GEICO High School Nationals: Day 1 Impressions

As the college basketball tournament is wrapping up, the Geico High School Nationals are taking place as well at Florida SouthWestern State over a course of three days. I’ll be covering each day with prospect takeaways from each game. 

My background isn’t too in-depth with this class, except for some light background and seeing a few of these schools in person during Hoophall West. My coverage of that event can be found here (for AZ Compass and Oak Hill) and here (for Montverde). Other than that, this is mostly scouting with fresh eyes.

All players mentioned are class of 2022 unless otherwise noted. Unfortunately, quite a few major guys are injured, so this coverage won’t include them. That’s guys like Jaden Bradley (IMG to Alabama), MJ Rice (Prolific to Kansas), and Adem Bona (Prolific to UCLA).

4 Link Academy (MD) vs 5 Oak Hill Academy (VA) – Link wins 81-67.

  • Link forward Jordan Walsh (Arkansas) has such visible feel for the game on both ends; does such a good job being disruptive in passing lanes and knows how to leverage his body as a driver. Walsh finished the game with 23 points (9-10 FG), 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Immediately after an and-one, he got this block leading to a lob:

Oak Hill guard Judah Mintz (Syracuse) has a real knack for creating for himself and others, and he’s always smart about the space he’s occupying. His assist to turnover ratio of 7:1 today was a pleasant surprise, that’s an area of his game that could open up new opportunities for him as a primary or secondary initiator as opposed to just a bucket creator. 

Link big Felix Okpara (Ohio State) will bring ferocity to the Buckeyes that they’ve been missing at the big spot. Should be able to develop into an NBA player long-term. In the second quarter, he had a pretty great block against Oak Hill’s Christian Reeves (Duke).

Oak Hill guard Caleb Foster (Duke) has a little bit of “ball stopper” to him, which makes him a perfect fit for Duke, though I should caution myself to say that before knowing the kind of program Jon Scheyer wants to run.

Link 2-3 Julian Phillips (undecided) has a pretty elite combo of athleticism and length that gives his game a very high baseline. His shot is well ahead of schedule for most high school seniors as well. Any program will boost with his arrival. He finished the game with 20 points (5-10 FG), 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.

I’m not as high as most on Oak Hill forward Chris Livingston (Kentucky), but he showed big improvements in the jump shot department, including one from several feet behind the line.

Link forward Omaha Biliew (undecided) stood out as the best 2023 prospect in my mind. His motor on both ends and ability to finish through contact impressed me. His shot mechanics are starting to look very clean as well.

Full game highlights:

3 Montverde Academy (FL) vs 6 AZ Compass (AZ) – Montverde wins 72-63.

  • Montverde guard Dariq Whitehead (Duke) has a smooth pull-up jumper that just keeps getting better. That’ll be the skill that determines his ceiling, because he’s already so elite in just about every other area, especially playmaking and defending. He finished today’s game with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals.
  • Compass guard Kylan Boswell (Arizona) is my favorite 2023 prospect in this game. I love how tenacious he is defensively, often drawing Whitehead on that end. Boswell is a great game manager, and his jumper is improving. 
  • Compass guard Dylan Andrews (UCLA) is very crafty off the dribble, and he does a good job of throwing in fakes and hesitation moves on his way to get to his spot. Probably not a good enough facilitator to be a surefire primary point guard for Mick Cronin, but he can grow into it.
  • Compass wing Colin Smith (Vanderbilt) shows a lot of the skills that NBA scouts are looking for in a role player. He plays tough defense; he had a block at the rim against Dillon Mitchell (Texas). Smith also had a sequence with 5 straight points for Compass: a corner three followed by a putback dunk the next possession. With a clean jumper and high motor at 6-foot-8, he’s a future pro for sure.

Montverde big Malik Reneau (undecided) has really good ball skills for a big including with his handle as well as passing out to the perimeter. His touch around the basket is also good. His feet are also quick enough to stick with most on the perimeter defensively.

Compass big Adrame Diongue (undecided) has long been one of the more underrated players in the class to me. He’s just so solid in all the ways that you need a big to be as far as rim protection and as a roll man. Likely not a one-and-done kind of guy, but definitely has an NBA future if he picks the right situation. His obscene length doesn’t hurt his case, either.

Full game highlights:

2 IMG Academy (FL) vs 7 La Lumiere (IN) – IMG wins 76-51.

  • Of all the prospects in this class with the “bucket getter” title – and there are a lot of them – the best is IMG combo guard Keyonte George (Baylor). Doesn’t matter if he’s open or if he’s literally being fouled, his shot has a chance. There haven’t been many guards at the high school level that are less contact-averse when driving to the rim than him, as well. I’m excited to see how he develops at Baylor, especially defensively.

IMG forward Jarace Walker (Houston) is exactly as Paul Biancardi said on the broadcast: the biggest matchup nightmare at the high school level. That’s due to an unreasonable combo of size and ball skills as well as elite positional passing and outside shooting. For my money, he reminds me of G-League Ignite forward Michael Foster if Foster was an elite prospect.

La Lu guard JJ Starling (Notre Dame) has a very quick step on drives to the rim with an ability to score in a number of ways. He’ll remind a lot of Irish fans of Blake Wesley, who’s now likely moving on to the NBA.

La Lu forward Taj Manning (Kansas State) will be solid for the Wildcats, thanks to his high motor and ability to fill in the gaps. He’s got a solid shooting stroke and nice dose of athleticism as well.

La Lu guard Jeremy Fears (Michigan State) is one of the more important players for the La Lu offense despite being a junior. Fears is crafty with the ball and always knows where his teammates are, opening up chances for dishes out of drives.

Full game highlights:

1 Sunrise Christian (KS) vs 8 Prolific Prep (CA) – Prolific wins 59-56.

Wing Gradey Dick (Kansas) is Sunrise Christian’s premiere player, and it’s easy to see why. To start, he’s the best shooter in the class, bar none. He’s calm with the ball in his hands, even when running through traffic. As a filled-out wing at 6-foot-7, he’s an elite passer for his size, especially on the move.

Though he had a cold night overall (1-10) in a loss, it’s still clear that Kansas earned themselves a gem, who’s perfectly capable of willing the Jayhawks back to the Final Four next season. Dick was also named NIBC Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year.]]]]]]]]]]

Prolific Prep wing Tre White (USC) was forced into providing most of Prolific’s offense due to the Rice and Bona injuries, but the high usage didn’t faze him one bit. As a bigger combo guard at 6-foot-6 and (appearing to be) over 200 pounds, he seeks out contact, but not to the point of tunnel vision. He’s also got a clean jumper that’s money from the corners that should only get better at USC. 

Sunrise Christian forward Mark Mitchell (Duke) is one of the more skilled players at his size, evidenced by winning the Skills Competition as part of McDonald’s All-American festivities earlier in the week. 

Prolific guard Jordan Pope (Oregon State) led his squad in scoring with 23 on 17 shots and dished out three assists. He’s got NBA range already, but is lacking high major offers, likely due to lacking elite size. 

Sunrise Christian guard Layden Blocker (undecided) is arguably the quickest player on the floor in this one, even as a junior. His first step is lightning quick, and he uses hesitation to make it even better.

Full game highlights:

Up next:

Both Friday 4/1 semifinal games on ESPN2; all times ET

2 IMG Academy (FL) vs 3 Montverde Academy (FL) – 2:30

8 Prolific Prep (CA) vs 4 Link Academy (MD) – 4:30

Categories: High School Basketball

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  1. GEICO High School Nationals: Day 2 Impressions - Zona Hoops

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