On Tuesday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to Oak Ridge for an open gym session with one of the Triad’s top programs in Northwest Guilford. The Vikings were somewhat disappointing last season, especially by their standards, but look likely to bounce back in aggressive fashion. Structurally, this group is very well-defined. They have a clear rotation with cohesive individual pieces from top to bottom. Add in Coach Reavis, who has become a staple within the program (while maintaining prolonged success) throughout his tenure, and the Vikings should definitely surprise some folks. The expectations should be high, considering this roster arguably has as much talent (maybe not as much star-power) as any team in recent memory. Let’s take a closer look…
6’0 ’22 Connor Ballou
Given his role from last season, one would naturally assume that Connor Ballou will return as a leader for this squad. Although he didn’t shoot the ball at his normal percentage today, his value should be pretty obvious. Ballou is a very steady, balanced guard prospect with quality instincts as a playmaker and three-level scorer. His transition over the years from a spot-up threat to a well-rounded floor general has been something worth noting. Ballou is smart, unselfish, and probably somewhat overlooked at times due to his willingness to seek out the best available play rather than chase high scoring totals. However, intelligent programs should be able to see his appeal at the next level. In addition to his well-rounded skillset, he’s a reliable defender with natural instincts on both ends of the floor. Though he possesses a calm on-court demeanor, Ballou is a definite gamer and should continue receiving attention from various college coaches.
6’0 ’22 Jackson Hartzell
After being a consistent talking point amongst coaches during the summer, it seems like programs should be more involved with Jackson Hartzell. He’s perhaps slightly undersized, but it doesn’t seem to be a massive issue in his specific case. Hartzell is an exceptional three-point shooter with IQ, cutting instincts, and a very quick release. He’s made definite strides as a defender and overall creator over the last six months while maintaining his consistency from beyond the arc. Today was no different. Hartzell hit a flurry of perimeter shots, varying in difficulty, and regularly made plays on the other end of the floor. He makes sharp passes and understands how to find success with or without the ball in his hands. Like his teammate above, Hartzell should have opportunities to further his game at the next level.
6’5 ’22 Drew Watkins
Though quite different from their other two seniors, Drew Watkins’ versatility and well-rounded identity should make him as valuable as anyone on the roster. He’s a tough, skilled forward prospect with inside-out ability on both ends of the floor. Given his size, vision, and scoring abilities, Watkins is arguably at his best when operating around the elbows. However, he’s also capable of spacing the floor, taking opponents off the bounce, or battling for opportunities inside the paint. Watkins is a useful rebounder and defender with a solid blend of IQ, athleticism, and adaptability. He runs the floor well in transition and has the necessary skill to push the break upon forcing turnovers or securing defensive rebounds. This team is simply better when he’s on the court, and that should become increasingly apparent to college coaches during the upcoming season.
6’5 ’23 Wyatt Harbaugh
It’s unclear how anyone who claims to appreciate the game of basketball could say anything other than positives about Wyatt Harbaugh. His tough, rugged, blue-collar approach makes him somewhat of a unique player in the current landscape. With so many others looking to develop their dribble combos or shot-creation ability, Harbaugh is a breath of fresh air. He’s a strong, physical, high-motor forward/post prospect with an incredible nose for the ball. Regardless of setting, he seems to stand out with his nonstop hustle and two-way rebounding presence. Despite three (!!!) separate ACL tears, Harbaugh still possesses nice mobility and the ability to effortlessly rise up for finishes above the rim. His combination of motor, unselfishness, and understanding of how to do the dirty work simply makes him a nightmare for opponents. Harbaugh is a definite asset and someone that should steadily start capturing the attention of college coaches going forward.
6’4 ’23 Sheldon Ulmer
Arguably the most improved player on the roster, Sheldon Ulmer has visibly developed over the last calendar year. He’s always been a notable athlete, but it’s easy to notice the strides within his actual skillset. While most of his value still resides within playing hard, being athletic, and making hustle plays, Ulmer showed multiple flashes as a shooter and defender during practice. He’s a wiry, bouncy wing/forward with toughness, instincts, and an active motor on both ends of the floor. Assuming he still does the dirty work, Ulmer’s development as a shooter will make this group even tougher than expected. He should also receive an uptick in recruitment over the next year or so.
6’4 ’24 Jaylen Cross
Anyone who has been paying attention should already know about the Vikings’ newest rising star in Jaylen Cross. While folks do seem to be talking about him more, it’s still difficult to understand how people aren’t in universal agreement of his status as a (conservatively) top-ten player in North Carolina’s Class of 2024. Even after joining a noteworthy program in Team United, it seems like the general masses don’t fully understand the magnitude of his current ability or long-term upside. However, it doesn’t really matter, as Cross is still basically guaranteed to explode over the coming season. He’s smart, athletic, and possesses the all-around skillset to be a dominant force on both ends of the floor. Cross is a phenomenal defender, rebounder, and adaptable offensive piece with toughness, sharp instincts, and leadership by example. He’s able to operate effectively as a playmaker while applying efficient scoring pressure from all levels. Cross truly has no glaring weaknesses, and should have a legitimate case to be the best guard within his class based on his current trajectory. If Division I schools are offering players within the Class of 2024, then Cross is as deserving as anyone. If nothing else, high-major schools would be wise to start laying groundwork, as he could be special.
6’0 ’24 Aidan Eller
Though somewhat undersized for his expected role, Aidan Eller does a terrific job of maximizing his presence on both ends of the floor. He provides great energy, positions himself for success, and doesn’t try to force the action. Eller is a noted baseball talent, but he should find some meaningful minutes for the Vikings.
6’3 ’24 Jackson Godfrey
Since this Northwest Guilford squad is loaded with veteran talent, Jackson Godfrey will probably carve out his role as a spot-up threat and energy guy. He possesses size and an understanding of how to effectively contribute on both ends of the floor. Godfrey should be a useful role player during the upcoming season.
6’0 ’24 Tanner Ballou
6’1 ’24 Trenton Cloud
Both guys are currently playing football, but should each emerge as useful contributors over the basketball season—especially after playing on varsity last year.