NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The first day of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) finals at the Peach Jam was, as expected, some of the most competitive basketball we have seen on the summer circuit.
Here is a look at who stood out on Day 1:
Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Christian Academy)
2013, PF, 6-9, 225 pounds
Randle was dominant in the morning session with 34 points and 18 rebounds, and followed that with another good outing in the evening. After the first day, he leads the Peach Jam in scoring and rebounding. He is so gifted that he can make multiple plays per possession and can do whatever he wants at either end of the floor, as long as he stays focused and doesn't go into cruise control. Randle must learn to play with pace while still playing with intensity, but has every school recruiting him. Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Texas are programs he names frequently.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-9, 270 pounds
The big fella has changed his body, which in turn has transformed his game. His ability to change ends of the floor has improved tremendously and it can get even better. He just won a gold medal with USA Basketball and when he is fed the ball on the blocks, he has an unstoppable jump hook over his left shoulder. Okafor has strong hands to catch the ball, with a soft scoring touch. He turns the ball over a little too much when he is double-teamed, but he will record a double-double most nights. However, what's most impressive is the fact that he keeps himself engaged when he doesn't get the ball. That's a sign of maturity. Overall, it's hard to find a better true post player than Okafor in all of high school basketball.
Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech)
2014, PF, 6-9, 225 pounds
He is at his best playing in a system in which he knows his role and knows where and when he is supposed to get the ball. Lyles was OK on the camp circuit, but now he is back with his travel team and affecting games. Lyles is a tough player to guard because he can score on the low block or step out and nail 19-footers. Overall, he is the best offensive post player in the 2014 class.
Jae'sean Tate (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central)
2014, SF, 6-4, 210 pounds
No one plays harder than Tate, who is a left-handed multipurpose player. He seems to be in practically every play and always around the ball. Tate is an inside-out threat who is at his best in the paint. Tate is always one of the better rebounders on the floor. Plus, he is a great scorer and a solid defender. Tate may not be a player who fits into a specific position, but he is a great basketball player overall.
Chris McCullough (New York/Salisbury School)
2014, PF, 6-9, 205 pounds
One of the best prospects in the country, McCullough passes the look and physical attribute test. He is long, athletic and skilled and has started to become a consistent performer. He has the tools to dominate and it looks as if he is starting to figure it out. He was a determining factor in Team Scan's victory over Mean Streets in the U16 division.
Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty)
2013, PF, 6-7, 210 pounds
Gordon said he’s about 80 percent, which is pretty astonishing considering how well he played on opening night. Athletic, bouncy, intelligent and motivated, Gordon causes real problems with his intensity. He knocked down a few jumpers off the catch, and that’s an area he can surely improve upon. He’s a lot like Blake Griffin in that both are exceptional athletes, capable of momentum-changing dunks, and in search of offense outside the lane. “If we get him,” said one assistant in the mix for Gordon's services, “I think we can win a national championship.” That’s the definition of program-changer.
Mike Young (Pittsburgh/St. Benedict’s)
2013, PF, 6-8
Let’s cut right to the chase: Mike Young’s zero points and seven-rebound effort in the team’s opening loss weren't going to get it done. In the nightcap, Young’s play set the tone for a Playaz win. He effortlessly made 3-pointers and he gave his team a working margin. Young’s a high-major priority, and the schools recruiting him walked out of the gym feeling mighty good about how he rebounded from his opener.
(Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte)
2013, C, 6-9, 275 pounds
Going into the evening game, not much was expected of Meeks, considering he sported a 102-degree fever in the afternoon. Really, he didn’t do much other than score 18 points, pull down eight rebounds and shoot 8-for-11 from the field. Meeks controlled the paint; it was his lane. In the first half, Meeks played in the high post, where his vision and deft passing touch worked well. The second half was a punishing effort in the lane. The guy’s right there for the McDonald’s game. Thursday was a heckuva opening day.
(Hampton, Va./Oak Hill)
2013, SF, 6-6, 190 pounds
The young man’s been on a roller-coaster ride since April. He didn’t play good ball in the spring, tabled his college decision and everything weighed on him. Although the results weren’t there, his effort has never been a problem. Williams is exceptional in transition, among the best there is. He attacks, defends and runs the floor; those are strengths. He can play for any of the teams recruiting him -- past or present -- and that’s not an issue. It comes down to how big a piece of the offense he’ll carry. On a team that presses, runs and plays with tempo, he’ll be right at home.
Joel Berry (Apopka, Fla./Lake Highland Prep)
2014, PG, 6-0, 180 pounds
At a young age, Berry has shown leadership and a consistent approach to the game. He shoots a high percentage from the free-throw line, which bodes well for him because he is a very good straight-line driver and his strong body allows him to absorb contact and still make the play. His decision-making is also above average and he likes to hand out assists. The next step for him is to knock down open jumpers and develop a dribble move to shake a defender.
• At times, power forward Damian Jones (Baton Rouge, La./Scotlandville Magnet) is the forgotten man on his EYBL squad because he plays on the same team as Randle and Duke commit Matt Jones (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), but Damian Jones is a consistent shot-blocker and has Arkansas, Duke, Florida, LSU, Stanford and Vanderbilt, among others, recruiting him. He has nine blocks in two games, which leads the Peach Jam.
• Paris Lee (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East) is a high-energy, scoring point guard who makes shots but is streaky from behind the arc. He also works to come up with steals on the defensive end. Lee has offers from Loyola (Ill.), Green Bay and Western Michigan; Illinois State and Southern Illinois also are showing interest.
Paul Biancardi, John Stovall and Dave Telep contributed to this piece.