On Saturday, Phenom Hoops traveled to Greensboro for a special open gym feature on the NC Gaters, a program with some of the top up-and-coming talent from the area. We had the privilege of seeing their teams for the classes of 2022 and 2024, and there was a lot to unbox. This article will take a closer look at the makeup of their 16U roster and what we can expect of them throughout the possible summer season.
5’7 ’23 Riggs Handy (Christ School)
Very little has changed for Handy over the last calendar year, as he’s still one of the best shooters in state. His size will always be a topic of discussion, but it really doesn’t affect his abilities as a player. Handy is so unassuming (even to his own teammates) that he’s able to creep around, find open space, and absolutely destroy opposing teams from beyond the arc. He knows and embraces his identity as well as anyone. Handy only takes makeable shots and, generally speaking, makes a heavy majority of his attempts. He’s excellent at cutting without the ball and has no issues shooting on the move. Handy gives great effort as a defender and understands how to hide his weaknesses on that end of the floor. His move to Christ School could be nice, seeing as how much they’ve found with smaller shooters in the past (like the Halvorsen brothers).
5’10 Jordan Wall (Grimsley)
In terms of improvements, few players on this roster have developed as much as Wall over the last year. His overall identity has remained the same, but his ball-handling, craftiness as a finisher, and defensive pressure have all taken noticeable steps forward. He’s a capable floor general with great penetration ability, both as a finisher and playmaker. Wall utilizes his quick first step to keep opponents off-balance and change directions, which typically opens up easy driving lanes. He’s still at his best in the open floor, but is now equipped with the necessary tools to maintain his effectiveness in the half-court. With numerous seniors departing, Wall could certainly carve out a useful role next season with Grimsley.
6’5 Nolan Hodge (Northern Guilford)
Although everyone on this roster has made clear advancements within their game, Hodge remains their most enticing prospect for college coaches. His incredibly smart, smooth, fluid skillset is still an obvious selling point, especially at his size. Hodge learned the game as a point guard and has maintained abilities as a floor general, even after assuming more responsibility as a scorer. He’s a quality creator, both for himself and others, and scores the ball at a very efficient rate from all three levels. Hodge’s athleticism and overall assertiveness continue to improve, which was especially noticeable when penetrating or battling inside the paint. That being said, the additional physical strength he displayed at open gym should vault him into completely new territory as a prospect (even if he is already being promoted as a Division I talent). We’ve labeled him as a special type of prospect in the past, and this updated viewing reaffirms his abilities and phenomenal upside. His recruitment blow-up is coming sooner than later, and Hodge could legitimately go down as the best basketball player in Northern Guilford’s history—especially if he stays on his current trajectory.
6’4 Drew Watkins (Northwest Guilford)
Easily one of the most surprising prospects on display, Watkins looks likely to enjoy a massive uptick in role and production for Northwest Guilford. He showcased a versatile, well-rounded game on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Watkins is a capable shooter with useful penetration and rip-through capabilities. He’s a pretty nice all-around athlete, which was evident on numerous dunks and through his ability to defend multiple positions. Watkins offers a tough, scrappy presence on the glass and can push the break or fill the lane in transition fairly well. It’s pretty difficult to envision a scenario where Watkins isn’t one of the Vikings’ better players over these next two seasons. He does a little bit of everything on the court, which should make his transition into an expanded role somewhat seamless.
5’11 Matthew Wheaton (Grimsley)
There were numerous complementary players on display at this open gym, and Wheaton was among the best. He is a steady, well-rounded guard that knows how to spot-up and move without the ball. Wheaton is a solid defender and rebounder that shows a willingness to utilize his positioning and wiry frame to his advantage. He looks to make the smartest possible play and locate the extra pass whenever available. Wheaton does everything at a pretty solid level and knows how to be a consistent presence on both ends of the floor.
6’1 Connor Ballou (Northwest Guilford)
After the departure of Dean Reiber and Christian Hampton, it was basically predetermined for Ballou to take over the leadership reigns. However, he could be even better next season than originally expected. Ballou was the Vikings’ primary shooting threat, but returns as a dynamic all-around guard prospect. Between his passing, ball-handling, and overall craftiness off the bounce, Ballou has confirmed himself as more than a shooter. His IQ, pace, and fundamentally-sound approach allow him to make an impact in a ton of different ways. Ballou’s offensive game is smooth and effortless. He’s also a useful rebounder and defender with solid anticipation for jumping into passing lanes. Though he’s still an exceptional shooter, expect to see Ballou emerge as an all-around captain for the Vikings and begin collecting college opportunities sooner than later.
6’4 Marschall Uber (Wesleyan Christian)
Given their amount of perimeter ability, Uber is really the only true post player on the roster. He’s big, wiry, and shows flashes of inside-out ability, but is at his best when operating around the paint. Uber is a solid rebounder with nice length, which allows him to make an impact on the glass while altering plenty of shots. He runs the floor well and displays touch around the basket. Uber is a pretty steady presence for this team and still has a quality amount of long-term potential remaining. His role at Wesleyan should continually expand over the coming years.
6’4 JaKiah Spencer (Asheboro)
Anyone who genuinely enjoys basketball is going to really appreciate Spencer and what he brings to a team. Between his motor, work ethic, and physical attributes, he’s able to impact the game in a variety of different ways. Spencer is a long, athletic, rugged wing/forward prospect with nonstop energy and the ability to overwhelm his assignment on both ends of the floor. He’s very tough, which is evident when attacking the basket, fighting for rebounds, or switching across multiple positions defensively. Spencer hunts for loose balls and willingly looks to do the dirty work whenever available. He displays a nice feel for the game and highlighted flashes of a respectable three-point shot. His impact as a utility player is phenomenal and should allow him to carve out a quality role with any collection of teammates.
5’10 Luke Brewington (Greensboro Day)
In terms of shooting, Brewington is a clear asset. He possesses a fairly calm, quiet demeanor and understands how to operate within his role on both ends of the floor. Brewington is a great spot-up threat and well-rounded player that simply isn’t going to force the action. He moves well without the ball and displays great mechanics as a shooter. Brewington effectively defends the point of attack but will become even better with additional strength. His steady two-way presence should fit in seamlessly with this group and, with continued development, could carve out a solid role at Greensboro Day.
6’2 Khalil Riley (Grimsley)
There was a lot to like about Riley, who is one of the newest additions to this team. He’s another long, physical, athletic wing prospect with a complementary skillset and the ability to operate within various different roles. Riley possesses great length, moves well without the ball, and naturally finds a way to impact the game without requiring a ton of offensive touches. He plays with an excellent motor and can assume more offensive responsibility as needed. Riley embraces his do-it-all approach quite well and has all the tools to be an impact player throughout his upcoming time at Grimsley.
5’5 ’23 Michael Godette (Northwest Guilford)
Despite being the youngest and smallest player on this team, there’s certainly a lot to like about Godette’s game. He’s a pass-first point guard with great quickness, vision, and ball-handling skills. Godette is a quality floor general that isn’t necessarily looking to score, as he would rather create scoring opportunities for others. He’s a smart, decisive playmaker when attacking the basket due to his understanding of where the defense is collapsing and how to make the proper reads. Godette utilizes his lack of size pretty well to knife through the opposing defense and displays great speed in the open floor. With such a drastic roster turnover for Northwest Guilford, one would expect Godette to emerge as a useful piece sooner than later.
6’5 Julius Harrison (Piedmont Classical)
Though Harrison was not originally on this team, he offered another quality presence during the open gym. He’s long, smart, athletic, and quite versatile on both ends of the floor. Harrison plays with a great motor and naturally finds a way to affect all facets of the game. He possesses a well-rounded skillset on offense and can defend multiple positions on defense. Harrison is a great rebounder with a quick second jump and the ability to grab and push the break in transition. He’s a strong penetrator and finishes very well with either hand, or with dunks above the rim. Harrison’s jumper continues to look better and better with each viewing. If he continues improving his three-point consistency, there’s nothing preventing him from becoming a scholarship-worthy prospect over the next few seasons.
6’2 Jackson Helms (Northern Guilford)
Arguably no player on this roster has developed more drastically than Helms, who has officially asserted himself as a clear scholarship-level floor general. His IQ and skill have always been impressive, even dating back to his middle school days, but he’s taken multiple steps within his progression over the last few months. Helms is tough, heady, and has added noticeable pop within his game, making him even tougher for opponents to contain off the dribble. Not only is he now able to effortlessly finish above the rim, but the consistency on his perimeter jumper has also improved leaps and bounds. He creates for himself, sets up others, and plays consistently hard on both ends of the floor. Helms has a strong, physical frame and utilizes it extremely well to maintain his presence as a defender and rebounder. He’s terrific in the open floor, makes smart decisions with the ball in his hands, and has the capability to operate from either backcourt position. Right now, Helms is definitely trending upward and looks ready to take things to another level. To predict anything other than a breakout season would be simply foolish, especially given what he showcased at open gym.