Pro Insight was able to attend the majority of USA Basketball's U18 trials, held in Houston, Texas, in preparation for the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, which kicked off this week in Tijuana, Mexico. Starting with 27 participants, the training camp featured players from four separate high school classes (2021-2024). Thanks to picking up touch points in Houston in addition to scouting them in other various evaluation settings, PI has been able to conduct Q&As with the 12 players who made the team, so we compiled a few scouting notes on each (in addition to a few cuts who stood out to us).
In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Aneesh Namburi provides analysis on the 12 members of the 2022 USA Men’s U18 roster in addition to a handful of training camp participants, after spending multiple days covering the U18 training camp in Houston, Texas:
2022 USA Men's U18 National Team
Mark Armstrong (incoming Villanova guard) and Seth Trimble (incoming North Carolina guard): Armstrong and Trimble are two fairly similar prospects and players who should be some of USAB's more impactful players in Mexico. Both are athletic guards who can leap off two feet and finish through contact extremely well for their size. Trimble is likely a bit more advanced as a creator and stout as an on-ball defender and Armstrong is a more natural point guard and slightly more advanced as a shooter, but both are intriguing prospects who should impact their respective college teams in year one. We were unable to get box scores, but just based on the eye test, it’s safe to assume these two would have had some of the higher +/- amongst the training camp field.
Kanaan Carlyle (2023 Stanford commit): Before we get to anything on the court from Carlyle, the joy and energy he brought to camp was thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing. He clearly has so much fun when playing basketball and isn't afraid to try things, when appropriate. Carlyle’s personality was also infectious, as his teammates seem to follow his lead in that department. In terms of on-court value, Carlyle is a scalable guard who can play both on and off the ball. Working off his threatening handle, his ability to fill gaps as both a creator and playmaker should lead to positive impact every time he touches the court.
Eric Dailey (2023 IMG Academy forward): Dailey should be a mismatch nightmare for just about every wing/forward that he will face in Mexico. If you put quicker wings on him, he will bully you in the post and can finish through double teams, and he will blow past just about every forward and big in the tournament, and is likely stronger than them as well. Dailey's production with the U18 team will be an interesting point for teams as he enters his first pre-draft season.
Stephon Castle (2023 UConn commit): Castle is a shifty secondary slasher, especially when attacking a tilted defense. His shift and wiggle are tough for almost any defender to keep in front, giving him a path to the rim just about any time he attacks. He’s additionally very dynamic in the open floor, a skill that fits in perfectly with the up-and-down style of this USA roster.
GG Jackson (2023 North Carolina commit): Jackson's motor still runs hot and cold, but when he turns it on you can see flashes of why recruiting services have him pegged as the number-one player in the country. His ability to knock down jumpers from mid-post face-ups leads to the belief that he can stretch out to 3 consistently and make pick-and-pop jumpers in addition to being an athletic vertical threat in the pick-and-roll. Jackson is still very raw defensively, but his flashes as a weak-side rim protector and impactful activity in pick-and-roll coverages provide some encouragement.
Brandon Garrison (2023 Del City/OK big): Every USA Team seems to have a big that may not have the alluring ball skills or eye-popping athletic tools but fills his role perfectly and Garrison is that guy. He is probably the best screen-setter on the team due to his ability to generate separation for his guards, is a more-than-competent finisher with great hands as a roll threat, and can either hold up in the post or execute different ball screen coverages, defensively.
Ty Rodgers (incoming Illinois wing): Rodgers’ motor revved higher and ran hotter than anyone else in camp. He’s normalized covering ground all over the floor on both ends and he’s able to defend both wings and bigs proficiently. Rodgers is especially impressive as a slasher, attacking with aggression in the half-court and in transition while showcasing positive decision making on his drives to the rim.
Kel'el Ware (incoming Oregon big): Ware's ceiling is through the roof. While engaged, there’s nothing anyone else can do. His catch radius at 7-foot-1 with a plus-wingspan is absolutely nutty, he has solid footwork in the post, can step out and shoot threes, and of course puts a lid on the rim either in drop coverage or as a weak-side guy.
Anthony Black (incoming Arkansas guard): Black continued to show off his skills as a playmaker, second side creator, and defender while being able to play three positions throughout camp. Although the passing windows he attempts have closed a bit with the increased level of competition, he still grades out as a positive playmaker by our account. It seems as if every time Black is able to get downhill off an advantage, good things seem to happen, whether it be a self-created finish or reading the defense for an assist. An underrated aspect of Black's game continues to be his defense, specifically his ability to contain smaller point guards at the point of attack with fluid hips and using his length when he does happen to get beat.
Jared McCain (2023 Duke commit): On a team that’s lacking consistent shooting, McCain should be vital and that skill alone will get him significant minutes. When his feet are square, he is deadly and can shoot from a variety of situations. That shooting is the starting point for the rest of his game, as McCain utilizes that gravity to get paint touches and either find open teammates or use his craft and bevy of fakes to avoid contests. His communication and effort on defense will also be valuable to Team USA.
Cam Whitmore (incoming Villanova wing): Over the course of the camp, Whitmore was the best player in attendance. He’s evolved into being able to score however he wants, whether it be as a shooter off the bounce and off the catch or as a driver in transition and in the half court where he’s able to knock over anyone in his path. His handle seems to have improved a bit since the end of his high school career. If I had a betting favorite for MVP of the event, it would be Whitmore.
Additional players of note
Isaiah Collier (2023 Wheeler/GA guard): Unfortunately Collier got shut down early on in camp due to a knee injury, but he was clearly the best player in the gym on that Friday. In his brief showing, he continued to showcase the shot making that has made him one of the most dominant players in EYBL, flashed elite vision and placement on passes, and used his strength to generate rim pressure consistently. We of course first wish a quick recovery for Collier but it is disappointing that he will not be able to compete on an international platform.
Jordan Walsh (incoming Arkansas wing): Walsh's rim pressure, playmaking, and defensive playmaking in a 6-8 frame is one of the most intriguing bets in his high school class. His ability to move around bodies and slink through tight spaces is up with some special NBA talents, and the ground coverage he brings defensively has the ability to transform a defense.
Derik Queen (2024 Montverde Academy/FL forward): Queen more than held his own through the training camp. Despite lacking elite burst as an athlete, he’s able to score well due to his insane footwork for someone his age. Queen also possesses some advanced jump shooting touch and elbow playmaking, making him an intriguing hub in the half-court.
Omaha Biliew (2023 Link Academy/MO forward): Biliew’s role transformation into a interior 4/small-ball 5 who is all over the floor defensively, a dangerous transition threat, and can knock down spot-up jumpers was once again on display in Houston. He not only generates a ton of turnovers defensively but also runs the floor to finish many of those transition possessions, most of them with emphatic dunks.
Brandon Gardner (2023 Word of God Christian Academy/NC forward): Gardner continues to showcase energy and ground coverage defensively, creating a role similar to Biliew on that end of the floor. Offensively, he’s more of a lob threat and slasher (he also made a handful of really nice playmaking reads off those attacks throughout camp), giving a bit more confidence that he can be more than a small ball 5 or interior 4.