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A Weekend on the Trail

Vegas Elite 15U in action at Tarkanian Academy. Credit: Henry Ward

In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Henry Ward details his recent trip to Las Vegas, highlighting standout players from the weekend's three main events Pangos Best of the West Shootout, the Vegas Elite Invitational and the BallDawgs All-Star Game:

Before this past weekend, I hadn’t considered how odd my experiences as a scout had been since I had started turning this hobby into a profession. Having graduated from college last June in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there hasn’t been a point in my evaluative career that hasn’t occurred amidst the oddities brought on by such a year. Since I’ve been able to fully sink my teeth into scouting full-time since joining Pro Insight this past winter, I’ve been somewhat raised in a scouting world dominated by tape review, zoom calls and cordoned off seating. Thankfully, the NCAA was able to conduct a relatively safe season in which I was lucky enough to conduct some in-person evaluations across the Southern California area, but the ability to scout high school and AAU in person eluded me due to the requisite protocols across the state. With the vaccine rollout humming, case numbers dropping, and a light at the end of the tunnel, I was able to finally make it out to Las Vegas with my vaccination card to view some high-level amateur hoops the old fashioned way.

Having not been in an AAU gym since I was a player, and having not experienced a mixed, high-school aged evaluative setting since working as staff for USA Basketball prospect camps, it was great to finally dip my toes into the AAU circuit with a new hat and take in some awesome performances over a 72-hour span. This weekend was spent at the Pangos Best of the West tournament, the Vegas Elite Invitational, and wrapped up with the BallDawgs All-Star Games, all of which featured impressive performances across all levels. Below, I’ll highlight the players that raised my brow over the past weekend, from unsigned seniors, to five-star sophomores, and everyone in between.

*Disclaimer: As much as I wish I could’ve been at every court in Vegas at once, there was ultimately only so much basketball that could be seen and I undoubtedly didn’t catch every prospect worthy of consideration that was there this weekend.

17U Standouts

Weekend Winner: Mouhamed Gueye / Big / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

In a weekend full of talent, Gueye stood head and shoulders above the rest as the guy I left most excited about. At 7 feet tall and with limited game experience, Gueye sports a stunning technical skill level to go along with terrific movement skills in an impressive frame. Albeit skinny, Gueye has a solid, proportional build with plus-athleticism that allows him to jockey around the paint better than one may assume from simply looking at his measurements. A solid leaper and agile mover, Gueye can put a lid on the rim defensively when he applies himself while also switching out to handle smaller perimeter players. However, what stood out most was his innate touch, translatable shooting stroke, and developing ball skills. Already possessing such physical gifts, it was somewhat jaw-dropping to see him step out and nail multiple threes in succession, including some off the bounce. A simple Google search amidst his madness revealed to me that he’s not a consistent mainstay amongst the top of his class rankings-wise, and all but confirms the idea that the pandemic has muddled such metrics irrelevant for the time being. I would not be surprised to see Gueye amongst the top of his class, and even potentially being nabbed as a lottery pick, before it’s all said and done.

Lorenzo Abellar / Guard / 2021 / West Coast Select (NV)

Arriving in on Friday night, I was treated to an inspired performance right out of the car from Abellar and his West Coast Select team as they gave Vegas Elite’s EYBL team all they could handle. Matched up with 5-star Dior Johnson, Abellar put on a show, picking up the former Syracuse commit 94 feet the entire game while running the show on the other end. A notably fiery competitor who oozes toughness, Abellar needs to be on a D1 team soon, despite his small stature. He more than makes up for it.

Ryan Abelman / Guard / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Playing on a Vegas Elite team lined with 4 and 5 stars, Abelman stood out with his lights-out shooting and overall feel for the game. It’s rare to find players at the high school level who understand their optimal role and fulfill it consistently well, but Abelman impressed doing just that — spacing the floor with his effortless stroke, making cognizant passes to create for teammates, and racking up deflections and steals off the ball.

McCaden Adams / Wing / 2022 / Salt Lake Rebels (UT)

Watching guys battle it out on the circuit is always fun, but there’s a certain sense of joy that comes from taking in a major performance from a player you had never heard of before in a game against celebrated talent. In the Vegas Elite Invitational 17U championship, Adams took over on both ends of the court to help his Rebels team get the win over a stacked Vegas Elite 16U team playing up a division. With a quick, clean jumper, a functionally deceptive handle, high-level burst and awesome vertical athleticism, Adams shined as a clear D1 talent who’s worthy of consideration for any mid-major looking for scoring juice on the wing.

Nigel Burris / Wing / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Having reclassified down a grade due to the effects the COVID pause had on his recruitment, Burris’ interests have picked up significantly as of late, and rightfully so. The 6’7 wing only played in one game this weekend, but displayed the defensive versatility, athleticism, and budding shooting prowess that make him intriguing. Don’t let the untraditional form fool you, Burris can punish soft closeouts with confidence.

Marcus Fizer, Jr. / Guard / 2023 / Las Vegas Punishers (NV)

D.J. Fizer, son of former lottery pick Marcus Fizer, found ways to add value all weekend despite increased defensive attention. Clearly the son of a former pro, he has an enchanting nuance to his game that shows up everywhere, from his pace in the pick-and-roll to his defensive positioning — highlighted by one game where he took three charges in a half.

Joshua Jefferson / Big / 2022 / West Coast Select (NV)

Prior to turning an ankle late, Jefferson dominated his only game of the weekend against the Vegas Elite EYBL squad, scoring from all three levels and using his mature frame to muck things up and generate extra looks. The injury was a real bummer, as he had a real stretch of dominance to make the game interesting against such a stacked opponent.

Dior Johnson / Guard / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Even though Dior didn’t have his best showing this weekend, it was evident why he’s been consistently considered a top-10 recruit in his class. With a truly special handle, good burst, and mature feel, he controlled the game from start to finish even when he wasn’t scoring. There are definitely some things that need addressing for him to translate seamlessly into the college and professional ranks, but the ball-handling package and on-court maturity is easy to fall in love with.

Cam Kimble / Wing / 2021 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Another unsigned senior Pro Insight contributor Aneesh Namburi touched on a couple of weeks ago, Kimble was a nice ancillary wing alongside some more prominent on-ball players this past weekend for VEBC’s EYBL team. His surplus of athleticism, deep bag of slashing counters, and funky but efficient jump shot made him a perfectly scalable piece on the best team I saw all weekend, and would be able to add value in a similar role for a D1 program looking for such a skillset.

Aaron Price / Big / 2022 / West Coast Select (NV)

Price’s freakish athleticism and proclivity for playing above the rim on both ends made him pop immediately, and I was stunned to find out he’s yet to play a minute of varsity basketball due to transfer rules and COVID cancellations. His stock is increasing recruiting wise, as covered by P.I. here, and the offer and interests list should only rise as he’s seen more.

Dylan Sanders / Guard / 2022 / Salt Lake Rebels (UT)

The other Salt Lake Rebels standout in the tightly contested 17U championship game, Sanders (literally) jumped out as someone who’s worth monitoring. With a relatively advanced scoring package, a killer mix of approach and tools on defense, and some wild leaping ability, Sanders is going to be one to monitor from Colorado Prep as he heads into his senior season.

AJ Storr / Wing / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

The Chicago native and recent Illinois commit continues to impress more and more every time I see him. After watching him from home during his first appearances in the Border League, I was stunned there wasn’t more buzz around a two guard with great size, a wild physical profile, and high-level shooting. Thankfully, college programs caught up and now Storr is headed to the Big Ten. The combination of shotmaking and tools made for some very fun moments this weekend.

TJ Wainwright / Guard / 2021 / Belmont Shore (CA)

Wainwright was awesome for Belmont Shore against some brutally tough competition, operating as a floor general while also going and getting his teams baskets when needed. Hearing he was another unsigned senior was shocking after watching him consistently create advantages and convert with his complex finishing package. For what it’s worth, he also had 18 points in the BallDawgs National All-Star Game amongst a number of 5-stars.

16U Standouts

Weekend Winner: Assane Diop / Wing / 2023 / Colorado Hawks (CO)

Coming from a more draft-centric, college-focused approach to scouting, I’m always inclined when watching AAU to try and consider prospects in two separate silos: what they’ll look like in college, and, when applicable, what they’ll look like in the NBA. In most cases, the second question doesn’t even get asked; that’s just the nature of the beast. However, when watching Diop run with the Colorado Hawks this weekend, it was easy to get excited about his pro prospects. Standing 6’10”, Diop is an exceptionally good mover for his size. Lining up next to close friend Baye Fall for the weekend, he took on an offensive initiation role, which I absolutely loved. Not only did this allow him to display some really nice court vision and passing skill, but it also has some very interesting developmental implications. We’ve seen the benefits of developing bigger players as ball-handlers in their youth through examples such as Nikola Jokic and now Evan Mobley, and we know what this sort of consistent problem solving and trial-and-error learning can provide a player. Seeing his passing on full display while he was able to run free as an initiator was not only incredibly fun, but potentially incredibly productive as well. I’d imagine such a player becomes highly sought after once the COVID viewing tarp is peeled back even further.

Baye Fall / Big / 2023 / Colorado Hawks (CO)

Probably the biggest name in town for the tournaments apart from Dior, Fall was as advertised during his stint at Pangos. While still very raw with the ball in his hands, he sports tremendous movement for his size and great shot blocking instincts. I felt for any guards who could turn a corner against the Hawks, for any advantage created in the paint was soon to be wiped by the 7-footer.

Angelo Kambala / Guard / 2023 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Kambala has a very pretty, clean shooting stroke for someone his size and age, which is always worth betting on. Also was very impressed by how competitive he was. Cool to see someone so fiery at that level.

Mike Lewis / Guard / 2024 / Belmont Shore (CA)

It is very rare to see rising sophomores in high school scoring the ball in such a variety of ways as Lewis did this weekend. A true three-level scorer at such a young age with very impressive passing savvy to match, he had one of the more exciting performances of the weekend against the Colorado Hawks. Certainly one to watch, moving forward.

Andrew Meadow / Wing / 2023 / Vegas Elite (NV)

At 6’7”, Meadow is shockingly coordinated and powerful for someone his age at that height. His game is easy on the eye and hard to describe. He’s simply one of those players that does a little of everything above average and makes the game easy. Offensive rebounding, blocking shots, stretching the floor, above-the-rim bounce — it’s all in his bag.

Shamar Jones / Guard / 2025 / Belmont Shore (CA)

Presumably one of the only 2025s that played 16u this weekend at Pangos, Jones was enchanting as a bulldog defender who was not only carried by his physical tools, but also his well-developed technique. He’ll be interesting to track due to his comfort in initiating offense coupled with his hounding defense.

15U Standouts

Weekend Winner: John Paul Mobley / Guard / 2024 / Vegas Elite (NV)

This weekend, apart from a handful of players already named, I was generally surprised at the lack of shooting I saw. This generation is the first one to really be raised on the Steph/Klay Warriors revolution, and yet, for all the talk of Curry being the hero of this age group, range shooting was far from a bankable skill to expect out of these high school prospects. This made Mobley’s game all the more refreshing, as someone who has clearly dove headfirst into this style of basketball. Not only was Mobley’s nuclear shooting and NBA+ range impressive, but so was his similarly adapted change of pace and bag of hesitation moves and head fakes to go along with it. He is a carbon copy of this brand of basketball, leveraging his prolific shooting and quick handle decisions to consistently turn advantages and make things easy for his teammates. He also looks exceptionally young, even for his age, which makes you wonder how much room he has to grow and mature physically. He’s a legitimate high-major prospect as-is.

Josiah Cunningham / Guard / 2024 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Cunningham made life difficult for every guard he came across this weekend with his suffocating defense, both on and off the ball. At the 15U level, guys like him are exceptionally valuable due to the general lack of tricks lead guards have. He racked up steal after steal and was the head of the snake for Vegas’ press all weekend long. His finishing with both hands and through contact also caught eyes. An interesting off-guard prospect.

Taj DeGourville / Wing / 2024 / Vegas Elite (NV)

DeGourville often wins with his size and strength at this level, because he is, simply put, a manchild. However, he was exceptionally intriguing because he doesn’t just rely on his powerful frame, which by itself would lead to plenty of advantages and defensive stops. Impressively, DeGourville also has a very functional, reactive handle and showed good flexibility as a slasher to find himself looks and create easy passing windows. He’s also very comfortable letting it fly off the bounce, which lends itself to some three-level scoring potential as he continues to progress.

Ryder Elisaldez / Guard / 2024 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Very few prospects in this age bracket are as well-rounded as Elisaldez, especially from a standpoint of technical skill and craft. Operating as the 2-guard next to Mobley most of the weekend, his vertical athleticism popped alongside his fantastic feel for the game. Even if he wasn’t hitting shots, he always found a way to make an impact with microdecisions that most underclassmen simply aren’t privy to yet, such as swing passes, cuts, outlet passes, pace in transition, and help rotations defensively. He has plenty of time to iron out the jumper, and once he does, he could be a really worthwhile investment for any college program.

Tyus Thomas / Guard / 2026 / West Coast Select (NV)

One of the youngest players in the Pangos event, Thomas made the most of his extremely slight frame with tremendous IQ and truly astonishing level of feel for his age. Albeit physically outmatched at times, Thomas dominated in transition with audacious and well-executed passes, and didn’t let players bully him when he was on the ball. It’s hard to project so far down the line, but there’s a lot happening upstairs that makes any eventual physical outcome a positive one for the exceptionally young guard.

BallDawgs All-Star Event Standouts

Tip-off at the BallDawgs National All-Star Game. Credit: Tyler Glazier

The weekend ended on a very high note, culminating with the BallDawgs All-Star events on Sunday night. From the local all-star game to the national one, some familiar faces, along with some new ones, made lasting impressions in such a small sample. While it may not be necessary, and frankly, too long winded an undertaking to highlight everyone that impressed in those five hours, it’s worth shouting out a few guys that left a mark.

In the local game, Kimble really stood out as someone who can hang with any competition level. He and Daniel Rouzan were in more muted roles for Vegas Elite all weekend, but both used the open setting of the game to take control. In the national game, the most notable performances belonged to Kobe Bufkin and Kaden Perry. Bufkin, the game’s co-MVP, put on a shotmaking clinic, flashing advanced footwork to get open looks from three which he consistently buried. While Perry didn’t have the same stat line, what makes him special was on full display. A truly imposing force in the paint, Perry blocked multiple powerful dunk attempts, converted rolls with above-the-rim finishes, and even stepped out and drained a couple jumpers of his own. The nerd in me also thoroughly enjoyed his pride in being the only one to consistently communicate actions defensively in such a laid back setting.

Beyond those two, Frankie Collins, Robbie Armbrester, and Arthur Kaluma all showed off their improved scoring packages and highlight-worthy dunks all night. DaRon Holmes reminded everyone what makes him special, with freakish comfort as a mover all over the court and effortless rim dominance on both ends. Keshon Gilbert, the other co-MVP, made things easy for himself with his professional-feeling game. It’s hard to describe briefly in text, but the way he navigates traffic and uses the ball to manipulate defenders on his pickups and drives have a certain “pro-nuance” about them that makes him easy to like. Lead guard Simon Wheeler ran circles around defenders in transition with his lightning-bug speed and craft. Last but not least, Brennan Rigsby pulled out his best Zach LaVine impression multiple times, both as a dunker and shooter. It’s bewildering to me that he’s bound for a JuCo, but talent often finds a way of shining through and I can’t imagine he’ll be away from a Division 1 program for long.

That does it for this weekend’s recap. Special thanks to Dinos Trigonis, Valerie Brown, Neal Carter, and everyone else who treated us so kindly and made this weekend possible.


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