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December 29, 2011

Beach Ball Classic: Underclassmen shine

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.- Day two of the Beach Ball Classic brought a new rotation of teams and players through the Myrtle Beach Civic Center. Jahlil Okafor started the day with a low post clinic and Nick Emery and T.J. Haws finished it with a barrage of skill and jump shooting.

Okafor out one in

Before the game started, head coach Tyrone Slaughter knew that his Chicago Whitney Young team was going to face an undersized but athletic and tough Lexington (S.C.) High. His plan was simple. Feed Jahlil Okafor.

"You see that he can play," Slaughter said. "If feeding him the ball works, why wouldn't we keep doing it?"

Highly efficient, Okafor ended up with 36 points and 14 rebounds while connecting on 14 of 16 field goals.

Each time down the floor, Whitney Young worked the ball around and looked to find Okafor posted up.

"I know that it's best for the team for me to stay in the paint," Okafor told Rivals.com. "If it is working, then we stay with it."

A wide-bodied, 6-foot-9-ish center, Okafor has an advantage in strength or skill. He finishes with both hands, has soft touch and can be a back-to-the-basket bulldozer who gets lots of free throws.

"I think that I played well," Okafor said of his game. "They pressed us and left me with one or two defenders. They were too small to stop me."

According to Okafor, schools of interest are Ohio State, DePaul, Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State, among others.

A few weeks ago, Parker toured the N.C. Triangle area schools.

"I went to North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State," said Okafor. "It was a great trip to see all three schools and get a feel for how they do things."

Okafor isn't the only high-level Whitney Young sophomore. 6-foot-7 wing Paul White was very impressive as well.

Skillful with the ball, he's relied upon to initiate a lot of the offensive sets. He can handle the ball some and is really adept at penetrating gaps in zone defense and hitting pull-up jumpers. White had an impressive 14 points and seven rebounds of his own.

Slaughter mentioned Iowa, Wisconsin, Marquette and Connecticut, among others, as programs that have been in to see White in addition to those schools who have checked in on Okafor.

Future is bright at BYU

Fear not BYU fans, the future of your backcourt is in good hands with the Lone Peak duo of Nick Emery and T.J. Haws.

The 6-foot-2 class of 2013 three-star (Emery) and 6-foot-4 class of 2014 combo guard (Haws) put on a scoring display filled with skill and deep jumpers.

A lefty with strength, Emery already has legitimate range to 24 feet and he gets his shot off in a hurry. He's also effective with the dribble and hits runners and pull-ups making him a pretty diverse player.

On top of being a few inches taller than Emery, Haws has more length and can create for others. A good ballhandler who makes pretty good decisions, Haws is also a lights out shooter from deep and plays with competitive spirit.

The duo combined for 60 points (including 10 of 18 from three-point range) in just 45 combined minutes.

Mitchell playing his role

Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian is loaded with talent. Class of 2013 forward Julius Randle is in the discussion for the overall top prospect. Senior forward Zach Peters has signed with Kansas and is having a big senior year.

Because of that, there's not a lot of pressure on 6-foot-6 freshman wing Mickey Mitchell. But, he's getting plenty of attention and he's producing at a high level.

While some freshmen might have trouble stepping in and meshing with older star players, Mitchell says his experience playing summer ball with Randle and Peters has helped to make the transition to high school easier.

"I've played with Julius and Zach in AAU ball so we know each other," Mitchell said. "With them, if you just get them the ball good things will happen."

If Mickey is pulling the trigger on the passes, then it will probably mean good things. He's also lengthy and a dangerous transition player.

Because he's only a freshman, Mickey says that the actual contact between himself and colleges has been limited to what the rules allowed. However, he has noticed Florida, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma in the gym.

For now, he's just focusing on helping his team win.

"I'm just trying to play hard and do my thing making plays," said Mitchell. "I try to play to my strengths and what they need me to do."

Speaking of Zach Peters, the Kansas signee continued what has been a strong winter campaign. A big and strong kid, he's devoted himself to crashing the glass and playing big. He can pass the ball well and is finishing through contact when he drives the ball. Peters went for 23 and 10 in an active 26 minutes.

As for Randle, the final numbers show 16 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists. However, the five-star prospect also turned the ball over seven times and rushed some decisions in transition. That said, Randle is a hard-charging and skilled big man who can make plays off the dribble or power in the post. As he continues to develop a regular mix of low post and face-up scoring he will become even tougher. Along with Anthony Bennett, he's one of the single most difficult covers in high school basketball.



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