Russell Westbrook's Team WhyNot (CA) had a historic 17-and-under program debut 2018, advancing all the way to the Peach Jam championship in their inaugural season. The Los Angeles-based Elite Youth Basketball League affiliate had an up-and-down regular season, but they clicked as a unit in July, and it resulted into an extremely-impressive late-season run. WhyNot will welcome back junior star Nimari Burnett, and he'll be expected to take on a bigger role in 2018 alongside six other star-rated prospects by 247 Sports. Team WhyNot won't be sneaking up on anyone this season, instead, the 10-man unit will likely have a target on their backs.
Team WhyNot junior NImari Burnett (247 2020 No. 27)
Burnett took the Nike EYBL by storm after joining the circuit midway through the 2018 campaign and he will be their unquestioned leader as they enter their second season as a program. Burnett averaged 14.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 16 games, and his production was ultimately a huge reason as to why Team Whynot was so successful in the back half of the season. Burnett stars for Prolific Prep (CA) during the high school season, and the 6-foot-4, 190-pound playmaker averaged 20.1 points, 8.0 assists, and 8.1 rebounds in 2018-19. The Chicago-native rarely misses an open jump shot and is super-crafty with the ball in his hands. After Burnett joined Team Why Not, he knew he was a part of something special.
"It's great," Burnett said of having Wesbrook as a mentor. "Russell, he's always there and supportive. If he's not there, he's texting. We feel his presence everywhere we go and we just want to represent him. We just know he's a great basketball player and more importantly a great person, so we just want to go out and play well for him."
Team WhyNot has a total of top 30 recruits in their backcourt as Burnett is joined by Addison Patterson and Devin Askew. Patterson is an EYBL veteran from 2018, putting up some major individual numbers for a struggling CIA Bounce team. The 6-foot-6 scoring guard averaged 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in 16 games for CIA Bounce, turning in one of the best overall sophomore seasons on the circuit. Patterson transferred out of Canada and into Bella Vista Prep for the 2018-19 high school season, and he continued his upward trajectory. Patterson can score it at all three levels and loves to attack, two traits that should showcase themselves nicely in the WhyNot rotation.
Askew (247 Composite No. 15) is the highest-ranked recruit on the roster, and among other skills, the 6-foot-3 combo guard is a truly gifted passer. Askew stars for California powerhouse Mater Dei (CA) during the high school season, putting up major numbers as an underclassman; Askew 14.0 points, 6.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.1 steals while only turning the ball over 2.5 times per game. That may not seem like a small number, but turning it over less than three times per game with how much he has the ball in his hands is a major accomplishment. Askew will be a blur in the open court, and he should have a great time setting up his teammates for easy buckets.
6-foot-4 junior Devan Sapp complete the rotation for Team WhyNot, recently earning 2019 WCAL Player of the Year honors. Sapp is a strong, physical guard with great composure and a smooth offensive game. He will operate as a glue-guy for WhyNot, and will likely be a reliable defender of multiple positions.
Team WhyNot junior Addison Patterson (247 2020 No. 29)
Junior swingman Terren Frank will play a big role in WhyNot's offense. Already a two-year veteran of the EYBL, Frank (247 Composite No. 72) averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 13 EYBL games last season, operating as the go-to scorer for the now-defunct Nike Phamily. Frank's best asset is his ability to shoot it from deep, and the 6-foot-7 prospect will be looking to showcase different aspects of his game this spring. Much like Burnett and Askew, Frank will be a huge asset in Team WhyNot's offensive plans.
Sophomore Wilhelm Breidenbach stars alongside Askew at Mater Dei, and the 6-foot-9 big man is highly-skilled. During the 2018-19 high school season, Breidenbach (247 No. 75) averaged 12.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Breidenbach is developing at a rapid pace, and the lank big man should be a major player in WhyNot's frontcourt plans. 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior Mason Hooks will see big minutes alongside Breidenbach. Hooks is impressive defensively and has proven to be effective at playing the pick-and-roll. Hooks is a terrific outlet passer, and he'll be looking to hit his guards on the break as he rebounds at a high rate. The Harvard-Westlake (CA) product is a solid facilitator from the block, and his ability to do the dirty-work for WhyNot will be key.
6-foot-11, 250-pound junior Christian Oliver will see time off the bench, providing WhyNot with a big, wide-bodied prospect in the post that has great touch around the basket. Juniors Luke Haupt (6-foot-5) and Khalil Haywood (6-foot-4) will both see time off the bench in reserve roles, and both offer a motor and toughness-level that should help them stand out in their limited minutes.
Russell Westbrook cheering on his squad.
Russell Westbrook cheering on his squad.
Repeating last season's success will prove to be a difficult task, but it's impossible to deny that talent that lives in this rotation. Burnett is a special talent, and he has big plans for year two.
"Last year since I came to the EYBL mid-season, I wasn't expecting to get where we got as far as Peach Jam," Burnett admitted. "I definitely knew we were going to get to Peach Jam but didn't think we'd get so far. Now my focus is to win the whole thing. Last year we got far and people counted us out, people weren't expecting us to make it to the finals.
"I'm just ready to win it all this year."