The Gauntlet – Intriguing Bigs

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – The second of four trips to Florida headed back to Mainland HS, and there was some great talent in the gym once again to follow up The Opening March 25-26.

We move to big guys who showed one or all aspects of a modern big-man game that intrigued.

By: Keith Agran

Javeon Wells | C | 2023 | Q6 All-Stars 17U Baety

At 6-9 or so it’s such a condition of the recruiting climate that Wells is still unsigned, yes there’s work to be done further from the basket but he’s an agile mover and is super quick from catch to finish, that agility was shown as a shot-blocker and he’s patient and aware on the floor, be shocked if he doesn’t get scooped up by July.

Joseph Valencia | F | 2024 | Jacksonville Trojans 17U

I’m slotting the 6-6 Valencia into the bigs category because that may actually be his best route to get to the next level, has enough length and springiness to be a hybrid 4-man for the right program rather than the 3 he might appear to be on paper or film, the work as a short-range catch and driver and way he gets up to the cup suggests with a few more pounds on his frame this superb athlete could fit the 4-man bill even though his height might not fall perfectly into the metric data.

Heri Sefu Bukinga | C | 2025 | Team Judah Nation 16U

A great frame already means he’ll be even more of a mountain this time next year, moves really well for as guy who clearly hasn’t been playing organized ball terribly long, the work he needs on his back-to-the-basket game at around 6-10 is something you can easily get to work on once you have this excellent athletic specimen on campus, expect to hear more of this name in the next 365 days.

Terrance “TJ” Drain | F | 2025 | Loyalty United 16U (pictured at top)

Best pure shot-blocker I saw all weekend as his timing reminded me of the great college bigs of the 80’s like Olajuwon and Ewing, he lurked and drew people in before the rejections or chased ’em down from behind to send it off the backboard, a size 16 shoe suggests his current 6-8 could become 6-11 in no time, he showed off in spots a 3-point shot that wasn’t beyond his capability and when that gets going more consistently this is an easy D1 caliber package.

Kennedy Day | F | 2024 | Loyalty United  17U

Far nimbler than he might look in the layup line as he showed off sticky hands and good feet as a post-maneuvering guy, really good instincts down low and was an astute and aggressive rebounder and finisher, just a well-drilled guy inside a 6-7 or so frame and one who will pick up concepts quickly and play well seamlessly within a next-level system.

Ryan Blount | F | 2024 | Q6 All-Stars Elite 17U

At least one grinder attracts my attention particularly when we travel out of state and I’m seeing some guys for the first time, Blount fits perfectly in that category and he was a hard battler in the painted area and used his muscular frame to bull for buckets or rebounds, played with good court sense to augment the hustle and when he stepped out and knocked down a few 3-balls things got even more interesting.

Jack Sullivan | F | 2024 | Above Academy 17U

Didn’t perhaps have his best shooting game as he was billed pregame as a pick-and-pop type 4-man, but the elements for which he entered the game rep-wise were easy to spot as he’s surrounded by a bunch of steely 3-point shooters who find him in good spots and who receive good passes from this big man, his size at 6-9 makes it a package worth noting right off and in games where he is stroking it together with his high IQ brand and passing ability it’s easy to see why he’s an emerging name in FL.

Owen McLaughlin | F | 2026 | ZCamp Elite 17U

I was shocked to find out after the game he was playing two levels up as he looked comfortable and well within his limits at the 4 even at only 6-5, as good a passing big man as you’ll find at his age he had the vision of a guard and the precision of a guy who just sees the distribution using a basketball mind, still growing into his body he was really sharp past the arc with a natural-looking shot and one he didn’t force at all, there were just too many positive elements not to like his chances as he develops further.

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 also spent 3 years as a sports writer at two newspapers in New Jersey. After a championship-coaching background on the HS-level also in NJ, he accepted the Girl’s Basketball Head Coaching position in May 2022 at Mt Bethel Christian Academy and now balances scouting and coaching still with a keen eye on talent around the region. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.