When many of us watch the EYBL, we feel grateful for the chance to view competition of the highest quality in youth basketball. The intensity and level of talent running the floor provides constant entertainment and often paints the look of impressed fascination on spectators’ faces. Sometimes, however, we overlook some of the smaller things that contribute to the greatness of the EYBL. It can be taken for granted that many of the best high school players have chosen to take up the challenge of joining the toughest of AAU leagues, because not all of them do. Southern Stampede guard Prince Ali, for instance, spoke of how we almost didn’t get to see him play in the EYBL:
“Well, at first I wasn’t going to play at all, but I kept on hearing EYBL was the toughest high school league. That is VERY TRUE! You have to be mentally and physically tough to succeed in that league.”
Ali’s 349 points he accumulated during the regular season was second throughout the league behind only Athletes First guard Allonzo Trier’s 441. Only Trier and Jackson Tigers guard Malik Newman, who played 12 of the 16 potential games, averaged more points per game than Ali’s 21.8. Ali also made the second-most field goals (124; Trier - 130) and sixth-most free throws (81). Not only does Ali get to the line often, but the young man originally from the state of New York was one of only nine players to attempt 100+ free throws this year. The 31 points Ali scored against Spiece Indy Heat in an 80-74 victory was tied for the 14th highest-scoring single game performance in 2014. And we almost lived a life without witnessing any of it.
Ali’s ability to score in a variety of ways is just one of the things that has made him one of the premier players in the EYBL, leading the Stampede to the Peach Jam with an 8-8 record. Ali provided 4.8 rebounds per game and, while he averaged 2.1 assists to 3.6 turnovers per game, he truly is an exceptional passer. While the Stampede got off to a great 6-3 start through the first nine games, they fell short in three extremely close games entering the break before the Peach Jam. The promise of providing leadership was one of the key factors to joining the Stampede for Ali: “I really liked Coach Al [Durham] and Coach Pat [Harper] and they told me they wanted me to lead their team, so I took that opportunity…The coaches just believe in me and always install confidence in me.”
It wasn’t just the positive influence of the coaches that appealed to Ali, though, as the Stampede provide some other high-scorers to play with as well: “I love playing with Jared [Harper] and Ty [Hudson]; they really take the pressure off of me when I’m not having my best game.” Harper’s 16 ppg and Hudson’s 15.8 ppg, when combined with Ali, make up for 53.6 ppg - second-most amongst any team that qualified for the Peach Jam behind only Athletes First’s trio of Trier, Curran Scott and Jakolby Long (55.6 ppg).
Ali led Sagemont High School to a state championship this season in his current home state of Florida. Ali, who has resided in Florida for three years now, will have the fortune of playing alongside another former state champion when E1T1 guard Keyshawn Evans joins him next year. “It’s going to be a great one. I’ve known Keyshawn ever since I’ve moved out here and we play very well together,” Ali stated. That promises to be one hell of a duo for high schools to face during the 2014-’15 season, and will once again see Sagemont as one of the state champion favorites.
Before Ali takes on another run to a state title, the Peach Jam awaits he and the rest of the Stampede where Ali will have dozens of interested coaches watching him. Ali decommitted from UConn on May 29 of this year, sparking the interest of many who would love to acquire the 6’4”, elite recruit. Ali provides great length as a point guard and has an uncanny ability to drive to the basket. Ball handling seems to come naturally to him and his spin move is so quick and effortless it could make a grown man cry. Coaches looking to convince Ali that their school is the right choice for him should keep this in mind: “[The opportunity to provide leadership] will play a huge factor. I’m looking to go somewhere where I can make an immediate impact,” Ali said.
In the meantime, Ali is preparing for the Peach Jam, working on acquiring a more consistent shot and evolving the use of his left hand. Ali is an ever-improving three-point shooter, draining the long ball at a 39.2% clip. He already has the tools to make an impact at the collegiate level and will still have an entire year to work on enhancing his abilities. Oh, and his favorite dunk to throw down? One probably won’t witness it in a game as it involves him catching the ball off the bounce, passing it between his legs and dunking on the other side of the hoop he threw it in the air from. It’s amazing how much some people can achieve whilst airborne, and if you’re not thinking: “I wish I could do that,” you probably already play in the EYBL.