Team Durant is set to make their Nike Elite Youth Basketball 17-and-under debut this spring, and they’ll be making their entrance behind a supremely talented rotation. Sponsored by NBA superstar Kevin Durant, the Maryland-based Team Durant secured their 17U bid to the circuit with a Peach Jam-qualifying performance from their E16 team. Durant will be bringing a 12-man roster to the EYBL opener in Atlanta which includes seven players with a ‘star’ rating. On paper, this team is very balanced and has more than enough talent to earn a Peach Jam bid in their inaugural year. If they can formulate an optimal rotation out of their deep lineup, this will be a problem for the rest of the league.
Team Durant has had no shortage of talent on their roster, and quite frankly, they don’t have a distinguished ‘star’ to open the season. Four candidates - Darius Maddox, Ace Baldwin, Earl Timberlake, and William Jeffress - will look to share the star duties, and it’s somewhat difficult to determine who will stand out the most. Maddox (237 No. 58) and Baldwin (247 No. 145), both juniors, will have the ball in their hands the most, while Timberlake (247 No. 45) - also a junior - will provide his production on the wing and on defense. Jeffress (247 Composite No. 11), a 6-foot-6 sophomore, is the highest-ranked recruit on the roster and has an offensive skillet that is mature beyond his years. Team Durant has a good problem in front of them, and as long as they stay cohesive, the quartet of Maddox, Baldwin, Timberlake, and Jeffress should have an equal impact.
Team Durant junior Darius Maddox (247 2020 No. 58)
Baldwin will run point for Team Durant. A 6-foot floor general verbally committed to Mike Rhodes and VCU, Baldwin averaged 16 points, six assists, four rebounds, and four steals during the 2018-19 high school season for Baltimore powerhouse St. Frances, one in which he dished out his 500th career assist and scored his 1000th career point. The Baltimore Sun Player of the Year won’t have to worry about the pressure of playing in front of college coaches, instead, his primary focus will be on improving his overall game and utilizing the wide array of weapons in front of him.
One of those weapons will be Maddox, a 6-foot-4 combo-guard with a smooth, calculated approach to the game. Maddox doesn’t seem to make many mistakes on the floor, and his ability to attack the basket and create space for himself is elite. Maddox was named 2nd-Team All-WCAC in 2018-19 after a strong junior campaign for St. John’s College (DC) and will play huge minutes in Team Durant’s up-tempo offense.
The 6-foot-6 Timberlake is an athletic two-way player capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best player, and he is lethal in transition. Timberlake will definitely see time at the small forward position, but he ultimately projects as a guard because of who he can guard in the half-court. A product of powerhouse DeMatha Catholic MD), Timberlake’s versatility and constant motor will be a major key for Team Durant, and the same can be said of fellow 6-foot-6 junior Darrick Jones. An Oak Hill (VA) product under legendary coach Steve Smith, Jones is a perfect high-energy role player off the bench. 6-foot-2 combo guard Ishmael Leggett (247 No. 223) started alongside Maddox at St. John’s, earning All-MET honorable mention as a junior. Leggett recently picked up an offer from Boston University and should see his recruitment take off with a strong spring and summer. Leggett likes to play fast, and he will have more weapons at his disposal than he’s ever had in his career. Juniors Cory Barnes and Colin Smalls are currently mid-major recruits and both see both will see minutes off the bench for Durant. Barnes is a strong scoring guard that excels in the mid-range, while Smalls is a lead guard and likes to create for others. 6-foot-2 junior guard Xavier Lipscomb, a two-time All-IAC selection at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (VA), is also in the fold and set to receive minutes. Caleb Dorsey (6-foot-8) and Eric Sondberg (6-foot-5) are listed as guards, but both reserves will likely see time in the frontcourt.
Team Durant sophomore William Jeffress (247 2021 No. 16)
Jeffress is a special player, and while he definitely has guard skills, he will be a frontcourt player for Team Durant. The 2021 graduate has a mature offensive game and plays with confident aggression that can’t be taught. Jeffress, a member of the USA Basketball Under-16 team, has already amassed 1000 points during his career at McDowell (PA) high school. Jeffress is an is impressive offensively in numerous facets of the game, but his ability to attack and create contact is his strongest asset. Jeffress shot a state-high 218 free throws during the 018-19 high school season, converting at an 80 percent clip. Not many youngsters are that proficient from the line, so that should tell you a lot about Jeffress’ current standing as a basketball prospect. Junior Tegra Izay will man the paint for Durant, and the 6-foot-10, 240-pound defensive-stopped will need to be productive on a team that lacks ideal size. A native of Canada, Izzy has improved immensely over the last couple years, and he’s starting to realize his potential. He will be counted on the protect the basketball, rebound, and rim-run every time Team Durant hits the break. As mentioned before, Timberlake, Jones, Dorsey, and Sondberg will definitely see time at the small and power forward positions.
Team Durant was eliminated in last year’s Peach Jam last year after losing to the Texas Titans in absolutely miraculous fashion. The good news, however, is that advancing to the E16 Peach Jam was enough to secure a spot in this year’s 17-and-under pool of teams. It’s uncertain how deep their rotation will extend, but the players at the top are more than good enough to collect wins and earn a trip to North Augusta, South Carolina for July’s Peach Jam. Expect numerous players to be in contention for All-EYBL awards, and don’t be surprised if Team Durant gets off to a hot start in Division D. If this team isn’t above .500 by the time Peach jam rolls around, it will be a definite head-scratcher.