This past weekend, Phenom Hoops traveled out to Rise Indoor Sports in Advance, North Carolina to continue onward with the early stages of the summer season. The event was loaded with a ton of next-level talent, and though plenty of folks were enamored with March Madness, there was more than enough excitement swirling throughout the facility. There were multiple highly anticipated matchups on display, each bringing their own dose of entertainment value and respective standouts. Let’s take a closer look at some personal favorites from the events…
6’6 ’24 Drake Powell (Team CP3)
The general decline of elite defensive players has never really made sense, especially when someone like Drake Powell continually reaffirms its value. Though we featured him in our previous edition of Bendel’s Best, the long, intelligent, two-way wing simply continues to earn more attention. Let’s say it now: Powell is the best defender in the Carolinas—and possibly the region. Less players care about defense, but even fewer actually possess his unbelievable tools and instincts. In a very noteworthy matchup, Powell’s defensive presence (in addition to his leadership and offensive contributions) made him as significant as anyone on either team. He forced errant decisions, extremely difficult shots, and legitimately shut down his assignment. Powell is absolutely incredible at understanding angles and utilizing his length to eliminate operating space. His wingspan allows him to effortlessly contain opponents and force turnovers in variety of different ways. Powell doesn’t even really give up space when fighting through screens or contesting on rotations/recovery. He doesn’t leave his feet unless necessary. Again, no one could’ve managed this task better than him. Add in his athleticism, perimeter shooting, and high-level status as a teammate, and Powell should end up as a nationally ranked prospect sooner than later.
6’2 ’24 Jaylen Claggett (BSA Supreme)
It’s so easy to get excited about the newly formed BSA Supreme squad, especially given the breakout campaign from Jaylen Claggett. The smart, tough, well-rounded guard has always found ways to contribute—regardless of setting. However, Claggett clearly took another step forward last weekend. He emerged as a leader on both ends of the floor, containing his assignment defensively and reliably doing a little bit of everything offensively. The twins provide most of the ball-handling, but Claggett proved more than capable of operating as a secondary creator and initiating the offense as needed. His perimeter jumper is beautiful, both in terms of mechanics and upon release, and goes in at a very high percentage. Claggett is a quality cutter and spot-up threat, and seems very comfortable at finding opportunities without the ball in his hands. He attacks the basket well, mixes it up with midrange pull-ups, and makes unselfish passes whenever available. Claggett also played hard, battled for rebounds, and filled in the gaps as needed. We’ve seen him a ton, but Claggett continues to trend upward after his impressive showing last weekend.
6’5 ’24 Lewis Walker (Team CP3)
Anyone who attended the notable matchup on Saturday night should’ve already expected to see Lewis Walker on this list. Given his uncommon blend of size, skill, and strength, he’s about as unique of a player as you’ll find in the current state of basketball. Walker is often highlighted for his tremendous feel as a 6-foot-5 versatile forward (which is always evident), but this specific showing really highlighted his toughness, physicality, and sheer relentlessness around the basket. Sure, Walker completed great passes and displayed ability off the bounce, but his pure dominance within five feet made him an absolute nightmare for opponents to try and contain. He didn’t need to attempt a single jumper. Walker effortlessly sealed off the post, received the entry pass, and consistently made phenomenal decisions on the block. He kicked out when needed, but made strong, decisive moves with sharp footwork and deliberate use of power to finish basically anything he attempted. Furthermore, it’s not like he was just putting sub six-foot guards in body bags and only exposing smaller players (which he regularly did), but Walker dominated anyone who dared to stop him. The production continues to shine through, as Walker remains an obvious x-factor for this group.
6’4 ’23 Jordan Durham (Team Push)
The new-look Team Push organization has already made a ton of positive moves (beyond making George Marshall and Damorio Jackson focal points), including the addition of Jordan Durham. As many folks already know, Durham is a personal favorite and someone who hasn’t received enough attention for no real reason. He’s a long, athletic guard with great size, toughness, and a fairly well-rounded skillset. Durham does basically everything at an above-average level, but becomes even more difficult to contain when hitting three-pointers at such a respectable clip. He’s always shown the ability to shoot, but it clearly opened up more opportunities for him throughout the weekend. Durham was excellent at controlling the offense, setting up others, and applying scoring pressure from all levels. He attacked the basket and finished through contact with relative ease, but also converted pull-ups and jumpers from beyond the arc. While his offensive production was very necessary, his rebounding, defensive prowess, and general leadership were massive parts in this squad winning their age bracket. It’s still perplexing as to how Durham doesn’t have more attention, but that is almost guaranteed to change over the coming months.
6’5 ’24 Rakease Passmore (Garner Road)
Anyone plugged into the grassroots scene should be aware of Rakease Passmore and his crossroads between production and long-term potential. As an extremely explosive 6-foot-5 wing, his physical tools are quite evident (and have been for a while). However, Passmore continues to make strides within the non-athleticism parts of his game. Though he’s previously shot the ball at a high percentage in the high school season, his ability to do so on a bigger stage is definitely boosting his stock. The team’s structure is somewhat unusual, but he certainly earned attention as a productive part of their three-headed monster on the wing. Passmore displays effortless lift when rising up to finish, and can go above, through or around contact. He hit jumpers off the catch and attacked closeouts at a strong rate, but also really impressed with his vision in the open floor. Passmore’s timing and willingness to set up others has improved, and will only help aid him with his new squad. He should only continue to progress over the rest of the summer.