The weekend of January 16th and 17th I was able to attend ARC Basketball Organization’s MLK Classic that featured some really solid high school prospects from California and Nevada. This event was for various age groups, however, this article focuses on the top 17u Division. Specifically, the write-up below breakdowns the various match-ups that took place in the 17u Division, while providing detailed evaluations for eight players that performed very well throughout the event. There are also a few players listed below the evaluations that performed well and deserved name recognition, under “Other Notable Players”. These evaluations are based on games and players I was able to watch in person.
I first saw Mack live a little over a month ago, and he displayed a great ability to create off the dribble, get into the paint and score effectively at the rim. This past weekend, the Top 5 2023 Prospect in Nevada showed that he is really developing into a lethal 3 level scorer and was extremely efficient from deep, as Mack led Purple Reign to the win in the Championship Game and was the overall ARC MLK Classic Most Outstanding Player (based on my personal assessment). Purple Reign opened up with Family First, in what was the first game of the event for both teams. Both teams boasted rosters with a lot of talent, but by halftime it was clear that Mack was the most talented player on the court, as he was hitting big shots from all over and was laser focused on the task at hand. Purple Reign was able to pull away in the last 5 minutes and got a big win over Family First (66-54), as Mack led his squad behind a game high 23 points. Mack was able to create space off the dribble, opening up scoring opportunities from the midrange and at the basket. Most impressive was Mack’s efficiency from behind the arc, as he was on fire finishing with 5 threes. After a win in their second game, Purple Reign advanced to the championship game against a very talented and battle tested EBO 17u squad. After a competitive 1st half, Mack and his teammates executed very well on both ends and ran away with the Championship Game victory, 66-48. Mack finished with a game high 14 points and I had him as the Most Outstanding Player of the event for the 17u Division. Mack plays with great pace and poise with the ball in his hands, has tight handles and crafty moves to get by his initial defender and create scoring opportunities from fifteen feet and in, keeps his head on a swivel allowing him to find open teammates in the open court or the half court setting, is a pesky defender on the perimeter with quick hands to disrupt plays, and showed an improvement in his shooting form and a high level of efficiency from beyond the three point line. If Mack approaches all games with the level of intensity and focus he did this past weekend, he has the skill and capabilities to be a top tier lead guard nationally, which is saying something given he is already a D1 Prospect.
George is a player that I have seen a lot over the last few years and it is always a high level of play for the Long Beach State commit. This past weekend at the ARC MLK Classic was no different, as George led EBO 17u in points per page and team highs in all 3 of their games. In their 1st game of the event, EBO jumped out to a big lead that was sparked by a big 1st half from George. George was getting to the rim with ease and connected on a few mid-range shots, as he finished with a team high 12 points in a 62-33 landslide victory. EBO faced Chuck Hayes 17u in their 2nd game, and, fueled by a strong start and finish by George, EBO pulled out the win and earned a trip to the Championship Game. George had a game high 16 points, as he was able to get into the teeth of the defense, draw fouls for points at the line, and knocked down a few nice pull-up jumpers from the elbows, which is one of his best go to shots. In the Championship Game, EBO ran into a solid squad in Purple Reign, and lost by double digits despite a valiant effort from George. George had a team high 14 points, with 10 of those points coming in the 1st half. George showed growth in various parts of his game as he prepares for his hoops career post-high school. George can score from all 3 levels, has really good moves off the wing to create separation, does a great job of getting to his sweet spots, connects on the mid-range jumper with consistency, good body control for finishes at the rim, takes pride on the defensive end with the ability to guard the 1-4 positions, is an elite rebounder for his position, good handles and size to push the ball in the open court, and has had some big games and plays against some of the top talent in the Western Region. Always enjoy watching George hoop.
I have known Marantos since elementary school and it has been a pleasure to watch the maturation of his game from elementary school to his senior year of high school, as he has asserted himself as one of, if not the top true point guard in the Central Section. Marantos had his skill set, playmaking abilities, and leadership on full display last weekend at the ARC MLK Classic, as the Cyclones were missing one of their main pieces. In the opening game for the Cyclones, Marantos was in full point guard mode, pushing the pace of play in the open court and finding teammates, specifically Erick Chaney, who had the hot hand in the 1st half. The game was close going into the 2nd half when Marantos asserted himself on the offensive end, putting pressure on the defense and getting into the paint finishing with his smooth floater or jump shot, as well as creating contact and getting to the free throw line. Marantos finished with 11 points, as the Cyclones got the win over Team Strive. After a tough loss to Purple Reign in the semifinals, the Cyclones faced Chuck Hayes 17u in the 3rd Place Game. Marantos saved his best performance for this game and it was much needed as the Cyclones found themselves down by double digits around halftime. Marantos, with the help of teammates Jackson Tucker and Gabriel Iruh, went to work on both ends in the 2nd half and the Cyclones stormed back to get the win (49-43), behind a team high 15 points from the floor general. Marantos connected on a pair of threes, weaved his way through the defense to get to his near automatic shot spots, orchestrated the flow of the offense to set up others for quality looks, and hit some clutch free throws late in the game. Marantos has great court vision, keeps the ball on a string with his crafty yet tight handle, effective 3 level scorer, understands how to run the offense in the half court setting or in transition, fundamentally sound defender, an extension of the coach on the court, and does what is necessary for the team to have success. Holds an offer from Fresno Pacific University.
Over the last few months I have been able to see Knox play live and this hooper can flat out shoot the 3 ball. I was able to watch Purple Reign play 2 of their 3 games at the ARC MLK Classic, where Knox combined for 8 threes in those two games. However, if you have seen Knox play, you know that he has a solid all around game, and his ability to stretch the floor at a high clip opens up opportunities for him to score at various spots inside the arc. In Purple Reign’s opening game, Knox was huge in the 2nd half, along with teammate Sebastian Mack, and set the tone for the team’s approach the remainder of the weekend. Down the stretch, Knox knocked down 2 threes and was effective using the shot fake and shifty moves to get by his defender for his pretty jumpshot. Knox finished with 20 points in Purple Reign’s win over Family First and hit some big time shots down the stretch. After a win over the Cyclones in the Semifinals, Purple Reign advanced to the Championship Game against the talented EBO 17u. In the Championship Game, Knox showed his ability to adapt to the team’s needs, as he fulfilled his role as a 3 point sharp shooter, lighting up EBO with 4 threes. Mack, along with Isaiah Johnson and Shane Thomas, kept pressure on the defense by attacking the basket relentlessly, which allowed Knox to get to his spot for the catch and shoot 3 ball. EBO had no answer for the deep ball assassin, as Knox finished with 13 points and his team winning the championship. Knox has a great stroke from deep, efficient shot selection from beyond the arc, draws defenders out and has nice handles and moves to create when run off the 3 point line, can score well at all 3 levels, has good size and length at the guard spot to read over the defense and make plays, rebounds very well for his position, can guard multiple positions, and has great leaping ability to put down some high flying dunks in the open court. Great feel for the game and high IQ player.
Mr. Davis was the surprise breakout player of the ARC MLK Classic in the 17u Division. I was able to watch Family First play 2 of their 3 games and in both Davis was locked in from outside the key, and especially from beyond the arc. In Family First’s 1st game, against Purple Reign, Davis was the main reason why the game was competitive, as he was unconscious from beyond the arc making 5 threes and had a team high 19 points. Davis had a stretch in the 1st half where he knocked down 3 threes in consecutive possessions, as he and Sebatsian Mack seemed to be exchanging threes back and forth. Family First did not get enough scoring from other players to match the fire power of Mack and Knox, and with the loss to Purple Reign that put Family First in the consolation side of the bracket. After a win over Team Strive, Family First squared off against Looper’s Hoopers in the Consolation Game. Davis had a relatively quiet 1st half, as Agjanti Miller was carrying a bulk of the scoring load early on. However, Davis really got cooking in the second half and played a critical role in leading Family First to the overtime victory. Davis made a pair of threes, showed the skills and moves to create off the dribble and attack the defense, did a good job on the defensive end limiting three point opportunities, and played with supreme confidence that he had all weekend long. Davis ended the Consolation Game with 15 points and was one of the best pure shooters I saw all weekend at the event. Davis has nice form on his shot, is deadly when on fire from deep, does not hesitate to catch and shoot the 3 ball, moves well without the ball in his hand, knows how to create space, and looks comfortable shooting from any spot on the court. Impressive showing by the 2021 guard.
The ARC MLK Classic had a lot of talent on display in the 17u Division, but the player that showed the best shot making and scoring ability was freshman Jamari Phillips of Chuck Hayes 17u. Phillips has had some impressive showings at some big time events since the start of high school, averaging over 20 points per game in the Border League in Arizona and at the Pangos Rocky Mountain Summit Tournament in Utah. This last weekend was no different, as Phillips showed why he is being considered one of the top scorers for the Class of 2024 in the Western Region, if not nationally. I missed the 1st game for Chuck Hayes 17u, as they took down Fresno Select with relative ease (61-46) to advance to the semifinals against EBO 17u. Despite being one of the youngest players on the court, Phillips came out aggressive and asserted himself on the offensive end, hitting a pair of deep threes and getting to the basket in the open court. Despite a valiant 2nd half comeback push led by both of the Phillips’ brothers and Alex Argandar, the verteran play and battle tested EBO proved to be too much to overcome as Chuck Hayes lost 54-49. Phillips had 16 points in the loss, which was tied with AJ George for the game high. Phillips saved the best display of his offensive arsenal for the last game for Chuck Hayes, which was the 3rd Place Game against the Cycles. Once again, Phillips was on fire in the 1st half and led Chuck Hayes to a double digit lead. Phillips knocked down 3 threes, showing limitless range, and had 13 points to lead all scorers at the half. Phillips continued to be aggressive in the 2nd half, scoring the ball and showing off his playmaking abilities, finding his teammate Darius Smith, who had 13 points of his own. However, the savvy play of four year varsity starter Seth Marantos led to a comeback for the Cyclones and a tough loss for Chuck Hayes. Phillips finished with a game high 20 points, connected on 5 threes, displayed an elite level of shot making ability, displayed solid court vision and flashy passes as a playmaker, and his mid-range pull-up jumper from the short corner and his one foot fadeaway jumper were next level buckets from a freshman. As Phillips continues to develop his handle, lead guard skills, and shot creativity, he will continue to rise as one of the best scorers in the West. The range at which Phillips shows from beyond the arc will allow him to have open lanes and shot spots from 20 feet and in nearly every possession. Impressive prospect with 3 plus years left of his high school career.
The first time I saw Miller play was as a junior at the 2019 Modesto Christian Holiday Classic for the Vanden Vikings, and he showed a lot of potential as a combo guard that does a nice job running the point. This last weekend at the ARC MLK Classic was the 2nd time in the past few months I have seen Miller play and this past weekend may have been the best offensive showing I have personally watched live, as he was electric in the Consolation Game. Family First opened up the event against Purple Reign, in a game that featured a lot of talent from Northern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Although Miller had a solid game, finishing with 8 points, the shot making efficiency of Purple Reign’s Sebastian Mack and Sterling Knox proved to be too much for Family First to contend with offensively, which landed them on the consolation side of the bracket. After a 15 point win in overtime over Team Strive, Family First was set to play Looper’s Hoopers in the Consolation Game. Miller played freely and was electric as he displayed a variety of tools at his disposal and high level shot making capabilities, which the opponent never found an answer for. Miller was in his bag from the start of the game to the finish, with a pair of free throws to end with a victory (67-56). Miller hit from beyond the arc, did a great job of creating off the dribble and getting to his comfort zone for the jumper, was able to get into the body of his defender and finish through contact at the rim, and had a game high 27 points as he left the event with an impressive performance. Miller has nice handles and court vision, great change of speed and direction with the ball in hand, quick and decisive in the open court, able to weave through a transition defense and get to the basket, and can score from a variety of spots on the floor.
I was only able to see Looper’s Hoopers play in the Consolation Game, but I have seen Coleman play numerous times before this last weekend and based on his performance I have him as one of the top performers of the 17u Division. In the Consolation Game, Coleman’s teammate, Dylan Cox, was the driving force for LH offensively in the early going. However, as the defense for Family First adjusted, it was clear that once Coleman asserted himself on the offense end, there was not much to be done to stop the physical yet skilled forward from getting the shot he wanted. Coleman was able to post up in the paint and used his quick feet and nice moves to create scoring opportunities with his back to the basket. Even more impressive, was Coleman’s ability to create off the perimeter. Coleman has a physical frame and is able to bully defenders around the basket, but he also has really good handles, a quick first step, uses his size to shield off defenders, and his spin move off the attack from the wing proved to be a move that Family First really had no answer for. Despite a tough loss in overtime to Family First, Coleman finished the game with 14 points (10 in the 2nd half) and was crucial in keeping the game close. Coleman is a force on the glass, has great hands around the rim for soft finishes, can take a lot of contact and finish through that contact, can stretch the floor with the three ball on occasion, and his ability to create off the perimeter and the agility shown on his drives to the basket make him an intriguing prospect at the next level.
2021 6’ James Prescott (San Joaquin Memorial)
2022 6’7 Takai Emerson-Hardy (Vanden HS)