La Verne, CA – This past week I attended the prestigious Classic at Damien for the first time and it was an outstanding event in so many facets. Top teams from California and surrounding states on display, elite match-ups in every round of play, top prospects from the Western region, top media and scouts in attendance, and great personnel and staff from the host school Damien High School. I arrived on Wednesday, December 27th and stayed until Friday evening, December 29th. I was mostly there to watch the Platinum Division, but also caught games in the Gold and Diamond Divisions.
The following article is Part 1 of my standout performers, as I take a look at 15 standout players from the Platinum Division. I provide a brief description of how each player performed in the games I watched, along with any relevant statistics I gathered, a short description of each player’s skill set, and all relevant information for each player. Although this is a list of my top performers, the names are listed in alphabetical order and not in ranked order. I will follow this article up with two more that look at approximately 20 more players that performed well. I begin this article with unsigned senior Connor Amundsen.
5’11 Connor Amundsen 2024 Clovis North (Fresno CA)
Amundsen has bounced back from the wrist injury he suffered in mid-September and followed up his MVP performance at the Mission Prep Christmas Classic with a tremendous run at the Classic at Damien, including a 42-point game in the Platinum Consolation Semifinals loss to Windward. That was a career high for Amundsen, as he scored the ball from all over the floor. Amundsen is one of the more coveted available seniors in California and also did a great job of facilitating and making plays throughout the week. Amundsen has shifty moves, keeps the ball on a string, has the body control to make tough shots off the dribble, and the court vision to find open teammates when on the attack. Amundsen is accurate with the 3-ball off the dribble or the catch and shoot and makes quality decisions with the ball in his hands.
6’7 Kade Bonam 2025 St. John Bosco (Bellflower CA)
Bonam held it down in the opening two rounds for the Braves as the leading scorer and enforcer in the paint. Bonam had a relatively slow start offensively against Clovis North of Fresno, but turned it up after the break, specifically the fourth quarter, as he would score 11 of his game-high 23 points in the final frame. Bonam added 7 rebounds, a block, and a steal in the 80 to 60 win. Bonam showed a bit more scoring versatility in the quarterfinal win over American Fork of Utah, as he connected on a three, hit his free throws, and had a couple of nice mid-range jumpers to lead the Braves with 19 points in the win. Bonam can space the floor with the 3-ball, has good footwork and post moves to get space to score in the paint, and handles to create off the perimeter with accuracy on his jump shot. Bonam does a great job on the glass, can push the ball up the court, and has the court vision to advance the ball up the court or find cutting players from the high-post. Bonam uses his size and frame to muscle through contact around the basket and can absorb contact on shots in the paint.
6’5 Brayden Burries 2025 Roosevelt (Eastvale CA)
Burries was one of the top prospects at the Classic at Damien and he showed why throughout the week. Burries had a relatively slow start scoring the ball in the Mustangs opening game but got it going in the 2nd half, as he would score 21 of his game-high 29 points in an overtime win over Branson. Burries scored all four of the Mustangs points in overtime to give Roosevelt the win. The following day, Burries put up a great stat line of 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists to help stave off a late push by Owyhee of Idaho to advance to the semifinals and ultimately taking home the trophy in the Platinum Division. Burries has great moves to create off the dribble, the body control to make tough shots off the bounce, and the physical build to finish through contact at the basket. Burries has nice handles, good footwork to make use of the pivot to get separation, and elite athleticism to rise up over most defenders on the jumper. He does a great job on the glass, plays with nice pace and control, and accelerates off the dribble quickly to get by his opponent. Burries scores in volume and is nearly impossible to defend when he heats up from the 3-point line, as options open up.
6’4 Jase Butler 2024 Branson (Ross CA)
Butler is coming off a great showing at the Tarkanian Classic and kept it rolling at the Classic at Damien, as he would lead his squad to the Consolation Game before falling short to Windward of Los Angeles. The Bulls opened up with eventual Platinum Division Champs, Roosevelt of Eastvale, in a thriller where Butler did all he could to help lift his team over the Mustangs. He would go for 25 points connecting on 3 threes in the process, scoring 16 of those points after halftime before falling 68 to 64. Butler led the Bulls with 19 points in the Consolation Semifinal win over Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, as he would come in clutch from the line down the stretch going 5 of 6 on free throws in the fourth quarter. The Illinois commit has great court vision, keeps the ball on a string, has the size to see over most perimeter defenders, does a solid job on the boards to push the ball up the court, and is a versatile defender capable of guarding the 1 through 3 positions effectively. Butler has the handles and moves to create off the dribble, is an efficient 3-level scorer, has the physicality to finish through traffic in the lane, and the footwork and body control to hit tough jumpers when attacking the defense.
6’5 Liam Campbell 2024 Owyhee (Meridian ID)
The USC commit played more the facilitator in Owyhee’s opening round win over La Mirada and finished with 12 points, as the Storm had five players score in double-digits. After a very quiet one-point first half against eventual Platinum Division champs Roosevelt of Eastvale, Campbell went off in the 2nd half, scoring 20 of his game-high 21 points. The Storm trailed by twenty points nearly midway through the fourth quarter before Campbell put on a scoring clinic to pull within a single possession before falling to the Mustangs 71 ton 66. Campbell gets downhill, makes good use of the spin move to evade his defender, and gets to his shot spots where his jumper is tough to defend from the mid-range to the 3-point line. Campbell has solid court vision to make plays when on the attack, has the physical build to bully through contact down the lane, and moves well off the ball to get free for catch and shoot opportunities. Makes big shots in key moments of games and has range with the 3-ball.
6’4 Xavier Clinton 2024 Damien (La Verne CA)
Clinton had one of the more impressive weeks of play for the host team, as he would go for 20 points in the opening game win over Sunnyslope of Arizona, all of his points coming in the 2nd half. The following night in the quarterfinals, Clinton was a one man wrecking crew as he led all scorers with 25 points and a win over one of NorCal’s top teams in De La Salle of Concord. Clinton was lights out from beyond the arc, as he would connect on 10 threes in the Spartans first two games of the event. Clinton moves well off the ball, gets to the open spot, and has a quick release on his jumper to get his shot off over extended arms. Clinton has good handles, shifty moves to create separation from his defender, and is accurate from the mid-range to the 3-point line off the dribble. Volume scorer that shoots the three with supreme confidence and length to rise up over smaller defenders.
6’4 Tiger Cuff 2025 American Fork (UT)
Cuff made a splash on the national scene back in October at the Border League in Las Vegas, where he put on a dazzling performance in a close loss to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. Cuff was just as impressive at the Classic at Damien in the top division against some of the Western regions top teams and players. In a tough loss to eventual Platinum Division runner-up St. John Bosco, 69 to 62, Cuff would display his ability to impact the game in various ways with an impressive stat line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Cuff has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, can create his own shots off the bounce, moves well off the ball to get open catch and shoot opportunities, and does a solid job on the glass allowing him to push the pace of play. Cuff plays with great pace and control, does not get rattled when pressured, has the court vision and floor awareness to find open teammates when surveying the floor, and makes quality decisions coming off screens to pick the defense apart. Cuff is a knock down 3-point shooter, which opens up the court and allows him to attack the basket and be a playmaker.
7’ Nate Garcia 2025 Damien (La Verne CA)
Garcia was a walking double-double through the first two rounds of play for the Spartans. Garcia was a force in the post against Sunnyslope of Arizona, as he would go for 22 points and 15 rebounds in the overtime thriller to advance to the quarterfinals of the championship bracket. In a low scoring affair against De La Salle of Concord, despite being in foul trouble early, Garcia would finish with 10 points and 11 rebounds, as the other Spartans had no answer for him down the stretch. Garcia has nice touch around the basket, the footwork to play with his back to the basket, and is a high-level rim protector. Garcia has the frame and height to score through contact around the basket and is a good free throw shooter, as he draws fouls often and gets to the stripe. Garcia provides the size needed for the Spartans to make a run at an Open Division spot, as he is surrounded by good shooting and perimeter players.
6’1 Gavin Hightower 2025 Windward (Los Angeles CA)
Hightower has been in the driver seat for the Wildcats since his freshman year and he continues to elevate his level of play, as was evident at the Classic at Damien. Hightower had a sensational second half in the opening round against Salesian of Richmond scoring 16 of his game-high 20 points after intermission in a tough 70 to 66 loss. Hightower had another sensational game in a Consolation semifinal win over Clovis North of Fresno with a team-high 25 points. Hightower keeps the ball on a string, has the moves to weave through the defense, is able to create off the dribble and generate space from his defender, and is capable of connecting on tough mid-range shots through contact. Hightower has nice touch on the floater, is a creative finisher around the basket, and is effective with the 3-ball. Defensively, Hightower is a tough on-ball defender, has active hands to rip the ball from his opponent, and turns defense to offense routinely.
6’3 Aaron Hunkin-Claytor 2024 Salesian College Prep (Richmond CA)
Claytor had his lead guard skills on display in the Pride’s opening round win over a tough Winward squad, as he would score 11 points and ensured that the offensive schemes were set-up and executed. Claytor does not force the issue as a scorer and orchestrates the offensive system, but against Centennial Corona in the quarterfinals, Claytor sensed his team needed him to be more aggressive as a scorer, which is what he did to lift his team over the Huskies. Although I did not stat the game, I did watch it live and, after falling behind by double-digits in the third quarter, Claytor flipped the switch. He hit on multiple threes, off the dribble and the catch and shoot, attacked the basket to get a few and one opportunities, and hit some high-level mid-range jumpers to help his team claw back and get the win. Claytor has great court vision, keeps the ball on a string, constantly surveys the floor to make the right play, and plays with good pace and control. He has the moves to create off the dribble, and is capable of scoring from 3-levels. Solid on-ball defender that can guard the 1 through 3 positions effectively.
6’1 Isaiah Johnson 2025 Campbell Hall (North Hollywood CA)
Johnson has had an impressive last 3 months and has been a key scoring contributor for the Vikings against some high level competition. The past few weeks Johnson has shown that he is more than a contributor and can be a leading scorer when the game calls for it. This was evident in Campbell Hall’s Consolation semifinal loss to Branson where Johnson would put up a game-high 24 points in the loss and showed his ability to score from 3-levels and draw fouls to get to the line with frequency. Johnson has shifty moves to break down his defender, makes good use of the hesitation and change of direction to get his opponent off balance, and has a nice burst of speed off the dribble to attack the basket. Johnson moves well off the ball to get open for catch and shoot looks, good court vision to find open teammates on the attack, and active hands to generate turnovers on the perimeter. Capable of making tough shots off the bounce and has good body control to finish through contact from the mid-range to the basket.
6’1 John Mattingly 2026 Sunnyslope (Phoenix AZ)
Mattingly has led the Vikings in scoring this season but got off to a slow start in the opening round game against host team Damien with 4 points at the break. Mattingly went bonkers in the 2nd half as he scored 27 of his 31 points after intermission and connected on 5 threes to get the game into overtime before falling short by a score of 80 to 75. Mattingly has great off ball movement, gets to the open spot for catch and shoot opportunities, and is a lights out shooter from the perimeter. Mattingly has solid handles, the moves to create space from his opponent, and is a 3-level scorer. Mattingly has a strong build, attacks down hill, and is able to finish through contact at the basket, where he frequently draws fouls and gets to the line. Volume scorer that plays with a relentless motor.
6’4 Bradon McCoy Jr. 2026 St. John Bosco (Bellflower CA)
The highest ranked prospect at the Classic at Damien and a player that does things on the basketball court that can leave you speechless is Brandon McCoy Jr., and he did not disappoint in the Braves run to the title game. In the Braves opening round game against Clovis North of Fresno, McCoy had an stellar showing with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks as St. John Bosco would stretch the lead in the fourth quarter to a 80 to 60 win. In a hard fought quarterfinal win over American Fork of Utah, McCoy would score 18 points and snag 4 steals in the process which led to some crowd pleasing transition dunks. McCoy has solid court vision, the size and poise to make passes in tight windows to open teammates, and a great burst of speed, combined with length, to get by his initial defender and open up options. McCoy can create off the perimeter, gets nice lift on his jumper, and is effective with the 3-ball but is at his best as a scorer when seeking the mid-range pull-up. McCoy is an elite athlete with superior bounce that leads him to go at the rim when attacking the basket or catching lobs off screens in the half court setting. What makes McCoy such a dynamic prospect is his elite play on defense, with the length and hops to defend bigger players in the post, the wingspan and lateral quickness to stay in front of perimeter players, and the timing to jump passing lanes to get out in the open court. There are a lot of talented players in the country but McCoy is one that I can watch time and again, as he does things on the court that cannot be taught.
6’5 Gene Roebuck 2027 La Mirada (CA)
One of the most impressive players of the entire event was freshman sensation Gene Roebuck, who scored a combined 78 points in the Matadores first 2 games. Roebuck was sensational in La Mirada’s opening round loss to Owyhee of Idaho, as he would come out firing with 11 points in the opening frame. After a quiet 2nd quarter, he erupted for 23 second half points to help keep his squad within striking distance down the stretch. Roebuck finished with a game-high 34 points and scored in a variety of ways and was hunting the mid-range jumper play after play, as he only had one 3-ball in the game. He followed this performance up with a 44-point showing in a loss to Branson, a game I was not in person to see. Roebuck has good handles, the moves to create separation from his defender, great footwork and body control to make tough shots off balance or fading away, and has the physicality to score through contact around the basket. Roebuck plays with nice pace, makes good use of the hesitation, and gets good lift on the stop and pop jumper. Great feel for the game and really like how Roebuck does not shy away from contact when looking to score the rock.
6’1 Issac Williamson 2025 Roosevelt (Eastvale CA)
Big shot after big shot epitomized Williamson’s play at the Classic at Damien, as he seemed to connect on threes in key moments of multiple games, including the championship game that the Mustangs won over one of the state’s top teams in St. John Bosco of Bellflower. Williamson had 17 points in the overtime win over Branson and connected on 3 threes in the process. He would lead the Mustangs in scoring in the quarterfinal win over Owyhee of Idaho, scoring 19 points adding another 3 threes in the win. Williamson has solid handles, good moves to shake his defender and create space, accurate jumper off the bounce, and makes good use of his frame to finish through traffic in the paint. Williamson moves well off the ball, gets to the open spot, and has a quick release on the jumper with confidence and accuracy from beyond the arc. Solid on-ball defender that generates turnovers that allow the Mustangs to get out and run.