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Event Recap: Sports Academy National Cup - Session 1

In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Michael Visenberg highlights prospects who stood out at 2024 Sports Academy National Cup after spending the weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada for Session 1:

The second annual Sports Academy National Cup started up in Las Vegas, building on the concept that first came to life in 2023. Last year had two sessions each in the West (Thousand Oaks, CA and Gilbert, AZ) and East (Washington, DC and Hamilton, OH) respectively, as well as a South Session in Dallas, TX. It culminated with the top teams coming to Thousand Oaks for the Grand Finale, which saw Team Teague (IN) win the 2027 title, Team Takeover (DC) win 2028 and SQUAD (CA) take the 2029 title. It featured a number of top teams and prospects in these classes, with this year set to do the same in getting some of the best teams across the country to compete with each other and determine a champion.

This year is more open with who will be accepted in each region, with the first day having two pool play games, which determines seeding for a tournament the second day in which a “session champion” is crowned. For the 2024 Session 1, first place was awarded $1,500 and free entry to the Grand Finale, second place was $1,000 and free entry, with third place receiving free entry to the Grand Finale. In 2028s, Oakland Soldiers Blue 2028 (CA) claimed the title over Prodigy (CA), 63-61, with BCAT (FL) finishing in third place 58-45 over Desert Freeze (NV). In the 2029 division, CM Elite (NV) was the title winner 73-61 over Desert Freeze (NV), with Jet Family Academy (GA) claiming third place over Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA).

Much like last year, the tournaments will determine who earns automatic bids into the Grand Finale, but tournament invites will not be limited to the top-three places. This is a tournament where teams will be evaluated on how hard they play, teamwork and sportsmanship. There will be three more sessions in Albany, New York, at Impact Athletic Center (Jan 27-28), in Thousand Oaks, California, at Sports Academy (Feb 3-4) and in Dallas, Texas, at Drive Nation (March 9-10). The Grand Finale is scheduled to once again take place at Sports Academy (March 23-24) and will decide who is the best of the best among East, South and West.

Last year yielded a different MVP for every session, all now contributing in big ways to their respective high schools while garnering recognition and even some college offers. 2024 Session 1 provided a number of standouts that project to do the same and teams that should be really tough outs in the Grand Finale. Below, we’ve included some scouting notes on some names to remember from these next few middle school classes:

Event Standouts

Benjamin Brown | 2029 | Desert Freeze (NV)

Very fundamentally sound and with good size in the backcourt, Brown is deadly scoring both on and off the ball. An ultra-confident three-point shooter with deep range, his ability to relocate and create for himself made him one of the top scorers in attendance. Playing in both 2028 and 2029 divisions for Desert Freeze, he had monster performances the first day that saw them get a 62-57 victory over eventual 2028 champs Oakland Soldiers Blue. Beyond shooting, Brown gets to the paint, is quite good at initiating first contact to create space and makes timely decisions. He has great fundamentals and is a real competitor — you can tell he puts in a lot of work into his offensive skillset and is a big time worker.

DeVaughn Dorrough | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

With a solid frame and standing at around 6’6”, Dorrough was one of the better run-and-jump athletes in attendance. He can really get up from a standstill and had a number of rim-shaking dunks, even finishing the occasional lob above the rim. He is also an effective rebounder who maintained verticality while protecting the rim. Still just 14 years-old, he is still working on his perimeter skills, but had plenty of moments of dominance around the basket. A really tough player to match up with on this level.

Weston Edwards | 2028 | Team Lillard (CA)

With evident advanced hand-eye coordination, Edwards can play either guard spot. It seemed like he made multiple three-pointers in every Session 1 outing, plus showed ability to draw and finish through contact. He has floater touch and generates events on defense. Edwards is a creative finisher and playmaker, who drives offense and shows positional defensive ability.

Erik Hopkins | 2028 | Desert Freeze (NV)

Both strong and with some vertical explosiveness, the thing that stood out with Hopkins was just how well he moves his feet on offense. He displayed an effective spin move and used fancy footwork to create space and finish in the paint. With wide shoulders, Hopkins also does a great job of sealing off the defense to get easy looks and was a major threat as an offensive rebounder. He could guard either big very well, even showing some switchability beyond just that with his footwork and frame. There were some big moments this weekend from Hopkins, who had only recently turned 14 and should have plenty more growth ahead of him, both physically and skill-wise.

Justin Kimbrough | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

An absolute offensive engine, Kimbrough is an instinctive handler and passing is his best quality. He also has the ability to knife into the paint, while getting great elevation and balance as a pull-up shooter. He played last year in the Grand Finale and stood out with many of the same qualities, but has since really tightened his handle and seems more confident from long range. He also has the ability to take contact and hang in the air to finish. Defensively, he has very good hands and boasts lateral quickness. Already garnering national attention, it should be expected that college coaches will take notice of his ability to generate offense and run a team as a primary initiator. Even with some physical growth still to be had, Kimbrough was an easy choice as MVP of Session 1 and will have Oakland Soldiers Blue in the running to take the Grand Finale.

Cameron Murray, Jr. | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

From a basketball family with his father (Prodigy Coach Cameron Murray), having played at USC and Louisville, while uncle Tracy Murray played at UCLA and 12 seasons in the NBA, Murray, Jr. brings a lot of scoring punch and a quick, repeatable shooting stroke. Strong, with good size as a guard at this stage, he is a three-level threat and has really good court sense. He shows a lot of confidence and it’s evident that he puts work into his game and is surrounded by people who know how to get to the highest level. Murray, Jr. was a huge reason Prodigy had a run to the final and was within one possession of taking the Session 1 title.

Cayla Murray | 2030 | Prodigy (CA)

The lone girl playing in Session 1 — and a 12-year old playing against 8th grade boys, at that — Murray more than held her own. Her fundamentals were flawless, making quick decisions with the ball in her hands, putting it on the floor when need be and was great at sliding her feet laterally on defense. She also made a huge three-pointer against the Sacramento Soldiers, showing the confidence and toughness that shine when she plays.

William Phillips | 2028 | Team Lillard (CA)

A long strider with movement skills that translate to both ends, Phillips stood out in Session 1 with his physical tools and perimeter skills. With size and ground coverage to stick with multiple positions, he created events and changed shots, defensively. On offense, he showcased footwork that got him to the basket, where he was able to absorb contact well while maintaining his balance. He could also put it on the floor and was a threat to take the ball full court off a rebound. All in all, a really nice two-way wing with developing perimeter skills.

Falco Prophet | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA)

Attending IMG Academy (FL), Prophet played a lot on ball in Session 1, making an impact on both ends of the floor. His defense stood out immediately, as he has the requisite agility to get very low, and even blocked a few three-pointers with his instincts and timing. He can make long range shots off the bounce or off the catch and showed some finishing creativity, as well. His handle can tighten up some and one would hope to see him get by more opponents off the bounce, though ultimately he is a playmaker who shows two-way ability.

Joshua Sanders | 2029 | Jet Family Academy (GA)

The tallest player in attendance at 6’7”, Sanders looks even taller given his long arms and legs. Beyond his size, he moves with fluidity, covering a ton of space on defense and was the premier rim protector at the event. He is an active rebounder on both ends, plus the lefty showed good shooting touch and even some face-up/perimeter flashes. Still raw, Sanders’ combination of size, agility and hands makes him an absolutely tantalizing long term prospect. The young man from Warner Robins, Georgia, is already getting national notice and in a couple months’ time, he could very well be worlds better. Sanders has the attributes that absolutely shorten the basketball learning curve and if he keeps working on the fundamentals, this could be a truly special prospect.

Boston Sheppard | 2029 | Jet Family Academy (GA)

The son of former Florida and NFL cornerback Lito Sheppard, Boston Sheppard is a real team leader and is almost like a coach on the floor. He provides intensity while also being able to hold up in the big moments, as he made numerous clutch shots during the weekend. His handle is tight, he is a confident pull-up shooter and has a floater game. Sheppard is also able to make interior feeds and kick-outs along with his ability to get to the paint. He displayed defensive toughness throughout Session 1, too. Mature beyond his years with plenty of leadership qualities — and one to watch out of Jacksonville, FL.

Shalen Sheppard | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

There is a lot to like with Sheppard’s combination of size, skill and feel. As another returnee from the Oakland Soldiers that played in the Grand Finale — you could really tell he had made some strides with his conditioning and in turn, his confidence. He can do damage around the hoop, though a lot of his best work comes from passing out of the high post and his ability to stretch the floor. He has real touch and court savvy, plus really uses his size well and displays strong defensive instincts. He can really play and guard either the 4 or 5 and shows some (even above the rim, at times) early prowess as a finisher.

Kenneth “Tre” Simmons | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

Showing good size and an ability to move off the ball, Simmons plays either wing spot and provides versatility. Excellent understanding of space and a timely cutter, he also flashed a package of fadeaways along with his spot-ups. He had size to post up, good timing on the offensive boards and was able to get to the line quite a bit with his physicality. Sturdy as a defender as well, Simmons can play on the wing with skill and it’s realistic to envision him evolving into more of a big guard, in the future.

Logan Stotts | 2028 | All 4 One Runnin Rebels (CA)

One word that comes to mind with Stotts is “sauce,” as he brings a lot of juice with his offensive game. He was one of the best movement shooters in the event and was also a huge threat as a spot-up shooter out to deep range. Able to hit all of the angles as a finisher, he really is able to make things happen off the bounce, which included finding teammates in scoring position. Even when his team played the toughest competition, he was able to score with consistency and efficiency. Toughness and poise really stood out.

Matt Barnes Defensive Spotlight

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.

Aiden Shaw | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

The ground coverage and instincts Shaw shows as a defender stood out in each game throughout the weekend. No pass was safe within Shaw’s vicinity and he also has a great sense of when to provide pressure and double team. He had many standout steals where he seemingly came out of nowhere and even had a steal at the end of the final where he narrowly missed a three-pointer for the win. He brings size and length as a guard, though Shaw had to defend just about every position for Prodigy. Beyond his defense, he has ball skills, can slash to the basket and is not someone teams can afford leave open. One of the big standouts of the weekend — a competitor with tons of energy and feel.

Other Notable Performers

Zach Arnold | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

💡➡️ Ball skills, slashing, shooting, and defensive intensity

Davion Berry | 2028 | Team Lillard (CA)

💡➡️ Floater touch, handle and playmaking

Elijah Booker | 2028 | Vegas Elite (NV)

💡➡️ Shooting, handle and pace

Kaleb Bratton | 2029 | CM Bulls (NV)

💡➡️ Handle, court vision, shooting, and on-ball defense

Ryder Daniels | 2028 | Sacramento Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Range shooting, self creation and event creation on defense

McKinley Edwards | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Size, ability to get post position, left-handed touch, and rebounding

Rohan Grewal | 2028 | G1 Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Finishing, decision making and long-range shooting

Kaden Guzman | 2029 | CM Bulls (NV)

💡➡️ Handle, decision-making, shooting, and defensive positioning

Myles Hooks | 2029 | CM Bulls (NV)

💡➡️ Defensive intensity, rebounding, perimeter flashes, and finishing

Cameron Jones | 2028 | All 4 One Runnin Rebels (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, floater game and outside shooting

Ethan Love | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Rebounding, passing and scoring through contact

Darren Luong | 2028 | G1 Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Footwork, finishing and understanding of spacing

King Mastin | 2028 | Sacramento Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Long-range shooting, off-ball movement and defensive intensity

Daniel Miller | 2029 | Sacramento Soldiers 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, shooting and playmaking

Kayden McDonald | 2028 | Sacramento Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Size, vertical explosion and rebounding

Yadiel Melecio | 2028 | BCAT (FL)

💡➡️ Quickness, touch, pull-up game, and passing vision

Alex Moore | 2028 | Team Lillard (CA)

💡➡️ Size, movement ability, stretching the floor, and defensive effort

Zaiden Michael Nelson | 2029 | Jet Family Academy (GA)

💡➡️ Size, ball skills and finishing touch

Zaire Nelson | 2028 | Sacramento Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, shooting touch, slashing and off ball movement 

Nick Odum | 2028 | Desert Freeze (NV)

💡➡️ Size, shooting confidence, rebounding, and defensive versatility

Jordan Price | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Floater touch, long-range shooting and defensive effort

Kortell Price | 2029 | Vegas Elite (NV)

💡➡️ Handle, finishing package, long-range shooting, and defensive instincts

Michael Richardson, Jr. | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

💡➡️ Energy, off-ball movement, offensive rebounding, and outside touch

Jordan Rivera | 2028 | BCAT (FL)

💡➡️ Space creation, finishing creativity, long-range shooting, and defensive hands

Madden Robinson | 2029 | CM Bulls (NV)

💡➡️ Handle, ability to get to the paint, floater game, and long-range shooting

Damari Sawall | 2029 | Desert Freeze (NV)

💡➡️ Finishing, decision-making and defensive intensity

Jordan Smith | 2028 | BCAT (FL)

💡➡️ Size, shooting stroke, rebounding, and defensive acumen

Izaac Strandlien | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

💡➡️ Spot-up shooting, live dribble passing and defensive versatility

Mike Taylor | 2028 | Vegas Elite (NV)

💡➡️ Strength, finishing, vertical explosiveness, and defensive aggression

Tre Terry | 2028 | Oakland Soldiers Blue (CA)

💡➡️ Floater game, long-range shooting and playmaking

Judah Van Ewijk | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers Blue 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Confidence, slashing, long-range shooting, and event generation on defense

Trey Washington | 2029 | CM Bulls (NV)

💡➡️ Toughness, rebounding, finishing, and timing as a rim protector


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