The Grind Session held their Duel in the Desert tournament at Dream City Christian School in Glendale, Arizona on the weekend of January 27, 2023. Some of the top teams and top players in the country participated in this event (including a 2023 nominated McDonald’s All American). In this event all the teams played two pre-scheduled games during the 3 day event. Here were the top prospects and/or performers:

Cameron Carr Link Academy, 6’4 Wing, Class of 2023 Tennessee commit

Carr, (pictured), son of former NBA player Chris Carr, seized his opportunity and was the best player at this event despite having much higher ranked players also participating. He led his team to a 2-0 weekend, first with a narrow victory over home team Dream City Christian (87-83), then versus a well coached Bella Vista Prep. Carr, who appears to have one of the purest jump shots in the 2023 class, possessing a quick release, smooth shooting motion and range that extends well beyond the 3 point line. He shot 6 for 11 from 3 in game 1 and 3 for 3 in game 2 after Bella Vista Prep’s head coach made him a priority on defense and to not help off of him even if positioned on the weak side. When in the half court set he is constantly moving without the ball, looking to brush defenders off screens for a quick catch and shoot opportunity. Lanky, with a rumored 7 foot wingspan, Carr had a few strong finishes, including an out of bounds, under the basket, 2 handed flush. It was tough to gauge whether Carr has the ability to dribble create at this event with top rated Elliot Cadeau and Ja’Kobe Walter’s as teammates doing much of the ball handling. He will need to demonstrate some of these skills at the next level. In any case, he impressed those of us who watched him here in the desert.

Ja'Kobe Walter Link Academy, 6’5 SG, Class of 2023 Baylor commit

Walter also had an impressive weekend, averaging 18 points over the event. Walter is a good athlete with a sturdy frame which helps him overpower opponents on his drives, leading to 9 trips to the line over the two games, where he shot a perfect 9 for 9 from the charity stripe. His form was perfect from the line where none of his shots were in doubt. He is very opportunistic on the fast break/early offense, taking some 3’s before the offense is set. Demonstrated some lead guard skills when Cadeau was out by bringing the ball up despite pressure, setting up the offense at times, and being a willing passer. As with all of the well coached players for Link Academy, he works hard both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor.

Garwey Dual SoCal Academy, 6’4 Combo Guard, Class of 2023 Providence commit

I hadn’t seen Dual play live since the Pangos All American Festival (article here) where playing defense is often optional. With AJ Johnson as the SG, Dual, for the most part, played point guard at this event. Dual’s strength is getting to the hole. His combination of power and quickness made his crossover dribble the most effective at this event, and with his great use of a euro step and good vertical, he’s deadly around the rim. A tenacious defender, he had 7 steals in game 1 and 3 steals in game 2 and while grabbing 13 rebounds at this event. To be a top performer at the next level, he will need to prove he can consistently hit shots from the outside. At the next level he will be susceptible to having his defender go under the screen, given how adept he is going down hill and how unproven he is from the outside range (shot 1/4 from 3 in the two games).

AJ Johnson SoCal Academy, 6’5 SG, Class of 2023 Texas commit

Johnson was one of the headline players at this event and a player I had not seen live since CP3 Elite Guard Camp in August (Article here). Everything noted ramains true. Averaging 14 points for the weekend, Johnson helped lead his team to a 2-0 record. He is best on the fast break or with momentum where he can use his length, quickness and strong euro step footwork to finish skillfully around the rim. He is dangerous enough in the mid range which aids him to get to the basket. His length and wingspan makes him an ideal player on defense at the top of a press or zone. On offense he can be very streaky as a jump shooter, and has yet to be able to be efficient from beyond the arc and needs to continue to work on improving that. While there was some growth in these areas, his stamina and/or intensity can still heavily fluctuate during games.

Zayden High AZ Compass, 6’9 PF, Class of 2023 UNC commit

AZ Compass is a very loaded team that can often make it more difficult to evaluate given how many players play and want to shoot the ball. But with Pharaoh Compton and Trent Pierce out for this event due to minor injuries this allowed High (as the remaining true front court player) to shine and get more touches than usual. High averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds for the two games. He had a few dunks but also was very consistent from the mid range and getting to the free throw line (where he was 13/15). He is also a wiling passer and team defender.

David Tubek Dream City Christian 6’6 Forward class of 2023 Memphis commit

Tubek at 6’6 future is most likely as an undersized big, given he has a long wingspan, a strong frame and a good vertical. As an undersized big, he can shoot it well from 3 to help spread the floor. He averaged 24 points for the weekend while going 5/11 from 3. He has to prove he can guard 4’s and some 5’s on the defensive end of the court for the next level as his handles and court vision are much more project-able on offense as a 4 than a 3.

Elliot Cadeau Link Academy 6’1 PG, Class of 2024 UNC commit

Cadeau had 3 fouls in the first quarter versus home team Dream City Christian. This limited and affected his play in game 1 and somewhat again in game 2. Cadeau is without question a top talent, and was the best lead guard at this event, easily able to go north/ south or even east/west with his strong handles while finishing the 2 games with 13 assists. He is an intense and confidant player who wears his emotions on his sleeve which is a double edged sword for him. He is still in the learning phase of honing that intensity, while the early fouls were questionable it seemed that it did adversely effect his play. In addition when the game was still on the line, he took some unnecessary chances on the defensive end that probably should have fouled him out in the first game. In any case, he hit a big shot in game 1 to help keep Link Academy undefeated for the season.

Mookie Cook AZ Compass 6’7 SF, Class of 2023 Oregon commit

Cook, the only McDonald’s game invitee at this event, helped his team to a 2-0 weekend. He averaged 7.5 points for this event and showed some flashes of his highly touted skill set with some strong finishes, including a windmill dunk but overall was outplayed by several players in this tournament, including some of his teammates (In fairness to him, he played more in the post than usual given some of the injuries to the bigmen on the team). This isn’t an isolated occurrence though. In the 5/6 games (Pangos, Hoopshall West, and now this tournament) I have watched Cook live this year he has shown flashes of being one of the top players in the 2023 class, however his offensive production and energy in those games have been inconsistent, for whatever reason.

Marcus Allen AZ Compass 6’6 SF, Class of 2024 uncommitted

Allen with his 6’11 wingspan and large hands was a defensive menace for opponents both on the perimeter and in the post. He finished the 2 games averaging 12.5 points going 10/14 from the field and 5/6 from the charity stripe.

Jamari Phillips AZ Compass 6’3, Guard, Class of 2024 Arizona commit

Phillips played only 1 of the two scheduled games but started with a bang, swishing on his first three 3 point attempts and finishing with 11 points on 4 for 8 shooting for the game. He looked extremely impressive initially but his play trailed off after a sweltering start.

5 Honorable Mention: Luke Bamgboye, Khaman Maker, Vyctorius Miller, Cade Phillips, Aaron Rowe


*Cameron Carr photo by Nate Latsch


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