19th Edition of the Pangos All-American Camp is loaded with big men looking to knock Jalen Duren of Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) from his perch as the top interior player in the country. Many took their shot, but Duren went the distance and capped off the camp with Most Outstanding Player honors. Interior play was the big theme of the camp and that made the skilled guards and wings stand out.
Related: Stars Finish Strong at Pangos Camp
The chatter around basketball at all levels is how it’s not longer a big man’s game, but rather a skilled man’s game. While that may ring true, the big man can still change the complexion of a game, dictate its outcome and dominate in a setting such as the 2021 Pangos All-American Camp, an annual showcase evaluation affair that just completed its 19th edition.
Interior dominance was the theme of the event as the plethora of big men in attendance dominated game play with their lane clogging, shot blocking, and physicality. Most of the campers in attendance can easily dominate a high school or travel ball game by getting clean looks at will, but that certainly wasn’t the case at this camp, especially early on. There were plenty of rejected shots, plenty of contact and certainly not many high percentage field goals in the painted area.
Although the battles were fierce, 6-foot-10 Jalen Duren of FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy rejected any notion, literally and figuratively, that he wasn’t the top interior player, top overall player, or No. 1 player in the national 2022 class at this camp. He met all challenges head-on and came away as the camp’s leading rebounder and one of its top assist man (yes from the center position). The Pennsylvania native produced enough to join luminaries such as Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley, both potential No. 1 picks on the 2021 NBA Draft, as well as Harrison Barnes and John Wall as Pangos Camp Most Outstanding Player.
Duren, who led Montverde Academy to the most recent FAB 50 National title and competes for Team Final on the Nike EYBL grassroots circuit, had plenty of competition in the post and he was locked in from the beginning of camp until its conclusion. Even when Duren could of shut it down for the Cream of the Crop Top 30 all-star game at the camp’s conclusion because of a ginger knee, he gave it a go and contributed five early assists to set the tone for his team’s victory.
Duren has large, soft hands, is patient in letting plays develop in the post, knows how to pass out of the double team and can initiate the break by making the correct decisions in the open court. By no means is he a “stretch four”, but he doesn’t over-handle and doesn’t take many bad shots outside his range. Combine that with his physicality and NBA-ready body, it’s easy to see why he’s often compared to 1991 Mr. Basketball USA, FAB 5 legend and newly cemented NBA Hall of Famer Chris Webber. He certainly made a favorable impression among NBA scouts for the 29 teams credentialed for the event.
Duren was pushed plenty in this camp by post presences such as 6-foot-11 2023 Baye Fall of Lutheran (Denver, Col.), 7-foot-1 2022 Dereck Lively II of Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.), 6-foot-11 2022 Kel’el Ware of North Little Rock (Ark.), 6-foot-9 2022 Adem Bona of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), 7-foot 2022 Vince Iwuchukwu of La Lumiere School (La Porte, Ind.), 6-foot-9 2022 Ernest Udeh of Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.), 6-foot-9 2023 Jayden Hastings of Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) and 6-foot-10 2022 Lee Dort of Greenhill School (Addison, Texas). All those bigs, and a few others, all had their moments and perhaps even won a round versus Duren, but no one could deliver a knockout blow to take his crown.
Amongst the trees, who made the most favorable impression outside of Duren? As a long-term prospect, Lively definitely showed why he has a chance to one day be mentioned in the same breath as Duren with his shot-blocking ability, rim-running and coordination. He’s not the polished package yet, but he can get there one day soon. Among junior-to-be prospects (2023), Fall left no doubt he was the best of the lot and could match any of the 2022s with his fluidity, shot-blocking ability out of his area and motor. Baye brought it every camp game and closed strong with a MVP performance in the Cream of the Crop Top 30 game for the winning team.
When it came to motors, nobody in the camp could match Bona, who simply will do anything to help his team win a basketball game. In fact, when you disregard ball skills and just consider the skill of playing hard, nobody we’ve seen in recent memory plays harder in a high school or camp setting than this muscular power forward. His reckless abandon can sometimes get him a cheap foul or turnover, but his play is infectious and he brings a positive attitude to teammates while on the court or cheering on the bench. As he continues to polish his skill level, he will eventually be regarded as a consensus Top 10 national prospect.
At the beginning of camp, the wings and guards were having trouble adjusting to the length and the space-eating by the bigs. While the scoring wings and jump shooters weren’t the strength of the camp, they stepped up their production as the camp went on.
Overall the best of the lot was 6-foot-7 2022 Gradey Dick of Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.). He was a complimentary piece on the No. 2 team in the FAB 50 that featured graduated point guard Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) and Kendall Brown (Baylor), but that should show fans just show strong high school teams that belong to the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) are because the Kansas commit was one of the five best overall players in camp. It’s just another level than the vast majority of neighborhood high school basketball.
Dick had one of the best pure strokes of any camper, a good triple threat and square up, solid vision, explosive leaping ability and good defensive instincts. In an open camp setting such as Pangos, some scouts left with the feeling Dick can be in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Some of the other top scoring wings included 6-foot-8 2023 J.J. Taylor of Kenwood Academy (Chicago, Ill.), 6-foot-7 2022 Alex Karaban of New Hampton School (Hampton, N.H.), 6-foot-6 2022 Anthony Black of Coppell (Texas) and Black’s high school teammate, 6-foot-7 2022, Stanford-bound Ryan Agarwal.
The quality jump shooters in attendance included 6-foot-5 2022 Oziyah Sellers of Southern California Academy (Valencia, Calif.), 6-foot-4 2022 Chance Westry of Hillcrest Prep (Pheonix, Ariz.), 6-foot-4 2022 Collin Chandler of Farmington (Utah), 6-foot-4 2022 Zion Cruz of Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) and the Texas quartet of 6-foot-3 2022 Noah Shelby of Greenhill School (Addison, Texas), 6-foot-3 2023 Robert Jones Jr. of Ray Braswell (Aubrey, Texas), 6-foot-3 2022 Arterio Morris of Kimball (Dallas, Texas) and 6-foot-4 2022 Keyonte George of iSchool Academy (Lewisville, Texas).
Leading the lot of point guards was 6-foot-2 2022 Mark Armstrong of St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.). NBA scouts in attendance nodded their heads in “that makes sense” gestures when they found out he was going to play for Jay Wright at Villanova. Even though he was on one of the weaker camp teams, it simply didn’t matter; Armstrong made all the right reads, hit timely jumpers and was the most vertically explosive true lead guard in camp.
Richard Isaacs Jr. of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), a seasoned camp veteran who is 6-foot-2 and lining up his official visits as a 2022 prospect, also made a favorable impression with his passing, feel and shooting. The lead guard who got the most mileage out of his participation was 6-foot-2 2022 B.J. Edwards of Knoxville Catholic (Knoxville, Tenn.).
In our next report, we’ll wrap up the camp and give our breakdown of those who we saw for the first time who made favorable impressions.
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores