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2022 GEICO Nationals Preview: Roundtable Discussion

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

While elite high school teams facing each other has become much more commonplace over the years, thanks to a group of event operators featuring them throughout the season, it is still great to bookend the high school season with eight of the country’s best programs under one roof. GEICO Nationals has delivered year in and year out and always includes a conglomerate of future college and NBA stars. This year's tournament, taking place from March 31- April 2 at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Ft. Myers, FL, features teams stacked with McDonald’s All-Americans, boasting depth charts that will feature some high major NCAA talent coming off of the bench.

Montverde Academy (FL), the reigning national champion and number-three seed heading into the week, has won five of the past eight titles. This year’s field also includes past champions such as number-two seed IMG Academy (FL) (2019), number-five seed Oak Hill Academy (VA) (2016) and number-seven seed La Lumiere (IN) (2017). Vying for their first GEICO Nationals title will be number-one seed Sunrise Christian Academy (KS), number-six seed AZ Compass Prep (AZ), number-eight seed Prolific Prep (CA) and first-time participants, number-four seed Link Academy (MO).

Last year was an entirely chalk bracket, with top seed Montverde Academy beating Sunrise Christian in the finals. While there are definitely tiers when it comes to contenders, the 2022 bracket seems much more wide open. Much like the NCAA Tournament, even with some familiar faces making it far, upsets seem entirely possible, if not expected. Once again, GEICO will give us a glimpse at some of the best the high school game has to offer and a good look at some players who may be headed to the NBA in the very near future.

Before the first game tips at 2022 GEICO Nationals, Pro Insight has put together a roundtable discussion to preview the event, featuring top storylines, a list of individual players to watch, along with an idea of what some teams bring to the table, collectively. Pro Insight’s Michael Visenberg compiled a list of questions and they were answered by P.I.‘s Tyler Glazier, Alex Brown, and Aneesh Namburi, along with Cerebro’s PD Web, and Rookie Scale’s Jon Chepkevich.

Michael Visenberg: Who are three of the top prospects that you are most excited to see and what do you hope they show during the tournament?

Jon Chepkevich: As a Notre Dame alumnus, I’m very much looking forward to getting a look at JJ Starling. I missed him at NIBC in January and he didn’t suit up for the McDonald’s All-American game, so I’m very much looking forward to getting a look at him in this highly competitive setting. News leaked out today that Blake Wesley intends to test the 2022 NBA draft waters, but if he ultimately decides to return, a Wesley/Starling duo could be really dynamic.

Secondly, I’m looking forward to seeing how Mookie Cook performs. He really struggled when I scouted him a few weeks back at the Flyin’ to the Hoop Top Gun Showcase, being held scoreless in a loss to Link and fouling out with only six gimme points in game two. I know he’s got more in the tank than that and I look forward to seeing if he bounces back on a big stage.

Lastly, I’m going to go with Judah Mintz. Some analysts that I trust are quite fond of his game and long-term potential, but he’s a prospect that I haven’t had much of a chance to get a strong feel for to this point.

Aneesh Namburi: Every time I watch La Lumiere's JJ Starling, I get increasingly more intrigued with his skillset and now consider him a legit one-and-done prospect for the 2023 NBA draft. It's pretty evident what he can bring as a scorer. He is built to get downhill on just about anyone and also has extremely sudden counters to regain lost advantages. As someone who seems extremely scalable in terms of role, in order to really solidify himself as an NBA connecting guard prospect, it would be great to see continued strides as a passer off advantages at GEICO, where he has shown occasional high-level flashes, but overall remains fairly basic in this aspect of his game.

Link's Julian Phillips, standing 6’8” with a 7’0” wingspan and fluid athleticism, has become an integral part of his team's menacing defense as the main on-ball stopper. Offensively, Phillips seems certain to eventually attack closeouts with the best of them due to the aforementioned physical tools, but in order to really generate legit NBA buzz at the end of the 2022-23 season, it would be great to see some of his 3-point streakiness start to show some consistency and the shot volume increase after a small break from Link's regular season schedule.

Finally, I am hoping to get more clarity on what level of creation IMG's Jett Howard has in his game before he joins his dad at Michigan. His playmaking is among the best in his class, but how is he bending defenses as a scorer? Is it as a shooter, getting paint touches, or will he continue to improve within the pick-and-roll?

Alex Brown: I am very much looking forward to getting another live look at Jordan Walsh, Gradey Dick, and Layden Blocker. Walsh is an elite, freakish athlete with absurd length and excellent mobility. When he plays with an edge, he can take over games with his physicality, slashing, and defensive prowess. He is simply on another level for a wing prospect when it comes to athleticism and tools, only exceeded in some capacity by Dillon Mitchell. In such a competitive setting I am hoping his motor shows up huge and that he uplifts others in his role while being able to score in the halfcourt. I am looking for him to create his own as a slasher and hit some perimeter shots.

Moving on to Gradey Dick, his ascent has been a real pleasure to watch. He is a superb shooter with defensive chops and has really played with more confidence this year. I am hoping to see him play that 3-and-D role while maintaining his poise and adding some off-the-dribble creation.

Lastly, Layden Blocker is a 2023 lead guard prospect with excellent bounce, solid playmaking, defensive energy, high level handles, and is a capable shooter. I am looking forward to seeing how he handles the pressure of GEICO as a lead guard for the first time. Will he get sped up as a decision maker? Will he let the game come to him? How will the pressure and energy change his approach? Very much looking forward to answering those questions at GEICO.

Tyler Glazier: While it’s tough to narrow it down to only a few players, the top-three intriguing prospects that come to mind are; Mookie Cook of AZ Compass Prep, Dillon Mitchell of Montverde and Caleb Foster of Oak Hill Academy. To start with Cook, during the early portion of the season, the Portland native struggled to figure out how to fully insert himself within a deep, talented AZ Compass squad. He’d show flashes, but wasn’t quite taking the game over like you’d hope a top-5 prospect in his class would. However, the dry spell didn’t last long as Cook quickly asserted himself as one of the top dogs and the go-to option for a team that’s been on a GEICO mission since day one. Now that the Dragons are here, it’s time for Cook to firmly establish himself as one of the best wings in the country as well as a bonafide first option on a championship level team.

Montverde Academy wing Dillon Mitchell really burst onto the scene around this time last year as he and former teammate Emanuel Sharp were shredding the hardwood with Bishop McLaughlin (FL) and E1T1. While Mitchell has always been a stunning athlete and versatile defender, the shot consistency and creation ability are still playing catchup to the rest of his strengths. GEICO Nationals is a useful stage for Mitchell to not only show off his upside, but to showcase more of a complete player who could be ready to shoulder heavier offensive responsibilities for Texas next season.

Lastly, Oak Hill’s 2023 maestro Caleb Foster enters GEICO as perhaps the most unflappable guard in the tournament. After a long and windy road to get onto the big stage, Foster has been excellent at playing with poise, commanding the offense, and functioning as the tip of the spear for one of the country’s most historic prep programs. With legitimate NBA tools and a mature feel for the game, Foster seems ready-made for the big stage as he moves up levels. However, GEICO provides us with another opportunity to see how he can galvanize the troops during trying times, as well as if he’s able to make defenders consistently pay for giving up space. Should be fun to watch.

PD Web: Link Academy’s Julian Phillips is a player I haven’t quite seen enough of in-person compared to other prospects of his caliber — but what I have seen has me fascinated. Phillips as it stands is a hand-in-glove fit for the defensive expectations of swingmen in the league — 6’8 wings with large wingspans, technical prowess and a huge motor are as rare as they are coveted. I’m excited to get a larger sample of his shooting to more accurately place him on the developmental continuum. The last two times I have seen Link in person, recently, Phillips is 1-7 from 3 and I’m sure I’m responsible for some kind of jinx as according to Cerebro’s database, that is the worst consecutive events from 3 for him all season. The percentages overall are positive and the most encouraging element is the attempt rate and general confidence in shot attempts.

MVA’s Skyy Clark, who recently reopened his recruitment, has been a stabilizing factor for the Florida powerhouse since returning from an ACL injury in January. Clark’s GEICO run will be interesting on multiple fronts: the scouting, the schematic and the recruiting. On the scouting side, patience is required for players returning to injury, especially to go from not playing to playing NIBC basketball. GEICO will be the best opportunity to get an insightful scout on Skyy now that he has ~3 months of competitive basketball under his belt. In the schematic sense, MVA greatly benefits from having a guard who can stir the drink and run offense. Clark, if back in full form, changes the dimensions of the bracket with his ability to take some creation burden off Dariq Whitehead’s shoulders, as well as find easy shots for others on a roster that is challenged for advantage creation. And finally, on the recruiting side: Clark has named his final six: Illinois, Louisville, Tennessee, USC, Maryland, and Washington — and the implications of where he lands will have reverberations across the landscape.

This cycle’s biggest riser over the last year, in my eyes, has been Oak Hill’s Judah Mintz. The former Gonzaga combo guard has gone from an interesting volume scorer to a dynamic three-level threat who has proven the ability to get to spots against anybody. Going into EYBL, there were concerns about his shooting from deep, Mintz answered those questions emphatically by knocking down 38% of his 3s. When defenders feel the need to aggressively contest Mintz’s jumper, it plays into his best skill — getting to the free-throw line at volume. Some people may not like the aesthetics of foul-craft but no one can question the effectiveness — for example, in three games at the Metro Classic, Mintz got the line twenty three times! Said differently, his Metro Classic free throw rate of 67.6 is in the range usually reserved for ultra athletes who throw themselves at the rim, not skinny guards who win with craft and guile. For Oak Hill to advance forward in Steve Smith’s ultimate season as head coach, Mintz will need to pull out every trick of his scoring bag against the elite defense of Link Academy.

MV: Who are three of the top long term underclassmen prospects in the field? What skills do they have that merit excitement about them as prospects and what should we look out for from them throughout GEICO Nationals?

AN: Montverde Academy’s Derik Queen is the underclassman that has the biggest role on any of the GEICO teams, showing potential as an offensively versatile small ball 5. He currently is able to take advantage of mismatches and also finish over size due to excellent touch and footwork around the hoop. Queen has shown flashes of stretching the floor to 3 in addition t