Coach Rick’s Thoughts and Take Aways from Upward Stars

Phenom Hoops travelled down to Spartanburg, South Carolina to cover  Upward Star’s “Open Gym and Skill Development.” It was held at the beautiful Upward Star Center and congratulations to Curtis Wheeler and his staff for hosting a well-organized and professional event. More importantly, we were provided a thorough roster list and a schedule that made our job easy to cover. 

One thing is for certain and deserves repeating, South Carolina is no longer just a football state. The talent level the past five years in South Carolina has been outstanding. Prospects from every level are available and the success of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant should make college coaches take notice of the talent that exists in the Palmetto State. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the players that grabbed our attention. 


7’0 2021 Gabe Wiznitzer (Hargrave Military)

Gabe has really transformed his body over the past year. He has dropped approximately 40 pounds and his work ethic has really paid off. Gabe has excellent hands, nifty footwork in the paint, but has the ability to step out and in the midrange and occasional perimeter jumper. 

6’8 2022 Julian Phillips (Blythewood)

Julian is such a gifted young talent. He is smooth and fluid in the open court, more importantly can go left in such an effortless manner. The game looks so easy as he has the athleticism and skill set that has made him one of the premier players from South Carolina. 

5’10 2021 Jalen Breazeale (Dorman)

What Jalen lacks in overall size, he makes up for it in heart and passion. The quick on quick point guard has speed to burn in the open court. He has good court vision and generates the offense by constantly attacking the defense. In addition, he also has excellent lateral quickness and has great defensive posture by sitting low. 

6’1 2021 DaVeon Thomas (Lee Central) 

DaVeon is a tough as nails guard. He has strength, athleticism, and a strong desire to compete on both ends of the court. In addition, he has touch and range to go along with his explosive first step to the rim. Definitely has the ability to play either guard position at the next level. 

6’6 2022 Jordyn Surratt (Dorman)

Jordyn has the size, strength and athleticism that enables him to guard multiple positions on the court. He runs the floor extremely well and has the ability to score in the paint or out on the wing. We were impressed with his motor and defensive tenacity. Jordyn will also be in contention as the game’s leading rebounder. Natural instincts on the court! 

5’10 2021 James Lovorn (TL Hanna)

James is a high IQ, cerebral and crafty point guard. He has impeccable court vision and has outstanding passing abilities. While he has the ability to score in various ways on the court, he is simply a joy to watch with his passer friendly and team first approach to the game. We were impressed with his overall decision-making abilities throughout the day.

Surprise Player of the Day

6’10 2021 Isaac Hawkins (Legion Academy)

Isaac has grown close to four inches in the past year. Isaac was terrific in the stations and showcased a nice all-around game. He has touch, range and mobility. The next step is putting it all together in game situations. He is definitely a late bloomer and one to track closely this coming season. 

Best of the Rest 

6’9 2021 Keeyan Itejere (GRACE Christian)
6’7 2021 Daniel Mayfield (Moravian Prep)
6’7 2023 Greg Jackson (Ridge View)
6’6 2021 Earl Burgess (Dorman)
6’6 2023 Nakoyiss Sweetenburg (Camden)
6’4 2022 Jordan Simpson (Orangeburg-Wilkinson)
6’2 2021 Myles Ulmer (Anderson Christian)
6’1 2022 Shane Blakeney (Rock Hill)
5’10 2023 Colin Fayed (Gaston Day)
5’9 2023 Matty Foor (Summerville)