HAMPTON, VA – The Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest attracted a sizeable contingent of DMV squads to the Boo Williams Sportsplex last weekend.
Here’s a look as some of the standouts:
ANTHONY WALKER, TEAM BBC 17U
The Perry Hall (Md.) 2019 product has emerged as one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2019 class, with his impressive blend of size (6-foot-9, 200 pounds) and athleticism earning him a nice collection of Division I offers.
Buffalo, Drexel, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, TCU, Towson, UNLV and Virginia Commonwealth are among the programs who have offered Walker.
“It’s just me working hard every day in the gym,” he said when asked what the key to his ascension has been. “It’s me putting my work in when people aren’t looking, and coming out and showing out when I can.”
After playing as a reserve in Perry Hall’s state championship run in 2016-17, Walker stepped into the starting lineup to help lead the Gators to a repeat. He credited the presence of two other Division I-bound starters in LaQuill Hardnett (Cincinnati) and Anthony Higgs (Undecided) with aiding his development.
“Yeah [they helped] a lot,” he said. “Competing with them every day in practice made me better and tougher, so I really appreciate them.”
With those two gone next year, Walker will be counted on to carry the bulk of the scoring load.
“I don’t know how to feel, but I just know I’ve got to step up,” he said. “Like, on this team I’m one of the leaders, so I’ve got to step up on my high school team as well.”
EARL TIMBERLAKE, TEAM LOADED VA 17U
Coming off a breakout season at DeMatha (Md.), Timberlake made the move from Team Takeover EYBL to Team Loaded this spring, and thus far it's been a smooth transition.
“It’s different,” he said, “but different is good, so I’m for it. They let me play and I’m really working on my weaknesses, which are staying under control and getting in between and making the mid-range shot. So it’s been good.”
The 6-foot-6, 216-pound Timberlake posted a game-high 15 points in a 63-48 win over Team Takeover Grey Saturday morning, showcasing a knack for finishing through contact and getting to the foul line.
“It’s going good right now, things are picking up,” he said of his recruitment. “Since I’ve got to Loaded I’ve picked up offers from Oklahoma State, Florida, Clemson and some others.”
Bryant (RI) was the latest program to offer Timberlake on Thursday. The school hired his former Rock Creek Christian (Md.) coach Chris Cole as an assistant this week.
ANWAR GILL, DC PREMIER UAA 17U
The Gonzaga (DC) 2019 guard has gotten a chance to showcase his offensive arsenal this spring, and it was on full display as he scored 26 points in a 70-60 win over Nova Village (OH). He had 19 in a 73-56 win over Erick Green Premier.
“Definitely, I have been waiting to unleash it,” he said of his offense. “I just want to show people that I’m a top scorer in the country from all three levels. I definitely think it’s an underrated part of my game. This spring I just had time to show it and it’s only going to get better from here.”
Gill attributed his play to finally being fully recovered from an injury that sidelined him early in the high school season. He broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot in a preseason scrimmage and missed a month and a half of the regular season.
“Now I feel like I am [healthy],” he said. “In high school I feel like I was about, like, 80 percent, but now I actually get time to work out and stuff. I just jumped right back into the fire from the injury in high school, but now I get time to work out, so that’s why my game looks good right now.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Gill currently holds offers from George Mason, James Madison, Robert Morris, Southern Utah, St. Bonaventure and Towson. Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh have shown recent interest.
MAKHI MITCHELL, DC PREMIER UAA 17U
Mitchell and his twin brother Makhel returned to Premier after a one-weekend cameo appearance with Team Melo EYBL, and made an immediate impact.
The Maryland commits are at Wilson (DC) after spending last season at Montverde (FL), and said the year away from home was beneficial.
“It helped my development by just losing some weight and learning how to play hard every possession, get every rebound and run to the rim every time,” Makhi Mitchell said. “Also for my brother, he’s losing weight as well and getting his body right before he goes out on the floor. And also just playing hard; I think that was the biggest key.”
Mitchell had 19 points in an opening game against Erick Green Premier and 11 in a win over Nova Village (OH). He said he wants to continue honing his all-around game in preparation for his final high school season before heading to College Park. He added that he and his brother felt it was important to wrap their recruitment up early.
“I was getting tired of it already and the big schools hadn’t even come yet,” he said. “My dream school was Maryland – me and my brother – and they’ve been recruiting me since eighth grade, so we just wanted to get it out the way. Everything else is good, though.”
MAKHEL MITCHELL, DC PREMIER UAA 17U
Mitchell is rounding back into shape after missing the bulk of the high school season with a foot injury that left him in a cast for two months and a walking boot for another.
“I’m just trying to expand my game more,” he said, “and I’m always trying to find something else to do instead of just sitting in the post and stuff. I was out at Montverde, so I was doing a lot in the weight room, so I’ve got to get that [conditioning] back and stuff.”
Mitchell said he’s currently 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds. He ran the floor well Saturday and looked good on both ends of the floor. Like his brother, he said he was glad to have his recruitment wrapped up so he could focus on the future.
“Yeah, ’cause the recruiting process is hard,” he said. “There’s two of us, so it was hard and we didn’t get all the offers we were going to get, but oh well. … We can look at the team and see what’s what and what we need to do, and where we need to be at when we get there and stuff like that. It’s good because we’ve got a good connection with them.”
JORDAN HAIRSTON, NEW WORLD 17U
Hairston picked up his first D-I offer from Boston University earlier this month, and - ever the consummate point guard - credited his team with helping him earn it.
“Each game we’re getting better and better as a team,” he said, “and we’re looking to just win everything and win a ‘chip and then go to the next place and win a ‘chip. So as we continue to progress, I’ll continue to progress, too.”
Humility aside, the 5-foot-10, 160 pound Westfield (Va.) guard has established himself as a legitimate D-I talent. He changes speeds well and sees the whole floor, and is a capable and willing defender. He carries his team’s scoring load during the high school season, and said being in that role has proven beneficial to his overall game.
“It helped me transform my game,” he said. “Last year I couldn’t shoot as well, and this year I can shoot better off the dribble. Really it just helped me, and now I’m going to try and help my teammates.”
ACE BALDWIN, TEAM BBC 17U
Baldwin solidified his standing as one of the area’s top 2020 prospects with a monster sophomore season at St. Frances (Md.) and has carried that momentum into this spring.
“On the high school level they pushed me to keep getting better,“ he said.
The 6-foot, 165 pound Baldwin has picked up offers from Connecticut, Drexel, East Carolina, Kansas State, Miami, Providence, Rhode Island, Rutgers, TCU, UNLV and VCU, among others. He’s a strong scorer but never seems to force the action, and consistently finds teammates in good spots.
RJ BLAKNEY, TEAM BBC 17U
Blakney made his Team BBC debut with 15 points in an 82-70 win over Team Wall Dreamville, showing his trademark athleticism.
“I’m still getting accustomed to it,” he said, “but all you’ve got to do is play hard and the game is easy, for real.”
Blakney opened the spring with Team Melo EYBL, and while joining a new team wasn’t his plan, it’s a move that should prove beneficial for him and Team BBC.
“Yeah, every decision is tough,” he said. “You have friends on that team that are like family, but at the end of the day you’ve got to make a business decision sometimes and it’s for the best.”
Blakney said his main goal for the summer is to improve his ball handling and play with intensity.
WOODY NEWTON, TEAM THRILL UAA 16U
The McKinley Tech (DC) standout enjoyed a breakout high school season, earning him recent scholarship offers from Maryland, Xavier and Virginia Tech. He entered the year with an offer from Kansas State.
“I think so far this spring and summer and during the high school season, I displayed my versatility on the court and showed that I could be a leader,” Newton said. “I felt as though that gave me more confidence than I already had to come out this AAU and spring season and keeps scoring, keep defending and just leading. Keep doing everything well and efficiently.”
At 6-foot-9 and 190 pounds, Newton has the ability to defend smaller guards in space, which he showed in a 64-60 loss to Team Loaded 757. On the offensive end he has improving touch from the perimeter and is tough to stop going to the rim.
“I think I’m a real versatile player,” he said. “I think I’m a matchup nightmare and I can do everything on the court, and no matter what I can get to my spots and score with ease.”
Newton said Louisville, Marquette and Oregon are among the most recent schools to reach out to him.
DELONNIE HUNT, DC PREMIER UAA 16U
Hunt helped his team stave off a spirited upset bid by Southern Maryland All-Stars, scoring the winning bucket in the third overtime of a 59-57 victory.
“It was a good team,” he said. “We kind of underestimated them, but when we came out we realized that they were ready to play and in that final three minutes it got a little hectic, so we had to battle it out as a team. It was a hard-fought game, and as it kept going and kept going we just kept playing.”
The third overtime used a format where the first team to score three points won. After Burke Smith put Premier on the board with a lay-up, Hunt followed with a crossover and driving layup to seal the deal.
“The play before, it was kind of open but I hesitated and didn’t go all the way,” he said. “So when the ball was dead my coach told me just attack all the way, and the lane opened up and I was able to elevate and finish right over the rim.”
The St. John’s (DC) 2020 guard served as a valuable reserve for the Cadets last year in a very talented backcourt rotation. He’s quick and gets into the lane in a flash, and does a nice job of finding open teammates or finishing from different angles. He said he also considered his pull-up jumper as one of his strengths.
Hunt said his biggest goal for the summer is just to improve overall as a point guard, and credited the nightly battles in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference with keeping him sharp.
“It helps me a lot ‘cause the competition’s always top notch,” he said. “And then you play those guys twice a year, so as they get better, you get better. The competition’s always top notch.”
TREMAINE CHESLEY, SOUTHERN MD ALL-STARS 16U
A 2020 guard from St. Charles (Md.), Chesley nearly carried his team to one of the weekend’s biggest upsets, finishing with 20 points in a 59-57 triple overtime loss to DC Premier UAA.
“I know they didn’t expect us to hang with them,” he said. “They looked at us as a random team they never heard about, but we still played hard and kept fighting.”
Chesley made big bucket after big bucket down the stretch, including a jumper in the final seconds of overtime to send the game to an extra period. He attacked the basket strong and defended well.
The 6-foot-3, 160-pounder said he’s working on improving his jumper and attracting more recruiting attention. Games like Saturday’s will definitely help, and Chesley said he felt he proved something despite the loss.
“Yes, I can keep my composure in tough games like that and not fold under pressure,” he said.
AMINU MOHAMMED, BOO WILLIAMS-CHIZ 16U
Mohammed continued his stellar play with 24 points and MVP Honors in the 63-61 16U Championship win over Team BBC.
The 6-foot-5 Mohammed is increasingly comfortable playing on the perimeter, displaying an improved shooting touch and nice handle. He was nearly unstoppable attacking the basket, showing the ability to finish above the rim and through contact.
The Archbishop Carroll (DC) 2021 star picked up a scholarship offer from Florida this week, and that should end of being the first of many this summer.
AMIR NESBITT, BOO WILLIAMS-CHIZ 16U
Nesbitt was strong all weekend but saved his best performance for last, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half of 63-61 win over Team BBC in the 16U Championship.
Nesbitt had a very strong first season at Virginia Academy, finishing as the Patriots’ leading scorer.
“It was real big,” he said of the high school season. “I got confidence in my dribbling skills and I, like, learned how to score better.”
The 6-foot-1, 170 pound Nesbitt is lethal with the ball in his hands, showcasing the ability to score efficiently at all three levels while also getting his teammates involved. He said he wants to get stronger attacking the basket, and has big plans for his Boo squad.
“We’re like, the underdogs,” he said. “ We don’t really have high recruits except for, like, Aminu, so we’re coming at everybody’s neck.”
WILL JEFFRESS, TEAM DURANT 16U
The 6-foot-7, 190-pound Jeffress stands outs the second he steps on the floor, and he’s got the game to match.
A highly-touted 2021 prospect from McDowell (Pa.), already has a college frame, and showed he can put the ball in the basket and get to the foul line. Despite hailing from further away than any of his teammates, he fit right in with them on and off the floor.
“It’s a well put together group,” he said. “I feel like we have a lot of chemistry together and we bond a lot. Going on the trips and just being with the guys has been a great experience.”
The biggest things Jeffress said he wants to work on are improving his ball handling and motor.
“ feel as thought this AAU season will help me build up to my next high school season,” he said, “and it will allow me to do a little bit better and improve, because that’s the name of the game – improvement.”
MICHAEL GRAY, TEAM THRILL UAA 16U
Gray poured in 25 points - hitting six 3-pointers - to keep Thrill within striking distance in a 64-60 loss to Team Loaded 757.
“I just tried to bring us back and get a win,” he said.
The 2020 guard was a standout on Lake Clifton’s Maryland Class 1A State Champion squad this past season, and is looking to hone his game and boost his recruiting stock as he prepares to lead a title defense.
“I’m just playing hard and seeing what level I’m going to be on and Just keep going,” he said.
DARRYL MACKEY, JR., TEAM TAKEOVER GREY 17U
Mackey opened the day with 10 points in a loss to Team Loaded VA and closed with 16 in a win over Higher Level. The West Potomac (Va.) 2019 standout has Division 2 and Division 3 interest, but is hoping to take his recruitment up a level.
“My main goals are to have a great summer, pick up some D1 offers and just really ball out and help my team and help my teammates,” he said. “Just be the best player I can be.”
At 6-foot, 170 pounds Mackey isn’t the biggest guard, but makes up for it with impressive explosiveness and toughness. His quick first step allowed him to get by defenders, and he showed good touch from the field.
“I love this group a lot,” he said of his TTO Grey squad. “They’re all from the area. I’ve played against a lot of the guys and I never really had an opportunity to play with guys that I knew, so it’s a big opportunity for me.”