This past weekend, Phenom Hoops traveled down to Rock Hill, South Carolina for our final travel ball event of the summer season. The Summer Finale featured a slew of highly talented players (most of whom played with new/local/random teams), which made for an extremely entertaining weekend of basketball. Effort and motivation are always going to determine how enjoyable the actual competition is and, fortunately, majority of these guys showed up to compete. Outsiders can try to ridicule kids (again, kids) for wanting to play basketball instead of individually working on their craft (for literally two days), but it just comes across corny. There were many standouts and general takeaways from the two-day event, but this article will merely take a closer look at five personal favorites. Let’s dive in…
6’6 ’23 Graham Worland (Phenom ESA)
While many will try to argue the value of playing in August, it allowed Graham Worland to truly showcase his entire arsenal as an undisputed focal point for this group. He’s a smart, skilled wing prospect who doubles as a knockdown shooter with size, strength, and the ability to apply pressure with or without the ball in his hands. Given Phenom ESA’s lack of bodies, Worland had no issue asserting himself as a primary creator and downright dominating opponents with his polished offensive arsenal. His lethal shooting forces opponents to stay attached to his hip at all times, since he only requires a glimmer of daylight to get off (and convert) clean looks from the perimeter. Worland can spot-up and move effectively without the ball, but also highlighted the ability to consistently create for himself and others off the bounce. He’s a solid athlete with vision, toughness, and useful defensive instincts. Worland is a natural glue-guy who can expand his production and leadership as necessary, as evidenced over the last few days. Given his expected role at Moravian Prep, Division I coaches should be prepared to start extending offers.
6’6 ’24 Isaiah Evans (DCT Elite)
There were various underlying subplots from the event, and Isaiah Evans’ leadership was quietly as notable as any of them. Sure, he displayed feel, athleticism, terrific energy, and the full offensive arsenal, but his ability to set the tone arguably stood out more than any statistical measure. Evans was the loudest, most consistent voice amongst this all-star cast of players. When guys started taking bad shots, making bad decisions, or not playing hard, he was always quick to speak up and correct their nonchalant approach. Evans conducted himself with poise as a leader on and off the court. In terms of his production, he found ways to make a constant impact on both ends of the floor without really needing to force the action or dominate the ball. Evans scores the ball at a high volume from all three levels and, regardless of what folks say about his shooting mechanics, hits jumpers at a quality percentage. He can create his own shot with relative ease, but also possesses vision and looks to set up others whenever possible. Evans is a great defender with the length, motor, and instincts to really overwhelm opponents on that end of the floor. Add in his rebounding presence, transition ability, and remaining upside, and the appeal is simply obvious. Evans should have a noteworthy season as the clear leader for North Mecklenburg.
6’5 ’23 Gabriel Tooper (Fort Mill Force)
Given our number of viewings of the Fort Mill Force, it was somewhat unsurprising to see Gabriel Tooper absolutely annihilate every opponent in his path. Though slightly unassuming at first glance, he’s an excellent competitor with the size, skillset, and leadership to produce and set the tone in a variety of different ways. Tooper is a bouncy, fairly versatile wing/forward prospect who can comfortably dictate the offensive action with the ball in his hands. He handled the ball, operated as the primary creator, and showcased a well-rounded scoring arsenal. Numerous times, Tooper got downhill, attacked the basket, and rose above all defenders to punish the rim. He plays very well through contact, but also shoots the ball at a nice percentage and does a great job of getting others involved. Tooper made a solid impact as a defender and rebounder while clearly shining as a focal point on offense. He certainly has the ability to play at the next level, so it’ll be interesting to see how his recruitment unfolds over the coming months.
6’4 ’25 Trajan Thompson (Underrated Athletes)
The state of North Carolina has a ton of prospects who are expected to blow-up over the next calendar year, and Trajan Thompson is definitely included within that list. The long, wiry, skilled 6-foot-4 wing put forth an incredible showing across the weekend. Offensively, he did literally everything. Whether setting up others or asserting himself as a scorer from all levels, Thompson looked very comfortable leading and producing at a high level. He mixed it up extremely well, showing the ability to access and convert from legitimately anywhere on the floor. Even when scoring at an incredibly high volume, Thompson proved to be very efficient. He’s a solid athlete with great IQ, natural leadership, and a frame that should only continue to develop. Thompson also set the tone defensively, made his presence felt on the glass, and applied constant pressure in transition—both with and without the ball in his hands. It’s difficult to point out any real weaknesses or negatives within his overall identity. Thompson will be playing on a loaded roster at Providence Day, but his emergence as one of the top prospects in North Carolina’s Class of 2025 is becoming inevitable.
6’7 ’25 Sadiq White (Elite One)
At this point, everyone should already be well-aware of Sadiq White and his unbelievably appealing array of tools. He’s clearly progressed over the summer months, and continues to showcase a lot of ability and upside. This past weekend, White conducted himself as a primary option for this group—and naturally caused problems for opponents as a direct result. Although his ball skills and perimeter shooting continue to visibly improve, his strengths still lie directly within his length, motor, athleticism, and rebounding presence. White is typically the most explosive player in the gym, regardless of age, and it’s easy to see on the court. He’s an incredibly powerful finisher who applies nonstop pressure at the rim. His rebounding prowess and ability to consistently capitalize on second-chance opportunities make him a nightmare for opponents to try and contain. White is an amazing open-floor athlete who moves incredibly well for his size and applies seemingly nonstop pressure in transition. He also blocks shots at a nice rate, and doesn’t necessarily require the ball to be impactful. Again, it’s easy to see the growth, but folks should only expect White to continue getting better and better.