City of Palms Classic Top Overall Performers
Another City of Palms is in the books and it was a great return to action for the prestigious event. With six full days of high-level basketball there were a ton of the top prospects and teams around the country in attendance. Here are my overall top performers from the event.
This was my first time seeing the 6-foot-8 forward out of Illinois play in person and I was immediately impressed. In their matchup against North Little Rock, Casey got hot quick. He showed his versatility, knocking down shots out on the perimeter and finishing around the rim. He has great size and the shooting and playmaking ability to be able to extend the floor. The Miami commit nearly averaged a double-double throughout the event.
George has been one of my top prospects since I saw him dominate the NBPA Top 100 camp back in July. The Baylor commit is such a skilled scorer; watching him with the ball in his hands is something truly special to watch. One of my favorite aspects of his game is all of the little things he does to put his team in the best position to win. You will often see him crashing the boards, diving after loose balls, taking charges, and more dirty work that you do not always see 5-star players be willing to do on a consistent basis.
Let me preface by saying that UCF is getting an absolute steal in this kid. At 6-foot-10, Hendricks has solidified himself as one of the most versatile players in the country. He can stretch the defense out with his perimeter shooting ability, and he also has a solid game inside the paint. Defensively, he was able to utilize his length to either alter or outright block shots that came his way. Hendricks also runs the floor extremely well. He was able to get rewarded for his efforts with multiple alley-oops and easy buckets in transition.
Mintz is easily one of the top available seniors left in the class. The Oak Hill guard was one of the most consistent producers of the event. In their big semifinal win over IMG, Mintz was one of the best players on the floor. He knocked down big shot after big shot, often through contact. He is a really good on-ball defender and consistently disrupts the passing lanes. One of the stats that jumped out the most was the fact he shot 71% from three.
Smith had a low scoring performance the first game I saw him play on Wednesday. However, it did not take him long to turn that around the following day with a 30-point performance. The Arkansas commit is known for being a great scorer, which he further showed throughout the week. I was really impressed with his passing ability. He was able to get a lot of his guys involved early, making great reads on the defense and throwing some nice passes.
Thornton and Milton had a great showing at the event. Milton gave two of the top programs in the country a great fight, despite not having much depth. The Ohio State commit is a strong, physical guard with an incredibly high IQ. As I mentioned in one of my notebooks, he is not the most explosive guard, but he plays with a certain precision. He is tactical with the way he moves around the court and has a deep array of moves in his arsenal. Despite the accolades he has received, I still feel that Thornton is one of the most underrated players in the 2022 class.
Big Ernest is one of my favorite players to watch. In a guard dominated game, he constantly shows why big men still matter. At 6-foot-10, Udeh is as mobile and athletic as they come. Paired with his high motor, he consistently produces some eye opening stat lines. On Tuesday, he finished with a 23-point, 16 rebound performance. I have often said that he is one of the best, if not the best rebounders in the country, and it always shows with the way he attacks the boards on both ends.
Walker is a flat out physical specimen. The kid looks like he has the physique to go play in the NFL right now. At 6-foot-8, he has a long, strong frame that he takes advantage of on both ends. His strength and speed makes him a big time matchup nightmare. He has the handle and shooting ability to be effective out on the perimeter and his explosiveness makes him a force inside the paint. His shot blocking ability is also really special. He will be an immediate impact player at Houston as soon as he steps foot on campus.
Ware is going to be a NBA pro, I'm calling it now. He simply does things that a lot of 7-footers cannot do. For starters, he is extremely mobile and runs the floor really well. He dunks just about every time he gets the ball in the paint or either hits his defender with an unguardable baby hook. His reach when he cocks his arm back to grab an offensive rebound off a miss to slam the ball right back in the basket gathers a ton of "oohs and ahhs" throughout the gym. This kid is and will be a special player, there really is not another way to put it.
Whitehead has had quite the year of climbing up rankings. The Duke commit is regarded as a top-3 player in the country by just about every service. His consistent production led Montverde to yet another City of Palms championship. At 6-foot-6, Whitehead can score it from anywhere on the court. Each time I've seen him this scholastic season, he's shot the ball well from three. His three triples in the third quarter in the semifinals against Milton were what got the momentum back to Montverde. He is also an elite scorer of the dribble. His body control and finishing ability make it near impossible do stop once he gets going downhill.