#OTRHoopsTheOpening – Team Blasts Part 1

CUMMING, GA – The excitement of the start of travel season was on full display this past weekend for OTR’s The Opening, held at multiple facilities in Forsyth and Gwinnett.

I was honed in on the predominantly 17U grouping that played most of their games at Dobbs Creek Rec and their six courts (but there were some 16U’s mixed in). As the season wears on I will surely dip much more closely into the other age groups.

With all the names making impressions, I thought we’d do some capsule Team Blasts on the kids who shined for their team banners, here’s Part 1 of 4 in what will be 6-teams per block.

By: Keith Agran

GA Canes 16U

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2025 Yusef Bowyer, 2024 Cassius Watkins

Yusef Bowyer

Cassius Watkins

SUMMARY: Both from Maynard Jackson, this was as dynamic a combo of guards as I saw all weekend and it was early on in Saturday’s schedule when they got it going. Bowyer was a standout at our Fall Breakout Camp playing “up” there in what was mostly a 2024 field, at Dobbs he looked stronger and faster even 6 months later as he cut up the defense and scored and distributed like a seasoned vet. Watkins has some real scoring chops, feeding off Bowyer really well as you’d expect from HS teammates, and both possess really sound, natural PG-instincts but can also be really effective scoring it from multiple levels in the 2-spot. Must-see stuff, both the rest of this spring/summer campaign and then down off Glenwood Ave in the city next winter, these two for 1 of 3 really good Canes teams on hand.

Georgie Fire Premier 17U

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2023 Darius Reynolds, 2023 Joshua Lordge

Darius Reynolds

Joshua Lordge

SUMMARY: Cedar Grove’s 6-5 Reynolds returns to the Fire after making a lot of waves last summer with his boundless energy and work rate. None of that has changed, as he tirelessly gets to work on the glass and running the floor, and can be so productive working the O-boards. Has clearly been working on the J as well as he can face-up to 15 feet comfortably and that’s a dimension that is noteworthy for the next level. Lordge caught my eye with Banneker at their fall league and is a great fit for the Fire with the way he plays defense and pushes pace. Really good athlete that thrives on getting to the basket, as the spring rolls along would love to see more of the stroke from distance.

Promise Elite 17U

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2023 Ansar Osman, 2023 Justin Redmond (pictured above)

Ansar Osman

SUMMARY: Distinctive South Gwinnett feel with Osman, Redmond and Jacob Washington on this team, and watching Promise play remains a true breath of fresh air the way they get after it and play each possession with such intensity. The 6-6 Osman played a key role in a Comets frontcourt that had notable seniors now graduating, so with his time to shine in front of him I like the multi-level scoring ability as he showed off a confident stroke but can take things in closer and be really effective. Redmond is slick, smooth and poised, and screams true-PG in the way he runs a club and creates for himself and others. Has star potential, as Promise will look once again to have a strong summer.

GA Canes 17U

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2023 Vic Newsom, 2023, Khirus Doucet, 2023 Josh Mathurin

Vic Newsom

Khirus Doucet

SUMMARY: There was more on this team, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off these 3 guards in particular as they did so many of the things we’ve come to know from them. Newsom’s shooting is so pure, so natural, he’s been a guard I’ve commented on regularly as Sandy Creek went through their gauntlet of a schedule, and he can have a monster summer the way he scores and defends. Doucet too is on the verge of a star breakout where his skillset gets its due. Good size at 6-3, and I love the way he seeks out the rim as either a wing or running the point. He can play either spot for you, he ran the show for Chapel Hill but will be off the ball more I’d think with these Canes and all the ballhandling they have available. Mathurin has always shined in the open floor pressing the ball forward and putting a ton of pressure on defenses. His penetrative style will get guys like Newsom and Doucet lots of looks, and as always he was one of the real lockdown on-ball defenders of the weekend with his elite foot speed.

ATL T’Wolves 17U White

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2024 Luke Flynn, 2023 Isaac Martin, 2023 Domas Kauzonas

Luke Flynn

Isaac Martin

SUMMARY: The last 2 summers have seen the T’Wolves consistent beat and/or give the big shoe brands all kinds of problems, and this year’s two 17U iterations will be no different. Will Moore of West Forsyth hurt his ankle shortly after I arrived at their court, otherwise he surely would have been a notable impression-maker, but in his absence we got to hone in closer on the considerable talents of Flynn of Walton, the 2024 seamlessly playing up and showing why he’s one of the top players in the entire state in his class. Power-packed build, fearless approach, great skills and variety to break you down off the dribble or bury you from 3-land. Martin is fresh off a stellar run with King’s Ridge where he was the floor general in their run to the A-Private Finals, and he fits the T’Wolves mold of smart and savvy guys who if you sleep on them will absolutely kill you with sneaky ability. Kauzonas is already drawing interest off his strong season for Rabun Gap, and at 6-11 has that classic European step-out game that requires attention from distance, but there’s interesting work closer to the basket as well with the footwork and baby hook game.

Team Dickerson 17U

IMPRESSION-MAKERS: 2023 Malik Ferguson, 2023 Markel Freeman, 2023 Aaron Nomel

Malik Ferguson

Markel Freeman

SUMMARY: There were those Grovetown guys again, except this time they’re not underdogs with potential, they’re deserving 6A state champs. All 3 looked sharp, they having played all the way through March 12, with Ferguson again showing off the PG-chops that will at 6-4 and with his frame put him in the high D1 sphere if he isn’t already planted there. The pure physicality of his game is a devastating weapon, and as he backs you off, all he does is bury you from beyond the arc. Freeman at 6-3 too will bully you from the guard spot, as he’s one of the best in the class coming in off the wing on the break or attacking the baseline on the drive. Underreported is how good Freeman and Ferguson play defense, almost unspoken of because of their incredible gifts on offense. Nomel showed us some of his tantalizing abilities during last June’s Live Period and team camps, and the 6-8 post will get tough reps against the kind of foes Dickerson will regularly face, and already a deadly rim protector we should see his offensive game take steps forward as well.

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.