USA Basketball Saturday: Evans' top underclassmen performers
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The first full day of the United States Basketball October minicamp brought more drills and half-court work than up and down play. However, there was enough time spent on the floor to take note of the two sessions’ worth of notable performers as we highlight who stood out from the classes of 2021 and 2022.
There is a reason why he is a top-five prospect nationally, and Michael Foster has continued to develop his skill set. In today’s game, in which versatility is key the product out of Milwaukee has come of age at the perfect time. The ideal small-ball power forward, Foster showed a well-polished motor to go along with an evolving jumper game that he can now hit comfortably off of the pull-up and out to 17-feet. Tough and explosive at the basket, the one-time Arizona State commit is one of the more sure-fire prospects in the 2021 class and he did not lack for eye-appeasing play on Saturday. It is only a matter of time before the bluebloods begin to jump two feet into his recruitment. In fact, just last week UCLA decided to do just that by offering the talented forward.
Dariq Whitehead's name has been talked about for several months now as the next big-time guy out of the Montverde Academy program, and on Saturday he backed up that talk with an impressive spree of productive plays. Learning the ropes behind five-stars RJ Barrett and Andrew Nembhard last winter, Whitehead has all of the tools to be as heavily recruited as the talented Canadians. He began the scrimmage portion of the evening by scoring the first seven points off of a baseline rip move into a two-handed dunk, a catch-and-shoot corner 3, and a fastbreak dunk. Whitehead, the youngest of the 87 participants in attendance this weekend, is a special one. He has already caused a commotion with his play, and it looks to be just the tip of the iceberg for the national ascension of the Jersey native.
This isn’t the first time that Max Christie is getting some ink here at Rivals.com and it won’t be the last. The top-35 guard prospect looks to have grown close to two more inches since July, and in the meantime he bettered his jumper. He hit a number of perimeter attempts from off of the catch and out of the pull-up. Smart, savvy and versatile, Christie can be played all over the perimeter, thanks to his stature, passing skills and shot-making abilities. He is already a heavily coveted Big Ten prospect, as practically half of the conference has already offered. His best is still ahead of him, and it would not be a surprise to see Christie become a national-level recruit before things are said and done.
Another member of the initial Rivals Class of 2021 Rankings, Trevor Keels isn’t going to wow with sexy play, but when it comes to making the right basketball play, there is no one better for the job than the Team Takeover product. With a full season under his belt as a starter for the one of the more respected high school programs nationally (Paul VI Catholic High), Keels can be best described as sturdy. What position he will ultimately play I don't know, but what I do know is just how versatile, smart and efficient he is. He repeatedly made the right pass out of the dribble-drive and took care of the rock whenever pressure was applied. Keels should make an impact at a high-major program right from the get-go, and wherever he does land, the program will be sure to welcome a box-score filler with the four-star prospect.
A good athlete with a great body already intact, the upside is staggering with Kijani Wright, who is thought of as one of the best ninth-graders on the West Coast. While Wright was unable to show off a diverse skill set on Saturday, he was able to impress with a number of plays around the basket. Quick off of his feet and with good hands in tow, Wright can play out of his area on the glass, can score through contact and has the instincts and energy to rim protect with the best of them. Wright is due to see the scholarship offers come in by the boatload, and he is primed to become a Pac-12 priority in the years ahead as he settles into the Windward School this fall.
The well that is the Roman Catholic High School program is not drying up anytime soon. This weekend, we saw its latest star, Seth Lundy, come off the board in favor of the Penn State Nittany Lions. Meanwhile, another player has burst onto the national scene in the form of Jalen Duren. The 6-foot-9 frontcourt prospect is a man among boys in the interior, and already looks the part of one of the top bigs in the 2022 class. While he is much more developed physically compared to others, he is not just a brute force with a limited skill set. He has good hands and touch around the basket and is more than comfortable scoring over his left shoulder in the low post. Duren is going to be a much-talked about prospect in the coming years, and it is only a matter of time before the best of the best enter the Roman Catholic gym and decide that Duren is more than worthy of a scholarship offer.