The AOT Running Rebels burst onto the Elite Youth Basketball scene in 2017, advancing all the way to the E16 title game. Fast-forward a year, and AOT was able to replicate last season’s success and more. Led by Sharife Cooper and Isaac Okoro, AOT sports one of the most cohesive units in grassroots basketball, and boy did it show during the regular season. AOT scored a league-high 77 points per contest, shooting at a 48.2% clip from the floor while knocking down 72% of their free attempts. Cooper, Okoro and the supporting cast were exceptional throughout the 16-game stretch, accumulating a 6-3 record against Peach Jam competition. One thing is certain: AOT’s team chemistry will be on point - seven out of 10 members of their rotation attend McEachern (GA) during the high school season.
Cooper (247 No. 36) and Okoro (247 No. 38) both earned 2nd-Team All-EYBL honors after sensational regular season performances. Cooper put up numbers so good, history was made. The 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard took home Offensive Player of the Year honors after averaging 20.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and a league-high 6.7 assists per game. Cooper has the ball in his hands more often than not, and offers AOT a pace-setting point guard capable of taking over a game at any given moment. Cooper knocked down 80 free throws and 32 three-pointers, both team-highs. Okoro somehow matched Cooper in the productivity department, averaging 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 16 regular season games while shooting 52% from the floor. Okoro oozes versatility, and is currently gaining valuable experience competing with the U17 FIBA national team in Argentina. As far a tandems go, there aren’t many at Peach Jam that can match the prowess of Cooper and Okoro.
Cooper makes AOT tick, and he has a couple of weapons to work with as running mates. Fellow sophomore Brandon Boston emerged as the third-scorer for AOT, putting up per-game averages of 14.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. A natural-born scorer with good size, Boston (247 No. 17) is considered one of the best playmakers in the 2020 class. The 6-foot-6 combo guard isn’t shy offensively, and will be counted on to play strong defense. Junior John Wright gave AOT a spark off the bench in the regular season, and he was efficient in the process. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 4.1 points on 60% shooting while supplying AOT with another active defender. Alyn Breed and Quinton McElroy round out the rotation for AOT, and both will receive minutes off the bench.
Okoro is AOT’s do-it-all horse, and he has a chance to have a gigantic July. As mentioned before, Okoro is with Team USA during early July, so it is imperative that he gets the necessary rest prior to Peach Jam. They are set to return to the states a day before Peach Jam, so fatigue could realistically be a factor for the entire Team USA roster. Okoro leads a frontcourt comprised of three fellow juniors who combine to average 13.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. 6-foot-7 Brandon Suggs is more of a swingman, while Babatunde Akingbola and Jared Jones are more traditional big men. Already verbally-committed to Auburn, the 6-foot-9 Akingbola (247 No. 146) is one of the best rim-protectors in the EYBL. Akingbola averaged 3.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 steals in 16 regular season games, and managed to avoid foul trouble the majority of the season. AOT needs Akingbola on the floor as much as possible, as he is a defensive game-changer. Jared Jones (247 No. 147) is just behind Akingbola in the national rankings, and will look to improve on modest regular-season averages of 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds. If Akingbola gets into foul trouble, Jones is next in line.
For this group, provided they stay healthy, it’s Peach Jam Championship or bust. They are the clear favorites to take Pool B, and match up well against fellow offensive-minded clubs like MeanStreets, Lightning, Playaz Club and Team WhyNot. It’s doubtful AOT is going to be out-scored, so if they can play lock-down defense, they should have a great chance to advance. They’ve been guilty of starting slow in a couple of games, so it will be imperative that they come out clicking on all cylinders. Cooper and Okoro are absolute gamers, and it’s likely we see their best work of the season in mid-July.