Midnight Madness came back in full force with the first London Qualifier of the 2014 edition hitting the Copper Box Arena on the Olympic Park on Saturday 9th August.
Over 250 under 18 players battled to get on court to compete in the Prep division of the now legendary tournament, vying for an illusive ‘Golden Ticket’ pass through to the next round. With a whole new generation of players in action the atmosphere was thick with anticipation as a long list of players, both known and unknown, stepped forward to take centre stage.
As Elite Court action got underway, Joe Jr Mvuezolo, a 6’5 wing from Barking Abbey, was quick to make his mark and let everybody know he would be a force to be reckoned with in the division. Mvuezolo is an athletic wing who likes to take defenders off the dribble but displayed a solid enough mid-range jump shot to keep defenders honest. He can rebound on both ends of the floor, initiate a break himself and likes to play above the rim, which he proved often and early at the MM London Qualifier:
Gedi Juozapaitis, a 6’4 shooter from Peckham Pride, continued to climb the ladder of national prominence as the best outside threat in his division. Juozapaitis can stretch the floor, has good size for his position (he’s still growing) and is comfortable shooting out to 23 feet. Once he gets going, he’s shown he can be both a zone breaker and big shot taker.
There was little doubt the most dominant player on the floor was the scintillating prospect that is Kavell Bigby, a 6’9 long-armed big from Lewisham Thunder. Big by name, big by nature – Kavell was by far the most athletic big of any division seen on the day. With a wingspan that spans over 7 ft, coupled with a guards vertical, Bigby represented trouble for anyone coming into his lane – blocking shot after shot and sending layups into the upper stands of the Copper Box Arena. A force on the glass, Bigby could be a dominant rebounder and interior rim protector at the next level with continued development and game understanding. His athletic ability is both impressive and undeniable and he wasn’t shy in showing everyone why he is considered the premier big within the division:
Good showings from Shaquille Walters (6’4 SG, Peckham Pride), Calvin Kintu (6’1 PG, Barking Abbey), and Jason Witter (6’4 SG, Lewisham Thunder) all were duly noted but the player of the day was the new and improved Jules Christian (6’2 PG, Olympija).
Jules name is no secret to those who follow the best young players from England, however his game may not be as widely seen as he plays his club basketball overseas with Union Olimpija in Slovenia. The starting guard for the England International U18s, Jules game has refined and matured greatly since making the move abroad. 2 years ago at the Jordan Brand Classic, though undeniably skilled, Christian was far more comfortable as a scoring guard as opposed to a bonafide floor general, however the 2014 edition is a vastly improved point guard. His handle is better, he plays under control and with a maturity not common amongst his peers. His decision making and ability to now see the open floor has propelled him to the top of the list within the U18 category, while he still has the ability to be a potent scorer when the need arises. Athletically, though listed at 6’2, Christian has a huge wingspan that creates problems for the opposition on both ends of the floor. He gets in the passing lanes on defense and offensively is able to finish at the basket with is long reach. His jump shot has to be respected and elite status as the best point guard in his class is expected.
*Gedi Juozapaitis is not available for the next round of qualification on the 23rd August and so has been replaced by Oladimeji Okanlawon, who beat Dwayne Orija in a free throw shoot out for the last spot.
Complete listing and BWB scores of Elite Court players at London U18 Qualifier (top 15 qualify):
|MM Prep U18 Division|
|Ranking||First Name||Surname||Position||BWB Score|