The EYBL season is just less than halfway over, and host of players have separated themselves from the pack for Most Valuable Player honors.
The final nine games will determine who wins the award, so we went through the league and dissected those that have the best resume thus far.
After a season that saw him burst onto the national scene with an absolutely dominant summer in 2015, Young has made it a point to prove his worth in every possible way for MOKAN. The floor general showed out with some of the best offensive performances of the spring during the opening weekend, and although his scoring was down in Indianapolis, Young remains a key cog for one of the league’s best teams. As with his buddy Porter, the only real obstacle standing in his way for MVP is his own teammate.
Porter’s ability to impact a game by simply drawing the attention of the defense has helped make his entire MOKAN team better so far this season, and the silky smooth forward has been a monster on the boards so far as well. Two standout sessions from the do-it-all Porter has been a big reason for MOKAN’s lofty status up to this point in the season, and knowing this young man’s relentless work ethic, he is likely just getting started. The ultimate team player, Porter is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if his own stats take a hit in the process.
With a remarkable 77 assists through the season’s first seven contests, Green is dishing out dimes at a record pace thus far and with the past three weeks to become even more comfortable with his teammates, don’t expect that trend to slow in Hampton. The PSA Cards floor general has played through pain and shooting slumps to continue to dominate games with his ability to see plays three or four steps ahead of anyone else on the court. He has been a better perimeter threat in the past than what he has shown so far, so if he starts heating up from deep, Green and his PSA squad will be almost impossible to stop.
Arguably the league’s best defensive player, Bamba joins Green to form an intimidating big man-little man combo for one of the league’s top squads. Bamba was a key piece for last year’s loaded PSA team, but due to the amount of other top scoring options he didn’t have to assert himself on the offensive end. However, he has proven through the first two sessions that he is more than capable of taking on a bulk of the scoring load, especially with a playmaker like Green finding him in spots where he has solid looks. As long as PSA remains a favorite for the championship, Bamb will be a prime contender for this award based on his defensive performance alone.
The EYBL has been a platform for under-the-radar players to introduce themselves to a widespread audience with their play, and Gaines has been the latest beneficiary of this with a breakout spring. As with his City Rocks team, Gaines was underrated coming into the season but has stepped up to become a double-double machine and an elite scoring forward for one of the league’s best teams. Gaines proved that his monster first weekend was anything but fluky with another standout session in Indianapolis, and he joins sharpshooter Andrew Platek to form a high-scoring, versatile combo that will continue to create problems and mismatches for opponents.
Washington, now in his third year on the circuit, has improved steadily in all facets of his game with each progressive year. In 2016, however, the point-forward has taken his game to a completely new level as a scorer and now stands as one of a handful of players in the country capable of taking over and winning a game at any time. Though Team Penny has more help around Washington than last season (helped even more with the addition of John Petty), there’s little question that they would not be a top contender in this league without the powerful forward leading the charge. Fresh off an Offensive Player of the Session award for his play in Indianapolis, the sky is the limit for Washington if he becomes an even better playmaker and ballhandler.
Though there has been speculation since day 1 of the season that Ayton may not be long for this league, the unreal big man prospect now looks like he is here to stay, which is great news for his Cali Supreme. After a solid first weekend on the circuit that saw him put up some good numbers, Ayton was a dominant force in Indianapolis, using his athleticism and ball skills to get a bucket whenever - and however - he pleased while cleaning the glass for every rebound in sight. Ayton’s hype continues to be considerable, but his improved jumper and motor is a testament to his work ethic, and he is only scratching the surface of what he can do in this league. Expect Ayton to be a part of the MVP conversation for the duration of the summer.
His friend and fellow Cali big man DeAndre Ayton may have most of the hype, and that has been just fine by McCoy, who has quietly stepped onto the national stage as a rare, game-changing big. McCoy has always been a terrific rebounder and overall player, but his scoring this season has vaulted him to superstar status and has made Cali Supreme into one of the scariest teams on the circuit in a short time. McCoy’s face-up game has come a long way since this time last season, and with added time in the gym his jump shot and spin move should improve even more as the summer progresses. McCoy’s ability to rebound and be a selfless teammate make it easy for him to take a backseat to Ayton in the scoring column, but the Supreme have been at their best when he has maintained an aggressive mentality.
Trent, who rose quickly in the rankings with his league-leading scoring campaign in 2015, has arguably been even better in this, his third year competing for Howard Pulley. His offensive arsenal may be the most polished of any guard’s in the country, now featuring a great post-up game to go along with his clockwork-like midrange game and a deadly perimeter jumper. Playing with several newbies to the circuit, however, Trent’s seamless transition into team leader this season has paid off in huge ways for the EYBL’s best team, as he has done more of the little things to get the job done in addition to remaining a top scoring threat. With the only undefeated mark in the league so far, Pulley’s best player has absolutely been an integral part of that success and Mr. Trent has to be considered the frontrunner for this award at the midway point.
Another UAA transplant, Diallo’s ridiculous athleticism was well-known coming into the first weekend; what has turned Diallo into a bona-fide star has been his aggressiveness and skill as a scorer. Though he could still stand to improve on his consistency from the perimeter, Diallo’s jumper has been deadly off the bounce, making him a matchup nightmare in transition where he has been able to stop on a dime for a quick bucket or take it all the way to the rim, where almost nobody wants to be in his way. Also a phenomenal defender with the instincts, energy and athleticism to dominate, Diallo has helped place the Rens in the upper tier at the halfway mark. This physical combo guard has seen exponential improvement in just a few months so expect more big things from him throughout the summer.
From a strictly scoring standpoint, nobody in the country has had a better spring than Sexton, who has almost singlehandedly kept the Southern Stampede relevant so far this season. The lead guard wowed coaches, fans and opposing players with some eye-popping scoring totals in NYC, and he actually may have been even better during his follow-up weekend in Indianapolis. Sexton’s ability to put the ball in the basket so effectively has invited the attentions of opposing defenses across the league, which should lead to more opportunities for teammates if Sexton can find them. An increase in scoring efficiency, especially from the perimeter, along with an uptick in assists would catapult this scoring machine up our rankings.
Though it still feels like he is flying a bit under-the-radar as far as elite players go, Knox does it all game after game for E1T1, a big step up from his status as a high-energy rebounding machine last season. The smooth swingman has improved every part of his game since last summer, looking much more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and scoring off the bounce. Knox said he wanted to show people he could be more of a guard with his added skills and so far he has done just that, blossoming into one of the country’s prolific scorers while remaining the qunitessential team player. If he can carry E1T1 into Peach Jam with the somewhat undersized, undermanned unit they have now, he has to be considered a strong contender for this award come July.
One of the EYBL season’s most anticipated storylines has been Bagley’s return to competition following a high school season that, for one reason or another, saw this young phenom struggle to see the floor. However, after some initial rust, Bagley has backed up all the hype surrounding him and then some, showing off an offensive arsenal that is far advanced for his age as well as better defensive awareness. The physical nature of the league has not seemed to phase Bagley as he has been able to assert his will, especially in the paint and in transition. With further reps from the perimeter and off the bounce, Bagley will continue to improve along with his Phoenix Phamily team - an absolutely daunting prospect for the rest of the league.
After spending his 2015 playing with the Atlanta Xpress of the UAA, Hammonds has stepped into a more prominent spotlight on the EYBL stage and has proven to be one of the best all-around players in the country. Hammonds has a unique skillset that allows him to be the lead ballhandler, rebounder and scorer for the Challenge, usually within minutes of the same game. Possessing elite athleticism and length for his position, Hammonds has an excellent basketball IQ and always seems to make the best play possible, whether it is simply the extra pass or taking on the defense for a clutch bucket. Hammonds is only considered a dark horse for this award because the Challenge are not quite a great team yet; if that changes expect this talented wing to rise in no time.
An Allen Iverson clone, Lykes has been unstoppable with the ball in his hands for Takeover, and though he is one of the smallest players in the league, he is also one of its best. The diminutive combo guard is lightning quick and his ability to get shots off fast from wherever he wants to on the court has led to some impressive scoring totals. He was red-hot shooting the ball in Indianapolis, and it will be interesting to see how defenses adjust to him now that they have had three more weeks to let his unbelievable talent sink in. Getting teammates going, especially fellow stud DJ Harvey, will be key for Lykes taking that next step and leading Takeover to the promised land.
Pro Skills' paint protector has been better-than-advertised thus far, completely taking over defensively through the first seven games. Blessed with ridiculous size and athleticism, the 7-foot big man has turned himself into one of the biggest game-changers on the circuit. If Pro Skills is able to muster up a few more wins during the second half, Robinson will remain in the hunt for MVP all season. 4.4 blocks per game with only 2.7 fouls? Robinson is a defensive coach's dream at the next level.