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May 12, 2014

Briscoe makes grade at Dallas EYBL

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

FRISCO, Texas -- Day two of the Dallas stop of the Nike EYBL belonged to a five-star point guard. Isaiah Briscoe of the New Jersey Playaz finished off a great weekend leading his team to a 4-0 record and solidifying his status as one of the nation's elite guards. While Briscoe backed up the hype, Greek import Georgios Papagiannis stood out without having to put up big numbers and Rivals150 guard Levan Alston helped Philly-based Team Final to a big day.

Briscoe tearing up the EYBL

Currently, Jalen Brunson is the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2015, and the 6-footer from the Chicago area is certainly worthy of that distinction. But don't just hand him the crown, because fellow five-star Isaiah Briscoe is playing at a high level himself.

Ranked No. 19 in the class of 2015, Briscoe put on a show with the New Jersey Playaz while leading them to an undefeated weekend at Fieldhouse USA just outside of Dallas. During the Sunday game Rivals.com focused on, the 6-foot-3 floor general from Roselle (N.J.) Catholic dropped a triple-double of 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on the Northwest Xpress. For good measure, Briscoe added five steals and only turned the ball over once.

While Briscoe has always been big and strong for his position, he has at times been a bit of a gunner and not in the best of shape. Make no mistake, he is still a scoring point guard; but he has really improved his shot selection and done an incredible job of getting his body in shape. Because of his strength, Briscoe can physically dominate most defenders, and he is tough and aggressive to go along with strong.

About the only thing Briscoe didn't do well was shoot the ball from deep, but he has unwavering confidence and will keep defenders on their toes regardless of whether or not his shot is going down. Briscoe attributed his success to just playing basketball instead of worrying about proving himself.

"That just comes naturally to me," said Briscoe of his play. "I'm not trying to prove anything anymore, I'm just trying to play basketball. If people are open I'm finding them. It's not about trying to do this or that."

On the school front, Briscoe said that Louisville has recently turned up the heat and that usual suspects such as Connecticut, St. John's, Arizona and Florida have remained in the mix. But Briscoe made it clear that he's not focusing on his recruitment and that he is "just chilling" when it comes to thinking about schools.

Finally, when asked to grade his performance for the weekend, Briscoe was neither incorrect nor shy.

"I'd say A or A-plus," said Briscoe when asked to rate his weekend performance. "We are undefeated and I feel like the Kyle Lowry of our team, and everybody else has been stepping up too."

Greek big man adjusting to summer ball

For 7-foot-1 big man Georgios Papagiannis the Dallas session of the EYBL was a totally new experience. The No. 44 player in 2015 arrived in the States less than a year ago and enjoyed a very good junior season at the Westtown (Pa.) School. Now, he's adjusting to an entirely different style of play and level of competition while hitting the floor with Team Takeover.

"It's different than high school," Papagiannis told Rivals.com. "All the best players are here and you have to compete and be ready every game."

So far, the 7-footer's numbers haven't been overwhelming. But it isn't always about numbers, and there are some clear identifiers that suggest that as highly as he is already ranked, Papagiannis is a bit under-ranked at this point.

First of all, his size just can't be dismissed. We are talking about a legitimate 7-foot plus kid, and he's got a man's body to go along with his height. Papagiannis is simply massive and takes up a ton of space in the lane. On top of that, he moves very well, has good hands, soft touch and plays with a real mean streak. While he's still adjusting to grassroots ball, his Team Takeover squad is adjusting to playing with him, so it will take a little time for him to flourish.

"It's just my first session of EYBL," said Papagiannis. "I'm trying to get used to it and my team. I'll get better the next session."

Not surprisingly, Papagiannis has become a big target on the recruiting trail. He said that he felt he had offers from Richmond, Penn State, Temple, Villanova, Miami, West Virginia and LSU. The current four-star also mentioned that Kansas hasn't offered but has been turning up the heat recently.

Alston has big day

Team Final out of Philadelphia had a big day and a big weekend. Much of it had to do with the play of Rivals150 combo guard Levan Alston, aka Shizz. A 6-foot-3 combo guard from Haverford (Pa.), Alston currently sits at No. 118 in the national rankings but made a case to be moved up.

A two-way player, Alston uses his quickness and length to pester opponents as a defender. On the offensive end, he is very good at setting up his offense off the dribble and is a very good jump shooter whether it be on pull-ups or coming off a screen and firing from deep. He's also quick to deflect credit to his talented teammates on the perimeter such a Syracuse-bound Malachi Richardson and Villanova-bound Donte Divincenzo who rank No. 21 and No. 81, respectively, in 2015.

"We just have so many guards that can play," said Alston when asked about the success he is enjoying in the EYBL. "It's hard for teams to match up with us, and it gets us open looks.

"It's easy playing with good guards like all of these guys."

Alston said that his recruitment has started to take off of late and that he has offers from VCU, Wichita State, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Notre Dame Temple and Penn State. Stanford, Harvard and Boston College have shown more interest of late, and he's seen the campuses of Penn State, Harvard, Boston College, Seton Hall and Temple.

He counts his ability to play on or off the ball as a big reason for the interest from college programs.

"They like my ability to play the point and the two," said Alston of college coaches. "I can shoot the three and hit the mid range off the dribble."

Sunday quick hitters from Dallas

For the second day in a row, 6-foot-7 small forward D.J. Hogg backed up his No. 35 ranking in the class of 2015. His game would benefit from more driving and using his size, but Hogg is an elite jump shooter with legitimate NBA range on his shot.

He still has a long way to go from a skill standpoint and has to improve his hands, but 2015 big man D'Jerry Baptiste, who is a teammate of Hogg's on the Texas Titans, has made gigantic strides with his game. Baptiste looks like a fully grown man with his muscular/top heavy build, and he can run up and down the floor. He's learned to use his strength and 6-foot-11 size to intimidate and has gotten much more active on the glass.

Another Texas Titans big man to keep an eye on is 2016 center Marques Bolden. The 6-foot-9 big man from DeSoto (Texas) High is just a pup and still needs time on the court, but the tools are there. He is big, he runs well, he has pretty soft touch and he's an active shot blocker. As time goes by, he should be able to compete for a spot in the national rankings.

Power forward Juwan Morgan of MoKan Elite showed why he already holds a spot in the 2015 Rivals150. The No. 139 player in his class, Morgan went off against the Southern Stampede scoring 30 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He's still a bit on the slender side but is quick around the rim, has soft touch and can make jumpers facing the hoop.

A potential Rivals150 player in the class of 2015, jump shooter Kenny Williams didn't shoot the ball quite as well as he has at other stops this spring. But his talent is evident and he has little trouble finding space for and getting off clean looks from deep. Williams listed offers from Virginia Tech, Northern Arizona, VCU, Hofstra, Richmond, Longwood, William & Mary, Robert Morris, St. Joseph's, George Mason, Old Dominion, Cincinnati, Memphis and Minnesota. Williams said that he would like to have his list narrowed down to five by the end of the summer.

A teammate of Williams on Boo Williams, five-star sophomore Edrice Adebayo was just too strong and too physical at the rim in a win over Expressions Elite. Better known as Bam, Adebayo sealed the game with a monster dunk along the baseline where he went through significant contact from a defender like he didn't even exist. While quite powerful and athletic, Adebayo is going to have to start adding more skill to his game.

Isaiah Briscoe was far from a one-man show for the New Jersey Playaz. He got a lot of help from 2016 guard Temple Gibbs and 2017 guard Trevon Duval along with 2015 big man Shakur Juiston. Gibbs is a tough and versatile combo guard who can run the offense or score some off the dribble. Only finishing up his freshman year, Duval has been written about here before and has speed, offensive moxie and lots of upside for a 6-foot-2 combo guard. Finally, Juiston is kid that handles the dirty work. The 6-foot-6-ish power forward pounds the glass, explodes for dunks around the rim and plays more physically than his lean frame would suggest he could. Every team needs a dirty work guy, and Juiston who has been offered by Niagara fills that role for the Playaz.

Combo forward Elijah Burns is an intriguing guy from the class of 2015 who has a chance to make his way into the Rivals150. At 6-foot-7 he has a good frame, pretty well balanced game and is a solid athlete. Burns recruitment has taken off lately and he reported offers from Notre Dame, Temple, Seton Hall, George Washington, Northwestern, Holy Cross, James Madison, Boston and VCU.

A new teammate of Burns on the Albany City Rocks, 2016 shooter Maverick Rowan solidified his status as a top 50 player in his class. He hasn't gotten a lot of pub, but the Pittsburgh commit has good size, can shoot and plays with tremendous confidence. Playing with a new team, he blended in quickly and was pretty productive.

Finally, it was a very good day for Malachi Richardson. We mentioned the 2015 commitment to Syracuse briefly while talking Levan Alston but he deserves more here. Richardson is starting to fill out and was aggressive in attacking the lane to supplement his jump shooting on Sunday. Also showing flashes was currently unranked -- but certainly in the discussion when we update our lists -- wing Trey Lowe. Low is quite thin but has a great first step, is sneaky bouncy and has a good looking stroke out to the 3point line.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

Dan McDonald is a contributing national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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