VENICE, CALIF. -- With the Pacific Ocean splashing in the background, two dozen of the nation's premier high school basketball players took to the famed Venice Beach blacktops last Friday and Saturday. Boost Mobile's Elite 24 was in full force, and the atmosphere was electric: live music, lively dancing and thunderous beats emanating from the nearby Crenshaw High band. It was an appropriate scene for a gathering of top talent.
Though memorable, not everyone fared so well once action began. Here's a stock report on the weekend's biggest winners and losers.
Shabazz Muhammad, SF
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
The in-game MC presented Muhammad with the moniker "The Real Deal." Fitting, because that's exactly what he proved to be during Saturday's showcase. Muhammad thrilled the crowd with a number of resounding dunks in traffic, eventually earning postgame honors given to the game's top performer. He struggled with his outside jumper, but demonstrated a drastic improvement from his lackluster form last year. "Shabazz is 50,000 jumpers away from being a shooting guard," said his father, Ron Holmes. With an improved shot, the ultra-athletic Muhammad will become more effective for college hoops.
Kyle Anderson, PG
St. Anthony's (Jersey City, N.J.)
There wasn't a more appropriate nickname handed down than the one given to Anderson this weekend: "Slo Mo." It's not that he isn't quick. He simply never rushes with the ball in his hands. At 6-foot-7, he's drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson and Jalen Anderson, and can see over defenses with his incredible height. He can also lull defenders to sleep, roaring past them en route to thunderous finishes at the rim.
Anderson's play wasn't his only noteworthy action. Anderson, Muhammad and Brandon Ashley, a five-star power forward, were chummy throughout the entire event, and it's been reported that Anderson and Muhammad would play together at the college level.
Aquille Carr, PG
Carr was unbelievable at the Elite 24. His lightning-fast handles decimated defenders, and he defied his 5-6 frame by scoring consistently at the rim. He also showed a penchant for flying over bigger players: Carr stole the show with a series of circus-type finishes.
It wasn't a fluke. Carr was solid throughout the entire AAU circuit, proving to be a menace on both ends of the court. Previously overlooked for his size, he's firmly established a status as a certified scoring machine. And scholarship offers have started pouring in. "It's been overwhelming," said Carr, a junior. "The offers haven't stopped coming. I'm just trying to take it all in."
Amile Jefferson, SF
Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.)
Jefferson did what he typically does on Saturday: He filled up the stat sheet. He collected a number of offensive boards, dunks and assists, serving as a constant threat while slashing through the paint. He was more impressive without the ball. Jefferson has a reputation for being in the right place at the right time, and his high basketball IQ at the event garnered attention.
Andrew Harrison, PG
Travis (Fort Bend, Texas)
Harrison has improved tremendously during the past 12 months, and his maturation was on full display during Saturday's exhibition. He used his size to shield off smaller defenders, knocked down a number of mid-range jumpers, and dished out some of the fanciest assists from locations all over the court. Perhaps best of all, he developed a killer crossover dribble, enabling him to pull-up nearly any time he chooses.
Known as one of the prep game's hardest workers, Harrison's tireless ethic is reminiscent of Dwayne Wade's in high school. He seems to recognize that. "I work as hard as possible in practice so I can be the best player on the floor during games," he said.
Brandon Ashley, PF
6-9, 215 PF
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Don't read too deeply into this. Ashley remains a top 10 prospect, and still seems poised to dominate Nevada competition during his senior campaign. But he didn't have a strong showing on Saturday. He was rarely in a position to score and appeared surprisingly stagnant without the ball, checking in largely as a nonfactor. Though it was probably a fluke, his play was certainly concerning for one of the crown jewels of the class of 2012.
Anthony Bennett, PF
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Bennett had arguably the best summer of any prospect in this year's rising senior class. After missing most of his junior year with an ankle injury, he exploded back onto the national scene with a dominant performance at the Pangos All-American Camp in June and a string of impressive outings dating through mid-August. Unfortunately, Bennett's bruising inside style of play didn't translate on Saturday. He missed a number of open looks, and sometimes appeared lost on the court. As with Ashley, though, this outing can probably be chalked up as a fluke, an exception rather than the rule.
Robert Carter, Jr., PF
Shiloh (Snelville, Ga.)
Like many other players on the list, Carter has unmistakable Division I talent. It seemed largely absent during his weak showing on Saturday. Carter did have several nice dunks late in the contest, but spent the majority of his time drifting between the free throw lines, watching as speedier players raced up and down in transition. He simply wasn't able to keep up.
His attitude, however, should be lauded. All-Star settings like the Elite 24 rarely favor slower big men, and Carter accepted that he likely wasn't going to be able to score much. He continued to battle fiercely on defense and the boards. If nothing else, his demeanor was encouraging.
Julius Randle, PF
6-9, 225 PF (2013)
Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas)
Randle is an incredible talent. It's that simple. Much like Bennett, his stock soared over the summer as he strung together several dominant tournaments. In Venice Beach, however, Randle was a disappointment. He floated to the perimeter far too often, and once there, struggled to dribble past his defender. He's at his best when facing up at the elbow and attacking with his repertoire of spin moves and head fakes. In Saturday's game, he shied away from those tactics, and subsequently had little effect on its outcome. Look for a return to form once the season tips off.
Nate Britt II, PG
Gonzaga Prep (Washington, D.C.)
Britt exploded onto the national scene thanks in large part to outstanding play in events like the Adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas, where his quickness and court savvy allowed him to dazzle college scouts. He attributed his success to work honing ball handling and shooting skills over the winter. On Saturday, he showed that his work isn't finished: He needs to hit the weight room.
Stronger perimeter players outmuscled Britt all weekend, bullying their way to rebounds and position on the outside. He did manage to show off his defensive skills -- he was the only defender to stop Andrew Harrison one-on-one -- and accumulated a handful of noteworthy assists. But he looked frail. And Britt knows he needs to bulk up. "I know I have to get stronger," he said. "It's something I need to do and something I will do."
• Brewster Academy power forward Mitch McGary (6-10, 225) missed the showcase after shattering the backboard while attempting a dunk in warm-ups. McGary escaped, but not before he was cut by several shards of falling glass. He suffered a deep cut to his right shoulder and received medical attention on site.
• Arizona commit Gabe York (6-1, 170) suffered from the flu all weekend. The standout Orange Lutheran (Calif.) shooting guard did play Saturday, but missed the slam dunk contest, one he was favored to win. York was hospitalized early Saturday morning and received two bags of intravenous fluids to aid his recovery.
• Savon Goodman, a star at Academy of the New Church (Bryn Athyn, Pa.), decomitted from Villanova over the weekend. The 6-foot-6, 190-pounder had a solid showing, serving as a stout defender and acrobatic scorer. Now, his recruitment process starts from scratch. "I'm willing to talk to any school that wants to recruit me," he said.
• Texas commit Cameron Ridley (6-10, 230) didn't get the opportunity to mix it up in the paint as often as anticipated, but still showed signs of being a dominant big man. If Saturday is any indication, Longhorns' fan can expect much of their frontcourt phenom upon his arrival in Austin.
• DaJuan Coleman has an uncharacteristically pretty mid-range shot for a big man. It's rare to describe a power forward's release as "feathery", but it seems apt watching Coleman's effortless shooting technique. The 6-10, 280-pound lefty is sure to succeed with his shot at the collegiate level.