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July 26, 2012

Gaining separation at Showcase

MORE: AAU: Harrison Bros. make twin killing

With some prospects yet to return home since the beginning of the July evaluation period (July 11), play on the AAU circuit is starting to become a war of attrition.

Some prospects are fighting through fatigue to improve their stock, while others are giving in to their pain and slowing down.

Thursday at the AAU Super Showcase was one of those days where it was easy to tell where each prospect fell. With another made-for-TV game -- Florida program Each One Teach One taking on the Texas Titans -- highlighting the day, here are the top storylines from the day's play in Orlando.

Silent but deadly

The underclassmen backcourt combination of 6-foot-1 point guard Joel Berry and 6-foot-5 shooting guard Kobe Eubanks, both 2014 prospects, continued some stellar play from last week's Nike Peach Jam. They led their E1T1 team to an upset of the Texas Titans on national television. Neither Berry nor Eubanks is one to show emotion on the court, but both are fierce competitors who are out to show coaches that they are among the elite prospects in their class nationally.

Berry is a four-star guard and natural team leader. He can hit shots from deep, beat you off the dribble, is a gifted passer, and loves to get after it defensively. Playing against the Titans, the point guard position was the one spot where experts thought that E1T1 had an advantage. With his dominance of the matchup, Berry proved the experts right. After the game, Berry's AAU coach with Each One Teach One said that the entire ACC and SEC is recruiting the young point guard, with Ohio State and Maryland sticking out.

Eubanks has emerged onto the recruiting scene in July and has yet to earn a spot in the Rivals prospect rankings, but has a very good chance at making the next list.

With good size, athleticism, and a refined skill set, the scoring wing is able to produce points in a variety of ways. Eubanks is a good shooter, has a tight handle, and shows a natural feel in his ability to find seams in the defense and draw fouls off his driving layups. The Fort Lauderdale prospect listed Florida, Georgetown, Syracuse, Michigan State, Alabama, and Arizona as the schools that are recruiting him the hardest.

Time is now

Now that Eubanks, Berry, and injured superstar Dakari Johnson have placed themselves on the map as the future of the Each One Teach One program, it is easy to forget that the Florida AAU team has one of the deepest rosters on the circuit. Two other prospects that stood out in the win over the Texas Titans were 2013 center Chris Perry and 2015 forward Kejuan Johnson.

Perry is a throwback post prospect who loves to do the dirty work on the interior. If you're not focused on watching Perry, you can miss his impact, but take a moment to watch the 6-foot-8 Florida native and you'll see that he is one of the top rebounders, post defenders, and finishers in the game. A skilled prospect who can make shots around the basket, can hit the hook shot in the lane, and shows nice touch on his free throws, Perry is more than a defensive stopper. The rising senior lists Cincinnati, South Florida, Miami (FL), Central Florida, and Butler as his top schools right now.

Johnson is simply biding his time to shine with E1T1, and if he consistently plays the way that he played on Thursday, he won't have to wait long. With a chiseled frame at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, the rising sophomore is one of the most impressive prospects in his class from a physical standpoint. The Georgia native can step outside and shoot the ball, is an athletic finisher in transition, and shows the ability to both play and defend multiple positions on the court. Johnson told Rivals that Florida, UNLV, Texas, Georgia Tech, and UCLA are the schools that he has had the most contact with so far.

Got a Jones

With all of the hype centered on five-star Julius Randle, it was easy for Duke commit Matt Jones to float by until tipoff.

Once the game started, however, the defense of Each One Teach One quickly began to realize that it would have to focus on the four-star shooting guard from the Texas Titans to win the game.

Jones was the top scorer in the game for the Titans as he used ball-fakes to get to the rim and finish with floaters over the rim. He did that all while athletically avoiding the charging call which plagued his teammates.

Known as one of the nation's top shooters, Jones played into that reputation by attacking defenders who flew out at him.

Playing in front of future assistant coach Jeff Capel, Jones showed that he is continuing to improve, and that he should be a force to be reckoned with for the Blue Devils.

The Titans' other Jones, 6-foot-9 center Damien Jones, also had a nice outing in front of the cameras and college coaches on Thursday. The athletic shotblocker produced several highlight plays by attacking the basket from the high post, and running the floor hard, to lead to two-handed throw-downs above the rim. Jones, ranked No. 101 in the 2013 Rivals150, has great length for a shotblocker, is quick off of his feet, and has that high running motor that coaches love in a defensive stopper. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Alabama head man Anthony Grant were among those who watched Jones play on Thursday evening.

Up and down

Playing in front of Kentucky head man John Calipari, Kansas head coach Bill Self, and Baylor's CEO Scott Drew, five-star forward Julius Randle had several up-and-down moments in the showcase game. In the first half, the Texas Titans star struggled with turnovers as E1T1 did a nice job of using smaller, but pesky, defenders to jar the ball loose. Randle showed signs of frustration by picking up two charging fouls, dribbling the ball of his foot, and shrugging his shoulders.

However in the second half, the No. 2 overall player in the 2013 Rivals150 was a totally different player. Randle began to use his 6-foot-9, 240-pound bruising frame to dominate on the interior.

When he wants to be the best player in the paint, no one can deny Randle from getting his points and rebounds. That is exactly what he did in the latter stages of Thursday's loss as he spun and powered his way to several key baskets. While things did not go the way that Randle and his Titans team had hoped, the five-star prospect still proved that he is one of the best amateur basketball players in the nation.

Frontline future

There might not be a team in Orlando that features a frontline with more potential than the Georgia Stars. 2013 small forward A.J. Davis, 2014 small forward Jalen Lindsey, and 2013 center Jarquez Smith combine to give the Stars a lineup of size, athleticism, length, and great raw ability that should continue to improve. With coaches from Tennessee, Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Miami (Fla.), Cincinnati and Syracuse watching against the Albany City Rocks, the two forwards and one center impressed.

Smith is more of a shotblocker and athlete who doesn't have a ton of offensive game right now other than finishing with dunks, while the 6-foot-8 duo of Lindsey and Davis are inside-outside forwards who can step out and shoot, attack the rim, and aren't afraid to get physical inside.

All three will have to continue to get stronger and work on their ball skills, but high majors around the nation are already noticing their talents.

Lindsey is currently the most well-known of the crew, as the 2014 prospect has earned a ranking of No. 23 in his class nationally by Rivals.com.



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