The 2019 Nike EYBL Finals are officially underway, as the highly-anticipated Peach Jam saw its first round of games in North Augusta, SC on Wednesday evening.
24 teams on the EYBL circuit are set to compete in the annual event, featuring several key Kentucky targets ranging from the class of 2019 (potentially) all the way through 2022.
With games running from Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon, there will be a lot to keep track of and plenty of updates to be had, all of which can be found right here on KSR. I have my feet on the ground here in North Augusta and will be in attendance all the way through the weekend.
Let’s dive right in
What will N’Faly Dante do?
Arguably the biggest aspect of Peach Jam to keep track of is the status of 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante and his potential reclassification to 2019.
As I wrote in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes last week, while Kentucky remains in a great spot to land the 6-foot-11 big man, there are a few academic hurdles – specifically a test score – he has to clear before a jump is even possible.
Dante wasn’t available for interviews last night, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as his media opportunities have been very hit-and-miss throughout the AAU season. The EYBL staff told me they’d do whatever they can to make sure he’s available today at some point, so hopefully I can have an update for you all available soon.
In terms of Dante’s on-court ability is concerned, it’s very apparent that he is capable of playing at the college level right now. While his competition in the frontcourt wasn’t phenomenal last night when his MoKan Elite squad took on MeanStreets, he was easily the most physically dominant player on the floor. At 6-foot-11, 235-pounds, Dante was able to out-muscle opponents in the post and use his ridiculous length to make plays on both ends of the floor.
Finishing with 19 points (9-13 shooting) and 12 rebounds in his Peach Jam debut, the Kentucky target looked like a man amongst boys.
N’Faly Dante has scored 7 of his team’s first 13 points of the game, two strong dunks already. Runs floor well, NBA-ready body, strong interior presence on defense. Physically, he doesn’t need another year of high school… pic.twitter.com/soteGi2iZB
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) July 10, 2019
If he can get his academic situation in order – and he’s certainly trying – Dante has no business playing another year of high school basketball.
Familiar faces mixed with fresh targets
In the past, Kentucky has had some of their top recruiting targets spread out throughout multiple different AAU circuits and events, forcing the UK coaching staff to divide and conquer when NCAA Evaluation Periods came around. With the class of 2020, though, the vast majority of Kentucky’s key guys are all on the EYBL circuit and have been for the majority of their travel ball careers.
Now, most of those guys are in attendance for Peach Jam this year, giving John Calipari and company a massive opportunity to dive in even further on their prime targets.
Guys like Dante, Sharife Cooper, B.J. Boston, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Green, some of the very first prospects to land Kentucky offers, got things started on Wednesday evening. Newer offers such as Isaiah Todd (2020), Cade Cunningham (2020), Jonathan Kuminga (2021), Paolo Banchero (2021), and Terrence Clarke (2021) also made their debuts.
Here are some of the total numbers from the top UK targets:
- N’Faly Dante (2019 or 2020, Mokan Elite): 19 points (9-13 shooting) and 12 rebounds (80-62 victory over MeanStreets)
- Cade Cunningham (2020, Texas Titans): 31 points (14-20 shooting), 7 rebounds, 6 assists (101-86 victory over Seattle Rotary)
- Isaiah Todd (2020, Nightrydas Elite): 22 points (10-13 FT), 10 rebounds (100-90 victory over MacIrvinFire)
- Scottie Barnes (2020, Nightrydas Elite): 28 PTS (11-14 shooting), 6 rebounds, 5 assists. (100-90 victory over Mac Irvin Fire)
- Sharife Cooper (2020, AOT): 28 points (10-16 shooting), (2-5 3-pt), 9 assists, 8 rebounds (84-81 victory over Woodz Elite)
- B.J. Boston (2020, AOT): 26 points (10-20 shooting) and 9 rebounds (84-81 victory over Woodz Elite)
- Jalen Green (2020, Team WhyNot): Statistics for Green unavailable right now…
- Josh Christopher (2020, Vegas Elite): 29 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists (84-94 loss to Indy Elite)
- Paolo Banchero (2021, Seattle Rotary): 28 points, (10-12 FT), 10 rebounds (86-101 loss to Titans)
- Terrence Clarke (2021, Expressions Elite): 21 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds (63-86 loss to The Family)
- Jonathan Kuminga (2021, NY Renaissance): 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists (70-89 loss to Boo Williams)
After the opening round, I caught up with Todd, Boston, Green, and Banchero about their recruitments, with all four having extremely positive things to say about John Calipari and the Kentucky program.
Those will be posted on the website throughout the day, along with whatever other recruiting news pops up, as well.
After the event got started with a bang on Wednesday evening, fans will be treated to several other elite matchups on the schedule throughout the day on Thursday.
For starters, Sharife Cooper and B.J. Boston’s AOT squad is set to take on N’Faly Dante’s MoKan Elite team at 9:00 a.m. ET. At the exact same time, Jalen Green of Team WhyNot will take on Isaiah Todd and Scottie Barnes of Nightrydas Elite. Cade Cunningham (Texas Titans) will also play at nine this morning.
And then at 10:30 a.m. ET, 2021 consensus top-five prospects Jonathan Kuminga (NY Renaissance) and Terrence Clarke (Expressions Elite) will take on one another in a battle of elite rising juniors (and potential reclassification candidates).
At 12:00 p.m. ET, Paolo Banchero of Seattle Rotary will take on an Alabama Fusion squad that actually features Kentucky football target Reginald Perry, a three-star defensive end out of Fairfield, AL. (Perry played just six minutes and failed to score in his team’s game against Team Durant, but it’s still interesting, nonetheless). 2020 five-star guard Joshua Christopher, who called Kentucky his “dream school” back in June, will also take the floor at noon.
After a long break in the afternoon, Terrence Clarke (Expressions Elite) will get things rolling again at 6:00 p.m. ET against Zion Harmon’s Boo Williams squad, as will Joshua Christopher (Vegas Elite) across the hall against Mac Irvin Fire on Court 6.
Cooper and Boston (AOT) will then take the floor at 7:30 p.m., as will Todd and Barnes (Nightrydas Elite) and Banchero (Rotary).
And then to close out Thursday evening, Dante (MoKan Elite), Cunningham (Texas Titans), Green (Team WhyNot), and Kuminga (NY Renaissance) will all take the floor on separate courts at 9:00 p.m. ET.
On Wednesday night, Peach Jam participants played in front of packed crowds limited to just media members and fans. But starting on Thursday, the NCAA Evaluation Period for July gets started, meaning college coaches will be able to watch from the stands and on the sideline instead of streaming it live online (you can find that stream here if you’re interested).
One of those coaches? John Calipari, who is expected to be in attendance for the event with as many as three UK assistants with him.
Over the past decade, #CoachCalWatch has been a major aspect of all the major AAU circuits and high school basketball tournaments, specifically here at KSR. While the on-court numbers and highlights are obviously important for Kentucky fans to see, finding out who the coaching staff is making a priority for the future is also right up there for the BBN.
Be prepared for that and more when the coaches trickle in and games start back up again this morning.