Look at this roster and try not to get excited. All Ohio Red is a staple in grassroots basketball, and they have an excellent group of players in 2015. Nick Ward is a grown man in the middle, relying on his size and footwork to become one of the best big men in his class. Their eight guards are all considered division one prospects, with one (Trey Landers) already committed to Dayton. With so much talent on their roster, the biggest dilemma for AOR will be developing a consistent rotation. Each player has proven their worth in the lead up to the 2015 season, especially last year in 16U, so we are eager to see which players continue their ascent. AOR is on the short list for top rosters on paper to start the season, and we expect them fulfill their lofty expectations.
If there is one thing that California Supreme has no shortage of it is length. With two legitimate seven-footers (Brandon McCoy and Mubashar Ahmed Ali) and a third (star MJ Cage) knocking at the door at 6'11", Cali should have no problem protecting the paint. Cage (ESPN No. 36) is one of the top post players in the EYBL, and he will likely shoulder much of the scoring load. This team may only go as far as its big men carry them. With size like this, however, that may be all you need.
Elfrid Payton Elite is brand new to the EYBL in 2015, becoming Louisiana's Elite Youth Basketball representative. EP's coaching staff did a great job assembling their roster, securing some of the states best talent, including junior guards Skylar Mays and DeJon Jarreau. Those two should set the tone for the guard heavy squad, and they will need to be heavily productive. The roster is 13 deep, but they are limited in true big men. Brison Gresham figures to be their go-to man in the middle, an opportunity that should allow him to boost his stock. We are eager to see the talented freshman Javonte Smart, who will provide a boost off the bench. Is Elfrid Payton a Elite ready for the big time? We shall find out shortly.
Expressions Elite could be one of the biggest surprises on the 2015 circuit. EYBL veteran forward Tyrique Jones teams up with sophomore wings Jermaine Samuels Jr and Kimani Lawrence, as well as bigs Rojaye Cambell and Nick Richards to make up one of the most formidable frontlines on the circuit. Throw in Turkey’s finest Baris Ulker (6-foot-8), and Expressions has the makings of something special on the interior. Their five guards on no slouch either, expecting big time production from EJ Crawford and Donovan Love. If a couple of the role players step up, Expressions could be looking at their best season in the EYBL in 2015.
Houston Hoops enters 2015 with very high expectations. De'Aaron Fox enters his third year with the Hoops and is undoubtably an MVP candidate. The 6-foot-4 lefty combo guard does a bit of everything, and he will have quite a bit of talent around him. Sophomore forward Jarred Vanderbilt had a very productive freshman season in the EYBL and could very well play himself into an MVP candidate. A player who we can't wait to see is junior point guard Carsen Edwards. The Atascocita guard dazzled during the high school season and should provide plenty of production alongside Fox. Combine those three with their athletic, defensive-minded frontline and Houston Hoops will be thinking big come July.
The Prospects will make their EYBL with seven sophomores on the roster, more than any other team on the 17U circuit. This band of underclassmen may be short on age but they aren’t short on talent. Centennial guard Troy Brown (ESPN No. 5) is an absolute stud, and he’ll be paired in the backcourt with fellow sophomore Markus Howard, who led the state of Arizona in scoring at 32.2 ppg. Local powerhouses are responsible for two more sophomores, Charles O’Bannon Jr. (Bishop Gorman) and O’Shae Brissett (Findlay Prep). Felix White is a name to watch. The athletic big man will need to set the tone and hold his own in the paint. They’ll have some growing pains, but the Prospects have an extremely high ceiling.
Nike South Beach moves into the EYBL in 2015, bringing with them 7-foot-1 Zach Brown, a consensus top five recruit in the 2017 class. He will be the focal point of a team loaded with underrated prospects from South Florida. Fellow 7-footer Victor Uyaelunmo should fit in nicely next to Brown, giving South Beach one of the most physically imposing front lines in the circuit. They feature a handful of guards who will battle for minutes in what will prove to be a crucial area of development. It's tough to win in the EYBL without established guards, but Ralph Diaz, Dylan Frye and company should be more than up for the challenge. The will be talented and hungry, so we will see shortly if that parlays into a successful 2916 campaign.
Spiece Indy Heat has one of the most lethal duos in last year’s EYBL in Caleb Swanigan and Deyonta Davis. The next in line for the Heat is Australian big man Isaac Humphries. Listed at 6-foot-11, 260 pounds, the La Lumiere star is set to be the focal point for Spiece, and they will need him to be productive. Leading the backcourt is EYBL veteran CJ Walker, freshly off decommitting from Purdue. The lightning quick point guard should be a hot commodity in the recruiting world, and his output will be vital considering Spiece is only carrying four members in the backcourt. As usual, Spiece will be highly competitive, but just how far they go will likely depend on their big man in the middle.
Jayson Tatum (ESPN No. 1) is on a different level. He led the Eagles in points, rebounds and steals last season, leading an extremely young team against a daunting schedule. He'll be surrounded with a veteran lineup this season, as Tyler Cook, Xavier Sneed, Jordan Barnes and Xavier Bishop are back from last year's squad. Although they are a veteran squad, they will need to rely on a sophomore big man to carry the load inside. Jeremiah Tilmon (ESPN No. 8) is more than ready for the task, and if he plays like he's capable of, the Eagles will be a very tough out for anyone. Ultimately, Tatum will determine how far the Eagles go this year, and he's ranked No. 1 for a reason.
Team Penny lost four of their five starters from last season’s Peach Jam runner-up squad, so it’s time to reload. Back on the squad is dual-sport athlete and two-time EYBL veteran Dillon Mitchell (committed to Oregon, WR). He leads a group of 11 guards, so part of Penny’s development will be dedicated to finding a rotation. One of those guards is Khalil Spencer, but he plays much more like a forward. He is coming off a tremendous year at Ridgeway and will look to parlay that into strong spring and summer. Sophomore Jayden Hardaway, the son of Head Coach Penny Hardaway, is set to make his debut. Guards usually prevail in grassroots basketball, and this is the most guard heavy roster in the league.