After an extensive down-period, the past month has been full of excitement and opportunities for kids to prove themselves to college coaches. While the recruiting process differs greatly from that of a normal summer, everyone has done their part to make the best of this unique situation. Naturally, high-profile programs haven’t suffered as much as most grassroots programs but offers are still going out across the board. Despite the many uncertainties, Upward Stars 704 has become something of a force at our events. Between their chemistry and complementary identities, it’s easy to see why the tight-knit group is winning games and attracting college coaches. Let’s take a closer look at their roster makeup and potential success going forward…
Generally speaking, every team needs a star prospect or some type of enticing piece to build their foundation around. While this group has maintained their balance, 7’0’ 22 Micah Handlogten is clearly the best long-term prospect on this roster. We featured him in our most recent post-coverage article from Phenom Stay Positive, and the appeal should be fairly obvious. Handlogten is a long, fluid post prospect with the perfect blend of tools and skills for the current state of basketball. His combination of size, rim-protection, and three-level scoring is guaranteed to appeal to Division I programs. He moves so well for his size while displaying IQ, touch, and natural instincts around the basket. Above all else, the fact that Handlogten is already very impressive yet still only scratching the surface of his long-term upside should have coaches of all levels monitoring his situation.
While Handlogten is their most enticing prospect, this team largely runs through their complementary guard trio of 5’10 ’23 Colin Fayed, 5’11 ’22 Evan Presnell, and 6’1 ’22 Evan Montanari. Fayed often works as the point guard of this group and offers an excellent balance between scoring and playmaking. He plays with great pace and poise to his game, understanding how to run an offense in a calm, steady manner at all times. Fayed typically looks to set up others but still generates quality shots for himself within the flow of the team structure. He also poses a reliable spot-up threat and understands how to maintain his level of activity without the ball in his hands. Meanwhile, Presnell is more of a combo-guard with a knack for creating shots and scoring the ball. He’s a capable and useful passer but typically utilizes his craftiness and quick-twitch ability to get by defenders for penetration or pull-ups. Presnell is another quality three-point shooter with toughness and a high motor—especially on defense. While all three of these guys are smart and pose threats from distance, it’s fair to say that Montanari stands out as their most prolific three-point shooter. Despite making his presence felt in transition, Montanari arguably makes most of his impact within the half-court setting. He moves well without the ball, displays unselfishness as a passer, and does a great job of positioning himself for success. Montanari can take on ball-handling duties and effectively contains his assignment on the other end. Each guy offers a dependable two-way presence and shows a willingness to buy in to the team concept.
More often than not, the grunt work is underappreciated by the average spectator. However, it’s simply impossible to ignore what 6’2 ’22 Drew Bean brings to the table in every single contest. Being bigger than most kids in middle school has taught him how to embrace his toughness and pursue every available rebound. Bean’s game might not be flashy, but it’s extremely effective. His toughness is so game-altering that it’s worth mentioning a second time, as he constantly takes a beating from bigger/stronger opponents and seems to pop up quicker with each passing time. Bean is a great rebounder, rugged defender, and overall hustle player that knows how to disrupt opponents with his fantastic motor. Alongside Bean, 6’4 ’23 Stepfon Simmons has proven to be a fairly productive interior presence for this squad. He’s big, strong, and possesses great hands around the basket. Simmons displays touch, toughness, and rebounding instincts on both ends of the floor. He runs the floor well in transition and finishes effectively through contact.
Rounding out the roster, guys like 6’3 ’22 Jackson Crump and 6’3 ’22 Logan Craig do a great job of filling in the gaps. Crump is long, wiry, and fairly adaptable to finding ways to get involved on both ends of the floor. He’s a useful penetrator and overall threat in transition, but also does a great job of making an impact as a defender and rebounder. On the other hand, Craig is another shooting threat with the ability to operate off the bounce. He’s a quality hustle player with a willingness to make the extra pass and find opportunities without necessarily requiring the ball in his hands. Ultimately, this team continues to prove themselves against all types of opponents. They might not always win the on-paper matchup, but their teamwork and downright resilience will keep them in every contest. Expect to hear about this group appealing to college coaches over the next few years.