Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: High School Basketball

3SSB in Council Bluffs where the skies were gray and the winds angry

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:

  1. 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

May 2021: Allen Iverson Classic, a player-centric Review

Over the course of a few days in May, a collection of top-ranked high school basketball players descended on Memphis for the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, an NBA-sanctioned event (meaning NBA personnel could attend to whet their appetites for future employees) hosted by one-time Memphis Grizzly, Allen Iverson.

This time of year is typically the season for post-season all-star/All-American games with the McDonald’s game, Jordan Brand Classic, and probably some others that aren’t coming to mind. In this second year of global Covid disruptions, most events are on hiatus, but not the Iverson Classic which stood alone as the sole national event this year. Spread across three days, there were (allegedly) competitive scrimmages withheld from the masses, dunk and three-point contests, a one-on-one tournament, and finally, the main event, an all-star game on Saturday night (May 8th) 28 of the top high school players in the country (27 boys and one girl). The game was streamed through SUVtv for a not unreasonable $9.99 and is available on-demand. Before I get into the players, notes on the stream and game:

  • SUV, as usual, provides competent and mostly knowledgeable announcers.
  • For viewers who enjoy rewind/fast forward hot key features (think five-second forward/back), SUV’s video player does not include these features. This is inexplicable.
  • The white jerseys have light-colored (light gold? White?) numbers making it difficult at times to determine who’s who. Similar to the video player, this is a small nuisance likely only impacting a handful of viewers, but even the announcers were tripped up at times.
  • The rosters (and all players are included below) are accurate
  • The head coaches of each team were Stephen Jackson and Rasheed Wallace. Both were engaged and vocal. From my lens, the gravitas of these former players contributed to sustained energy and competitiveness from the players. All-star games have long been the domain of coasting, but imagine your 18-year-old self defying Sheed or SJax.

Black Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):

  • #1 Paolo Banchero: Seattle kid with 11/12/02 (18.5 years old) b-day, somewhere between 6-9 and 6-11 (he’s not 6-11 despite what ESPN has listed) depending on source, 5* Duke commit, mocked #2 in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-3 high-school rank:
    • All we heard all week was how him and Chet Holmgren competed hard against each other all week and, for me, they’re the most tantalizing players and prospects.
    • Banchero settled for a lot of jumpers in the game, both off-the-catch and off-the-bounce, but I’m not too concerned as he has sound mechanics and some of the shots felt like they in search of rhythm.
    • Banchero’s combination of size, movement and ball skills are somewhat mesmerizing. So many bigs his age are rail thin, still growing into their bodies and creating uncertainty as long-term prospect, but Banchero already has a solid frame complimented by a clean handle, tight cross and effective hesitation. Combined with strong body mechanics and mobility, the aggregate is extraordinary.
    • Given his general focus/engagement and build, I was surprised to see him pummeled on the o-glass by Holmgren who’s length, timing, and underestimated strength caused Banchero problems all day. Holmgren had at least four o-rebs that were a direct result of out-working Banchero.
    • Banchero’s defense doesn’t worry me because he’s a smart player who has a solid motor, but I don’t necessarily see him as a high-impact defender long-term; particularly with him going to Duke where Coach K seems to have given up on teaching defense to big men.

A crossover dribble move executed by Paolo Banchero of Seattle
  • #21 AJ Griffin: son of former NBA player and current assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, 8/25/03 (17.7) b-day (2nd youngest player in game), 6-7 or 6-8, listed at 200 pounds but there’s no way he’s that light, 5* Duke commit, mocked #6 in 2022 ESPN mock, no consensus on HS rank due to not having played in over a year, but pre-hiatus, was consistently top-10 in national ranks and top-3 in Draft Twitter circles:
    • Griffin looks like he spent the past year locked in the weight room alternating between shoulder presses and lat pulldowns. He’s fucking huge and gives off some Kawhi Leonard vibes as a power wing – although he’s nowhere near weaponizing that power right now.
    • The handle is slick and he hit someone with a nasty inside out that I should’ve clipped, but didn’t. My bad.
    • Range extends beyond NBA three line without effort.
    • In love with pull-ups and it’s a pretty shot with a variety of dribble moves to set it up, but lot of settling.
    • Could see the rust from long time off, but both the current ability and long-term potential outstrip any lack of rhythm.
  • #2 JD Davison: Alabama native with 10/3/02 (18.6) b-day, 6-2 or 6-3 (I’d lean to 6-2), with a solid 180-poundsd, 5* Alabama commit, not included in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-13 in class:
    • Got a coveted Givony tweet about his play
    • Showed some flair for passing/reading floor that hadn’t popped as well in other viewings.
    • Power guard who used his strength/athleticism well a couple times including shrugging off Jaden Akins on a dribble drive and recovering on a Nolan Hickman ball fake to get the block on second jump.
    • Not sure if he shot a jumper.
  • #26 Johnathan Lawson: member of Memphis basketballing Lawson family, 10/7/02 (18.6) b-day, listed at 6-6 170 but looks taller, 4*Memphis commit (de-committed from Oregon), mostly a top-100 rank:
    • Jersey number was strangely a different color from teammates
    • Didn’t focus too closely on him, but lack of physical development seems to be holding back better body control
  •  #11 Tyrese Hunter: Wisconsin kid with 8/11/03 (17.8) b-day, listed at 6-1 175, high 4* Iowa State commit, consensus top-40:
    • My first viewing of Hunter
    • Able to breakdown primary defender with handle/quickness; handle is tight, improvisational
    • Good speed, fluid movement
    • Good feel, able to read/react to defense both on/off ball à low-key, probably the secret ingredient to his effectiveness
    • In part because I hadn’t seen him before, but walked away really being impressed by him
  • #15 TyTy Washington: big time rankings riser with 11/15/01 (19.5) b-day, 6-3 or 6-4, 5* de-commit from Creighton with crystal balls pointing to Kentucky, #13 on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between #12 and 21 depending on source:
    • Able to create for self and others as lead guard – can beat the primary defender and make plus-decisions at second and third levels à drive-and-kick game solid, floater game solid
    • Totally in-flow here, comfortable as primary or off-ball; plays well with others which was important to see after seeing him force things a bit at Geico
    • Good range and shoots an easy ball
    • Showed some defensive awareness with early rotation/anticipation
    • In general, a joy
  • #5 Peyton Watson: Cali kid with 9/11/02 (18.7) b-day, listed 6-8 but could be taller, 5* UCLA commit, #6 on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-10 in class:
    • Am generally a big-time Watson fan, but he was quiet in this one – some of which could be attributed to normally being a ball-dominant offensive player and needing to find place alongside three high-level guards (TyTy, Hunter, Davison).
    • Lanky kid with long strides
    • Showed good body control/concentration with off-hand finish against Chet Holmgren contest
    • Not a player I typically think of as big-time athlete, but pulled out an impressive windmill on breakaway
  • #5 Hunter Sallis: from Omaha with 3/26/03 (18.1) b-day, listed at 6-5 but could be taller, 5* Gonzaga commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between 7 and 14:
    • Like Tyrese Hunter, this was my first time seeing Sallis, but like Watson, seemed like struggled a bit to get into an off-ball role.
    • I don’t know what I was expecting, but Sallis’s athleticism exceeded my expectations; he gets up well off two feet, had an electric windmill in transition, and showed some impressive speed/burst getting out in a sprint.
    • I’m intrigued, but not wowed.
  • #23 Bryce McGowens: out of South Carolina with 11/8/02 (18.5) b-day, listed at 6-6, high 4* or low 5* depending on who you ask committed to Nebraska after de-committing from FSU, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock:
    • McGowens is a slender wing who’s still growing into his body. In this game, similarly to Sallis and Watson, he played more off-the-ball than he’s accustomed to, but unlike the other two, it felt like a more natural fit.
    • Had couple of read/reacts and improvisations on a help side steal and drive into Chet’s chest for free throws that were good to see as in-the-flow, unforced impact. (This idea of in-rhythm, organic impact versus forced impact is something that I’ll return to throughout. In an all-star setting like this where you have 28 players who are accustomed to being focal points, getting a feeling for how players assimilate into team construct in unfamiliar capacities isn’t a panacea for scouting or projection, but it is helpful to get a feel for how a player will adapt in different situations.)
    • His shot and mechanics are fluid and polished, but I often find myself wanting more with the overall output.
  • #0 Benny Williams: DMV kid born on 4/30/02 (19), listed at 6-8 (was 5-9 as a frosh in HS), high 4*/low 5*, committed to Syracuse, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-35:
    • I believe Williams was the last guy off the bench and in my imperfect notes and memory, he had a comparable role; forced to nibble around the edges and get shots/make plays as opportunity presented itself.
    • His jumper has always been a strength at his size and while I didn’t see him make one, the mechanics still look good.
    • Flashed some plus-awareness/BBIQ with a quick dump-off on an offensive rebound à it’s a small thing, but making heady plays in limited opportunity is about all you can ask.  
  • #35 Matthew Cleveland: Atlanta native born 9/15/02 (18.7), listed at 6-7, high 4*/low 5* FSU commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-30, much higher in draft Twitter communities:
    • Big, strong, athletic, engaged, Cleveland has long been a draft Twitter darling that I’ve been closer to mainstream on (15-20ish) than draft Twitter and a lot of my reservation is revealing of my own limitation in focusing on his HS/AAU role as an on-ball, high-usage player where, in my viewings, he’s been over-aggressive with questionable decision making and shot selection.
    • If Watson and Sallis struggled towards total all-star integration, Cleveland was impressively in his element repeatedly making plays (backcutting an over-laying defender, combining awareness and athleticism on an emphatic help side block, making quick reads with the pass) and making a positive impact.
    • Showed impressive touch/concentration finishing through/over contests at rim.
    • Seems like a Florida State guy.
  • #4 Terquavion Smith: North Carolina kid with 12/31/02 (18.4) b-day, listed at 6-3, 4* NC State commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-100 player with top-rank of #73:
    • First experience with Smith and regrettably don’t have much to offer. He hit a nice floater, showed some touch, and defended well on-ball.
  • #33 Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: 8/6/03 b-day (17.8), listed at 6-9 230 but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s heavier, 5* Tennessee commit, not included on ESPN 2022 mock, anywhere from #5 to #20 in class:
    • Big, thick forward without a ton of explosiveness
    • Deep love for jab steps to setup sidestep and step-back threes – competent shooter; opened this game with back-to-back threes; shot 39% on 43 attempts in 2019 UAA season. 61% from FT on 23 attempts in same UAA sample.
    • Not a quick decision maker, ball tends to stick to his hands while he jabs/surveys.
    • Big body, but not particularly effective utilizing it; not a banger, was out-worked/out-physicaled by Michael Foster.

White Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):

  • #34 Chet Holmgren: Minnesotan with 5/1/02 (19) b-day, listed at 7-0, 195 pounds, 5* Gonzaga commit, #2 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus #1 player in class:
    • Offensively, spent much more time in post/around paint than he did with his Minnehaha team. Unsurprisingly effective around basket with length and soft touch.
    • Coordination/handle continue to impress given size/build/age and reveal ability to create off bounce which he showed with drive-and-dish.
    • Despite frame, appears to be stronger than he looks as he was able to dislodge heavier/thicker Paolo on more than one occasion.
    • Combination of strength, length, and positioning made him a nightmare on offensive glass – much of which was at Paolo’s expense.
  • #11 Michael Foster: Milwaukee native played high school ball in Phoenix at Hillcrest, 1/16/03 (18.3) b-day, listed 6-9 233, 5* G-League Ignite signee, #32 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-20 in class ranging from #7 to #17:
    • Burly and physical with elite production (32-points and 18-rebounds-per-game as a senior), the biggest knock on Foster is that he doesn’t know how to play and makes dumb decisions and while it was an all-star exhibition, early on Foster helped off of Huntley-Hatfield when he didn’t need to and gave up a wide open three.
    • Additionally, he struggled with his handle forcing dribble drives and getting stripped for TOs.
    • The burly physicality was evident though as he was a bully on the offensive glass, repeatedly pummeling Huntley-Hatfield under the hoop for putbacks.
    • Flashed nice passing/awareness with a cross-court hook pass with a ton of velocity and accuracy to wide open shooter.
    • Unable to contain or deter Paolo in space.
  • #4 Kowacie Reeves: 1/31/03 (18.3) b-day, listed at 6-6 170, 4* Florida commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #27 and #69 in class:
    • First time seeing Reeves, a long, bouncy wing out of Georgia
    • Jumper didn’t fall and didn’t see enough or close enough to get a feel for mechanics
    • Could see his well-regarded athleticism attacking the closeout for an and-1 dunk
  • #0 Jaden Akins: Michigan native with 2/25/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 160 though assume that’s an outdated weight, 4* Spartan commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-55 recruit:
    • Fluid, smooth athlete; movement in general is pleasant and balanced
    • Maybe overly reliant on jumpers and if it’s not falling, struggles to impact game especially in this setting
    • By my unofficial and incomplete tracking, was 0-4 from field with a pair of missed pull-ups, a missed catch-and-shoot, and a blown lob.
  • #8 Josh Minnot: Florida kid with 11/25/02 (18.5) birthday, listed 6-8 but lot of indications he’s 6-9 or 6-10, 4* Memphis commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #35 and #68:
    • First time seeing Minnot; he’s slim, long, tall; saw he has a 7-2 wingspan but not convinced from eyeballs
    • Showed good body control and functional usage of aforementioned length with balance on change of direction and scoop finish around AJ Griffin
    • Aggressive in attack though occasionally forced the issue on rim attacks that resulted in off-balance attempts
    • Not prettiest form/release, hips seems slightly turned inwards, release on the abrupt side, but was able to at least a pair of threes
  • #2 Nolan Hickman: Seattle native with 5/7/03 (18) b-day, listed 6-1 180, high 4*/low 5* former Kentucky commit who’s currently undecided, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, roughly in 20-40 range in class:
    • Recently decommitted from Kentucky and building on a strong performance at the Geico Nationals
    • Decently put together with solid athleticism, high-level awareness, quick processing/decision making, and oodles of skill. Awareness and processing allow him to anticipate and react in ways that frequently put him in the right place at the right time – these aren’t accidents are evidence in clip below.
    • I’m not much for superlatives, but am mildly confident that Hickman was the best passer in this event though JD Davison was at least flashier on this day.
    • Mostly average shooter with a floater and maybe a bit better off catch at present

  • #32 Daimion Collins: hailing from the Lone Star State, born 1/23/02 (19.3), listed 6-9 210, 5* Kentucky commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, generally accepted as a 10-15 recruit:
    • Collins is a lanky, bouncy 4/5 with defensive upside for days and a bit of a jump shot who maybe thinks it’s an excellent jumper.
    • He’s a good case study for my particularly haphazard scouting technique as an example of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. To wit, last summer I witnessed the lithe Collins thoroughly outplayed and out-toughed by 2022 Vincent Iwuchukwu, a near-seven-foot big in a much more traditional back-to-the-basket model. Collins had his moments, but they were few and far between and he was generally mauled. Unfortunately, this left an indelible mark on me as a character defining defeat, not dissimilar to a thumping Scottie Lewis once put on Jaden McDaniels which upturned my whole idea of McDaniels or, from what I’ve heard of others, the merciless roasting Jaden Springer put on Jalen Suggs and his soft handle a couple summers ago. For my process, I have to consciously guard against the Iwuchukwu battle being a character-defining moment for Collins.
    • Contextual baggage aside, Collins was active and engaged in this game where he strung together deflections, hit ahead passes, and length-revealing dunks. The ill-advised jumpers (contested pull-up straddling the three-line) were still there, but largely overshadowed by his athleticism, length, and effort.

Extending put back dunk shot from Daimion Collins, basketball player
  • #10 Kendall Brown: another elite Minnesota native, born 5/11/03 (18), listed 6-8 205, 5* Baylor commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-15 in class:
    • Strong forward, with well-built frame, elite leaper, two-way playmaker who gives me Shawn Marion vibes.
    • Didn’t show a ton of new this game, but that’s not a bad thing either: caught a pair of lobs, knocked down a pull-up from 16-feet, was a tad wild (spinning jumper and errant no-look pass) at times, remains a favorite of mine.
  • #24 Trey Alexander: Oklahoma native listed at 6-4 185, 4* recently decommitted from Auburn because the program allegedly “didn’t keep their word,” N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked between #55 and #83:
    • Bit of a ball-dominant combo guard, mostly smooth with handle and pull-up game, good, not great as athlete
    • Alexander was put in a bit of a weird spot as the opponent matched him up with Raven Johnson, the only female player in the game. Johnson is a 5-9/5-10 5* committed to South Carolina. Alexander attacked the matchup with vim and vigor, attacking the smaller opponent on both sides of the ball, coming up with steals and beating her off the bounce multiple times.
    • It’s hard to take much away from this type of scenario except that Alexander played hard and his 55-83 slot feels accurate.
  • #23 Jordan Longino: Pennsylvanian listed at 6-5 195, 4* Villanova commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked as high as #39 and low as #81:
    • My first experience with Longino, a thickly-built off-guard/small wing – his build could be somewhat confused based on an undershirt that possibly made him look bulkier than he actually is.
    • Showed plus-awareness and ability to quickly process/react to openings/opportunities with quick pass/reads; played a step ahead of the game.
    • Plays at measured pace, under control
    • Jay Wright had to be pleased see him make an early rotation and force a TO
    • Good body control with step-thru in transition.
    • Didn’t note him shooting any jumpers and I don’t have any shooting %s for him.
    • Walked away a fan, but patience is always the virtue with Villanova kids.
  • #12 Ahamad Bynum (Black Cat): Chicago kid with 2/21/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 175, 4* committed to DePaul (since 2019), N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-100:
    • Nicknamed “Black Cat,” my first time seeing him
    • Have seen him listed at both 6-3 and 6-1 but felt more in the 6-1/6-2 range
    • Aggressive instincts were there, but struggled to find any rhythm
  • #1 Daeshun Ruffin: Mississippi native listed at 5-10 160, 4* committed to Ole Miss, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, generally a top-55 recruit:
    • Surprisingly my first time seeing Ruffin as he’s been on the scene for several years.
    • Smaller lead guard, not just height, but build as well. Plays point, but loads of aggressiveness and scoring/attack instincts.
    • Good quickness with a low handle and electric spin move; showed some ++touch with a high-banker off the glass on the move
    • Able to hit threes off catch and bounce
    • Targeted in post by TyTy and beaten handily
  • #26 Bryce Hopkins: Illinois kid with 9/7/02 (18.7) b-day, listed at 6-7 220 but looks thicker than 220 and not in a bad way, 4* Kentucky commit after a Louisville decommit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-30 recruit who got that coveted Givony love:
    • Thick-bodied, highly skilled forward with great feet and feel
    • Like Kendall Brown, didn’t see a lot of new stuff from Hopkins à he’s skilled/polished with a clean handle, a willingness to pass, and ability to grab-and-go off the board
    • Able to create space off-the-bounce with a tight cross and get to pull-up or rim
    • Don’t have stats on him and don’t have a good feel for his jumper. In other settings, he’s struggled to hit off the catch, but I haven’t noted any wonky mechanics.
    • I like Kentucky as a landing spot
  • #5 Trevor Keels: DMV kid with 8/26/03 b-day (17.7 – youngest player in game), listed at 6-5 210, 5* committed to Duke, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-20 recruit:
    • Just second time seeing Keels as a senior after seeing several games of his previous years
    • Has outgrown some of baby fat and looks strong/thick; not an explosive athlete, but a good one with burst off the catch.
    • Was slow to get going in this game, but found confidence in second half with variety of drives and threes of catch and bounce.
    • Showed some creation with a drive-and-dump dime
    • Bit of a ball stopper with a penchant for pounding the ball in search of openings at the expense of decisively moving/attacking
Trevor Keels engages evasive maneuvers

A final note, despite being physically overmatched and somewhat targeted, the previously mentioned Raven Johnson was sound in effort and execution with quality passing/reads. She struggled to finish/hit shots, but was game as a competitor.

Scottie Barnes & Vernon Carey Jr: Precocious Basketballing Minors

Somewhere in Florida, at a prep school called Nova Southeastern University, aka The University School, play two of the best non-NBA basketball players in the country of the United States of America. Scottie Barnes, a 17-year-old high school junior and Vernon Carey Jr, a 17-year-old senior, are runaway barrels tumbling down the hill of high school basketball, flattening obstacles that impede their inevitable progress. This isn’t about winning or losing, but about a unification of ability and skill that arrives before its time and lays waste – except when it doesn’t which is some of the time because teenagers, high school, imperfection.

Within their respective graduating classes, these players are ranked second (Carey in 2019) and third (Barnes in 2020). Theirs are games that flash with the brightest of lights like when Carey Jr goes coast to coast bulldogging his way through 175-pound, underdeveloped high school bodies, leaving carnage and hurt feelings in his wake. Or when Barnes pulls off the kind of interior pass that makes one think Draymond Green, not a high school junior. But, and probably less so, their games are littered with peculiar teenage funk and I don’t mean funk in a good kind of way, but in the kind of way where Carey Jr’s coast to coast forays are ill-advised with his handle too high, rumbling, bumbling, stumbling towards turnover town. Or you cringe when Barnes convinces himself that the pull-up contested three is the right decision even though there’s no shot clock and his shot is kind of broke and his release is something preceding the work-in-progress stages. This appears to be high school basketball and even the best players aren’t exempt.

I’m lumping these two together simply because they’re teammates. Beyond them being highly talented teammates, as players they have very little in common: Barnes, a 6-8 combo forward with guard skills, has innate ability and feel. When I first saw him as a sophomore against prep juggernaut Oak Hill Academy, his passing immediately popped and had me like Whoa (h/t, Black Rob). He’s an instinctual player whose shot looks like it’s never been loved though I’m sure it has been loved and tended to. Carey Jr, by contrast, is a combination of highly refined skill mixed into the human form of a freight train: he’s listed as 6-11, 275-pounds. He has the jawline of a boxer and the shoulder-neck of a football player which makes sense since his dad is a 6-5, 340-pound former NFL player named Vernon Carey who had an 8-year career as an offensive lineman.

The giant Carey Jr is already committed to Duke for the 2019-2020 season. How his game translates at both the collegiate and pro levels isn’t difficult to imagine, but the degree to which he improves his game is harder to predict. Carey Jr’s already more offensively skilled than a lot of NBA big men – he’s highly coordinated, light on his feet with sound footwork and a fluid jumper. He has no issue playing the role of bully, muscling straight through or over shorter, weaker high school opponents. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a mean streak, but he’s happy to use his size and strength as a weapon. More often though, he defaults to catching in the post and then turning and facing. From the face up range, he has a variety of attack options, most of which involve putting the ball on the floor. While his handle exceeds that of many NBA centers, his decision-making and decisiveness do not. At times, it appears that he’s already decided he’s going to shoot before he ever assesses the defense which is unfortunate as he’s a capable passer with above average vision. Carey Jr negates all this well-developed skill when he lulls himself into pounding the ball and bailing out defenders with contested fadeaways.

Carey Jr’s biggest challenges as a senior have been against elite teams full of D1 players and athletes: IMG, Sierra Canyon, and Gonzaga-bound Anton Watson. The challenges aren’t all his fault. The University School lost two high D1 guards last season and there’s a thinness to the roster that has shifted much of the offensive load to Carey Jr and Barnes, neither of them equipped as primary initiators. The result of that imbalanced load, for Carey Jr in particular, has been forced attempts and default isolations. This is all well and good when he’s competing against Central Catholic of Oregon, pushing the grab and go and Earl Campbelling and Julius Randling through the entire opposition for monster dunks. Against the better teams and athletes though, the lack of facilitators leads to indecisiveness and contested attempts. While his handle is solid and he has some shake for a near-7-footer, on the move the handle gets looser and higher, making him vulnerable to swipes and strips. Against Villanova commit, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of IMG, a versatile and sturdy 6-8 combo forward, Carey struggled to put the ball on the floor as the smaller player encroached on his space. Against more complex college and pro defenses, these types of weaknesses will quickly be exploited.

On the face up, Carey Jr is at his best when being decisive: catching, turning and attacking, usually to his left as he did against the aforementioned Watson at the Les Schwab Invitational over the holidays when he attacked hard to his left off the catch, never giving help defenders a chance to settle, and dunking straight through the 6-10 Watson. His footwork and tight spin move are advanced even for college kids. If and when he’s able to use the handle and footwork to create space, he has a fluid mid-range jumper that he shoots with confidence. Carey Jr can improve upon his decision making which will lead to greater efficiency and less isolation. This could be mitigated by better guard play and a more balanced court, but he can go a long way to improve his own reads and timing.

I struggle to assess high school defenders in part because the talent gap can be so massive, but so far Carey Jr’s defense could best be described as opportunistic disinterest: IE; if he can pick up a highlight help side block, he’s there. If not, sorry. He’s not the most expressive player, but his facial expressions and defensive effort and awareness call to mind another Duke Blue Devil, Jabari Parker and his “they don’t pay players to play defense” ethos. Going back to games I’ve seen of his as a junior, there’s a lackadaisical tendency to stand around and almost look bored on the defensive end. Against Watson and Gonzaga Prep’s cutting offense, he was easily beaten backdoor more than once and one occasion, he saw Watson cutting and didn’t react, giving up an easy score in the process. Part of the frustration around his defensive effort comes from his obvious ability. At his size and with his athleticism, he’ll occasionally get his shit together long enough to destroy shot attempts on help side blocks and based on how well he moves with the ball, it’s clear he can move well laterally. The lack of focus and effort are decisions he’s making or bad habits he’s forming. I’d expect these lapses to be directly addressed at Duke, but Coach K’s had plenty of players who never learn or commit to that end of the court and if Carey Jr produces offensively, it won’t be a surprise if he cruises on defense.

Stylistically, Barnes couldn’t be much more different from Carey Jr. At 6-8 with a 7-2 wingspan, per ESPN, his measurements compare to Al-Farouq Aminu and Jerami Grant; a pair of long, versatile, defensive-minded NBA forwards. Barnes, as a high school sophomore, was a better passer than both of those players are now as seasoned pros. He’s long, strong, and athletic with an ability to think the game. If Carey Jr plays with a poker face and obscured emotions, Barnes is expressive and plays with high energy. During the Geico Nationals telecast last season, he was described as the “alpha dog” of the team (as a sophomore) and in October, ESPN wrote of him at the USA mini-camp that “players gravitate to his joyful nature.”

Last season with University School, he was able to facilitate without having to be the primary ball handler. This year, Barnes has been forced at times to act as the primary initiator, a role that’s revealed more weaknesses to what’s an otherwise strong all-around game (jump shot notwithstanding). While he has a quality handle for a front court player, bringing the ball up against smaller, peskier defenders, Barnes is forced to turn and put his body between himself and the defender to protect the ball, Mark Jackson style but without the intent or ability to back the opponent down from 30-feet. Barnes is much more effective catching the ball in the half court set and attacking off the dribble or pushing in the full court. Off the dribble, he’s adept at driving and kicking or driving and dumping. His first step is quick enough and his handle tight enough that he can regularly get a step on defenders and when help comes, he’s elite at recognizing where the open man is before defenders have a chance to respond – be it on the perimeter or around the rim. No-looks and look-away passes are functionally executed and commonplace for Barnes.

Defensively, his engagement and effort are superior to Carey Jr’s in that he’s more physically capable and he tries. Physically he has the tools to be an excellent defender, but technique-wise, there’s room for growth. On the interior, he’ll lean on his man with arms straight up in the air and just stand there like a 6-8 turnstile hoping or expecting opponents to shoot the ball into his outstretched hands. He doesn’t move great laterally, but he’s long enough that as he develops his defensive awareness, his length can be used as a cushion against quicker opponents. As a high school underclassman, it’s not surprising that he can wind up out of position defensively, but against current opponents (many of whom include high-level D1 players) he’s still long and athletic enough and plays with enough effort and pride to recover.

The biggest cause for concern, and it’s visible in every game I’ve seen of his, is the shot. Be it the free throw line, on catch-and-shoot 3s, on pull-ups. It doesn’t matter where the shot’s coming from or even if it goes in, it’s just mangled and hasn’t improved much in the year I’ve been watching him. In four games at Les Schwab, he was 2-10 from 3 and one of the makes was an ill-advised side-step attempt that defenses would love for him to take. And his misses are bad misses: airballs, bricks, shots that are woefully short. I’m not a shot doctor, so I’ll borrow from ESPN on his shot description: “he’s a non-shooter who doesn’t show much potential to improve at this stage, with side spin and unconventional shooting mechanics.” Shooting is a critical skill necessary to fully unlocking his passing and creation. He’s not on Ben Simmons’s level as a passer, but he may end up getting the same type of treatment as Simmons at upper levels as teams just sag off and dare him to shoot. He’s also not as bad a shooter as Simmons. In 17 games of Nike EYBL play in 2018, he shot 12-33 (36%) from deep which, on its own, hardly constitutes a destitute shooter, but when viewed alongside his game tape, gives pause as a possible fluke. How his shooting potentially limits his playmaking is of interest at the next levels. Smart coaches will find ways to take advantage of his passing similarly to how Golden State’s continued to do with Draymond Green despite him shooting a career-worst 24% from deep. Less coherent teams will struggle to maximize his game and this is the risk of any player who has a massive hole in his game.

In an ideal world, Carey Jr commits to learning the defensive side of the ball the same way he’s clearly committed to honing his offensive craft. Barnes becomes a high-energy, high-IQ player who can impact the game on both sides of the ball and at least keep defenses honest with 30-35% 3-point shooting. What I’m asking for from either player is no small thing, but they are addressable things. Both players already have the requisite physical tools and skills for NBA ball which already place them in the upper echelons of a craft that our society places a massive monetary value on. They’ll both make the NBA, but the nits I’m picking at (defense, effort, shooting, and decision making) differentiate rotation players from starters, starters from All-Stars, and All-Stars from All-NBA players. As 17-year-olds, their destinies aren’t completely in their own hands. Team and scheme still matter and we’re already seeing how a departure of skilled teammates is affecting their current games, but Carey Jr and Barnes are complete enough already to chart their own courses, shape their own trajectories, land on their own moons. Whether they do or not is a burden they shoulder as minors beset with in-demand, cash-generating talents. What could possibly go wrong?

%d bloggers like this: