness stands in sharp contrast to bigger stars such as Rabb who didn’t seize control of the games their teams needed.
Isaiah Briscoe, Playaz Basketball Club
The only complaint to raise against Briscoe’s spectacular Peach Jam performance was that he showed some vulnerabilities on defense.
Of course, those games came against two of the Class of 2015’s most decorated scorers, Trier and Blakeney, so he’s far from the only guard to get torched by that duo.
Otherwise, Briscoe led his team to a title with exactly the kind of versatility and toughness he’s showed all summer.
He capped his 22.4-point, 6.0-rebound, 3.8-assist-per-game weekend with a near triple-double: 20 points, 12 boards and seven assists in the title-game win over Team Penny.
KeVaughn Allen, Team Penny
The biggest surprise among the many stars of Team Penny’s run to the Peach Jam final was KeVaughn Allen. Less heralded in his class (2015) than either of the Lawson brothers are in theirs, Allen proceeded to put up a bigger weekend than either sibling.
The 6’3” Florida commit finished third in the tourney with 22 points per game, shooting a scorching .560 from three-point range in the process.
Allen also anchored a many-pronged defense for the tourney runners-up, tying for the team high with 1.4 steals per contest.
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