June Impact Players – 7A 2023’s Part 1
ATLANTA METRO – We gear up for what will be a near non-stop June around the state of Georgia with high schoolers returning to their school colors for one month of intense competition.
Let’s highlight some 2023 guys from 7A since travel ball got rolling in March who are key names to watch both for their own and their team’s ’22-23 fortunes as they bring their games to the critical live periods later this month.
By: Keith Agran
Malachi Brown | 6-0 | PG | Buford (Team United)
Has quietly had a typically solid spring (first with AOT and now with Team United) as more often than not you know you’re going to get sound play at the 1 from the Wolves star. What you often get with travel play is a player the caliber of Brown who also is a willing distributor gets overshadowed by a talented pool around them where some games he’s spectacular and others solid but pedestrian. With Brown, pedestrian is far from a label of ordinary as he is not, he can just be a factor in the game beyond putting up 30-point highlight shows with a full gamut of hustle, defense and skill. He has bided his time to a degree at Buford and performed his job at a high level as upperclassmen have often received more pub, now finally the show is his. I’m fascinated by portions of this Buford returning roster, as despite notable losses for the 6A finalists (now up to 7A), Brown gets some backcourt relief with a healthy Jayden Gudz back, and wings David Burnett and Cameron Kelly will step into monster roles as key guys who can play inside and out alongside returning bull London Williams.
Jalen Hilliard | 6-4 | SG | McEachern (Team Forrest) [pictured at top]
Another frightening array of athletes (led by the state’s best 2024 prospect in Airious Bailey) is set to populate what will be a relatively young roster at least in many of the key roles for the Indians, though seniors Earnest Ofremu, Aaron Wesley and Zavier Askew all of North Metro Elite have waited their turn and should be factors. Within all of that lies the hyper-athletic Hilliard, who has found a spring home with Team Forrest this year that is a great match for what he likes to do with several guards there who can really find him. What has begun to separate him from a pack of guys in that similar positional and size range has been the shooting, as he’s no longer just a terror on the break and crashing in off the wings but a shooter from 15+ who can hurt you in that sector and is more than willing to settle for that than force his way to questionable shots in closer.
Arrinten Page | 6-9 | PF | Wheeler (TSF)
There may not be a true big man that will have a more prominent effect on the 7A landscape than Page, and even with the likes of national force and top 2023 guard Isaiah Collier, talented yet mercurial Jalani Reynolds and 2024 6-10 transfer Josh Hill among others who will garner much attention too, it seems to me Page’s play can separate the Wildcats from a crowded largest division pack. In the classic sense of a dominant frontcourt force does Page remind, back to the days of guys like Olajuwon, Robinson and Duncan, where the centerpiece of the team was actually the center. Now we’re not headed back to the 1990-2000 era by any means, but Page’s ability to score at such an efficient clip and dominate the painted area at both ends can be the kind of force at the HS-level that is nearly impossible to game plan for. Offers from Missouri and Indiana have come most recently to join Xavier, Alabama and Cincinnati.
Jaiun Simon | 6-6 | SF | Pebblebrook (Game Elite)
Here we go with Pebblebrook in another reload after saying goodbye to a cadre of key seniors, but few in the state are concerned for the fortunes of the Falcons, as Simon will lead a crew more than ready to make a run back to the 7A Final Four. In comes 2024 guard Roc Lee from Solid Rock Academy to join Simon and 2023 guard Xavier Bell to form a core of what will be another dangerous crew. Since last fall before he began a dominant stretch that has continued to this day, Simon has been among the state’s top stock risers, emerging in most list’s top 10 now for the class. More shooting range to go with a powerful inside package that is both creative and energetic has like Hilliard above taken Simon to the next notch, a notch that includes offers from Mt St Mary’s, Georgia St and Kennesaw St, and I’d expect that list to rapidly expand by right around the end of RYZE’s Battle for GA coming up first weekend in July.
Mier Panoam | 6-3 | PG | Norcross (Georgia Stars)
As of this posting there’s enough chatter about London Johnson’s uncertain future status at Norcross to warrant its inclusion as part of the discussion into just how important Panoam will be to the Blue Devils defense of their 7A title next winter. Naturally with Johnson, the discussion of both Panoam’s role and the plight of the ’22-23 Blue Devils is impacted. Without Johnson, Panaom moves into a likely ball-dominant PG role that he is more well suited for than at any other point in his career. The athletic gifts and defensive prowess are well-known, the highlight-reel moments are bolstered by a multi-level scoring game and explosiveness step off the bounce that has been proven to be D1-worthy (DePaul has offered), and with other strong pieces like do-it-all hybrid Samarion Bond and bomber Michael Zhang also back, expect to see this Blue Devil group right back in the mix for a trip to Macon.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.
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