This past weekend, Phenom Hoops traveled out to the Upward Star Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina for our final event in the month of April. There was expected to be a ton of excitement with an abundance of teams and a variety noteworthy prospects on display. While numerous players were worthy of recognition, this article will take a closer look at some personal favorites from the event…
6’0 ’21 Khalil Brantley (Mint Hill Lakers)
It should be pretty obvious to anyone in attendance that Khalil Brantley was clearly the top talent on display. He was simply on another level in comparison to others, which became evident in the effortless manner he torched opponents en route to the championship. Brantley is such a gamer and overall competitor with the toughness and mean-streak to make his presence felt throughout every contest. Though known for his ability to score the ball, he also showed leadership, playmaking, point guard ability, and a strong feel for the game. That being said, Brantley still scored the ball at an extremely high volume against any type of assignment. His craftiness and quick-twitch instincts make him a nightmare to keep in front. Brantley is able to create (and convert) any shot he wants, often times with an incredibly high degree of difficulty. He also defended, forced an abundance of turnovers, and made quality decisions in transition. It’s quite difficult to say anything other than positives about his showing at the event, and Division I programs should act accordingly.
6’3 ’21 Malachi Reeves (Upward Stars Columbia)
Although the recruiting landscape is unlike ever before, it’s very tough to justify the lack of offers for Malachi Reeves. For starters, his size, all-around skillset, and advanced feel for the game alone should warrant more attention. Reeves is an incredibly strong decision-maker, especially in transition, and consistently knows how to set up his teammates for quality looks. His fundamental approach is somewhat of a rarity. Everything is so technically sound, from his picturesque shooting mechanics to the subtle way he does things to open up opportunities for others. Reeves is a polished creator and efficient scorer from all three levels. He’s sharp and deceptive as a defender, rebounds very well for his position, and seems to make the right play with unwavering consistency in transition. No opponent was able to shut him down throughout the weekend. To hold a lone North Greenville offer is pretty surprising, as Reeves would be an absolute asset to various types of scholarship-level programs.
6’5 ’21 Nasiar Blackston (Team Push)
The Team Push squad was easily among the most exciting teams in attendance, and Nasiar Blackston should be as appealing to college coaches as anyone on the roster. It’s impossible to ignore his physical tools, from length to size to athleticism, but he’s far more than just an athlete. Blackston is a legitimate wing prospect with the ability to score from everywhere on the floor, both as a creator for himself and when operating without the ball. He’s extremely tough and physical, but also highlights IQ, craftiness, and a pretty well-rounded skillset. Blackston was arguably at his best when making decisive moves off the bounce, getting downhill, and attacking the basket with force. He draws fouls and finishes well through contact, but can also knock down shots from the perimeter with regularity. Blackston has obvious defensive appeal, especially when he’s determined to be a leader on that end of the floor. Right now, he’s already quite enticing. However, Blackston should only continue to get better over the coming years. Expect to see him as a priority for all types of scholarship-level programs going forward.
6’2 ’22 LeBron Thomas (FIBA)
It should really come as no surprise given FIBA’s showings over the last few years, but LeBron Thomas continues to stand out as a leader for this group. While his foundation has been predicated on being a playmaker, he showcased the ability to score the ball in a wide variety of ways. Thomas offered his normal amount of crafty moves at the point of attack to breakdown his man, touch the paint, and finish strong or make a quality pass to an open teammate. He handles the ball with poise, sets up others at a pretty high rate, and scores effectively from all levels. Additionally, Thomas is among the better defensive point guards in South Carolina. His combination of IQ, quickness, and anticipation lead to a ton of forced turnovers and easy buckets in transition. Thomas is also an exceptional rebounder for his position. He checks a lot of the boxes for college coaches and should remain a priority for various type of programs.
5’11 ’22 Evan Presnell (Carolina Riptide)
Anyone who has watched the Carolina Riptide should know that Evan Presnell is a true embodiment of their traits and values as a program, both on and off the court. Strictly in terms of toughness, he’s among the few players who could’ve actually coexisted on the original Riptide roster. Presnell is the definition of a gamer and competitor, and it’s evident in his IQ, motor, and sheer will to win. He’s quick and crafty with the ability to create for himself or others, making him a pretty challenging assignment for most opposing point guards. Presnell is equally as strong at accessing his lethal midrange pull-up as asserting himself from beyond the arc or utilizing his change-of-pace to attack the basket. He’s gritty defensively and really understands how to provide nonstop effort on the floor. While his scoring will often receive a lot of the attention, Presnell’s willingness to lead by example is a big part of what separates him from other floor generals. Expect him to college a ton of next-level opportunities over the next calendar year.