Updated: Apr 22
In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Aneesh Namburi highlights some takeaways and standout players from last weekend's MADE Hoops Texas Tip-off in Dallas, Texas — including top unsigned seniors, as well as top performers from 17U, 16U and 15U:
Evaluating players over the past year plus has been wildly difficult. While breaking down replays is valuable ~90% of the time, there always will be merit in taking in the nuances of live, in-person games. Making up for lost time to evaluate the 2021 and 2022 high school classes will be a rush over the next several weeks, which is why our Pro Insight team found the opportunity to attend MADE Hoops Texas Tip-Off so valuable. The high school divisions featured a ton of 15-17U standouts made up mostly of EYBL teams, along with a number of local teams with promising talent that we’ll highlight below.
When it came to recapping this event, it didn’t make much sense to really focus on the ‘big name’ players, as they’ve had enough prior exposure that most coaches and evaluators have a decent feel for their abilities. Instead, we’ll continue our trend of highlighting some under-the-radar unsigned seniors, a 2021 class that has really been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are five players in particular that impressed and deserved a breakdown of their game for a wider audience.
*Disclaimer: there were plenty of outstanding prospects we weren’t able to catch in person throughout the weekend for a variety of reasons, but below we’ll be highlighting standouts we were able to catch in person in Dallas.
Event Standouts: Unsigned Seniors
Jimel Cofer / Drive Nation / Guard
Drive’s 17U needed a point guard to complement Jordan Walsh, Rylan Griffen, and TJ Caldwell, and Cofer did an admirable job filling that role. He’s an athletic standout who has end-to-end speed, strength, burst, and vertical pop, which he uses to finish with authority in transition and score at the rim in the half court (both with and without ball screens). He’s more of a table setter rather than creator in terms of playmaking, but will find open teammates. Cofer also looks very fluid getting into his jumpers, and should get better converting the outside looks with increased reps and an improved handle. As a defender, Cofer has the potential to be extremely disruptive at the point of attack with his physical tools. Furthermore, he was opportunistic knocking the ball loose from opponents early in possessions, something that should translate to the next level and appeal to college coaches across the board.
Tobias Roland / Team Griffin / Guard
Roland was the second-best player on Team Griffin’s 17U squad after Chris Bunch (another underrated name, but from the 2022 class). He’s a stockier big guard who can get downhill consistently due to his powerful frame. While he’s not a primary playmaker, Roland keeps the ball moving within the offense and will make basic reads off pick-and-rolls. He is developing consistency with his outside shot, but seems confident taking pull-up jumpers off the bounce as well as spot-up looks. His size presents a bonus, as you can play him in two-guard lineups without much difficulty. It will be hard for any guard to really move him without overexerting themselves at the college level. He really competes on the defensive end of the floor, relishing in taking advantage of offensive miscues. Roland especially showcases his blend of strength and movement skills annoying opposing guards when guarding 94 feet.
Zakai Zeigler / New Heights Lightning / Guard
Zeigler circulated a bit on social media this weekend due to his battle with Dior Johnson when their teams faced-off Saturday night, but this guard is more than his highlight clips. Schools seem to have overlooked him due to his size, but that’s a flat out mistake. First of all, the kid is a dog, and showcased the classic New York grit by making consistent hustle plays in the two games I watched. Defensively, he consistently made it difficult for Dior to get to his spots easily, forcing him into a lot of tough looks. Especially at the college level, Zeigler’s lack of size won’t be as punished, and we’ve seen plenty of small guards be positive defensively at the NCAA level. Zeigler also blends the skills of a classic “pure PG” with the more scoring-oriented player that is increasingly more common among modern point guards. His speed helps him get into the teeth of defenses, and he can either kick out to shooters or use his touch to complete some advanced finishes (necessary due to his lack of size). When defenses try to wall off the paint, he has a smooth looking jumper that he can get to while stopping on a dime. Zeigler utilizes the pick-and-roll well, too.
Sione Lose / Capital City Cougars / Guard
Personally, Lose was my favorite player to watch this weekend. His pace in the pick-and-roll and manipulation as a creator was stuff you simply don’t see at the high school level, much less someone who is still unsigned. His standout physical tool is his size at around 6-foot-6, and while he might not have elite burst or vertical pop, he has a silky mid-range game and craft around the hoop. In terms of his pick-and-roll playmaking, Lose was for sure within the top-five playmakers in the tournament, often engaging defenses around the elbow/FT line and then manipulating them with fakes before hitting teammates both on the interior and beyond the arc. His defensive ability will largely rely on the amount of strength he gains over the next couple off-seasons, but the aforementioned IQ definitely translates to the other side of the ball. He had a couple lovely contests while moving backwards when I expected his lack of strength to push him into the basket, and was timely (if not anticipatory) with his defensive rotations.
Cam Kimble / Vegas Elite / Wing
There’s no reason that Kimble should be unsigned at this point in the cycle. He’s an athletic wing with size that is versatile up and down the lineup, and possesses an all-around skill set that doesn’t require a high usage. Offensively, Kimble can knock down shots from deep, finish while attacking closeouts, and move the ball within the offense (see this find to a cutting Darrion Williams for an easy lay up). At 6-foot-7, Kimble currently slots in at the 3, and likely the 4 once he gets into a college weight room. He surprised me with his burst, and while his vertical requires some load time, he gets some air off two feet. While there aren’t measurements to confirm, Kimble seems to have a plus-wingspan. He still needs to learn defense a bit and get more flexible/quicker with his hips and feet, but the combination of tools and high IQ plays gives him a solid foundation.
While the unsigned seniors make up the bulk of this recap, tons of more well-known names had productive weekends and deserve recognition. The following prospects showcased the skills that have made their games so attractive to college coaches up to this point.
Event Standouts: 17U
Max Allen / 2022 / Vegas Elite / Big
Allen is a big-bodied center who showcased advanced offensive skill flashes as a shooter, playmaker, and finisher. He also was extremely productive on the offensive glass.
Mark Armstrong / 2022 / New Heights Lightning / Guard
The Villanova commit had two nasty posters in transition versus Drive Nation. The skill portions of his game are still developing, but Armstrong showed a nice feel for the game, with some nice passes and defensive reads seemingly off instinct.
Tobe Awaka / 2022 / New Heights Lightning / Forward
Awaka was a menace defensively, playing Jordan Walsh tough on Saturday and contesting multiple posters without hesitation (was 3/3 on successful denying dunk attempts that I saw). Awaka also flashed a developing but well-rounded offensive game that enhances his positional versatility down the road.