Weekend Round-Up For Spring Tip-Off in LA
Sunday marked Day 2 of the Spring Tip-Off hosted by Gerry Frietas and held at Next Level Sports Complex in Los Angeles. The event had so much high-level and elite talent in the facility that you almost couldn’t go wrong with picking a game to watch from courts 7-11. Some of the top players in America were in attendance and packing the courts like a Swap Meet.
Among the Top 20 Ranked guys were two Arizona High School players, 6-foot-3 2020 point guard Nico Mannion, who suited up for Ryan Silver’s West Coast Elite team and looked like the best player on the floor every game he was in. Possibly had an argument with that in his last game when they squared up against Team Why Not and Cassius Stanley. Both players looked like the superstars they are.
Dream Vision was armed with Hillcrest Preps 6-foot-5 beast of a guard, Kyree Walker. He is another animal. He is one of a handful of players that play the game like his next meal is on the line. There is the good that gets in the gym and does work-outs with certified trainers and can do any and every drill you throw at them. And then there is the good that can’t be bought or taught. Kyree Walker is that kind of good. He is aggressive and every movement on the court has a purpose. I may not be telling you anything you do not already know, but if you haven’t seen him play live and in-person, then you are missing out on something special. Worth the price of admission and then some. I have officially found my favorite player to watch on the Circuit.
Powerhouse 17U Elite started Sunday off on a bad note by getting absolutely dominated against Pump N’ Run Elite. The team had no offensive flow and most didn’t even bother to make it back to the other side for defense. Unfortunately, I could not find one bright spot to take out of that game.
However, they would turn it around in their second game in a drastic way. 6-foot-7, 240-pound 2019 forward Andre Harris was an absolute beast. With multiple highlight dunks and inside buckets, he put his print on the game from start to finish. On the defensive end he was engaged and using his body to disrupt shots and square up on the glass. If he has a performance like that in front of some college coaches, he is walking out of the gym with a pocket full of great-looking offers. 6-foot-2 2019 point guard, Isaiah Marin, had a great showing as well. He got to the rack almost at will and seemed to always make the right decision at the right time on the break. A few possessions he tried to finish way too soft, but overall it was a great game for the smooth PG. 6-foot-4 2019 guard D’Maurian Williams pulled back a little from his scoring ways and did a great job finding teammates for easy buckets. Throwing lobs, hitting cutters in stride off of back-door cuts and dishing out some nice no-look passes. 6-foot-5 2019 wing Otis Frazier III came alive as well. After a poor showing in back-to-back games, he came out with some great finishes including a couple Sportscenter worthy slam dunks. 6-foot-6 2019 wing Jordan Mains finally looks like the sharp-shooter he was all year at Pinnacle. His corner three’s are deadly. When he is hot, his teams offense just looks different. 6-foot-5 2019 wing Majok Deng was another one that had a really rough couple of games but man was his passionate and into the game in this one. He didn’t so much affect the game with his scoring, but his intensity on defense and trapping the corners like the ballhandler stole his kicks was impressive.
The Factory 17U Elite just comes out and plays hard! What they lack in high-level size and talent, they make up for with guts and grit. A perfect example and identity of that is their 6-foot-4 2019 wing/forward Cedric Bridges. While he is bouncy and athletic, it is his toughness and determination that make him stand out on the basketball court. He needs to figure some things out on the perimeter, but his ability to finish inside while giving up 4-6 inches in most match-ups is crazy. He is toughness, personified. The Factory’s best prospect is their 6-foot-7 2019 sharp-shooting forward Emmanuel Taban. He is faced with some real pressure when teams figure out that he is their primary scoring option, but he still finds a way to get buckets using his length and high release on his shot.
Blue Chip Nation Power 17U Elite got put up against some far inferior competition in this event. They just simply have too much firepower and talent to play the teams they got squared up against. However, all you can do is play who is in front of you and that is exactly what they did. Head Coach Matthew Zosel got a good showing out of his studs. Hillcrest Prep’s 6-foot-8 2019 forward Stephan Gabriel is a freak athlete that finishes at the basket like a man possessed. It seems like every time he goes up at the rim it either leads to a foul or a bucket. On the glass, he is an earner. He just grabs boards with authority. If he develops a reliable jump shot and gets some lift on it, it could be scary. 6-foot-2 2019 combo guard Tyrek Chambers was a bucket on Sunday, going on spurts where he made everything he was throwing up from deep. Their 6-foot-2 2019 point guard Trent Brown was impressive today. His basketball IQ is through the roof and he finishes so much better in transition than you might think on the eye test. He is also a great, disciplined defender. 6-foot-3 2019 guard Jalen Williams can shoot the lines off the ball. When he is open and feet are set, everything he tosses up looks like a good basket.
Powerhouse 17U Schumaker struggled in Sunday's action. The team plays hard, but is a little short on firepower. However, 6-foot-1 2019 combo guard Josh Ursery showcased his offensive skillset and athleticism. He is still on the raw side, but has a ton of upside and loves a basketball gym as much or more than anyone you know. 6-foot-3 2019 guard/wing is the other super-athlete on that team. He doesn't have the boogie that Ursery possesses but he is every bit the athlete and has the body for it as well. He is also a very engaged and prideful defender. 6-foot-9 2019 big man Miles Houston had some good interior moves on Sunday and had some nice finishes inside. I would like to see him be more of a dog at times, but when he gets single coverage down low, he is a factor. 6-foot-4 unsigned senior guard/wing Amarion Cash was their most productive player on Sunday. He wasn't clicking from the perimeter with his shooting, but he had some really nice, tough takes to the rack and defended with maximum effort, as usual.
Shadow Mountain’s 6-foot-4 2019 super-athletic wing Jalen Williams played in a big showdown for Team Lillard against the San Diego Select. They would lose the game by a point, but Williams brought it to them like they owed him money. He is a remarkable defender and has the little tricks of the trade down. He gets up in a jersey and let’s you know he’s not going anywhere for the next hour or so. I came out of that game even more impressed than I was seeing him multiple times at Shadow.
Hillcrest Prep’s 2020 6-foot-4 guard Jeron Artest suited up for the Las Vegas Prospects 16U Elite team, which happens to be one of the better 16U teams you will see on the circuit. Artest had some great games, shooting the ball from deep and creating for teammates, especially on fast breaks. When engaged, he can be a lock down defender. He is going to be one to watch with them moving forward this spring and summer.
Team Harden’s 16U Elite team earned two great, tough wins on Sunday. Their 6-foot-2 2021 guard TyTy Washington has some real boogie to his game. He can break a defender down something serious and almost every shot he takes looks like a good shot. Also distributed the ball well and zipped some passes to the corners that set up wide-open shooters on a number of occasions. 5-foot-11 2021 guard Ricardo Sarmiento has every offensive skill you can ask for out of a guard at this level. He has an above-average handle and can shoot it from deep either off the bounce or off the pass with his feet set. His control on his movements while moving at a high speed is the new thing I noticed on him over the weekend. He just never really looks out of control. Their 6-foot-7 2020 big man DeAndre Henry played big for them as their only real big on a guard-heavy team. He banged inside and provided all the interior toughness you would expect out of a dual-sport athlete that happens to be a big-time football player as well. 6-foot-4 2020 guard Xavier Dusell can shoot that ball with the best of them. He is long and will need some work on finding a way to dribble through traffic a little better but he has some very good upside. He is also a great defender on the other end. He is always a threat to go crazy on the offensive side of ball, but then snatch your last cookie from you on defense. The surprise that squad had for me was their 6-foot-4 wing Vean Simon. Simon was tough as construction nails today, grabbing boards and being very active on the defensive end. Also finished great near the basket and made some smart, sound decisions with the ball in his hand.
Powerhouse Hoops 16U Elite had some things to figure out going into Sunday’s games. They did not seem to figure those things out in the early going, falling behind by double digits early. They bounced back in the 2nd half with the play of their tough 6-foot-8 2020 forward Anthony Garza. Garza just has a gear in his motor that most kids in our State don’t have but his finishes at the rim were impressive all weekend long. His activity on the glass and on D makes him a Division-I prospect. 6-foot-1 2020 point guard Tay Boothman struggled with his shot early but got some deep balls to drop and helped push the tempo for his team when needed. Also showed up with something extra on the perimeter on defense. 6-foot-9 2020 center Hunter Ruck started to come into his own over the weekend. He is playing with more authority down low and his movements are more instinctual now. He has some real upside. 6-foot-4 2020 guard Kimani Holt showed some new-found dog tendencies. Holt is as athletic and strong as they come, but this weekend he got rid of some of that passiveness he is known for and just went and got things done on the offensive end. I would like to see him more into becoming a lock down defender and if he gets the ability to be an above-average shooter, he has the god given ability to make a thing or 2 happen.
Powerhouse 15U Elite had a tough, uncharacteristic loss on Saturday, but bounced back with two strong wins over both The Truth EYBL and Dream Vision. Their highly-touted 6-foot-10 8th grade elite prospect Dylan Anderson pulled out some of his A-game today and was a monster down low. He still has some growing pains but he is on another level. His size and abilities grab your attention as soon as you walk by the court. 6-foot-4 2021 guard Jovan Ruffin has a gear not many players have at his age. He is peddle to the medal almost every time he steps on the court. He will be a problem in the next few years. 6-foot-9 2021 big man Carter Van Hammond was incredible in the last game against Dream Vision, hitting s couple mid-range shots and sealing like a Zip-Loc in the post and creating easy buckets for himself. Ex-NBA rebounding champion, Dennis Rodman, was in the facility over the weekend and Van Hammond’s effort on the glass that day would’ve made Rodman proud. 5-foot-11 2021 point guard Justus Jackson got some pieces to the puzzle put back together after a rough Saturday. The things that impress me about him don’t always show up in stat sheets or highlight films. With saying that, he has the ability to scorch nets from deep. Nevertheless, it how balanced he is at almost all times. When he has the ball in his hands on the move his body is always controlled and centered and his handle is just as tight. 6-foot 2021 point guard Derick Kaps is a gamer. He has some real speed on both ends and finishes with some bunny in him coming through the lane. He really needs to put in some work on his right hand, going to the basket but he is a natural right-hander, so the learning curve should not be nothin crazy. 6-foot-8 2021 forward DaRon Holmes got back to being DaRon again on Sunday. He is a big time finisher out on the break and can create different scoring opportunities for himself in the lane. He is one of the few players at that level that can snatch a rebound off the glass and take it down court to the other end and finish. His upside is ridiculous.
It was a pleasure watching and covering our Arizona talent in this event. Obviously, I couldn’t be everywhere in a 11-court facility but I did my best and can’t wait to do it again in two weeks.
So proud of all the Arizona teams and the effort they put up against some great out-of-state competition. We had a strong showing and showcased some of our top-notch talent. #BeRelentless #NoSurrender #No Retreat