Many of the top high school basketball players will descend upon Riverview Park once again this week for the Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam. There are an abundance of storylines for this year’s tournament, running July 9-14.
“The best part about the Peach Jam is that when Nike brings the best talent to North Augusta it is ‘the show’ versus if they’re in one of the bigger cities where they compete with other events,” said Rick Meyer superintendent for North Augusta Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services. “It makes for a great atmospheere at the event.”
Adding to that atmoshphere will be the talent displayed on the hardwood. The top national tournament will have much to offer.
There’s the storied Houston Hoops program, which boasts three of the top 25 players in the 2014 recruiting class. Another Texas squad, Team Texas Elite out of Dallas, will have the challenge of competing with a roster of mostly sophomores in the 17U division.
Houston Hoops program director Hal Pastner says fans will have a chance to see some future college stars playing in the tournament. The program has been a staple for years, and they’ve come to North Augusta before with stacked rosters featuring the likes of Emeka Okafor and Kendrick Perkins.
Okafor’s cousin and top prospect Jahlil will be in action at the Peach Jam this year with Mac Irvin Fire.
While watching this years Houston Hoops 17U team spectators will get to see Justin Jackson, Justice Winslow and Kelly Oubre. All three are among the top 25 recruits in the 2014 class. Jackson has committed to North Carolina, while Winslow and Oubre are both undecided. Winslow is currently competing in the 19U World Championships in the Czech Republic.
“All three of them are dangerous and can put on a show,” said Pastner, who started the Houston Hoops program as a way to get his son, Memphis coach Josh Pastner, involved in basketball. “Fans are in for a treat when they see the team play.”
The talented young athletes are what Meyer likes about the being a part of the tournament each year. North Augusta has hosted the tournament for more than a decade.
“You’re going to get a chance to see the future college All-Americans and NBA talent,” Meyer said.
While the Peach Jam will also feature a 16U tournament, the EYBL Finals portion of the event will feature some of the younger talent also. Wes Grandstaff’s Team Texas Select squad is one of the youngest teams playing in the EYBL Finals; only three of his players are juniors, and their top stars, Elijah Thomas and Austion Grandstaff, are a pair of stars from the 2015 class. Grandstaff said both play an exciting brand of basketball.
For Meyer, excitement will be the theme of the week for CSRA hoop fans. Not only will great players be on display, but several of the top NCAA coaches will be in attendance. Last year, many of the top college coaches were in attendence at the event, including John Calipari, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Tom Crean. Meyer said despite the big-name players and coaches who will be in attendence, the little touches are what make the event so special.
“Its an all-around great event, from the hospitality we provide for the players to the great support of the community,” he said. “There’s a reason why the gyms are always packed when the event comes to town. To be a residential community who spends most of the year taking care of the city, being able to be on the national stage is amazing.”
No local teams qualified for the EYBL Finals, however, South Carolina native L.J. Peak will be in action as a member of CP3 All-Stars. Peak, a member of the Gaffney high basketball team recently committed to Georgetown.
In addition to the Nike Elite event, both the Elite Youth Invitational and and Peach State Tournament will also be taking place in the CSRA bringing the total number of travel basketball teams in the area into the hundreds.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.
At a glance
What: 2013 Peach Jam
Where: Riverview Park Activities Center
When: Nike Sweet 16 Invitational (16U) Tuesday-Sunday
EYBL Finals (17U) Thursday-Sunday