Event Recap: Sports Academy National Cup - South Session 1
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-