Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam got off to a more intense start than usual on Wednesday, and it drew a visit from an NBA All-Star.
Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul visited the Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta to watch Team CP3 take on The Family in the day’s final game, a play-in to see which team would actually get into today’s pool play for the 17U division.
Team CP3 overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to win the game 70-59, which showed Paul something very specific about the squad that bears his name.
“That they’ve got a lot of fight in them,” he said.
Team CP3 head coach Art Wade said the Clippers’ schedule, which extended until May 15 because of a run into the second round of the NBA playoffs, prevents Paul from attending a lot of the team’s games. That hasn’t stopped the superstar from being involved, with he and his family requesting weekly reports about the team’s progress.
“A lot of times in the spring time, they’re in the playoffs, but Chris is in constant contact,” Wade said.
Wade said that Paul’s presence and his advice for the team, both pregame and during the action, made an impact. Some of his more experienced players in the program have seen Paul stop by before, but others were face-to-face with the star for the first time.
“I think it has a huge boost to their self-esteem,” Wade said. “I think that when they saw Chris today, the new kids in the program, their eyes perked up.”
Guard Terrence Phillips, a 2015 recruit, said having Paul there was special for him, because like Paul, he’s a smaller point guard who tries to lead on the floor. Paul is listed at 6 feet tall, while Phillips is listed at 5-foot-11.
“So having him here, it gave me so much spark,” Phillips said.
Phillips spent a lot of time on the bench in the first half, but he was part of the second-half charge that earned Team CP3 the chance to play today at 9 a.m. against the N.J. Playaz. He said Paul talked to him about the closing minutes, as The Family attempted a comeback.
“‘It’s winning time, Terrence. Let’s go win it,’” Phillips recalled of Paul’s words.
Phillips’ 11 points made him one of three players for Team CP3 to score in double-digits, led by Harry Giles III with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Alterique Gilbert added 18 points.
Eric Davis Jr. led the way with 20 points for The Family, based out of Detroit, who will drop down to play in the Elite Youth Invitational, another of the three tournaments being played in the area this week.
Jeremy Jiunnies, facilities and programs supervisor at Riverview Park, said that while both teams would still get a chance to play in an event this week, the do-or-die game with regard to the EYBL finals, which will continue through Sunday, added to the “buzzing” atmosphere.
“It adds another half a day of intensity, preparing and getting ready,” he said.
The day also included a session of games in the Sweet 16 tournament for 16U squads, which saw Southern Stampede in action. Based out of Georgia, the team included Augusta natives San Antonio Brinson and Zephaniah Jasper.
“It’s like my home court,” Jasper said of playing in front of family and friends. “It’s just a good experience.”
Jasper had the better day of the two, scoring four points in a 46-40 win over Team SCAN.
Seen at the Jam
In addition to Paul, the usual group of well-known college coaches were in attendance on Wednesday.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was seen talking with St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli, and Clemson head coach Brad Brownell and Ohio State head coach Thad Matta took in the Southern Stampede victory.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo were in the gym for the 17U play-in, along with assistants from many other major programs.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.