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Event Recap: Sports Academy National Cup - Session 2

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 Albany, NY for Session 2:

Following a successful Session 1 at Tarkanian Center in Las Vegas, NV on January 6-7, Session 2 took place at Impact Athletic Center in Albany on January 27-28. Hosted by Albany City Rocks (NY), who had four different teams in attendance, it featured teams in the 2028, 2029, 2030 classes (and one 2031 team). The first day consisted of pool play, with the second day being a tournament that led to $2,000 and free entry to the Grand Finale for the team in 1st place, $1,000 and free entry for the team in 2nd place, and $500 plus free entry to the team in 3rd place.

In 2028, Epic Elite Ivy (NJ) ran the table with their only game that was decided by single-digits coming in the finals against runner-up TPG Family (Toronto, Canada). Epic Elite started out on a 26-0 run, with TPG coming back and putting them on their toes before losing 79-70. After an overtime game that saw NY Lightning (NY) win 58-53 over Team Durant (MD) in Pool Play that first day, the third-place game ended up being a forfeit that will give Team Durant some money toward the Grand Finale.

The 2029 tournament saw the NY Lightning dominate, winning by an average margin of 61.8 points. They played Expressions Elite Black (MA) in the finals and won 105-53, with their combination of aggressive defense, adept finishing and outside shooting prowess. After a tough sudden-death triple-OT loss to Expressions Elite Black in the semifinals, Dream Canada 2029 (Ottawa, Canada) took third place with a 65-52 win over Expressions Elite Red (MA). 

Battle-tested from the first session of the Sports Academy National Cup in Las Vegas, the team that traveled the furthest, Sporty Elite (CA), went undefeated over the two days and claimed the 2030 title. Albany City Rocks’ 2030 team took runner-up and both will play in what should be a division buoyed by this coming weekend's group in Session 3 at Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, CA.

There were once again plenty of standouts and names to know moving forward. Every session of Sports Academy National Cup has had a different MVP and this one was no different. A few familiar faces from last year, though plenty of new players, some of whom already have a national presence. Many from Session 2 built a case to garner national interest, and here are some names to keep on your radar.

Event Standouts

Carter Abrahams | 2029 | NY Lightning 2029 (NY)

The skillset Abrahams brings to the table popped from tip-off, as he combined a polished handle with vertical pop and tremendous court awareness. Is a walking triple-double at this level, filling the stat sheet in every major category. He hung in the air for rebounds and flashed finishing creativity that got him easy looks as well as being able to absorb contact. An ambidextrous finisher, he also has a nice pull-up game which he is confident with out to long range. Defensively, he used good hands and feet that created events, plus is so dangerous in transition with his quick decision making. He seemed to be well-known throughout the general area, and in this Session, he showed that his name should be recognized nationally.

Kelvin “Pop” Anderson, Jr. | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

While it’s easy to notice how strong Anderson is out of the gate, he also has fantastic balance and instincts that makes him so dangerous on both ends. He has a beautiful shooting stroke off the catch, he’s a precise cutter and boasts a competent mid-range game. His handle can manipulate a defense and he offers some creativity as a passer. Defensively, Anderson used his strength to his advantage in Albany, showcased his speedy hands and did a great job of reading offensive players' eyes to intercept and deflect passes. The guard from Virginia Beach already holds offers from Monmouth and Radford and based on what he showed last weekend, his offer list will become more extensive in the near future.

Dallas Baldwin | 2029 | NY Lightning 2029 (NY)

Baldwin’s energy was off the charts in Session 2, as he seemed to be all over the floor on defense and got downhill consistently as a driver. With point-differential being the deciding tiebreaker for seeding, Baldwin led the charge of a devastating full court press, forcing tons of turnovers, ultimately resulting in the Lightning shooting up the overall standings. He is a strong finisher, good at shooting off the catch, and can make fancy plays look routine for assists. Baldwin is tough with really good body control and was an absolute stud during Session 2.

Noah D’Acre | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

For the 2028 runner-up, D’Acre was a consistent inside-out force, with size that helped him get shots over opponents near the hoop and a stroke out to three-point range. He showed some shot versatility, where he got pull-ups off in a variety of ways, via turnarounds and by creating space in one or two dribbles. He also made an impact on the boards, as he fought for prime position and was able to react quite quickly once he got the ball. D’Acre is a very difficult match-up at this level who thinks the game well and is not afraid to mix it up, either.

Tahj Gray | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NJ)

Gray has gained notoriety as a wide receiver and safety on the football field, and could understandably be mistaken for someone finishing up high school with his frame as opposed to someone who was yet to turn 15 at the time of Session 2. No player was able to score through opponents as consistently as Gray, and he also shows a mid-range game and chips in on the glass. He’s so physically imposing, athletic and strong, he seals off opponents and has serious vertical pop as well as hands that help him a great deal on both sides of the floor. Gray had a great weekend and was a consistent performer for the 2028 Session 2 champs.

Robert Hall | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

Hall was only with the Lightning for one day, but with wide shoulders and plenty of strength, he made a huge impact. In the quarterfinals against Albany City Rocks, he was all over the offensive boards, showing good hands and a relentless pursuit of the ball in and outside of his vicinity. Hall was able to grab plenty of defensive boards, as well, and he has the coordination and skill to take it coast-to-coast. An intriguing defender, too, with plenty of upside, Hall is one to keep an eye on out of Connecticut.

Camden Hill | 2029 | Expressions Elite Black (MA)

Still only 12 years-old at the time of the Session, Hill had one of the plays of the weekend when he had the game-winner in a grueling triple overtime semifinal against Dream Canada. Already over six feet tall, he can score down low and flashes perimeter ability, as well. Hill is a formidable rebounder, he mixes it up on defense, and makes good reads from the high post. He offers plenty to like for the 2029 runner-ups and will be a must-track in Massachusetts, moving forward.

Marque Johnson, Jr. | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NJ)

Among a team full of good athletes with impressive frames, 6’5” Marque Johnson, Jr. put his stamp on the event with his combination of perimeter skills, vertical pop and the effort he put in on both ends. The lefty can get to the basket, score over and around opponents, plus turn defense into offense. In the final in particular, he made an imprint all over the game, on consecutive occasions taking a steal all the way for a rim-rattling one-handed power dunk. He got to the free throw line frequently and was also a threat from distance. He rebounded well on both ends and made good reads to set up his teammates. Johnson played with plenty of energy and was at his best in the biggest games — a statement weekend for him as he claimed Session 2 MVP.

Dominic Mauro | 2029 | Epic Elite Ivy (NJ)

From a basketball family, Mauro has a great understanding of the game and can play both on and off ball. His ball skills are advanced and he has a frame to help him gain positioning even as the youngest player on Epic Elite Ivy. He has a great feel for angles on finishes, plus when he is off-ball, Mauro is a sniper from range. He has good hands and a feel for playing passing lanes as a defender, regularly turning defense into offense. Mauro plays with creativity on-ball and functional stop-and-start ability, which generates opportunities for himself and for his teammates. He was a major key to Epic Elite Ivy’s dominance in Session 2, exuding confidence and focus beyond his years.

Bryce McCray | 2029 | NY Lightning 2029 (NY)

McCray was one of the smaller players out there, but his outside shooting versatility and toughness speak volumes. He opened up the Session by scoring eight (!) three-pointers, displaying his skills as a relocator, movement shooter and off the bounce. The lefty also finished inside and was an incredibly pesky defender. He uses his eyes to manipulate defenders to get himself opportunities and is able to hit open teammates consistently. His unflappable confidence and deadly touch are a great combination.

Dylan Powell | 2028 | Team Final Black SFM (PA)

There’s a lot to like about Powell, the lead guard for Team Final Black, as he combines a shifty handle with passing creativity and touch from the outside. He’s already long and lanky (and it appears he still has some growth left), which he leverages in a variety of ways, including by converting some tough, body-contorting scoop finishes in the paint. The Philadelphia product provides shooting gravity and can also create pull-up opportunities when run off the line. He brings quickness and has a bag that should make him a fan favorite among those who follow grassroots basketball.

Skyler Ragoo | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

Ragoo brings size and versatility as he can play a number of positions interchangeably at this level. With enough ball skills to run the team at times, he also moves well off the ball and is able to initiate the break with his transition passing. He has repeatable jumper mechanics and finishing creativity, and it won’t be long before he’s throwing down in-game dunks. With length and awareness, he can guard multiple spots on the floor and was a tremendous complement for this Lightning team.

Kenyon St. Louis | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

A smooth guard with good size at this level, St. Louis initially impressed with his shiftiness as a handler and touch on his floater game. He went on to show just how well he can shoot it off the bounce, and is also adept at playing off the ball as a spot-up threat. St. Louis was the player who stopped the massive early run in the finals and he was the primary reason that TPG had Epic Elite Ivy sweating at the end of the game. Also a big playmaker that can shift a defense, he showed all-around game and his competitiveness in Albany.

Zymere Weaver | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NJ)

Yet another impressive athlete with plenty of strength on Epic Elite Ivy, Weaver is also a dual-sport star and quarterback prospect. He showed those skills in SLOB darts and outlet passes. Offensively, he scored with either hand at the rim, hit some mid-range jumpers and was a threat from deep off the catch. Also a strong defender, Weaver provides plenty of value when he is in the game with his versatility at this level, bringing size and effort.

Kevin Wheatley, Jr. | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

The tall, rangy and bouncy Wheatley is teeming with potential and showed plenty of glimpses of his offensive potency in Albany. He displayed his three-level scoring upside in a 58-53 OT win over Team Durant, where he showed his pull-up game and got to the line consistently with multiple and-ones. He’s able to finish easily above the rim, shoot it form 3 and he maps the court well as a passer. Defensively he has length and moves well laterally. Still growing into his frame, Wheatley is someone that could take a major step forward even in a few months with his combination of physical tools and the skills he showed during this Session.

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.

Braxton Bogard | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

One of the taller players in the building at 6’7”, Bogard held down the paint on O and did even more on defense throughout Session 2. He had occasions where he would block shots outside of the paint, plus showed toughness in a few steals he fought away from opponents. Beyond improving his conditioning since last year, he shows good footwork and freed himself for layups under duress and would regularly earn good positioning near the hoop. Bogard was one of the best rim protectors during this weekend and showed encouraging signs on both sides of the ball in Albany.

Other Notable Performers

Melvern “JuJu” Allen-Peart III | 2029 | Albany City Rocks 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Size, rebounding, touch, and interior defense

Xajeno Arroyo | 2029 | Albany City Rocks 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Size, ball skills and range shooting

Shalahn Beckford | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

💡➡️ Quickness, handle, athleticism, and lateral quickness 

Chase Bray | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NY)

💡➡️ Handle, court vision, shooting, defensive hands

Quincy Cook, Jr. | 2029 | Expressions Elite Black (MA)

💡➡️ Handle, ability to get to the rim/FT line and competitiveness

Jamesen Conley | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

💡➡️ Strength, ball skills and touch 

Connor Corrigan | 2029 | Albany City Rocks 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Creative handle, ability to get into the paint and court vision

Elijah Cortes | 2029 | NY Lightning 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Finishing, shooting, and defensive toughness

Willie Darden, Jr. | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

💡➡️ Long strides, athleticism, shot development, and defensive versatility

Bryce Dennis | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

💡➡️ Movement shooting, ability to push the pace on offense and defensive awareness

Ky’Cier Dixon | 2028 | Albany City Rocks 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Size, hang finishing, passing chops, and event creation on D

Ibrahim Gaas | 2028 | Dream Canada (Canada)

💡➡️ Size, movement, touch, and ranginess as a defender

Justus Gales | 2028 | Albany City Rocks (NY)

💡➡️ Handle, ability to get to the basket, distribution, and on-ball D

Tristan Hendy | 2029 | Albany City Rocks 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Size, movement skills, rebounding, and interior D

MJ Hill | 2030 | Albany City Rocks 2030 (NY)

💡➡️ Ability in the dribble/drive, paint touches and court vision

Jack Hulett | 2028 | Albany City Rocks (NY)

💡➡️ Cutting, outside shooting, secondary creation, and ability to get to the line

Jephte Limbila | 2029 | NY Lightning 2029 (NY)

💡➡️ Size, finishing around/above the rim, rebounding, ground coverage, and rim protection

Josue Manya | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

💡➡️ Size, strength, touch around the basket, rebounding, and rim protection

Branden Martucci | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

💡➡️ Movement shooting, cutting, connective passing, and communication

Terry McKinney III | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NY)

💡➡️ Size, ambidextrous finishing, floor-stretching, and defensive agility

Aaron McMorran II | 2028 | Epic Elite Ivy (NY)

💡➡️ Touch from all three levels, use of fakes to manipulate the defense, and defensive awareness

Naeem Miller | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

💡➡️ Cutting, floater game, outside shooting, and defensive effort

Charlie Orcev | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

💡➡️ Long-range shooting, relocation and defensive acumen

Ezra Rich | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

💡➡️ Ability to play either guard spot, handle, ball movement, and outside shooting

Bryce Smalls | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

💡➡️ Size, rebounding, decision making, and interior presence

Billy Stanfield III | 2028 | Team Durant (MD)

💡➡️ Size, range shooting, finishing, and defensive aggression

Ernest Stanton, Jr. | 2028 | Team Final Black SFM (PA)

💡➡️ Handle, ability to get to the basket, distribution, and defensive hands

Julian Streeper | 2028 | NY Lightning (NY)

💡➡️ Long-range shooting, touch, straight-line driving, and court sense

Kyiien Strong | 2028 | Team Final Black SFM (PA)

💡➡️ Intensity, slashing, finishing through contact, getting to the line, and confidence

Majesty Whitaker | 2029 | Expressions Elite Black (MA)

💡➡️ Creative handling, distribution, paint touches, range shooting, and pesky on-ball D

Jakob Wolker | 2028 | TPG Family (Canada)

💡➡️ Size, ability to carve out space in the paint, face-up game, and rebounding


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