Grind Session Championship: Best thing, which schools are happy
BENTON, Ky. -- The Grind Session's High School World Championship kicked Thursday at Benton (Ky.) Marshall County and five-star junior Daishen Nix backed up a strong season. Which program's fans should be the most happy, whose on the rise and LaMelo.
THE BEST THING I SAW....
There was a lot to like on Thursday, but the best thing I saw was five-star junior point guard Daishen Nix of Las Vegas (Nev.) Trinity International. Specifically, I loved watching the way he breaks a press.
Nix has seen his stock soar this summer as arguably the top passer in all of high school basketball. He can also score, he has great size and his feel for the game on both ends of the floor is off the charts. But his ability to handle pressure may be the most impressive part of his game. About the only press breaker you need when he's on the floor is get him the ball and from there he's going to turn the game into a layup drill for him and his teammates.
Tennessee and Kentucky are the most recent programs to jump in. He's got programs across the country offering and this winter Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma and West Virginia have been among the most active in his recruitment. Nix as an elite recruit and it's going to be really interesting to see who looks to prioritize him during April's live period. On Friday, he'll get a head to head matchup with LaMelo Ball.
FANS OF THESE PROGRAMS SHOULD BE HAPPY
So, which program's fans should be pleased with Thursday's action? Four stood out to me.
Illinois: For the first time during the 2018-19 season we had an Antwan January sighting. The four-star at Phoenix (Ariz.) HIllcrest North committed to the Illini back in the fall and hasn't been highly visible during the season. At around 6-foot-10 he's got good hands, soft touch, some shooting range and a good base to build on. His team got blown out and January is going to have to work his way back into game shape, but he certainly has potential to be a good Big Ten player.
Memphis: On Wednesday, Memphis landed a commitment from four-star point guard Damion Baugh. A big point guard at 6-foot-4 with long arms, Baugh is a wiry athlete who can get to the rim and is very good and transition. A college weight room is going to do wonders for him and I see a guy who could develop into a big time defender for Penny Hardaway and the Tigers.
Michigan State: One of the best pure scorers in 2019, Rocket Watts didn't have a big offensive explosion on Thursday night, but I didn't need to see that from him. Let's face it, anybody who has ever seen him knows he can get his on the offensive end. Aside from the scoring the reason that Spartans fans should be excited about him is the edge he has. Watts is wired a little differently and isn't going to back down from anybody. Tom Izzo loves tough players and Watts fits the bill.
Seton Hall: It wouldn't surprise me if four years from now combo guard Dashawn Davis is wrapping up a very good career for the Pirates. He's a scorer who has some bully in him and he's very respectable as a jump shooter as well. His game is no nonsense and he's going to compete. Chip-on-their-shoulder guys like him have thrived under Kevin Willard.
REPS ON THE RISE
Let's take a quick look at some guys on the comeup.
.... A thin and lengthy faceup four man, junior Coleman Hawkins hasn't been the most consistent performer in the past. He's teased with the ability to shoot from deep but hasn't always been involved in all aspects of the game. Based on his Thursday play, he sure looks to have improved by leaps and bounds during his junior year at Napa (Calif.) Prolific Prep. He had his motor running, drilled jumpers, made clever passes facing the hoop and was a factor on the glass. He still needs more strength but looked like a legit high major target. He said Arizona, Illinois, Washington State, San Diego State and USC are among those who have offered. He has seen several Pac 12 programs and Illinois unofficially and said he may try to see Ohio State over spring break.
.... Well, super bouncy five-star power forward Isaiah Jackson isn't exactly an unknown. A five-star prospect in the junior class, he's a known quantity. But man, he sure is getting better in all aspects of the game. The lean big man is a special shot blocker and all around defender. His ability to switch on a ball screen, stick with a speedy guard and then recover to find his own man or protect the rim is truly next level. Offensively his shot looks better and better and he doesn't need anything run for him because he's so active that he wills his way to be involved on the offensive end ...
.... It was fitting that Rivals150 junior Selton Miguel told me that he's spent some time working out with Kansas State senior Barry Brown. Because in terms of approach to the game, toughness and ability to strap up and defend there are a lot of similarities between the native of Angola and Brown. He didn't have a great offensive game but neither did anybody else in Orlando (Fla.) West Oaks tough loss to Louisville (Kent.) Aspire and he had a lot to do with that. Kansas State was his first high major offer and others like Iowa State, USF have offered as well.
.... I first saw Phoenix (Ariz.) Compass Prep freshman Sadraque Nganga back in December and was pretty impressed with the 6-foot-9 forward's talent level. Thursday I was able to get a more extended look at Nganga and he's clearly on the track to be a five-star prospect. He has size, he has length, he has athleticism, he has some ball skills and he's way ahead of the curve when looking at where a freshman should be in his development. We are still about six months away from our first ranking of the 2022 class, but at least based on what I've seen from the class he looks like a potential top five player.
When it comes to guys capable of sparking some heated debates, especially in today's social media world, nobody can touch LaMelo Ball. People seem to really love him or really love to hate him. But, this isn't Twitter where every take has to be hot, this is a safe space where we are discussing what happened on the floor and the five-star was a lot of fun to watch on Thursday.
In comparison to the last time I saw Ball play in December (when honestly, he wasn't much fun to watch) the senior at Geneva (Ohio) Spire Academy was a totally different player. No, it wasn't a close game but he was the primary reason that Phoenix (Ariz.) Hillcrest Prep North had no shot within seconds of tipoff. He buried long threes, he finished on the break and he threw some high level passes. At one point, he hustled after a loose ball, lept out of bands to save it and whipped a one handed pass with his off (left) paw for a bucket under the hoop. It was absurd and probably the best pass I saw anywhere during this high school season.
It doesn't look like anybody is seriously recruiting him yet and who knows what his next step could be. But, he's proven again that he's legitimately talented and capable of playing the game at the highest level.