NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – The anticipation is the hardest part at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
After three months of competition, four regional stops and accruing frequent flier mileages, it comes down to five pool games for the 24 teams in the wildly competitive 17U bracket final at the Riverview Park Activities Center.
After competing this spring at four regional stops – Minneapolis, Dallas, Hampton (Va.) and Oakland (Calif.) – the two dozen teams tip off pool play Thursday morning.
Several blue-chip players from the classes of 2013 and ’14, who earlier this month were scattered around the nation at Nike events Global Challenge, LeBron James Skills Academy and Skills U, will highlight the rosters. Twenty teams received automatic bids, with four qualifying as wild cards.
The EYBL finals are a second chance for some, vindication for others and the coronation for one on Sunday when the 17U championship is contested Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT.
Pool play opens Thursday at 9 a.m. with four games (on four courts) and continues until Saturday when eight teams advance to the quarterfinals. The semifinals are Sunday morning at 9 and 10:30, the final follows at 3 p.m. The 16U final is Sunday at 1 p.m.
In Pool C, CIA Bounce, a team from Toronto, Ontario, touts the top player from the Class 2014, 6-foot-8 forward Andrew Wiggins., who plays at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. CIA went 17-3 during the qualifying stages and is the favorite to win it all. Also watch California Supreme, Team United (N.C.), Mean Streets, All Ohio Red, Houston Hoops and Team Texas Titans. Team Takeover (D.C.) may have finished 12-8 in the qualifiers but are at full strength.
Here’s a look at the four pools, key games and elite players that make the EYBL the nation’s finest club championship.
Teams: California Supreme, Houston Hoops, CP3 All-Stars, MoKan Elite, Bluff City Legends, Arkansas Wings; Friday, California Supreme vs. Houston Hoops, 7:30 p.m.
Watch List: Dayshawn Watkins (Wings); Nick King (Bluff City Legends); Nigel Williams-Goss (California Supreme); Parker Jackson-Cartwright (California Supreme); Jordan Matthews (California Supreme); Theo Pinson (CP3); Justise Winslow (Houston Hoops); Derrick Griffin (Houston Hoops); Anthony Barber (Boo Williams); Troy Williams (Boo Williams); Jabari Bird (Oakland Soldiers); Stanley Johnson (Oakland Soldiers).
Must-see games: Thursday, CP3 All-Stars vs. Arkansas Wings, 9 a.m.; Friday, Houston Hoops vs. Arkansas Wings, 9 a.m.
Teams: Indy Spiece, Team United, Oakland Soldiers, Boo Williams, Team Final, N.J. Playaz.
Watch List: Sindarius Thornwell (Team United); Rondae Jefferson (Team Final); Jaren Sina (Team Final); Bryson Scott (Spiece); Trevon Blueitt (Indy Spiece); Trey Lyles (Indy Spiece); Reggie Cameron (Playaz); Michael Young (Playaz); Shane Rector (Playaz);
Must-see games: Thursday, Oakland Soldiers vs. Playaz, 9 a.m.; Spiece vs. Boo Williams, 10:30; Friday, Boo Williams vs. Team Final, 10:30 a.m.; Saturday, Spiece vs. Team Final, 9 a.m.; Saturday, Boo Williams vs. Playaz, noon.
Teams: CIA Bounce, Team Texas Titans, Mac Irvin Fire, BABC, Wisconsin Playground, Howard Pulley.
Watch List: Wayne Selden (BABC); Rene Castro (BABC); Duane Wilson, Jr. (Wisconsin Playground); Julius Randle (Team Texas Titans); Matthew Jones (Team Texas Titans); Andrew Wiggins (CIA); Tyler Ennis (CIA); Xavier Rathan-Mayes (CIA); Tyus Jones (Howard Pulley); Jahlil Okafor (Mac Irvin Fire); Billy Garrett, Jr. (Mac Irvin Fire).
Must-see games: Thursday, Howard Pulley vs. Mac Irvin Fire, 9 a.m.; CIA vs. BABC, 10:30; Friday, BABC vs. Mac Irvin Fire, 9 p.m.
Teams: Mean Streets, All Ohio Red, Team Takeover, Baltimore Elite, The Family, Each One Teach One (E1T1).
Watch List: Beejay Anya (Team Takeover); Stanford Robinson (Team Takeover); Marc Loving (All Ohio Red); Nigel Hayes (All Ohio Red); Joel Berry (E1T1); Kendrick Nunn (Mean Streets); Kameron Williams (Baltimore Elite).
Must-see games: Thursday, Mean Streets vs. E1T1, 6 p.m.; Baltimore Elite vs. All Ohio Red, 7:30; Friday, All Ohio Red vs. E1T1, 10:30 a.m.; Mean Streets vs. Team Takeover, noon; Saturday, Team Takeover vs. All Ohio Red, 10:30 a.m.
Christopher Lawlor is a Senior Writer for Blue Media and compiles the Blue Star Go-To 25 national boys and girls high school basketball rankings during the season. Lawlor, an award-winning writer, is a voting committee member and advisor for several national high school events, including the McDonald’s All-American Games. He previously wrote for USA TODAY and ESPN.com, where he was the national preps writer, while compiling the national rankings in four sports. He also managed the Gatorade national high school player of the year award program for a decade at Scholastic, Inc.
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