In a gym largely devoid of natural light, it’s easy to lose track of time. It slips by between games, whistles, politicking parents, bathroom breaks, and niche basketball celebrity sightings. In this basketball vacuum, the 2023 3SSB (Three Stripe Select Basketball) kicked off at a not-too-early 10:50am local time on a Friday morning in late April with New World out of Maryland facing Southern Assault out of Texas on the main court at the Iowa West Fieldhouse in Council Bluffs, a skip across the Missouri River away from Omaha where former five-star Hunter Sallis starred for Millard North and where college baseball stars converge every year for their World Series.
It wasn’t a strange trip, but there were bad omens everywhere: dark skies and ill-tempered wind, a black squirrel side-eying me from a telephone pole, an empty mini-bottle of Fireball discarded in the men’s bathroom around 4pm (stress relief anytime, anywhere) and even a detour for pepto, all thick and bubblegum pink, but despite all this, nothing bad happened except for maybe a big on either Game Elite or Austin Rivers getting nearly dropped by a mechanically slow inside out in transition, his lost balance and attempts to regain it possibly more unnatural appearing than if he had just fallen. No, not bad omens, but intros and re-intros; a reunion where competing coaches come together to exchange information and jokes, currency wrapped up in three-quarter zips.
I was in town for a single day, nowhere near long enough to draw the types of conclusions needed to make long-term decisions, but long enough to sketch outlines, which is what I’ll try to do here. I had a list of players and teams to see, I was solo, lightweight, but ran into my friend Greg Danielson, a friend dating back to middle school and the Camp of Champs basketball camp who led the MVC in rebounding 20 years ago as a heavy footed 6-9 center and whose son, Dane Danielson has completed some type of generational circle by picking up a mythological basketball mantle handed off culturally as much as genetically. Dane was in town with the 15U J Sizzle team out of Minnesota. Seeing Greg and watching his son play reminded me what I had picked up on some time back, that beneath the shoe companies and hyper-competitive capitalistic world of the-youth-to-college-to-pro basketball pipeline are family and relationships – which come with all the entanglements our species can muster (like me overhearing an adult man, “Coach, coach! How come every time my nephew in the game, you call a play and he doesn’t get the ball?” We all want what’s best for our own.). The primary break in youth basketball from any mainstream sub-culture is that walking into a fieldhouse, it’s 90-95% males with female family and staff making up the 5-10%. These estimates have not been scientifically vetted, but AAU boy’s basketball is a male-dominated sub-culture.
In this testosterone-filled pit of courts and teenage basketball humans, I took notes on 53 players across the 2024, 2025, and 2026 high school basketball classes. Below is a tip of the iceberg impression of many of these players. If you want to go below the surface, this industry has myriad scouts, analysts and writers who do this full time and have gone in-depth where I cannot. Try 247, On3, PD Web, Pro Insights, Mike Gribanov for deeper analysis.
The below is not a ranking, but it’s also not a complete coincidence that some of the top-ranked players by consensus are at the top of the list. They’re good, they stood out.
Big names, Big games:
- Koa Peat: 6-9, 2025, 16.3 years old, Compton Magic by way of Perry High School (AZ)
Son of NFL player, brother of NFL player, played up with 17U Compton Magic team; inauspicious start getting dunked on and having his pocket picked clean, but but but. 6-9 gotta be over 220 pounds and was either primary or secondary handler for Compton. Handle is sound, but could probably use improvement (he’s 16, that’s ok). Operating in Melo-spaces (mid-post, mid-range) was too much for the Austin Rivers club. Abusive in a good basketball way, seeks out contact, and doles out punishment like a tight end battering through secondaries – kids at this level, even a year or more older, just aren’t typically physically developed in this way. Not just strong, but balanced with good body control; not reckless, not bull in China shop, just bull. Made a living at the free throw line, hit C&S3s, hyper aggressive. Curious to see how his athleticism and skill develop over next 2-3 years. Immediately after his first game, Calipari extended an offer.
2. Zoom Diallo: 6-3 or 6-4, 2024, 17.5 years old, Beauchamp Elite 17U by way of Curtis High (WA) – same school as Isaiah Thomas
Diallo was maybe my favorite player of the day. Strong, exceptional body control, great positional size and has figured out how to utilize his physical size and athleticism in concert with skill (ball handling, court vision/awareness, shooting/finishing). This marriage of skill and talent is at the root of basketball effectiveness which is a bit less important at the 17U level where, from a scouting lens, the focus is on the here, the now, the what could be, etc. There’s a decisiveness and confidence in his attack and decision making that, whenever I see it in teenagers, I’m always struck by. Dedan Thomas of Dream Vision was the only player whose court generalship exceeded Diallo’s. Diallo excelled at changing speeds, stuttering, stopping and going, mixing in backdowns, shoulder turns, just a bevy of dribble moves to keep the defense off balance to the point that parents/supporters of K-Low Elite were apoplectic on the sidelines, but honestly, they would’ve gotten that work too. Saw floor extremely well and repeatedly found cutters for dimes. Diallo is a total package at PG with a frame that reminds me of Cason Wallace. Calipari and Tommy Lloyd were both on hand.
3. Caleb Holt: 6-5, 2026, 15.4 years old, Game Elite 17U by way of Buckhorn High (AL)
I hadn’t seen Holt before, but as an incoming sophomore playing with the 17U team, I was intrigued and the 6-5 Holt didn’t disappoint. For starters, his frame (listed 185) is already filled out in a way that resembles a HS senior or college frosh. He’s not jacked or anything, just a strong-ass kid which immediately forces the same question that I mentioned about Peat: how do his skills and athleticism evolve as his opponents start to close that physical gap? In his case, he’s playing up and doing all he can to compete at highest levels available. A good example was Holt trying to yam on #32 for Team Loaded VA. He was denied at the summit, winding up on his ass. Shit happens and instead of backing off of attack, Holt dialed up the aggressiveness repeatedly driving hard into the paint in both the half court and transition. He took hits and kept coming back and like Peat, has the frame to absorb fouls and knock defenders off-balance. Even mixed it up with a drive-and-dish at one point. His team is loaded up with guys who can make plays so his role is somewhat limited at present, but jeez, the foundational tools are there for a hell of a two-way player.
4. Darryn Peterson: 6-5, 2025, 16.3 years old, Phenom United by way of Cuyahoga Valley Christian (OH)
All the polish with requisite off-guard size and athleticism. On-ball menace creating for himself or others, made numerous +reads in half court and transition. Super soft touch. Vertically athleticism popped on a shot contest around the rim where his hand was up near the square off a one step vert; dunks off one foot or two, in-traffic dunker. Only saw one of his games, but ability to overwhelm 16U comp with both skill and physicality was a bit too easy. Former NBA player and coach Sam Mitchell coached this team.
5. Dedan Thomas: 6-2, 2024, 17.6 years old, Dream Vision by way of Liberty (NV)
If the aforementioned players all pop physically, Thomas’s appearance is pedestrian by comparison. Is he 6-2? Maybe more like 6-1? He’s not obviously long, not ripped, not jumping out the gym (from what I’ve ever seen). Some on-ball heavy roles/players convey one thing on film and another in person and Thomas running point for Dream Vision evinces a master at work. While not physically overwhelming, Thomas is solidly built with an already preternatural sense of timing – when to stop, when to go, when to push, when to pass, when to keep. He ran and read P&R possessions like he’s been working out with Luka in his downtime. How are these kids learning and developing feel to the point of mastery?
6. Khani Rooths: 6-8, 2024, 17.5 years old, New World by way of IMG (FL)
Not knowing a player on sight makes for a fun scouting wrinkle: is the guy popping the guy I came to see or a friend of his playing his ass off? In the case of Rooths, a 6-8 wing/combo forward, it was indeed the guy I came to see. Broad shouldered and a bit thicker than wiry, Rooths has some wiggle while appearing to not be blessed with great flexibility. He’s certainly not stiff, but on dribble drives, doesn’t get too low. In this game, his jumper was the showcase: he hit off the catch and dribble, with his ability to get consistently create and his own off pull ups. The icing on the cake was a game-winning pull-up off a spin move from 15 feet to seal the win.
7. Isiah Harwell: 6-4 or 6-5, Utah Prospects by way of Wasatch Academy (UT)
A child of the Kobe generation, loaded with skill and polish as a right-sized off guard with a hell of a pull-up game and excellent footwork. Pulled out a little mini-shoulder shimmy on a baseline turnaround; difficult shot that he missed, but technically sound. Great lift on the jumper creates clean looks. Displayed good timing and feel operating as P&R ball handler. Lot of tough shot making/taking with hints of the right kind of audacity and courage to his game. At one point, one videographer covering the event ran up to one of their colleagues and urgently pressed them, “We gotta get a camera on number one!” (Harwell was number one and camera person number two quickly re-adjusted.)
8. Micah Robinson: 6-7, 17.6 years old, Southern Assault by way of Oak Hill Academy (VA)
Not as big a name or rank as the guys above him, but great size as 6-7 combo forward with on-ball skills. Saw more on-ball reps than his Oak Hill role typically allows for; is unrushed in attack and showed ability to regularly break down D and get to rim with or without a screen. More comfortable/effective on C&S rather than pull-up. Plays with effort and motor, competes – had shot blocked at rim and hustled back for a stop going the other way. If Ian Jackson might be a more natural facilitator, Robinson is probably a bit more natural playing off ball or attacking off catch rather than as a primary initiator.
Big names, insufficient samples:
9. Ian Jackson: 6-5, 2024, 18.2 years old, New York Wiz Kids by way of Cardinal Hayes (NY), UNC commit
Super narrow in the hips as a combo guard/do-everything wing at this level. Like Flory Bidunga who I discuss below, I was a victim to bad timing with future Tar Heel, Jackson. His team was playing from behind the entire time I saw him against Thomas’s Dream Vision squad so it had this weird desperation energy in which Jackson adopted a sort of prime facilitator role. He plugged into the role smoothly spraying passes and finding open guys all over the court; all initiated by an ability to beat his man force the defense to shift. At times felt almost conservative in not looking for his shot though he showed a nice stroke, good footwork and lift on a stepback three. In my notes, I asked: “More natural facilitator than scorer?” to which Jackson replied with a 35-point performance in a follow-up game. Jackson can clearly hoop with a versatile set of skills, plus-feel, an ability to break down a defense and make good reads alongside an engaged, competitive approach. This sample and the context chasing a game left me wishing for more time, which, after all, is a pursuit as old as (hu)man.
10. Flory Bidunga: 6-10, 2024, 17.9 years old, Indiana Elite by way of Kokomo (IN)
Alongside his teenage peers, the 6-10 Bidunga is statuesquely broad across the shoulders with a v-shaped frame narrowing from the shoulders down. He was lauded by attendees for his dominance and development; particularly on the face up game, but in my limited viewing I saw more project and less development. This could be because my Bidunga baseline is somewhat minimal or it could be that he took off as the games went on. Whatever the case, he gave off Dwight Howard vibes purely in terms of frame and athleticism. I saw no less than three catches out of rolls/dives and despite a strange habit of briefly hesitating on the catch, his ability detonate off catch and step was unmatched all day with one particular explosion that saw his elbow at rim level singeing deeply into my brain. The rawness revealed itself on a little escape dribble that looked more like my six-year-old with eyes focused on the ball and a paddle dribble of sorts. This awkwardness was followed up with a mostly-fluid right-to-left cross that gained him a step and while I can see snippets of skill creeping through, I’ll have to defer to the experts and abstain from passing much judgment on this micro-sample although it’s easy to see why people are excited. Also had stretches where I didn’t even notice him on the defensive end. Separately, Bidunga is a super intriguing case study in player development timelines. How and where he develops over the next two-to-three years and how much of that is attributable to his environment, coaches, trainers. It’s not something you can ever really answer definitively, but if you’re a coach or expert in player development, he seems like the type of nutrient rich prospect you’d be clamoring to work with.
11. VJ Edgecombe: 6-5, 2024, 17.8 years old, Austin Rivers SE Elite by way of Long Island Lutheran (same school produced Andre Curbelo, Zed Key)
Ideal off-guard size at 6-5, a bit on the leaner side, but strong with good hip/knee flexibility and explosiveness. When I’d seen his tape, there was a visible level of intensity radiating off the screen and in-person it’s present as well even if it’s a small thing like intensely coaching up a teammate to inbound the ball. High level of focus, plugged into details. Unfortunately rolled ankle and left early.
12. Annor Boateng: 6-5 or 6-6, 2024, 17.5 years old, Arkansas Hawks by way of Little Rock Central (AR)
Built like a damn tank, variation on Lu Dort physique but couple inches taller. Willing as a passer, didn’t shoot well in game I saw and there was even an offhand goofy footed floater that failed to connect with any solid object. Form looked fine, but just couldn’t get it to fall and unfortunately trying to find 3SSB stats requires advanced training in forensic sciences.
New guys (for me):
13. Eli DeLaurier: 6-10, 2024, Team Loaded VA by way of Miller School (VA)
Aggressive and confident letting that thing fly with legit size and some big ass feet. Has touch off catch or bounce inside/outside three. Able to create own shot against bigger defenders, but need a bigger sample size to see him putting it on the deck.
14. Andre Mills Jr: 6-4, 2024, Mass Rivals by way of Brimmer & May School (MA); committed to Texas A&M
I was talking to my buddy while watching Mass Rivals and my notes for Mills are simple: “Scoring.” Fairly certain he’s a lefty and was hyper aggressive against Indiana Elite from tip-off, attacking and scoring both off the catch and bounce, inside and outside the three. Listed at 6-4 just like Harwell, but appears shorter. Played with intensity and energy that countered somewhat milder teammate Kur Teng.
15. Kur Teng: 6-4, 2024, 17.8 years old, Mass Rivals by way of Bradford Christian Academy (MA); committed to Michigan State
If Mills was the more fiery protagonist for Mass (other than their combustible coach), Teng was a steady Eddie who shot the cover off the ball. Playing primarily off-ball, somehow found himself open for C&S3s and hit no less than three with a balanced form and clean release. Didn’t get a great feel for his tools one way or the other.
16. Cooper Koch: 6-8, 2024, Indiana Elite by way of Peoria Notre Dame (IL); committed to Iowa
Sturdily built stretch four who spent most of his time with this team planted in the corner, stretching the D, and attacking off the catch. Shot wasn’t falling, but still flashed gravity as floor spacer. Willing banger with defensive awareness. Can see glimpses of his dad, JR Koch who played for Iowa in the late 90s and was drafted by the Knicks; a player I once accosted outside of the Burge dorms in Iowa City shrieking about him being drafted.
17. Travis Perry: 6-2, 2024, Indiana Elite by way of Lyon County (KY)
Similar to Rooths, I didn’t know Perry on sight and was immediately struck by the pedal-to-metal pace pushed by the 6-2 point. He pushed at every opportunity, in both transition and the half court, constantly keeping defenders on their heels and off balance while still playing under control. Perry is solidly build and plays with balance. He was confident, aggressive, decisive, able to diagnose and make decisions on the fly. Shot a pretty ball with nice rotation; big part of Bidunga getting open looks.
18. Ketraleus Aldridge (Bo Aldridge): 6-5, 2024, Trae Young by way of Highland Park (KS)
Reclass from 2023 and played like a grown man against Arkansas Hawks. Strong frame at 6-4 or 6-5. Showed up with unmatched energy, baseline drives, and wild range of outcomes. Airballed a baseline floater, but cooked a defender with a right-to-left cross to get the floater. Got sped up on times with handle, but consistently beat man off catch. Was a magnet of activity and when a guy always seems to be in the mix, it’s usually for a reason. Icing on the cake was a 28-foot buzzer beater to end the first half. Getting lot of well-deserved attention following this Omaha session.
19. Isaac Davis: 6-7, 2024, Utah Prospects, by way of Hillcrest
Massive lower-bodied PF with thighs like tree trunks. Like many thick-bodied players before him, light on feet with deft footwork. Showed some range/touch on C&S3. If 6-7 fullbacks were a thing, Isaac Davis would be them.
20. KJ Cochran: 6-3, 2025, K-Low Elite by way of West Chester East (PA)
2025 kid playing up with the 17U team. Young in the face, on-ball guard who carried a massive usage against Zoom Diallo’s Beauchamp squad. Showed ability with the stop-and-pop, pull-up and C&S from distance. Has touch and craft; didn’t come off as great athlete and still developing physically. Will be a player I keep an eye on.
21. Moustapha Thiam: 7-0, 2025, Austin Rivers SE Elite by way of DME Academy (MD) (home of the Murray twins in their prep year)
Super small sample, but hella long big (maybe not legit seven-footer?) with mobility. Really caught my attention with an on-the-money hit ahead pass in transition that most bigs at this stage (he’s just an incoming junior) can’t see let alone make. Saw a bit of switchability, didn’t see lot on offense which was more an issue of opportunity rather than opportunity squandered.
22. Cam Miles: 6-2, 2024, Austin Rivers SE Elite by way of Olympia High School (FL)
Rangy combo guard with good timing and instincts. Strong/quick hands on defensive side of ball. Showed burst off catch, speed in open court; uses ball fake well to set up attack. Able to hit jumper off the catch.
23. Khaman Maker: 7-0, 2024, Dream Vision by way of Sierra Vista (NV) – not a sibling of Thon Maker
Of course I lazily assumed he was related to Thon or Makur, but per On3 at least, he’s not a sibling of Thon’s despite displaying the slender, long frame of the guy with whom he shares a surname. Surnames aside, Maker played with Dedan’s Dream Vision squad and appeared to play within himself – showing effort, utilizing his size and length on the glass and protecting the rim.
24. CJ Brown (Cornelius Brown): 6-2, 2024, Game Elite by way of Kell High (GA) (Scoot Henderson went here)
Brown’s a twitchy combo guard who can explode off one foot (maybe even two). He commits to drives, doesn’t shy away from contact despite having a leaner frame. Didn’t get good look at jumper.
25. Max Green: 6-6, 2024 Team Loaded VA by way of Oldham County (KY)
Slim incoming senior with room to develop physically. Shoots a good ball, can attack closeout, showed ability as a decisive connector.
Atlanta Celtics Edition (need to see more, but my favorite team of the day)
26. Gicarri Harris: 6-4, 2024, Atlanta Celtics by way of Grayson (GA)
Combo guard, primarily off-guard, instinctually aggressive in attack with variety of ways to beat his man; great footwork with counters to escape D. Does well shooting off catch with an easy ball or attacking the closeout.
27. Jayden Williams: 6-9, 2024, 17.5 years old, Atlanta Celtics by way of Overtime Elite
High-waisted face-up big with infinitely long legs. In bit I saw, took a backseat to dominant guard play, but flashed skill when given the opportunity: attacked off the bounce with strong jump stop gather to jump hook. Combined size and skill well to get to spots and finish. Need more viewing to draw any conclusions.
28. Amaricko (Ricky) McKenzie: 6-4, 2024, Atlanta Celtics by way of Wheeler (GA) (Isaiah Collier running mate)
Good sized and broad-shouldered; gorgeous on PU3-in-transition with ++touch finishing floater in traffic. All their players look like they’ve been spending time in the weightroom and McKenzie no exception. Scored/beat man in a variety of ways. Per VerbalCommits, holds offers from Jacksonville and Western Carolina