In the latest edition of “P.I. Pulse”, Pro Insight’s Alex Brown recaps the La Porte Invitational, a stacked few days of NIBC basketball in a picturesque gym in La Porte, Indiana:
Five Event Storylines
Derik Queen’s Career Performance
Event Stats: 2 GP, 28.5 MPG | 14.4 C-RAM (#1 overall at La Porte), 29 pts, 10.5 rebs (4 oreb), 3 asts, 2.5 stl, 1 blk, 1 to. 65.2% TS%
Derik Queen’s dominating performance at La Porte hit on all the reasons why he is such a coveted player for high major programs. Queen took over La Porte by putting up 34 points on 14/20 shooting against Sunrise Christian, followed by another impressive 24-point outing against Wasatch. Despite being closer to 6’8”, Queen was unstoppable around the rim, carving out advantageous angles, playing with patience, and capitalizing on defensive mistakes. He didn’t play selfishly either, and continued to show that he can facilitate in the post or as a hub, hitting backdoor cutters or moving the ball to the open man. Naturally, he is looking more and more like a hard big to double in the post at the college level. Queen has also notably slimmed down, looking to be in far better shape and more able to capitalize on his quick feet and sneaky agility. The most impressive development was his budding ability to hedge on the perimeter far more effectively than in the summer, generating multiple steals on unsuspecting ball handlers. Since he is not an elite rim protector, learning to be more versatile in PnR coverages will be key to making a higher impact at the college level, and Queen appears to be on the right track to do just that. All in all, Derik played some of, if not the best basketball of his career at Montverde here in Indiana.
Zaide Lowery Intrigues on the Wing
Event Stats: 2 GP, 22 MPG | 7.0 C-RAM, 11.5 pts, 9.5 rebs (0.5 oreb), 1.5 asts, 1.5 stl, 1 blk, 5.5 to. 52.6% TS%
La Lumiere was playing a bit thin in La Porte, really only playing six guys and asking a lot out of each of them. Marquette commit Zaide Lowery answered the call defensively, consistently giving guards, wings, and even a couple bigs some headaches while rebounding the ball at a very high level. As a POA defender, Lowery was able to check 1-4 relatively effectively with his ground coverage, length, active hands, and wiry strength. Additionally, Zaide added some equity as a wing shot-blocker, including blocking a potentially game-tying three-point shot from Jeremiah Johnson. On the offensive end, Lowery buried four aesthetically-pleasing three-point shots in the first game against Wasatch, a gutsy La Lu win, although he didn’t quite get those opportunities against a very tough LuHi team on the final day. As far as development areas, Lowery will need to clean up the handle and passing, as he ended with 3 total assists and 11 turnovers (mostly as a result of the handle, passing ball placement), but there were also moments where he flashed more upside than he is truly given credit for. A particularly correlating highlight was a great live dribble hook pass over the top of a show/soft PnR coverage to a rolling Gus Yalden, resulting in an assist. There were other promising instances where he navigated traffic well to get into the teeth of the defense, but just wasn’t able to finish. It will be more of a question of if it will all come together from a timing, proprioception, and decision-making standpoint as he continues to adjust to his first year of NIBC play, as he’s been thrown into the fire a bit. However, the base of great defense and positive shooting is a strong foundation to build off of on the wing, and Zaide certainly has that.
Jayden Ross Boosts His Long-Term Stock
Event Stats: 2 GP, 26 MPG | 11.8 C-RAM (#3 overall at La Porte), 19 pts, 5.5 rebs (1.5 oreb), 1.5 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 to. 82.6% TS%
Perhaps the player that helped himself the most at La Porte was UConn commit Jayden Ross, a versatile wing that will surely complement UConn’s stacked 2023 recruiting class. Ross plays a very aesthetically pleasing game, and started off with a statement 24-point performance on 9/10 shooting (including 6/7 from deep) against Bishop Walsh. There, he showcased a streaky, albeit lethal perimeter attack paired with high-flying finishes and unselfishness as a passer. Furthermore, Jayden didn't deviate in approach and play outside of himself, even when he really had it going from deep. The impact didn't stop there, for Ross was constantly locked in defensively, making a cognizant effort to shut down ball handlers and not give up any advantage on or off the ball. While he wasn’t making highlight reel-worthy blocks or constantly blowing up passing lanes, he brought great ground coverage, constant engagement, and a team-first approach that should endear him to his future teammates at UConn and beyond. Seeing if he can take the next step as a passer and ball handler will be interesting to track moving forward, as Jayden showed a potentially promising base for a D/P/S wing with defensive chops. All in all, Ross looked the part of a highly impactful supporting wing that will thrive in the gaps at UConn alongside his star-studded teammates.
Jordan Ross Brings Steady Dominance
Event Stats: 2 GP, 22 MPG | 11.0 C-RAM (#5 overall at La Porte), 14.5 pts, 3.5 rebs (1 oreb), 3.5 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1.5 to. 84.9% TS%
Jordan’s 16-point outing against Oak Hill encompassed the great qualities that Saint Mary’s is getting in their lead guard of the future. An incredibly steady presence, Ross never looks sped up or out of control, always processing the game and playing team-oriented basketball. While not expected to produce much as a scorer, Ross stepped up in La Porte and led his team to victory against a hungry Oak Hill team. Ross did so with his ability to always remain in control of the pace and the offensive scheme as a creator and facilitator while adding a perimeter threat as a scorer. Furthermore, Ross got to the rim/line on a couple occasions where his team really needed him to create, and executed with efficiency. Defensively, Ross brings a high feel, solid advantage mitigation, and never takes plays off. Overall, this level of performance from him certainly makes him feel like a steal for Saint Mary’s.
Mikel Brown Emerges for Sunrise Christian
Event Stats: 2 GP, 17.5 MPG | 4.7 C-RAM, 8.5 pts, 1.5 rebs (0 oreb), 3.5 asts, 1 stl, 0 blk, 2 to. 51.1% TS%
After a non-factor outing against Montverde, sophomore Mikel Brown came back with a vengeance against IMG, scoring 13 points and adding 7 assists. Bringing an electric, but steady court presence and a shifty, deceptive pace, Mikel brought a ton of energy to the court and was the major catalyst in the big win. Routinely taking older, larger players off the bounce, Mikel excelled at knifing into the lane and finishing around length. In the PnR and transition, he made multiple flashy reads to cutting teammates for easy layups. His elite feel for the game was on full display, and more than made up for his lack of
size. The shot looked solid as well despite it not dropping for him often, as he has a clean energy transfer and good touch. All in all, Mikel really impressed and boosted his already high stock with his play against IMG.
Cooper Flagg was a monster defensively, constantly racking up stocks and deflections while locking in on the ball. He impacts the game in so many ways and is almost always successful in his role, no matter what is asked of him.
Coen Carr rocked the rim constantly in Legacy’s final outing, playing with an unyielding motor and relentless rim attack. While the shot wasn’t falling and the turnovers were a bit high, there are very, very few high school athletes out there in the same tier as Coen Carr.
Matas Buzelis had an excellent and efficient outing for Sunrise. He buried the 3 (6/10 overall), facilitated, picked his spots well at the rim, and racked up deflections/stocks (9) all while playing within the flow. While he did turn it over a few times, he did what he does best and drove winning basketball, simple as that.
Miro Little played with significant toughness and brought vocal leadership to Sunrise. He came across as very coachable on the court and all about winning in his role. He facilitated effectively as well, adding 9 assists.
Trent Pierce lit up the nets from deep in his first outing to the tune of 25 points, and showed exactly what made him an intriguing pickup for Mizzou as a 6’9” floor stretcher with some movement skills and defensive upside.
Collin Murray-Boyles continued to be productive on both ends, averaging 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds while adding 4 stocks. CMB consistently produces in each setting with a very high activity level and feel for the game. He might not be the tallest big, but he plays far larger than his listed size.
Jeremiah Johnson has developed into one of the more consistent scoring options in the class of ‘24 with his ability to knock down the 3 off the catch along with having a deep finishing/slashing bag. He was effective in La Porte as well, knocking down 4 of his 7 three-point shots and adding 16ppg.
Malick Diallo seemed a bit quiet, but started off with one of the more steadily impactful and engaged games against La Lumiere, finishing with 8 points, 6 boards, and 3 blocks, all while keeping a sound approach despite Gus Yalden bringing his fiery competitive fire to their matchup. Wasatch will be expecting a lot out of Malick over the next two seasons, and these performances were promising signs that their expectations will be rewarded.
VJ Edgecombe has some serious athletic tools, translating into plenty of event generation with 5 steals and 4 blocks through his two games. He didn't score the ball at the level he had in previous NIBC settings, and took on more of a supporting role this time around, making more plays for others. A promising prospect on the rise nationally.
Jacob Ross, the sophomore brother of Jayden Ross, impressed on the defensive end with great engagement, reliability, movement skills, and solid tools for a ‘25. With a budding offensive skillset, he is certainly a name to track on the wing for LuHi.
Gus Yalden might be pretty undersized as a 5, but has a beautiful perimeter stroke and plays with as much passion as you’ll see. He has an infectious energy about him that played a huge part in La Lu beating Wasatch.
Drayton Jones showed intrigue as a big man that can bury the 3 and protect the rim, adding exactly what Oak Hill needed from him in his role — a steady court presence.