In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse,’ we spotlight seven standout prospects from the first two weekends of NIBC events:
The National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) is a newly formed league of eight prep schools (Montverde Academy, IMG Academy, Oak Hill Academy, Sunrise Christian Academy, La Lumiere, Wasatch Academy, Legacy Early College, and Bishop Walsh) across the country that are playing 38 games from Dec. 2 through Feb. 5 at seven different venues across the country, all of which will be featured on the ESPN family of networks.
Pro Insight’s Aneesh Namburi highlighted a group of 2022 and 2023 athletes who stood out over the 15 games that took place at Montverde, Allegany College (MD), Hoophall West, and Bishop Carroll Catholic (KS).
Gradey Dick (Kansas): 2022 Sunrise Christian Wing
Dick was arguably the most impressive performer of the event’s “First Session,” showcasing a variety of professional level shotmaking skills both on and off the ball. The Kansas commit has always been most threatening as a shooter with his feet set (similar to 2021 lottery pick Corey Kispert), but he showed serious improvements off the bounce, both as a playmaker and scorer. His size garners enough attention as a finisher to draw in help, allowing him to hit shooters along the perimeter with regularity. When defenses stay home, he showed a consistent ability to both create space as well as efficiently make jumpers from two levels (mid-range and 3), including a nutty stutter rip into a one-dribble step-back from the right corner against IMG. Defense will never be his standout skill, but his combination of size, positive decision making/processing, and a frame that seems conducive to adding strength will make it tough for the opposition to consistently target him.
Roddy Gayle, Jr. (Ohio State): 2022 Wasatch Guard
Gayle lived up to his billing as one of the better slashers in the 2022 high school class. His burst off the catch in secondary actions is special, and he showed real flashes to counter off that standout tool via varying levels of deceleration to finish at the hoop or find a teammate. The future Buckeye had the green light to shoot and took a plethora of threes from different vantages. Gayle could be really valuable as a bursty microwave scorer who you have to close out against, but also make enough positive passes to keep defenses honest.
Ryan Mabrey (Undecided): 2022 La Lumiere Guard
Mabrey should be known by every program in the country looking to fill out their 2022 recruiting class, showcasing well-rounded offensive skill in La Lumiere's win over Wasatch. He's a capital S shooter who is willing to fire from anywhere and any situation, whether it be transition, out of the pick-and-roll, spot-up, or off movement, which opens up the floor for his teammates. Obviously the first counter would be to run him off the line, but Mabrey has enough craft to get by the initial defender and make positive plays off that advantage. While sibling comps are often fraught, he genuinely reminds me of his WNBA sister Marina as a dribble/pass/shoot off-guard.
Dillon Mitchell (Texas): 2022 Montverde Forward
Mitchell didn’t need to showcase much offensively to make an impact. The 6-8 rangy forward was a menace on the glass, grabbing 15 in a win against Sunrise Christian. Additionally, Mitchell displayed excellent point of attack defense across the lineup, comfortably guarding four positions due to his quick lateral movements, hip mobility, and understanding of angles to navigate around screens. Off the ball, Mitchell combined his timely instincts with his ability to get off the ground speedily as a weak side rim protector. His offensive package currently starts as an excellent transition player, both running the floor as well as hitting quick outlets for his teammates. In the half court, he was mostly used as a cutter but seemed to have a solid understanding of finding the cracks in the defense. Texas seems like the perfect place to work on amplifying his strengths as he adds onto his lanky frame under their excellent strength and conditioning program.
Jason Rivera-Torres (Undecided): 2023 Bishop Walsh Wing
Rivera-Torres is a joy to watch, giving the perception that he is everywhere on the court at once. He is already a stocks (steals + blocks) monster, netting seven against Legacy with even more deflections. Like most young players, he has the lapses or miscues on this end, but his instincts, in addition to his massive wingspan, are among the best in the class. Offensively, his game seems primed to round into form once he fills out and is able to capitalize his handle with finishes at the rim, in addition to finding consistency in his shooting that currently stretches out to NBA range without hesitation.
Jarace Walker (Houston): 2022 IMG Forward
Walker’s transformation to a small-ball big is working fruitfully for both himself and the IMG squad. Walker is too strong for high school forwards to handle, and too quick and explosive when playing against traditional sized bigs. He has taken out a majority of creator reps and instead become a mismatch nightmare as a play finisher due to the skills mentioned above. Defensively, he has made massive improvements both in the pick-and-roll, where he’s able to stunt between the ball handler and screener with unmatched speed, and as a primary and weak side rim protector due to his improved rotations and quick vertical jump. There were multiple instances of drivers completely changing course after seeing him at the rim, where he cannot be moved easily even if they did attack him. Kelvin Sampson has not seen a small ball big of this talent come into his Houston program yet, which bodes well for a group that develops players like the Cougars.
Dariq Whitehead (Duke): 2022 Montverde Wing
Whitehead continued to show why he is an early projected top-five pick for the 2023 draft. His shooting continues to astound, as Montverde does a great job of putting him in positions to succeed, and Whitehead hit a plethora of jumpers off advantage scenarios (and many tightly contested ones) that project to the next level and beyond. His feel and understanding of pace combined with elite burst allow him to get to the hoop or showcase his playmaking instincts when defenses sell out against the shot. Using lateral quickness and functional flexibility and strength, Whitehead’s role as a multi-position wing stopper with excellent off-ball equity only adds to his case as one of the most intriguing college basketball players in the country when he suits up for the Blue Devils next fall.