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April 28, 2012

EYBL Hampton: All-star matchup

MORE: EYBL Hampton preview

HAMPTON, Va. - During an event like the Hampton EYBL, it's tough to pick one game as the marquee game of the night. However, with five of the top 25-ranked players in the 2013 Rivals150 taking the floor, the game between local favorites Boo Williams and the Memphis-based Bluff City Legends stood out as the place to be. However, it was a player from outside that group who took over as Jajuan Johnson led Bluff City to a win over Boo.

Johnson shines on big stage

It isn't exactly like Jajuan Johnson was an unknown when he took the floor on Friday night. A 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind, Johnson took the floor ranked No. 109 nationally in the class of 2013. By the end of the night, though, the slender wing had taken the second session of the EYBL by storm.

Incorrectly labeled on the roster as JaJuan King, Johnson caught fire early, nailing deep three after deep three while mixing in athletic drives to the cup and locking up his opponents defensively. Once the confusion over his name had ended, Johnson emerged as the winner of the night during a command performance in front of a throng of college coaches.

Laid back and cool, Johnson said that he just wanted to get his team off to a good start after dropping in a team-high 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

"It meant a lot for us to come out and get a good start," Johnson told Rivals.com. "We didn't win any games in Minneapolis so it felt good to come out and get a win."

Personally, Johnson said it was important that college coaches get to see that he can be a first-option type player.

"They've been waiting for me to do something like that," said Johnson. "I've been behind guys like Nick King and Johnathan Williams III so it's good to show them that I can play too."

Judging by the offer list reported by Johnson, coaches didn't need that much selling. The 6-foot-4 junior said that he feels he has offers from Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Marquette, Cincinnati, Auburn, Florida and Texas.

"I think I'll commit sometime right before the start of my senior season," said Johnson. "I'm looking for a team that gets up and down and puts up buckets."

As mentioned, Johnson shared the court with five players ranked in the top 25 of the 2013 Rivals150. His teammates King and Williams check in at No. 15 and No. 17 respectively while Anthony Barber, Troy Williams and Allerik Freeman are No. 13, No. 19 and No. 25.

Of the group, King and Williams were the most effective. King went for 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-6 lefty converted around the rim, got to the free-throw line and made some solid passes. His teammate, Williams, was good for 15 points, five rebounds and eight blocks as he played with a high level of activity around the rim.

On the Boo Williams' side, things were a bit ugly as its touted threesome was just a combined 16-of-47 (2-of-16 3PT) from the field. Williams was the high scorer with 18 and he also hauled down 10 rebounds doing most of his damage in transition or around the rim. The quickest point guard in the country, Barber couldn't find his shot, but did take care of the ball while handing out six assists to go against just one turnover. Freeman -- who is the owner of perhaps the class of 2013's best pull-up jumpers -- settled for too many contested threes but managed to finish with 19 points on 19 shots.

Good start for the Challenge

After going 1-3 to start off the EYBL last weekend in Minneapolis, the Alabama Challenge was looking to get off to a quick start in Hampton. Down 21-12 early to the Georgia Stars, the Challenge looked to be in trouble but they rallied to compete and ultimately win 58-57 on a baseline jumper from class-of-2014 shooting guard Chai Baker with just over three seconds to go.

A physically-built 6-foot-3 scorer, Baker is a good spot-up jump-shooter and has the strength to get into the lane. He listed offers from Alabama and North Florida to go with interest from Florida State, Jacksonville and Miami.

After blowing up last weekend in Minneapolis, Baker's fellow 2014 shooting guard Devin Booker couldn't quite find the range on Friday, but the 6-foot-4 wing's talent is evident. His jumper is crisp, his movement off the ball is excellent and he has a nice feel for the game. The Moss Point (Miss.) High product listed Michigan, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Georgetown Ole Miss and Arkansas.

Though he didn't put up huge numbers, the development of Jimmie Taylor is evident. Every bit of 6 feet 9, the southpaw has deft touch to 16 feet, is adding strength and becoming more aggressive around the rim. He listed offers from Georgetown, Alabama, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.

Quick hitters

We didn't get to take a long look at 2015 shooting guard King McClure. However, the minutes that we saw out of the stout 6-foot-4 wing playing for the Texas Titans 16-and-under squad were more than enough to validate the huge reputation he carries in his home state. A pure scorer, McClure showed athleticism, skill and a nose for putting the ball in the hoop. It's still very early, but he looks to be one of the top perimeter scorers in his class.

No. 3 in the class of 2013 Julius Randle is the main attraction for the Texas Titans and he was outstanding as they steamrolled Texas Pro. In the blowout, though, teammate Damian Jones of Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville Magnet had a chance to shine. A long and athletic 6-foot-9 shot-blocker, Jones can really run the floor, has the ability to go up and finish in traffic and his frame should easily carry more weight. In 2013, he looks to be a legitimate high major option.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more classic jump-shooter in the class of 2013 than Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The burly 6-foot-3 shooter from Huntington (W.V.) Prep simply doesn't miss when given open looks. Even if you put a hand in his face, he's still going to bury them.

Rathan-Mayes is just one part of a salty perimeter group for CIA Bounce that is headlined by the top player in the class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins. A ridiculous, body-control athlete who slashes and contorts his way to the bucket for tough finishes, Wiggins drew the entire Kentucky staff and the head coach of his father's alma mater Florida State. While Rathan-Mayes and Wiggins bomb away and slash, smooth point guard Tyler Ennis makes sure that neither them or their teammates miss out on an open look and keeps the tempo moving at a fast pace.

MoKan Elite went down at the hands of the CIA Bounce, but Semi Ojeleye did everything in his power to prevent it. The powerfully built, 6-foot-6 wing from Ottawa (Kan.) High went unconscious from three-point land during the second half as he buried one long jumper after another. When he's set, he doesn't miss very often. On top of being an excellent set shooter, the No. 37 player in the class of 2013 shows a great understanding of how to use his ruggedly built frame in the lane where he continually finishes through contact.

We checked in on top ten player James Young for a bit and he looked the part. His jumper didn't fall quite as well as it had the week before in Minneapolis, but the 6-foot-6 junior is a beastly wing with athleticism and a serious competitive streak.

Teammate E.C. Matthews looks like he could be in for a bump up in the class of 2013. Matthews currently sits at No. 99, but at 6-4 with combo guard skills and the ability to score and push the ball he could definitely work his way up the list.

Donte Clark was plugged into the 2013 Rivals150 at No. 95 and he'll definitely be on the rise. The Georgia Stars combo guard has outstanding size at 6-4, is cat quick and can be effective as a playmaker or scorer. The Charlotte (N.C.) Kennedy Charter product does need to show more proficiency with his left hand, but the tools are there. Meanwhile, 6-foot-9 teammate Jarquez Smith easily played up to his No. 57 national ranking. He's long, blocks shots, and is very dangerous in pick-and-pop situations thanks to his ability to bury mid-range jumpers with regularity.

Dakari Johnson had to sit out his sophomore year after transferring to Montverde (Fla.) Academy, but it doesn't look as if he wasted it. Friday night the massive 6-foot-10 center was playing at a near manchild level for Each 1 Teach 1 as he dominated the St. Louis Eagles on the interior to the tune of 26 points and eight rebounds. While he isn't a fast-twitch guy in the lane, he is in much better shape and is more athletic than in the past. Ranked No. 20 nationally in the class of 2014, Johnson is definitely moving up when rankings for his class are updated.



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