Sunday, February 21, 2016

NEO Youth Elite Camp Day I Recap

Henry, Laster, Hugely, Barba, Benson, Dial, Foster &Darby
From what we saw during day one of the NEO Youth Elite Camp in Cleveland yesterday, there’s no doubt that Northeast Ohio is producing a ton of basketball talent.  Sonny Johnson’s second year event is a complete success, as over 200 of the areas’ top players have descended on Garfield Heights High School.  As is the case with most elite events, ranked players produced and solidified their reputations, while previously undiscovered players announced their arrival onto the scene. 

We already knew Darion Henry (6’5”/PF/C/2020/Cincinnati), and his play on Saturday confirmed his place among the top 2-3 players in the class in Ohio.  Henry is a beast in the paint where he uses his big body to collect rebounds and to power the ball in the basket.  Despite his size, Henry is more than capable of initiating the break and dribbling all the way to the cup.  He’s not playing above the rim just yet, but Henry still protects the rim and owns the lane. Speaking of big, we got our first look at John Hugely (6’6”/C/2020/Cleveland), and we liked what we saw! Although Hugely is a huge kid, he moves well for his size and he has a super soft touch around the basket.  As is the case with most players his age, Hugely’s footwork is still under development; however, he has a couple of go to moves that are effective.  He’s new to the scene, but as far as we are concerned, he’s top ten in the state potentially (see our rankings).

We had not seen him before, but Jessie Laster (6’1/PF/2020/Cleveland) needs to be recognized among the elite in the state.  Lester is a pogo stick just waiting on an oop.  Super smooth and super explosive; Lester had the gym buzzing with his above the rim theatrics. With good length and a solid skill set, Lester can play multiple positions.  He’s fluid, has good court vision and his upside significant. College coaches should make a note to track this kid. We were also really impressed with Andy Barba (6’2”/SG/2020/Chagrin Falls).  Barba has good length, is highly skilled with a high basketball IQ.  Surprisingly aggressive, Barba excels at attacking the cup.  Barba is another D-I prospect just waiting to happen.  Another player we plan to keep our eye on is Brent Darby (6’3”/WF/2020/Cleveland), who has good size and a solid game.  He showed us just enough for us to follow his progress.

We haven’t seen him in a while, but Jalen Dial (5’10”/PG/2020/South Euclid) is as good as we remember.  Dial, like his brother, has the rock on a string and is always in complete control. He’s difficult to speed up, and  his package of dribble moves allow him to get into the paint where he consistently makes solid decisions.  As with any elite floor general, Dial has good vision and consistently delivers pinpoint passes.  We didn’t see much of him, but Nehemiah Benson (6’2”/WF/2020/Streetsboro) has a chance to be really good.  Already possessing good size at a young age, Benson is athletic, and active both offensively and defensively.  We plan to get a closer look at Benson on day two.

Jeffress, Peoples, Abuhamden, Cottingham, Arnold, Johnson, Hameed, Farmer & Sheron
The 7th grade division was absolutely loaded, and no one was better the William Jeffresss (6’2”/SG/2021/Erie, PA).  He’s not only a big kid; he’s only 12 and looks like he has plenty of room to grow. Because of his size and skill set, Jeffers can hold down multiple positions.  Jeffers finishes near the basket at a high rate and is a great interior passer.  Jeffers could have easily been the top long-term prospect in the gym on Saturday.  We all know that Noah Peoples (6’0”/WF/2021/Akron) is a monster, but he continues to impress us every time we see him.  He’s really starting to fill out his frame and his strength is a valuable assist. Peoples is simply too strong and aggressive to defend near the cup, where he finishes at a high rate even through contact.  As he continues to develop ball skills, Peoples is going to be a problem.  One of the best performances all day was logged in by Makail Cottingham (5’5”/PG/2021/Cleveland). We’ve liked him since we saw him for the first at our elite showcase last year, and his play on Saturday raised his stock in our eyes.  Although he started slowly against a late day matchup with Omar Abuhamden (5’6”/PG/2021/North Royalton), Cottingham got hot from the perimeter, ultimately finishing with 6 treys.  As soon as you think Cottingham is limited to slashing to the cup, he’ll unleash a long-range bomb that finds the bottom of the net. Cottingham is athletic and all ways appears to be in attack mode.  If you fall for any of his many dribble moves and stand up on defense, it’s a layup at the rim. We have to mention the play of Abuhamden, which was simply impressive. We new he was good, but what he did on Saturday finally convinced us of his talent. Highly skilled and smart, Abuhamden gets it done both offensively and defensively.  He has mature game, which includes step back jumpers and the ability to score off the bounce and from the pick and role.  Abuhamden has a strong frame, which he uses to power his way to the rim.  That’s not all; Abuhamden sees the court well and is a willing and able passer.

We got our second look at Ramelle Arnold Jr. (5’8”/PG/2021/Warrensville), and as we remember, he’s a stud. Arnold’s ball skills are excellent, as is his ability to beat defenders with head and ball fakes and score.  He plays with good pace, changes direction and speeds well and does not over dribble.  Tough to defend, Arnold can put up big numbers.  If you don’t need him to get you buckets, Arnold can shift into a playmaker’s role and allow his teammates to get theirs.  We only caught glimpses of him on Saturday, but Meechie Johnson (4’7”/PG/2021/Garfield Heights) was up to his old tricks.  It’s still very clear; Johnson is one of the most skilled and most dynamic PGs in the state.  We hope to see more of him on Sunday. We got a closer look at Jaden Hameed (5’9”/PG/2021/Cleveland) and EJ Farmer (5’9”/SG/Shaker Heights).  We knew Hameed was a top 10 player, but Farmer surprised us a bit. Farmer is a threat to shoot it as soon as he crosses half court.  Theres no need for him to wait for pass to get his shot off, as Farmer can create his shot off the bounce.

MarSaun Robinson (5’5”/PG/2021/Oberlin) has been on our radar for several years, and from what we observed on day one, he’s continuing to develop. Robinson is crafty with the rock and is determined to defeat his defender and get into the lane.  We also saw some good things from Damaryea Gadson (5’4”/PG/2021/Akron).  We’ve seen him before, but his motor and speed from baseline to baseline caught our eye. Collin Albert (5’7”/PG/2021/Shaker Heights), Darryl Peterson (5’11”/PF/2021/Akron) and Jamere Sheron (5’3”/SG/2021/Cleveland) all had solid moments on Saturday and will require us to continue tracking their development over the next couple of years.

Johnson, Tatum, Miller & Horn
There was a lot of young talent in the gym on Saturday, headlined by Sonny Johnson Jr. (5’2”/PG/Garfield Heights).  Johnson’s skill set and positive approach toward the game sets him apart from other 6th graders in the state.  We were really intrigued by Tavian Tatum (5’10”/C/2022/Garfield Heights).  We loved his size as well as his ability to score in the paint.  In terms of 6th graders, Trey Miller (5’0”/PG/2022/Bedford) was a standout, as was Deon Horn (5’7”/SG/2022/Akron). 

Although the 5th grade division was also loaded with talent, much of the attention in that division centered around the matchup between John Mobley Jr. and Jerry Easter Jr., arguably 2 top five 4th graders in the nation. What was clear early in the matchup was Easter’s length, which he used to his advantage attacking the basket.  What’s also clear is the fact that both of these young players spend a lot of time in the gym, as evidenced by their elite skill set at an early age.  The significance of the matchup was not lost on these 2 titans, as they worked hard to hold each other scoreless. Because we did not see the individual scoring, we will not pronounce a winner, but what we will do is applaud their talent and enjoy to matchup for years to come.  These 2 kids more than deserve their ample national exposure!

Moore, Flowers, Molton, Miller, Smith, Swain, Vaughn, Cook, & Johnson
Of course we can’t disrespect the 5th graders (some 4th) at the event, as there were a number of quality players. Some of the top 5th graders we saw included: Jayvion Moore (5’6”/C/2023/Cleveland, Desh Molton (4’9”/PG/2023/South Euclid) Dorjan Flowers (4’10”/SG/2023/Cleveland Heights), Andre Miller (4’10/PG/2024/Lyndhurst), Dailyn Swain (5’2”/SG/Columbus), Javen Vaughn (PG/2024/Dayton), Victor Smith (4’8”/PG/2023/Gahanna), Matt Ellis (PG/2024/Cleveland), Cedric Cook (PG/2023/Sandusky) and Markell Johnson (PG/2023/Columbus).

Of course there were a number of other players who deserve recognition for their standout performances on Saturday; however, it’s difficult to catch them all.  With that said, rest assured, we will try to find more standouts on day two.  Below is a complete list of the standouts we saw Saturday, as well as their pictures.  A great day of basketball!

Day One Standout Performers

2020: Darion Henry; Jerry Laster: John Hughley; Jalen Dials; Neimiah Benson; Grant Huffman; Andy Barba; Brent Darby; Omahn Dobbins; Isaiah Patton; and Tevin Jackson. 2021: Noah Peoples: Rannell Arnold; Montorie Foster; Brent Darby; William Jeffress; Omar Abuhamden; Makail Cottingham; Meechie Johnson; MarSaun Robinson; EJ Farmer; Jaden Hameed; Jamere Sheron; Collin Albert; Darryl Peterson; Damaryea Gadson. 2022: Sonny Johnson Jr.; Tavian Tatum; Trey Miller; and Deon Horn. 2023: Jayvion Moore; Dorjan Flowers; Desh Molton; Andre Miller; Dailyn Swain; Cedric Cook; Victor Smith: Markell Johnson; Javen Vaughn; Matt Ellis. 2024: Jerry Easter Jr.; and John Mobley Jr.


  1. Isaiah Patton is class of 2020, not 2021. Real nice shooter. High IQ.

  2. Jyles Brandon was a definite lock down defender the entire weekend in that 2023 class.