I’m far from a veteran, but it’s been eight years since I decided to get entrenched in the grassroots scene and more notably in Texas. One of the main things I’ve realized is that a week can go by and the amount of roster movement, recruitment changes, stock risers and just overall changes equal to the amount of mail you receive if you don’t check your mailbox for a month.
In this article, I’ll try to recap the past 40 days in regards to what’s happening in the Lonestar state at the grassroots level. Wish me luck…
2023 Stock Risers
Between both April Live Periods and Buff’s “Who Want The Smoke” event, several players have helped with their stock since the first weekend in April.
The clear cut number one is Gehrig Normand (Birdville HS/3D Empire) who has really blown up. An athletic guard that packs a big scoring punch. Off the dribble scoring, finishing above the rim vs. length, Gehrig has been one of the most consistent performers this spring. Since Kellen Buffington’s “Who Wants The Smoke” showcase in May, Normand has received offers from Texas, Kansas State, Wyoming, SMU, Xavier, Missouri and Tennessee.
The first live period session was a coming out party of sorts for Zayden High (6’9 PF, AZ Compass/JL3). Averaged 22pts 6rebs and 66% from the field. High has grown three inches in the past year and has developed a dependable three point shot with extended range. Along with being able to space the floor, Zayden can attack and score from the top of the key, is a capable rebounder out of his area and has good passer feel. He does need to play through contact better but I’ve have seen moments where I believe he can get there eventually. Has received offers from Wake Forest, TCU, Texas Tech, Alabama, Creighton, Oklahoma, Michigan & Texas in the past month and a half.
Houston Hoops teammates Jace Posey (6’4 SG, Strake Jesuit) & Jojo Tugler (6’7 PF, Cy Falls) have been very impressive, continuing off of a strong scholastic year. Jace is a hardworking guard that is a strong individual defender. Shooting has improved, now showing confidence in making open threes but his bread and butter is getting to the basket and finishing. Fantastic in transition, showcasing big-time vertical pop (side note: broke 6A High Jump record this year) and with quick first step, can blow by defenders and get paint touches. Holds offers from TCU, Texas A&M & Vanderbilt. Tugler is someone you just want on your team. Rebounds at a high rate, has legit interior presence on the defensive end and you don’t have to draw a play for him to get a basket. Love his mix of toughness, motor, soft hands and emerging offensive game. Houston, TCU & Kansas State have offered in the past month.
Jamari McDowell (6’5 Guard, Manvel HS/Houston Defenders) rounds out my 40 day 2023 stock risers. His scoring prowess stands out as he is a fearless shot-taker that utilizes length to get clean shots over bigger defenders. Although known for scoring, I do like the progressions Jamari has made as a playmaker. Game is slowing down more for him and he’s opening his vision to see guys open when the defense gravitates to him. Recently has received offers from Minnesota, Loyola Chicago & Marquette.
2023 Standout Notables:
One of the top players in the 2023 class, Ronald Holland (6’8 SF/PF, Duncanville HS/Drive Nation) released his top 8 which consisted of UCLA, Houston, Memphis, Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas and the NBA G-League Ignite. Ron wants to play for a winner and all of his college options were Top 25 programs at some point during the season and they all made it to the tournament. I’ve have heard proximity could potentially play a role but not enough if he feels the best fit is further out. For example, Ron recently took an official visit to UCLA in which I heard it went very well. Word of the G-League having sights on Ron came during last summer and rumblings got a little louder during the fall. Still wide open for Ron though, and whichever program he decides on will be getting a wiry, agile 3-man that has noticeably improved his skill-set year after year. Also he’s young for his class too. He may not have had the most ideal spring/summer string of performances but talent is undoubtedly there and I believe he will get back to his normal groove shortly.
‘23 Jakobe Walter (6’5 Guard, Link Year Academy/Team Trae Young) released his top 8 on April 5. UCLA, Auburn, Seton Hall, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas & Alabama made the list. The word is Baylor is in the lead and have had the lead for some time but Texas has been coming in very heavy along with Auburn, Alabama & Kansas. A 3-level scoring guard that plays with great balance, Walter utilizes his large frame and length to create separation off the bounce vs. translatable size and athleticism.
With the current climate of college recruiting, we are seeing more prospects get off the board before the summer’s end. Heck, even before the summer starts. Even mid-major programs are getting early commitments. Anyways, a very under the radar pick-up was from Texas State with 2023 Kaden Gumbs (6’2 PG, San Marcos HS/JL3). A pure PG that is a high-level processor of the game and has a great balance of scoring and facilitating. Kaden knows how to run a team and I like his ability to operate in pick-n-roll but also create with space and generate his own look.
2023 Chris Johnson (6’5 CG, Montverde Academy/JL3) oozes with talent and upside. An athletic guard that can score it in various ways but also has promise as a legit playmaker. The word is Arkansas and Kansas are in the lead for Chris’ services. His recruitment is still wide open though and I wouldn’t count out a program or programs to come in and make a hard push this summer.
Leaving the Lone Star State
I hear many times that Texas is a hotbed consisting of recruitable talent….. but that isn’t solely the case for just college basketball programs to recruit though. Prep schools recruit out here too and in the past 40 days we have seen five division one prospects announce they will be attending schools out of the state next scholastic season. 2023 Zayden High will attend Arizona Compass, who was a 6th seed at the Geico Nationals this year. 2022 Vanderbilt signee Colin Smith transferred there last year prior to being at St. Marks. Chris Johnson will attend Montverde, who won the Geico National Title. They have prior experience recruiting in the Lonestar State. 2024 Amier Ali came from Spring Creek Academy in Plano and the most noticeable one is Cade Cunningham, who was at Arlington Bowie prior to heading to Florida. Cade was the 2021 NBA Draft #1 pick going to the Detroit Pistons. Ja’kobe Walters decided he will go to Geico Nationals runner-up Link Year Academy, who, in this past season had McDonald’s All-American and Arkansas signee Jordan Walsh, who attended Faith Family for the first three years of high school.
The last two have announced this past week they will be attending South California Academy. 2024 Micah Robinson (Formerly at Greenhill) and 2023 Gabe Warren (formerly at John Paul II). SCA is no stranger in Texas, as Jordan Walsh actually attended SCA for a short period prior to going to Link Year. Also, Ole Miss signee Amaree Abrams transferred there last year from Humble Summer Creek.
2022 high school availables aren’t the first choice for the majority of D1 schools right now but there are still several available with a translatable skill-set. Like Jackson Fields of Fort Bend Ekins/Houston Superstars. A 6’8 forward that plays with a continuous motor, Fields is athletic, strong and with the upside of becoming a true wing down the road. He went on a visit to Tarleton State at the end of the month of April, as TCU and SMU have reached out.
I’ve also been impressed with Trae Clayton (6’4 SF, Kimball HS/Team Super Session). A 3-man that utilizes a mix of athleticism, motor, footwork and ambidextrous finishing touch to impact games. Maybe ‘undersized’ for his position but I have seen several players of his prototype that have success at the next level. UMBC and several JUCOS have reached out.
Another one that really got his stock up was Daylon Dickerson (Kaufman HS/Team Super Session). A 6’6 wing that gets a lot done on both ends. Rebounds in traffic, can beat his man off the dribble with quick first step but also has wiggle with handle. UMBC, La Tech and many JUCOS have reached out.
Drive Nation 15U is loaded with talent. Starring for that group are actually teammates at high school for Denton Guyer in Jordan Lowery and Jeremiah Green. Lowery is a 6’1 PG that does a fantastic job getting downhill and putting constant pressure on the defense. Speaking of defense, he is a plus on that end, playing with physicality and disrupting the point of attack. Green is a problem on the offensive end. Strong with good length to him. Plays with a low center of gravity and that allows him to get by guys and play through contact. He’s shifty off the bounce with an advance stop and pop game. Green is the best player currently in his class in Texas. Arguably the best big in that class in Texas is Jaden Toombs (6’9 C, Dynamic Prep/Drive Nation) who holds it down in the paint for that Drive Nation 15U group. Toombs excels with his back to the basket, scoring with either hand and using broad frame to create space. Has nice shooting touch from 15 feet out and has good timing on blocking/altering shots.
Speaking of promising front-line guys, Alejandro Avilez (6’7 PF, PSAT Prep/Liv On 15U) is one of them. A traditional post that has terrific footwork with his back to the basket and can face-up and score also. Not the most explosive of athletes, Avilez has a high IQ for the game and understands angles, reads cutters and knows how to navigate in tight spaces.
A guard prospect that’s currently playing 17U for Crab5 is Trent Payne out of Allen High School. An athletic PG that changes speeds well, holds an explosive first step and can finish vs. length and contact due to his muscular frame. Payne has the ability of becoming a higher-end Division 1 talent when it’s all said and done if he can continually keep putting the pieces together.
Speaking of playing up, BJ Davis (6’6 Wing, Lake Highlands/Team Griffin 16U) has more than held his own playing up a grade level. He’s really one of the go-to guys. A do-it-all perimeter prospect that really plays with his length. One of the best switchable defenders I believe in that class, using lateral mobility, athleticism and length to guard 3-4 different positions. Offensively, has a stable handle, able to grab rebounds, push and make a play on the ball, showing capabilities as a shooter off the catch and a finesse and knows how to maneuver vs length on finishes.
Everytime I see rising sophomore wing Hudson Greer (6’6 Wing, Lake Travis/Southern Assault 15U) I come away more impressed than the last time. He’s athletic, plays hard, has high activity level away from the ball, can make shots from the perimeter as well as put the ball on the floor and finish. Will be a priority for high major coaches when the time comes. His teammate at Southern Assault, Kayden Edwards (6’2 SG, Duncanville HS) is a player as well! Southpaw with a knack for scoring the ball. More of a volume shooter at this stage but when Edwards is hot, there aren’t many people that can stop him from getting a basket
I’ve had the luxury to watch a good amount of 2024 teams this spring and some have shown to be making noticeable strides in their game. First one I want to highlight is the number one player in Texas for ‘24 and that’s Tre Johnson (6’6 SG, Lake Highlands/Team Griffin 17U). A prolific scorer that will continue to see his name high on the rankings list. Equipped with plus length, athleticism and he doesn’t need many dribbles to get a clean looking shot. Has great balance, plays at his own pace as he’s arguably the best 1 on1 scorer in Texas regardless of class…. He makes a case!
Let’s continue with the recap with Chance Puryear (6’5 Wing, Dallas Carter/Southern Assault 16U) who recently received an offer from St. Louis. Always known for his athleticism but is becoming more of a basketball player. Yes his motor, defensive versatility combined with his athleticism allows him to impact games, but the handle and the ability to make reads have improved also. High upside with this kid and I believe will continue to get better. One that is flying under the radar in the 2024 class is Trap Johnson (6’5 Wing, Belton HS/Texas Impact 16U). A skilled shooter with a broad frame, Trap can make shots on the move and can attack a closeout to get into pull-up game. His brother TJ is a 2022 signee at Lipscomb. Trap is undoubtedly a top 25 player in his class in Texas. We talked about Micah Robinson plans on leaving the state for school next season, but lets talk about how well he has played on the 17U team for Southern Assault. At 6’7 with a strong built frame, Micah hasn’t really needed to adjust much to the physicality that the 17U play brings. Active on the glass, attacks off the dribble, embracing contact and initiating to create space but also will post-up smaller players when he notices mismatch is present. Holds offers from Kansas, Ole Miss, SMU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech & Kansas State.
When I first entered the gym and saw Kual Atack (6’8 PF/SF, Haltom City/3D Empire) he stands out with his height and long arms. Then when I saw the way he moves, I found myself a seat. A skilled forward that has a very high ceiling. Agile, shoots threes, is skilled with his mid-post game and uses his length to tip passes and garner rebounds. He’s skinny and he’s definitely not a finished product, but I can definitely see what he will become. Mother is reportedly 6’7, has uncles that are 7foot plus and Kual looks like he is nowhere close to being done growing. One to keep tabs on. Syracuse and TCU have inquired.
Some backcourt players I wanted to highlight are Divine Ugo (6’4 CG, FB Clements/Houston Hoops 16U), Justin Begg (5’10 PG, Epischopal/Houston Hoops 16U), Tres Luzey (6’1 SG, John Cooper/Houston Raptors) and last but definitely not least Zion Pipkins (6’2 CG, Westfield/Cooz Elite)
Ugo is a smooth guard that plays at his own pace and is very effective. He diagnosis plays well and knows how to attack. A fluid mid-range shooter off the dribble that has a high passer feel. Begg, after coming off a SPC State Title run for Epischopal, has played well this spring. A guard that shoots it with range but is fearless. A competitor that just finds ways to help his team win. Tres Luzey had a coming out party this month and received an offer from Lamar. A 2-guard with fine positional size, with the ability to really shoot it. Can run him off screens, gets his feet set and can launch on the move and fantastic off the catch. Luzey did himself a lot of good. Zion Pipkins has been very impressive each outing I’ve witnessed. A strong body guard that has a quick trigger and extended range from three. Not flashy with his approach but productive nonetheless and once you see the boxscore you’ll agree. He was primarily just an off guard when I first was tracking him but I have seen him improve when becoming the primary ball handler and having to run a team.
Speaking of upside, guard Jalen Shelley (6’7 guard, Frisco Lonestar/Nike Proskills) has a lot of tools. With his size and guard skills, Shelley can be as good as he wants to be. Has some ways to go in regards to consistency with motor which is fairly normal for a kid his age but the games when the light-bulb stays on, he looks like a 5 star prospect. Same can be said for Dink Pate (6’7 CG, Pinkston/Trae Young 17U), who, after a tough second half of the school season and a rougher start of the grassroots season, has shown bounce-back and the light-bulb seems to be staying on. His size, skill and natural feel for the game pops out immediately. Creates space off of hang-dribbles and hesitation dribbles and rises up for jumpers but he’s becoming more of just a scorer, but also a facilitator that is having a better understanding of putting teammates in position to score. The third that makes the trio of high upside, big-time positional perimeter prospects is Amir Ali (6’8 Wing, Montverde/Houston Hoops). After a very strong first live period session, Ali received an offer from Kentucky. Shot has improved, his ability to use his length to impact shots when closing out but also extend past the out-reach of opposing defenders when looking to shoot, makes him a matchup problem.
In the front court, Pasadena Memorial/TJ Ford Elite forward Robert Miller is starting to come to his own and one of the best players in the class of 2024 in Texas. At 6’9, he’s athletic, has a good basketball body and is skilled. Holds an advanced handle for a kid his size & age, there’s real upside in the shooting and his motor has picked up since last summer. Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M & LSU have offered. Jaxson Ford (6’7 PF, Prosper/Team Griffin 16U) is very productive. Has a nose for the ball, rebounds out of his area and uses his large frame to play through contact and finish inside. A workhorse that plays with competitive edge.
‘24 Jaylen Washington – 5’9 PG – Lake Highlands/Texas Impact 16U: Pure pg that’s quick off the dribble. Gets paint touches, finds teammates with consistent finishes on floaters
‘24 Luke Coughran – 6’1 PG – Katy Tompkins/Liv on 16U: Crafty guard with improved handle. Better decision maker in pick n roll, shoots it with range from deep:
‘25 Devon Pearson – 6’6 SF – Lancaster/Urban DFW 15U: Lanky wing with plus motor. Thrives as a slasher and finisher. Father played at SMU.
‘24 Darkaun King – 6’7 PF – TACA/Houston Hoops 16U: A skilled forward with a big frame. King is a good passer, has a strong handle and knows how to use broad shoulders to carve space vs bigger, more athletic defenders and score.
‘25 Kash Polk – 6’8 SF/PF – Liberty Christian/Nike ProSkills 15U: Forward that provides floor spacing. Playing with more grit. I like his ability to shoot and utilization of length on both ends.
‘24 Trent Burns – 7’1 C – PSAT Prep/Houston Hoops 16U: Every bit of 7’1. Trent Burns has size, touch around the rim, good hands and long-term could be a reliable stretch big. Shot mechanics look clean, once he puts everything together could become a priority for high major programs.