Team United (NC) had arguably their most successful season in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, advancing all the way to the elite eight after an up-and-down regular season. Long gone are top 50 recruits Juwan Gary (South Carolina) and Patrick Williams (Florida State), meaning Team United will be flipping over an entirely new roster in 2019. Charlotte's EYBL representative has two top-50 sophomores in their frontcourt, but they'll be primarily led by junior guards Eric Gaines and Christian Wright. Repeating last season's success will be a difficult task, especially with three underclassmen in the rotation, but there is a lot to like about this the makeup of Team United.
Eric Wright surveys the floor (photo credit: Ryan and Lucas Stephanos)
Gaines and Wright are primed for potential breakout seasons, and they'll have the keys to the car. Gaines has that 'it' factor according to Team United assistant coach Cory Underwood, and the 6-foot-2 athlete can do a bit of everything on the court. Gaines is equipped with a 40-inch vertical and terrific vision in the open court. He has the innate ability to see plays before they happen, and his presence on the floor should make his teammates better. Gaines has a chance to massively improve his recruitment, and if he can knock down open threes with consistency, he could develop into a top 50 recruit nationally. He also threw down one of the season's most impressive dunks. The United coaching staff is also very high on Wright, an athletic, fundamentally sound 6-foot-3 combo guard from The Skilly Factory (GA). Wright is a point guard through-and-through, but he has the ability to get a bucket when needed. This pairing will play a ton of minutes in the backcourt, and it's likely that both see lifts in their recruitment.
Gaines and Wright will likely be atop the EYBL in minutes played due to the lack of depth in Team United's backcourt. 6-foot-5 combo guard Josh Banks enters the EYBL with some rave reviews recently. Phenom Hoops' Jamie Shaw said he may be the best scorer in North Carolina, pointing to Banks' athleticism, shooting range and ball-handling skills. Banks can score it from all of the court, and the junior will be counted on to provide an impact on both ends.
Three long and lanky sophomores lead the frontcourt for Team United, and all three should improve their national stock by competing at a higher grade level. 6-foot-8 forward Josh Taylor needs to find his niche, but when you combine his athleticism with his evolving skill-set, there's a good chance he winds up being a top 30 recruit in 2021. Taylor played a huge role for Greensboro Day's state championship team, and he will play a major role in Team United's frontcourt plans.
John Butler Jr will start alongside Taylor, and while the 7-foot-1, 185-pound big man will lack ideal size and strength, his overall upside more than warrants his spot in United's rotation. Butler (247 No. 38) is a long and lanky rim protector, and he makes some plays that are unexpected from a kid his size. He will need to adjust quickly to the physicality and speed of the EYBL, as will 6-foot-11, 240-pound sophomore Gabe Wiznitzer. The Christ School (NC) product is a back-to-the-basket big man on offense and a sturdy, reliable defender in the paint. Wiznitzer takes up a ton of space in the lane and is impressive in the pick-and-roll, two traits that should help him see big minutes in United's rotation. 6-foot-7, 270-pound junior Josh Rubio rounds out the primary frontcourt rotation for Team United. Rubio averaged 12 points and seven rebounds during the 2018-19 high school campaign for Comenius School (SC). A bruising big man capable of knocking down open threes, Rubio offers up versatility that should make him a difficult matchup offensively.
Team United will have their work cut out for them in 2019 in the difficult Division C. Gaines and Wright will be fun to watch during the season's outset, and there is a strong possibility that they come out and surprise everyone. The EYBL offers up a platform where one game can earn you a scholarship offer, and this rotation will have plenty of opportunities to leave an impact on college coaches across the country. Expect growing pains from the young frontcourt, but if they quickly adjust to the physicality and pace of play in the EYBL, a trip to Peach Jam isn't out of the question.