The Mississippi Express Basketball Organization (MEBO) returns to the circuit after a frustrating 2018 season, and they'll be relying on a bevy of in-state talent in an offer to secure their first big as a program to the 17U Peach Jam. Their E16 unit from a year ago was an impressive bunch, and they have the majority of the rotation back in the fold. MEBO will enter the 2019 Nike EYBL with two top 100 recruits for the first time since Jared Butler (Baylor) and Robert Woodard (Mississippi State) were running the show. It will be an uphill battle for MEBO, but they roster more than enough skilled athletes to make a run at Peach Jam contention in 2019.
(photo credit: MADE Hoops)
MEBO will bring two stars to the table this spring and summer, junior Keondre Montgomery and sophomore Daeshun Ruffin. Montgomery ran briefly with the 17U squad in 2018, but the majority of his damage was done during the E16 schedule. The 6-foot-6 Montgomery (247 No. 93) has great size and is a shooter by trade. Montgomery is also a talented defender, evidenced by him earning defensive Most Valuable Player honors at the MAC Boys Class 4A/5A/6A All-Star Game. Montgomery is a super-confident ball-player and offers up deep range from the perimeter. He is the most likely contender to lead the team in scoring, and he'll like put up some eye-popping stat-lines before the season concludes.
Ruffin was also briefly called up to the 17-and-under unit in 2018, but we are treating this like his official coming out party. The 5-foot-11 Ruffin is super dynamic with the ball in his hands and is tremendously difficult to stay in front of as a defender. Ruffin averaged 26 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals during the 2018-19 season for Callaway (MS), and he was efficient in the process; Ruffin connected on four 3's per game and shot 173 free throws, converting at an 80 percent clip. Ruffin will be relied upon the consistently make plays for both himself and his teammates, and there's an argument to be made that he's the most important underclassmen on any EYBL roster.
Ruffin will man the point guard position for MEBO and it will be rare to see him leave the floor. Three well-sized junior guards will assist Ruffin in the backcourt; Treylan Smith, Justin Buford, and Shawn Royal Jr. Smith is a 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard from Petal (MS) high school, and he's coming off a season in which he was selected to the 4A/5A/6A State All-Star Game. Smith has plenty of athleticism and is capable of defending multiple positions, two traits of his game that several colleges agree with; Smith holds offers from Mississippi State, Long Beach State, Southern Methodist, and Central Florida. Royal is a 6-foot-5 prospect out of Metairie Park Country Day in New Orleans, Louisiana, and he offers MEBO a versatile passer and rebounder. His size and quickness allow him to be a menace on defense, and those same traits allow him to be successful in transition. Royal's versatility will come in handy as MEBO navigates their way through their vaunted Division B schedule.
6-foot-6 guard Justin Buford is an out-of-state guard just like Royal, hailing from Ellwood Christian high school in Selma, Alabama. Buford offers more size and athleticism for MEBO, and his active motor and overall skill-set should catch the eyes of college scouts and coaches. He is a capable scorer at all three levels in high school, and it will be interesting to see how well that translates in the EYBL. He will be a great glue-guy for MEBO and does all of the little things well.
Junior guards Antwan Hatten (6-foot-3), Cameron Brown (6-foot-4), Cuwandric Samuel (6-foot-3) and MaKeem Roberts (6-foot-1) round out the rotation for MEBO. Hatten is a strong, physical guard that likes to attack the basket, while Samuel averaged 8.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 steals in 27 games alongside Ruffin at Callaway. Roberts, a tough playmaker hailing from Meridian (MS) high school, will be looking to make a name for himself with his minutes.
Montgomery will be a focal point in the frontcourt for MEBO, but he spends a lot of time on the perimeter, Defensively he is capable of guarding bigger and stronger prospects, and by the looks of it, that will be a frequent task for him in MEBO's undersized rotation. 6-foot-5 swingman Caleb McGill stars alongside Smith at Petal (MS), and he was also named to the 4A/5A/6A State All-Star game. McGill was also named to Mississippi Hoop Report's All-State First Team, an honor he shared with Ruffin and three other Division I recruits in DJ Jeffries (Memphis), Jaylen Forbes (Alabama), and Calvin Temple (IUPUI). McGill is a super-productive wing at the high school level, and should play a big role in MEBO's offensive plans. 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward Nick Walker is the last member of MEBO's rotation, and the junior is coming off a high school season for Hattiesburg (MS) in which he averaged a double-double in 30 games (11.8 PPG & 10.8 RPG). Walker is an undersized power forward, but his effort and tenacity will be his niche against EYBL competition.
MEBO will be looking to earn their first trip to Peach Jam, and they'll have to put together an impressive string of 12 games behind Ruffin and Montgomery. Mississippi's EYBL representative has struggled to play efficient defense during their stint as an EYBL program, and that will need to change if they want the program to reach new heights.