Phenom Hoops kicked off the high school basketball season in exciting fashion, hosting our annual High School Jamboree in Greensboro, North Carolina. This year’s field was absolutely overflowing with some of the most talented teams and individuals in the region, which made for an amazing day of hoops. This article will take a look at some of my personal favorites from the day at Northwest Guilford.
6’2 ’21 AJ Smith (Hickory Grove)
There were many impressive performers in the building on Saturday, but no player was more dominant than AJ Smith. We recently saw Smith playing up with 16U Team Charlotte, but this was an excellent opportunity to see him as the undisputed leader of his own squad. He embodies everything that a high-level Division I guard should represent on the court. Smith is able to play either guard position on offense, given his ability to handle the ball and score in any situation. He’s incredibly tough, smart, and athletic, which is an overwhelming blend for opponents to cope with on both ends of the floor. Smith creates quality shots with relative ease and is quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble. He regularly gets into the paint and highlights his natural playmaking ability while attacking the rim at a healthy rate, finishing virtually everything he attempts. Smith is also a dangerous shooter from midrange and three-point territory with intelligent shot-selection. All that being said, and the most unique things about Smith have yet to be mentioned: his motor and defensive prowess. He’s an imposing defender that removes all operating space for his assignment, both on and off-ball, on every possession and can seamlessly defend three positions. Smith truly embraces being a communicator, leader, and two-way dog; he should be actively recruited by an abundance of high major programs from this point forward.
6’9 ’20 Garrett Hien (Concord First Assembly)
There was no shortage of intriguing prospects at the Jamboree, yet Garrett Hien was arguably the most unique player on display. He’s a power forward by basically all accounts, but his innate guard sense allows him to do so much more than his size/position would imply. Hien is a fluid ball-handler that has the ability to initiate offense, push the break on defensive rebounds, and attacks the rim while keeping the ball secure—all anomalies for most guys at 6-foot-9. He’s fairly wiry and should continue to physically develop, but already possesses an exceptional feel for the game and can operate effectively in many different roles. Hien works nicely out of the high or low post, where he displays nice face-up skills and touch with both hands, or can spot-up along the perimeter and apply pressure as a floor-stretching big man. He’s a reliable defensive presence that’ll always be in the right place at the right time, able to move his feet in space or alter shots as the rim-protector. Hien should be an interesting recruit to monitor, given his Division I ability and obvious long-term potential.
6’8 ’19 Josh Hall (Moravian Prep)
The evolution of a basketball prospect is an amazing thing to watch unfold, which makes Josh Hall an especially tantalizing case. Over the last three years, very few players have been able to match the consistent growth and development of Hall. In that time, he’s grown from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-8 while still maintaining his IQ, guard skills, and ability to be the focal point of an offense. He’s long, wiry, and simply a headache for his matchup. Hall puts the ball on the floor often and is an extremely impressive shot creator. He becomes a scoring threat upon crossing half court, but actually understands how to operate without the ball and navigates the floor very well to get open. Hall is an efficient three-level scorer that applies constant scoring pressure and possesses the ability to generate a clean shot against any type of opponent. Sometime over the last year, Hall really amplified his mean streak and now wants to embarrass the competition however possible. He caught several vicious dunks at our Jamboree and welcomed contact on every single attempt. Hall already holds a flurry of offers, but it would be unsurprising to see him accumulate five to ten more during the season, especially if he continues dominating.
6’0 ’19 Raja Milton (Independence)
There are a lot of different factors that go into championship-level programs, but getting players to buy-in to the team concept and operating within a role can be one of the most challenging obstacles. This Independence team has star-players or up-and-coming prospects at every position, but Raja Milton is as valuable as anyone on the roster. His intense, relentless style of play truly wears down opponents on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Milton is a quick-twitch point guard prospect that offers a terrific balance between attacking, shooting, and playmaking. He blows by the point of attack and typically finishes through contact at the rim, but also displayed impressive feel for his teammates and making the appropriate dump-off pass whenever available. Milton plays with very little regard for his own safety and willingly sacrifices himself for the betterment of the team. His two-way energy was unmatched and he was among the most frustrating defenders for opposing guards. Milton does everything on that end of the floor, communicating, closing-out, fighting through every screen, moves his feet so purposefully to mirror his assignment. Milton is a college-level player that should start being made a priority amongst programs, given his all-around intelligence and ability to contribute in any contest.
6’5 ’19 Jamal King (Wayne Christian/Winthrop Commit)
It was a worthwhile day of basketball, but it was nice to see Jamal King back and dominating with his original program. The Winthrop commit was phenomenal throughout the day, taking a leadership role, producing consistently, and displaying the ability to dominate his assignment. Big, strong, and athletic, King showed no fear of any opponent and utilized his body very well on both ends of the floor. On offense, he highlighted efficient three-level scoring chops, but really focused on simplifying the game and finding the favorable matchup. He did a great job of absorbing contact when attacking the basket, drawing fouls, and posting-up smaller opponents. King is quite a productive all-around player, able to rebound consistently, make plays for himself or others, and defend two to three positions at this level. He plays with a calm, steady demeanor, but he’s not afraid to take advantage when necessary. King is a reliable two-way player that could emerge as a prominent building block for Winthrop over the next few years.