Burning Questions: Episode 2

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NEPSAC With a Strong Influence on the Nike EYBL

BtBcY3pCcAA_eZcNew England prep schools pumping out talent

Players are looking to find an upper hand on competition in any way that they can, and it looks as if New England has become a prime location for those who are searching for that upper hand.

The NEPSAC (New England Preperatory School Athletic Council), which includes Brewster Academy, Tilton School, New Hampton School, Cushing Academy, Wilbraham and Monson, Worcester Academy, Vermont Academy, Northfield Mt. Hermon as well as many others, has produced some of the best players in the country over the past decade, including Michael Carter Williams, Will Barton, Andre Drummond and Nerlens Noel.

This year is no different, especially on the EYBL circuit with BABC,Expressions Elite, The Family, Team SCAN and The City Rocks all having players who play in the NEPSAC during the high school season.

TERANCE MANN | BABC

Terance Mann, a junior guard from Tilton School (N.H.) and BABC, who has received offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgetown, and many others, says that the ability for other schools to recruit post-graduate players is a key part in readying himself for the summer.

“Playing up here as a sophomore last year at 15 years old, I was playing against post-grad players who were going to Syracuse, Xavier,” Mann said. “You play with really good players too, I played with Wayne Selden, it just prepares you for the best. Every game, you don’t know if you’re going to win or not, just like the EYBL.”

The relationships between each of the players changes when they get onto the circuit as well. While they are all rivals during the season, they embrace playing with each other on a high level during the summer.

JEREMY MILLER | BABC

Jeremy Miller, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from New Hampton School (N.H.) who also plays for BABC alongside Mann, says that playing prep basketball in New England has made him tougher down low.

“I think a lot of people agree with me when I say that I think about the game differently now,” Miller said. “My basketball IQ has risen since I have gone prep. Its toughened me up a ton. Playing prep, I’ve learned that every game is going to be a dogfight, I absolutely love it. No one is going to go out and score 40 points a game. I love it, because everyone is really good.”

TYLER LYDON | THE CITY ROCKS

Tyler Lydon, a Syracuse commit who attends New Hampton School during the year and runs with Albany City Rocks during the summer, says that the best player he played against in New England is a former EYBL player.

“Probably Abdul Malik Abu,” Lydon said. “He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever played against, he’s a freak athlete, and has an extremely high IQ.”

 Lydon injured his ankle during the Dallas session, but expects to return to the court in Hampton this weekend.

BRUCE BROWN | BABC

Bruce Brown, a sophomore guard from Vermont Academy (Ver.) who runs alongside of Miller and Mann on BABC says that the hardest part about playing in the NEPSAC is the the amount of talent that he faces at the guard position.

“You play guys like Kaleb Joseph, Jalen Adams and Terance,” Brown said. “Everyone is good, you have to learn that every game is going to be hard.”

With BABC starting off 4-0 in California, and multiple other players from the NEPSAC shining on their individual teams, it looks as if the product coming from New England is a mighty fine one indeed.

NEPSAC PLAYERS IN THE EYBL

Terance Mann- Tilton School (N.H.)- BABC
Franklin Porter- Tilton School (N.H.)- BABC
Bob Martin Jr.- Noble and Greenough (MA)- BABC
Bruce Brown- Vermont Academy (VT)- BABC
Terrell Brown- St. Andrew’s School (RI)- BABC
Donovan Love- New Hampton School (N.H.)- Expressions Elite
Jeremy Miller- New Hampton School (N.H.)- BABC
AJ Turner- New Hampton School (N.H.)- The Family
Tyler Lydon- New Hampton School (N.H.)- Albany City Rocks
Aaron Falzon- Northfield Mt. Hermon (N.H.)- Expressions Elite
Ikenna Ndugba- Brooks School (MA)- Expressions Elite
Jesse Bunting- Tabor Academy (MA)- Expressions Elite
Nisre Zouzoua- Boston Trinity (MA)- Expressions Elite

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Kevin Boyle Compares Ben Simmons to LeBron James

By JACK LeGWIN

MONTVERDE, Fla.- Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle has coached Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Harrington and many other elite players.

And Boyle says that his current star, 6-foot-10, LSU-bound forward Ben Simmons — the projected No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com — is special.

“Ben is an incredibly gifted athlete,” Boyle told SNY.tv. “His jump shot is getting better, he’s an excellent passer. Hopefully, he can have as much of an impact in high school this year as LeBron did as a senior. Not saying he’s as good as LeBron, but I’m hoping he has as much of an impact. As a physical force with skill, he is probably the closest to him, than anyone since LeBron has played.”

After a 71-point weekend and wins over Berkmar (Ga.) and defending state-champion Jonesboro (Ga.), Simmons has made a strong case as the No. 1 player in the nation.

In his final year in high school, the Australian native leads the No. 1-ranked team in the nation on a brutal schedule that includes Bishop O’Dowd (CA), Plano West (TX), Bishop Gorman (NV), Roselle (N.J.) Catholic, St. Benedict’s (N.J.), Whitney Young (IL), Paul VI (VA) and many others.

“So far it’s good,” Simmons told SNY.tv after his 37-point performance in a win over Jonesboro. “Adjusting to a new team, I’m playing a bit more point forward, so I have to be more of a leader on the court which is what I’m trying to do. But so far, these two games have been good.”

Boyle acknowledges that while Simmons is a physical specimen with talent that excedes 99 percent of the players he will play during the season, he still has things to work on.

“I think he has terrific upside,” Boyle said. “He has to continue to improve his jump shot, which he has been doing, because he’s not going to get everything around the basket in college or in the pros. If that keeps developing, that will help him to become a star level player in the NBA.”

When asked about the improvement of his jump shot, Simmons says that it has gotten better, but the first couple games haven’t lent themselves to taking many jump shots.

“Yeah, I have been, but you haven’t seen it much,” Simmons said. “I’m just taking what they give me. But when they stop giving me that, I’ll be taking some more jump shots.”

During the summer for Each 1 Teach 1 Elite on the EYBL Circuit, Simmons brought the ball up the floor, distributing to guards Antonio Blakeney, Barry Brown and Keyshawn Evans. Simmons says that his ability to bring the ball up the floor can pay big dividends at LSU.

“Definitely can be effective,” Simmons said. “Once you get into college and you’re playing in the SEC, a lot of guys my size aren’t able to guard someone who’s quicker and can dribble. It changes the defense a lot.”

Simmons is also recruiting on LSU’s behalf, trying to get Blakeney and IMG Academy guard JaQuan Lyle to come to LSU after their recent visit.

“They’re great players, they’d be a good fit,” he recently said on ESPNU. “But they’re going to have their own decisions and personal preferences for schools, but I think it would be a good look for LSU.”

Video- Ryan Currie/ Home Team Hoops

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Simmons Talks Teaming Up With Antonio Blakeney

9R4A2725-32By JACK LeGWIN

WHEELING W.V.- When Antonio Blakeney announced Friday afternoon that he had committed to LSU, there was only one person more excited than the fans. That would be Ben Simmons.

“That’s big,” Simmons told SNY.tv after a 100-79 win over Whitney Young in the Cancer Research Classic in which he went 11-11 from the field, scoring 26 points. “We were watching it before we came over here. That’s a big get for me, because I really know how to play with him. We play really well together, he likes to shoot the ball and I like to pass it. He’s always open around the three, so I like to find him.”

Not only are Simmons and Blakeney cohesive on the court, they also get along very well off the hardwood.

“We’re definitely cool,” said the 6-foot-10 Simmons,  who could end up as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. “We live close to each other [in Florida], so we’re friends. I see him a few times a week, so getting the chemistry now is good for us.”

Ranked No. 1 in the nation, Simmons teamed up with No. 17 ranked Blakeney during the summer on Each 1 Teach 1 Elite, leading them to the Elite 8 at Peach Jam.

When Blakeney announced his decision to head to Baton Rouge, he cited his relationship with Simmons to be a big reason why he chose LSU. Both players were recruited by LSU assistant David Patrick, Simmons’ Godfather.

“[Simmons] factored in a lot, because I know how good he is and how good he can make a team,” said Blakeney. “Me and him together can take a lot of stress off each other on the court. We have good chemistry on and off the court.”

Next year is setting up to be a big one for the Tigers with Simmons and Blakeney coming into the program alongside veteran guards Josh Gray, Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby. In the frontcourt, the Tigers are loaded with Jarrell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Elbert Robinson.

“It’s really good to have a deep team,” Simmons said. “It’s great to go to the bench and have those guys bring the same effort as the guys who are starting, so it’s going to be big.”

Photo- J Hardy LeGwin

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North Carolina Headed to Sweet 16 With Win Over Arkansas

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By JACK LeGWIN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.– North Carolina is headed to the Sweet 16 with an 87-78 win over Arkansas behind 20 second-half points from point guard Marcus Paige.

They will face the winner of Wisconsin and Oregon in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams said that while this year has brought a great deal of heartache, getting a big win over a quality team and getting to the Sweet 16 does help.

“Losing Coach [Dean] Smith, losing Ted Seagroves, my big-time buddy, Stuart Scott, the stuff that we’ve had going on, Mitch Kupchak’s daughter, it’s been a hard year, it really has,” Williams said. “I probably acted sillier in the locker room after this game than I have in quite a while. I’m going to try to enjoy the dickens out of this one for a while tonight.”

Williams won his 65th NCAA Tournament game, which tied him for second all-time behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

North Carolina also helped the ACC improve to 9-0 in the tournament.

Paige said that a big key for him in the second half was being patient and not forcing shots.

“I just settled down a little bit,” Paige said. “I got good shots in the first half, but I was rushing them. At this point in the year, you don’t want your last game of the year to be played poorly. This could have been the last game for us, so I had to step up.”

Step up he did, knocking down three 3-pointers, including 11 points in less than 3 minutes in the middle of the half to blow the lead open after it was tied at 59. The Tar Heels never looked back again.

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After Duke Loses to Notre Dame, Okafor’s College Career is Drawing to a Close

IMG_1202By JACK LeGWIN

GREENSBORO, N.C. Jahlil Okafor’s college career will come to a close sometime in the coming days.

Whether it ends in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — the way Duke went out last year — or with a national championship  — the way Duke finished up in 2010 — remains to be seen.

But this much is certain: the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft won’t end his college career with an ACC Tournament title after No. 11 ranked Notre Dame upset No. 2-Duke 74-64 in the semifinals Friday night here at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Notre Dame, which has now beaten Okafor and the Blue Devils twice this season, advanced to its first conference tournament final under coach Mike Brey and will meet North Carolina in Saturday night’s final.

Notre Dame advanced despite a brilliant effort by Okafor, who scored 28 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.

“For March Madness and the postseason, it’s the same thing, just try to be dominant and get my teammates going, and try to help them out a little bit,” Okafor said of what lies ahead.

Duke is currently projected as a No. 1 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but Okafor’s performance in the tourney will be key for Duke to be able to get tough wins over good teams.

Okafor led a near-comeback after Duke trailed by 17 early in the second half.

“I’m just trying to play better than I have in the last couple weeks,” Okafor said. “Me and Coach [K] talked before the game, and he told me that I wasn’t playing as well as I needed to.”

Okafor said he felt like his teammates had stepped up and he hadn’t put forth the same production.

“I’m just trying to play better for my teammates,” Okafor said. “The past couple of weeks, they’ve been playing really well, and we’ve been winning. I feel like I’ve been letting my teammates down, I was just trying to play with a lot of heart tonight and trying to get my teammates going.”

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