It probably goes without saying, but Upward Stars is among the top programs in the Carolinas. They do an exceptional job of keeping notable South Carolina prospects on their roster and consistently advancing kids to the next level. Over the last few years, guys like Julian Phillips, PJ Hall, Dillon Jones, and Bryce McGowans (among various others) were a few of the special players to emerge from this program. Although those names listed are currently doing pre-draft workouts for the NBA, Upward Stars still has an abundance of current talent worth seeing. Let’s take a closer look at their roster in preparation for our Memorial Day Classic…
The need for quality ball-handlers and general point guard play is extremely important in travel basketball, and 6’3 KJ Greene is undeniably one of the best floor generals in the country. His elite blend of IQ, poise, playmaking instincts, and overall polish is a massive part of what separates him from others. Greene possesses the size, pace, and three-level scoring ability. His backcourt mates, 6’0 DJ Shine and 6’3 Jermaurhiyun Anderson, each provide their own useful identity to this squad. Shine is slightly undersized but incredibly quick, tough, and able to effortlessly fill it up as a scorer. He’s a blur in the open floor, yet possesses a tight handle and great body control. He also displays a sharp change of direction. Meanwhile, Anderson offers a fairly balanced all-around presence. The lefty can reliably initiate the offense, create for himself and others, and impact the game with or without the ball in his hands. His skillset, athleticism, and adaptability make him a seamless fit with this group.
Looking at the wing grouping of 6’3 Justin Ray, 6’5 Jamari Briggs, and 6’5 Bryson Cokley (Wake Forest) should entice various college programs. Someone like Ray has steadily burst onto the scene over these last few years and now looks ready to take the next step in his progression. He’s an excellent shooter, both off the catch and bounce, and applies consistent pressure from midrange and beyond the arc. Ray gets to his spots, plays above the basket, and makes his presence felt as a defender and rebounder. Similarly, Briggs is another guy who has only gotten better over the years. He’s a strong, physical guard with great size and toughness on both ends of the floor. Briggs is a capable initiator and playmaker, but can also get downhill or knock down jumpers along the perimeter. Rounding out the wing grouping, Cokley is an explosive, shot-maker with length and the ability to produce in a low-maintenance role. He hits jumpers, attacks closeouts, and contains his assignment well defensively.
It’s amazing to look at the construct of this roster and notice all the malleable, complementary pieces, and that certainly includes the big man grouping of 6’8 Michael Marcus, 6’9 Ellis Graham, and 6’10 Brandon Crawford. Each guy brings something different to the table. Marcus is strong, sturdy, and possesses inside-out offensive ability. He can reliably finish, score from the post, or space the floor effectively from midrange or beyond the arc. Marcus is a great rebounder and reliable interior defender with a steady presence on either side of the ball. Meanwhile, Graham is another guy whose stock should see tremendous rise over the coming months. His combination of length, explosiveness, rebounding ability, and rim-protection instincts should have a slew of coaches in pursuit. Graham’s straightforward identity (and considerable upside) will inevitably make him a target for various Division I programs. In the same vein, Crawford is someone who should absolutely blow up over the next calendar year. He’s a great finisher with length, athleticism, and interior instincts on both ends of the floor. Crawford can control the glass, anchor the paint defensively, and play way above the rim. His current appeal crossed with his world of upside should have all types of programs getting involved.