On Tuesday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to Greensboro, North Carolina for the Haeco Invitational. Formerly the Timco Little Four, this post-Christmas event has been a staple in the city over the last 45 years. Although Dudley (10), Page (8), Grimsley (6), Smith (2), and Northwest (1) have all claimed titles, the event has largely been dominated by the Bengals of Greensboro Day. After 17 Haeco Championships in 45 years, they look likely to claim another. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Jeff Smith coached the squad yesterday—speaking to both his abilities on the sideline and the program’s overall discipline on or off the court. Either way, let’s take a look at some of their standouts from the victory…

The Committed

6’2 ’22 Nik Graves (Charlotte) 

Arguably their top all-around performer, Graves’ calm, steady, fundamentally sound approach just leaves folks with a sense of comfort when the ball is in his hands. The high IQ is evident through his excellent pace, decision-making, and overall instincts on both ends of the floor. Graves looked to set up others (and did), but also attacked the basket at will, knocked down jumpers, and overwhelmed his assignment defensively. He jumped into passing lanes, pushed transition play, and simply produced without ever operating outside of the team concept. 

6’5 ’22 Michael Zanoni (Mercer)

Though he quieted down after quickly heating up, Zanoni did an exceptional job of maximizing his presence, making a strong impact, and then allowing others to seize opportunities. He knocked down jumpers at an efficient clip, made smart decisions with the ball, and consistently found ways to contribute as a defender and rebounder. His low-maintenance identity seemingly leads to success in every setting. 

6’10 ’22 CJ Collins (Princeton)

Various players on the current roster have improved over their time with the program, but Collins has possibly developed as much as anyone. He’s always possessed talent and favorable tools (and big men traditionally take longer to reach their ceiling), but his interior toughness has taken a clear step. Collins embraces his role very well with this group, blocking shots, securing rebounds, finishing around the basket, and running the floor hard in transition. 

6’7 ’22 Jackson Noble (Navy)

Similar to his teammate above, Noble has done a nice job of progressing into a capable inside-out forward over the years. He didn’t hit a ton of shots yesterday, but took the right attempts and still made an impact through doing the dirty work. Noble has a useful interior presence, both as a defender and rebounder, and can adapt to stretching the floor as needed. 

The Next Leader

6’4 ’23 Jaydon Young

Although he stands out as a current leader, everyone should be well-aware of Young and his likelihood of being the guy next season. Throughout this contest, he showcased the ability to create, defend, and apply quality scoring pressure in a variety of different ways. Young attacked off the dribble, hit jumpers off the bounce and catch, and displayed a knack for putting himself in positions to score as a cutter. He’s a capable finisher with a strong, sturdy frame and useful all-around athleticism. Young’s blend of tools, current ability, and continued upside should continue making him an appealing prospect for various Division I schools. 

The Future

6’5 ’25 Addison Newkirk

Despite only being a freshman, it’s so easy to see the appeal of Newkirk—one of only two players to receive All-Conference honors last season as an eighth-grader. From the initial glance, one can quickly identify him as a basketball player. He has the frame, length, and general look of someone who should be a prospect worth noting. Upon watching him play, the notion is only further solidified. Previously, Newkirk has shown two-way versatility and a blossoming offensive skillset. He can reliably pass, shoot, defend, finish, and rebound with the necessary IQ and size to overwhelm opponents. Newkirk also led all players in total rebounds. His name probably isn’t being discussed enough at the moment, but expect Division I programs to get involved over the coming years—as Newkirk could be special.

6’3 ’25 James Stainback

Although he didn’t receive a ton of minutes, Stainback still competes and performs at a higher level than a vast majority of freshmen in the state. Between his size, motor, and fairly well-rounded skillset, he could easily emerge as a strong contributor for the Bengals over the foreseeable future.