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

Updated: Dec 1, 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.