Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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AJ Dybantsa’s takeover, Cameron Boozer’s rare air, Team USA U18 cuts among biggest grassroots hoops stories

There were two major events in the high school and college basketball recruiting world over Memorial Day weekend: the USA Basketball U18 Training Camp and Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then the Kansas City stop for the Nike EYBL, the premier grassroots basketball circuit.

While some of the high-end prospects who usually perform on the EYBL circuit were in Colorado trying out for Team USA, there was no shortage of talent in the City of Fountains as players and teams fought for a spot in July’s Peach Jam.

But let’s start with USA Basketball. On Tuesday, the 12-member team, a combination of rising college freshmen and class of 2025 stars (rising seniors) was announced. It was selected from 28 participants who took part in the five-day training camp.

The 2024 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team includes Darius Acuff Jr., Nate Ament, Mikel Brown Jr., Jeremiah Fears, Shelton Henderson, Daniel Jacobsen, Jasper Johnson, Morez Johnson Jr., Nikolas Khamenia, Trey McKenney, Patrick Ngongba II, and Derrion Reid.

Action begins shortly for Team USA. 

The 2024 FIBA U18 Men’s AmeriCup begins June 3 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Here are some standout notes from the 2024 U18 USA Basketball Training camp along with two major highlights from Kansas City EYBL via 247Sports National Basketball Director Eric Bossi.

Purdue center signee Daniel Jacobsen shines, earns rankings boost

The player who made the biggest impression in those first three days of USA Basketball tryouts, especially relative to expectations, was undoubtedly Daniel Jacobsen. So, it was no surprise to see his name on the final roster even when 5-star prospects like Jayden Quaintance didn’t make the final cut.

The 7-footer who is committed to Purdue has always been an intriguing prospect thanks to his combination of size and skill.

This week in Colorado Springs, we didn’t see the tallest player on the floor drift out to the 3-point line or be reluctant to assert himself in the paint like we have sometimes in the past. We saw the opposite. We saw Jacobsen assert himself at the rim on both ends of the floor from the start of the event. Defensively, he put his body in front of drivers and contested plays at the rim, particularly when rotating from the weak side of the floor. Offensively, he was trying to dunk everything. And even when he couldn’t, he showed quick finishing ability around the paint. He worked for deep catches when playing with his back to the basket and then elevated into his baby hooks. He also made a couple of impressive quick passes from various spots on the floor. 

Jacobsen arrived in Colorado Springs as the No. 149 overall player in the 2024 class. But following a standout performance competing against the nation’s best, Jacobsen moved up to No. 86 overall and is now the No. 15-ranked center.

Shelton Henderson’s stock continues to rise

Another standout from the first few days of USA Basketball tryouts was Texas product Shelton Henderson, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound wing in the 2025 class. Henderson figured out how to stand out with less offensive volume, albeit in different ways. He showed defensive versatility, banged with bigger guys in the post, and flew at the glass as a rebounder.

In Colorado Springs, Henderson was opportunistic as a finisher when given opportunities and even mixed in a couple of passing flashes. Henderson came into the spring ranked No. 51 in the national class but has looked poised to rise through three sessions in the EYBL, and backed that up here.

A name that is getting hotter and hotter as the summer ramps up and recruiting moves are made, Henderson spoke with 247Sports’ Travis Branham before USA Basketball trials began to detail his recruitment.

Henderson says he hears the most from include Houston, Louisville, LSU, and Texas, and based on his performance on the EYBL circuit (and now USA Basketball), he is now receiving interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and USC.

Scouting report following first cuts at USA Basketball U18 trials

The goal for the players at the USA Basketball trials is to make the final 12-man cut, but the training camp is also a measuring stick for the nation’s elite. It’s five days of comparison. How do these players stack up against each other? It’s the best vs. the best.

From a scouting perspective, those five days allow us to get into the weeds on each player’s weaknesses and strengths. It’s more nuanced because you are seeing players exposed in a way you can’t see at the high school level and even on the AAU circuits.

You are seeing players go head-to-head with more on the line. It’s a unique setting because these players are used to being the best players on their respective teams, whether that is in high school or on the spring and summer circuit. At USA Basketball, it’s about finding a role, being a good teammate, and complementing the other players in a way that will make the entire team better. The cream rises to the top.

Following the first cut, I put together essentially what turned into scouting reports on each player who made the first cut.  It’s a look at what I observed, what I really liked from the players, and what each one could do better. If you’re interested in following the next wave of American basketball talent, consider it your cheatsheet moving forward this summer. 

Appreciating the greatness of Cameron Boozer on the grassroots circuit

From 247Sports’ Eric Bossi in Kansas City: 

What Cameron Boozer has done over the last couple of years on the grassroots circuit is simply remarkable and I don’t think we’ll fully appreciate just how great he’s been until we’ve had a few years to reflect on it. 

Having already led his team to Peach Jam titles at the 15U and 16U level over the course of the past two summers, Boozer — of course, a son of Carlos Boozer — has played a large role in the Nightrydas making it through the last month or so with a 14-1 record while positioning them to make an unprecedented run at three Peach Jam titles in three different age groups over the course of three summers.

Now leading the EYBL in scoring and rebounding, the 6-foot-9 power forward is an absolute model of consistency and efficiency. He plays the game with an off-the-charts basketball IQ and dominates by making the right play pretty much every time. He has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen, touch around the rim and he continues to show more and more improvement as a faceup shooter and playmaker for others. I could be forgetting somebody, but in the last 15 years the list of fours who have been as consistently dominant as Boozer on the grassroots level is Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Paolo Banchero and that’s probably it. Will he develop into an NBA All-Star like those guys? Only time will tell but his track record says it will be hard to bet against him.

While the natural assumption is that he’ll head to Duke with his brother Cayden Boozer (who has also been remarkably consistent and productive over the past three years), Miami is right there while Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and others make strong pushes. You can pretty much book him for 25 and 12 each time he takes the floor and it’s hard to believe that this kid doesn’t turn 17-years-old until later this summer. 

AJ Dybantsa, 2025’s No. 1 player, takes over

From 247Sports’ Eric Bossi in Kansas City: 

Ever since moving into the class of 2025 and taking over the top spot, AJ Dybantsa has proven to be among the most dynamic wing prospects to hit the scene in the 247Sports era. At 6-foot-8, the recent transfer to Utah Prep does it all. Really, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find any holes in his game.

What I loved about watching Dybantsa in Kansas City was seeing the strides he’s taken not only as a leader but as a player who knows how to pick the right spots to take over. I watched as he hit an incredibly tough three at the buzzer to deliver a win on Friday night, and then Monday morning his calm demeanor while making three straight threes from the top of the key as his team battled back from a slow start really illustrated his growing maturity.

He got by defenders off the dribble, he dunked, and he locked up on defense, all while playing with tremendous energy and leadership. He’s officially visited Auburn and USC and can choose his next destination. Arkansas is pushing pretty hard since John Calipari made his move, and it will be interesting to see if Cal can land another No. 1 recruit at his new job. 

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