Hoophall West: 5 Things We Learned

We evaluated all the games at Hoophall West in Scottsdale, Ariz. and these are the most prominent things we took away from the three-day event.

1. Perry Will Leave Us Wanting More

We didn’t start the Pumas in the preseason FAB 50 because Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) schools haven’t fared great on a national level lately and Perry is not playing in a national level tournament. We wish Perry would be playing in more national games, but regardless, it was a mistake to not slate the Pumas higher in the preseason than No. 11 in our West Region Top 20. There are few teams in the country that have a 1-2 punch like Perry’s Cody Williams and Koa Peat. Williams is a terrific all-around talent who can guard multiple positions at 6-foot-7. He can also initiate offense and has a dependable outside shot and is Colorado’s most highly regarded recruit since Chauncey Billips in the 1995 class. Peat is just too strong, big and athletic for nearly every high school player he’ll go up against at this point. Peat’s second jump and ability to finish the play quickly leaves even good defenders flat-footed and his face up game gets better every time we see him. Skill notwithstanding, Peat can also overpower defenders and gets to the front of the rim enough to put teams in quick foul trouble. Peat dominated the action (21 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, five blocks) in a 78-47 win over FAB 50 No. 24 Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) and is right in the conversation with fellow sophomores Cameron Boozer of Columbus (Miami, Fla) and Cooper Flagg of Montverde Academy (Fla.) as three of the best players in the country, regardless of class. It was interesting to see Cardinal Hayes jump out to a big lead over No. 6 Duncanville (Texas) before losing the night before, because Perry dominated the game from start to finish. Perry, which has two unsung talents in 6-foot-3 2023 Ben Egbo and 6-foot-5 2025 D’Andre Harrison, may not face a team as good as Cardinal Hayes (which already has three losses) the rest of the season. Perry is not participating in a holiday tournament and none of the three teams the Pumas will play at the VisitMesa Basketball Challenge are regionally-ranked. It remains to be seen how high Perry can climb in the FAB 50, but there is a good chance it will be unbeaten heading into the AIA open division state title game on March 4. Puma could certainly receive a rankings boost should it participate in the second annual State Champions Invitational, slated for April 6-8.

2. IMG Academy Will Be Terrific in 2023-24

During COVID-19, IMG Academy coach Sean McAloon was taking a year-by-year approach to building his teams because of the uncertainty. This year, his club has five underclassmen playing a major role that will be building blocks for next season. It starts with Bryson Tucker, the 6-foot-6 2024 who is the team’s best all-around player. Tucker does everything on the court well, is patient and assertive in his movements and hardly makes mistakes because he doesn’t get sped up. He has a legit chance to be a two-time high school All-American. Amier Ali, a 6-foot-7 2024, is a high major prospect with length and agility. Those traits make him a good defender and he’s also terrific in his second and third jump and is a willing passer. Khani Rooths, a 6-foot-7 2024 forward, is a good shot blocker and capable interior defender who can shoot the deep ball well. Highly-regarded Jamier Jones, a 6-foot-5 2025 wing who was a freshman All-American last season, didn’t play much in Phoenix because of injury but he’s another key cog who can make a difference at the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) level. IMG Academy, which came into the event No. 5 in the FAB 50, defeated No. 25 Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) on Friday, 68-62, as Tucker led the way with 24 points. On Saturday night, the one-loss club served notice it will be a major NIBC contender this season with a 67-61 victory over No. 1 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.), as Maryland-bound Jamie Kaiser Jr. had 18 points, Tucker had 16 and Ali had 13.

3. V.J. Edgecombe Is A Big-Time Player

The national and regional scouts in attendance obviously had a good read on the top prospects in Phoenix, but the one who turned heads the most from an evaluation standpoint was the 6-foot-5 junior (2024) from Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.). He’s not ranked in the national recruiting network services, but he plays like a Top 50 player in his class. The shooting guard is light on his feet, can cover ground and finish at a high major level. He is a capable shooter and uses his athleticism on both ends of the floor to make a few spectacular plays a game. Not only did he finish offensively at a high level, he also had a big-time at-the-rim block on IMG Academy’s Bryson Tucker that evoked images of Dwayne Wade. Edgecombe is originally from the Bahamas and moved to Florida in 2020 before settling in New York. Mississippi St. was the first D1 to offer, St John’s got on board this week and you can bet more schools will pull the trigger as the 2022-23 season wears on.

4. Not Coaching Taught Robert Smith Something

After 20 years at the helm of the Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) program, the veteran coach will be stepping down as one of the most successful coaches in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history at the end of this season. This team will get Smith over 500 career victories and the Wolverines are the early favorites to capture both the Chicago Public League (CPL) and IHSA titles, which would give Smith eight and seven, respectively. After Simeon’s 52-46 win over Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) on Saturday, Smith reflected on his time with the program and the great players and wins he’s had over the years. It was something else, however, that made him realize it was time. “During COVID-19, when we weren’t allowed to play and I have some time away, I learned I could do and enjoy other things,” Smith said. “I have a son in 6th grade and next year my daughter (who attends Butler College Prep) will be a senior and I have reached alot of my goals.” Smith replaced a coach he played for in high school (Bob Hambric) and his replacement will also be someone who played on his early teams. That is Tim Flowers, his current assistant and a 2007 graduate of Simeon, who will take over after teaming with former NBA MVP Derrick Rose in high school to lead Simeon to multiple state titles and playing with him on the Meanstreets Express travel ball team. Coach Smith feels Flowers has helped him get to where he’s at in his coaching career and is eager to return the favor after realizing Hambric could have stayed and won more state titles.

5. 2025 & 2026 Keeps Looking Better

If one listens to our “In The Paint” podcast, they’d know how pedestrian we think the 2023 class is nationally. From a prospect evaluation standpoint, it’s one of the weakest classes we’ve evaluated in the last 25 years. That doesn’t mean some players won’t emerge at the next level into NBA prospects. The class of 2024 is better, but it’s 2025 and 2026 that gets us excited. We’ve talked about the top of the 2025 class plenty with its elite players and we like what we’ve seen so far with 2026 and we’ll continue to evaluate that group. In the 2025 class, one name to add that could potentially be a Top 150 guy down the line is 6-foot 2025 Josh Dixon of Milton (Ga.). He’s a shot maker with speed, gets through tight spaces with a slick handle, and is a good pull up shooter, even from a dead sprint. Dixon, who sports a 3.9 GPA, had 19 points in a 55-53 win over Gray Collegiate Academy (S.C.) and went for 21 points and six rebounds in a 61-46 victory over Millennium (Goodyear, Ariz.). Two sons of well-known football players are names to watch in the 2026 class. Daylen Sharper, the son of former 2000s All-Decade safety Darren Sharper, is a 6-foot-3 physical guard who can handle the ball well. He gets downhill, as expected, because he’s also a big-time football prospect, but the Brophy Prep (Pheonix, Ariz.) does need to continue to tighten up the mechanics of his jumper. Zach White, a 6-foot-5 combo forward, is an important cog to the fortunes of FAB 50 No. 37 Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), which recorded an easy win over Brophy Prep. White, the son of former CAL All-American running back Russell White, has improved even since the fall. He has terrific hands, can mix it up on the boards against high level teams and runs the floor to clean up plays. The level of White’s recruitment will depend on his offensive development, but he’s off to a terrific start in a loaded California 2026 class. Another freshman who turned heads even though his team (Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas) was disappointing in its 72-53 loss to Centennial (Corona, Calif.), is Jaxon Richardson. The 6-foot-5 wing is bouncy with live legs and his elite motor will take him far. He’s the younger brother of 2024 guard Jase Richardson and the son of former NBA forward Jason Richardson.
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


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