By: Wake Hoops
The 2024 class is filled with a variety of prospects that range in levels, production, and potential. In this article, we look at five players ranked between 26-50 that epitomize that range in production and potential, with each player having a different path and trajectory.
You can view the rankings up to this point at the links below.
(26) 6’7” Chuks Ezeonu (Apex Friendship)
Ezeonu has improved his stock tremendously over the past six months. He’s a strong, athletic forward with great physical tools and a good IQ. What immediately stands out about his game is his rapidly growing functional athleticism. He’s grown into a legitimate lob threat, attacks the boards extremely well, and can slide his feet with guards on the perimeter. He’s all over the court defensively, able to protect the rim and switch assignments better than most bigs in this class. Offensively, his hands are greatly improved enabling him to finish at the rim more consistently and highlight his ability to pass out of double teams more often. He has a good feel for the game, evidenced by his instincts as a defender, on the glass, and as a passer. He has plenty of room to continue to improve and college coaches should be jumping at the chance to secure an athletic forward like himself.
(29) 5’8” Ja’tez Ward (Panther Creek)
Ward is another name that has greatly improved his stock over the summer, shining as a reliable point guard and dominant defender. He’s really come around as a true lead guard this summer, taking care of the ball, scoring at a higher rate, and commanding the offense with confidence and maturity. He’s a great finisher through traffic, an absolute must for smaller guards. He has good body control, touch, and athleticism, allowing him to score through rim protectors. He’s an absolute dog defensively, stifling the point of attack and putting a ton of pressure on opposing guards. He’s a quality passer and can play on or off the ball whenever needed. He’s super quick off the bounce and has serious blow-by speed. He picked up an offer from NC Wesleyan over the summer and I would advise similar programs to get involved sooner rather than later.
(34) 6’2” Syncere Burnette (Wakefield)
Burnette is a creative combo guard with a solid frame and a well-rounded skillset. He has great size at the guard position and can play the 1-3 effectively. He’s strong, quick, and athletic which makes him a problem for smaller guards trying to stay in front of him. He has a great handle and does a fantastic job at reacting quickly to defenses. He’s creative with the ball and has shown that he can be a primary shot maker or playmaker when need be. He’s a quality shooter with smooth mechanics and a lot of confidence. He’ll be looked upon to carry a more scoring focused role at Wakefield this coming season after primarily acting as a facilitator last year. Burnette has a real chance to be one of the more productive players in the NAC next season thanks to his ability to impact every facet of the game.
(37) 6’8” Alex Smollen (Chapel Hill)
Smollen has proven to be a very intriguing post prospect having shown intriguing flashes all summer. He’s a legit 6’8” with a solid frame that is only going to continue adding strength. He’s a solid rim protector with good length. He knows how to rebound and alter shots at a high level. He runs the floor decently well and has shown continued improvement as a finisher at and around the rim. His confidence has clearly grown over the past six months, and it should be no surprise if Smollen has a breakout season at Chapel Hill. He seems to be turning a corner in his overall development, as most bigs do around this age. He should be a target for a variety of programs over the coming season, even more so if he takes another leap within that time frame.
(42) 6’3” Khalel Sanders (Knightdale)
Sanders is an energetic hybrid wing-post that defends at a high level and is a good connective piece on the offensive end. He’s a natural leader that effects the game in so many small, positive ways. He brings great energy on the defensive end, causing a lot of havoc and chaos thanks to his versatility. He can guard 2-5 comfortably and is valuable as an off-ball defender as well given his motor and IQ. Offensively, he does a little bit of everything well and fits in great as a glue guy. He didn’t shoot a single three last season but looked relatively comfortable taking them this summer. It’s a facet of his game that can greatly improve his stock and add to his already great versatility. He’s comfortable operating out of the high post and can make simple passing reads, finish through bigger defenders, and rebound effectively from there.