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Bendel's Best of the 2017 AAU Season: Guards (Part 2)

08/28/2017, 2:00pm EDT
By Phenom Hoop Report/Jeff Bendel

PHR Analyst Jeff Bendel dives into a group of guard prospects with intriguing ability and upside.

Just over four months ago Phenom Hoops opened the travel ball season in Greensboro, North Carolina. This event kicked off what would be an exciting summer full of breakouts and surprises, coming from all over the east coast. Next, we will look at some of the players that were the most memorable throughout the season. These players are in no particular order and have made the cut for a variety of different reasons, not necessarily just elite-level guys, though many are considered “elite.”    

Guards

The “Guards” category will always be the most abundant, mostly due to genetics, so it was extremely difficult to narrow this list to just ten. We were fortunate to see a vast array of unique guards that all brought something different, yet special, to the table. Due to length, this will be broken up into two parts, featuring five guards in each. Click to read about the best Bigs or Part 1 of Guards

6’4 ’18 Damerius Wash (SR1 All-Stars)

Much of a player’s success at the next level relies heavily on their skill-set and ability to properly translate it. We at Phenom Hoops remain dumbfounded on how a player like Wash can be overlooked despite his near-perfect fit for a variety of D1 programs. There is a long list of things that coaches like to look for, especially for guards, and he checks every box with flying colors. Wash was on display at Summer Havoc, where he was utterly dominant on both ends of the floor while leading his team to a consistent stream of victories. Offensively, he’s virtually unstoppable and could seemingly play circuit ball for many teams given his incredibly malleable game. Wash can play with or without the ball; he is a really poised scorer on all three levels and can control the midrange area if allowed the opportunity. With that being said, Wash isn’t just a shooter, especially since he possesses the ability to work as the secondary ball handler and creator whenever needed. On the defensive end, he attacks opposing guards and has an innate feel of how to play angles to his advantage. The only true way to appreciate Wash and everything that he provides is through watching him, where he shows up to perform every game. Productivity translates, and Wash was undoubtedly one of the most productive two-way players we saw throughout the summer. His recruitment is a lock to rise once coaches start seeing how seamlessly Wash will fit at the collegiate level. 

6’0 ’20 Myles Tate (Team Loaded 704)

When maturity meets youth, special things tend to happen, which is exactly the case with Tate. We’ve had the pleasure to watch the point guard skip gradual improvement and head straight for rapid development. After winning the state championship, Tate set his sights on destroying everyone in his path, not just those residing in South Carolina. Though he may display a calm demeanor, Tate is a bloodthirsty killer that takes genuine pride in shredding his matchup on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Tate becomes an immediate threat upon crossing half court, where he is quick enough to torch any opponent off the dribble or with his 30-foot range. He scores at a strong rate from all three levels with great efficiency and polish. His scoring ability is well documented; it’s his high IQ guard skills that continually impress everyone in the gym. Tate reads defenses quickly and sharply, allowing them no time to correct or compromise, and then makes the smart play without fail. With all that being said, it is his play on the defensive end that will get him recruited by every school in the country. Tate has great agility and quick hands; he has never looked overwhelmed by an opponent and consistently wins his matchup. Some coaches may be unimpressed at his average size, however, it should be noted that Tate is A+ at literally every category beyond that. He’s already begun gathering interest from HM schools and will only further solidify himself as a big-time player upon entering his sophomore high school season.

6’2 ’20 Cameron Thomas (Boo Williams)

Of all the players we came across this summer, it would be extremely difficult to pick out any prospect more promising than Thomas. The Boo Williams [16U] team is absolutely loaded, but it’s seemingly ironic how the most unstoppable scorer comes with no baggage, no flash, simply just a hard-working mentality and high IQ. Thomas is among the most effortless scorers in the country (maybe only UNC commit Coby White scores with less strain) and it’s very aesthetically pleasing to watch. Thomas is so imaginative with his scoring, able to get a bucket from pull-ups (efficiently within five dribbles), floaters, runners, jumpers, or going hard to the rim…basically any known scoring method, he has perfected. More than just a scorer, Thomas can play either guard spot proficiently on both sides of the floor; he’s a quality defender that mostly relies on his IQ to bother opposing guards. Sooner than later, Thomas will be a census top-fifty player in the country, as he is clearly one of the most dominant 2020 prospects. It’s actually somewhat shocking that he isn’t more widely-known, especially considering he’s playing up for a big-time program in Boo Williams. Only time will tell how special Thomas can be, but he will be special, count on that. 

6’1 ’18 Bradley Childers (Upward Stars Upstate)

Many college coaches evaluate guards by their ability to defend and who they’ll be able to matchup against at the next level. Childers won over coaches and spectators with his incredibly reliable two-way game. He has become even more polished on the offensive end over the last year, continuing to crush opponents from all three levels. Childers is deceptively athletic and his ability to finish within three feet is effortless. Absolutely no player that came through our doors displayed a higher level of toughness than the Gaffney product. This narrative of Childers being the toughest player in the gym began last summer, where he nearly broke his nose, patched it up mid-game, and returned to hit the go-ahead shot in overtime. He is consistently one of the top defenders on the floor, but there isn’t just one specific attribute that makes him elite; he has the strength, quickness, and IQ necessary to shut down opposing guards regardless of size. Childers’ overall value is likely underrated, considering he isn’t overly flashy and prefers to be a silent killer. His game is very appealing to a true basketball junkie because he’s willing to do literally anything to win. Childers plays with a tremendous motor and should certainly get some looks at the D1 level, where he will impress coaches by outworking everyone else. 

6’7 ’18 Landers Nolley (Team Loaded NC)

The final guard to get recognized as one of the best from the summer is Nolley, who began getting national attention and never turned back. He went from being under the radar to a census top-50 player to now choosing between sixteen schools (his official visits: Virginia Tech, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma State, and UConn). It should come as no surprise to see Nolley referred to as a can’t-miss HM prospect; he is a six-foot-seven walking mismatch with guard skills. He’s so smooth with the ball and has the ability to create for others or play as the lead ball handler in a pinch. Though Nolley is a quality distributor, scoring is truly his calling card, as he can dominate a game from all three levels without breaking a sweat. He’s long and poses huge problems for opponents because they have no clue what type of defender to throw his way, considering guys with Nolley’s height and perimeter skills don’t grow on trees. Nolley shreds teams with his three-point shooting and post-ups on smaller guards, which are both guaranteed avenues to points. Defensively, he’s quite creative with his length and has the foot speed to hang with most off-guards or small forwards. Nolley could probably defend opposing point guards if necessary, but he’s better suited against bigger guys where his size is more of a factor. There is a bright future ahead for the Langston Hughes star, and he’ll only continue to turn heads throughout his senior season.

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