This past weekend, Phenom Hoops traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina for another loaded high school showcase. The field featured an abundance of talent from every pocket in the state, which made for two full days of high-level basketball. Four of the competing teams were state champions last season (Greensboro Day, Carmel Christian, Piedmont Classical, and Moravian Prep) but every program in attendance earned their worth in entertainment value. College coaches were constantly filtering through, which offered these prospects another early opportunity to stand out and further enhance their recruitment. So, let’s take a closer look at some personal favorites from the weekend…
6’2 ’20 Dylan Blake (First Flight)
With the way basketball has trended over the last five to ten years, Dylan Blake is somewhat of the perfect modern-day point guard. Most folks are quick to label him with the “shooter” tab and, although he is a knockdown shooter, there is so much more to his game. There isn’t a single team in North Carolina that feeds off of one player quite like First Flight with Blake. He’s the ultimate leader and decision-maker for this group, consistently making the smartest, unselfish play but also knowing how and when to take over the game. Blake establishes his jumper early and often, making three-pointers regardless of range, balance, or degree of difficulty. As impressive as his perimeter display can be, he’s arguably just as reliable at touching the paint and finishing through contact. To be blunt, guys who are just “shooters” never attempt the amount of free-throws that he’s capable of reaching on a nightly basis. Blake highlighted IQ, craftiness, legitimate two-way toughness, and took opponents off the dribble extremely well. He’s an underrated athlete and overall rebounder with the ability to turn boards into transition play in an instant. Blake is also a terrific passer with poise and great leadership qualities. His ability to play either guard position and annihilate opponents will be even more valuable at the next level. Don’t be fooled, Blake is a Division I talent that will emerge as an absolute steal for whatever program gives him a chance.
6’10 ’21 Kuluel Mading (The Burlington School)
Very seldom can we call players who look like Kuluel Mading underrated but it seems even more appropriate now than a year or two ago, when he was completely under the radar. Everyone gives the wiry big man a scan and immediately deem that he must add strength. Although true, a lack of strength doesn’t prevent Mading from showing constant flashes of dominance on both sides of the ball. His IQ, timing, and athleticism seem shine through whenever he’s on the floor, which allows him to reliably anchor the paint on defense. Mading possesses quality touch with either hand and continues to look more and more comfortable along the perimeter. He moves about as well as any 6-foot-10 prospect possibly could, simply able to glide from basket to basket in transition. Mading is tougher than he’s credited for and plays with a slight mean-streak on the court, which is an extremely underappreciated part of his game. There’s no denying his upside but Mading already stands out as a high-level defensive player and threat to dunk anything around the basket. Clemson was very wise to be the first program involved, as it’s still just the beginning.
6’9 ’21 Dante Kiesenhofer (Holly Springs)
There’s usually a fair amount of uncertainty anytime a high school program loses an ACC-level prospect but Dante Kiesenhofer was more than prepared to take over the reigns at Holly Springs. His length, athleticism, and defensive capabilities immediately provide this team with a lot of what his predecessor offered. Kiesenhofer is already a pretty well-known commodity, playing for Garner Road and one of the best high school teams in the state, yet his recruitment hasn’t caught up with his ability. Offensively, he typically operates on the low-block but also showed the makings of a quality perimeter shooter with nice mechanics and three-point range over the weekend. Kiesenhofer rebounds and protects the rim incredibly well without fouling or putting himself out of position. He has a great frame, demeanor, and two-way feel for the game but will only get better as a primary cog for Holly Springs throughout the season. All types of Division I programs should be laying groundwork here, especially since Kiesenhofer has largely gone under the radar.
6’4 ’20 Trent McIntyre (Piedmont Classical)
At some point, it becomes frustrating to watch players exude productivity in every setting and against every level of competition but lack the proper recruitment, which seems to be exactly the case with Trent McIntyre. Few players in North Carolina possess the IQ, all-around skillset, and dog-like mentality that he brings to the table on a nightly basis. McIntyre quickly establishes the tone with motor and toughness, especially on defense, and just knows how to bother the opposition with his sheer presence. He’s able to reliably switch across four (and sometimes even five) positions at the high school level while forcing turnovers and rebounding the ball incredibly well for a guard. McIntyre is a problem in transition and the half-court because of his unselfishness, sharp passing, and intelligent decision-making. He’s crafty but also very fundamentally-sound, which allows him to frequently touch the paint and finish or set up others with ease. McIntyre checks all the boxes as a prospect and really embraces his identity on both ends of the floor. He’s a winner, simply put. McIntyre remains criminally underrated but should collect at least another five to ten scholarship offers over the current season.
6’5 ’20 Kenny Gwynn (Carmel Christian)
Few teams have enjoyed as much glory as Carmel Christian over the past few seasons, but it still feels like Kenny Gwynn remains an underrated part of their success. Arguably no player in the state epitomizes the “glue-guy” label more than him, mainly because he outworks everyone and consistently does the thankless work. Gwynn is a true competitor with a nonstop motor, phenomenal body, and two-way presence that could carve out a useful role on any type of team. His blend of IQ, strength, and versatility allow him to make plays without necessarily requiring the ball in his hands. Gwynn seems to naturally find a way to affect all facets of the game. He fights for rebounds, forces a ton of turnovers, makes the extra pass, scores as needed, and literally everything else that a coach would want from a player. The fact that Gwynn currently holds no offers is an absolute joke, as he’s the type of guy that teams need to win games. His recruitment should certainly pick up through this season, as college coaches should correlate success and Gwynn with each other.