North Carolina’s Class of 2021 Overflowing with Frontcourt Talent
On Saturday, we published our first installment of a new series that dives into the Class of 2021 landscape within the Hoopstate. The purpose of these articles should allow folks to develop a deeper understanding of these younger prospects throughout the various stages of their growth. This class is already shaping up to be incredibly deep and offers a strong mix of positional diversity. In the first edition, we covered five different prospects and didn’t necessarily focus on a specific position. This time, each of these guys will fall under the frontcourt umbrella, yet still maintain that level of uniqueness that we saw in part one. Keep watch for continued installments, as there’s an abundance of talent worth recognizing.
(#8) 6’8 Jacori Owens (Hickory Grove/Team Charlotte)
The top ranked player in this group, Jacori Owens, has been playing at a high level for quite a while and his eighth position on this list echoes that sediment. The big man stands at a strong 6-foot-8 and moves very well for his current size, already able to patrol the paint defensively as the lone rim-protector. Playing quality minutes for Team Charlotte’s 17U squad has instilled Owens with the necessary toughness and confidence to contribute in any contest. Offensively, he operates well within one to two dribbles and displays nice touch around the basket. His offensive arsenal is still growing, but Owens’ quality athleticism and strength allow him to finish nearly everything inside the paint. Expect the big man to start turning heads at Hickory Grove with year-round teammate, AJ Smith, in the coming months.
(#9) 6’6 Red Dunton (Heritage/Garner Road)
Some people might look at Redford Dunton as more of a wing, but we’ll sneak him into this category as a long-term small forward. On paper, one could argue that he could realistically play three different positions. However, the biggest reason folks struggle with Dunton’s position is due to his tough blend of size, skill, and versatility. As the most skilled player on this list, he’s truly capable of anything on the offensive end of the floor and will be an unstoppable force upon adding strength. Multi-tool players are becoming more attractive by the day, and Dunton possesses all the tools. He can create, score, pass, spot-up, all with relative ease. The forward can truly score on all three levels, and does so with phenomenal efficiency. In time, Dunton should develop into a plus-defender with versatility, though he’s already shown various glimpses of that. It’s almost unfathomable to believe that there are eight prospects ranked ahead of Dunton, but that just proves how strong this class could be.
(#19) 6’7 Jamylan Blakeney (Forest Hills/Team CP3)
Though we’ve ventured down the list, there’s no questioning the talent level and upside of Jamylan Blakeney, who has only begun harnessing his two-way abilities. We’ve seen Blakeney in a variety of settings, but one thing has been made clear: he can play with the top level of talent. The combo-forward is best utilized when he’s able to roam freely and affect the game as needed. Physically, Blakeney is really intriguing, given his lengthy frame, impressive wingspan, and well-rounded athleticism. He is a rangy, disciplined defender with the ability to switch across two or three positions comfortably. Of all the players on this least, he’s probably the furthest away from being a finished, which speaks highly on how much he can still grow. Right now, Blakeney is productive and has a ton of translatable skills, but it’ll be interesting to see how his offensive identity develops during the upcoming season.
(#23) 6’6 Eric van der Heijden (Ravenscroft/Team Wall)
With his older brother, Jake, recently committing to Bucknell, it’s only fitting that we begin to shift our attention from one van der Heijden to the next, now dialing in with Eric. The combo-forward is another prospect that we’ve seen in multiple different settings over the last few years, but his development has been clear throughout the process. Just in the last twelve months, van der Heijden has gotten noticeably more polished and aggressive on offense. He seamlessly went from a secondary to a primary role and looks ready to contribute for Ravencroft this season. Offensively, he’s improved in nearly every facet of his game—going from a solid shooter to an excellent one, for example. Van der Heijden was the clear leader of his Team Wall squad over the summer and could have a similar future to his brother, who also rapidly improved between his freshman and junior seasons.
(#36) 6’7 Julius Peacock (Garner/NC Empire)
Finishing up this list is Julius Peacock, a prospect that most people still don’t know about, despite leading NC Empire from April to July. He could be found playing both 15U and 16U, and making his mark on each. On one hand, it’s easy to look at Peacock and identify his upside, due to length and a quality motor. However, most spectators have neglected to recognize how polished the big man is already. Offensively, Peacock has a pretty strong arsenal of back-to-basket moves and loves going to a baby hook whenever possible. He has terrific touch and feel around the basket, able to generate and convert nearly anything within three to five feet, yet also shows signs of a formidable midrange jumper. Peacock protects the basket extremely well and with aggression; he moves swiftly in space and doesn’t look overwhelmed when defending the perimeter. Expect him to be a contributor, and possibly