On Sunday, Phenom Hoops traveled to the Upward Stars Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina for another absolutely loaded day of basketball. Each year, the Upward Stars organization puts on a combine, which showcases an overwhelming majority of talent from around the region. Not only do they feature the top prospects from their own organization, but they’ve also done an incredible job of bringing in outside, high-level competition. There were a lot of standout performers at the event and this article will take a closer look at some of the best…
6’7 ’23 Greg Jackson (Ridge View)
After being among the most impressive prospect during stations, Greg Jackson carried his strong play over to the games. He’s a unique prospect, given the fact that he’s been labeled as a big man for majority of his early career due to physical tools but already has the skillset and fluidity of a perimeter player. Jackson can work inside or outside the arc with genuine ease. He displays touch, footwork, strong hands, and enough athleticism to overwhelm almost anyone around the basket. However, Jackson is also a reliable creator for himself and others with the ability to score on all three levels. His combination of IQ, motor, and leadership qualities is already well-advanced for his age. Although he already displays consistent flashes of dominance, Jackson should only continue to get better with strength and physical maturity, especially since he’s only fourteen-years-old. Division I coaches would be wise to start tracking his progress going forward.
6’6 ’22 Jordyn Surratt (Dorman)
No program in South Carolina is more loaded than Dorman; everyone knows about Myles Tate, PJ Hall, and what they’ve become over the last few years. That being said, Jordyn Surratt is simply not being talked about enough. Not only will he take the reigns from the aforementioned high-major duo, but he also looks very likely to make a similar type of leap from being relatively unknown to possible superstardom. It’s easy to see the appeal, given his IQ, size, and incredible two-way versatility. Surratt has no real weaknesses within his game and can legitimately operate in a variety of different roles on offense. He’s a reliable creator, especially for his size, with the ability to mix it up and consistently score from all three levels. Surratt is a matchup problem that can run either side of the two-man game with ease. His motor is always active, he knows how to make plays without the ball, and can actively switch between all five positions defensively. It’s early, but Surratt already has the makings of a big-time prospect. He should start being heavily pursued by Division I programs of all levels, especially after his pending sophomore season.
6’1 ’22 Julian “Juice” Kiett (Irmo)
South Carolina’s Class of 2022 is unbelievably strong, particularly at the guard position, where the likes of Dylan Williams, LeBron Thomas, Quan Peterson, and Jazian Gortman reside. However, Julian Kiett can absolutely go toe-to-toe with any of them. For starters, his intensity and dog-like qualities are on another level from any guard in the state. Kiett has always been an impressive physical specimen with an overwhelming motor and a strong penetrating sense, but he’s continued to work on his offensive arsenal. His craftiness, vision, shooting consistency, and attention to detail have all taken a step in a positive direction. Kiett is destructive in the open floor and welcomes contact whenever he attacks the basket, where he’s proven to finish through any amount of pressure. His quickness is part of what makes him such an electric defender, as he’s able to suffocate his assignment and force on-ball turnovers with regularity. Kiett might not get as much attention yet, but he’s going to be a really impactful player throughout his high school career.
6’10 ’22 Noah Clowney (Dorman)
As much attention as Dorman receives, it’s surprising that more noise isn’t being made about Noah Clowney and his addition to the powerhouse program. The big man has elite size and moves with incredible fluidity, which is already enough to get excited about. Add in his quality athleticism, improving frame, and quality defensive timing, and Clowney should be a no-brainer for Division I coaches. He knows how to utilize his length and body to control the glass while altering shots at a phenomenal rate. Clowney displayed nice touch with both hands, finished above the rim, and was able to knock down the occasional midrange jumper. Honestly, he’s not even close to his ceiling right now, but that’s a massive part of what makes him so special. Clowney already checks a ton of boxes and should become a recruiting priority for a variety of programs going forward.
6’3 ’22 Kheni Briggs (AL Brown)
In many ways, Kheni Briggs was the most consistently dominant two-way performer in the building. He set the tone on every single possession on both ends of the floor, making intelligent, team-first plays on offense while absolutely smothering his assignment on defense. Briggs is a crafty, reliable ball-handler that utilizes his strength to navigate through traffic and pick his spots on offense. The lefty is tremendous at attacking the basket and finishing through contact, but can also play above the rim, stop for floaters and pull-ups, or assert himself as a respectable three-point shooter. He’s an elite rebounder at the guard position and knows how to immediately turn rebounds/turnovers into transition buckets on the other end. There’s simply no real knock on Briggs at this point. He’s shined in every setting and continued to look nothing short of spectacular at the Upward Combine. Don’t be surprised if his recruitment really starts to take off within the next six to eight months.
6’9 ’21 Keeyan Itejere (GRACE Christian)
There was a ton of talent and intrigue in the building, but Keeyan Itejere was arguably the most tantalizing prospect on display. He’s an extremely long, explosive forward prospect that can seamlessly operate inside or out on either end of the floor. Itejere built his foundation around being longer and more athletic than everyone, but has made truly incredible strides since April. Not only has he grown, added strength, and become more fluid, but he’s also becoming more skilled by the day. Itereje looks even more comfortable putting the ball on the floor, creating off the dribble, and shooting from the perimeter. His post game is still very much intact, but his ability to step out and make plays along arc makes him an absolute matchup problem. As appealing as his offensive game already is, Itejere is possible even more impressive on the defensive end. He’s part of a rare breed that can legitimately protect the rim at a quality level while actively rebounding and switching across all five positions. The signs of a special prospect are apparent, and Itejere is only going to continue to get better.