Elite 24 teams, coaches announced

August, 23, 2012
Under Armour Elite 24 alumni Brandon Jennings and Kemba Walker will lead the coaching staffs at this year’s event, which will be held Aug. 24-25 at Venice Beach, Calif.

Jennings, a point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks who dished out an event-record 23 assists in the 2007 game, will team with Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick of the 2011 NBA draft, to lead the “Raymond Lewis” squad. Walker, who made 7-of-8 field goals en route to 16 points in that same 2007 game, will join forces with DeAndre Jordan, who participated in the inaugural event at Harlem’s famed Rucker Park in 2006, to lead the “Marques Johnson” squad.

Teams, in the tradition of the event, are named after Los Angeles playground legends.

Featuring 24 of the nation’s top high school basketball players, Under Armour Elite 24 participants are selected based on their performances during AAU tournaments and national summer camps by ESPN high school basketball experts.

The 2012 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Venice Beach outdoor courts in Los Angeles. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 25, while the Under Armour Slam Dunk Contest will air at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 24 on ESPNU.

Raymond Lewis squad
Head Coach: Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks)
Assistant Coach: Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Marques Johnson squad
Head Coach: Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats)
Assistant Coach: DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)

Join our Under Armour Elite 24 fan page on Facebook and don't forget to follow the event on twitter: @UAElite24

Elite 24: Second dozen players revealed

August, 9, 2012
The final 12 players selected to participate in the seventh annual Under Armour Elite 24 event at California's Venice Beach were announced on Thursday.

Featuring 24 of the nation's top high school basketball players, Under Armour Elite 24 participants are selected based on their performance during AAU tournaments and national summer camps by ESPN high school basketball experts. The first 12 players were announced last week.

The 2012 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Venice Beach Courts in Los Angeles Aug. 24-25. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 25, while the Under Armour Slam Dunk Contest will air Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Aaron Gordon, ranked No. 6 in the ESPN 100, leads the class of 2013 contingent. Also included is Jabari Bird, ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100 and Gordon's teammate on the Oakland Soldiers AAU club. The duo led the Oakland Soldiers to the Nike Peach Jam title last month. The Elite 24 roster includes five of the top 10 players in the ESPN 100.

Tyus Jones, the No. 2-ranked player in the ESPN 60, leads the class of 2014 contingent. Three of the top six players in the ESPN 60 are on the Elite 24 roster.

Five Under Armour Elite 24 players have committed to colleges: Nate Britt II to North Carolina, Aquille Carr to Seton Hall, Nigel Williams-Goss to Washington, and both Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene to Kansas.

Below is the full list of the second 12 players selected to the game. The specific team rosters and dunk contest participants will be announced prior to the event. To view the first dozen players, CLICK HERE.

Join our Under Armour Elite 24 fan page on Facebook and don't forget to follow the event on twitter: @UAElite24

First 12 players revealed for Elite 24

July, 31, 2012

The first 12 players selected to participate in the seventh annual Under Armour Elite 24 event have been announced.

Featuring 24 of the top high school basketball players from across the nation, the Under Armour Elite 24 participants are selected based on their performance during AAU tournaments and national summer camps by ESPN high school basketball experts.

The 2012 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Venice Beach Courts in Los Angeles Aug. 24-25. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 25, while the slam dunk contest will air Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Forward and 2011 event alum Julius Randle, ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100, headlines the list along with first-time participant Andrew Wiggins, ranked No. 1 in the ESPN 60. Randle, of Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) and the Team Texas Titans AAU program, is a top 2012-13 national player of the year candidate. Wiggins, who played at Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) last season and recently led CIA Bounce to the Nike Peach Jam finals, is a native of Canada.

Other event veterans include Nate Britt II, who participates in AAU ball with the D.C. Assault and will spend his senior season at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.); twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison of Travis (Richmond, Texas) and the Houston Defenders AAU club; and Aquille Carr, who preps at Patterson (Baltimore, Md.) and was a standout this summer for B'more Finest.

Britt had six points and two steals for the victorious Marques Johnson club last year. The Harrisons twins combined for 22 points and eight assists for Marques Johnson, while Carr was co-MVP for the Raymond Lewis club with 21 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and an event-record four steals.

The second dozen players, roster of teams and dunk contest participants will be announced in early August.

Join our Under Armour Elite 24 fan page on Facebook and don't forget to follow the event on twitter: @UAElite24

Come take another look.

That’s the advice Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen has for anyone who doubts he possesses the physical tools to be successful at the collegiate level. Despite all he has accomplished on the court during his tenure with the Decatur, Ga., powerhouse, the diminutive floor general’s name rarely comes up in the discussion of the nation’s premier point guards.

“I think they’re missing out. They’re going off potential and what they think we’re going to do,” says Shamsid-Deen, who is the 67th-ranked PG in the class of 2013 according to the ESPN 100 rankers. “I really don’t play for a ranking, but I know what I can do and what I can do against [other highly touted] guards.”

His accomplishments certainly create a compelling case for the 5-foot-9 guard.

In three seasons running the show at Columbia, Shamsid-Deen has averaged a double-double while orchestrating a three-peat at state and three consecutive finishes in the POWERADE FAB 50. Shamsid-Deen is blessed with an uncanny ability to finish at the rim that belies his small stature and a cunning acumen on both ends, and there aren’t many ballers in the nation as indispensable to their squads as he is. And even fewer who can match his stacked resume.

Still, the rising senior is an outsider in the ESPNU 100, and before garnering interest from UConn and Stanford in recent months he had only a handful of offers, from the likes of Butler, Auburn and Northwestern.

“A lot of teams are afraid of his height,” says Columbia assistant coach Clint McCray. “He’s playing like he has a point to prove. The kid’s had an uphill battle since he got here.”

That battle began with trying to convince his teammates he was actually a varsity player.

“I thought he was a little kid,” laughs Jarmal Reid, a former Columbia forward who will play for Oregon State this upcoming season. “I said, ‘Ain’t he in middle school or something?’ When he got on the court, though, he just tore it up.”

It didn’t take long for Shamsid-Deen to turn his teammates from skeptics to believers. And he did it against one of the state’s biggest squads in Miller Grove, which featured multiple future Division I prospects in its frontcourt. While no one remembers his exact stat line, everyone agrees the bite-sized freshman was among the standouts on the floor that day.

“I was surprised at the maturity level he played with,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “He’s been a general since Day 1. He has a very high basketball IQ and the right kind of savvy and spunk. If he was 6-5, he would be the best player in the state.”

That day was all the coaching staff needed to see before anointing Shamsid-Deen the team’s starter at the point. From there, it became apparent that Columbia would be a team to be reckoned with. Over the next three seasons, the Eagles went 89-9 with three consecutive Class AAA crowns. Shamsid-Deen wrapped up the 2011-12 campaign averaging 15 points and 10 dimes a contest, and pumped in a game-high 19 points in the final.

Shamsid-Deen sports championship rings on three fingers, but he’s still getting the cold shoulder from some around the nation. The NBA Top 100 Camp selection committee shunned him for its prestigious event, and he finds himself ranked in the bottom half of the nation's top 100 floor generals by ESPN.

Such is the plight of an undersized player in a recruiting world where the words "height" and "length" have become as germane to today’s game as the set shot was in the infancy of the sport.

“What you lack in size and height can get you exposed on defense at times,” says Paul Biancardi, ESPN's national director of recruiting, who has not evaluated Shamsid-Deen but helped recruit mini mite Scoonie Penn while coaching at Boston College. “The No. 1 criteria is being able to make open shots and break pressure. You can't let your lack of height be a factor in the game.”

The ESPN 100 features two such sub-6-footers in 5-10 sharpshooting SG Stevie Clark and 5-7 YouTube phenom Aquille Carr. Shamsid-Deen is hoping another big season will help him garner some recognition alongside the nation’s top backcourt stars.

“The other guards in our class are like 6-2, 6-3,” says Shamsid-Deen. “Smaller guards are dominating this summer, too. It just gives me more motivation. I’m a winner. I go out and play hard every night. If the respect is not there, I’ll just have to get it in college.”

Shamsid-Deen could gain more attention this summer playing for the Southern Stampede AAU squad and has targeted this fall to announce his commitment. In addition to his previously mentioned suitors, Ivy League schools could also be in play as Shamsid-Deen boasts a 3.9 GPA and is on pace to become valedictorian of his class. Wherever he lands, Reid is predicting his former point guard and close friend will send reverberations throughout the college hoops world -- much like he’s done in his Columbia career.

“Some people around Georgia say he’s overrated, some say he’s the best to come out of Columbia,” says Reid. “He’s somebody to be reckoned with, and he’s going to take everyone by storm. He’s going to make a lot of teams pay once he gets to college.”
Goodluck Okonoboh is in a tough spot.

The 6-foot-9 center is getting ready for his senior year at the Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), and college offers are rolling in for the athletic big man. But it's not all good news for Okonoboh.

That's because no one wants to be "The Replacement."

In all of sports, it might the worst situation in which to find yourself: replacing a departed superstar. Especially at the high school level, where a dominant player can graduate, take his game to a Division I college and leave a huge hole in the lineup.

[+] EnlargeNerlens Noel
J.Anthony Roberts/ESPNHS.comIt will be a challenge replacing Nerlens Noel, pictured, at Tilton, but Goodluck Okonoboh is up for it.
Unfortunately for Okonoboh, that's exactly where he is right now. With former Tilton School star Nerlens Noel having graduated and heading to Kentucky, Okonoboh will step into the void next season, and he'll be tasked with replacing much of Noel's defensive presence, rebounding, shot-blocking and leadership.

Noel was the No. 1 player in the Class of 2012, so Okonoboh has some huge shoes to fill.

"I think I'm ready," Okonoboh said. "I learned a lot from Nerlens, and I give him credit for a lot of the things he has taught me. I think during the high school season I'm going to be a different player, and I'm going to open a lot of people's eyes."

Okonoboh is considered more raw than his predecessor was at this stage in his career, but it will be hard to stop people from holding Okonoboh up to the standard set by Noel. The comparisons are too easy: same school, same position, same style of play, same elite athleticism -- they even sport a similar high-top hairstyle.

Okonoboh has the talent to get the job done. He started in the frontcourt alongside Noel last year and put up solid numbers, and his defense was especially impressive. Schools like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Gonzaga have already offered, and he's ranked as the No. 11 center in the Class of 2013 by ESPN. Luckily for Okonoboh, he got to learn from Noel, one of the greatest shot-blockers in high school history, before trying to replace him.

"He taught me that, like anything else, you've got to work at it," said Okonoboh. "Blocking shots is an art form. It's not just about being big -- it's about timing. Nerlens has great timing, and I've been working on it."

Okonoboh also plays for the same AAU team that Noel did, and this summer he's performed well as the top big man on Boston-based BABC, averaging 3.0 blocks per game.

That should give him some experience in playing outside of Noel's shadow, but it still won't be easy next year. It's never easy being "The Replacement."

Who’s got next?

Here’s a look at five other big-name ballers with big shoes to fill this upcoming season:

Rashad Muhammad replacing Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2 in Class of 2012)
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Perhaps no player will be under the microscope as much as Rashad, who is tasked with stepping in for his older brother and last year’s Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year in Gorman’s lineup. Rashad, an unranked 6-foot-5 junior wing, is a talented playmaker and rebounder and has interest from the likes of Maryland, USC and UNLV.

Karviar Shepherd replacing Isaiah Austin (No. 3)
Grace Prep Academy (Dallas)
Shepherd could very well join Austin at Baylor during the 2013 season, but for now, he’ll take a shot at replacing the standout 7-footer in the middle of the Lions’ lineup. Shepherd (No. 29 in the ESPN 100) is a physical presence in the middle with his 6-foot-9 and 215-pound frame, and he will use every bit of that size to alter shots and keep opponents off the offensive glass. While he lacks the refined offensive game Austin hung his hat on at Prep, Shepherd is a capable finisher and will form a nice 1-2 frontcourt tandem along with classmate Jordan Mickey.

Hallice Cooke and Josh Brown replacing Kyle Anderson (No. 5)
St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
It just might take two players to replace the all-around play Anderson wowed spectators with every time he stepped on the floor for this storied program. St. Anthony’s hasn’t lost a contest in either of the past two seasons and won a national title in 2011 with Anderson running the show. Cooke is a 6-foot-3 off guard with a deft touch from the outside, while Brown is another dangerous perimeter threat and holds offers from Gonzaga, UVA and Temple, among others.

Ishmail Wainright replacing Justin Anderson (No. 49)
Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)
Don’t expect much of a drop off in production at the 3 spot this winter as Wainright and Anderson are similarly built forwards who could take over a contest with their athleticism and basketball smarts. Anderson averaged 18 points with 5.7 helpers last season to guide Montrose to a top-15 national ranking. Wainright, the No. 18 player in the rising senior class, should enjoy a spike in production after posting 8.0 points, 8.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds a contest as a junior.

Big night for UA Elite 24 alumni

June, 29, 2012
Four of top eight picks in 2012 NBA Draft are event alumni, including No. 3 pick Bradley Beal

Now in its seventh year, the Under Armour Elite 24 has established itself as a premier high school basketball event where players not only battle for bragging rights and streetball nicknames, but use the event's platform as a springboard to the highest level of the game.

Bradley Beal, an athletic shooting guard from Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) who starred for one season at the University of Florida, was the highest draft pick among event alumni Thursday night. Selected No. 3 overall by the Washington Wizards, the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year becomes the fifth top three NBA Draft pick who played in a previous Under Armour Elite 24 game.

Nine former Under Armour Elite 24 participants were chosen in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, breaking the previous record of eight set in 2011.

Two former high school teammates who played in the event went in the first round: Terrence Ross (No. 8) and Terrence Jones (No. 18). The duo led Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) to the 2008 Class 5A state title. The next season, Ross transferred to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) while Jones eventually led Jefferson to three consecutive state titles.

Ten players who participated in the 2009 game in the Bronx, N.Y., were drafted Thursday night. Originally slated for world-famous Rucker Park in Harlem, inclement weather forced the game indoors to the famed Gauchos' Gym.

For the third consecutive year, the Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Venice Beach Courts in Southern California. The game is scheduled to tip-off Aug. 25 on ESPNU (7pm ET). A slam dunk contest, also on ESPNU, precedes it Aug. 24 (7pm ET).

History shows there's a good chance a handful of players wowing the Venice Boardwalk crowd later this summer will one day be lottery picks.

ELITE 24 Alumni Drafted to the NBA

Draft No. -- Name (Elite 24), NBA Team (Year Drafted)*

No. 1 -- Kyrie Irving (2009), Cleveland Cavaliers (2011)
No. 1 -- John Wall (2008), Washington Wizards (2010)
No. 2 -- Michael Beasley (2006), Miami Heat (2008)
No. 3 -- Bradley Beal (2010), Washington Wizards (2012)
No. 3 -- Derrick Favors (2008), New Jersey Nets (2010)
No. 4 -- Dion Waiters (2009), Cleveland Cavaliers (2012)
No. 4 -- Tristan Thompson (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2011)
No. 4 -- Tyreke Evans (2006-07), Sacramento Kings (2009)
No. 5 -- Kevin Love (2006), Memphis Grizzlies (2008)
No. 7 -- Harrison Barnes (2009), Golden State Warriors (2012)
No. 8 -- Terrence Ross (2009), Washington Wizards (2012)
No. 8 -- Brandon Knight (2008), Detroit Pistons (2011)
No. 9 -- Kemba Walker (2007), Charlotte Bobcats (2011)
No. 9 -- DeMar DeRozan (2007), Toronto Raptors (2009)
No. 10 -- Austin Rivers (2009-10), New Orleans Hornets (2012)
No. 10 -- Brandon Jennings (2006-07), Milwaukee Bucks (2009)
No. 11 -- Cole Aldrich (2006), New Orleans Hornets (2010)
No. 11 -- Jerryd Bayless (2006), Indiana Pacers (2008)
No. 12 -- Xavier Henry (2007-08), Memphis Grizzlies (2010)
No. 13 -- Kendall Marshall (2009), Phoenix Suns (2012)
No. 13 -- Ed Davis (2007), Toronto Raptors (2010)
No. 14 -- Anthony Randolph (2006), Golden State Warriors (2008)
No. 16 -- Luke Babbitt (2007), Minnesota Timberwolves (2010)
No. 17 -- Jrue Holiday (2007), Philadelphia 76ers (2009)
No. 18 -- Terrence Jones (2009), Houston Rockets (2012)
No. 19 -- Tobias Harris (2009), Charlotte Bobcats (2011)
No. 19 -- J.J. Hickson (2006), Cleveland Cavaliers (2008)
No. 21 -- Jared Sullinger (2009), Boston Celtics (2012)
No. 21 -- Nolan Smith (2006), Portland Trailblazers (2011)
No. 24 -- B.J. Mullens (2007), Dallas Mavericks (2009)
No. 25 -- Tony Wroten Jr. (2008-09), Memphis Grizzlies (2012)
No. 26 -- Jordan Hamilton (2008), Dallas Mavericks (2011)
No. 28 -- Donte Greene (2006), Memphis Grizzlies (2008)
No. 29 -- Cory Joseph (2009), San Antonio Spurs (2011)
No. 33 -- Kyle Singler (2006), Detroit Pistons (2011)
No. 35 -- DeAndre Jordan (2006), L.A. Clippers (2008)
No. 37 -- Trey Thompkins (2007), L.A. Clippers (2011)
No. 38 -- Quincy Miller (2010), Denver Nuggets (2012)
No. 39 -- Jeremy Tyler (2008), Charlotte Bobcats (2011)
No. 40 -- Will Barton (2009), Portland Trail Blazers (2012)
No. 40 -- Lance Stephenson (2006-08), Indiana Pacers (2010)
No. 42 -- Doron Lamb (2008-09), Milwaukee Bucks (2012)
No. 43 -- Devin Ebanks (2007-08), L.A. Lakers (2010)
No. 49 -- Josh Selby (2009), Memphis Grizzlies (2011)

*Players in bold drafted this year

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

2012 Under Armour Elite 24 announced

June, 26, 2012
The seventh annual Under Armour Elite 24 will be held in Los Angeles at the Venice Beach outdoor courts Aug. 25 and will be televised live on ESPNU (7 p.m. ET). The event also will showcase a slam dunk contest on Aug. 24 (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET).

Featuring 24 of the nation’s best high school players, the Under Armour Elite 24 was held at the famed Rucker Park in Harlem its first four years. Since 2010 it has been held in Los Angeles and will return to Venice Beach for the third consecutive year.

Last year before an overflow crowd of more than 2,500, the Marques Johnson Squad defeated the Raymond Lewis Squad 142-132. Each squad, in the tradition of the event, are named after local playground legends.

Marques Johnson team MVPs were UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), who finished with 18 points and eight assists, and Virginia recruit Justin Anderson of Montrose Christian (Portland, Ore.), who finished with 23 points.

Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), also headed to UCLA, and Aquille Carr of Patterson (Baltimore, Md.) were named MVPs of the Ray Lew team.

Rosters for the 2012 event will be announced at a later date.

Prominent alumni through the event's first six years include NBA All-Star Kevin Love (Timberwolves), 2010 No. 1 NBA Draft pick John Wall (Wizards) and 2011 NCAA Final Four MOP Kemba Walker (Connecticut). Two Under Armour Elite 24 alumni were named NBA Rookie of the Year -- 2010 honoree Tyreke Evans (Kings) and 2012 honoree Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), the No. 1 pick in last year's NBA Draft.

Alumni Bradley Beal (Florida), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Austin Rivers (Duke) and Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) are expected to be high picks in this year's NBA Draft.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

U17 national team announced

June, 19, 2012
Following seven rigorous U17 national team training sessions, USA Basketball announced its 12-man roster that will train through June 20 in preparation for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.

The event takes place June 29 through July 8 in Kaunas, Lithuania. The USA U17 team opens the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship against Australia. The top four teams in each group will advance to the medal round quarterfinals on July 6 with the championship set for July 8.

The following is the official 12-man 2012 USA Men's U17 World Championship Team:

Beejay Anya, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 2013
Joel Berry, Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.) 2014
Stephen Domingo, Saint Ignatius (San Francisco, Calif.) 2013
Conner Frankamp, Wichita North (Wichita, Kan.) 2013
Dakari Johnson, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 2014
Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 2014
Tyus Jones, Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) 2014
Kendrick Nunn, Simeon (Chicago) 2013
Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago) 2014
Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago) 2013
Johnathan Williams III, Southwind (Memphis, Tenn.) 2013
Justise Winslow, St. John's (Houston) 2014

The USA Basketball Men's U17 National Team is coached by Don Showalter of Mid-Prairie (Wellman, Iowa).

The team includes two high school teammates, Nunn and Parker. Last season the duo led Simeon to a 32-1 record and No. 6 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50. The team includes six players ranked in the 2013 ESPN 100 and six ranked in the 2014 ESPN 60, including Okafor (No. 2) and Jones (No. 3).

Team USA captured the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship in 2010. Former Florida guard Bradley Beal, the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, was named tournament MVP as team USA won the Gold Medal with a 8-0 record.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
video Wayne Selden recently reclassified from the Class of 2014 to the Class of 2013, but that doesn’t mean the Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.) shooting guard is in a hurry.

A week after starting the process of joining the senior class of 2013, Selden’s college recruitment is still wide open.

“I’m still weighing my options,” Selden said. “Nothing is close to definite yet.”

An athletic 6-foot-5 slasher, Selden is ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100, and he has no shortage of early suitors.

He lists Florida, UCLA, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio State among the schools that have been recruiting him hardest so far, but he’s not close to trimming them to a final list.

“I’m going to form a list by the end of the summer,” he said. “Those schools are recruiting me hard, but I want to look at everything.”

Selden says he’s putting an emphasis on the programs and coaches that would best foster his game.

“Whether it’s a run-and-gun or a slower pace, I want to be able to develop in the system,” Selden said.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@MGrimalaESPN).
Jahlil Okafor is in the middle of the busiest summer of his life. In addition to criss-crossing the country while playing for one of the nation's elite AAU teams, he's currently in Colorado trying out for the USA Basketball U17 National Team.

With such a stuffed schedule, it's understandable that Okafor is putting his college plans on the back burner for now.

"I'm just listening to everyone," said Okafor. "There's a lot of other things going on right now, so I'm taking my time. I haven't cut down my list yet."

The Class of 2014 center is in high demand. Ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 60, Okafor has the size, the hands and the footwork to be a dominant big man, and his gift for scoring in the post is rare for a player his age. He'll find out on Tuesday whether he makes the final cut for the U17 team, but you have to like his chances.

Last year, the 6-foot-9 Okafor played for the U16 team and averaged 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during the 2011 FIBA Americas Championships, shooting an incredible 71 percent from the field to help Team USA win gold.

The leading scorer on that U16 squad was fellow Chicago native Jabari Parker, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013 and the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year. Okafor and Parker both play for the same AAU team, and they'll both likely make the final cut for the U17 team.

Okafor says he talks recruiting with Parker, who can relate to being a top uncommitted prospect. Parker has said he will decide on a college before the start of his senior season.

"Jabari gives me advice," said Okafor. "He tells me what to expect, just the things that he's going through now and how it's going to be for me."

Okafor is still in the early stages of his decision process, but there are a few things he's looking for as he zeroes in on prospective colleges.

"I definitely want to play for a school that throws the ball in the post," he said. "I like playing in the post, so a system that plays to my strengths is important. My decision will also involve the players around me. I want good players around me, because it's all about winning."

Okafor already has offers from schools like Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Arizona and UConn.

Summer Schooled: D.C. Assault

June, 14, 2012
Nate BrittKelly KlineD.C. Assault is in good hands with Nate Britt running the show at the point.
Each week this summer leading up to the AAU National Championships in Orlando in July, ESPNHS will profile one of the nation's top AAU teams and tell you why you should be paying attention.

Team: D.C. Assault
Location: Washington, D.C.
Coach: Eddie Jordan

What you need to know about D.C. Assault:

If you ever get out to a D.C. Assault practice, make sure to keep an eye out for the front entrance.

Frequent visitors and program alums Michael Beasley, Nolan Smith, Quinn Cook, Keith Bogans or Tyler Thornton could come strolling through the gym for an impromptu pick-up game with the current members -- you know, just to make sure the young guns are ready to rep the squad the right way.

“They school us on how to be a great team,” says forward Kris Jenkins, the No. 46 player in the ESPN 100. “We are on the outside looking in and they are where we want to eventually be.”

Since its inception, Assault has landed nine of its ballers in the McDonald’s All-American Game and spawned the career of a multitude of collegiate and NBA stars. The program’s stellar player development puts Assault in exclusive company nationally, as does its new head coach, Eddie Jordan. The former Washington Wizards coach, who recorded more than 250 wins in the Association, is in his first year at the helm of the Under Amour-sponsored squad and is hoping to orchestrate a championship campaign with the loaded U-17 Gold squad. He has quickly instilled an NBA-like work ethic in his players with a strong emphasis on defense.

“Our identity is to really get after you,” says Jordan. “All of our guys defend. We like to run out and play in the open floor.

“We don’t take haphazard shots; we are very selective. We’re very cerebral and share the ball. You help your teammates first and then help yourself.”

Jordan inherited an extremely talented roster, with ESPN 100 members Nate Britt and Jenkins as the main headliners. Add in microwave scorer Nigel Johnson, post bruiser Junior Etou and versatile wing Ahmad Fields, and Jordan features a destructive lineup likely to spark barbershop discussions on where it ranks amongst Assault’s all-time great squads.

“It’s really about the way we choose our team,” says Jordan. “(Co-founder) Curtis Malone and his staff chose the right kind of people. They’re good players but they’re also good people.”

Jordan guided Assault to the title at the Real Deal in the Rock in Arkansas, taking down a Houston Defenders team that features a pair of top-10 guards in highly touted twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison in the finals. Assault also advanced to the final four in two other tourneys, giving Jordan high hopes for the upcoming July schedule.

“It hurts when they lose, because they want to be the best,” says Jordan.

Key Players:

Nate Britt: Britt has the makeup of an elite point guard, displaying a knack for penetrating defenses to score or to create easy looks for teammates. The UNC commit is rated the No. 22 player (No. 3 PG) in the ESPN 100 and has proved to be a valuable leader playing at Gonzaga the past two years. Britt, a smooth stroking lefty and a flytrap defender, qualified for the USA Men's U18 national team earlier this week.

Kris Jenkins: The 6-foot-6 Jenkins is an undersized power forward for Gonzaga during the high school season, but he will play the 3 in Jordan’s offense. He is a versatile inside-outside threat and has the tools (perimeter shooting and ability to attack the cup) to excel in the 1-3 pick-and-roll sets along with Britt.

Nigel Johnson: This dynamic, Virginia-bred guard turned heads in February when he dropped a double-nickel during a regular season contest. “He’s just an assassin, and he reminds me of Gilbert Arenas,” says Jordan.

Junior Etou: A rugged, defensive-minded post, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Etou provides the squad with toughness on the interior and a strong presence on the boards. He holds offers from Kansas State, Maryland and West Virginia, among others.

Key Dates:

Under Armour Summer Jam in Milwaukee, Wisc. on July 18-22
Fab 48 in Las Vegas, Nev. On July 26-29

Player Breakdown:

We caught up with Jenkins to get his take on what he feels year’s squad can accomplish and how it can maintain the club’s rich pedigree.

“This is a team that’s going to play hard and give all we got and hopefully win a national tournament,” says Jenkins. “If we don’t win, we need to walk away with our heads high and know the ball just didn’t bounce our way.

“It would mean a lot (to win a national title) and go down in history as a D.C. team that won a national championship. It’s something this team is always working toward.”

Famous Alums:

Beasley (Minnesota Timberwolves forward)
Bogans (Chicago Bulls NBA guard)
Smith (Portland Trailblazers guard)
NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco 49ers LB)

Quick Shots: HS Olympic history

June, 13, 2012
With the roster set for the 2012 USA Men's U18 national team and tryouts happening for the U17 unit this week, now is a perfect time to take an inside look at the relationship between USA Basketball and high school players.

High school players have a rich history of contributing to American success in international basketball competition. The contributions have primarily occurred since 1979 when the International Basketball Federation FIBA introduced its Junior World Championships. That year, a relatively unheralded high school junior named Sam Perkins of Shaker (Latham, N.Y.) helped the United States finish 8-0 and capture the gold medal in the inaugural U19 event in Salvador, Brazil, by averaging 10 points per game.

FIBA introduced the Junior World Championship qualifier in 1990 and in 2005 changed the names of its aged-based world championships to clearly indicate age requirements. Today, USA Basketball commits to national developmental teams down to U16 to prepare future USA Senior Men’s National teams for Pan American, World Championship and Olympic competition.

Preps at Olympic trials

Since FIBA changed its rules in 1989 to allow NBA players to compete, the dream of an American high school player earning a spot on a USA Senior Men’s National team has become far-fetched. It takes a high school player with special ability to be able to compete at that level, much less make a 12-man roster.

Before the Dream Team, the first U.S. Olympic team to feature NBA players, came along in 1992, USA Basketball held tryouts for the six Olympic Games between 1968 and 1988. In that period, seven high school standouts were given a shot at Olympic glory.

In 1968, 6-foot-5 Ralph Simpson of Pershing (Detroit) turned down an invitation. Ironically, 19-year old Spencer Haywood of Trinidad State Junior College, his former high school teammate at Pershing, led team USA to Olympic gold in Mexico City.

No high school players were among the 66 invitees in 1972, but in 1976 Darrell Griffith of Male (Louisville, Ky.) made a favorable impression. The most athletic guard at the tryouts, the 6-foot-4 jumping jack impressed Olympic coach Dean Smith (North Carolina), but an unfortunate thigh injury suffered during one of the workouts killed any real chance of him making the team.

In 1980, Earl Jones of Spingarn (Washington, D.C.) and Patrick Ewing of Rindge and Latin (Cambridge, Mass.) were the centers of attention. Neither made the cut for a team which didn't compete in Moscow because of a U.S. Olympic boycott. Jones had long been penciled in as a potential '80 Olympian since the Mount Hope, W.Va. native began dominating AAU tournaments as a 6-foot-10 eighth grader. As the only high school junior ever invited, Ewing made a favorable impression while Jones failed to lived up to his press clippings.

Four years later, Ewing (Georgetown) was able to earn an Olympic Gold Medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, while Jones (District of Columbia) wasn't one of the invitees. Guard Delray Brooks of Rogers (Michigan City, Ind.) and forward Danny Manning of Lawrence (Kansas) were among the invitees, but were a bit overwhelmed trying to earn a spot on one of the finest amateur teams ever assembled. The high school duo was among the first wave of cuts.

In 1988, Alonzo Mourning of Indian River (Chesapeake, Va.) joined Griffith and Ewing as ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA honorees to earn an invite. With Morning's future college coach, John Thompson of Georgetown, guiding the '88 Olympic team, the popular thinking was Mourning didn't earn it and was invited to gain experience more than anything else. That proved false, as Mourning's shot-blocking ability and competitiveness made him arguably the most impressive high school player in American Olympic history.

Mourning was Thompson's final cut.

Walton's wild experience

The only prep player ever to make a USA Senior Men’s National Basketball Team experienced crushing defeat.

In 1970, 17-year old Bill Walton was invited by coach Hal Fischer to tryouts for the U.S. team competing in the FIBA World Championships in Yugoslavia. The Helix (La Mesa, Calif.) phenom easily made the team and was one of its most talented players.

It was clear, however, that Walton wasn't going to play much regardless of how well he looked during the tryout or practices. The laid-back Walton didn't take to Fischer's militant coaching style and the team USA mentor actually allowed his bench-warmer to suit up for the host country in one game. The U.S. lost its final three games and did not medal.

Walton later pointed to that incident as making his decision to skip the 1972 Olympic tryouts that much easier.

'Dream Team' viewing

Before he leaves for Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday for USA Basketball's U17 training camp, Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) will watch "The Dream Team," a documentary set to air on NBA TV June 13. Taken primarily from footage shot in Barcelona, Spain, the doc chronicles the experiences of 1992 NCAA college player of the year Christian Laettner and the 11 future NBA Hall of Famers that made up the Dream Team.

The Dream Team, widely credited with popularizing basketball worldwide, won gold by a 43.8-point average margin of victory.

The junior-to-be from Southern California wasn't born yet when Michael Jordan and company made the Olympics more a coronation than a competition. Johnson, however, has strong feelings about the use of NBA players in international competition.

"The Olympics are supposed to be about the best players from each country, so I think it's fair that NBA players compete," Johnson said. "I want to see the best, so why should a college player like Kemba Walker at UConn represent the USA when Chris Paul is out there?"

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
Andrew Harrison and Tyreke EvansKelly Kline and Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesClass of 2013 No. 1 point guard Andrew Harrison likes the comparison to Kings guard Tyreke Evans.
This summer, ESPNHS will sit down with some of the nation's elite players to break down their game, talk about the inevitable comparisons to college and pro players and get their take on who they pattern their game after.

Player: Andrew Harrison
School: Travis (Fort Bend, Texas)
Position: Point Guard
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
ESPN 100: No. 3

Who is Andrew Harrison?

Harrison appears to be cut from the same cloth as the rash of scoring point guards who have popped up in recent years. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is the No. 3 player in the ESPN 100 and the nation’s No. 1 PG. Harrison is a matchup problem for opposing floor generals, and his size, length and tight handle allow him to make a living in the paint. This past winter, he tallied 12.3 points, 6.0 dimes and 4.9 boards a contest during Travis’ run to the Class 5A title game. Harrison, whose twin brother, Aaron, is No. 8 in the Class of 2013, holds offers from a host of hoops heavyweights, with Maryland, Baylor and national champ Kentucky vying for his services. RecruitingNation’s Damon Sayles profiled the twins for an article on June 8.

Scouting Report

According to ESPN RecruitingNation, Harrison’s frame, ability to change speeds in transition, deft passing and scoring punch make him one of the most dangerous players in the country. He can score in a variety of ways, killing defenders in transition or burying long-range daggers off the bounce. Harrison can get into the lane with ease to create open shots for teammates or finish via a pull-up jumper, a feathery floater or a furious dunk. Defensively, he can guard all three wing spots using his length and lateral quickness to put the cuffs on opponents.

Most frequent comparison: Deron Williams, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Derek Harper

ESPNHS Comparison: Deron Williams

While Harrison is built more in the mold of Tyreke Evans, his offensive creativity and ability to facilitate for others as a true point guard is more akin to that of Nets All-Star Deron Williams. And you can’t discredit the Southern bloodlines, either.

Williams displayed Texas-sized talent while at The Colony (Texas), and Harrison has followed a similar blueprint to ascend to the top of the ESPN 100.

The change-of-pace factor is what sealed the deal for us. Both players can accelerate and decelerate to keep defenders off balance and boast incredible change of direction abilities, making them virtually impossible to stop in transition.

One-on-one, these two will give the business to even the staunchest defenders. Both floor generals set up opponents with the dribble before rocking them to sleep with a crossover that is simply poetry in motion. And they know what to do once they get in the lane, scoring and dishing in a variety of ways and with stunning flash. Harrison has shown an uncanny ability to finish through contact -- a staple of Williams’ game.

Harrison will need to become a more consistent shooter and incorporate more of a post up arsenal to live up to the Williams’ comp, but he’s only a rising senior and has a solid foundation already in place.

Harrison's Comparison: Tyreke Evans

“I get the Deron Williams stuff because we can both come off of picks and pull up for threes,” says Harrison. “But I first started hearing the Evans comparison in the ninth grade. I think he was still in college. I was honored to be compared to him.”

Harrison is quick to note that he doesn’t put much stock in player comparisons and would rather play his own brand of ball. But he doesn’t shy away from the obvious similarities between himself and Evans.

“We’re both big guards and we can take smaller guards off the dribble,” says Harrison. “Not just with power, but speed and using the dribble."

Harrison still keeps tabs on Evans but makes a strong effort to study all of the league’s elite playmakers. Games featuring Williams, Russell Westbrook and his favorite player, Derrick Rose, are on regular rotation at the Harrison house, as Andrew continues to look for new avenues for fine-tuning his game.

“I try to watch every good point guard,” he says. “It’s great motivation to try and catch up to those guys.”

CP3 Camp: Williams, Selden motivated

June, 11, 2012
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Bryant Crawford immediately identified with what Chris Paul was lecturing about during the CP3 Elite Guard Camp at the Gateway YWCA here this weekend.

Crawford too doesn’t see the point of shooting a 12 to 15-footer when he’s “more than confident” that he can get all the way to the basket at will.

But as he continued to listen to the Los Angeles Clippers All-Star point guard, Crawford changed his perspective almost immediately.

“See I had to transition my mind to start shooting floaters because once you get to the league guys are longer and way more athletic,” Paul told the campers. “It’s so important for your game to evolve, and adding a floater opens up so much more offensively. It’s just something else that keeps the defense guessing and makes you more dangerous offensively.”

After the chat, Crawford, a rising sophomore point guard at Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.), and the rest of the campers ran through countless drills to try and perfect the floater.

“When CP3 broke it down like that it made so much sense,” Crawford said. “I know that from now on I’m going to be using the floater so much more. It’s hard because I’m a young guy and I’m really confident so I always want to take it all the way to the hoop. Now I’ll use the floater more.”

Justin Jennifer said he’ll take a similar approach now for one key reason.

“CP3 is the best point guard in the NBA,” said Jennifer, a rising sophomore point guard at John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.). “We’d be crazy not to listen to him.”

Williams motivated by snub

Kameron Williams couldn’t help but feel slighted when he learned that he didn’t get an invite to the prestigious National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va., which runs from June 13-16.

Makes sense since Williams, a rising senior combo guard at Mt. St. Joseph’s (Baltimore, Md.), led the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in scoring averaging 22.2 points a game.

“It’s just something else I’ll have to overcome,” said Williams, who is ranked No. 69 in the ESPN 100. “People have been overlooking me since I started playing. They don’t think a 6-foot-2, skinny guy like me is supposed to be scoring like I do, but it’s OK. I’ll use this as motivation. I’ll show them they got it wrong.”

ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi certainly didn’t get it wrong. He immediately referred to Williams as “one of the best natural scorers in the country.”

“He’s under control and he reads the play exceptionally well,” Biancardi said. “When he’s open he’s a legitimate threat to score every time.”

Now Williams is focused on leading Baltimore Elite AAU squad to the Nike Peach Jam title on July 19-22.

“This will just make me work even harder,” Williams said. “This just made me that much hungrier.”

Beard connects with future teammate

After going to battle against some of the top guards in the country, including current Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp for one day, Anton Beard felt like he was ready to end his recruitment and pick the Tigers.

“I just knew it was the right fit for me because I love the school and the coaches and being here made me think about it more,” said Beard, a rising junior at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet (North Little Rock, Ark.). “I got to talk with Phil a little bit and then I didn’t even know, but one of my future teammates is right here with me at this camp. We’re getting to know each other now.”

Zach Coleman, a rising senior swingman at Woodrow Wilson (Dallas), committed to the Tigers in early May and said that after watching Beard at the camp he thinks the two can be a lethal tandem in the future.

“I think that once he gets there we’ll work together pretty well,” Coleman said. “He’s really talented and I think that his skills compliment mine pretty well. We’ve been talking a lot more since we found out we’re going to be teammates so this made the trip even better.”

Selden stays hungry

Wayne Selden fully expected that when he reclassified from 2014 back to his original class of 2013 last week a drop in the rankings was imminent.

He was right.

Selden dropped from No. 6 in 2014 to No. 20 in 2013, a plunge that “didn’t bother me at all.”

“I remember when I wasn’t ranked at all,” said Selden, a shooting guard at Tilton (N.H.). “So this isn’t anything to me. If anything it’ll just be more motivation to get back to where I was. It gives me something to work for. But, to be honest, I didn’t need anything else for motivation. I stay hungry.”

Players use rankings as motivation

June, 11, 2012
Troy WilliamsScott KurtzTroy Williams of Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) was shocked that he had dropped to No. 42 from No. 6 in the ESPN rankings, but he says the shift forced him to focus more and play smarter.

Roughly two weeks ago, Troy Williams underwent a mental metamorphosis which caused him to develop a rather sizable chip smack-dab on his shoulder.

When ESPN RecruitingNation released its updated hoops class rankings, Williams learned he’d plummeted from No. 6 all the way to No. 42 in the ESPN 100, a drop that he said he “never saw coming.”

“I was shocked that I dropped that low,” said Williams, a rising senior swingman who runs with Boo Williams Summer League’s AAU squad. “I don’t get it at all, but that’s someone’s opinion, and it’s up to me to prove them wrong. It definitely bothered me though.”

Williams’ sentiments were shared by plenty of players on the AAU circuit, who felt their ranking fell short of their production thus far this AAU season.

“I think most players think they should be ranked higher,” said Tyus Jones, a rising junior point guard who runs with the Howard Pulley Panthers and is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 60. “I wouldn’t want the job of rankings players. Too many people would be mad at me.”

It’s no cakewalk for ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep and Co.

Not when the reality is that every player who isn’t the top player in his respective class thinks he’s underrated to some degree.

“It’s extremely challenging,” Telep said. “Rankings should be taken as a snapshot for where the players are and help them size-up the competition for where they want to go. If it motivates them, great, if they don’t care, even better. The best players just put their heads down and go about their business. I’ve never had a conversation with John Wall (No. 5 in the ESPN 100 in 2009) about where he was ranked.”

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis used his No. 20 rank as motivation. He scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at this year's Jordan Brand Classic.
Added Jones: “I’ve never had a coach mention anything about where I’m ranked. They don’t care about that stuff so that tells you all you need to know about rankings getting you to the next level. Most coaches don’t even look at rankings.”

Neither do players. Or so they say.

Most players are reluctant to even admit that they pay attention to rankings; a “defense mechanism” according to Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

“Guys try and say that they don’t look at rankings, but they do,” said Rathan-Mayes, a rising senior combo guard with CIA Bounce who is ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100. “We all look at them; it’s the difference between the guys that use rankings as motivation to get better and the guys who don’t.”

Rodney Purvis was definitely part of the former.

Purvis always felt slighted when the rankings were updated, but eventually developed the mindset that he’d just have to prove why he should’ve been ranked higher. He focused particularly on one aspect.

“Any time you play a person ranked above you, you’ve got to destroy them,” said Purvis, a shooting guard who will play at N.C. State next season and finished his senior season ranked No. 20 in the ESPN 100. “That’s a must, but you also have to destroy the players ranked below you. Use it as fuel and build on that. That’s what I did.”

Purvis’ result?

Roster spots in both the Jordan Brand and McDonald’s All-American games.

“You can turn it around,” Purvis said.

Still, it’s important to keep rankings in proper perspective.

Jahlil Okafor doesn’t concern himself with ascending from No. 2 in the ESPN 60 to No. 1 because the way he sees it “anyone of the top six players could be No. 1.”

“Most times you dropping or not moving up doesn’t mean you were bad, it just meant some other players were great,” said Okafor, a rising junior center who runs with Mac Irvin Fire. “Rankings, for most players, are like adversity because we all want to be the best. So you’ve just got to approach it like you would a tough situation on the court. You just have to respond.”

Williams is responding.

Two days after his fall from grace, he led BWSL to a 6-0 record in the fourth session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, averaging 14 points per game.

“I think dropping like that helped me focus more and play smarter,” Williams said. “I definitely learned a valuable lesson, and that’s to go hard at all times and everything else will take care of itself. That’s what’s gonna make you a winner.”

A fail-proof plan no matter where you’re ranked.