NORTH AUGUSTA, Ga. – The comparisons were inevitable. Suddenly North America has a new prep basketball messiah.
But even the latest sensation from the prep hardwood, no less a Canadian, could not deliver his team to the Promised Land on Sunday at the Riverview Park Activities Center.
Andrew Wiggins of the CIA Bounce, the 6-foot-8 rising junior from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep via Windsor, Ontario (across the river/border from Detroit, Mich.), produced a monster game in the 17U final of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. Wiggins had 23 points, nine rebounds and three blocks but the balanced Oakland Soldiers prevailed, 51-50.
In the end, the California club soldiered through a late CIA run that made it 50-47 late. Wiggins committed a costly foul with 1.9 seconds left and Jabari Bird dropped in two of three free throws to give the 8-0 Soldiers the coveted championship.
Wiggins, with a superlative effort throughout the tournament, may have emerged as the nation’s top player. He’s undoubtedly the top recruit in the Class of 2014. With senior Jabari Parker of Chicago hobbled by a foot injury and unable to play on the circuit, it was Wiggins’ time to shine.
Several notable evaluators were quick to say he’s approaching the level of LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the game’s next great player.
We’ll reserve judgment but after a stretch of eight games, where carried his team, Wiggins is in the conversation. He’s one sinewy bundle of talent and kinetic energy that is a must-see recruit.
CIA’s Tyler Ennis (nine points) and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (five) – a pair of surefire high major recruits – were subpar. Wiggins accounted for 46% of the offense.
Aaron Gordon (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Stanley Johnson (15 points, six rebounds) combined for 31 points and 21 boards while Bird added nine points.
The Soldiers trailed, 27-18, at halftime and withstood a 21-5 tear by CIA to pull it out in the waning seconds.
There were six games played in the quarterfinals and semis before the climatic finish to the 17U EYBL final. Here’s a look at a few.
Missouri State-bound guard Austin Ruder of Nixa (Mo.) clicked for 18 points, canning 4 of 9 three-pointers, but MoKan (Kansas City, Mo.) lost to CIA, 81-67, in the semifinals. Tyler Ennis scored 22 points for the winners and Andrew Wiggins had 23 points and six rebounds.
Greg McClinton, a hard-working forward for CP3 (Winston-Salem, N.C.) had 16 points and eight rebounds but the Oakland Soldiers won, 55-53, in the other semifinal game. Theo Pinson was limited to nine points in the loss.
Semi Ojeleye, a 6-7 forward from Ottawa (Kan.) scored 33 points (on 10 of 16 shooting), grabbed eight rebounds and drained four three-pointers as MoKan outlasted The Family (Detroit), 81-77, in the quarterfinals. Elbert Matthews scored 23 points for the Michigan club.
Tyus Smith of Apple Valley (Minn.) had game-high 28 points for Howard Pulley but the Oakland Soldiers won, 58-56. Jabari Bird provided 19 points in victory.
JaQuel Richmond had 17 points, including a trio of three-pointers, as CP3 eliminated E1T1, 86-80. Joel Berry scored 22 points for E1T1.
In the 16U championship, King McClure came off the bench to drop in 26 points. Lifting Team Texas Titans over Southern Stampede, 66-65. McClure added five steals and four rebounds and made 9 of 10 free throws. McClure, a 6-3 rising sophomore from Triple A Academy (Dallas, Texas), is being recruited by schools such as North Carolina, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas and Kentucky.
Ahmed Hill of Aquinas (Augusta, Ga.) scored 18 points for the Stampede. Hill is a 6-4 rising junior wing guard from a local Catholic high school and has several SEC, Big East and ACC schools sniffing. Both instate schools Georgia and Georgia Tech have offered.
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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