Live updates: Darius Acuff Jr., Billy Richmond among standouts at Nike EYBL session in Dallas
The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League brings together the top prep boys’ basketball players in the country for five sessions of games each year, and we are in the midst of 2023’s run of top travel basketball action.
The third session of the year for the Nike EYBL circuit takes place this weekend just outside Dallas, where plenty of the top boys’ talent in the country will face off in a proving ground for elite prospects.
This weekend’s Nike EYBL stop in North Texas is taking place during a recruiting “quiet period.”
During a quiet period, it “is permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts only on the member institution’s campus. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts or evaluations may be made.”
So while you shouldn’t expect to see the likes of John Calipari and the UK coaching staff making in-person evaluations this weekend, the Herald-Leader is on the ground at the Southwest Athletic Center in Carrollton (about 25 miles North of Dallas) for all three days of action.
Among the top Kentucky recruits set to be in action are top-ranked class of 2024 shooting guard Tre Johnson (Houston Hoops), priority class of 2024 combo guard Boogie Fland (PSA Cardinals) and a trio of class of 2025 prospects who already have UK offers, headlined by in-state star guard Jasper Johnson (Team Thad).
Updates from this weekend ‘s Nike EYBL action in North Texas are below, with the newest updates at the top.
Amier Ali, Boogie Fland battle in double-overtime game
What Sunday afternoon’s contest between Amier Ali (The Skill Factory) and Boogie Fland (PSA Cardinals) lacked in cohesive basketball, it more than made up for with sheer drama.
The two teams played a low-scoring, double-overtime game that PSA Cardinals narrowly emerged the winners of, 59-57.
Despite missing 11 of his 16 shot attempts, Fland led PSA in scoring with 14 points, which included a tough drive and finish during crunch time.
It was evident that Ali was still settling into his new surroundings with The Skill Factory, as he only joined the program earlier this month following time with another Nike EYBL squad, Houston Hoops.
With that said, Ali brings a rangy, enthusiastic presence to court for The Skill Factory, as well as someone with a penchant for hitting tough shots.
Ali led all scorers in the game with 16 points, including several contested, turnaround jumpers from the mid-range that found the bottom of the net.
Both class of 2024 players hold Kentucky scholarship offers.
Fland is a priority for the Wildcats in the backcourt, while Ali recently included UK among his top eight schools.
Darius Acuff Jr. provides elite three-point shooting presence
Darius Acuff Jr.’s scoring ability is what’s drawn so much high-major interest to the class of 2025 point guard out of Michigan.
But within that ability to score, it’s Acuff’s three-point shooting prowess that has already distinguished him from other class of 2025 prospects.
Even while playing up an age level with The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, Acuff’s ability to make shots from distance is clear. Whether in catch-and-shoot situations, when stepping into his shot or while locked in a battle with his individual defender, Acuff is always a threat to pull from deep, and the end result is usually good.
In a Sunday morning win over AZ Unity, Acuff was a remarkable 8-for-16 on three-point shots. He scored 30 of The Family’s 70 points in the game, and took 20 of The Family’s 57 shots.
Acuff played every second of the game and led all players with six assists.
Billy Richmond caps Saturday with strong scoring effort
Billy Richmond’s exploits this weekend in North Texas have been well detailed in previous updates, and Saturday night brought a continuation of his stellar scoring efforts, albeit in a losing effort.
Richmond had 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting Saturday night to lead his NJ Scholars team, although the Scholars lost, 74-66, against Team ProSkills.
Richmond also led NJ Scholars with eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks, reflecting the do-it-all nature he possesses.
It will be fascinating to track Richmond’s continued progression this summer and into his senior high school season, especially since he plays for a Camden High School (N.J.) squad that no longer has Aaron Bradshaw or DJ Wagner in the fold.
Darius Acuff Jr. dominates while playing up an age level
Kentucky men’s basketball has only extended five scholarship offers to players in the class of 2025, and there’s a good reason that Darius Acuff Jr. has received one of them.
The Michigan-based point guard showed up in a big way for The Family in a Saturday evening win over LivOn, as Acuff led all players with 25 points and eight assists in what was a 83-79 win for The Family.
Acuff scored from virtually everywhere on the court: He went 4-for-9 from three-point range and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe.
A variety of other high-major programs — ranging from Michigan and Michigan State, to Kansas and Pittsburgh — have also extended early scholarship offers to Acuff.
Boogie Fland does it all in big win for PSA Cardinals
Against the same Georgia Stars team that gave Houston Hoops fits earlier today, class of 2024 combo guard Boogie Fland made things look easy.
The New York-based player scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists as his PSA Cardinals team recorded a big 77-55 win over Georgia Stars.
Fland has moved into priority status as a Kentucky recruit, especially given some of the backcourt players that UK has already missed out on in the 2024 class.
He’s also a charismatic off-court presence that recently wrapped up an official visit to Michigan. This marked Fland’s second official visit, after a trip to North Carolina last fall.
A Kentucky visit is currently in the works.
Billy Richmond emerges on top in physical battle against Jasper Johnson
To call the Saturday afternoon matchup between Billy Richmond and NJ Scholars and Jasper Johnson and Team Thad “physical” would be an understatement.
Offensive production was slow at the start of the game, and the buckets eventually came.
But a commonality across the 32 minutes of action — which dragged due to a delay for a malfunctioning scoreboard — was a physical game that saw both Richmond (a John Calipari-legacy recruit in the class of 2024) and Johnson (already a Kentucky high school star in the class of 2025) leave the game with injuries.
This happened twice to Richmond (a facial cut and a hand injury) and once to Johnson (a leg injury).
But both players persevered to provide a down-to-the-wire finish in which NJ Scholars prevailed, 75-72.
Richmond continued his sensational scoring form, in particular from the mid-range: He led the NJ Scholars with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting and also had nine rebounds and three blocks.
Richmond never shows much in his demeanor: It’s an even-keeled expression on his face through both the good times and the bad. But following this game, even he cracked a smile as the Scholars made just enough plays in clutch time.
For his part, Johnson more than held his own while playing up an age level, and displayed the talent that recently earned him a Kentucky scholarship offer.
Johnson finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists, along with a pair of highlight-reel blocks as he displayed significant elevation to contest shots at the rim.
Johnson, of course, already has deep UK connections via his father, former Kentucky football star Dennis Johnson, and has been to Rupp Arena plenty of times in his life already.
Top-ranked 2024 player Tre Johnson takes over during winning time
The best player in the class of 2024, per the 247Sports Composite, made a major grassroots basketball change recently.
Shooting guard Tre Johnson, a local product from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, switched from Team Griffin to Houston Hoops on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Johnson’s new team has struggled a bit through the first two Nike EYBL sessions of the spring, but Johnson made sure Houston Hoops started its Saturday with a win over the upstart Georgia Stars program.
Houston Hoops trailed for the entirety of the game until late in the third quarter, and when things got tight again with less than four minutes to go in the game, it was time for Johnson to take over.
The ball flowed through Johnson for the game’s critical possessions, both through intentional passes and Johnson himself grabbing a defensive rebound and dictating where the offensive action would lead.
He finished the 78-69 Houston Hoops win with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, a stat-stuffing performance reflective of his all-around ability.
A high-volume shooter and three-level scorer, the 6-5 Johnson also has enough length to impact the game defensively.
What’s considered the weakest part of his game — his handle — has also shown signs of improvement.
Johnson helped lead Lake Highlands to a state championship in Texas’ largest high school classification earlier this year.
Watch highlights of Johnson’s performance here.
UK legacy recruit Karter Knox showcases three-level scoring ability
Karter Knox’s recruitment has long been viewed as a battle between Kentucky and Louisville, the two schools with the closest connections to his family.
The younger brother of former Kentucky player Kevin Knox has blossomed into a recruiting star in his own right, and Friday night’s showing from the class of 2024 small forward was a prime example of why and how.
The 6-5 Knox had a game-high 22 points to go along with six rebounds and two assists as his Florida Rebels team rolled over NJ Scholars, which boasts a UK recruit of their own in class of 2024 shooting guard Billy Richmond.
Knox made a pair of three-pointers and six free-throws in the win. He took the ball up the floor and applied pressure on the defense when driving coast-to-coast. His hands were soft enough to corral both long-distance passes and catch-and-shoot opportunities alike.
It was far from a sturdy effort put up by NJ Scholars on defense, but Knox looked every bit the part of his current ranking as a top-10 player in the 2024 class.
The NJ Scholars spectacle has slowed somewhat from a year ago, when Aaron Bradshaw and DJ Wagner suited up and were providing most of the hype for each Nike EYBL stop.
Richmond, who was a Camden High School (N.J.) teammate of Bradshaw and Wagner, had his moments during Friday night’s game. In particular, Richmond had a nice spell of individual shot creation on a night when his team made just one three-pointer.
Richmond had a stretch of three consecutive made mid-range jumpers late in the third quarter.
He finished the game with 13 points and three rebounds. He was the only NJ Scholars player to score in double figures.
Also in action for NJ Scholars was guard TJ Robinson, a class of 2024 commit for Louisville.
Robinson had eight points and six rebounds in what was a tough shooting night for the three-star recruit.
Both Knox and Richmond have UK offers.
Ahmad Nowell, Meleek Thomas impress in Friday night matchup
A Friday night matchup between class of 2024 guard Ahmad Nowell (Team Final) and class of 2025 guard Meleek Thomas (New Heights Lightning) went the way of Nowell and Team Final by an 85-82 score, but it was a pulsating ride to get to that conclusion.
Playing up an age level alongside top 2024 guards (and former UK recruits) Elliot Cadeau (a North Carolina commit who registered the first triple-double on the Nike EYBL circuit in this game) and Tahaad Pettiford (an Auburn commit), Thomas more than held his own as a class of 2025 prospect playing up an age level.
While there isn’t a ton of muscle on his 6-4 frame, Thomas fills passing lanes and competes with a strong motor on both ends of the court. He registered an assist straight from the tipoff before making a three-pointer on the next possession as New Heights Lightning raced out to a big early lead.
Thomas had 14 points, two rebounds and two assists in the game, while making two of his three three-point attempts.
But Nowell and Team Final methodically worked their way back into the game, and the 6-foot combo guard used his strong build and quick turn of speed to his advantage.
Something that also helps? The smooth shooting stroke that Nowell employs, down to a free-throw motion that doesn’t include a single dribble or spin of the ball.
Nowell spent most of the fourth quarter face-guarding Cadeau, and his thick and sturdy frame held up well enough with this daunting task in a foul-filled game that saw both Cadeau and Pettiford foul out.
Nowell, who boasts the functional strength needed to overcome his small stature, had 16 points, five assists and one steal in the win, while going a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line.
Both Nowell and Thomas hold UK scholarship offers.