The end of December is a dead time in college basketball, but it’s the exact opposite at the high school level. Multiple holiday tournaments that attract some of the top players and teams from all across the country are going on simultaneously. Thanks to modern technology and services like FloHoops and YouTube, I was able to take in action from four different states all without leaving my desk. When the best of the best clash against each other, there are always takeaways, here are some of mine from the holiday season:
Montverde’s Super Sophomores
In my debut piece for this site, I profiled the Eagles and their ceiling as the best high school team of all time. The upperclassmen were responsible for a lot of that potential, but sophomore’s Caleb Houstan and Dariq Whitehead have taken massive leaps that have made Montverde invincible on the high school scene. Both have uniquely special physical tools for their age, but use them in completely different ways. Houstan is a legit 6’8” and he uses that height to create a very functional high release point. His shot-prep is insanely impressive and I think it’s going in every time he lets it fly, as Houstan continues to add to his arsenal, he’ll be a big-time name to monitor. On the other hand, Whitehead flaunts lateral/vertical pop and brute strength. Whether it was rotating from the weak-side for a glass-cleaning block or walling off a guard on the perimeter, Whitehead was a defensive stopper all week. His shot has also taken a big leap since his freshman year, when it’s all said and done, I think Whitehead will be one of the best players in the 2022 class.
Jaden Springer, Uniquely Initiating
With Jalen Johnson MIA, Springer took over lead-guard duties for the Ascenders and hasn’t looked back since. While his eventual projection still pegs him as an off-ball guard, it’s been fascinating to see Springer operate in the P&R at a high volume. The Tennessee commit is one of my favorite players in the country to watch because he plays to his strengths better than anyone else. While his shot is vastly improved, he isn’t forcing the Dame Lillard 30-foot pullup like many other five stars are. Instead he operates out of the mid post, using his muscle to create separation and his touch to drain the tough fade-away. Everyone knows where Springer stands defensively, he’s an absolute menace on the ball and someone who can also switch onto bigger opponents because of his frame and IQ. Draft Twitter is already speaking very highly of Springer for the 2021 draft, and I expect everyone else to follow shortly.
Jalen Green, Putting It All Together
Among causal basketball circles, Jalen Green can be a common name. Known for his high-flying dunks and shot-making expertise, Green’s mixtapes garnered millions of views across all platforms. However, when you turned on the film last summer, it wasn’t always the case. Green had the tendency to disappear for stretches, and his loose handle and inconsistent shot mechanics halted his potential. In the past two weeks I’ve seen three full games of Green at Prolific Prep, and he’s practically a new player. His lower-body shot mechanics have improved since Peach Jam, leading to shot making barrages like this one. His handle is much tighter, allowing him to dice up defenses in the P&R and get to his spots more efficiently. Over the summer, Green got the ball stripped a little too often while slashing, now he’s attacking with a purpose and using his athleticism to finish around and over defenders. It’s clear Jalen Green has been in the lab, and I truly think he’s a prospect with star-potential.
Terrance Williams, Playing His Game
While some skeptics might say that Williams is “undersized” for the next level, he makes up for it by being utterly dominant in every other facet. Everyone in the DMV has known what Williams is capable of since he was tearing up New 24 as a middle schooler (huge shoutout to all my local people who understand that reference). At the City Of Palms, he showed the country what he’s capable of with a 29 point performance against IMG Academy. Williams has been clocking minutes for Steve Turner since his freshman year, and has steadily improved every year since. His game is very unique and is predicated around his versatility and insane touch, how many guys can shoot threes, bang in the post and put the ball on the deck like this? These two clips epitomize why Williams is a matchup nightmare, he’s strong enough to finish through contact and skilled enough to drain a high-arching one-leg fadeaway off the dribble. He’ll be a fan favorite in Ann Arbor for years to come.