Big South Shootout Underclassmen Standouts – January 5, 2020

Felix Okpara dominated the competition at the Big South Shoot. 

Atlanta, Ga– At events like the Big South Shootout at Holy Innocents, it was a good chance to look into the future and see who basketball fans will be following in years to come. This event gave a quality look at underclassmen who will inevitably see their recruitment pick up as the summer months approach.

2023 PG AJ Cheeks (Mountain View)-Having seen Mountain View twice in the past 2 weeks, I really liked how Cheeks played in both of these close matchups for the Bears. There’s no hesitancy and tentativeness from the freshman, he is confident throughout games and doesn’t shy away from being involved in big late-game moments. Although Cheeks isn’t that loud or demonstrative on the court, it seems like he is one of those smaller guards that plays with a chip on his shoulder already. His speed and quickness allow him to weave through the paint and get open layups frequently, Cheeks finds ways to convert when bigger defenders are around also. Defensively, he plays passing lanes pretty well, applies pressure on the ball, and will even chip in with some rebounds. Cheeks already has a good foundation and I think he’s one that’ll continue to progress at a good rate because of his mentality.

2022 WF Kaymen Brown (Lovejoy)-High energy, high motor guys are always fun to watch, and that’s exactly what Brown is. Ask anyone who was at Lovejoy’s game against Mountain View, and they’ll tell you that Brown was the main reason that the Wildcats came from behind and picked up an OT victory. Brown was a terror at the top of the Lovejoy press, racking up steals and deflections left and right in the 2ndhalf with his quick feet, long arms, and good anticipation. The intensity and activity that he brought on defense energized both him and his team offensively during their comeback. On offense, Brown’s explosiveness was seen as he crashed the glass for numerous offensive rebounds and putbacks. He also used his strong, solid body to finish through contact and did not waste any time getting to the point once the ball was in his hands. The way he played made me wonder how he didn’t run out of energy at some point. Brown is right around 6’3” currently; if he adds another few inches he could be one of the better small forwards in Georgia’s 2022 class.

2022 C Felix Okpara (Hamilton Heights)-Okpara was undoubtedly the best shot-blocker at the Big South Shootout, and I still don’t think I’ve seen a prospect in any class that protects the basket like he does. On every possession, Okpara is contesting shots, and even if he doesn’t actually block it, he impacts the attempt. While many young forwards get greedy and undisciplined around the rim on defense, Okpara is already adept at staying straight up and waiting until the ball actually leaves the shooter’s hand to try to swat it away. To go along with his instincts, Okpara is very light on his feet and can quickly spring above the rim to block shots. These qualities allow him to seemingly come out of nowhere and still save a possible score for the opposing team. His defensive abilities alone will continue to make him a popular recruit, but if Okpara can grow offensively and improve his hands when catching the ball and securing rebounds, he will be an absolute problem on both ends of the court.

2022 SF RJ Godfrey (North Gwinnett)-The son of a former NFL player, the first thing that stands out when you see Godfrey is his body. He has a cut, mature frame that you won’t see from many sophomores. He already possesses the physical traits that allow him to be effective against older guys, and also has some nice pieces to his game skill-wise that make him even more dangerous. In each of the last two North Gwinnett games I’ve watched, he has left his imprint on the contest in numerous areas, and does so without many mistakes. Godfrey understands spacing and positions himself well when reacting to ball-handlers, can hurt slower forwards on straight-line drives, and has a jumper that seems to be progressing constantly. He doesn’t take plays off and really makes an impact on the defensive end with his length and activity which result in rebounds, blocks, and steals. Godfrey already takes the right approach to things and that’s’ encouraging. When you mix Godfrey’s physical attributes with his effort and versatile skill, you have a prospect that will attract a lot of college coaches in the coming years.

2022 SG TJ Clark (Newton)- Some guys just find ways to score, and Clark is one of them. He’s capable of being in multiple spots and roles on offense with the end result usually being points for his team regardless of where he is. Against East Coweta, Clark served as a shooter, giving Shawn Smith and Caleb Byrd a reliable outside target after they got past the first line of defense. He was particularly hot in the 1sthalf, making 4 3’s and contributing 14 total points as Newton built a sizable lead. Clark ended the game with 21 points after he hit another 3 in the 2ndhalf while also adapting to the defense keying in on him around the arc after halftime. He has already proven to be a really scorer earlier on in his high school career, and this showing was another positive step, especially considering the efficiency at which it was done.

 Trent Markwith is a scout/evaluator for On the Radar Hoops.

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