By Ian Powers
Jericole Hellems 6’7” 190 SF Chaminade, St. Louis, MO 2018 – Hellems played better at Peach this week than at any of my prior viewings of him. He was aggressive getting to the basket and shot the ball really well. If you didn’t know any better, you would think he was the main attraction and not Bradley Beal Elite teammate Darius Garland. He has very good size for the 3 spot and has good athletic ability to play above the rim. He shows signs of being a capable defender. He had a few mental lapses on that end of the floor, but he has quick feet and hands. Plays the passing lanes really well. Flashed some ability as a playmaker once he got in the lane as well, but his identity will be as a solid scorer and defender at the high major level. The Peach Jam stage is the biggest in high school travel basketball and reputations are made and broken in N. Augusta and Hellems made a name for himself here. I loved his intensity and willingness to rise to the challenge and make plays in the biggest moments. This will serve him well at the next level. If he continues with this level of play, he will have a lot of high major options on the table come this fall. The key for him is focus.
Hunter Dickinson 7’0” 240 C DeMatha, Alexandria, VA 2020 – This young freshman big has a bright future. He is a lefty who can score with the jump hook over either shoulder. He moves pretty well for a kid his size and age. Still in the developmental stages obviously given that he’s only a sophomore to be, but he has the instincts that you look for in a young big. He has good hands and a soft touch around the basket. He can knock down an elbow jumper, but it’s not consistent as he airmailed a couple of them during one game I watched. I would like to see him run a little better. He kind of slides down the floor instead of picking his feet up and running with high knees. He’s not a great athlete, but he’s not a bad one either. He will be the type of player that will beat you with skill and IQ as opposed to athleticism and power. Has to learn to handle double teams better and be stronger with the ball in those situations. All of those things will come in time and he only can get better. Already ranked in the top 10 in the early national 2020 rankings and has the traits to stay there
Carl Lewis 6’9” 260 C Lynwood, Compton, CA 2019 – Lewis backed up a dominant display at Nike Elite 100 with more of the same at Peach. He is a manchild, pure and simple. He dunks everything in the lane and plays with a nasty streak that is rooted in his background and upbringing in Compton. He is young and rough around the edges, on and off the court. He needs to be in a structured environment with people who have his best interest at heart in order to get to where his talent can take him. He is raw offensively and doesn’t provide much in terms of footwork or skill level. Everything right now is raw power. He is an intimidating presence on the floor that some kids in his age group tend to shy away from. He is worth the risk and if someone can rein him in and coach him properly, he can be a difference maker at the high major level and possibly beyond.
Isaac Okoro 6’6” 210 SF McEachern, Powder Springs, GA 2019 – Well built junior to be flashed some good things in N. Augusta. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and has the physical strength to finish through contact. He is deadly on the baseline where can slither along and convert dump offs for easy buckets. His handle and jump shot are the areas that need the most work. He shoots a good ball, but it is nowhere near his money maker at this stage of his development, can make shots but it’s not a lights out shooter. More scorer than shooter. Didn’t display some of the ball handling he shows for his high school team. Played a specific role for AOT and played it very well. Has a chance to be one of the better wings in the class.
Daman Tate 6’5” 175 PG/SG Cushing Academy, Roxbury, MA 2019 – This was my first time seeing Tate and he impressed me with a good showing. He can get to the basket and shoot the ball from deep. What stood out the most to me was his passion for the game and never say die attitude. In a loss to AOT, Tate seemingly willed Expressions into having a chance to win the game. AOT looked as if they had the game in hand until Tate went on a personal run and got Expressions back in it. He has a versatile offensive game and plays hard on the defensive end of the floor. He has good size and a frame that will get bigger and stronger as he gets older and gets into a college weight program. Has mainly northeast interest right now with schools like UMass and Rhode Island tracking him, but he has chance to surpass that level with a solid season and a good evaluation period next year.
James Akinjo 6’0” 170 PG Salesian, Oakland, CA 2018- The Oakland Soldiers were victorious at Peach for the second time since 2012 and Akinjo was a major reason why. He has the ball on a string and was unfazed by pressure applied to him in the semis against Boo Williams or in the finals against Team Takeover. Where he has improved the most is in his shot consistency. He knocked down shots off the catch and off the bounce and used that to set up his dribble drive game to get in the lane for a bucker for himself or a teammate. He’s stronger than his listed weight may show and he has the ability to withstand physical play from other guards. He dug in defensively and wasn’t a liability despite his lack of great size. The guard play of the Soldiers was the key in their Peach Jam title run. Akinjo and UC David commit Kihei Clark stole the show. Due to his play of late Akinjo has received some heavy interest from UConn and just picked up an offer from Indiana. I would expect more high major schools to get involved with him, especially with a good showing the rest of the month
Mason Forbes 6’9’ 205 PF Folsom, Folsom, CA 2018 – The first thing you notice about Forbes in the lay up line is his huge afro, but after tip off, you notice much more. He is rail thin at this stage, but he has a frame that looks to be able to put on and hold weight. He is an active rim runner who protects the rim with both hands and will finish anything around the beaker. He is a high level athlete who moves his feet very well and can’t switch 1-5 at this level. He rebounds in and out of his area. His energy is his calling card. He’s not the kind of kid that you can throw the ball to down on the box and ask him to get buckets for you, but he creates his offense by hitting the offensive glass and out running other bigs for dunks and lay ups. Physically he’s not ready to compete at the highest level in college, but that what weight rooms are for and that hasn’t stopped high major programs from insuring about him. An uptempo system that thrives on transition play would be a perfect situation for him. He can utilize his athleticism and not have to worry about being overly physical because no matter how much stronger he gets, he’ll never be a banger.
Tyrese Maxey 6’2” 190 PG/SG South Garland, Garland, TX 2019 – Maxey is one of the best 2019 guards in America and he showed why at Peach. He is a gifted scorer who can put the ball in the hole at all 3 levels. His can get in the lane at will and finishes very well around the basket. His body is a little soft and he doesn’t look very athletic but if you sleep on him, he can catch you slipping and finish over guys in a blink of an eye. Where he kills you is with the 3 ball. He can get hot and knock down 3 or 4 in a row on you and just demoralize his opponent. He knocked down some big shots in late game situations at Peach. He doesn’t back down and doesn’t shy away from getting your face and talking to you if he feels challenged. He’s ranked in the top 20 right now by most of the national media outlets, but I would suspect he can move up even higher. Regardless of his current class ranking, he’s a big time talent and possible future pro.