Whitney Young High School hosted some of the top young talent from around the world. USA, Pan Africa, Canada, and China were represented to compete with each other in front of many college basketball coaches. This tournament was unique as they play under FIBA rules, including an extended three point line. It came down to a championship game between USA West and USA South, who finished the last two minutes with only four players. Here are some of the players who stood out and a breakdown of their performances. Let’s start with the champions:
Malik Monk – 2016
Monk had a great week, leading USA South to a 4-0 record while winning tournament MVP. His elite athleticism was on display as well as his shooting and passing. He finished second both in points (21.8 ppg) and assists (6 apg). He also ranked 11th in rebounds with 7.2 per game. His standout game includes a win over USA East scoring 21 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Monk is an all-around talent who can impact the game in multiple ways. He feeds the post well, can pass out of a drive, and found teammate PJ Washington open under the basket multiple times. If I have to criticize Monk’s game, it would be not being more selfish, when he is the team’s best scoring option he should look to attack more. Also, understanding teammate’s personnel; often passing to teammates in positions where they aren’t effective; two on one breaks, letting another player finish that isn’t effective in transition, where Monk excels. He continued his success in the championship game scoring 22 points shooting 10-14 and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Alterique Gilbert – 2016 (Connecticut)
The 5’11 guard was a defensive pest for other guards. He is very quick and can take it to the rim or finish with a floater. Gilbert stepped up his game late in the tournament, scoring 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the semi-final and 28 points and five assists in the championship, earning a spot on the USA All-Tournament Team. While he does have great scoring ability, he does have a tendency to try to do too much at times. Trying to take it at bigger defenders in the crowded paint, also taking it all the way on two on one breaks without dumping it off for another player to finish. On multiple occasions he would bring the ball up and shoot it early in the shot clock without other players getting a touch. Some things to work on this season and in the future under Coach Kevin Ollie at UConn.
Maverick Rowan – 2016
Rowan had a decent week for the USA South. Good in catch and shoot situations, his effectiveness drops once he puts the ball on the floor. He struggles to handle the ball in traffic and missed a few contested layups at the rim but did well when others found him open and can gets his shot off with just a little space. He had a bit of an up and down scoring performance throughout the week, scoring nine (3-17 shooting) in game one, 22 in game two, only three in game three (1-8 shooting), and following up with a 28 point performance in the championship game.
Tony Bradley – 2016
The 6’10 big man was a consistent force for the USA South. Bradley can face up from midrange and runs the floor well. He’s alert and passes well for a player his size. He combined well with teammate PJ Washington, with a high/low two-man game. He showed good instincts and reacts quickly for a big man. Bradley finished fifth in scoring with 19 points per game and third in rebounds with 11.5 per game.
PJ Washington – 2017
Washington can play as a finisher in the paint as well as the midrange. His IQ for a power forward is advanced and as good as anyone else in the event. He doesn’t force his way, he plays with patience and passes well finding the open man. He gets off the floor quickly and looks to attack with authority when given the opportunity. He provided the South with a solid 13 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, including a 16 point (7-10 shooting) and 13 rebound championship game.
Zach Brown – 2017
While Brown has the tools and potential, he still has a way to go as he is early in his development. Right now he is most effective as a shot blocker with two per game, including five against Pan Africa. He’s able to block and alter shots without leaving his feet. Brown is a very raw post player, even with his size advantage over most opponents, at times misses the rim with jump hooks and post moves. To be effective as a scorer, he needs a player to find him open as he can’t score for himself yet. He is very foul prone, fouling out against China in only six minutes of play as well as against the USA West in nine minutes, going scoreless in both games. He fouls off the ball quite a bit plays needs to understand positioning on the defensive end.
Javonte Smart – 2018
In the box scores, Smart didn’t stand out too much but showed flashes of being able to score for himself as well as creating for others. Smart was one of the youngest players in the event and will be worth tracking over the next few years. Just finishing his freshman year a few months ago, Smart showed he belongs on the court with some of the nation’s best.
Kristian Doolittle – 2016 (Oklahoma)
Doolittle had a solid week for the runner up USA West. It’s rare for a 6’6 wing to not attempt a three point field goal in any of the four games, but he found other ways to score and rebounded well too. He didn’t have a great first game with only seven points and no rebounds but average 12 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game over the last three games. He didn’t do much in the assists column, only recording a total of five over four games.
Schnider Herard – 2016
The 6’10 big man provided the West with a presence in the paint. His size, strength, and physical style of play allow him to get position under the basket. He plays with his back to the basket but is still raw in the post, averaging around 11 points per game. He was seventh in rebounds per game with eight. He only averaged one block per game but altered many shots around the rim. With Marques Bolden only playing a total of ten minutes, Herard was the main source of production at the center position. His best performance came in the championship game with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Trae Young – 2017
Coming off of a USA All-Tournament Team performance, Young had a strong showing. The 6’1 guard has a nonchalant demeanor and doesn’t get rattled under pressure. He showed his ability as a lead guard making decisions off the dribble, driving and dumping the ball off for teammates to finish. Also, scoring for himself, using hop steps in traffic and showing his range well behind the FIBA line. His shot starts low, coming from his chest, but he gets his feet set quick and is able to get it off. He finished 12th in scoring with 16.8 points per game and top five in assists with 4.8 per game. While he does have the ability to shoot and score, he didn’t shoot great over the course of the tournament making only 17 of 63 attempts (27%). He does a great job at drawing fouls and scored almost half of his points from the free throw line. Young played great defensively with 2.5 steals per game and was quick to every loose ball.
Jarred Vanderbilt – 2017
Vanderbilt showed why he was one of the top NBA prospects to play in the event. Scoring 14.8 points per game, still not a great shooter but finds other ways to be effective. He has great size, length, and is very versatile. He’s a tremendous passer and has great instincts. He was second in rebounds per game with 12.2, very quick to the ball; he can penetrate in traffic and tip in his own missed shots. An absolute threat in transition and has great potential as a defender combining his length with quick feet and quick hands. Even with defenders sagging off of him on the perimeter, he still got to the rim, and covers a lot of ground with his Euro step. He does have a tendency to get loose with the ball at times but overall thrives as playmaker. Vanderbilt finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in the championship game.
Markus Howard – 2017
Usually the smallest player on the floor standing at six foot but Howard had no problem scoring, finishing in the top ten with 18.5 points per game. His shooting increased as the event progressed, making 5-6 three point attempts in the semi-final and 8-13 in the championship. In addition to his shooting ability, he can penetrate off the dribble with his crossover and he likes to drive to the middle. Howard excelled playing off the ball and led a talented West team in scoring.
Troy Brown – 2017
With the guard talent on the West roster, Brown was forced to play off the ball. He can shoot and pass but playing out of position affected his production. His best game came against Dominican Republic with 13 points and seven rebounds. As the other players stepped up throughout the tournament, Brown’s production decreased.
Ira Lee – 2017
Lee is a great athlete and plays with a great motor. He hustles but doesn’t give much outside the paint. Lee only scored a total of 12 points in four games but attacks the rim with aggression. His game needs polish but he has the tools and talent to have a bright future.
Miles Bridges – 2016
Bridges was one of the best athletes in Chicago. The high flying forward dunked everything with authority. He had the top play of the event when he caught an oop off the backboard finishing with a windmill. He is developing as a shooter but needs to be a more consistent threat from outside. He finished top ten in scoring with 18.7 points per game and fourth in rebounds with nine per game. He also challenged shots at the rim on defense with 1.7 blocks per game. His best game came against the USA West where he finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. He shows tremendous potential and has made great strides in his progress over the last few years. As a key contributor to Huntington Prep over the past two years, it will be interesting to see how Bridges steps up as the leader for his senior year.
Charlie Moore – 2016
Moore played great in the comfort of his hometown. He was labeled as six foot on the roster, but may be even shorter, but his size doesn’t make him ineffective. His speed allows him to blow by defenders and he is always squared up to the basket and ready to score. He can score around the rim even with bigger defenders protecting the paint and he rebounds well despite his size. Over four games, Moore averaged 16 points (13th), 6.3 rebounds (18th), five assists (3rd), and 2.3 steals (7th) per game.
Cassius Winston – 2016
Winston didn’t stand out much as a scorer but led all players in assists with 7.3 per game, dishing out nine in two different games. His strength allows him to finish through contact and is hard for other guards to stop when he’s around the basket. His best game came against USA East when he scored 21 points (10-12 shooting), six rebounds, and nine assists.
Jarron Cumberland – 2016 (Cincinnati)
Cumberland was one of the best shooters to play in the event. He’s effective in catch and shoot situations, but he also shoots great when he steps into his shot. He played great defense, leading all players with four steals per game. Against Canada, he posted 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and five steals. However; his best scoring game came against USA West scoring 25 points making seven of his 12 three point attempts.
Nick Ward – 2016 (Michigan State)
The 6’8 future Michigan State Spartan had a nice week doing work in the paint for USA Midwest. He can score in the post even against bigger defenders. He’s a decent athlete and hustles for offensive boards. He averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and was second in blocks with 2.7 per game. He draws a lot of fouls and even though I’m not for sure, it is very likely he led the event in field goal percentage, only missing a few shots while posting nearly 20 points per game.
Derek Funderburk – 2016 (Ohio State)
Funderburk is long, athletic, and loves to attack the basket. However; he doesn’t have great body control or a good handle on the ball when attacking. He didn’t have much of an impact until his final game against USA East when he scored 12 points (5-7 shooting) and grabbed five rebounds.
Gary Trent Jr. – 2017
The youngest player on the Midwest roster played like a veteran. Trent is fundamentally sound and plays within himself. He’s not an overwhelming athlete but knows how to pick his spots and has a great midrange game. He gets his feet set quickly and utilizes his pull up jumper. He was fourth in scoring with 20 points per game. While his midrange game is strong, he does a lot of damage behind the three point line. Over three games he shot 9-22 (40.9%) from three, very impressive with the FIBA line being a few feet behind the traditional high school three point line.
Myles Powell – 2016
Undersized as a two guard, Powell can really fill up the scoring column. He led all scorers with 22.2 points per game, which included two 30 point performances. He stays low when he drives past defenders and excels shooting the three ball. While he does have the ability to score in bunches and is too much for defenders when he catches fire, his lack of playmaking ability may hinder him as a prospect down the road. His stellar performance earned him a spot on the USA All-Tournament Team and I expect his college interest to pick up significantly his senior year.
Matt Coleman – 2017
Statistically, Coleman didn’t stand out much but when he has the ball in his hands he is easy to distinguish on the court. His tremendous ball handling ability allows him to penetrate, split the defense, and make plays in transition. He stays alert for open teammates and has the ability to pass out of a drive to the rim. He does need to become more consistent as a jump shooter, which would make him a terror to defend as he can get off a step back and other moves off the dribble at any time against any defender. He gets out of control at times and tries to play at full speed at inappropriate times. He shows potential as a defender with his long arms combined with his quick hands and feet. The recent Oak Hill Academy transfer’s best game came against USA Midwest with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Lonnie Walker – 2017
Walker started out the event hot but mellowed out the last two games. The 6’4 guard sells his crossover, draws fouls, and plays at full speed. He isn’t very consistent from three yet but can pull up from midrange. He was active on defense, placing in the top ten in steals with 2.2 per game. He averaged 16 points in his first two games but was held scoreless against USA South in 23 minutes of play. Walker’s final game of the event was better but he didn’t find the rhythm he started with, scoring eight points against USA Midwest.
DJ Harvey – 2017
The 6’6 wing served as a scorer for USA East with 13.5 points per game. He shot the ball well, shooting 40% from three over the four games. He scored in a variety of ways and was effective in transition. His ability to move without the ball and create space off the dribble is rare for a young player. He uses a step back to get off jump shots when crowded around the perimeter.
Jeremiah Tilmon – 2017
Tilmon is a 6’10 developing post player. He’s still raw, relying on his natural ability and tools. He can drive a little bit from the high post but he has the tendency to duck his head and force his way to the basket at times. His footwork in the post isn’t great, resulting in a few travelling violations. His athleticism helps him as a finisher, rebounder (8.7 rpg), and shot blocker (2 bpg); placing in the top five and top three respectfully.
Christian PoPoola – 2017
PoPoola’s hot hand helped him earn the International MVP award averaging 18.7 points per game. He’s a great midrange shooter, but was on fire from three, shooting 6-13 (46%) for the week. He knows how to play off the dribble; using pull up jumpers and splitting the defense to get to the rim. He draws fouls and his strength allows him to play through contact. His 25 point and six rebound performance helped Pan Africa defeat China in their final game of the tournament.
Josh Okogie – 2016
Okogie had a great week. His speed makes him very effective as a slasher. As well as he shot from outside (38%), he excels when attacking gaps in the defense. He scored from everywhere on the court averaging 14.7 points per game. He struggled against USA East, only scoring seven points (shooting 2-10), also turning it over six times. But he followed with a 22 point and nine rebound performance in the victory over China; also showing his ability as a defender with two blocks and two steals. Okogie was named to the International All-Tournament team. After watching him excel against some of the best competition, he appears to be underrated by the ranking services, but I expect that to change after his strong summer.
Milan Acquaah – 2016 (Washington State)
Acquaah played in two games of the Challenge averaging 12.5 points, seven rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game. He has quick feet, can create off the dribble, and attacks the basket. He’s inconsistent as a shooter with 5-16 against USA South, but followed up with a 6-6 shooting performance the next game against USA East. He needs to cut down on the turnovers as he averaged five per game.
David Iwowari – 2016
Iwowari didn’t have a big impact but he was one of the most natural athletes in the event. 6’8, long, a bit out of control but he had some eye opening plays with his leaping ability. He caught everyone by surprise while attacking and blocking shots on defense. If he can convert to more consistent results, he would provide a tremendous impact to his team.
Jordan Nwora – 2017
Nwora contributed much of Pan Africa’s output, scoring 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and two steals per game. The 6’8 forward definitely has some talent but needs to be more efficient. His 15 points per game was a result of 17 shots per game. He only made a total of 14 out of 51 (27%) shots from the field, but converted a lot of his points from the free throw line.
Ikechukwu Obiagu – 2017
Obiagu was without a doubt the best defensive big in the whole event, maybe even in all of high school basketball. His shot blocking ability is incredible. He gets off the ground very quickly and he does an excellent job of not fouling when players try to challenge him at the rim. He can block shots as a help defender coming across the lane but he also has the rare ability to block jump hooks in the post. He led all players with 4.3 blocks per game. At this point in Obiagu’s early stage of development, he doesn’t provide much offense. He doesn’t even look for it most of the time even on a team that struggled to score. He only scored 13 points over three games. The seven foot center physically looks college bound but still has half of his high school career left to play, and with the right development, he can really blossom into a tremendous player down the road.
At 6’6, Garcia is a great athlete. He’s not much of a shooter but uses his speed and slashing ability to force his way into the paint. He has no problem taking it at bigger defenders, playing through contact, and getting to the free throw line. He led Dominican Republic in scoring with 17.5 points per game. He also showed his ability as a defender with 1.5 blocks and two steals per game. Garcia was a member of the International All-Tournament Team.
Another Dominican Republic player to earn a spot on the International All-Tournament Team, Perez scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds per game. He’s a good athlete and his hustle earned him frequent trips to the foul line, where he has no problem converting. He has ability as a defender but is foul prone. He fouled out against Canada, but they still pulled out the victory in their lone win of the tournament.
Araujo isn’t the most efficient scorer but was a rebounding machine with 19 per game, including a 22 rebound performance in the win against Canada. He does have the ability to score but takes a lot of shots. He’s not much of a shot blocker and fouled out of two games, but his hustle on the glass is tremendous and separated him from some of the more talented big men of the event.
Eddie Ekiyor – 2016
Of all the big men to play in the Challenge, Ekiyor may have had the most polished post game. He’s nice around the rim and has great footwork. He’s decent athletically, but he uses pivots in the post to score against bigger and more athletic defenders. Ekiyor was named to the International All-Tournament Team averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Howard Washington – 2016 (Butler)
Washington ran the point for Canada. He’s creative off the dribble, where he can take it to the paint against the bigs or pull up for a jump shot. He also has good court vision, averaging 3.3 assists per game, including eight against USA West. He’s a threat in the pick and roll, and played a little two-man game with Ekiyor. He can try to do too much at times, turning it over nine times against USA Midwest, but kept it under control the next two games.
Koby McEwen – 2016
McEwen’s best game came against USA West where he posted 17 points and eight rebounds. He can shoot, drive, and handles the ball well. He does need to work on protecting the ball when he drives, often getting loose with it. His quickness not only showed up on the offensive end, as he was second in steals with 2.7 per game.
[Playyer: Simi Shi ttu] – 2018
Shi’ttu was without a doubt one of the most talented players on display, he was also one of the youngest. He plays well in transition; he can get to the rim himself or dump off to a teammate. Sometimes he makes the right play a split second too late but as he matures and the game slows down for him, it will all come together. He was great on the boards averaging seven per game. He’s athletic, has a great IQ, knows how to draw fouls, and shows great potential as a defender. His glaring weakness right now is shooting, adding a perimeter threat would make him much more complete. At times, Shi’ttu looked like the best player on the floor against USA Midwest, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The 6’9 versatile forward will become a popular name over the next three years as he suits up for Montverde Academy next season.
Hu got off to a slow start against USA East only scoring two points and grabbing three rebounds while playing 21 minutes. But he looked much better the next game against USA South, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. The 6’9 center can face up, shoot from midrange, and is effective as a pick and pop big man. Hu was a top five rebounder with 8.7 per game and earned a spot on the International All-Tournament team.
China’s 6’5 shooter/scorer struggled to find his shot until the final game against Pan Africa, where he scored 22 of his team’s total 63 points. He took 14 shot attempts in that game and all were from three, but he had the hot hand making seven of them. Yang has some talent but if he’s not shooting well and doesn’t serve as the team’s scorer, he doesn’t bring much help to his team and was nearly nonexistent in the first two games.
Fu can find ways to score in the paint against more athletic players. Unlike Jinqiu Hu, he plays more in the paint doing the dirty work around the basket. He has good footwork in the post but at times has tunnel vision for the basket not passing out of double teams. Fu had 13 points and 10 rebounds against USA East. He had another big game against USA South scoring 18 points in 21 minutes. He only logged one minute against Pan Africa, had he been able to play extended minutes, the final outcome may have been different and he would have had a chance to make the International All-Tournament Team.