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Sean Morrison | The Journal Gazette
New Haven senior Steve McElvene has received offers from Ball State, Wright State, Chicago State, Kansas State, Saint Louis and LaSalle.

Local AAU players staying up to speed

Tourneys helpful for New Haven, Wayne seniors

– Justin Mitchell and Steve McElvene aren’t used to this level of competition.

They’re used to much better.

Mitchell, a senior at Wayne, and McElvene, a senior at New Haven, torched the competition Thursday during the Crossroads Challenge at Best Choice Fieldhouse. The two played with Spiece Higher Level during the Challenge after spending all of their AAU season with the premier Spiece team, the Spiece Indy Heat.

The Heat compete in the Elite Youth Basketball League, a series of AAU tournaments sponsored by Nike. The majority of the best programs in the nation participate in the EYBL, which wrapped up with the Peach Jam from July 10 to 14 in North Augusta, S.C.

“It’s a whole different pace of game,” said Mitchell, a 6-foot-4 guard. “It’s quicker, faster. You’ve got to work hard at all times because you never know who’s watching.”

And many college programs were watching.

McElvene, a 6-foot-11 center, earned offers from Ball State, Wright State, Chicago State this summer. After the Peach Jam, he got scholarship offers from Kansas State, Saint Louis and LaSalle.

Purdue is also interested in McElvene but hasn’t offered him a scholarship.

“Purdue has been talking to me for a while now,” McElevene said. “I think they’re waiting for me to get through with my summer school and stuff so they know that I’m academically ready.”

Butler, Tennessee and many more are also in touch with McElvene, and many of the same programs have reached out to Mitchell. Before he started the EYBL circuit, Mitchell didn’t have a Division I offer.

Now, he has three.

“Ball State, IPFW and Chicago State offered,” Mitchell said. “And interest from Saint Louis, Tennessee, Toledo, Ohio University, Xavier, Indiana State.”

During the EYBL season, Mitchell and McElvene had to play the game differently from a personnel standpoint.

The level of competition was higher, and neither player was a go-to scorer. The Heat roster was loaded with top-50 talent, including Evansville Bosse’s JaQuan Lyle, Indianapolis Arsenal Tech’s Trey Lyles, former Bishop Luers guard James Blackmon Jr. and Park Tudor’s Trevon Bluiett.

Defense got Mitchell and McElvene on the court. Mitchell played more of a facilitator role for a high-scoring backcourt, while McElvene was used as a big body to clear out the lane on box-outs.

“Playing against guys with my height, guys with real potential,” McElvene said. “I think it made me better as a player. I learned a lot.”

And colleges learned something about him, too.

The time with Higher Level will allow McElvene to improve as a scorer and work on his footwork in the post. For Mitchell, it will be a chance to drive the ball and showcase an improving jump shot.

That was the case Thursday.

Mitchell scored 20 points, and McElvene dominated at the rim.

Ball State had two coaches in attendance, and other programs filed in as the game went on.

“My recruiting got a little longer, I think,” McElvene said.

smorrison@jg.net

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