Updated: Jan 4, 2022
In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, the Pro Insight staff outlines some noteworthy storylines after spending the weekend covering the Zero Gravity Prep Classic, which was held earlier this past weekend in Boston, Massachusetts:
After a one-year hiatus, the Zero Gravity Prep Classic returned for its fifteenth installment this past weekend. The event took place at the Dana Barros Basketball Club in Stoughton, Mass., just south of Boston. There was no shortage of talent in the building, between five courts of competitive action that included over 60 prep teams representing more than 10 states. After three full days of observations, here are six storylines that grabbed our attention while in the stands watching the #ZGPC.
Leonard Miller bursts onto the scene
Leonard Miller arrived in Massachusetts with a low buzz, given adding a number of high-major offers recently, after averaging over 40 points per game coming into the event in his native Canada. The younger brother of TCU wing Emanuel Miller, Leonard has had an unconventional route, even as a late-bloomer. After battling through a growth spurt, an injury, covid precautions, and a deep roster on his various stops before arriving at Fort Erie International Academy (CAN), the 6’10” Miller has transformed himself into one of the top prospects in the class of 2022. He is now an athletic big with a legitimate perimeter shot, a strong motor, an ability to finish through contact with good body control, and a disruptive mix of lateral quickness with a 7’2” wingspan. Providence and Temple were among those court-side this weekend, but Miller has already garnered offers and interest from Alabama, Wake Forest, Washington State, TCU, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Georgia as well as interest from Gonzaga. The roar of college and professional options will only get louder following his performances at the Zero Gravity Prep Classic.
Gavin Griffiths makes a statement
The market for a 6’7” hyper-competitive shooter is quite hot at the highest levels of professional basketball. Simsbury, CT native Gavin Griffiths will need to continue to add upper-body strength, tighten his handle, enhance his playmaking ability, and remain laser-focused on the defensive end, but the pathway and skill-set for his game to translate to the highest levels of pro basketball are readily apparent. His combination of shot-making with size is an immediately translatable skill-set. Playing with Kingswood-Oxford (CT) gives him an opportunity to enhance and strengthen his ability as a playmaker and creator. Despite dealing with physicality and constant double-teams, Griffiths was able to knock down shots with NBA range and finish on drives through the lane with the opposition frequently draped over him. Marquette’s head coach as well as assistants from Providence and Temple were in attendance for his game on Sunday, while UConn came full-staff to his game on Friday. As he is one of the premier shot-makers in his class, his recruitment figures to expand nationally, when programs begin to focus more intently on 2023 targets.
Arturo Dean’s ascent
Putnam Science Academy (CT) is a team defined by their toughness and Arturo Dean is the latest in a growing line of prospects to thrive in such an environment. His rise to prominence began in November at the National Prep Showcase and he gave an encore performance this weekend, in Stoughton. On a roster surrounded by higher-ranked teammates, Dean continues to show that he deserves serious interest from top colleges around the country. Dean is barely 6-feet, but plays much larger, thanks to an impressive combination of strength, (lateral and vertical) explosiveness, toughness, and a non-stop motor. Dean makes life tough on opposing guards and thrives in transition where he can attack the rim. In the half-court, Dean has developed into a consistent three-point threat who can pull up off the dribble or shoot off the catch. At the National Prep Showcase, Dean told the Pro Insight staff that he just wanted to make a name for himself. Consider that accomplished.
Buzelis, Kirilenko reincarnated
Brewster Academy (NH) has been the gold standard for prep basketball in the Northeast over the last decade, during a time in which they have produced a number of first round NBA draft picks. In Matas Buzelis, it’s possible that Brewster has their next draftee. A fluid and graceful athlete standing at 6’10”, Buzelis has become somewhat of a polarizing prospect, albeit one with obvious upside. At his best, Buzelis is a point-forward who can facilitate for teammates, finish above the rim on the fast break, and use his length and high defensive IQ to defend multiple positions. At his worst, Buzelis’ handle will betray him as he simply loses the ball while dribbling, or sees a passing lane a bit too late that is easily picked off. The decision making is questionable at times, as is the amount of ball handling duties he should ideally have. However, the Lithuanian prospect from Willowbrook, IL continues to flash potential and a unique ability that makes his ceiling outcome simply tantalizing. Duke and Kentucky are among those who have recently watched him live and he holds interest from Arizona, Florida State and Kansas, among others.
The Mass Rivals youth movement
Mass Rivals (MA) rolled out an abnormally large number of rising sophomores on their 17U 3SSB roster this past summer, and that investment in the future is already paying off for Mass Rivals/Bradford Christian (MA) coach Vin Pastore. Playing two years up in a competitive AAU environment has allowed 2024 prospects Kur Teng, George Turkson (both at Bradford Christian), Andre Mills (Vermont Academy/VT), and Bryce Dortch (Brimmer & May/MA) to flourish in their respective prep school settings. Kur Teng is instant offense: just add water. There’s an old-school flair to his game and an authentic confidence as a scorer that shines through every time he steps onto the court. His prep school and AAU teammate George Turkson is built like an All-Pro NFL tight end and delivered one of the most impressive rebounding efforts in recent memory on Sunday morning, resulting in a herculean 23 boards for the game. He is just scratching the surface offensively, but the flashes are there: rim running, duck-ins, spot-ups, rolling/diving etc. Andre Mills is a strong and long guard with some serious inside-out scoring skill. As a shooter, Mills loves getting to his pull-up jumper, where a high release and elevation make his shot nearly unblockable. When run off the line, Mills has the explosion to elevate and finish at the rim. It doesn’t take long to see the upside with his body and skill-set, and the next step for Mills is to supply his scoring outbursts more consistently game-to-game. 6’8”+ Bryce Dortch looks the part of a modern hybrid-forward and had some very intriguing stretches throughout the weekend. He brings positional size, length, versatility and fluidity as an athlete — quite the foundation for a young prospect.
AJ Dybantsa is the future
On Friday night in Stoughton, everyone in attendance on court 1 was treated to a glimpse of the future of New England basketball in AJ Dybantsa, and one thing is for certain: the future is very bright. Prospects like Dybantsa don’t come along every year. The eighth (!) grader suited up for St. Sebastian’s (MA) on Friday for his first-ever high school game, and did not waste time making his presence felt. The 6’7” wing, who runs with Expressions Elite (MA) on the Nike EYBL circuit, possesses as many physical gifts and as much natural talent as anyone in the country, regardless of class.
The layers to his game are particularly special: he can finish well above the rim, stretch the floor, get to his spots when run off the line, operate in the mid-range, defend multiple positions, and the list goes on. Dybantsa would be an exciting prospect if in some alternate universe he was embarking upon his senior season in high school; the fact that he’s a mere 14-year-old middle schooler is borderline frightening.