Three Things We Learned At HoopHall West!
National Grassroots Editor
Ronnie has evaluated basketball talent for 20 years and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports, ESPN and Ballislife. Ronnie compiles the FAB 50 National Team Rankings while serving as an account manager and consultant for grassroots event run by Ballislife and other companies, in addition to serving as a color commentator on high school broadcasts.
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We took in all four sessions of HoopHall West at Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and these are the main takeaways from the event. How high would Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) be in the FAB 50? Is there any more impactful player in the country than Prolific Prep’s Jalen Green? Has the media frenzy surrounding Sierra Canyon’s team reached the level of the 2003 FAB 50 national champ St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) team that LeBron James played on?
Jalen Green Just Might Be The Most Productive Player In The Country
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard put fourth the most spectacular individual performance of the event, as he netted 33 points, including 10-of-10 free throws, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in Prolific Prep’s 88-71 dismantling of Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.). And the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, as the Bruins trailed 71-45 before adding some garbage time points. It wasn’t so much Green’s scoring output, it was the fashion in which he scored and the timing of the shots, as they demoralized the opponent and showed to a national television audience who was the best player on the court. Green hit a 3-pointer at the first period buzzer and another field goal right before halftime. Green has always displayed the traits of a NBA guard, but it’s his body control and coordination that separates him from other elite high school players with similar athleticism. Green is now sprinting into his pull-up jump shot and getting tremendous lift on his jumper that gives him plenty of separation from even elite high school defenders. The added lift and on-the-move pull up has helped take his game up a notch as a senior. So is Green the best player in the country? One can make a compelling argument although the three major candidates for that title are quite different. He’s more explosive than OSU-bound Cade Cunningham of Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), who came in No. 2 in the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker behind USC-bound Evan Mobley of Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.) by five points (95-90). Green was a distant third (44 points), but he impacts high-level games just as much as the other two. We had a chance to evaluate Mobley twice more in Phoenix and in many instances, he’s reliant on teammates to get him the ball. For instance, Mobley had six points on three field goal attempts in the first half of the Eagles’ eventual 95-75 win over Rainier Beach (Seattle). Now, he did pick it up in the second half, finishing the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks, and he was the difference-maker in the Eagles’ 77-74 win over Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) with 22 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks but the point remains: as a post player he’s often reliant on others to get the ball. That’s not the case with Green and so far the results have been spectacular, as Green is averaging over 25 ppg for 12-0 Prolific Prep.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 6, 2019
Prolific Prep Would Be Highly Ranked In The FAB 50
Based on how easily Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) dismantled a talented Hillcrest (Phoenix, Ariz.) team, the Crew (the program’s nickname) would firmly be a Top 15 team in our FAB 50 rankings with the ability to move up. It wasn’t just the performance of Green, as Prolific Prep rebounds well, plays terrific interior defense and has plenty of scoring options. Fallou Cisse, a 6-foot-7 2021, can score in a variety of ways, can defend both forward positions and can start the break off the glass. Frank Anselem, a 6-foot-10 2021, is a terrific interior rebounder who can clear space or go rebound outside of his area. While Hillcrest Prep came into the game as the No. 3 ranked team in one national poll where its eligible, the Bruins didn’t play anywhere near that level on Thursday night before a national television audience. Considering Hillcrest Prep lost by a sizeable margin in fall league ball to the Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.) team that started No. 21 in the FAB 50 (and is currently unranked), the Bruins might have been in the 35-50 range of the FAB 50. Keep in mind, Prolific Prep played without two rotation players in Phoenix: starter and Rutgers-bound Mawot Mag (6-foot-7, 2020) and 6-foot-11 2022 Mouhamed Gueye, who was out with the flu. In case you’re wondering why Prolific Prep and Hillcrest Prep are not FAB 50 eligible, it’s because eligible programs must be recognized by a high school athletics governing body or be an associate member of a state association. Generally, that means independents must be allowed to play state association member programs in the state the independent program resides.
The Bronny James Experience Doesn’t Leave Fans Disappointed
Bronny James and his team at Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) had another overflow, sold-out crowd on hand as it continues to entertain curious fans around the country. Young fans filing in to Chaparral High School four hours before tip-off of the Sierra Canyon game told us “I can’t wait to see Bronny play.” Despite not being the team’s featured player or even a starter, the 6-foot-1 freshman guard gives fans their money’s worth because they just want to see him play and follow his growth as he looks to get from underneath the considerable shadow created by his famous father. James scored five points and added three rebounds in the Trailblazers’ 76-66 victory over FAB 50 No. 47 Millennium (Goodyear, Ariz.). Kentucky-bound B.J. Boston led the way to victory for the No. 6 team in the FAB 50 with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, which upped its record to 7-0. It will be fun for fans to see James’ growth over the course of his high school career, as he’s not some already peaked man-child or a kid without legitimate D1 skill. It would be interesting to see the hoopla surrounding Bronny if he was a JayVee player, or on the flip side, the consensus best player nationally in his class. Through the team’s first six games, Bronny was averaging 4.5 ppg. For some perspective on the situation, in four varsity seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s (Akron, Ohio), his father scored under 10 points once: an eight-point effort versus Maple Heights (Ohio) as a freshman in 1999-2000. In his first season for the Irish, LeBron James averaged 17 points and six rebounds for a team that finished 27-0 and No. 43 in the FAB 50. He scored 25 points in the state title game. In James’ four seasons, The Irish went 102-5 on the court with three state titles and four FAB 50 rankings, including the mythical FAB 50 crown as a senior in 2002-03. James didn’t quite have the national notoriety of his son as a freshman, but by the middle of his sophomore season, after a superlative performance against No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), it was apparent James was the most talented player in the country. And no, the interest and hype surrounding this Sierra Canyon team hasn’t quite reached the level of that ’03 SV-SM national title team. Bronny, of course, has three more seasons of high school basketball to go.
Final: #FAB50 No. 6 Sierra Canyon 76, No. 47 Millenium 66
BJ Boston with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 asts, 2 steals; Amari Bailey 18 pts, 5 assists of the spectacular type
— Ronnie Flores (@RonMFlores) December 8, 2019
More HoopHall West Tidbits
The three-day event was a nice platform for some breakout performances and sleepers to shine. The country’s most popular team and arguably the nation’s two best players were on display, but there definitely was other players who put their stamp on HoopHall West….Besides Jalen Green, the player that turned the most heads in the Prolific Prep-Hillcrest Prep game was Sadraque Nganga. The 6-foot-10 forward rates as one of the very best 2022 prospects in the West Region. Nganga has tons of natural talent, is a fluid athlete and can run the floor and finish well in stride. Nganga, who led the Bruins with 19 points in the loss, can handle the ball well for his size and has a solid stroke from the outside…Rainer Beach (Seattle) doesn’t have one of its vintage, FAB 50-level teams, but coach Mike Bethea has a bonafide sleeper on his roster in John Hart. The 6-foot-1 combo guard has a terrific body and could be a key national level JUCO recruit. He netted 26 points, including six 3-pointers, in the Vikings’ loss to Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.)….Even though he’s not a sleeper by any means, we have to give a shout out to Gonzaga-bound Julian Strawther of Liberty (Henderson, Nev.). The 6-foot-7 small forward set a HoopHall West single-game scoring record in a 88-74 victory over Apollo (Glendale, Ariz.), scoring 51 points on a variety of shots. He finished 19-of-29 from the field, including four 3-pointers, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals…Another breakout performance from an elite player came courtesy of Jaden Hardy of FAB 50 No. 40 Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) in a 95-60 win over Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.). The 2021 scoring point guard had 40 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. Less than 24 hours earlier, Hardy had 27 points in a 85-62 victory over Paradise Honors (Surprise, Ariz.).
FAB 50 Update: No. 1 IMG Academy Goes Down
The big news from other events around the country occurred at the DC Hoopfest in Maryland, as FAB 50 No. 1 IMG Academy (Brandenton, Fla.) fell to No. 4 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), 67-56. Paul VI was led to victory by Trevor Keels with 25 points and Duke-bound Jeremy Roach with 16 points. Keels nailed 5-of-12 3-pointers in the game, as Paul VI nailed 10 for the game, while IMG Academy shot 1-for-9 as a team from behind the line.
The next FAB 50 update will be on Monday, December 16.