By: Chick Gillespie
With the High School season coming to a close I was able to finally make it down to the Rock Hill Sports & Events Center for a Phenom Hoops Event and with several different divisions being played I was awash in talent to evaluate and I took advantage over the three days to check out the Hoop State Championships featuring some of the best prep programs in the Carolinas as well as some National Prep School Teams in Gold and Silver divisions. The following players stood out to me on Day #1: 6’3” ’21 Christian Wright (Iona)- This future Iona Gael recruit led his TSF National squad to a big win over Mt. Zion Prep with a crafty game and solid body control in the lane to rack up 18pts 2 treys while dishing 4asts and playing tight defense with 3stls. His court vision was excellent as he moved the ball with crisp accurate passes with some zip on them and he was vocal on the court directing his mates and keeping them alert throughout the contest. I also liked the effort from 6’8” VCU commit Jalen Deloach who guarded the paint with an eye on rebounds as he grabbed 16 of them with 3blks and 8pts in their win.
IMG Academy Prep- We’ll start with LSU commit 6’5” Brandon Murray who has shown in previous viewings that if he has a lane to drive through he’ll take it and finish at the rim but if a defender backs off he can hit the occasional three-ball to keep you honest. On this day he dropped 24pts 2 treys without a trip to the foul line and he was adept at hitting cutting teammates as he garnered 4asts in his team’s victory. He is a solid defender with a strong upper body and usually a good rebounder but IMG is loaded with strong interior players which frees up Murray to attack the glass. Philly product and Dayton commit 6’3” Lynn Greer III is a player I’ve seen a lot of being from the Philly area myself and I’ve always looked at him as a combo guard because of his ability to score the ball but at the same time I’ve believed him capable of being a pass-first lead guard as he has the ability to get his teammates the ball in scoring positions and today he did just that in a well-rounded performance. He finished with 16pts 2 treys 6asts 4reb 2stls and was one of the best players on the floor controlling the tempo and playing with the singular purpose of winning the contest.
Moravian Prep National- On this night Moravian seemingly couldn’t miss from the arc in a win over Word of God but the guy who intrigued me was 5’11” ’25 Eli Ellis and I did a double-take when I saw the roster listed him as a class of 2025 player but I can tell you he looked like a seasoned veteran with a tight handle, good court vision and toughness especially in the paint as he put together a stat line of 22pts 4 treys 11reb 4asts in the victory. He played beyond his years and will be someone I track in the coming AAU season.
Liberty Heights- In the age of big men playing more on the perimeter 7’0” Marquette commit Jonas Aidoo shows a proclivity to play inside and out as he has a nice touch from the arc but can rebound and block shots on the interior with the best of them. In a win over Winston-Salem Christian, he contributed 20pts 2 treys 6reb 4blks while altering another few shots from the Lions. Aidoo runs the floor well and engages defensively with his huge wingspan to cut down passing angles and he did a nice job in this tilt. He has a nice upside and I believe his best basketball is ahead of him.
Combine Academy- 6’2” ’23 Robert Dillingham started this game by splitting the defense for an athletic runner on his first touch then spent the rest of the 1st quarter probing the Quality Education Academy defense for any weakness he could find while keeping his teammates active on both ends of the floor. QAE was tough defensively and Dillingham impressed by not forcing things with the ball in his hands finishing with 18pts 4asts 2stls. In my viewings of Dillingham, I’ve seen a smoothness in his handle and I like his body control going to the basket and his shot has an almost effortless motion with balance and range. This young man has a bright future and will continue to improve his skill set moving forward.
Bull City Prep- Coming into this event I knew very little about this squad but I was impressed with their quickness on the defensive end as they had 10 steals while forcing multiple turnovers throughout the contest. 6’3” ’22 Liron Thomas caught my eye early and he never faded from view putting up 28pts 3 treys while showing off a solid handle without turning the ball over. He added 6reb and played frenetic defense with 4stls and forcing 3 turnovers by jumping the passing lanes. From an offensive standpoint, he showed a nice touch from deep but also displayed a soft touch on runners in the lane and awareness for closeouts to dish the ball to open teammates. Lots of moxie in this team and Thomas is just one cog in the wheel.