The Cassidy Awards: The Tarkanian Classic
LAS VEGAS – The 2021 Tarkanian Classic is reaching its conclusion. The week that was in Las Vegas was full of college-bound prospects showcasing their talent on a national stage. Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy was on hand for a healthy portion of the event and now doles out some awards for some of the most notable individual efforts he saw in Sin City.
Cassidy's Takeaways: News and notes from the Tarkanian Classic
2023 Rankings: Rivals150
2024 Rankings: Top 40
THE BEAST UNDERNEATH: Lee Dort
What he did: Simply put, Dort is an absolute grizzly bear of a man that is a legit game-changer on the defensive end and the glass. He’s improving as an offensive weapon and polishing some low-post moves but his true value is dominating the glass and altering shots. He totaled six blocks in Friday’s game and significantly altered about a dozen clothes just by positioning his massive fame in the right place. He impressed onlookers with a few emphatic dunks but the impact he made doing the dirty work is what set him apart from other bigs. He finished Saturday’s contest with 16 points to go along with 10 boards.
Recruitment: Dort is signed with Vanderbilt.
IN THE DISCUSSION: Gregory “GG” Jackson
What he did: Jackson faced double-teams for nearly the entirety of the event but still managed to shine, showcasing the blend of size, athleticism and strength that few players in the 2023 class can match. He’s probably not as polished as current No. 1 DJ Wagner but he has the physical tools to seize the top spot down the road. The No. 10 player in his class, Jackson has long been in the discussion for the top spot here at Rivals, and his supporters are getting louder by the week. He was impressive from three-point range in a Monday afternoon victory that saw him pour in 21 points.
Recruitment: North Carolina, Duke and South Carolina seem to be the major players in Jackson’s recruitment. He intends to narrow his list early next year and all three programs are good bets to make the cut.
BLOODLINES: Jase Richardson
What he did: The son of Michigan State great Jason Richardson, Jase Richardson is a budding star at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School. He may be just a sophomore, but his quickness and ability to blow by defenders was on full display at the Tarkanian Classic. He also showed the ability to finish through contact and knock down open looks from the perimeter. He’ll need to get better as a defender but he has the motor to do just that. Richardson was as active as anyone on the floor during both games we saw.
Recruitment: Michigan State has already offered Richardson and is the presumed favorite to land his commitment. That said, he last visited East Lansing when he was five years old. Arizona, USC, Cincinnati, UCLA and Stanford are also involved in the 6-foot-4 guard’s recruitment.
CLAMPS: Jordan Walsh
What he did: An Arkansas signee, Walsh notched six steals in the team’s final game at the Tarkanian and showed some impressive defensive instincts to go along with his trademark athleticism. Wash plays disciplined but aggressive defense and manages to stay in front of his man until he makes a mistake. He created havoc in passing lanes on Friday
RECRUITMENT: Walsh is signed with Arkansas.
STOCK UP: Noah Shelby
What he did: An assertive guard unafraid to let it fly, Shelby is capable of taking over games and did just that on Friday afternoon, carrying his team with 26 points in the first half of a tightly contested loss. He followed that up on Friday by pouring 22 points and dishing out five assists on Saturday. There are lots of longer and more athletic guards in this class, but Shelby, who boasts a wing span beyond his height, can stand toe-to-toe with almost anyone from a skill standpoint, He’s equipped with a reliable jumper from deep and has thrived in the mid-range as of late. He’ll need to continue to cut down on forced shots,, but he’s certainly shown enough to slide into the top 100
Recruitment: Shelby is signed with Vanderbilt.
UNDER-RECRUITED: Jurian Dixon
What he did: Dixon holds just one high-major offer, but has the game to attract a few more where that came from. So far, Mississippi State is the lone power conference program on his list and the Bulldogs seem to have done a good job evaluating him. A 6-foot-5 wing from San Diego, Dixon has impressive upper body strength and uses it to create his own shot in the lane. He knocked down a couple of 3-pointers as well. He plays high-IQ basketball and rarely gambles on the defensive end. Dixon’s versatility is appealing, and his offer list should grow in the year ahead.
Recruitment: Dixon holds offers from San Diego and Loyola Marymount in addition to Mississippi State. He’s yet to visit Starkville but says he hopes to in the future.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR: Tyrese Proctor
What he did: The Australian-born proctor made waves in Las Vegas while playing with the NBA Global Academy. Proctor is a true point guard that shines as a ball handler and a facilitator. He’s an above average athlete that seems to be trending toward becoming a complete offensive weapon. He has the motor and the strength to be a somewhat versatile defender to boot. His name is starting to circulate in NBA circles.
ATTACK MODE: Darrius Carr
What he did: Carr wastes little motion and almost no time getting to the hoop and constantly puts pressure on opposing defenses because of it. He plays with tempo and possesses the motor and quickness to get by defenders and break down defenses. He’s becoming a better shooter as well and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during Saturday’s contest and another two in a Monday game.
Recruitment: Carr says Washington is his top program as things stand and is planning to visit Seattle following the season. He cites his close bond with Huskies assistant Wyking Jones as the reason why.
YOUNG GUN: Chris Nwuli
What he did: Just a freshman, Nwuil plays big minutes for a loaded Bishop Gorman team and has the length and athleticism to be a tantalizing long-term prospect. His length and ability to finish at the rim are his calling cards, but he plays with an advanced basketball IQ for such a young player. He’ll come into his own as he adds muscle and becomes a more consistent shooter. The Las Vegas-based star is yet to turn 15 and has high-major prospect written all over him.
Recruitment: Nwuli is just a freshman and is yet to land his first major offer.
STREAKY: Vyctorious Miller
What he did: Miller played much better on Friday and Sunday than he did Saturday. When he was going well, however, the reasons for his five-star rankings were crystal clear. He’s comfortable in the mid range and from deep and showcased the ability to make a range of difficult shots, including a deep 3-pointer with a hand in his face. Miller’s battle going forward will be one with consistency and defensive effort, as the tools to be a truly elite offensive weapon are already in place. He’s clearly one of the best sophomores on the West Coast.
BOX SCORE STUFFER: Julian Phillips
What he did: Phillips impacted his Link Academy team’s Friday afternoon win in various ways, pouring in 20 points to go along with a handful of rebounds and at least two steals. Official stats weren't kept at the event, but Phillips seemed to make a positive play at every turn in the contest. Phillips strength is his versatility, which he showed through scoring at the rack and from beyond the arc.
Recruitment: Phillips is signed with LSU.
THE STEAL: Koat Keat
What He Did: Keat, who boats high-major ability, seems to be an absolute steal for a UC Santa Barbara team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Keat is much more than his 6-foot-9 frame and long wingspan, however, as he’s shown the ability to knock down three-pointers with consistency. His length and agility make him a hyper-versatile defender that can guard bigger guards but also make an impact in the paint. Keat comes with a decent level of pro potential and should shine for the Gauchos as a freshman.
Recruitment: Keat is signed with UC Santa Barbara.
UPSIDE ALERT: Fredrick King
What He did: King, who plays with NBA Academy Latin America, remains a bit raw but his pro-level upside is obvious. The Bahamas native has broad shoulders and a massive wingspan that helps him when it comes to finishing around the hoop and changing shots at the defensive end. He also boasts reliable hands and rarely fumbles around with entry passes or rebounds. He seems to get gassed late in games but that should work itself out with time. He is fully capable of dominating in the paint. He’ll become a more dangerous offensive threat If he can incorporate a reliable mid-range game.
Recruitment: King is signed with Louisville.