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 through the first two days of the three-day event.

RELATED: Hoophall West Eval Standouts!

1.Boogie Fland Gives Major Kentucky Vibes

In a terrific game on Friday evening between two FAB 50 ranked teams and two elite players, it was another fine player who made the winning basket in a 53-50 buzzer-beating win for Boogie Fland's team from Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.), which came into the game ranked No. 14 in the FAB 50. Its opponent was No. 29 Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.), which is led by forward Koa Peat, one of the nation's best juniors whose team is playing a high-powered national schedule. The game went back and forth with both big guns making clutch plays, but it was Stepinac's Danny Carbuccia who hit the game-winning three-pointer right before the buzzer to give the visitors from New York a dramatic 53-50 victory in its first game of the season. Peat had a big block on Fland with 20.1 seconds to go in a possession that ended with a Fland miss in a tied game. Peat (12 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) looked to take the go-ahead field goal on Perry's final possession, but a held ball was called with seven seconds remaining to set up Carbuccia's shot that came after two quick passes to the left wing. It's safe to say without Fland, Stepinac wouldn't have been in position to win the game. The Kentucky commit and likely McDonald's All-American impressed media-types, scouts and fans in attendance with his darting moves and shot-making ability. It's fact, he moves and plays the game similarly to two former Big Blue Nation guards: Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers) and Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks) in terms of speed with the ball, step back shooting and ability to split defenders. He scored 14 points in the final period and finished with 27 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three steals. "Yes, we did talk about getting off on the right foot for the season and we reminded them at halftime," Stepinac coach Patrick Massaroni said. "We couldn't have played a worse first half." Stepinac will try to keep up the momentum when it faces regionally-ranked Centennial (Corona, Calif.) in a Saturday afternoon matchup. Perry (4-1) will look to rebound vs. FAB 50 No. 12 Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.).

2. Wasatch Academy Is A Big EYBLS Factor

The Tigers began the season No. 23 in the preseason FAB 50, but so far they look like a realistic threat to finish in second place in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball Scholastic League (EYBL Scholastic). The Tigers will be hard pressed to beat No. 1 Montverde Academy in the league standings, but finishing in second place is realistic. After all, the Tigers lost to the Eagles, 88-53, in Utah on Nov. 20 and Montverde Academy crushed the Columbus (Miami, Fla.) team by 28 points, 89-61, on Friday evening that Wasatch Academy beat by two points (75-73). Coach Paul Peterson's club, currently ranked No. 6 nationally one spot in front of Columbus, has good pieces surrounding the high-powered backcourt of Ohio State-bound guard John Mobley Jr. and top-notch junior shooting guard Isiah Harwell. Bham Buom, a 6-foot-7 senior from Lincoln, Neb., by the way of Ghana, and 6-foot-9 junior Augustine Ekwe, a native of Nigeria, have stepped up big for the Tigers so far this season. Buom is a stringy forward who can face up with a nice handle or play inside with good instinct around the basket. He's likely going to have to go the JUCO route, but he's still a terrific long-term prospect. Ekwe is light on his feet and is a good rebounder. His production has been necessary as Wasatch Academy deals with the ACL injury loss of Malick Diallo, a TCU-bound 6-foor-10 center who played well at Border League in October but is lost for the season. Buom hit 3-of-4 3-pointers and finished with 16 points while, Mobley hit three timely 3-pointers and had 22 points in the Tigers' 71-63 victory over No. 15 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.). "Buom and Ekwe are coming on strong and overall yes, they have been a a pleasant surprise."

3. Kaden House Is A Big-Time Player

The 6-foot-3 sophomore (2026) scoring guard is a bullish talent who incorporates some of his brother's game (New Mexico's Jaelen House) and his father's (former NBA guard Eddie House). Kaden can sprint with the ball, change direction and stop on a dime like his brother, but also has some of the scoring acumen of his father, who was the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2000 at Arizona State and is still ASU's all-time scoring leader (2,044 points). He's not the catch-n-shoot player his father was, but the current Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) standout can score in a variety of ways off the dribble and has the innate ability to slide past defenders with a quick first step or a series of euro steps. He's not quite the on-ball defender his brother was at the same stage (after all, Jaelen had 591 career steals at Shadow Mountain in Phoenix) but he is more than capable and is a big play-maker on both sides of the ball. He put up 35 points, four assists, three blocks and five steals in the Wolves' 83-81 overtime victory over Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.) on Thursday evening. Desert Mountain at one point led by 20 points (34-14) in the second quarter, but didn't take care of the ball. Once House (eight turnovers) and his teammates learn to value possessions, this team will be a tough out in the AIA playoffs. Keep in mind, his twin brother, 6-foot-2 sophomore Kalek House (19 points), is not too far behind as a prospect and the Wolves also start two freshmen: 6-foot Jabron Bardwell and 6-foot-3 Javon Bardwell. Jabron has fast hands on defense, while Javon has a nice change of pace to his game and a fearless approach.

4. Sunnyslope Will Be Dynamite in 2024-25

In the early season Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) game of the year, Sunnyslope (Phoenix) was seemingly in control versus Millennium (Phoenix) in a matchup of regionally ranked teams and two of the AIA's three best clubs. The Vikings led by 13 points with 4:28 to go in the third period and by nine points (49-40) with four minutes remaining, but a series of poor possessions and sloppy ball-handling allowed Millennium to storm back, tying the game with a steal and 3-pointer by CSUN-bound guard Sabien Cain with 15.3 seconds remaining. Even though Sunnyslope eventually lost the game, 65-62, in overtime, coach Ray Portela's club shows alot of promise for the future. Delton Prescott, a 5-foot-11 freshman (2027) point guard, is a blur with the ball, a good passer and a catalyst on a team that starts four underclassmen. Prescott is as good a 2027 lead guard as we've seen in the West Region, so far. John Mattingly, a 6-foot sophomore, compliments Prescott well and finds the open teammate. Mattingly also has a good I.Q. and makes the right reads. Rider Portela, a 6-foot-5 sophomore and the coach's son, moves well without the ball and has a mean streak to go along with a fine all-around skill level. Sunnyslope already owns a victory over regionally-ranked Centennial (Corona, Calif.) and its upcoming games with FAB 50 No. 20 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and No. 29 Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.) will tell us alot. Regardless of what happens against those two opponents, Sunnyslope is a major AIA open division title contender and will even be more potent when 6-foot-7 sophomore Christian Simmons and 6-foot-10 freshman Darius Wabbington get more comfortable against national level competition. Simmons is progressing steadily, while Wabbington doesn't play much right now, he'll be a key cog come playoff time. Next year, this team will be dynamite when its interior pieces match the backcourt and it learns to take care of the ball in crunch time.

5. It Isn't Easy Running National Showcase Events

This one point has really nothing to do with the Hoophall West event specifically or the event company that executes it (Position Sports), but it's necessary to mention. Post-Pandemic many public events are still recovering from where they were pre March 2020, but there are others factors. Not only are there a plethora of over-lapping events, but the prices to conduct business is rising and that cost is passed on to the consumer. Especially with so many good teams playing in high-powered fall leagues, it puts plenty of pressure on parents and fans alike to attend games. They can only shell out $15 or $20 dollars so many times during a calendar year, especially with the price to travel to many games. Three other factors play a role in the smaller crowds we've recently seen in the West Region. One, every class doesn't have a big-time social media darling like we saw in 2022-23 such as Bronny James or Mikey Williams. Second, fans follow their favorites at such a young age and see so much video and imagery of them, sometimes there is no anticipation for seeing a player in person like there was 10 years ago. Lastly, sponsors are very cautious in these economic times with what they spend on or pick up the tab for in regards to high school and grassroots events. This obviously is a fluid situation, but we rarely if, ever, get standing-room only, shoulder-to-shoulder, call the fire marshall type crowds that we saw with the Ball Brothers or other elite stars prior to 2020.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached atΒ [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter:Β @RonMFlores

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