On Saturday, the UA Next Combine Series (East) debuted at St John’s College High School in Washington DC. Forty elite level players from around the region assembled for this “invitation only” 1-day event. At stake were a few coveted spots for UA’s rising freshman Elite 24 Game in New York City. The day kicked off with a series of high level skill and drill sessions in the morning designed to emphasize skill development. In the early afternoon players were treated to a inspiring presentation by Rowland Houston, former Head Coach at George Mason and George Washington Universities. In the afternoon, games began, with each of 4 teams playing 3 games. Once play started, players demonstrated a willingness to pass and play defense which can sometimes be rare at events like these. Also, the games were close with many of the outcomes undetermined until the final seconds of the game. Finally, most of the games were played at a high level, with kids playing hard.
One of the best prospects we saw all day was Trey Hall (6’7/PF/Connecticut). Not only is Hall a physical specimen, he’s skilled with an elite motor. Hall has the ability to hit the trey, but he is strong and explosive enough to finish at the rim. From what we saw, Hall has high major written all over him. Any discussion about long-term prospects with big upside potential has to include Elijah Taylor (6/8/PF/Pennsylvania). The best part of Taylor's game is his elite motor, as Taylor was extremely active both offensively and defensively. Big time athleticism with a strong frame, Taylor owned the glass and protected the rim. In fact, Taylor was the second leading shot blocker with 8 blocks in 2 games. Big and strong, Taylor already has a college-ready body. Finally, Taylor set bone-crushing screens all day. Jordan Toles (6’2/Combo/Maryland) was a monster, as he got to the rim with ease and knocked down treys and mid range jumpers. Toles is best at attacking the cup, but his developing skill set and shot mechanics suggests a greater upside. He’s just a guard, but his big time motor allowed him to lead the combine in rebounding, Toles grabbed 20 rebounds in 3 games (6.7 average) and was third is assists with 9 and an average of 3 per game.
In terms of scoring, nobody did it better than CJ Wilcher (6’4/WF/New Jersey). Wilcher was relentless to the cup to the tune of 44 points in 3 games for an average of 14.7 points per game. Despite his big scoring day, Wilcher was not a volume shooter, as evidenced by his .594 field goal percentage. Speaking of scoring, Ryan Conway (6’0/Combo/2021/Maryland) was the second leading scorer with 43 points and a 14.3 average. A late entrant at the event, Conway, a 7th grader, got the gym buzzing as it circulated that he had exploded for 20 points in his opening game. Conway is a scoring machine, and is proficient scoring at all 3 levels. He can get to the rim, pull in the lane or he can knock down a deep jumper. Because he is always in attack mode, Conway spends a lot of time at the fee throw line. This helps his scoring output, as Conway hits his freebies as evidenced by his .778 free throw percentage (7 of 9).
AJ Hoggard (6’2/PG/Pennsylvania) continues to prove he can excel against elite competition. Hoggard has good size for his position, is smooth, poised and patient with the rock. Hoggard’s combination of size and handle makes it tough for defenders to stay in front of. Hoggard works well off of picks and can either score or find open teammates. In addition, Hoggard changes speed and direction well, and he has a number of dribble moves he uses to get into the paint. Hoggard put up solid numbers on Saturday, averaging 10.7 points per game. EJ Evans (6’4/combo/New Jersey) is another sold athlete that displayed a number of nimble moves to the bucket including a nifty spin move in the paint for the score. Evans is not just a slasher; he’s crafty and can also drain deep treys (avg 50% from beyond the arc). Evans was the 3rd leading scorer at the event, averaging 14 points per game. Arguably the best shooter at the combine was Okay Djamgouz (6’2/Combo/Ontario, CN) who demonstrated the ability to hit the 3-ball on a consistent basis. Djamgous is an extreme marksman and when he gets hot, he’s a problem. Although he was more of a catch and shoot threat on Saturday, we've seen video of Djamgous and he much more dynamic and skilled than that. He can handle the rock, creat his own shot and get it done off the bounce as well. Djamgouz was the event’s leading 3-point shooter with 8 treys made.
Noah Farrakhan (6’0/PG/New Jersey) was one of the most active players at the event. Constantly attacking the basket, Farrakhan scored and created scoring opportunities for his teammates. Once he turns the corner on you, he’s finishing at the rim. That’s not all; he’s willing to sit down on defense and will knock down the three if left open. If that wasn’t enough, Farrakhan hits his free throws (3rd in the combine with 8). In terms of pure production, Abililash Surendran (6’6/PF/Ontario, CN) gets the nod. The Canadian product was the 7th leading scorer with an 11 ppg average, and had the combine’s best field goal percentage at .833%. He made 15 field goals and hit the only trey he took. Long, agile and athletic best describes Surendran’s gifts. From what we saw, Surendran has a lot more growth in him.
Cameron Byers (6’5/PF/Maryland) had a good day. Big, powerful with a willingness to get physical in the paint are his calling cards. For his size, Byers is quick off his feet, has good agility and appears to be working on his perimeter game. In a few games, Byers had solid rebounding numbers. Big Cam finishes with both hands, and although he does not play above the rim, it’s hard to get a shot off on him. Byers also proved he could convert free throws, as he led the combine 15 and an average of 5 boards per game. Byers was also 4th in scoring with 35 points and 11.7 ppgs. If Byers can get a few more inches and continue to develop ball skills, he has a chance. Qaadir Maneri (6’0/Combo/New York) was workhorse on Saturday. We were really impressed with Maneri’s ability to get into the lane and finish, often with contact. Maneri is poised under pressure and is a willing and able passer. He’s also a threat to shoot it if given space. We also like Maneri’s vision and play making ability. There's more to Maneri’s game, as his defensive pressure resulted in 8 total steals, an average of 2.7 per game. Jeffery Woodard (6’9/C/Pennsylvania) already has great size for his position, a strong frame and is highly skilled. He handles it well for a big and has developed a nice little mid-range shot. He can also put the rock on the floor and can get his shot off the bounce. Woodard also blocked 7 shots (2.7 avg). From what we saw, there’s little doubt that Woodard has college basketball in his future. While we are on the subjects of skilled bigs with D-I potential, we have to mention John Vrdoljak (6’9/C/Ontario, CN). Vrdojak is long and lean with deceptive athleticism. He’s great in pick and pop situations and with his long wingspan he’s a elite rim protector. We also saw Vrdoljak hit a guy with a euro step and finish!
Keyshawn Johnson (6’0/Combo/Maryland) has a thin frame, but he gets to any spot on the court he wants to. Super quick and crafty, Johnson gets buckets! Possessing a killer crossover and a nice floater allows Jonson to do damage once he gets into the paint. He has a high IQ, he’s very active and just seems to have a great nose for the basketball. He has also developed the ability to score and deliver passes off the screen and role. Johnson’s not just a scorer, as he led the combine in assists with 13 and an average of 4.3 apgs. We also saw some real good things out of Jahkiesh Demby (6’5/PF/Delaware). Demby possess a nice combination of size and skill. In addition, Demy handles the ball well for his size, can knock down the mid-range jumper and he converts his free throws, which is important for big, physical post players. Calb Dorsey (6’6/WF/Maryland) has potential written all over him and could be one of the best prospects coming out of the event. He already has D-I size as only an 8th grader, but his athleticism and skill set add a special quality. Dorsey can get the rebound, push the rock in transition and can also deliver a pinpoint pass. A skilled big with play-making ability has value at the next level!
You know an event is hot when you see multiple skilled bigs running around. Well, Kekoa McArdle (6’8/C/Massachusetts) fits that description. He’s not a high flyer, but if scoring and defending in the post would interest you, then McArdle is your man. Although McArdle is a space eater, his touch around the basket is super soft. Finally, because of his size and strength, McArdel can absorb contact and still finish the play. We saw some glimpses of some good things out of Quaran McPherson (6’2/Combo/New York), such as a quality step back and mid-range shot to go along with a healthy does of athleticism. We also plan to keep an eye on John Wilson (5’10/PG/New York), an aggressive guard who stays in attack mode in search of a crease. Wilson is your typical New York PG in terms of his quickness, craftiness and slasher mentality. If he wasn’t scoring, he was dropping dimes to the tune of 2.7 per game, making him tied for third at the event. Wilson was also second in steals with 6 total. It should be noted that Rahim Ali (5’11/PG/Maryland) was handing out assists as well, with his 9 dimes making him second at the combine. In terms of some of the other statistical leaders, Che Evans Jr. (6’6/WF/Maryland) led the event in blocked shots, finishing with 8 total for an average of 2.7 per game. Justin Lewis (6'7/PF/Maryland), Xavier Lipscomb (6'0/Combo/DC) and Tyler Brelsford (5'10/PG/Maryland) all had their 3-ball dropping at a high percentage finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively at 1.000, .625 and .545%. It should be noted that Brelsford also dropped his fair share of dimes and was amongst the leaders with at least 8 assists and 2.7 per game. Andrew King (6'6/PF/Pennsylvania) put up decent numbers, finishing with 32 points and an average of 10.7 points per game.
Although this was only their first of 6 regional events in this platform, early returns indicate that the UA Next Combine Series will represent a home run Under Armour! Their emphasis on skill development and elite competition will set this event apart from like events. The Buckeye Prep Report is proud to be working with Under Armour to provide this unique opportunity to the best 8th graders in the country. Next up is the Midwest combine in Columbus, Ohio May 14th.