Author: Mike Enright

CNR Winter League: Player Notes

Since high school basketball in Illinois is on hold; a league in St. Louis was formed to give teams a chance to play. 

Here are a few Guys who caught our attention during the first weekend of the league 

Mekhi Phillips, 6’0, Guard, Decatur MacArthur, 2022
Since we saw him last he has really worked on improving his body. Still one of the state’s top marksmen. Really sits down and guards.

Brylan Phillips, 6’1, Guard, Decatur MacArthur, 2022
Another kid that has improved his body. The floor general was dynamic leading his team and making shots. His passing ability is second to none. 

Jalen Watson, 6’7, Forward, East St. Louis, 2021
Continued to improve from his good summer.  Continues to show an improved stroke from the outside. Jalen makes his money on the glass and scores effectively from the paint 

Tommie Williams, 6’3, Guard, Belleville West, 2021
Really looked good shooting the ball and running his team. His constant motor and improved jump shot will be an intriguing option to colleges later this year 

Demarcus Bean, 6’7, Center, Metro East Lutheran, 2022
Continues to improve and score around the basket. His ball-handling has improved and his Motor is now on all the time. 

David Granger, 6’7, Forward, East St. Louis, 2021
The Athletic forward continues to expand his game. Can take it off the glass and go coast to coast. Blocks everything in the paint. 

Nate Hall, 6’7, Forward, Collinsville, 2021
The stretch 4 looks more confident in his shot than he was this summer. Looks leaner and his ball-handling looks smoother. 

KJ Debrick, 6’8, Center, Lanphier, 2021
Kid is a presence around the rim. Block shots without fouling and great touch around the basket. An intriguing prospect that will make some team very happy. 

Ryan Stevenson, 6’3, Guard, East St. Louis, 2021
We weren’t sure what to expect but after 2 long 3s we are intrigued. Smooth wing with a great stroke. Looking forward to seeing more of him. 

McCaleb Rich, 6’4, Forward, East St. Louis, 2023
He’s one of the best sophomores in the area — just looks great with the ball in his hands. Has improved his handles and looking for his shot from the outside. Just a Freakish athlete 

Jamarkus Gary, 6’1, Guard, Alton, 2021
We have not seen this Jamarkus before. He scored from everywhere. Always plays with a great motor and made 5 threes with several drives to the rim. 

Dante Herrin, 6’3, Forward, Alton, 2021
The energizer bunny. When the ball is on the rim he goes after it like no one else. Takes charges and showed the ability to get to the rim 

J’Laun  Patterson, 6’3, Guard, Belleville West, 2021
This smooth wing continues to make strides. Hit several jumpers and smooth drives to the wing. Has definitely worked on his body. 

Q&A with 2022 Cruz Davis

Cruz Davis is a 2022 Point Guard from Lewisville, Texas that is ranked as one of the top PGs in the country by several recruiting outlets. Davis runs point for the nationally ranked iSchool Entrepreneur Academy where he’s averaging 12ppg, 4apg, and 3rpg. The athletic and long guard has tremendous scoring abilities as he carves his way through the defense. Cruz is a scoring point guard that can pass. His unique skills has caught the attention of several division one schools, including offers from: Georgetown, SMU, Oregon State, Houston, TCU and others are in the mix. We caught up with Cruz to discuss hoops and his recruitment.

RLH: How was this past summer on the AAU scene?
CD: This summer was difficult adjusting to only playing at the end of July and some of August. But we still got to play the best from Texas and good competition from other states. We made the most of it as a team.

RLH: You play for a talented iSchool Entrepreneur team. What is your role and this team?
CD: Coach wants me to get buckets and control the follow of the game. I’m also stepping up as a leader to some of the younger players we have.

RLH: What have you done in preparation to play a national schedule with iSchool?
CD: I’ve been playing against top competition all my life, so that has prepared me for this coming season. Everyone is good on our schedule and we look forward to the challenge.

RLH: You’re one of the top PGs in your class. What is your pitch as to why you should be #1?
CD: I’m a true Point Guard. I can run the show and facilitate for my teammates. I can score the ball when called upon to do so. I’m not worried about how many points I score as long as we are winning and my teammates are getting better.

RLH: What is it like playing with Keyonte George (a top 10 2022 player)?
CD: It’s cool. I feel like we make each other better and getting to compete with him in practice is only going to make my game better too. Plus, he brings a lot of attention to our team.

RLH: You have several High Major offers and a long list of schools recruiting you. Who is recruiting you the hardest right now?
CD: I’m blessed to be in this position and will continue to work at my game. Some of the schools that are on me the most right now are: Tulsa, Rice, Oregon State, New Mexico, and TCU.

RLH: What are you looking for in a college?
CD: I’d like to go to a place that I can come in and compete early on for playing time and win games.

Cruz will be running with Basketball Means More this coming grassroots season.

Q&A with 2023 Jimma James

6’5″ | 2023 | Point Guard |

Solid Rock Academy | Grassroots Elite Canada

Jimma James

Jimma James is one of the merging prospect targets in the 2023 class. He is explosive with the basketball in his hand and can do a little bit of everything on the court. He rebounds well, he facilitates, he can handle the ball, and he can score from all over the court. This season he is off to a torrid start, averaging: 15ppg, 8apg, 7rpg.

RLH:  What have you done this past Summer to prepare for your high school season?
JJ:  This past summer I’ve been working on all my weaknesses in my game and my whole game in general. I was in the weight room getting stronger, and in the lab perfecting my craft

RLH:  How was the travel season for you this Summer?
JJ:  This past travel season was oddly special. I’ve only played a few tournaments due to the pandemic but I made a statement in the very few games played and opened a lot of eyes. I averaged about 20+ppg.

RLH:  What role do you play on your high school team?
JJ:  The role I play on my Highschool team is the point guard. As a point guard, I have a big job I have to get my teammates going and also myself. There’s nothing better than getting your guys better and also yourself.

RLH:  Is there a player at the NBA level that you study and try to emulate? 
JJ:  If there is an NBA player that I like to study and try to emulate, it would be Ja Morant. Ja Morant is my favorite player in the league overall, Me and Ja are about the same height and build. Morant also plays my position… he’s someone I see my play type to be in the near future.

RLH:  What is your case to as why you should be ranked highly in your class?
JJ:  My case to as why I should be highly ranked in my class is first of all I’m different, physically, mentally, emotionally. There are not too many guys out there like me. It sounds cliche but my hunger, my motivation, and my ambition will one day get me to where I want to be…and some.

RLH:  What are some of your hobbies off the court?
JJ:  Some of my hobbies off the court are things like going to the movies, riding bikes, working out, watching basketball, and spending time with my family.

Tamar Bates has a complete floor game

Tamar Bates 6’4 2021

We saw Tamar at the Border League in Arizona earlier in the year. He’s a Piper High School in Kansas product but transferred to IMG Academy for his senior year. His game is silky-smooth and just keeps getting better. Here is our breakdown from the weekend.

Future Big 12 SG was electric to all weekend. His energy & passion to compete is contagious. You want to cheer for his team because of the juice he naturally creates. Quick trigger on the shot, can shoot & score from every level. His handle is so tight he gets wherever he wants. Willing & able defender who will give smaller guards major problems because of his wingspan and foot speed. Was very impressed with his distance shooting, barely missing in warmups and carrying that over to each game on the weekend. Was impressed by his point guard ability getting by defenders and racking up the assists over the defense with some fancy skilled passing. Tamar attended the Larry Hughes Elite Camp hosted by RecruitLook Hoops in 2019. He played on the UAA circuit with KC Run GMC and is committed to the University of Texas.

Six under-recruited players to watch from Nebraska

We spent some time watching games over the showcase and camp weeks in Nebraska. Here are some of the best performances we saw for 6 players that are under-recruited.

2021 Marcus Shakeer – Omaha Benson High School

Shakeer isn’t the most well-known prospect in the state, but he definitely should be. Shakeer is an offensive explosion. He only played 1 game at the camp, but in that game, he went for 43 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists on 50% shooting. Shakeer can purely take over games at points, and after a cold start to this one, that is exactly what he did. He is extremely athletic, which made for some high flying, eye-popping dunks. Shakeer can get to the rack and contort his body to finish even the most improbable layups, regardless of contact from the defender. Shakeer will be the go-to guy for Omaha Benson this year, and has a good chance to be one of the state’s leading scorers.

2022 Jayden Dawson – Team Factory 16U UA Rise/Omaha Central High School

Dawson was scoring a lot, and doing so at an efficient rate. He is a great shooter, and has grown to about 6’4 while retaining all of his tools. He was making some really good reads off of pick and rolls and wasn’t afraid to dish it off to the rolling post player. His role with Omaha Central will be even bigger this year, and Omaha Central is stacked with talent. Dawson has really gotten himself into a good position, and D1 coaches should be very interested in him soon.

2021 Jai’Lyn Spears – Texas Tarheels 17U/Omaha Bryan High School

I had already known that Spears had improved since the last time I had seen him, but I was extremely impressed by just how much better he was. He was really hard to stay in front of on the offensive end, as he consistently made it into the paint and finished plays. One of the biggest changes I noticed was his athleticism. He could really fly when going up for dunks, and he made them look effortless. Spears played for a Texas-based Grassroots program, so I didn’t get the chance to see him at all during the summer, but he is a name to look out for this high school season.

2021 Curtis Ogba Jr. – Team Factory 17U UA Rise/Omaha North High School

Ogba Jr. has been one of my favorite players to watch ever since he was a freshman. Standing at only 5’6, he plays like he’s taller than everyone else on the court. He had 5 possessions in a row where he took it into the heart of the defense – which included guys who were literally a foot taller than him – and found ways to score. One of them being an offensive rebound and a baby hook for a bucket – something you don’t see from many 5’6 guys. One of his former coaches, who was in attendance, told me “Curtis makes plays that I previously thought were impossible to make.” His handles are airtight, quick, and unpluckable. And he really is not afraid of anyone.

2022 Kip Tupa – Blair High School

Tupa was a name that I didn’t recognize going into the camp, but his game really grew on me the more I watched him play. He didn’t necessarily have a specific highlight play or anything that jumps off the stats sheet, but he showed something that not a lot of other players did. Competitiveness and focus at the showcase event. Kip wasn’t there for the media attention or for the clout, he was there to show college coaches how he can help their program. A lot of other players didn’t take it as seriously; some left before all of their scheduled games were played, some seemed to forget that college coaches aren’t just watching how you can score. Tupa shared the ball really well, played determined defense, and was locked in the whole time. 

2022 Chandler Meeks – Team Factory UA Rise/Westside

Chandler impacts the game in a variety of ways. He’s a physical guard that has a nice change of pace to his play. He displays tight handles with the ability to put combination moves together with a purpose…he doesn’t over dribble…a few moves and he goes. It is what he does off these moves that super impressive. He can bully his way into the lane to finish at the rim. He can pull up from 3 or the mid-range. He can find open teammates for easy buckets. Chandler is a tough on the ball defender, too. He’ll be heavily recruited in the 2022 class.

In partnership with Cornhusker Hoops Report