After an eventful and frenetic week, I was able to get a live look at an assortment of the nation’s top prospects as well as some under the radar risers in an extraordinarily competitive, high profile setting at Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina. Development and future context will play a contingent role, but I broke down 25 of the most enticing prospects from Peach Jam with an NBA Draft scale in mind.
1. Emoni Bates
Bates Fundamental || 2022 || 6-8 & 200 pounds
Bates has been under scrutiny after his run with Bates Fundamental here. The context of the situation makes it relatively difficult to evaluate his current role and progression in terms of the next role, as his usage has been sky high. Constantly under a microscope in terms of his development, I was impressed by Bates’ improvement as a playmaker. The Michigan native showed a high processing speed, but it didn’t often translate to the assist column with a poor supporting cast at his side. Oversized wing creators ooze with value and while Jalen Duren has shrunk the gap, Bates has elite shot creation and touch with star level upside.
2. Jalen Duren
Team Final || 2022 || 6-10 & 230 pounds
I saw multiple versions of Jalen Duren here in North Augusta. During Pool Play and early in Peach Jam play, I was skeptical of his motor, impact on the game and overall focus, considering that he might be looking ahead to a commitment and reclassification in the coming weeks. Later on now, Duren has turned up the heat and has showed what many expected. A dominant post hub and a premier physical presence. When locked in, Duren continues to move towards the prospect of being a prototypical star big in the modern NBA. He’s won wherever he’s gone and is neck in neck with Bates for the top spots, only taking the second spot because of my valuing of wing creators.
3. Mackenzie Mgbako
NJ Scholars || 2023 || 6-8 & 200 pounds
Mgbako is my top 2023 prospect listed and while he has been in my top 3 his respective class for sometime, he’ll leave North Augusta as one of the biggest eye-openers. Notably improved physically, Mgbako put on a versatile scoring display, showing off an extremely enticing spot up game. A wing creator with burst, scoring pop and multi-positional defense. Absorbs contact, plays angles well and continues to improve the handle. Mgbako will top my next 2023 ranking update and it will not be a surprise to see major recruiting services elevate him as well.
4. Shaedon Sharpe
UPLAY Canada || 2022 || 6-5 & 200 pounds
Sharpe departs North Augusta having made a massive impact on each and every spectator. A nuclear scorer who not only just got his own, but thoroughly elevated the group around him. Physically mature with the handle, strength and speed to get to his spots. His knack to change speeds and control tempo were advanced, as he was dominant in transition and in the half-court. Extended shooter of the dribble who’s potent as a decision maker coming downhill. The rise will only continue and he’s cemented himself in the top 4 of the 2022 cycle.
5. Dariq Whitehead
Team Durant || 2022 || 6-6 & 190 pounds
No one made the game look easier than Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead’s ability to attack when need be, pick his spots accordingly and constantly play under control jumped out. Perimeter mechanics are polished and his ability to shoot with a hand in his face was second to only Emoni Bates. For an above the rim, spectacular athlete to rarely rely on those physical abilities at the prep level is rare, and Whitehead only continues to blossom as a dynamic two-way wing.
6. DJ Wagner
NJ Scholars || 2023 || 6-3 & 180 pounds
While each game I watched of Wagner, his efficiency as a scorer was relatively lacking but his maturity as a decision maker, ability to collapse the lane and shot versatility as a creator impressed. He’s mastered change of pace and is dynamic as a pick and roll handler with a strong feel to space the floor. Wagner is a complete alpha offensively and his trajectory as a high profile lead guard continues to materialize.
7. Mookie Cook
Oakland Soldiers || 2023 || 6-8 & 210 pounds
A bouncy, assertive young wing with polish as a pull up scorer and productivity as a slasher. I was extremely enticed by the way the Soldiers utilized Cook as a playmaking, wing initiator. Strong elevation on the jumper out to the arc, rebounding production and power as a driver. Advanced ball handler who projects as a stat sheet stuffer and high ceiling wing prospect.
8. Omaha Biliew
MOKAN || 2023 || 6-8 & 210 pounds
Now, Biliew has always been one I am high on. There were few prospects I had been looking forward to seeing live more than the Montverde-bound wing. A truly powerful athlete who filled a variety of roles for MOKAN as a scoring forward. The combination of physical prominence, assertiveness and versatile impact make him one to track over the next two years. Walked away with a stronger projection of Biliew as more of a modern forward than a true wing due to how he can defend 4-5 positions, be a bruiser in the paint, attack downhill as a roll or pop man and hit spot up perimeter shots. It might take longer than the prospects surrounding him in this range, but the tools and production lend extreme optimism to his trajectory.
9. Jordan Walsh
Drive Nation || 2022 || 6-7 & 195 pounds
After speaking with a variety of people around the gym in the evaluation industry, one thing was clear when watching Jordan Walsh – the NBA is going to love him. Extremely tough, hard-nosed and competitive with a consistent will to put his imprint on the game. Long arms, explosive athlete, above the rim finisher, strong change of pace, pull-up shooting and versatility on the defend end.
10. Dillon Mitchell
E1T1 || 2022 || 6-8 & 190 pounds
Mitchell has significantly rose nationally over the course of the last few months. Arguably the top athlete in the country, Mitchell displayed advanced off the dribble playmaking in which I was unaware of. Playing alongside a few talented scoring guards, Mitchell was leaned on to break defenses down to find shooters and cutters. A smooth lefty spot up stroke only continues to improve and become a weapon, as the combination of his handle and production around the rim make up the incredibly high ceiling I am eager to follow. Defensively, Mitchell defends 5 spots, is extremely mobile and has strong instincts in the passing lanes.
11. Derek Lively II
Team Final || 2022 || 7-1 & 220 pounds
The nation’s top rim protector with a flourishing spot up perimeter game on the other end. Derek Lively is much more than that, but that in itself makes him a premier NBA prospect. The term unicorn is overused, but the Peach Jam champion is all that, as few can truly do what he does. Adding to 20-30 pounds would go a long way towards becoming more productive as an interior scorer, but what Lively does already has him squarely on the NBA radar.
12. Nick Smith Jr
Brad Beal Elite || 2022 || 6-4 & 190 pounds
Nick Smith Jr left North Augusta as a Peach Jam runner up and a Kentucky offer. The dual threat guard notably rose his stock throughout EYBL play and departs as a headliner. An multi-faceted offensive catalyst with extended range, an enticing, natural floater game and strong feel as a set-up man. Always under control, Smith is extremely nuanced as a scorer with a knack for getting to the line and playing angles as a driver.
13. Cason Wallace
Pro Skills || 2022 || 6-4 & 190 pounds
Wallace was debatably the headliner from EYBL play. A smooth spot up game, turnover machine on the defensive end and a transition dynamo. Wallace can play both guard spots and thrived making plays for two rising bigs, Kye’Ron Lindsey and Jalen Reed. Tough, explosive and versatile contributor to winning basketball. For a high profile prospect, Wallace does all the little things.
14. Dior Johnson
Vegas Elite || 2022 || 6-3 & 180 pounds
A fluid, creative offensive engineer with a palpable basketball IQ. Johnson can fill it up and flourishes as an off the dribble scorer. Elite touch, a smooth floater game and all-around flair as a creator. Johnson’s natural talent, change of pace, production on the glass and scoring polish all make up a skillset that simply screams “pro”. There is a sense of ease with all Dior Johnson does offensively.
15. JJ Taylor
Mac Irvin Fire || 2023 || 6-8 & 185 pounds
The Chicago native carries an incredibly productive, unique and effortless spot up scoring attack. A quick first step to get downhill and finish around the rim has become a pattern for Taylor. At 6-8 with long arms, Taylor’s shooting provides increasing upside, although there is notable necessary progression. With a narrow frame, tightening up the handle and impacting the game on a more consistent basis are next steps. The talent is clear and Taylor fits the bill as another high ceiling wing creator.
16. Simeon Wilcher
NY Rens || 2023 || 6-4 & 190 pounds
Sim Wilcher was opened my eyes as much as anyone, as his alpha tendencies while playing up an age group alongside two high level guards in Chance Westry and Denver Anglin were extremely impressive. Hard-working, disruptive defender who battles through picks and is active in the passing lanes. Likely better fit on the ball, Wilcher played off of Westry very well, attacking closeouts, stroking it on the perimeter and setting up his athletic bigs on dump offs. Slightly less known nationally, Wilcher was one of my favorite prospects I saw.
17. Robert Dillingham
CP3 || 2023 || 6-1 & 170 pounds
A master of deception, Dillingham’s arguably the nations best ball handler. The 2023 Junior has phenomenal change of pace and can create his own shot at each level. Premier floor mapping skills, spacing will do wonders at the next level. Wing creators and big guards make up the vast majority of this list, but Dillingham’s skill and dynamite creation is not only a pleasure to watch, but constantly elevated the group around him.
18. Brandon Miller
Brad Beal Elite || 2022 || 6-8 & 220 pounds
Miller was a major catalyst in BBE’s run to the Peach Jam Championship and is a high priority recruit for blue bloods. A bouncy forward with strong creative tendencies in the mid-range, Miller was constantly guarding bigger prospects and held his own as a shot blocker and rebounder. Skilled off the dribble, Miller has touch and a high release with a productive interior game.
19. Kwame Evans Jr
Team Durant || 2023 || 6-9 & 220 pounds
Tools to the max. Kwame Evans JR flaunted a smooth lefty stroke and an enticing point forward skillset. Long arms and a versatile finisher, Evans made his presence felt often in transition and as a roll man. Slithery around the rim and an acrobatic finishing skillset against contact. Adding mass is a clear need, but there’s so much to with Evans’ growing offensive skillset and fit at the next level.
20. Ty Rodgers
Meanstreets || 2022 || 6-6 & 210 pounds
Better than advertised. Ty Rodgers was the best perimeter defender in the EYBL and was a constant contributor to winning basketball on both ends. Often the initiator for Meanstreets, Rodgers absolutely stuffed the stat sheet and is a special playmaker off the dribble attacking the rim. Rodgers is an NBA athlete and has an NBA body already. Elite lateral quickness, shot blocking instincts and clear-cut grit on the defensive end. Rodgers stamps himself as a the top perimeter defender in the country, and going through the gauntlet of Emoni Bates, Jordan Walsh, Dillon Mitchell, Shaedon Sharpe, Dariq Whitehead and Eric Dailey among all other top offensive catalysts on each team Meanstreets took on, Rodgers only backed up his statement. The production and skillset might not be as pretty as others listed, but I am confident saying Rodgers is the best wing defender and wing rebounder at the prep level currently.
21. Jazian Gortman
Nightrydas || 2022 || 6-2 & 175 pounds
A jitterbug offensive engine with toughness. Gortman impressed me on the defensive end and is a true menace on the perimeter. Hard-nosed and never takes a play off. Dynamic in the pick and roll and is arguably the fastest player in the country end to end. Great touch and a feel to space in the pick and roll, Gortman will continue to develop his attack and become more assertive as a creator.
22. Vince Iwuchukwu
Drive Nation || 2022 || 7-0 & 220 pounds
Iwuchukwu’s recent progression and upside were one of my key takeaways from the evaluation experience as a whole. There are very few athletes, if any, on the same level as 7-0 and 220 pound Vince Iwuchukwu. He showed a growing willingness to create out of the post, a relatively new facet for the prominent rim runner. Sweep throughs and over the left shoulder hooks became go-to’s. Embracing contact and finishing through traffic are next steps, but Iwuchukwu is undervalued nationally in my opinion.
23. Ron Holland
Drive Nation || 2023 || 6-8 & 195 pounds
A pogo-stick athlete with a strong handle and off the bounce game. Holland is as explosive as they come with long arms and strong instincts as a cutter. Holland crashes the glass with aggression and is an enticing grab and go prospect. Producing offensively in more categories, processing and working in the weight room are upcoming pieces of development, but Holland oozes with upside.
24. Tyrell Ward
Boo Williams || 2022 || 6-8 & 180 pounds
Nuclear scorer with extreme touch and a rare pull up scoring game. Ultra-competitive, Ward is a fluid wing creator who lit it up from the perimeter and impressed as a shot maker against contests. The wiry wing plays above the rim in transition and relentlessly throws himself through the chest of rim protectors. Subtle with his change of pace and pull up with a clear focus on playing low to the ground made Ward one of the tougher guards in the Nike circuit.
25. seth trimble
Phenom U || 2022 || 6-3 & 190 pounds
Trimble’s understanding of the game, how to space the floor and attack seams makes him an intriguing prospect looking ahead to the NBA. The Wisconsin-native is never rushed and was electric as a playmaker playing alongside profound floor spacers in Danilo Jovanovich, Jackson Paveletzke and Andrew Rohde. One of the higher IQ lead guards in North Augusta, Trimble was impactful on both ends, stuffed the stat sheet, processed the game at a rapid rate and got his own on the perimeter and in the mid-range when his team needed it. Trimble does a ton of things that will translate rather quickly to the next level and beyond.