Each year, the grassroots basketball scene shifts from travel ball to the high school season. College coaches have been out for months, seen countless kids, and should be in pursuit of their priority-level prospects. That being said, there are plenty of players whose ability don’t match their recruitment. Sure, most rising juniors aren’t receiving a ton of offers right now. However, given the offers that have gone out, it’s confusing as to why certain other guys aren’t getting enough attention from college programs. Regardless, this article will take a closer look at five prospects who should take a huge leap forward during the upcoming season. It could be role, production, recruitment, or a variety of different things. Let’s look…
6’4 ’24 Jaylen Cross (Northwest Guilford)
There’s really no explanation required for this entry, as we’ve written about Cross and questioned his recruitment various times over the recent months. He’s a smart, skilled, athletic guard with great positional size and the ability to make plays with or without the ball in his hands. Cross should inevitably see an uptick in production across the board, as he’s continued to sharpen his playmaking and three-point shooting over the recent months. He’s a quality defender who forces turnovers at a high rate, effectively pushes transition play, and finishes consistently around the basket—both through contact and above the rim. Cross truly has all the tools to be a high-level piece at the next level, so it’ll be exciting to see what program is the first to get involved.
5’11 ’24 Delani Hammonds (Ardrey Kell)
Given the departure of another primary ball-handler (in Evan Smith), Hammonds should have no issue completely taking over the reigns as the sole playmaker for Ardrey Kell. He already led the Knights in assists last season, but folks shouldn’t be surprised if his numbers legitimately double this year. Hammonds is a smart, sharp point guard prospect with vision, quickness, and a tight handle. He gets wherever he wants on the floor, but understands how to effectively run a team with poise and patience. Hammonds touches the paint at a high volume and finishes or sets up teammates for scoring opportunities. He’s also a very pesky defender who establishes the tone on both ends of the floor. Expect Hammonds’ recruitment to trend upward.
6’6 ’24 Jayan Walker (Millbrook)
Probably one of the easier breakout predictions in the state, Walker has all the factors to have a huge year. He recently transferred from Jordan to Millbrook, but would’ve been considered a breakout contender at either school. He’s a big, skilled, athletic wing prospect with ability as a penetrator and shot-maker. Walker had a fairly productive sophomore season within a very talented squad, but appears to have turned a corner during summer months. Though he scored the ball well last year, his efficiency looks likely to improve from all levels. Walker also highlighted toughness, defensive prowess, and useful passing instincts throughout the travel season. College coaches should be watching closely, as he should collect a slew of offers over the next calendar year.
6’7 ’24 Kaden Hammond (Cummings)
Despite being a known name for quite a while, it doesn’t feel like Hammond receives enough attention from the general masses. He’s a big, strong-bodied post prospect with touch, vision, footwork, and floor-spacing ability. Hammond is way too strong for majority of opposing post prospects to contain, but also has nice skill and polish for his size/position. His steady, unselfish, low-maintenance identity should be more appreciated by college coaches—as his production simply doesn’t rely on others. Hammond doesn’t require touches to be impactful, especially given his rebounding presence on both ends of the floor. Last season, he netted double-digit rebounds in 16 of 22 games while shooting 60% from the field. It feels like coaches are missing out here, as Hammond is a difference-maker at the next level.
6’5 ’24 Jordan Patton (Chambers)
It’s been a rough summer for Chambers. They graduated three major pieces (Daniel Sanford, Antoine Piper, and Kendall Smith), lost two transfers (Osvaldo Haynes and Jaylen Curry), and suffered a massive injury (Evan Ashemore). The positive news? Patton has been producing at a notable level throughout the summer, and looks likely to absorb most of those lost interior minutes. He’s a long, strong, athletic forward prospect with an enticing blend of inside-out ability. Patton is a powerful finisher who welcomes opponents at the rim, but also displays useful creation skills and the understanding of how to properly exploit mismatches. He utilizes his body well to gain post position and establish his presence on the glass. Patton has all the tools to have a breakout season and make a lasting impression with college coaches.