As an NBA Draft analyst, my primary focus is evaluating imminent draft prospects and determining if and how they fit into the professional basketball ecosystem. Throughout the basketball season, I can usually be found in college arenas taking in games, but I also make a concerted effort to get a head start on future drafts as well. So after aggressively traveling to college games during November, I attended high school events for the last couple of weeks. Most recently, I traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., for a couple of days at the City of Palms Classic. Subsequently, I saw a lot of intriguing prospects that I think could develop into NBA players. I'd like to share my impressions and thoughts on some of those prospects for Ballislife from an NBA scout's perspective:
Editor's Note: The City of Palms semifinal matchups are FAB 50 No. 1 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) vs. No. 12 Columbus (Miami, Fla.) and No. 10 Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) vs. No. 14 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.).
Elliot Cadeau, Link Academy (Branson, Mo.)
6-1 | 165 | Guard | Class of 2024
I first saw Elliot Cadeau at Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas, Nev., and thought he was great! He's certainly on the smaller side, which is a problem from an NBA standpoint on some level or another, and he's on the older side in age for his grade. (He's already 18 years old). However, aside from those things, there's not much else not to like about Cadeau: he's quick, explosive, has a high basketball IQ, seems mature and composed, and is just a terrific floor general overall. In the game I watched, he scored 12 points on 6-12 shooting and impressively dished out 9 assists while only turning the ball over once.
Isaiah Collier, Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)
6-3 | 190 | Guard | Class of 2023
One would be remiss if they didn't point out Isaiah Collier's physical profile immediately. At 6-3 190 lbs., Collier is already built like a grown man. He's a physical guard, especially at this early stage in his career. Collier is most effective with the ball in his hands and has a similar playing style as Russell Westbrook. He's constantly pushing the ball north and south and is assertive, trying to make plays -- he's hard to guard. And Collier also seems to be a natural passer and playmaker. From my viewpoint, his outside shooting appears to be sporadic and seems to be his swing skill. He'll be a high priority on my watch list for next season when he suits up for the USC Trojans.
Justin Edwards, Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)
6-7 | 180 | F | Class of 2023
The City of Palms Classic wasn't my first time seeing Edwards, but I have still been trying to gain a better grasp of him as a prospect. And considering he's one of the top-ranked prospects in the Class of 2023 and is committed to John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats, expectations have been high. However, when I evaluate prospects, especially in high school, I do my best to remove myself from the "hype" and form my own raw opinions. So regarding my evaluation of Edwards, first of all, his physical tools are impressive. His listed measurements of 6-7 and 180 lbs., are misleading because Edwards is big and long. As I project how he'll develop physically, I don't think he'll have any problem playing both forward spots. His game is predicated on slashing to the hole, with shooting from the perimeter being very much secondary. Edwards routinely uses his long wingspan and instincts to effectively make things happen on the defensive end, whether getting loose balls, rebounds, deflections, or blocks. I'm projecting Edwards to become a slashing hybrid forward that can be switchable on the defensive end. And I'm hoping he can develop into a reliable outside shooter because that will open up the game for him. At this point, I can see some resemblance to a young Thaddeus Young, who has had a terrific NBA career.
Boogie Fland, Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.)
6-3 | 165 | Guard | Class of 2024
Each time I watch Fland, I walk away even more excited about his future. He's only 16 years old, but he's already doing many great things on the court. His handles are tight as he has the ball on a string. He's a crafty scorer, creates off the dribble, and can finish effectively with both hands. Most impressively, though, he can shoot the ball with range and can make tough shots. Fland is currently being used as a combo guard, but long term, I project him to become a primary ball handler and on-ball creator. His combination of being a crafty creator and tough shot maker with range reminds me of a young Darius Garland. I'm excited about Fland's potential, but there's a lot of time between now and when I need to come to a conclusive evaluation. And he needs to take care of business. I'll certainly be tracking Fland closely.
Tre Johnson, Lake Highlands (Dallas, Texas)
6-5 | 180 | G | Class of 2024
Although I evaluate high school prospects, I'm not nearly as entrenched in the high school scouting and college recruiting scene as analysts that focus on that level as their primary responsibility. So I'm not quite sure how bold of a statement I'm about to make, but here we go: Tre Johnson is the top NBA prospect currently playing at the high school level. He has terrific positional size, can create for himself, has a bursty first step, and has a sweet stroke with range. All in all, Johnson is just a natural scorer. And although I think he's already an exceptional prospect, Johnson has a frame that can add functional strength and weight, and when he does, he will be an even bigger problem for opponents.
Karter Knox, Tampa Catholic (Tampa, Fla.)
6-6 | 205 | Class of 2024
A scoring wing with a sturdy build, Tampa Catholic's star player has moved up the ranks for a good reason. Knox possesses several elements that translate well and are immensely valuable: he shoots the ball with range, scores the ball going to the hole, and is very explosive -- he'll throw it down at the rim. As a result, Knox is a high priority for me to continue watching and keeping a pulse on his progression.
Ja'Kobe Walter, Link Academy (Brandon, Mo.)
6-5 | 180 | Class of 2023
I had a chance to spend some time with Walter this past summer at Damian Lillard's Formula Zero, so I went to the City of Palms Classic, already familiar with him and his game. At first glance, Walter doesn't have any specific skills that blow you away. For example, his handles and shooting mechanics are okay but not worth writing home about. But the more you watch him play, Walter's value becomes clear-cut. He has a motor that doesn't ever stop. He competed on every possession in the one game I watched in Florida. Due to his hard work and athleticism, he's an effective defender. Walter is also an effective slasher. He is a capable outside shooter, but it needs to be his primary focal point for development moving forward. I think there will be a direct correlation between his growth as an outside shooter and his long-term success. Regardless, one thing is sure: Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears are getting a true competitor next season that will do many little things to contribute to winning.