GEICO High School Nationals: Day 2 Impressions

Day two of GEICO is in the books! A lot of guys showed out, and I’m here to talk about it. If you missed my coverage of day one, you can check that out here. Otherwise, we’ll start getting into it.

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).

#2 IMG Academy (FL) vs #3 Montverde Academy (FL) – Montverde wins 62-57.

IMG forward Jarace Walker (Houston) got off to an even quicker start today. Following a 23-point outpouring in round one vs La Lumiere, Walker scored all of IMG’s first five points, including a pull-up three and a drive through contact. He added in a steal over that stretch. He showed off his motor with a transition block on Montverde junior guard Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (Purdue). Walker also played excellent rim defense on Montverde big Malik Reneau (undecided), drawing a foul in the process.

Montverde guard Dariq Whitehead (Duke) was also determined to improve upon a great round one, although he was more set on setting his teammates up to begin this one, including an effortless lob pass that his teammate couldn’t capitalize on. As the first quarter unfolded, Whitehead would score at the rim on a cut and hit a face-up three in Keyonte George’s face.

As for the aforementioned IMG guard Keyonte George (Baylor), he continues to impress with the way he moves with the ball, even at times when the shot isn’t falling, though he was still hitting crazy ones, like a four-point play after a foul from Reneau.

As for the defensive side, George isn’t necessarily a bad defender, but it’s definitely the weaker side of his game. He was much better on that end today than yesterday; very active in passing lanes, forcing turnovers.

Montverde junior big KJ Evans (undecided) showed more activity in this game than he did in round one, but that often resulted in bad shots and just mishandled situations in general, like throwing a pass off an IMG defender’s legs with just one second left on the shot clock. He’s very highly regarded, and he has the talent for it, but he’s still pretty raw at this stage.

Early in the second half, it was Reneau getting the better of Walker, playing stout defense and giving up no ground on one end then using some really nice footwork to get to an off-hand layup coming down the other way. His ball skills remain some of the best among those his size. The following possession, Reneau proved the defense wasn’t a fluke as he stepped outside to guard Walker and stayed with him through every move.

IMG forward Jett Howard (Michigan; son of coach Juwan Howard) isn’t all that polished as a perimeter, but he’s a good slasher despite a lackluster handle and plays between the lines with tough defense. He also added this highlight drive to a shot off the glass:

Possibly most impressive in this game was Whitehead’s decision to win the game. When there were three or four minutes left, he hit this extra gear of “I’m going to win this game and will my team to a championship appearance” and while that’s so impressive, it’s equally questionable. I sort of wish he would assert himself in that way through more of the game rather than just the ending.

Whitehead finished the game with 21 points on 8-16 shooting to lead Montverde, and George led IMG with 21 as well, all coming in the second and third quarters.

#4 Link Academy (MO) vs #8 Prolific Prep (CA) – Link wins 59-53.

Link wing Jordan Walsh (Arkansas) got off to another fast start following up Thursday’s 23-point game. Right from the tip he had the assignment of guarding Prolific guard Tre White (USC) and Walsh got a deflection on the first possession. On Link’s first possession, he caught a lob off of a cut and threw it down all with one hand. He impacts the game in so many different ways, like with this highlight pass:

At times, Walsh sees the game in a much more advanced way than even his teammates, and that can lead to turnovers, but it’s zero cause for my concern with him as a prospect for me, especially when he’s playing with other elite feel guys, like fellow five stars headed to Arkansas, Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black.

Link junior forward Omaha Biliew (undecided) is another two-way impact player. He showed off his athleticism early in this one with a dunk out of a cut where he landed with the ball with both feet outside the restricted area and still was able to leap off two for the slam. His athleticism and power at the rim really stand out.

Prolific’s best healthy senior prospect, White, asserted himself well on the offensive end, including an and-one finish at the rim. His shooting stroke is very well put together based on his free throw form, and the touch looks good as well. It’s clean from the corners as well.

He’s a disaster to deal with in transition, and fans of Chris Paul would appreciate that White got three free throws in the first quarter off the back of a rip-through move.

Link big Felix Okpara (Ohio State) continues to show great promise as a shot-blocker, but the touch at the rim leaves quite a bit to be desired.

After scoring 20-plus in Prolific’s upset win over Sunrise Christian in round one, guard Jordan Pope (Oregon State) showed a knack for his interior passing with dump-offs to bigs. Down the stretch, he hit plenty of shots off the dribble as well.

Link wing Julian Phillips (undecided) showed a lot of off-the-dribble craftiness, including a pump fake up-and-under move from the mid-range.

You have to give credit where its due to Prolific for fighting as hard as long as they did, missing two All-Americans in MJ Rice (Kansas) and Adem Bona (UCLA), but the depth proved to be not enough after 7-footer Mor Seck (undecided) fouled out late, and Link was able to pull away from there. Walsh led the way with 17 points.

Up next:

#3 Montverde Academy (FL) vs #4 Link Academy (MO) for the title on Saturday 4/2 at Noon ET on ESPN

Categories: High School Basketball

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: