In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Michael Visenberg spotlights prospects who stood out at Sports Academy National Cup after spending the weekend in Dallas, Texas for South Session 1:
After the initial session of the West at Sports Academy, the Sports Academy National Cup powered by Matt Barnes held sessions in the East and South. With the East Session taking place at Athletic Republic in District Heights, MD, the South Session featured plenty of talent from the 2027-29 classes at Drive Nation in Dallas, TX. The South Session included teams from Georgia, Florida and Texas, with Session 1 acting as pool play with 12 teams in the 2027 Division (including two 2028 teams playing up) and 5 teams in the 2029 division.
Session 2 will take place at Pick A Ball in Deerfield Beach, FL from April 22-23. The Florida teams really made their mark in Texas in the 2027 division, with Florida Rebels and Tre Mann Elite 2028’s going 4-0 in Session 1. Teams that finished at 3-1 include Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL), B.C.A.T. (FL), RJ Hampton Elite (TX), Atlanta Celtics (GA) and Texas Dynasty (TX). There were four teams from Drive Nation (TX) (Cooper, Hunt, Kingcaid, 2028 Sykes) and Rafer Alston’s RA Elite (TX) that rounded out the rest of the field.
There was a lot of talent at Drive Nation and we saw teams that should be in contention to make noise during the Sports Academy National Cup final set to be back at Sports Academy May 13-14. There were teams that will surely have All-Star level players, some deserving multiple and a few who should be among the finalists for full tournament awards. Below, we’ll dive into a group of special standouts from the weekend, some of whom already hold college offers and a few who will likely be getting some very soon.
Cayden Daughtry | 2027 | Florida Rebels (FL)
It’s incredibly impressive how Daughtry uses his speed and misdirection to get to his spots seemingly at will. He is already a versatile shooter, with a pull-up game and ability to shoot off movement. His change of pace, body control and spatial awareness look to be at or near the highest level of anyone in this class. In a marquee showdown with RJ Hampton Elite, and teammate Jeremy Jenkins in foul trouble, Daughtry’s ability to take over a game was evident. His propensity to create paint touches and draw contact blends very well with his potent shooting ability, making Daughtry quite the conundrum to defend.
Still just 13 and standing around 5’8”, it appears Daughtry has some growing left to do. From a football family (former star NFL receiver Anquan Boldin is his uncle) Daughtry fell in love with basketball watching the Heatles of the early 2010’s. His scoring instincts are advanced but his toughness may be just as noteworthy — it’s remarkable how quickly he bounces right back up after taking hits when in attack mode. His high-level awareness translates to the defensive end, as well, where he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Currently starting for his Varsity team at Somerset Academy Canyons (FL) where he averages over 20 points per game, Daughtry made playing amongst prospects his own age look like a breeze throughout the weekend in Dallas, leaving a very strong positive impression on those in attendance.
Willie Darden, Jr. | 2028 | Tre Mann Elite 2028 (FL)
With only two 2028 teams available to play last weekend in Dallas, the Tre Mann Elite 2028s played all that Drive Nation AAU had to offer during the South Session 1. They passed with flying colors, with a lot of help from Darden, who is a very high-level prospect in the class of 2028. Already 6’4”, Darden has a lot of comfort with the ball in his hands, agility and vertical pop. He is really effective getting downhill, and brings equity playing both on or off the ball. He’s a threat to grab a defensive rebound and take it coast-to-coast, too. The space coverage defensively and ability to get to the basket (and free throw line) both stand out, as well. Darden plays with a great nose for the ball, enabling him to come up with stocks (steals and blocks) with his length and impressive ground coverage. Size, strength, athleticism, ball skills and flashes of shooting ability all make Willie Darden a national-level recruit. He’s in the process of moving to Florida and playing with a player close to his size and skillset in Nijaun Harris (see below), which gives Tre Mann Elite 2028 one of the most devastating 1-2 punches of any age group in the Sports Academy National Cup.
Nijaun Harris | 2028 | Tre Mann Elite 2028 (FL)
Harris was the main offensive initiator for Tre Mann Elite 2028. Close to as tall as Darden, he possesses a good handle and ability to make quick decisions. He has a wide frame and can overpower once near the hoop, with an ability to get off the floor with ease, evidenced by his multiple put-back dunks off the backboard. Already comfortable pulling up from deep, Harris does his best work around the hoop — he has a quick first step that allows him to get into the paint and utilize his soft finishing touch. The combination of size, functional strength, nose for the ball, on-ball skills, and playmaking for someone his age really makes Harris a special prospect. He only turned 13 in October and already possesses so much poise on both ends of the floor, with physical tools that allowed him to not only easily play up, but flourish against 2027s.
Jeremy Jenkins | 2027 | Florida Rebels (FL)
There is being big and then there is playing big, and Jeremy Jenkins emphatically checks both boxes. He is a reported 6’5” as of right now, but he plays as if he is already high school big man size with his aggression and production around the basket. With great hands and fundamentals as a rebounder, Jenkins is an offensive rebound magnet and initiates contact at a very high rate. Scoring through contact is a big part of his game, along with a big time spin move and additional fancy footwork that allows him scoring angles. What he lacks in vertical pop, he makes up for in reacting quickly and being quite soft on his feet. He also brings physicality to the defensive end (which he plays in football, along with TE), where he protects the rim and is able to use his understanding of angles to cut off paths for guards. Jenkins is an excellent overall rebounder, dangerous around the basket, has an ability to handle in space and looks up the floor as a passer. His current skillset is already impressive, though Jenkins should only continue to grow — bottom line: not someone many would enjoy matching up with on the hardwood nor the gridiron.
Ryan Hampton | 2027 | RJ Hampton Elite (TX)
The younger brother of the Orlando Magic’s R.J. Hampton, Ryan already stands approximately 6’5” and boasts long strides and a multifaceted offensive arsenal. He’s very comfortable dribbling with either hand, he gets through tight spaces with body control and has a nice floater game. He’s also an adept three-point shooter and can get going both off the bounce and off the catch. Hampton has touch near the hoop and does a great job drawing fouls and earning trips to the free throw line. He can really make things happen after grabbing defensive rebounds, playing off a live dribble in transition. He has a quick second jump, which reveals itself on the offensive glass and while protecting the rim. His fluidity as a mover and hang time while driving make him a very tough cover. He uses space well, can make plays for his teammates and has length that’s really bothersome for opponents as a defender. All in all, Hampton is a really promising long term prospect who already has plenty of game with the ability to get buckets in bunches.
Sequel Patterson | 2027 | Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL)
Patterson may be the most fun player to watch in the entire Sports Academy National Cup field thanks to his top-tier athleticism, especially as a vertical leaper. Beyond bounce that allows him to throw down thunderous dunks as a 6’0” middle schooler, Patterson also plays very well off the bounce with an advanced pull-up game, an effective fadeaway and a one-foot step back that’s tough to contest. He creates space well with his handle and attacks angles with his strong burst, resulting in a lot of quality attempts at the rim. While attacking along the baseline, Patterson is especially effective with his first step and stride length and in Dallas, it was typically a finish, defensive foul or both. Defensively, he can provide highlights, as well, thanks to his lateral quickness and vertical pop, making him a problem for the opposition both as an on-ball defender and a shot-blocker. Also a quarterback prospect, Patterson is an exciting basketball prospect due to his athletic tools and shooting ability. His self-awareness is another key differentiator, as he seems keenly aware of what he needs to work on (e.g. his court vision and processing speed) in order to take his game to even higher heights.
Malachi Booker | 2027 | Texas Dynasty (TX)
At 6’5” with an already tremendous frame, Booker had barely turned 14 just prior to South Session 1. What he can do as a vertical leaper from a standstill is impressive, as are his fundamentals as a rebounder, where beyond just being tall, he highpoints the ball very well. He uses his strength to carve out space and score through contact — these tools also make him an imposing post defender. He provides flashes of a functional open court handle as well as a smart passing out of the post. He’s selective from range, but displays soft touch from the free throw line and the mid-range. Booker uses his body well to seal off duck-ins and while fighting for position and even has the ability to straight-line drive and finish from some tough angles. Booker couples his mature frame and good hands with movement ability, making him quite a match-up problem. Back in September, Booker announced the news about his offer from Kansas State and based on what he showed us in Dallas, that offer will be far from his last.
Payton Jones | 2027 | Texas Dynasty (TX)
In this day and age, the floater is quite commonplace in many players’ repertoires, but when it comes to Payton Jones, he seems to have it down to a science. Beyond this standout nuanced skill, he is a flat-out scorer who brings off-ball equity, a handle that gets him through tight spaces, a pull-up game, and lots of confidence from beyond the arc. His quickness really allows him to create space for good looks, and he makes things happen playing out of the pick-and-roll as well, where he can get downhill off screens or make strong passing reads. A creative finisher who is not afraid of contact and gets to the free throw stripe a ton, Jones appears to be Texas Dynasty’s go-to guy when they need a bucket. Overall, this is a smart, competitive player who plays with poise and carries several weapons in his bag as a scorer.
De’Shawn Dillon | 2027 | Texas Dynasty (TX)
Dillon uses his size, length, and vertical athleticism to slash to the hoop on a very regular basis. With multiple capable handlers on his team, Dillon works as more of a finisher and projects to be finishing above the rim consistently in games very soon. Even currently, he has some real hang time on finishes and draws a lot of contact, resulting in a solid free throw rate. He converts easy points at the line and displays soft touch from out to mid-range. Defensively, he leverages his length and agility, and even offers some occasional rim protection with his leaping ability. Possessing a skillset many teams can use, the Mississippi native trains with Erick Dampier (and his son, top-ranked 2028 prospect Erick Dampier, Jr.), and focuses on his defense, finishing and handle. The ball skills are still in development, but the functionality as a defender and finisher really stood out in Dallas.
Jadarian “JD” Williams | 2027 | RJ Hampton Elite (TX)
Motor is never an issue with JD Williams, who really gives his all on both ends. He is an offensive initiator, front line defender and overall team leader for RJ Hampton Elite. Energy is a constant with him, and he also brings vertical pop, effectiveness off ball, and some deep range on his jumper. Williams is the type who can score in bunches, communicate where other players should be on the floor and he does the little things that contribute to winning. Defensively, he gets plenty of deflections, causes turnovers and has good off-ball awareness. Williams is a highly active player who can score and set up teammates while staying engaged on defense.
AJ Williams | 2027 | Atlanta Celtics (GA)
A sturdily-built guard who does a little of everything, Williams was a major focal point on both ends for the Atlanta Celtics in Dallas. He’s comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and is a threat from long-range, boasting repeatable mechanics and a soft touch. Another great trait is his passing ability. He can also play out of the high post, find open shooters off a live dribble and can spearhead transition offense. He is a very quick reactor once he catches the ball and there’s some creativity present in Williams’ game, too. He knows how to use his body very well as a finisher in addition to carving out position as a rebounder. Defensively, he has strong awareness, communicates well and uses his hands to cause some chaos. Williams’ strong feel for the game and versatile skill package make him an intriguing player to monitor, moving forward.
Reese Alton | 2027 | RA Select (TX)
The son of RA Select’s namesake, former And 1 Mixtape, Fresno State and NBA star Rafer “Skip to My Lou” Alston, “Lil Skip” is already displaying some of the qualities that made his father so renowned among basketball culture. The first thing you notice with Alston is his hand-eye coordination, which serves as the foundation of his smooth, creative handle. His advanced ball skills allow him to get to good spots on the floor and create for teammates. He is a streaky shooter at this stage, though it’s worth noting that his release is very quick and he does not lack confidence from long-range. Defensively, he gets into handlers and shows good instincts as a help defender. He makes a living running out in transition and has some crafty finishing ability at the cup. Even with his self-creation ability, he fits well within a team construct and has a lot of skill to build on as he continues to grow and add strength.
Isaak Hayes | 2027 | Texas Dynasty (TX)
After missing his team’s first game of the weekend with a game for his school team, Hayes instantly brought a different level of creation and handling competency, perfectly complementing his backcourt mate Payton Jones. Texas Dynasty won all the games Hayes played in by double digits and his playmaking and general presence as an offensive threat certainly played a role. He has good footwork and patience as a driver and constantly has his eyes up looking for open teammates. He can make post entry passes and break down the defense to kick to open cutters and shooters with impressive proficiency, as well. Hayes is also a long-range threat who can attack closeouts and his first step generates plenty of paint touches. A scrappy defender as well, he makes Texas Dynasty one of the more dangerous one-loss teams heading into Session 2.
K’majay Jenkins | 2027 | Atlanta Celtics (GA)
The first thing that stands out with Jenkins beyond his size and length on the perimeter, is how easily he shoots the ball from three-point range. His spot-up shooting is a legit weapon and while he mainly played off the ball in Dallas, he was still a threat to grab a rebound and take it all the way. Jenkins is a multi-positional defender along the perimeter, and brings toughness and discipline as he affects shots with verticality. He may not have been at full strength, as he missed the Celtics’ second game of Day 1 against B.C.A.T., a loss where they really missed his presence — however, Jenkins’ scrappy play and ability to contribute in a number of different areas makes him a really important piece that just about any team looks for — a crucial component to this Atlanta Celtics squad.
Matt Barnes Defensive Spotlight Award
This award goes to the best defensive player in the session. The recipient must exhibit a high-level of defensive capability, affecting the game in multiple ways on the defensive end.
AJ Polk | 2027 | RJ Hampton Elite (TX)
The quick lefty has a nice shot and floater game, though his on-ball defensive ability, lateral quickness, and his penchant for getting steals was most impactful throughout the weekend. Polk can get up to block and challenge shots, while his overall energy and ability to mirror opponents is key to RJ Hampton Elite’s success. As aforementioned, the Memphis native is also a scoring threat with touch on his jump shot and a smart, tough slasher. In this setting, he showed that he can play either guard position, plus defend 1-3, while also being able to cover space and play effective help defense, regardless of the matchup or his team’s coverage. There were a lot of worthy candidates for the Matt Barnes Defensive Spotlight in Dallas, but Polk’s energy, activity and level of disruption led to him getting the nod.
Other Notable Performers
Steve Achille | 2027 | B.C.A.T. (FL)
Bottom Line: Physicality, cutting, slashing and defensive intensity
Jomar Bernard | 2027 | Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL)
Bottom Line: Size, off-ball activity, touch, rebounding, and rim running
Malik Charles | 2027 | Florida Rebels (FL)
Bottom Line: Comfort on ball, outlet passing, length as a finisher and defender
Christopher Clay | 2027 | RA Select (TX)
Bottom Line: Toughness, tough shot-making, ability out to long range and playmaking
Mark Dadlani | 2027 | B.C.A.T. (FL)
Bottom Line: Spot-up shooting, cutting, getting to the foul line and defensive positioning
Jonathan Gibbons, Jr. | 2027 | B.C.A.T. (FL)
Bottom Line: Rebounding intensity, finishing through contact, strength, and slashing
Braylon Griffith | 2027 | Texas Dynasty (TX)
Bottom Line: Physical tools, offensive rebounding, touch around the basket and one of the younger players in 2027 (does not turn 14 until May)
Quais Hafid | 2027 | B.C.A.T. (FL)
Bottom Line: Connector-archetype on O, handle, playmaking, perimeter defense, and shooting prowess
Dooney Johnson | 2027 | Atlanta Celtics (GA)
Bottom Line: Agility, passing, ability to get into gaps off the bounce, shot-making, and defensive ground coverage
Dylan Jones | 2027 | RJ Hampton Elite (TX)
Bottom Line: Size, strength on the wing, defensive versatility, rebounding, and cutting
Torossie Leslie | 2027 | Atlanta Celtics (GA)
Bottom Line: Stop-start ability, perimeter defense, pull-up game, and explosiveness as a finisher
Jerrod Long | 2027 | Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL)
Bottom Line: Versatility as a shooter, floater game, willingness to run in transition
Nolan Nelson | 2027 | Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL)
Bottom Line: Size and physical tools, vertical pop, passing from the post, and rim protection
Antwain Tennell, Jr. | 2027 | Tre Mann Elite 2027 (FL)
Bottom Line: Craft as a handler, passing vision, body control as a finisher, and outside shooting
Michael Vilmenay | 2027 | Florida Rebels (FL)
Bottom Line: Spot-up shooting, reaction time off the catch, defensive awareness, and decision making
Anthony Walcott | 2027 | Florida Rebels (FL)
Bottom Line: Defensive versatility, inside-out ability, rebounding, and finishing off straight-line drives
Kareem Willmore | 2027 | B.C.A.T. (FL)
Bottom Line: Shot-making, ability to make plays off the bounce, outside shooting, and patience while driving
Brodrick Wyatt | 2027 | RA Select (TX)
Bottom Line: Strength, touch, footwork, passing ability, and defensive physicality