Team Thrill of the UAA dominates action in Las Vegas and its best player, rising senior big man Derik Queen, makes a big statement. Baltimore-based travel ball club captures Sportsradar Showdown and wins showcase game over Nike EYBL club.
Las Vegas used to close out the NCAA summer live period in grand fashion with over 1,200 teams and 25,000 players looking to catch the eye of college coaches. Major changes to the live recruiting calendar, and the addition of the June scholastic live period, as a result of the NCAA basketball recruiting scandal of 2017 changed Las Vegas in July.
With the NCAA adding two additional live evaluation days (July 15-16), college coaches once again flocked to Las Vegas to evaluate. Just as in its heyday, there were several events spread all over Sin City for college coaches to scatter to. Most of the top action was centered around the Sportsradar Showdown presented by Synergy Sports and the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament.
The Sportsradar Showdown at Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) had the best collection of games, billing it as a challenge between the best teams from the Under Armour Association (UAA) versus the best from adidas' 3SSB circuit. The bracket featured eight teams from each circuit, a play-in game to decide another team from each circuit plus a NBA Academy team.
Baltimore-based Team Thrill had plenty of motivation entering the Sportsradar Showdown. After all they won their first 14 games on the UAA circuit before falling to New England-based Middlesex Magic, 72-69, in the UAA championship semifinals. Team Thrill not only wanted to represent UAA well, it wanted to extract some measure of revenge against the best UAA clubs. Team Thrill, particularly its best player, 6-foot-9 rising senior (2024) Derik Queen of Montverde Academy (Fla.), was on a mission.
Mookie Dobbins' Charm City-based travel ball club bested the Middlesex Magic team it lost to at the UAA Finals in the Sportsradar Showdown quarterfinals, 73-60. In the semifinals, Team Thrill took down 3SSB runner-up Game Elite, 79-75. Six hours later in the championship game, Team Thrill took on the 3SSB Champions and one of the best teams in grassroots basketball, the Utah Prospects. Behind a 27-point, 16-rebound, 4-assist performance from Queen, Team Thrill won the inaugural Sportsradar Showdown with a 64-56 victory.
Queen, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in the semifinals and clinched the victory with a conventional 3-point power move play in the key with 23 seconds to go after Game Elite erased a 18-point first half deficit, was the most consistently dominant performer who impacted winning in Las Vegas. It also can be argued no player in the 2024 national class had a more dominant summer.
Queen, who was the Ballislife National Freshman of the Year in 2020-21 at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, played sparingly as a sophomore at FAB 50 power Montverde Academy (Fla.). His physical conditioning wasn't up to par, but he began to turn that around and had an impactful junior season for the Eagles.
The transformation of his body and the development of his overall game was on full display on the UAA circuit and in Las Vegas. He has an under the basket game, but nowadays that is certainly not looked with any negativity since the best player in the world also plays that way. With his soft hands, up-and-under moves, slick interior passing and overall feel, it's not hard to see and certainly a compliment to say Queen has a little bit of Nikola Jokić in his game. Obviously no high school player is a direct comparison to The Joker, but his impact on Team Thrill is similar to The Joker's impact on the Denver Nuggets.
There are not four better overall prospects in the 2024 class better than Queen. The only other big man in his class is Flory Bidunga of Indiana Elite and Kokomo (Ind.). Indiana Elite played in the Sportsradar Showdown and Indiana Elite had a good chance to advance to the final to set up the dream Queen vs. Budinga matchup. Any ideas if that was foiled when Indiana Elite was upset in the quarterfinals by Canada Elite, which was easily defeated by the Utah Prospects in the semifinals.
"We wanted to erase that losing feeling after we lost in the UAA Final Four," Queen said on Monday at the Big Time Tournament at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) after his team played in a showcase game. "We just came to play and were motivated."
As if Queen's and Team Thrill's performance at the Sportsradar Showdown wasn't enough, the team closed it Vegas trip with a Monday showcase game on national television versus one of the best teams on the Nike EYBL circuit, the Florida Rebels. Against a team with some high level talent on its frontline, Queen, who is considering Arizona, Indiana and Maryland among other heavyweights, turned in another virtuoso performance. He finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in his team's 102-86 victory. He jokingly couldn't believe it when a teammate smoked a lay-up in the closing seconds to blow a potential triple-double performance. It was a light-hearted moment to cap a terrific closing week for his travel ball club.
Queen's performance was necessary as the showcase game was tied 53-53 early in the second half before Team Thrill took control with a 11-0 run. The team's hard-nosed backcourt picked up the defensive intensity and the team survived a late barrage of 3-pointers from the Florida Rebels' 5-foot-11 2025 point guard Jalen Reece of Oak Ridge (Orlando, Fla.).
The defensive standouts included 5-foot-9 2025 point guard Chance Mallory of St. Anne-Belfield (Charlottesville, Va.), 6-foot-1 2025 point guard Tyler Jackson of St. Frances Academy, and 6-foot-1 Andrew Dixon of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Baltimore). Jackson particularly impressed throughout the week with his steady lead guard play and is a terrific shot-maker.
Mallory was terrific in the second half of Team Thrill's quarterfinal win over Middlesex Magic and was credited with 13 points. Queen had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while 6-foot-1 Daquan Davis of St. John's (Washington, D.C.) had 18 points in the avenging victory. Team Thrill also got timely outside shots throughout the week from 6-foot-8 2024 wing Brant Byers of The Newman School (Boston, Mass.).