Section 7: Three big takeaways from the LOADED weekend in the West
GLENDALE, AZ: Where to begin? With four days of action inside the spacious State Farm Stadium there is a lot to unpack. What were the storylines that Justin Young took away from the action? Here are the three biggest ones from the weekend.
FURTHER PROOF FOR A RESTRUCTURED RECRUITING CALENDAR
There was a common theme from the spring at NCAA Live period events: where are all of the college coaches? Events across the country were noticeably less attended than years before with college coaches. The transfer portal was mentioned in every breath among those who offer scholarships, the guys who play the games, the people who run the events and darn near everyone in between.
The portal has impacted spring recruiting in a big way. High school players aren’t quite in demand like they have been in before. Visits from college transfers kept coaches on their respective campuses. Things were at a pause in April for the majority of those in the recruiting space at the prep level.
Then the June team camps came.
The guys with the scholarships were back on the sidelines in a big way. The Section 7 team certainly provided a big stage for them to return to. Head coaches from all levels were present and visible. Most of the coaches were seeing players in person for the first time. That’s a good thing.
Their attendance at team camps nationwide is a good indication to what July will look like. That’s great news for travel teams.
Perhaps we need to really reconsider how the spring is used for high school-aged prospects. Because college coaches, free of responsibility on campus, came out in deep in the summer. I’ve written about this before and I stand firm on this thought.
Let’s move the spring to the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May for high school-aged events. Push the spring back. Let the summer remain the successful recruiting calendar that it is. This is working. So, let’s lean into it.
When I look back on my career, some of the best talent I’ve ever seen at the prep level came in the 2004-2009 era. There were so many dudes. Elite, no-brainer dudes. There were also guys who you saw and you instantly knew they would be playing professionally for a long time.
The NBA is fully loaded with these guys. The All-Star teams are chalked full of no-brainer prep stars.
With the changing landscape of high school hoops, the road to the NBA and the multiple platforms that draw high school kids in, the conversation for who is the top prep prospect in all the land hasn’t been consistent.
We haven’t had a no-brainer dude at the top in a while. I think we can say that won’t be the case in 2025.
Cameron Boozer, in my eyes, has set the bar. He’s that dude. And he’s only 14. So, I’ll try to type carefully for fear of an Emoni Bates backlash. But Boozer just feels different. He’s an absolute dominant force. He reminds me a little bit of Michael Beasley, who as a prep was one of the most impressive high school players ever. He was truly unstoppable.
Boozer was incredible for Christopher Columbus out of Miami in the land of the West Coast studs. The young big man bent any rim that was on the hardwood. He was an unstoppable force en route to the basket. He plays with such a power and a poise that you don’t see too often from high school seniors, G-League Ignite players of Overtime social media stars.
Boozer looks like he’s the real frickin’ deal, y’all.
I’ve watched more film and gone back on notes of Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren a ton over the last two months. I’ve had smart conversations with smart NBA people about this draft. And when I watched young Mr. Boozer over the weekend, I instantly thought he was better than all of those guys at the same age. He was better than Even Mobley. And Scottie Barnes. And LaMelo Ball. And Anthony Edwards. I could keep going.
I had to go back to the mid-2000s. That was my golden era of prep prospects.
Yes, I get this is all hyperbolic. I get that he’s just a hoops baby still. But he’s pretty special. Boozer has won the DNA lottery. His coaches rave about his work ethic. His trainers have explained the mindset.
Scary to think where he can go. For now, he’s at the top of the young 2025 list. And, to me, he’ll be there for a while. Let’s enjoy this one.
IS CORONA CENTENNIAL THE BEST PUBLIC SCHOOL TEAM IN AMERICA?
The fact we get high-level high school hoops in June is a gift if you think about how the prep basketball calendar traditionally plays out.
To have a preview of what could be the CIF state title game played at a NFL stadium during a 100-degree summer day in Arizona is really quite a thing to think about.
But here we are.
Corona Centennial, winners of the California State Open Division and 33 games last season, won the Fiesta Bowl bracket of the Section 7 team camp. Winning this gauntlet wasn’t easy.
Centennial had to beat American Fork from Utah, Strake Jesuit from Texas and Coronado from Las Vegas in one day to reach the title game. They faced California foe Harvard-Westlake, one of the premier programs in America for the title game.
The 1-2-3 punch of Duke-bound Jared McCain, the ultimate glue guy in Aaron McBride and upside supreme big man Devin Williams was as good of a Big Three of any team in the entire field at Section 7. Each guy brings something different to the table.
McCain was his usual relentless and crafty self. He got to the rim whenever and however he wanted. McBride, a must-get for a lot of mid-major western programs, made some high-major programs think long and hard about him as an ultimate glue guy. And Williams, well, Williams looked like a guy who could be on the verge of a major upturn from prospect to a real player. He had some real wow moments in Glendale.
Camden (NJ) and Duncanville (TX) are two of the other public high school programs that could contend for a major spot in the top 10 rankings in high school hoops next scholastic season. Call it recency bias, but I like this Centennial team a lot for the top overall squad in the public prep ranks. They earned it with their showing over the weekend in cactus land.