Tai's 5: My thoughts from the Upward Stars Combine

One hundred and fifty prospects converged to Spartanburg, South Carolina to compete at the Upward Stars Combine. Players from around the region gathered in what was one of the best collections of talent this fall. Filtering through that many players is always a tough task, but there were a select few that left me with some thoughts. In my first Tai's 5 of the season, here are my thoughts from the event. 

He didn't take his offseason off...

Jaylen Gibson got the bulk of the attention this summer(rightfully so) as he played himself into several offers, eventually choosing to commit to the Danny Manning led Demon Decons. Keeyan Itejere was a named that was mentioned in small talk, as there were clear signs that some development was needed before thrusting him into the center of conversation. As a kudos to his work in the offseason, those quiet grumblings have gotten louder with every bounce of the ball. It's for good reason if you've tracked his development over the past few months as Itejere has come a long way as a prospect. The gangly junior has extended his range, has more aggression around the rim and is showing more athleticism through his movements. It's tough to say what the end of the road holds for Itejere as he is the definition of a slow cooking prospect. For someone that's changed significantly since June, it's an intriguing thought when you fast forward to this time next year. Look for his offer sheet to develop at the same speed he has as Elon and Radford won't be his only suitors. 

What's his ceiling...

I asked someone to point me to the court that Julian Phillips was playing on and he said "Just look for the guy that's all arms and legs." Soon after, I found the 6 foot 6 in-state product that was in fact exactly how he described him. Those long arms came of good use as passes were snatched out of the sky in a go go gadget like fashion. It was his defensive prowess that kept me intrigued throughout as the mobile forward locked in like a heat-seeking missile. So much ground was covered with very little effort. Phillips could become that crown jewel that coaches flip over stones to find in that long-limbed, mobile forward that can cover every position on the floor. When the time comes that he sleeps with a dumbbell under his pillow, his defensive capabilities will cause his value to skyrocket through the roof. 

Dorman has another one...

I'm sure that many coaches had Myles Tate graduation date circled to celebrate the time that they would never have to see him again. While that will undoubtedly be a huge loss for the Cavaliers, it eases the sting when your next in line is junior guard Jalen Breazeale. You'll be hard pressed to find a better first step in the gym, as Dormans newly acquired guard has one of the best I've seen this fall. While his lack of size could keep some suitors at arm's length, the right division one program is sure to take a flyer on him. That makes two good showings for Breazeale as he also played well at our South Carolina Preview camp

One to keep your eye on...

It was an impressive first evaluation of Aiken(SC) guard Russell Felton Jr. Size, shooting, and playmaking are all intact in what I would regard as one of the most well-rounded prospects at the combine. Felton has a frame that coaches drool over as he's well equipped to take a beating at this stage. Defenses are in a quandary given his ability to put it on the floor and make shots off the bounce. On more than one occasion, Felton would initiate the offense, only to get it back for a tough shot from deep. A spike in Felton's recruitment is expected as the high major programs will eventually get involved. 

Edwards proved me right...

It was at last years HoopSeen Tip-Off event that I was introduced to the play of Hartsville sophomore forward Ceseare Edwards. His stellar weekend prompted me to write this in our "Top three overall 16U performers."

"This time last year, Myles Tate, Dillon Jones, and PJ Hall all impressed me after my first time evaluating them at our HoopSeen Tip-Off. Assuming that I would have similar luck this year, I took the time to check out Upwards 16 and under group and again, I felt as if I had struck gold. Ceasare Edwards is going to be a name to watch on the three stripes circuit given his size, knack for shot making, and athleticism that pops out in spurts. Basketball minds know how the dynamics of size and shooting can completely change the outlook of the game. Over time as Edwards matures both physically and mentally, look for him to land atop the boards of several mid to high major programs." 

It was a reassuring feeling to watch him yesterday as he's progressed nicely since my last evaluation at the South Carolina individual camp. What will jump out instantly is his new and improved frame that has take form over the fall. Some time well spent in the weight room has carried over to his rebounding that seems to be trending in the right direction. With his continued shot making and willingness to improve his weaknesses, my projection of his recruitment seems well on its way. 

Communications Manager

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