The Grind Session Notebook, part I: Superlatives, and more

Updated: Dec 2, 2021


In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Eric Rubenstein shares some early-season musings from The Grind Session. In part I, he assigns superlatives to the top standouts in attendance, and highlights the two most entertaining games after spending the past two weekends in Phoenix, Arizona:


These past two weeks, the Greater Phoenix Area was buzzing as The Grind Session provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate its teams and prospects with the “Latitude Longitude Classic” hosted by AZ Compass Prep and the “All the Smoke Classic” hosted by The PHHacility. While there was no shortage of headliners and marquee matchups these past couple of weekends, there were also several prospects who showed tremendous improvement and some lesser known prospects who introduced themselves on the national stage. Throughout this piece (split up into parts I and II), we will highlight the prospects who stood out and drew our attention. Special thanks to AZ Compass and The PHHacility for their hospitality, as well!


Early-Season Superlatives

Following large events, it’s not uncommon for us to tweet out our ‘post-event superlatives’ list, where we choose both fun and functional categories and assign a prospect who fits best into each slot, based on their performance that given weekend. This time, it felt appropriate to add some reasoning and context behind our early-season superlatives following two weekends of competitive games on The Grind Session.


Alpha Dog

M.J. Rice | Prolific Prep (CA) | Guard | 2022 *Kansas commit)

Stats (4 GP): 19.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1 SPG on 55% FG, 28% 3PT (1.8 3PM/G), 80% FT (6.3 FTA/G)

Rice stood out as the most physically dominant prospect here. The big guard possesses a chiseled, pro-ready frame to go with a killer, alpha-dog mentality. Rice is a forceful athlete who slashes to the rim with aggression and does not shy away from physicality. He explodes through contact to finish at and above the rim. He also seems to live at the line, having averaged over 6 free throw attempts per game in these viewings. Additionally, Rice is a physical on-ball defender who shows promising signs of touch on the offensive end, as well. As his skill level continues to catch up to his physical gifts, he has all the makings of a longtime pro.


Athlete

Jahki Howard | Donda Academy (CA) | Wing | 2024

Stats (2 GP): 5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1 SPG, 1 BPG on 33% FG, 0-5 3PT, 67% FT

Simply put, Howard is a top-tier athlete. He regularly plays well above the rim in transition and in the half-court. His overall offensive skillset is still a work in progress but he is already a defensive difference-maker with his ability to generate events thanks to his scary combination size, length, athleticism, and motor. It will be exciting to watch Howard’s development these next few years as he is just a sophomore.


BBIQ

Milos Uzan | Dream City Christian (AZ) | Guard | 2022 *Oklahoma commit

Stats (4 GP): 15.5 PPG, 8.5 APG, 7.8 RPG on 29% FG, 36% 3PT (2.3 3PM/G), 88% FT (6 FTA/G)

Uzan blends scoring and playmaking well while displaying great intangibles for a young PG prospect. What he lacks in elite explosiveness and dynamic athleticism, he makes up for with his special feel for changing speeds to get into the lane. He processes the game at a very high-level, making excellent reads and timely feeds out of the pick-and-roll. Uzan is a creative passer with both hands, too, and has excellent vision to read the defense and fire cross-court skip passes or throw lobs. Ultimately, Uzan is someone that makes the game easier for his talented teammates. His much-improved three-point shot rarely seems forced, but even when it’s not falling, Uzan is able to consistently impact winning thanks to his uniquely mature feel for the game.


Clutch Gene

Kylan Boswell | AZ Compass Prep (AZ) | Guard | 2023

Stats (2 GP): 9.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.5 SPG on 47% FG, 27% 3PT (1.5 3PM/G)

Even though his shot wasn’t falling, Boswell displayed the unwavering confidence to wave his teammates off and pull-up in rhythm from NBA range to win it at the buzzer against Dream City Christian. Boswell always appears to be on balance and never seems to be sped up. He’a a real competitor who does not shy away from the moment and wants the ball in his hands down the stretch, while also making his presence felt as a tenacious on-ball defender.


Communicator

Jefferson Monegro | Orangeville Prep (CAN) | Guard | 2022

Stats (4 GP): 19.3 PPG, 7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG on 51% FG, 50% 3PT, 87% FT

Our group has long been fond of the leadership qualities and intangibles that Monegro brings to the table. The senior guard regularly rallies the troops and organizes huddles and commands respect from his teammates. Monegro is a vocal communicator on both ends of the floor and a strong overall teammate whose impact is felt beyond his contributions to the box score.


Creative

Dior Johnson Prolific Prep (CA) | Guard | 2022 *Oregon commit

Stats (4 GP): 16.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG. 4.3 APG, 2.3 SPG on 42% FG, 38% 3PT, 86% FT

There’s nothing vanilla about Johnson’s game. Basketball seems to come so easy to him and he has a knack for expressing himself with flair on the court. Johnson is a creative ball-handler, passer, and finisher and has the ball on a string. He’s able to create separation at will as he is shifty and quick twitch with the ball in his hands. He’s also a crafty and acrobatic slasher who has great body control to take contact, adjust, and finish. He can be a bit of a home run hitter at times, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Johnson’s overall talent level and his tendency to make things happen with the ball in his hands.



Defender

Nate Pickens (Dream City Christian (AZ) | Guard | 2022 *UC Riverside commit)

Stats (4 GP): 8.8 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 SPG on 33% FG, 39% 3PT, 88% FT

The UC Riverside commit stood out as one of the more impressive on-ball defenders in The Grind Session as he took on the challenge of guarding several highly-rated players and proved to consistently be a pest. Pickens has quick feet and a strong frame to keep his man in front. He’s also disruptive while in help and has shown a willingness to put his body on the line from his team. Pickens flashes strong feel for the game to go with his 3-and-D skillset. He projects as a difference-maker on the defensive end from day one in the Big West.


Entertaining

Robert Dillingham | Donda Academy (CA) | Guard | 2023

Stats (4 GP): 28.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2 RPG on 47% FG, 38% 3PT (3 3PM/G), 91% FT (11.5 FTA/G)

Grab your popcorn! Despite being one of the shorter players on the court, all eyes turn to Dillingham when Donda Academy steps on the floor. The junior guard possesses elite quickness, top tier body control, and a shifty handle to go with an unrivaled swagger and competitive approach to the game. A gamer that plays with a chip on his shoulder, Dillingham is a creative player that processes the game at a high-level. Couple all of these traits with NBA range as a pull-up jump shooter and it’s easy to get excited about Dillingham’s future.



Hands

Christian Jones | Our Saviour Lutheran (NY | Guard | 2023

Stats (4 GP): 14.8 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.5 RPG, 2.8 SPG on 49% FG, 50% 3PT (2 3PM/G), 68% FT

Jones may not be a household name at this point in his recruitment, but the junior from OSL was truly one of the eye-openers these past two weekends. An absolute menace on defense, regularly flying around and racking up deflections both in their press and in their man-to-man defense, Jones’ long arms, quick hands, and tremendous anticipation give the impression that he is everywhere at once. During the second weekend of Grind Session play, he had five steals in each of his team’s two matchups. Jones is far from a one-trick pony as he also shows a smooth offensive skillset with his ability to finish at the rim with either hand, knock down open jumpers, and distribute to teammates. The lefty has a pretty efficient and well-rounded offensive game, but his defensive playmaking ability (and specifically defensive hands) is what stands out above the rest.


Intriguing

Yohan Traore | Dream City Christian (AZ) | Big | 2022

Stats (4 GP): 19 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1 APG on 54% FG, 60% 3PT (2.3 3PM/G), 52% FT (6.3 FTA/G)

When Traore has it rolling, he is virtually unstoppable. The French big man had some impressive stretches of shot-making from the perimeter and he was active around the rim with his explosive athleticism and quick second jump these past two weekends. He also shows a versatile defensive skillset with the ability to keep guards in front and provide resistance as a rim protector. The sky is the limit for Traore if he can continue to play with a consistent confidence, sense of urgency, and aggressiveness.


JYD

Omarion Bodrick | Donda Academy (CA) | Forward | 2022 *Youngstown State commit

Stats (2 GP): 7.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 3 BPG, 2 SPG on 75% FG, 75% FT

Bodrick is a great complementary piece for this Donda Academy squad as he is not afraid to do the dirty work. He plays with a tremendous chip on his shoulder and makes an impact on both ends of the ball with his toughness, motor, and above-the-rim athleticism. He sticks to his strengths on offense and is a disruptive force on the defensive end, covering ground with ease and racking up deflections (ex. 10 stocks in two games). Bodrick never gives up on plays. He fills a similar role to one Jarred Vanderbilt has thrived in during his time in the NBA. Bottom line, a very good get for Youngstown State who epitomizes what it means to be a junkyard dog.


Motor

Baye Fall | Denver Prep (CO) | Big | 2023

Stats (4 GP): 17.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 1 APG, 2.3 BPG on 55% FG, 1-2 3PT, 63% FT

Fall plays with an infectious energy and always seems to have a smile on his face. His motor never wavers and you can tell he genuinely enjoys playing the game of basketball. He consistently sprints the floor and regularly beats the defense down for high percentage looks. Fall is also a relentless offensive rebounder with a quick second and third jump. He wants to dunk everything whenever he gets a foot in the paint. On the defensive end, he is constantly communicating as the anchor of Denver Prep’s defense. He regularly alters shots and decisions at the rim and makes up for defensive breakdowns with his bothersome help defense. Fall shows some flashes of skill and touch as well, but at this stage the majority of his impact stems from his energy and elite motor.



Outside the Box

Assane Diop | Denver Prep (CO | Forward | 2023

Stats (4 GP): 5.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG (2.8 O), 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1 BPG on 48% FG, 1-4 FT

Diop is very much an unorthodox player as the 6’10 junior functions as a point forward, but can be plugged in at all five positions. Diop is more of an unselfish, pass-first player who initiates offense and uses his size to see over the defense. He regularly skies for defensive rebounds and has no problem starting the break, himself. Off the ball, he is very active as a cutter and as an offensive rebounder. His outside shot and overall impact as a scorer is still a work in progress but he is oozing with defensive potential and has proven to be fairly disruptive on this end. Diop will need to become more consistent with his decision-making and approach, but he is an intriguing long-term prospect who possesses a truly unique skillset.


Shooter

Oziyah Sellers | Southern California Academy (CA) | Guard | 2022 *USC commit

Stats (4 GP): 16.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 SPG on 43% FG, 38% 3PT (4 3PM/G), 4-4 FT

Sellers has a picture perfect stroke with elite shot prep — even when he misses, he always seems to be on target. He gets great arc and has deep range on his shot with a strong comfort level getting shots up off the dribble and on the move. To put it simply, Sellers just gets his shot off extremely easily. Almost everything comes within the flow of the offense for him and his quick release allows him to get some shots off even in moments where he has sub-optimal space. He sprints to the corners in transition and does a great job getting his feet set. He also has a very smooth and under control pull-up game going to his left. Sellers gets great elevation when rising up off the dribble. It’s easy to see how Sellers' game will translate to the next level as he continues to add strength. He’s certainly a guy that opposing teams will have to circle on the scouting report and locate at all times.


Sleeper

Marcus Wilson | Albuquerque Prep (NM) | Guard | 2024

Stats (2 GP): 24.5 PPG, 8.5 APG, 5.5 RPG, 5 SPG on 51% FG, 38% 3PT, 71% FT (7 FTA/G)

The sophomore guard and three-sport athlete from New Mexico came into The Grind Session generating very little buzz, but he burst onto the scene this weekend with a series of impressive two-way performances and earned his first Division 1 offer from Washington State. Wilson is a crafty slashing guard who processes the game at a very high-level. He does an excellent job of blending scoring and playmaking and generally just makes his teammates better. He’s an ambidextrous passer and finisher with great body control with a knack for making things happen and being under control even when he appears to be off balance. The game seems to slow down for him in the lane. Wilson finishes well around the rim and is a menace on the defensive end with his quick hands, strong anticipation, and willingness to put his body on the line.



Statistical Performance (single-game)

Jeremy Foumena | Orangeville Prep (CAN) | Forward | 2022

Stats (4 GP): 23 PPG, 14 RPG (4.8 O), 1 APG on 52% FG, 69% FT (7.3 FTA/G)

Foumena has recorded a double-double in each of his four Grind Session games this month, but the unsigned senior’s 37 point-19 rebound performance vs. Eduprize on a highly efficient 17/21 FG stands out above the rest. The mobile big is highly effective as a rim-runner and offensive rebounder while also showing nice touch as a finisher over his left shoulder. He also effectively high-points defensive rebounds and shows pretty quick defensive hands. If he can keep even close to this level of production up, he won’t be unsigned for long.


Stock-Riser

Amaree Abram | Southern California Academy (CA) | Guard | 2022

Stats (4 GP): 17.8 PPG, 6.5 APG (2.9 A:TO), 4.8 RPG, 3.3 SPG on 44% FG, 29% 3PT, 71% FT

Over the course of these two weekends, no player helped themselves more than the former Texas A&M commit, who re-opened his recruitment in between the first and second weekend of Grind Session play. Abram truly stood out here with his toughness and two-way playmaking ability. He impacts the game on both ends as a disruptive defender with an elite first step and tight handle. Abram can get into the lane at will and take over the game either as a scorer or as a playmaker. He changes speeds well and constantly has his head up to find others. The SoCal Academy guard has quick hands with great instincts to generate events on defense (ex. 3.3 SPG). He’s also comfortable pulling up off the dribble although becoming more consistent with his jumper will be the next step in his development in order to reach his full potential. Abram impacts winning in a variety of ways and is certainly due for a major rise in the rankings and in his recruitment.


Swiss Army Knife

Chance Westry | AZ Compass Prep (AZ) | Guard | 2022 *Auburn commit

Stats (2 GP): 20 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG, 1.5 SPG on 55% FG, 4-6 3PT, 71% FT (8.5 FTA/G)

Westry epitomizes the term “Swiss Army Knife” as you’ll be hard pressed to find an area of the game that he doesn’t impact. The Auburn commit is highly effective in the open floor as both a finisher and facilitator, while bringing value playing either on or off the ball in the half-court. Westry is patient as a driver and finisher with a knack for using fakes to create passing angles or draw fouls. His assist numbers certainly don’t reflect the quality of passes that he made this past weekend. In the second half of their thrilling game against Dream City, he took over as a playmaker out of middle ball-screens. He’s proven to be a willing and improved jump shooter as well, knocking in four of his six attempts from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, he is long and light on his feet with the versatility to check multiple positions and disrupt. Westry is a talented player who continues to improve and has a pretty safe floor as a prospect thanks to his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.


Touch

Jaxon Kohler | Southern California Academy (CA) | Big | 2022 *Michigan State commit

Stats (4 GP): 21.5 PPG, 12.8 RPG (5.8 O), 1.8 APG, 1 BPG on 49% FG, 42% 3PT (2.5 3PM/G), 77% FT (6.5 FTA/G)

The Michigan State commit has an offensive skillset that is built for the modern game, as he is highly efficient with a feathery touch from all over the floor. Kohler has soft hands with tremendous footwork and creativity in the post. He comfortably finishes over either shoulder with jump hooks, fadeaways, and old school up-and-unders. Kohler plays a fundamentally sound game and always seems to be on balance. He stretches the floor as both a passer and shooter, with good feel as a decision maker to go with clean mechanics and a soft touch from beyond the three-point arc. He made 10 threes in four games at just under 42-percent shooting. All things considered, Kohler is far more than just a finesse player as he relentlessly competes on the glass and carves out space for offensive rebounds. If he maintains his current trajectory, he’ll be a productive contributor in the Big Ten sooner rather than later.


Tough

Adem Bona | Prolific Prep (CA) | Big | 2022 *UCLA commit

Stats (4 GP): 9.8 PPG, 8 RPG (2.3 O), 3.3 BPG, 1.3 SPG on 62% FG, 1-3 3PT, 43% FT

Bona is a true competitor who shows a consistent willingness to do anything it takes to win. The UCLA commit possesses elite physical tools to go with a tremendous motor. He consistently sprints the floor and finishes above the rim with force. Opponents struggled to score on him as he is a stonewall defender and fearless rim protector with good mobility. He appears to have made some improvements in terms of skill and polish, but Bona’s determination to stick to his strengths and do whatever he can to impact winning is admirable. His positive imprint is consistent and goes far beyond the box score. He projects as a day one difference-maker who will be a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 in the Clint Capela mold.


Upside

Marquis “Mookie” Cook | AZ Compass Prep (AZ) | Wing | 2023

Stats (1 GP*): 10 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK on 3-5 FG, 4-5 FT

*Did not include stats vs. Dream City as he was injured in the opening minutes

Cook is an imposing defensive presence with a rapidly improving layered offensive game. He covers ground easily to fly around and make things happen on D. Defensively, he successfully leverages his great length, quick hands and nose for the ball. Cook is a terrific open floor finisher and active cutter who regularly plays above the rim. He is also a very underrated passer. The junior is continuing to improve his range from beyond the arc but shows nice touch on mid-range jumpers. He sticks to his strengths and most importantly, he plays the game with an infectious energy and genuine passion. Cook is just scratching the surface of what he can become but as his offense catches up to his defense, he has the looks of a potential future first round draft pick.


Winner

Dylan Andrews | AZ Compass Prep (AZ) | Guard | 2022 *UCLA commit

Stats (2 GP): 11.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 1 APG, 1.5 SPG on 50% FG, 2-4 3PT, 5-10 FT

Andrews may not put up flashy numbers or ‘wow’ you with his explosiveness and athleticism, but he is a gamer with tremendous intangibles. He has an unwavering competitive approach to the game and takes pride in locking up opposing ball-handlers while efficiently managing the game, offensively. It’s easy to see in person that Andrews serves as an extension of the coaching staff. With the game on the line, he’s a guy that you want in your corner — the exact type of hard-nosed player that fits UCLA’s system.


Most Entertaining Games

In this section, we highlighted one game from each weekend that had spectators on the edge of their seats and left everyone wanting more.


Latitude Longitude Classic

AZ Compass (69) vs Dream City Christian (68)

Dream City got out to an early lead behind a barrage of jumpers by Yohan Traore. The injury to Mookie Cook proved a tall task to overcome, but Compass embraced a “next man up” mentality and the well-rounded performance of Chance Westry sparked a comeback in what was a back-and-forth second half between two extremely well-coached teams. The pull-up 3 at the buzzer by the confident and composed Kylan Boswell propelled Compass to victory.



All the Smoke Classic

Donda Academy (91) vs Our Saviour Lutheran (88)

An overtime thriller between two scrappy, competitive and talented teams. Tensions ran high throughout the game as neither team was willing to back down. Robert Dillingham paced Donda with an ultra-efficient 31 points on 12 shots (25 on 9 in the first half) while Christian Jones’ defensive playmaking ability and OSL’s aggressive defensive schemes provided high percentage scoring opportunities. Iona commit Sadiku Ayo made an impressive impact with his energy on both ends of the floor, but a well-balanced effort by Donda Academy after Robert Dillingham fouled out ultimately led them to their first-ever Grind Session victory.


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