Another productive day well spent in the gym last weekend, as I traveled up north to cover the 2018 Fall Mid-Atlantic Showcase, hosted by ‘Millennium Prospects’ and the ‘Higher Level Academy.’ The afternoon session took place at Osbourn Park High School, located in Manassas, VA. Pulling up in the parking lot, I noticed a familiar face arriving right behind me: Darius Wilson, the CEO/head skills trainer of ‘Higher Level.’ Right then and there, I knew the players would be in for some effectual training and teaching. Around 30 participants showed up for the day, ranging in all high school ages and across the region. Once settled in, the training crew all gathered the young fellas together to split them into six different stations of shooting, 2v2 play, rebounding/finishing, and ball-handling. Afterwards, Wilson divided teams to go right into 20-minute games. Each team got to play about 5-6 games. In between games, near mid-day, a chalk talk also took place.
For me, the day proved well in allowing a first-look at some new faces around Northern VA. Surveying the scene, I left the gym on Sunday with a couple of standouts that I’ll keep in mind heading into the season.
Kylique Walker ’19 – Osbourn Park HS (Manassas, VA)
The Yellow Jackets have a talented wing in Walker, whose size allows him to control the game in many ways once he gets the ball. The 6’4” lefty does well in pushing the break to get all the way to the rim or find a cutting teammate. When the transition opportunity does not present itself, Walker can move around to seek and knock down spot-up mid-range jumpers. He gets after it on the defensive glass as well. Looking to assert himself more on going after offensive put backs should become a focus, as he has the athletic tools to do so. When guarding in transition, Walker did better than anyone else on the day at stripping the ball away from others who exposed it. His defensive IQ should make him a versatile option in matching up against different positions. Right now, his overall handle and shooting range can look to improve. I expect a big senior year from him within the district.
Courtenay Houston ’21 – Hylton HS (Woodbridge, VA)
The young scoring guard drew some noteworthy attention once he stepped in the gym, which made sense after watching him compete all day. Houston has a maturity in his game unlike most sophomores; he recognizes the right plays to make and knows how to complete them. His body control makes him difficult to contain around the rim, along with his ability to stop abruptly and pull up for short jumpers. Patiently waiting to make the right decision probably describes his game best. He’s never in a hurry to make something happen and protects the ball well so defenders cannot speed him up. Overall, the 6’2” guard has a well-rounded three-level scoring game. However, his three-point shot appears pretty reliable yet may need to see an increase in the release point so taller defenders can’t get a piece of it. On the defensive side, Houston clearly has intelligence but needs to increase his motor. A new face for the Hylton Bulldogs this year, fans should keep him in mind.
Ethan Wilson ’20 – Osbourn Park HS (Manassas, VA)
A strong scorer with some of the best energy all throughout the day, Wilson caught my eye the moment he stepped on the floor. The 6’0” guard never stopped giving it his all to help his team win and gave opponents trouble all day long with his attacking mentality. While trying to finish at the rim appeared as a go-to, he also showed off an efficient shooting touch from the mid-range and three-point land. His handle helps him get to various spots on the floor and create space for open looks. I also liked how he looked to crash the offensive glass frequently, even while being fairly undersized. Wilson’s offensive talent stands clear; he now must add in more playmaking for others into his game so he does not become labeled as purely a scorer. If he continues to put in the work and add that into his arsenal, the confident guard should make a lot of noise in Manassas for these next two seasons.
Hayden James ’21 – Heritage Christian School (Prince William County, VA)
I got a second opportunity to watch the young guard play again after first seeing him at our North Carolina Phenom 150 Session 1 a few weekends ago. Once again, James stood out in several areas. You can always count on him to bring toughness, leadership, sportsmanship, and a variety of skills to the hardwood. He did a great job of dictating the pace as a floor general and finding teammates in the open court all during Sunday. His confident shooting makes him a threat from all three levels and he can make his way past poor closeouts. Defensively, I respected how James always looked to take on the other team’s best ball-handler, pressuring him all over the floor. His lateral quickness can currently use some of the most improvement so he’ll become even more of a threat on the defensive side of the ball. Whether he was on the floor or not, James was the best vocal player on his team by calling out all assignments and encouraging his teammates at all times. With his intangibles and 4.0 GPA, the ceiling remains high for the young prospect.
Marco Watson ’21 – Potomac HS (Dumfries, VA)
Likewise to James, this was also my second time coming across Watson in the gym; I previewed his high school team last month. The scrappy 5’8” combo guard showed the same type of fire that he displayed the first time I saw him in action. Watson simply never stops when he’s on the floor. He had the best all-around motor of anyone during the showcase and gave his team a big spark to win most of their games. I feel he’s best with the ball in his hands, shown by how he can easily create his own shot off the bounce. Drawing fouls with his speed and change of pace also makes him a threat whenever he gets in the lane. On defense, his hard-nosed and pestering play should frustrate an abundance of opposing guards this season. He seems to relish that side of the ball and making sure his opponent has a long night. Shot selection now needs to become stronger within his game. He can get his shot off pretty much whenever he wants but must learn to determine proper attempts and become more of an efficient scorer versus a high-volume one. Surrounding area residents acknowledge how Watson lives as a gym rat, so I have no worries that he’ll continue to make strides.
Lorenzo Nichols, Jr. ’22 – Stonewall Jackson HS (Manassas, VA)
I’ve seen Nichols, or ‘Zo’ as we call him, put in work during the last few summers in my own training with Wilson and the ‘Higher Level’ skill clinics. Now, as a high schooler, it’s easy to see how his hours spent in the gym has led to an advanced skill set for only a freshman. Nichols stood out as one of the best ‘two-way guards’ in the event. He knows how to use his strength and finish around the rim as a lefty. When the lane becomes clogged, he can easily settle for pull-up jumpers around the FT line. His court vision, both in transition and half-court settings, stood out even more than his scoring. He knew his teammates’ tendencies and how to quickly find them near the rim. Nichols’ defense highly impressed with his hustle and IQ on how to make others uncomfortable. He has quick hands, great reaction time, and the overall mindset to become an exceptional defender at the point guard position. Again, this guy is only heading into his first high school season… the Raiders of Stonewall Jackson have a special one.
As one can see, nearly all of these guys still have a couple of years left in high school. The potential for their growth remains inevitable. Thank you to ‘Millennium Prospects,’ ‘Higher Level,’ and Osbourn Park head varsity boys’ basketball coach, Jeremy Coleman, for the hospitality last weekend!