On May 8, 2021, the Iverson Roundball Classic was held in Memphis, Tennessee featuring the class of 2021’s cream of the crop. The top prospects, such as Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Paolo Banchero (Duke), A.J. Griffin (Duke), and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (Tennessee), were all in attendance.
The next tier down was also well represented, including Mike Foster (G-League Ignite), J.D. Davison (Alabama), Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State), Daimion Collins (Kentucky), Peyton Watson (UCLA), TyTy Washington (Undecided), Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga), Matthew Cleveland (Florida State). Notable omissions from the game include elite guard prospects Jaden Hardy (undecided) and Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) as well as Patrick Baldwin Jr. (undecided). Chandler was named to the team but did not play in the event.
No players had bad showings at the event, but a few players took advantage of the opportunity and stood out among the rest. Enough has been documented on the top guys, like Holmgren who had 20 points and 11 rebounds, so I’m going to highlight the prospects from the next tier who stood out to me.
Michael Foster, 6’9, 220 lbs.- Forward, G-League Ignite (17 points)
Foster has been productive every stop he’s made in his young career, most recently averaging 32.2 points, 18.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in his senior season at Hillcrest Prep (AZ). Headed to the G-League Ignite program that hosted projected top 5 picks in the 2021 draft, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, his NBA-ready body stands primed to gain the requisite polish he needs before reaching the league.
Part of a generation that’s seen big men be especially adept passers, Foster is no different, as he played a pseudo-point forward role at Hillcrest Prep and spent a good portion of the Iverson Classic finding cutters and playmaking out of the break.
Another important aspect of Foster’s game is his relentless activity on both ends. His highlight reel from the event consists of some different full possessions where Team Loyalty struggled to make any offensive progress against him. There are also plenty of instances where Team Loyalty could not secure the rebound for the life of them, simply because of Foster’s sheer force inside. Can’t wait to see how he develops in the G-League.
TyTy Washington, 6’3, 185 lbs.- Guard, Undecided (22 points; won the event’s 3-point contest)
Washington is a prospect I’ve already gone deep on, and I highly recommend that article to get familiar with his game and play style. It was great to see him in this all-star environment and see how he handles an off-ball role.
His brilliance in awareness showed up big time with him really understanding the kind of gravity that he possesses both when he’s running things as well as when he’s spotting up or relocating. Washington’s playmaking manipulation also made an appearance, giving his teammates easy looks. Putting on a deep shooting clinic in the Elam Ending doesn’t hurt his case either.
(I wonder what it’s like to be a prospect like Washington at one of the events, being one of the last remaining top undecided guys in the class. A couple schools from his final six had representatives at the event as well with Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins, who are headed to Kentucky, and Kendall Brown, who’s headed to Baylor. I imagine those three did their share in the recruiting efforts during the week leading up to the game.)
Tyrese Hunter, 6’1, 175 lbs.- Guard, Iowa State (20 points)
Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with Hunter or his game coming into the event, but he made quite the impression. Following in the footsteps of Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton, Hunter is headed to Iowa State and will pull the Cyclones out of the depths of hell they currently find themselves in.
Hunter appears to be different from Haliburton mostly in the sense that Hunter looks for his own offense first, and usually finds success. He appears to be an elite shooter from deep, both off the catch as well as off the dribble. Hunter demands the respect of the defense, which helps him when navigating inside the arc. He has the strength to finish through contact and that toughness shows up on the other end, being solid at the point of attack defensively.
Final 2021 Thoughts
This class doesn’t back down relative to its recent predecessors. It has the can’t-miss prospects at the top, like Holmgren and Banchero. The two of them could end up going back and forth all year for possession of the top pick title. But behind them, there’s plenty of star potential from Baldwin Jr., Hardy, Huntley-Hatfield, Chandler, and Foster. Guards like Washington and Hunter help to add strong depth, as well as wings like Watson, Cleveland, and Kendall Brown (Baylor).
Word from the Iverson Classic practices is that this is a group that plays hard all the time and each guy is jockeying to move ahead of the others constantly. That could end up as the identity of the class, and it could make for a very fun stretch of NCAA basketball, but the overall status of the class will be determined by it’s talent that sticks around.
The next crop of guys who may not find themselves as one-and-done’s – or at least upper-tier one-and-done’s – includes Josh Minott (Memphis), Trevor Keels (Duke), and Ryan Nembhard (Creighton), among others. These are the guys with the potential to change the nature of the programs they’re headed to, but won’t be on NBA radars right away.
As we move closer to closing the book on the 2021 draft cycle, the prep class of 2021 will draw more eyes. It’s early, but here’s how the top 20 newcomers stand for me looking toward the 2022 draft.
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