The Opening: Unheralded 2021 Prospects and Young Guns – July 8,
Atlanta, Ga – The big names were present at The Opening, but there were also a host of guys in 2021 who aren’t as well-known that helped their team and their own stock at the event. We also had a few 2023 prospects playing up in the 16U Division and they more than held their own. Here are 4 guys from each of those categories who made things happen throughout the day.
By: Trent Markwith
6’3” SG Javian Mosley & 6’5” W Travis Harper (Team Georgia Magic)
Mosley and Harper provide TGM with a talented wing duo and were the main reasons that their team was able to come from behind and defeat Pro One in overtime. TGM trailed by 14 at halftime but ramped things up in the 2ndhalf thanks in large part to the efforts of these two guys. Mosley made a point to get to the basket any time he could and had a lot of success doing so. He’s an aggressive lefty who doesn’t mind physical play and knows how to use his off-arm to shield guys off when finishing. Once Mosley made a few inside buckets early in the 2ndhalf, he stuck to slashing and didn’t worry about taking perimeter shots, which helped the team a lot. Harper did a lot of what was expected him, scoring both in transition and the halfcourt while proving to be a difficult matchup because of his size and length. He got out ahead of the pack on the break for a few above the rim finishes, connected on some mid-range pull-ups, and was able to extend in traffic to convert among bodies. Harper is capable of scoring in bunches and did just that when TGM needed it from him in this game.
6’4” G Kyle Duncan (Hype Hawks)
Seeing growth and improvement in a prospect over the years is one of my favorite things about high school and travel basketball; Kyle Duncan has made consistent strides in his game and is now a guy that should be recruited by a variety of programs as a senior. His confidence is sky high and it was easy to see why at The Opening. Continued progress in fluidity as a ball-handler made him a terror in transition at the event. Duncan crashes the glass very well for a guard and every time he snagged a board, he was looking to coast to coast and convert inside. Considering how aggressive he was playing in the open court, it wasn’t wild either. For the most part, Duncan stayed on balance and didn’t make a ton of bad reads while playing fast. Adding this dimension to his defensive versatility and competitive nature is going to help his recruitment significantly and will give Centennial a big boost come the winter.
6’6” W AJ Hopkins (Team Dickerson)
Originally a member of the 2020 class at Whitefield Academy, Hopkins is already making the most of his extra year before college. He has added to his body and is coming with a tougher, more aggressive mindset which is sure to prepare him well for college. Hopkins’ shot is consistent and effective; he shoots it on balance and with a clean, high release. He connected on a mixture of 3-point and mid-range shots in both of Team Dickerson’s games. His motor defensively seems revved up too as he was flying around for steals and deflections against Aim High while also doing a good job of rebounding. Hopkins seems to know who he is and does a good job of staying within himself on offense. Given what he has added to his game to go along with his shooting ability and size on the wing, more college programs should take notice of him soon.
TSF Mack 2023
People are already well aware of TSF’s exceptional backcourt in Isaiah Collier and Kanaan Carlyle, but they also feature some impressive pieces in the frontcourt that should be household names by the time their high school careers are done. Brandon Gardner, LT Overton, Cade Phillips, and Tahj Johnson all have promising futures. Hailing from South Carolina, Gardner has already picked up multiple offers and is in discussion for #1 prospects in the state for 2023. He is a springy 6’7”, showing the ability to explode for thunderous dunks with ease. His athleticism and long limbs are his best assets currently but he also shown flashes of skill with some face-up jumpers and slashes from the elbow area.
Phillips is another out-of-state product, coming to TSF from Alabama. He’s right around 6’8” and like Gardner, has uncommon physical traits for a guy his age. Unlike most young bigs, Phillips has great mobility and leaping ability. He was very active as a shot-blocker and provided low-maintenance offense with putbacks and drop-off finishes.
Although football is LT Overton’s calling card, he is no slouch on the hardwood either. He gives up some inches to others at 6’5”, but hardly anyone at the 15U and 16U level can match his physicality. Overton is a load to handle inside and plays with grit & toughness. At The Opening, he showed some progress in his perimeter skill, initiating and handling on the break effectively more than a few times.
Last but not least, Tahj Johnson is another productive forward for this group. He gives you constant activity and multiple efforts on plays on both sides of the ball. Johnson is 6’6”+ with a mature frame and good rebounding ability for a guy his age. He gets up well off of two feet and is willing to go through bodies to bring down boards. Those same traits help him as a finisher and he moves and positions himself well off of the ball to get such opportunities. I thought he did a good job of contesting shots out of his areas and making hustle plays throughout TSF’s matchup with Double Trouble 2022.
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