Hawks-Naismith Holiday Classic – Night 1 Standouts

ATLANTA, GA – One of the season’s classiest and most anticipated events took place this past weekend in 2 locations, with girls and boys games in the Hawks-Naismith Holiday Classic spread between Holy Innocents’ and Norcross HS.

OTR was in both spots for boys action Friday and Saturday, and armed with NBA level stats provided by the Atlanta Hawks staff on hand, here are some standouts first from Holy Innocents’:

By: Keith Agran

Will Hopkins | 6-5 | SG | Holy Innocents’ | 2024

Will Hopkins

My first look at Hopkins and as advertised there’s a lot to like in this slashing package, he’s a long 6-5 with strides that move him swiftly through the defense and combined with clever finishing ability that makes him a tough matchup, he fits well with this group because of his willingness to be less just another spot-up shooter at the arc and more of a downhill driver to put pressure on the defense and free up others, can become a 20 ppg guy with his want for the slash-game and will see the FT-line quite a bit, with that length and good understanding can defend the whole floor short of the 5-spot.

Caleb Wilson | 6-7 | SG/SF | Holy Innocents’ | 2025

Caleb Wilson

Also my first extended look at Wilson and the superlatives are many for a player this young, what immediately jumps out is his unselfishness and willingness to make the pass over forcing a bad or contested shot, his head is constantly on a swivel looking for the right play and while he’s likely still growing and surely will fill out a wiry frame it’s still a lot to handle even for a freshman, when he does go on the offensive the foot speed and lateral movement are still on the come but the creativity and ability to use his height and length near the basket make him tough to stop in close, had 11 rebounds and 5 blocks against Mt Pisgah and those are areas where his natural gifts allow him to clearly already excel, every bit the top 5 player in the class he was advertised to be.

Micah Tucker | 6-1 | CG | Mt Pisgah | 2025

Micah Tucker

There were two stellar freshmen going head to head with Pisgah matching HIES, Tucker burst onto the scene this summer and fall with a series of eye-opening performances in front of local evaluators, relegated mostly to a shooting and scoring role in the summer and fall camps he handled the ball a lot more opposite MJ Winter for Pisgah and looked comfortable in the role dealing out 6 assists, would benefit from slowing down a hair when in control of the ball but understandable for a young player, still the shooting from way out is elite already and filled with confidence and moxie (24 pts on 7 3s), energetic defender who raises the level of his teammates with his enthusiasm, as he progresses he’ll see the chances bloom in the mid-range and that will only make him an even more devastating scoring guard.

Rhys Cotton |5-10 | PG | McEachern | 2025

Rhys Cotton

This early season has unveiled so many new young faces it’s been exciting for those of us watching, starting alongside another 2025 fast-riser in Christian Curl Cotton was tremendous in a win over North Gwinnett with 22 pts, 4 assists and 5 steals, such calm and poise for a freshman as he sliced his way into the mid-range for floaters and also hurt the Dawgs from 3-land, just 1 turnover against a veteran opponent speaks to his well-drilled background already as young PG, that new Coach Tremayne Anchrum has turned the ball over to him with seniors Mike Jacobs (did not dress) and Braden Sparks opening the season so strongly speaks to the Indians’ staff opinion of their young star.

Braden Sparks | 6-1 | CG | McEachern | 2022

At Hawks-Naismith a fellow scout turned to me and asked, “Has Sparks always been this good” and my answer was a swift “yes”, followed by the note that he had been asked in year’s past to be a supporting player to upperclassmen and bigger names, now it’s his show and the shooting, ballhandling and elite defending are on full display, after torching Wheeler at the TOCĀ  the weekend before he dropped 19 more on NG with again a combo of 3-pt bombs and lightning-quick moves to the rim, this Indians bunch is a blast to watch and even with all the youngsters making names it’s still Sparks show to run and his ball late in the game when a bucket is needed.

RJ Godfrey | 6-7 | PF | North Gwinnett | 2022

No Amaru Grosvenor at the point immediately meant shared duties in that role for the Bulldogs and Godfrey was among several who handled the rock on the night, seeing a man of his size and frame coming downhill must have been off-putting to say the least for McEachern defenders as he both bulled and finessed his way to 19 pts (added 9 reb and 3 asts), it’s always been a pleasure watching Godfrey work near the basket as he’s got variety and power to burn, but seeing the Clemson-bound stud use a face-up package that can go through or around you was certainly an ACC-caliber show, with 6-5 Dylan Gary, 6-7 Duke Clayton and 6-8 Julian Washington nearly set to find their footing in this lineup this Dawgs team will be much more versatile and intriguing come January.

Jakai Newton | 6-4 | SG | Newton | 2023

Jakai Newton (left) and Stephon Castle

Where do you go for standouts on this roster? Almost anywhere on any given night, and even when they play without Daniel Pounds and Miokaye Grant (as they did Friday vs Greenforest) this is still a devastating and formidable opponent and worth of the mantle as the state’s top team right now, Newton is so enticingly athletic and explosive it’s hard to see him being guardable, were he not surrounded by the likes of the sensational Stephon Castle, the freakish Qua Brown and young wings Marcus Whitlock and Katayvon Jefferies (17 pts off the bench) he could surely by a near 30 ppg guy, but his 21 pts & 8 rebounds Friday were plenty and filled with advanced step-back jumpers, power drives and unstoppable moves in the open floor, he’s special and a future home in blueblood Bloomington, IN proves it.

Jalen Forrest | 6-4 | SG | Greenforest | 2022

Jalen Forrest

The more I see Forrest the more enamored with his game I become, with a body built for downhill attacking and playing through contact he continues to show plenty of finesse particularly in the mid-range where you can make a living these days, when he does get all the way at you he can use a seriously stout lower half to power through you or get up above the rim, he plays with an advanced understanding and a senior’s deliberate pace, nothing seems forced and he sees the floor both as a scorer and facilitator when needed, prominent D1 offers from Kennesaw St and Temple affirm his skill level and he’s plenty good enough to be a factor at either.

Keith Agran has lived in Georgia since 2011 and joined OTR as a National Evaluator in 2021. He previously scouted for Prep Hoops dating back to 2019 and has both a championship-coaching background on the HS-level and daily newspaper writing experience, both from New Jersey. You can reach him at keithagran1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.