DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- Since it's inception nearly 10 years ago, the Thanksgiving Hoopfest has featured the best from Texas against the best from neighboring states. In 2017, it was Javonte Smart from Louisiana that took home national basketball analyst Eric Bossi's event MVP honors.
JAVONTE SMART EARNS RIVALS EVENT MVP HONORS
I've had a few days to reflect on LSU-bound Javonte Smart's 102-point, 15-rebound and 13-assist effort over the course of two games at the Hoopfest. It still rates as one of the most outstanding singular performances at any event I've scouted in nearly 20 years in the business.
Looking forward to his time at LSU, I love that Smart should be allowed to come in and make an impact without feeling the pressure of having to be the guy. Current star freshman Tremont Waters should be back and Skylar Mays and Brandon Sampson should both be back as battle tested backcourt players. That returning experience should allow Smart to make an easy transition to college as he adjusts to the speed of the game and likely playing both on and off of the ball.
DE'VION HARMON LEADS FIRST-TEAMERS
Oklahoma has to feel great about locking up 2019 point guard De'Vion Harmon early. The 6-foot-1 point guard is a leader through both his play and actions and were it not for the ridiculous play of Smart, he would have been my event MVP. Harmon is a born communicator and Lon Kruger is going to love his leadership.
Kentucky's John Calipari showed up to watch five-star junior guard Tyrese Maxey of Garland (Texas) South Garland on Friday and he responded with 30-plus. He had another high scoring game on Saturday and reminds me a lot of a young Ben Gordon. He's physically tough, has explosion to his game and is a prolific scorer who can play at the one or the two. The interesting thing here is that Maxey's father, Tyrone Maxey, is now on staff at SMU as their Director of Recruiting. Presumably that makes them the heavy favorites in this recruitment but it hasn't stopped Kentucky, Oregon and Michigan State among others from trying to make a run at him.
He's not quite at the same level that David Lee was when I first saw him as a high school junior, but 2019 four-star Drew Timme reminds me of the recently retired former NBA All-Star. He's tough around the rim, has great hands and my favorite thing about him is his ability to remain under control when he decides to take off dribbling from one end to the other. Most bigs who do that are a freight train headed to the bucket. Timme actually has his eyes up surveying the floor and he's capable of initiating offense. Most recently he's seen Gonzaga, TCU and Oklahoma unofficially.
The Hoopfest was the second event I was able to watch Northwestern-bound Miller Kopp play in during November and I left more convinced than ever that he's got real star potential in Evanston. He shoots, he has an off the charts feel for the game and he's plain mean and nasty on the floor. It's a safe bet he finishes higher in the 2018 rankings than his current ranking at No. 98 overall.
There's a lot left to be written about 2020's No. 3 ranked player R.J. Hampton, so there's not much reason to go in depth today, but he's a different breed. In an age of basketball with too many robotic players who don't look like they are having any fun, Hampton's enthusiasm and obvious love for the game add a little juice to the action whenever he's on the floor. He is turning into a good athlete, but his skill level is always what stands out.
RIVALS150 CHRIS HARRIS HAS BREAKOUT EVENT, AMONG BEST OF THE REST
I am expecting the recruitment of Rivals150 shooting guard Chris Harris to really take off this winter. He's off to a great start this year and is a tough, skilled and confident scorer who has made significant strides with his all-around game over the last year. He's got to be one of the best pull-up jump shooters in the country.
The class of 2019 in Texas is a really deep one and Jalen Wilson -- who teams with De'Vion Harmon at Denton (Texas) Guyer -- is emerging as one of the state's best. He's a skilled wing with good size, a jump shot that travels and upside. Kansas is the most recent school to start prioritizing him.
I love a guy who plays with confidence and embraces who he is, and that's sophomore guard Trey Phipps of Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington. He's a confident, jump shooting gunner from deep who looks like he takes some pride in talking a little trash and doing anything he can to get under the skin of his opponents. He needs to get much stronger, but he's gonna be fun to watch over the next few years.
Class of 2019 point guard Avery Anderson has always shown the ability to create off the dribble and because of his length and explosion off the dribble, he's got a high ceiling. On the flip side, he's had some issues with turnovers and an inconsistent jump shot. I liked what I saw from him in terms of his decision-making and mechanics on his jumper. I imagine the Ft. Worth (Texas) Justin Northwest point is going get be a serious Big 12 target for the next few years.
Will Baker, the second highest ranked player in the event (one spot behind Tyrese Maxey in 2019), has a huge ceiling and is probably the best pure prospect I saw. He's every bit of 6-foot-10, can run like a guard and the Austin (Texas) Westlake junior is a sweet shooting big man that defenses must account for. As he gets stronger and even more aggressive, he's got a chance to move into the national top 10 in 2019.