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Event Recap: Sports Academy National Cup - Session 3

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 Thousand Oaks, CA for Session 3:

Session 3 of the Sports Academy National Cup took place February 3-4 at the namesake of the tournament, Sports Academy, in Thousand Oaks, California. With 17 teams in the 2028 division, 16 in the 2029 division, and 11 teams in the 2030 division, there was a lot of competition amongst AAU programs in California. Saturday featured pool play and Sunday was the tournament which decided who takes home the prize money and free entry into the Grand Finale, which will be once again held at Sports Academy.

First-place teams won $1,500 and free entry, second-place won $1,000 and free entry, while third-place was granted free entry into the Grand Finale. In the 2028 National Bracket, Paul George Elite Red had an undefeated weekend, ending it with a 73-62 victory over West Coast Elite in the final. In the third-place game, AVAC Hawk Hoops managed to garner a close 56-53 win over DSTRKT, with all of the teams in the semifinals looking like squads that could make noise in the Grand Finale. In the Elite Bracket, G-1 Elite won 57-53 against the Silicon Valley Soldiers.

West Coast Elite dominated the 2029 and 2030 divisions, with both teams winning every game they played during Session 3 by at least double digits. The 2029 team won by an average of 25.8 points, including an 82-66 win over Paul George Elite Red 2029 in the final. In the third-place game, Silicon Valley Soldiers topped AVAC Hawk Hoops National, 74-65. In the Elite bracket, Team Touch earned a 75-55 victory over DSTRKT 2029.

In the 2030 bracket, West Coast Elite had a somewhat mild first day by their standards, before turning it on in the tournament portion to win the semifinal over Creators Basketball, 116-50, and in the final over 360 Basketball 104-56 — a team they only beat by 10 (90-80) on Saturday. Paul George Elite Red 2030 beat Creators Basketball 55-39 in the third-place game, rounding out Paul George Elite Red joining West Coast Elite with teams placing in every division. In the Elite Bracket, The U finished out the weekend with a 56-43 win over Cali Hogs Gold.

Session 3 had a number of returnees from last season's Sports Academy National Cup having huge weekends, while some newcomers really made names for themselves. There will be a lot of contenders to win the Grand Finale, where the National Cup is still open to teams that want to prove they are the best in the country. We are looking forward to seeing the Best of the Best play against each other March 23-24th in what should bring some of the top teams from coast-to-coast.

Paul George Elite Red, 2028 National Bracket S3 Champs. Credit: Michael Visenberg/Pro Insight

Event Standouts

RJ Ball | 2028 | AVAC Hawk Hoops (CA)

AVAC Hawk Hoops had a really nice weekend in the 2028 and 2029 divisions, and RJ Ball’s polished skillset was a major reason why his team finished in third-place in 2028. With solid size that makes it difficult to affect his shot, he gets space off the bounce and shows some flashes of shooting off movement. He has good touch around the hoop, does a good job at getting to his floater, and displays balance as a pull-up shooter. There is also some defensive upside, here, as Ball has good timing overall and does a great job contesting shots on closeouts. He’ll be a player to keep an eye on in the Grand Finale and as a freshman next season.

Ajani Balogun | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

The strong 6’6” lefty has ability around the basket, comfort as an open court handler and is a strong finisher, particularly in transition. He also showed he could operate in the post, both as a passer and with his overall back-to-the basket game. Balogun is also a force on the boards and as a rim protector, and at times he even blocks some shots on the perimeter. There’s a lot to like about his combination of strength, confidence with the ball, energetic presence, and efficient footwork.

Karter Butler | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

The lead guard for the 2028 Session 3 champs, Butler is a relentless presence who gets going downhill and makes things happen — whether it’s finishing at the cup consistently or creating advantages for teammates. His event creation on defense is also a differentiator of his, as he swiped plenty of steals throughout the weekend — both on and off the ball — many leading to easy buckets. He has the ability to shoot, though his main focus is getting to the rim and the line, as he is not at all afraid to create contact. He finishes well with either hand, plus makes a lot of sharp live-dribble reads. He was a real leader on both ends of the floor for PGE, taking home Session 3 MVP honors.

Owen Eteuati-Edwards | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

A standout for the 2028 runner-up in last year's Grand Finale, Eteuati-Edwards is now taller, at close to 6’7”, and keeps refining his skillset. Quite complete on offense, he is a dribble-pass-shoot threat, displaying some real three-level scoring prowess. He’s able to get post position and he’s a major threat to ignite a transition opportunity off a defensive board, either leading the break or as an outlet passer. OEE is already quite polished and just seems to be getting better by the viewing — a priority long term track with his frame and skillset.

Freddie Forbes | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2029 (CA)

There simply are not many players shooting the basketball as easily at this stage as Freddie Forbes, who seemed to be on a weekend-long heater at S3. He has deep range and while he does a ton of damage off the catch, he is quite able to create looks for himself off the bounce. He offers legit gravity as a shooter, his movement without the ball is outstanding and he generates looks around the hoop thanks to his smart cutting. Defensively, he knows where to be, he’ll pick up some occasional blocks, and he has good hands while guarding the ball. He appears even-keeled and unflappable, playing with a ton of confidence — and for very good reason — considering his efficiency from outside.

King Harris | 2030 | West Coast Elite 2030 (CA)

Harris is a guard who has size and agility, leading to frequent downhill opportunities. He can really blow by opponents and is a creative, ambidextrous finisher. Beyond his ability to get to the rim, he is also an outside threat and a polished playmaker for his age. Throughout S3, he had some big moments on defense, showing off a respectable motor and earning some highlight blocks and steals. He brings an advanced handle and shiftiness, so it is little wonder why he is so highly-regarded at such an early age.

Jaizahn Lewis | 2028 | West Coast Elite (CA)

Lewis hit the biggest shot of day one with his buzzer-beating three-pointer against Prodigy, helping West Coast Elite 2028 go undefeated up until the final. He can slash into the paint, get to the line and he is deadly off the catch. On the other end, he shows aggression and toughness, really competing as a defender. Lewis is set to go to Rancho Christian High School (CA) next year and they will be getting a skilled offensive player who can play either backcourt spot and can score in a variety of ways.

Trace Lopez | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

Another SANC returnee showing impressive growth and progression, Lopez had some moments where he was utterly dominant around the basket. He was finishing above the rim last year and now he seems to be throwing it down even more often and with some real power. He’s quick off the ground with good timing as an offensive rebounder and he has really worked on his shooting touch, from both mid and long range. At 6’8”, he also protects the rim and gets into opponents as a help defender. He battled foul trouble in the final, however, once he checked back in he helped PGE Red seal the 2028 Session 3 title. Lopez is one of the toughest players to match up with in the National Cup and showed some highly encouraging signs in Thousand Oaks.

2028 Trace Lopez goes up for 2. Credit: Michael Visenberg/Pro Insight

Prince Outler | 2029 | Paul George Elite Red 2029 (CA)

Despite being young for class, Outler was still one of the taller players in the 2029 bracket. He impressed with some advanced dribble combinations, a soft shooting stroke and touch. Additionally, his ability to get off the floor stands out, as he gets actual elevation on rebounds and plays with verticality on defense. He seems to absorb contact just fine and his toughness and competitive streak also differentiate him from a lot of his peers. Even as a youngster, his blend of tangibles and intangibles allows him to compete at the highest level at Sports Academy National Cup 2029 division.

Tomarri Patterson | 2030 | West Coast Elite 2030 (CA)

Size and strength immediately pop with Patterson, not to mention his role as a higher usage handler who can self-create. He possesses good hands and is a big time rebounder who constantly creates second chance opportunities. His fundamental footwork also allows him to get around and through the defense. He is a particularly skilled passer out of the high post, standing out as a playmaker alongside his scoring ability. Most players with his physical tools at this age would be relegated to the low post, so it was great to see what an all-around game Patterson has where he can function in a variety of ways all over the court.

Kainoa Patton | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

Coming in with loads of SANC experience having played with Paul George’s 2027 team last year, Patton is a guard with positional size who is in constant motion on the floor. He is a lefty movement shooter, who really gets off the floor on cuts to the basket and attacks the glass. He had a huge second half in the title game, where he was aggressive on offense, with some acrobatic drives through contact and even successfully taking on the challenge of guarding up when PGE’s bigs were in foul trouble. He is taking on a larger role and has further improved upon his strong foundation as a dribble-pass-shoot threat with a plus-motor and BBIQ.

Phillip Reed, Jr. | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2029 (CA)

Not many players in the Sports Academy National Cup tilt the defense as often as Reed, who is a massive threat attacking the hoop. He has blow-by speed and the strength to finish amidst heavy traffic, along with the ability to set up teammates with regularity. Reed also showed he has an isolation pull-up game where he can create space off minimal dribbles. As an athlete, he boasts straight-line speed and impressive lateral quickness, oftentimes turning defense into offense. He was dominant last season and was even more so in S3.

Aiden Shaw | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

After making a huge splash in Session 1, Shaw backed it up and then some in Thousand Oaks, showing that he could take over a game, epitomized by eye-popping showings against a couple eventual semifinalists. He covers a huge amount of the floor on defense and utilizes his long strides and precise footwork to finish through bigger players in spectacular fashion on offense. He creates space with his dribble, attacks with a purpose off cuts, gets to the line at will, and is also a long range shooting threat. Shaw makes good reads and combined with his paint gravity and defense, he makes Prodigy a team opponents will dread facing in the Grand Finale.

Eli Simmons | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

One of the younger players in the 2028 division, Simmons brings size and confidence with the ball in his hands. He is a threat to take a defensive rebound the entire length of the court and is also a good transition passer. Also encouraging: how he uses his frame in the post to finish through contact. Simmons really makes opposing players work on defense and does a commendable job mirroring, showing quick hands. There were plenty of positive flashes on both ends in S3 and we fully expect continued growth, moving forward, considering his age and foundation.

Jacobi Thompson II | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2028/2029 (CA)

Playing double-duty with West Coast Elite’s 2028 and 2029 teams, Thompson was a monster regardless of the division. Beyond his size, he moves so well in open space, can really put the ball on the floor, and he is a legit face-up threat that gets to the basket and foul line consistently. He has really soft hands and touch and gets deep paint position on a regular basis. His movement skills are also evident on defense, where he can guard multiple spots while covering a ton of ground. WCE did a solid job of staggering his minutes throughout the weekend and he was such a key component to 2029 winning and 2028 getting to the finals.

Elite 2029 prospect Jacobi Thompson II. Credit: Michael Visenberg/Pro Insight

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.

Quali Giran | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2029 (CA)

Giran is a relentless competitor with an awesome motor, especially evidenced by his transition defense, where he seemed to affect shot after shot in Thousand Oaks with his strong contests. He shows great instincts as a team defender and just knows where to be, even when faced with disadvantageous situations, Giran has a propensity to make opponents miss. He is really an all-around threat offensively, as well, with an ability to create off the bounce and beat opponents to the rim, where he can finish with creativity and/or get to the line with regularity. He has impressive court vision, has a nice pull-up game and can get to his stepback. West Coast Elite’s 2029 squad had a huge weekend in Session 3 and Giran was a primary catalyst, thanks to his two-way impact that started on the defensive end.

Other Notable Performers

Anthony Ali Nayab | 2029 | San Diego Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Handling, finishing creativity and shooting versatility

Cameron Anderson | 2028 | AVAC Hawk Hoops (CA)

💡➡️ Size, ball skills, footwork, court vision, and rim deterrence

Zach Arnold | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

💡➡️ Dribble-pass-shoot skillset and defensive equity

Derrell Baker, Jr. | 2029 | Team Touch (CA)

💡➡️ Toughness, ball control, shooting, and on-ball defense

Kamren Booker | 2029 | DSTRKT 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Strength, out of area rebounding, slashing, and defensive movement

Amon Boykin | 2028 | Branch West (CA)

💡➡️ Size, vertical pop, footwork, interior finishing, and defensive ground coverage 

Damir Buckingham | 2028 | AVAC Hawk Hoops (CA)

💡➡️ Handle creativity, quickness, floater game, and lateral quickness on D

Max Camacho | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Size, ball skills, rebounding, touch, and verticality

Andre Carter | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

💡➡️ Rebounding, scoring through contact, vertical pop, and defensive versatility

Derek Crabtree | 2028 | G1 Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Size, ability to fight for position, rebounding, and free throw rate

Darius Dixson | 2028 | West Coast Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Quickness, handle in tight spaces, ability to get to the paint, and on-ball defense

Ryan Doanl | 2028 | Team Dtermined (CA)

💡➡️ Size, rebounding, touch, and rim protection

McKinley Edwards | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Size, ability to seal opponents, touch, and post defense

Roman Esparza | 2028 | Built Your Way (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, finishing creativity, playmaking, and defensive court sense

Kardell Gutierrez | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

💡➡️ Shooting, decision making, out of area rebounding, cutting, and defensive toughness

Kenzo Lee Hounsou | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

💡➡️ Size, vertical pop, open court speed, court vision, and defensive hands

Kiefer Johnson | 2029 | San Diego Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Strength, reaction time, playmaking, and two-way transition impact

King Johnson | 2028 | West Coast Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Interior finishing amidst contact, rebounding, ball skills, and defensive instincts in the paint

Shammah Kwizera | 2029 | Paul George Elite Red 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, vision, footwork, and lateral quickness on D

Shane Kwizera | 2029 | Paul George Elite Red 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Balance as a shooter, footwork, and lateral quickness on D

Darren Luong | 2028 | G1 Elite (CA)

💡➡️ Slashing, footwork, and ability to get to the FT line

Benjamin Manufekai | 2030 | DSTRKT 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Size, strength, rebounding, and creating space near the rim

Mychal McQueen | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Finishing, decision making, offensive rebounding, and defensive motor

Donnell Meekins, Jr. | 2029 | 360 Basketball (CA)

💡➡️ Size, handle, quick decision making, rebounding, and rim deterrence

Devin Mitchell | 2028 | Team Dtermined (CA)

💡➡️ Size, slashing, finishing through contact, hands, and quickness on D

Myles Mobley | 2029 | DSTRKT 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Vertical pop, shooting versatility, finishing, use of fakes, footwork, and defensive scrappiness

Reece Morris | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

💡➡️ Quickness, handle, floater game, creative finishing, and off-ball anticipation on D

Dawan Moses, Jr. | 2029 | West Coast Elite 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Strength, finishing through contact and offensive rebounding

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

💡➡️ Shooting touch, finishing, hands, and defensive aggression

Jackson Poindexter | 2029 | AVAC Hawk Hoops 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Lefty touch, size, ball skills, and rebounding

Hayes Porter | 2029 | AVAC Hawk Hoops 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Quickness, handle, playmaking, and PUJ mechanics

Falco Prophet | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Handle, decision making, shooting, and defensive mirroring

Dillon Ritchie | 2028 | Paul George Elite Red (CA)

💡➡️ Movement shooting, cutting, handle, decision making, and reading passing lanes

Jayden Robinson | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

💡➡️ Shooting, handle, passing vision, and defensive awareness

Houston Rolle | 2028 | DSTRKT (CA)

💡➡️ Size, outside shooting, slashing footwork, and defensive motor

Mason Salazar | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

💡➡️ Slashing, handling, passing, and perimeter D

Jahmari Smith | 2028 | Prodigy (CA)

💡➡️ Size, strength, rebounding, and rim protection

Jordan Smith | 2029 | AVAC Hawk Hoops 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Shifty handle, ability to get into the paint, distribution, and peskiness on D

Demir Solomon | 2029 | AVAC Hawk Hoops 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Finishing creativity, shooting, handle, transition passing, and rebounding 

Maalik Taylor | 2029 | Oakland Soldiers 2029 (CA)

💡➡️ Quickness, handle, creative finishing, live-dribble passing, and defensive event generation

Bryce Titus | 2028 | Branch West (CA)

💡➡️ Dribbling, passing, outside shooting, start-and-stop ability as a mover

Travis Walton, Jr. | 2029 | Team Dtermined (CA)

💡➡️ Handle manipulation, ability to get into the paint, court vision, and on-ball defense

Tamarion Williams | 2029 | San Diego Soldiers (CA)

💡➡️ Size, stride length, rebounding, and defensive ground coverage

Tim Wurmlinger | 2028 | AVAC Hawk Hoops (CA)

💡➡️ Size, rebounding, outlet passing, and changing shots in the paint


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