I recently attended a grassroots basketball tournament in Central California hosted by ARC Basketball Organization. The event was for age groups 3rd grade through high school (boys and girls) but the main focus for myself and this article was the Boys Varsity Division. Eight teams participated in this event and were split up into two groups of four teams. The winner of each pool (A and B) would advance to the championship game. This division had teams from Northern, Central and Southern California, as well as one team from Reno, Nevada. The article below is a player evaluation of the top performers from the event based on games and teams I watched throughout the 3-day event. The players with detailed evaluations make up my Elite 8 Team from the event. Below those players are an additional 7 players that also performed well and deserved name recognition. The first player evaluated and also pictured, Corey Cofield, was the Most Outstanding Player of the event and led his team to winning the championship.
It was clear by the end of the Championship Game that 3-star prospect Corey Cofield was the most dominant player on the court in every game, as JAB 3 United took home the championship in a win over the Cap City Cougars. Cofield had an impressive opening pool play game, as he displayed the ability and skill needed to be a high impact 2-way player. In J3U’s 2nd pool play game, Cofield continued his impressive play on both ends and finished with a game high 22 points. Game 3 of pool play against Hoop Phene Elite was for 1st place in Pool A and a trip to the championship game, and Cofield put on the best performance in the best game of the event. Cofield was on the attack in the 1st half and spent a lot of time at the free throw line, as 8 of his 10 points came from the stripe. Hoop Phene had a double digit lead to start the 2nd Half before Cofield and teammate James Evens Jr. asserted themselves on the glass and were able to score around the cup with relative ease, as J3U roared back and won the game by one point (70-69). Cofield was relentless on the attack off the perimeter and kept the defense on their heels throughout the 2nd half. Cofield finished with a game high 25 points and a trip to the championship game. By halftime of the championship game, it was clear that as long as Cofield stuck with what was working all weekend, he would continue to dominate his opponent in various aspects of the game. Cofield capped off the weekend with a game high 24 points and led his squad to a championship win over a tough Cap City Cougars team (55-50). Cofield is a great athlete, can really lock up on defense, plays the passing lanes very well, turns defense into easy transition offense, is a high level rebounder that allows him to push the ball in the open court, good moves and quickness to get by his defender, creative finisher at the rim, able to create contact and get to the free throw line consistently, can stretch the floor with a nice midrange jumper and is a threat from deep, and provides quality leadership on both ends of the court. The one thing that really stood out to me over the weekend was that Cofield took what the defense gave him and rarely settled for a tougher shot than necessary. Very impressive showing as Cofield averaged 23.5 points per game and was the Most Outstanding Player of the event.
Another high level player at the event was rising junior prospect and true combo guard, Cameron Brown. Brown, a member of the West Coast Elite 17u-LA UAA squad, ran with Hoop Phene Elite 17u, a club that he has been a part of since he started playing high school AAU basketball. Brown, one of the top 5 overall high school prospects in the Central Section, showed his versatility and great feel for the game on both ends of the court throughout the event. Brown opened up the tournament with a game high 16 points and scored in a variety of ways. Brown used his length and creativity to maneuver through the defense and score at the rim or make plays to get teammates open looks. Brown had one of the top highlights of the event with a 2 handed windmill dunk in transition. Brown had a solid game against JAB 3 United and finished with 11 points, but foul trouble limited minutes on the court. Brown came back strong in the 3rd Place Game, as he finished with a game high 16 points to go along with 9 rebounds. Brown’s skill continues to develop and his ability to create for himself and others leaves defenses guessing and off balance. Brown has solid handles, does a great job of using his length and shot making capabilities to create scoring opportunities, deadly stepback/side-step 3 point shot, scores well at all three levels, alters shots around the basket and on perimeter shots, rebounds really well for his position, and his basketball IQ is what makes him standout as a top prospect in the Central Section. Brown will have a huge 2021 season playing with the WCE Program.
CJ displayed his all-around offensive skill set throughout the weekend, as he was able to dominate players in the paint and operate off the perimeter and stretch the defense with his shooting range. McMillan wasted no time, going to work in game 1 of pool play that allowed Cap City to build a large lead by the end of the 1st half. McMillan finished with a team high 13 points and could not be stopped around the basket. As impressive as his opening game showing was, McMillan’s performance in the championship game was even better and the key factor in Cap City keeping the game competitive. McMillan continued to dominate around the basket, showing the footwork and soft touch to create scoring opportunities within 10 feet of the basket. McMillan also knockdowned a pair of 3’s, connected from midrange, and continued to put pressure on the defense and getting to the free throw line. McMillan finished with a team high 18 points, as he scored from all 3 levels to go along with 10+ rebounds. McMillan does a great job of using his size to bully defenders in the key, nice footwork to create separation around the basket for finishes, boxes out well allowing him to control the glass, handles the ball nicely and is consistent from 15+ feet making it tough to guard when he plays on the perimeter, and has a solid understanding of the game.
The most impressive and impactful underclassmen of the event was freshman James Evans Jr. The last time I saw Evans play in person was back in June at the Pangos Best of SoCal Showcase hosted by Dinos Trigonis. Evans, perceived by many in high school basketball as a Top 5 2024 Prospect in California, had a few games at the Hoopsters Holiday Event where he showcased the skill and ability that make him a projected D1 Prospect. Evans really got going in a blowout game 2 win in pool play, finishing with 13 points and abusing his defender at will in the paint and around the basket. Evans followed this up with his best performance against Hoop Phene Elite in the game of the event. Evans was critical in keeping J3U within striking distance, as he was able to get to the basket and score effortlessly in the 1st Half. He kept up his dominant play in the 2nd Half; knocking down a few long 2’s, a three ball and continued to feast at the basket. Evans had his personal best of the event with 24 points, combined with Cofield’s 25 points, as the duo was responsible for 49 of the teams 70 points and a one point win to advance to the championship. The potential and skill of Evans is undeniable when he is locked in and focused on the task at hand. Evans has really solid footwork, can operate with his back to the basket and create offense, high level rebounder, has a nice touch on his shot and stretches the floor with his range, has solid handles to push the tempo in the open court, has really good hands around the basket and is a creative finisher at the rim, and understands how to create space and score effectively. The upside for Evans is HM D1 and if he continues to develop his all around game he will have a lot of options when his high school career is all said and done.
One of the most electric players from the Hoopsters Holiday Event was the crafty left handed lead guard Izaac Martinez of Hoop Phene Elite 17u. Martinez had it going early on the offensive end in game 1 of pool play, as he and Cameron Brown toyed with defenders and were able to get to the cup with little resistance, and Martinez finished with 13 points. Martinez had his best performance in the best game of the event, putting up a game high 25 points (tied with Corey Cofield mentioned above). Martinez hit from deep, turned pesky defense into transition points, created off the perimeter to get to the basket, was able to get to the line throughout the game, and consistently knocked down the midrange jumper. Despite his best efforts, combined with foul trouble for Brown, Martinez and Hoop Phene Elite fell short to JAB 3 United. Martinez finished the tournament with a solid showing in 3rd Place Game, scoring 12 points and the win. Martinez has crafty handles, can carve up a defense with the ability to score at all 3 levels, good use of changing speed with the ball in hand, and excels in the open court.
The Cap City Cougar roster was loaded with talent, headlined by D1 Prospect Sione Lose. Lose is a player that really understands the game and has the skill, length, height and athleticism to play the 1-3 positions effectively. Lose set the tone early for the Cougars in their opening game of pool play, scoring 12 points in a blow out win. In their 3rd game of pool play, Lose connected on a pair of 3’s, made some nice reads in the open court, and helped lead the Cougars to the championship game. Due to the event format, with the championship game being played on a Monday, Lose was not able to play in the championship game and his ability to spread the floor and create offense was heavily missed by Cap City as they fell to J3U (55-50). Despite missing the championship game, Lose was definitely one of the top 8 players at the event and his level of play was critical to the team’s success in pool play. I have been fortunate to see Lose play numerous times and his skill set and capabilities have garnered attention from D1 programs on the West Coast. Lose is an efficient scorer from all 3 levels, has very good court vision to find open teammates in transition or the half court setting, has the height and length to alter shots at the rim or jump passing lanes creating turnovers, has good body control on the attack, and makes big plays and shots when his team needs it.
There were a few players that I had not seen in person prior to the Hoopsters Holiday Event and Swartz was one that really stood out and played very well. Swartz, another member of the West Coast Elite Program, had a really solid showing against the eventual tournament champions, JAB 3 United. Swartz has a really nice all around game and can impact the offensive end in multiple ways. Swartz showed the ability to knockdown the 3 ball consistently, can create scoring opportunities off the perimeter using change of speed and crafty finishes around the rim, and moves really well off the ball for catch and shoot opportunities. Swartz does a solid job of pushing the ball in the open court and has good court vision to find open teammates for easy transition points. Swartz is a high motor player that knows his strengths and does not deviate away from what makes him a high level basketball player, which is always refreshing to see from a high school prospect. Swartz will have a solid 2021 season with the WCE-Valley Program and have the opportunity to maximize his exposure in a tough year for California players.
Hoop Phene Elite played solid basketball throughout the Hoopsters Holiday Event and came up a point short from earning a spot in the championship game. I have already mentioned the outstanding play of Cameron Brown and Izaac Martinez, but Mekhi Pitts played a critical role in the team’s success throughout the weekend and the progression of his game was evident throughout. Pitts had 14 points in the opening game of pool play, 12 points and 2 timely 3’s in the semifinals game against J3U, 10 points in the 3rd place game, and averaged 12.5 points per game throughout the 4 games played. The development of Pitts’ game was on full display throughout the event, as he showed efficiency from beyond the arc, nice touch and finishes around the basket, the ability to guard bigger players, improving handles on the perimeter, rebounds very well, and becoming a more consistent threat from all 3 levels of scoring. Pitts is a late bloomer and has 3.5+ GPA that make him an intriguing prospect.
2021 Caden Flowers (Capital Christian)
2022 Arturo Valencia (Pacífica HS)
2021 Mekhi Morris (Capital Christian)
2021 Kiernan Shepard (Trinity Pacific)
2021 Bryan Malcom (West Ranch)
2022 Anothy Garcia (Capital Christian)
2023 Prince Ellis (South HS/Bakersfield)