By: DeAjai Dawkins

Championship Sunday is by far my favorite day of any tournament. Best of the best, fighting to secure the status they've been playing for all weekend. This day brings out the day in/day outers, the guys who stop at nothing to push their team over that hill. Here are a few that stood out:

6'2 2022 Tristin Harkins (Fayetteville Fire 16U) 

Tristin is a calm and collected guard that competes for Pine Forest High School. Toughness is one trait I often associate with teams from Fayetteville, and Tristin is an embodiment of that competitive fire. For starters, he's one of the most surefire scoring threats I covered this weekend. His 3pt range extends deep and he's automatic when left open. I was impressed with his willingness to put the ball on the floor and create shot opportunities outside of spot-up situations. In a scrappy contest against Overtime Grind, emotions got high and Harkins found himself in a competitive back and forth with another talented player that will also covered in this article. During that back and forth, Harkins maintained his composure and avoided picking up silly fouls while still contributing consistent points for his team. Tristin finished this game with 23 points.

6'3 2024 Tyler Showalter (CC Elite 2024) 

I'm a firm believer in 'the eye test' and how influential of a role it plays in immediately locking in on players that show potential. Tyler Showalter not only passes this test with his combination of length and fluidity, he also possesses a consistently productive skillset that would've caught my attention even if his physical intangibles hadn't. Tyler shoots the ball beautifully, routinely tucking his elbow and has a release point that makes his shots extremely difficult to block given his height. While I wouldn't yet classify Showalter as a varsity-level slasher, his current comfortability with putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket shows that he'll continue to develop himself into much more than a sharpshooter.

6'1 2022 Khalil Brown (Overtime Grind U16) 

I stated earlier that Tristin Harkins was engaged in a competitive back and forth with another talented player on the opposing team, enter Khalil Brown. Khalil is listed at 6'1 but has length and athleticism that allows him to play much taller. He's a consistent scoring threat when locked in, and can get going quickly especially when given time to set up half-court offense. In a winning effort, Brown contributed 14 points and displayed an ability to attack at all three levels. His work as a defensive catalyst is what he initially provided for his team before emotions rose, that's when he locked in. If he's able to channel the same emotion that accompanied that scoring output and lock in with that same mentality every game, Khalil Brown will turn heads.

6'0 2023 CJ Alston (Garner Road Bryant 15U) 

CJ Alston is the first player I saw take the floor for warmups in Garner Road's last game of the weekend, and his frame alone made me assume I was about to watch a U17 game. Alston plays with a very mature feel for the game, and a poise almost seems to develop as the game does. He pounds the ball at all times and is difficult to stop from getting into the lane. His acrobatic finishes incline defenders to challenge him at the rim, but his instincts allow him to hit the open man for three easily. His Garner Road team plays as a well oil machine and looks extremely dangerous for a U15 team, Alston is the conductor.  

6'4 2022 Ethan Duget (Overtime Grind U16) 

Ethan Duget is a dual-sport athlete playing both football and basketball. His imposing frame is enough of an indicator of this, but the aggressiveness that Duget plays with was the clearest sign of that. Duget is a strong force in the paint that combines his size with a soft touch around the rim. He has a motor that has him constantly battling for rebounds, and in the event that he grabs one on the offensive end, he's scoring. He will continue to develop his footwork and that will make him even more of a post threat in the seasons to come. He led his Overtime Grind team in a win over the Fayetteville Fire with 23 points and MVP honors.

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