I took a little road trip this weekend to check out some talent in good old Denver, NC at the Denver Nuggets Shootout. This tournament, put on by Chip Ashley, was full of local AAU teams that came out and really competed. Here are the players that stood out:
LJ Smith (7th Grade) of Denver Nuggets was by far the most intriguing prospect that I saw all day. Being only in the 7th grade, his skillset, pace of play, and IQ was off the charts, far more advanced than his age group. He showcased the ability to score from everywhere on the floor with ease as the defense struggled to defend him all day long. He has great ball skills that he used to break down defenders and create scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. It is very rare at this age that you can call a kid a college player, but he definitely shows the skillset and potential that leads me to think that he will be a highly touted prospect later in his career. Although early, college coaches may want to go ahead and write his name down, could become a player that will be sought after.
Brayden Miller (6th Grade) of Denver Nuggets 6B was yet another player that outplayed every player on the floor. His combination of speed, quickness, and IQ allowed him to literally take over the game on both ends of the floor. He displayed the ability to control the pace that his team played with and really did a great job of getting the ball to his teammates. His speed allowed him to create a ton of turnovers and score consistently in transition. He finished the game with 26 points, scoring from both inside and out with consistency.
Ben Houpt (7th Grade) of Charlotte Sparks was the best shooter in the gym today. Son of former UNC Charlotte player Matt Houpt, I can see that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. He was phenomenal at moving without the ball and getting himself open; He lit it up from three all day with his quick and effortless stroke. Not only could he shoot the ball, he did a great job of setting his teammates up to score. His IQ allowed him to be a step ahead of the defense. Already standing at a good height and having good length, he has a chance to be a high level shooter, potentially one of the top shooters in his class. As he continues to develop his game and his body, he will be one to track!
Cole Calloway (2023) of Riptide SC showcased his ability to be a very versatile all around player. Cole has a chance to become one of the best pure shooters in the state for his class. He has phenomenal range and does a tremendous job of getting set to shoot. Watching him play over the last summer, it is evident that he has improved his ability to be a multifaceted scorer while also improving his overall versatility; his improvement being an obvious testament to his work ethic. Defensively, he was able to defend multiple positions while also being a tenacious rebounder. Given his improvement over the school season, I am eager to continue watching him develop. He has a chance to be a really good player at the next level.
Jy Gladden (2023) of Riptide SC has the physical tools that will develop into a great athlete. He possesses a combination of length and athleticism to go along with undeniable toughness that allows him to impact the game on both ends of the floor. He was very impressive defensively as he did a terrific job of playing the passing lanes and getting easy points in transition. He also did a great job of crashing the glass as he showcased his ability to be a quality rebounder on both sides of the ball. Looking forward to following him as he continues to develop both his body and skillset.