This past weekend, Phenom Hoops took the opportunity to maximize our downtime and continue providing coverage throughout the region. While the event in Rock Hill drew a ton of attention, prospects could be found playing in numerous locations—including at the Triad Blue Chips East Fall League in Greensboro. We traveled out to Shining Light Academy and caught most of the action, and this article will take a closer look at some standouts and the coinciding storylines from the evening…
6’1 ’21 Jake Kawalec (Northwest Guilford)
Perhaps no one on this roster has bigger shoes to fill than Kawalec, largely due to being the only senior (who played varsity last year) on the entire roster. Not only that, but he’ll also be tasked with additional on-court responsibilities as a lead creator alongside Connor Ballou. Kawalec is a fairly heady guard with length, motor, and toughness. He’s a capable shooter but prefers to attack the basket and make plays. Kawalec is a reliable defender and rebounder with the necessary instincts to effectively push the break in transition. He does everything at a fairly solid rate and should have no issue asserting himself as a major contributor throughout the season. Kawalec has already proven to be a useful piece, but it’ll be especially interesting to see how he operates as the main veteran for this group.
Northwest Guilford Changing Directions
We’ve written at length about Ballou and his expected abilities/production as a leader for the new-look Northwest Vikings. Nothing has changed on that front, as he’s clearly still the most likely candidate on this roster for a breakout season. However, after being sidelined with an injury for majority of their contest on Saturday, the Vikings showed signs of vulnerability. After the departure of Christian Hampton and Dean Reiber, some struggles should’ve been anticipated. That being said, there were still many positive takeaways from this contest. Jackson Hartzell continues physically develop while still shooting the ball at a high level. Kawalec offers a nice complement to the smooth-shooting duo, given his heady downhill approach. He can run the team as needed or play alongside other primary ball-handlers with relative ease. Jaylen Cross is young but looks like an odds-on favorite to take the leadership reigns after the current junior class graduates. Additionally, Drew Watkins (DNP-injury) will play a major, and arguably the most vital, role for this team. Between size and ability, Watkins is going to be a strong interior presence with the versatility to naturally cause mismatches. All the aforementioned obstacles should make for an exciting year, as Lee Reavis maintains his status as a top-tier coach and is almost guaranteed to keep the Vikings relevant.