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July 21, 2012

Peach Jam: Guards leading the way

MORE: CIA Bounce's talent no secret

Sixteen of the 24 teams at the Nike Peach Jam were eliminated after pool play ended on Saturday morning. By the evening, the field had been limited from eight to four, after some great quarterfinal matchups. Some surprise teams pulled out gutsy victories on Saturday, including a tough Mokan Elite team who will meet CIA Bounce in the first semifinal; while the CP3 All-Stars will meet the Oakland Soldiers in the other. Here are some of the top performers from Saturday's contests.

GUARD'S GAME

Guards from both the Chris Paul All-Stars and Each 1 Teach 1 Elite put on a show late in the overtime matchup, which ended with a CP3 win, pushing the North Carolina based squad into the semifinals.

First for CP3, it was the play of 2014 three-star point guard JaQuel Richmond and 2013 combo guard Sam Hunt that made the noise. Richmond played with a maturity beyond his years as he knocked in several key shots in the lane in overtime, while finishing with 17 points in the win. Hunt paced his team, which led early and never let E1T1 get over the top during its comeback attempt. He calmly ran the show and didn't hesitate to step up and hit a pair of huge shots, while finishing with 14 points. E1T1 might not have gotten the win, but four-star 2014 point guard Joel Berry and Douglas Brooks did more than impress college coaches. Berry is an elusive point guard who can get to the rim and is fearless in knocking down clutch shots. Berry finished with 22 points, a game high. Brooks is a streaky shooter with confidence who can get hot in a hurry, which he proved by knocking down three second-half 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points. Overall, the game came down to which way the ball bounced, but the guards gave college coaches, fans, and Rivals.com quite a thrill in the most exciting of the four semifinal games.

PRESENCE KNOWN

2014 five-star small forward Justise Winslow is not only one of the top talents in his class, he's also one of the most entertaining players. The powerful 6-foot-5 wing, who can play inside or outside, is an insane athlete who plays with a high motor on the court. A tough competitor, Winslow made several key plays on both ends in leading his Houston Hoops squad to an overtime victory in a must-win game over the Chris Paul All-Stars. His quick leaping ability makes him a sneaky shotblocker, excellent rebounder, and a talented scorer who can fill it up around the rim. Winslow's ball skills are continuing to come around on the offensive end. He showed an improved handle and the ability to knock down the mid-range pull-up in the win. The No. 8 player in the Rivals150, Winslow is one of those guys who might not have a pure position on the court, but can flat out get results for his team.

HART OF THE TEAM

Josh Hart has been regarded by the Rivals staff as one of the best scorers in the 2013 class for a long time with his athletic slashing ability and creativity around the basket. Over the course of the Peach Jam, the 6-foot-5 small forward, ranked No. 85 in the Rivals150, showed college coaches that he can shoot the basketball as well. On Saturday morning in a blowout win over All Ohio Red, the Team Takeover wing knocked down 4 of 5 from 3-point range en route to a team-high 16 points. Playing alongside massive low-post scorer Beejay Anya, Hart has a nice understanding of offensive spacing and is able to position himself for isolation opportunities, from where he is extremely tough to guard. A versatile prospect who can play guard or forward, Hart will be heavily coveted by high majors as a scoring guard with a swagger and competitive streak.

MIGHTY MITE

Though he might be undersized compared to the typical Nike EYBL point guard, 5-foot-8 four-star Tyler Ulis is capable of more than holding his own against even the strongest competition. A Chicago resident who plays with Meanstreets, Ulis is a calm and smooth lead guard who sees plays before they happen. He's a pass-first point man who big schools will regret passing on, because he has the unteachable skill of making his teammates better. As a pesky defender, good 3-point shooter, and a student of the game, Ulis brings the full package to the point guard position and is extremely efficient, considering he is playing up against older competition.

TORCHING THE NETS

The No. 5 prospect in the Rivals100 for the class of 2014, 6-foot-1 point guard Tyus Jones is best used as a distributing guard who can break down a defense to set up his teammates. However, with teams playing tight defense on his Howard Pulley Panthers teammates, Jones took over a scoring role. In a quarterfinal appearance against the Oakland Soldiers, Jones shot an efficient 9-for-14 from the field en route to 28 points. The five-star guard can get to the mid-range area and pull up to score, is dangerous in transition, and is confident attacking the basket to draw a foul. Jones might have also attracted the largest crew of college coaches on Saturday as North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota, and dozens of other high majors checked him out.

WON'T BE DENIED

Kennedy Meeks is that throwback type of low-post scorer who colleges just love to recruit. What makes the 6-foot-9 four-star even more appealing is his competitive demeanor, which he carries with him every time out on the court. Meeks, who runs with Team United, is extremely skilled for a near 300-pound center, and does a nice job of quickly turning to make a strong move in the post. Meeks can also step out and shoot the ball, passes it well, and grabs every rebound that comes in his area. The No. 67 prospect in the Rivals150 for his 2013 class, Meeks is steadily improving his conditioning.

RUNNING THE SHOW

Even though he is a five-star prospect, point guard Tyler Ennis often gets overlooked by playing with fellow superstars Andrew Wiggins and Xavier Rathan-Mayes with CIA Bounce. Saturday night in a semifinal win over Team United, Ennis was at his best in scoring 20 points and dishing out four assists. Ennis is a smooth-handling guard who can get by his man off the dribble, and is one of the most acrobatic finishers on the circuit. With a passion for the defensive end, a reliable long-range jumper, and a good understanding of offensive tempo, the 6-foot-2 point man projects as an excellent college prospect.



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