This past weekend, Phenom Hoops returned to the Rock Hill Sports and Events Center in downtown Rock Hill, South Carolina for another highly entertaining three-day stretch of grassroots basketball. There was expected to be a ton of excitement with over 150 teams and countless noteworthy prospects on display, and they certainly delivered. While numerous players were worthy of recognition, this article will take a closer look at some personal favorites from the event…
6’2 ’22 Xavier McKelvy (Charlotte Royals)
In terms of sheer dominance, one would be very hard-pressed to find many guys who could even match Xavier McKelvy’s production, leadership, and overall identity that he brings to the table. Everyone in the building is going to know about his powerful explosiveness upon a mere glance, but he’s far more than just an athlete. McKelvy really embraces being a tone-setter on both ends of the floor, consistently overwhelming his assignment defensively while being an all-around offensive catalyst. He’s phenomenal at getting downhill and attacking the basket or accessing his lethal pull-up from midrange, yet also displays vision and a willingness to make unselfish decisions with the ball in his hands. McKelvy is capable of knocking down three-pointers at a solid clip, but mainly looks to keep opponents on their heels through his penetrating and transition presence. While his offensive game is very dependable, McKelvy is equally as strong on the defensive end of the floor. His combination of IQ, quickness, and anticipation allows him to pressure opposing ball-handlers, intercept passing lanes, and force turnovers at a strong rate. Additionally, he’s quite a reliable rebounder for his size/position. At this point, McKelvy should be an obvious priority for all types of scholarship-level programs.
6’8 ’22 Jaxon Ellingsworth (Brand X)
Considering this was our first true viewing of Jaxon Ellingsworth, it was difficult to be anything other than impressed with the entirety of his game. For starters, his two-way feel is incredible and seems to be multiple steps ahead of most players. At 6-foot-8, Ellingsworth is long, athletic, and skilled, making him an immediate matchup problem for all types of forward/post opponents. Add in his advanced offensive arsenal and the fact that he’s still just beginning to physically mature, and various types of scholarship-level schools should be aggressively laying groundwork. Ellingsworth displayed touch with either hand, finished above the rim with force, and hit perimeter shots with consistency. His vision also proved to be pretty amazing, particularly for his size, both out of the post and off the bounce. While his IQ and skill are very enticing, his toughness was arguably even more appealing. Despite his wiry build, Ellingsworth proved to be an absolute menace defensively and on the glass. He altered/blocked an abundance of shots, controlled the glass with relative ease, and showed the skill to push transition play on his own. Expect Ellingsworth to see a drastic uptick in his recruitment over the next year, as he possesses Division I ability.
6’9 ’23 Carter Lang (Team Loaded Virginia)
Each year it seems like the DMV area (and Virginia in-particular) is able to produce high-level post prospects worth noting for the foreseeable future, and Carter Lang definitely feels like that guy for the Class of 2023. While their whole roster is overflowing with talent, Lang still stands out amongst the crowd. Not only does he possess terrific size, fluidity, and strength, but his instincts are truly far-advanced from most high school players. Lang simply sees the game differently and it’s evident in legitimately every movement he makes. Everything is purposeful, even if it’s just what appears to be a basic decision. Lang displays excellent vision, rebounding instincts, and an efficient inside-out scoring arsenal. He understands how to position himself for success as well as anyone, specifically for a big man, and simply checks all the boxes to be a high-level prospect for numerous Division I programs. Given the complete scope of his identity, expect Lang to be one of the most coveted players in the country over the next few years.
6’3 ’23 Zandae Butler (Carolina Bad Boyz)
In looking at his production since being an eighth-grader, it should come as no surprise to see Zandae Butler continuing to dominate the hardwood. His toughness, athleticism, and all-around game allow him to shine as a leader on both ends of the floor for this Bad Boyz group. Butler is smart, unselfish, and displays a terrific balance between playmaking and three-level scoring. He displays versatility on defense, rebounds extremely well for a guard, and simply does a strong amount of everything as an offensive focal point. Butler is phenomenal in transition, both with and without the ball, and consistently made smart decisions with the ball in his hands. He’s such an exceptional leader and teammate with the list of intangibles to appeal to various types of next-level programs over the coming years.
6’7 ’23 Collin Kuhl (Carolina Explosion)
Given the number of noteworthy prospects to come through Holly Springs, it shouldn’t be shocking to see Collin Kuhl trending as the next potential star of their program. He’s long, tough, and skilled with an impressive amount of offensive versatility, making him a clear matchup problem for opposing forward/post prospects. Kuhl is a quality athlete with vision, touch, craftiness as a creator, and reliable perimeter shooting. He displays a nice handle for his size, especially in transition, and consistently makes smart decisions with the ball in his hands. Kuhl’s motor and overall toughness seemed to surprise opponents, which led to nonstop production as a rebounder and defensive cog. His ability to score from anywhere on the court while actively getting his teammates involved is already extremely impressive, but should only continue to progress. Between his IQ, size, and skillset, Kuhl possesses all the necessary tools to be an obvious target for various types of scholarship-level programs.