After a full year of frustrating cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19, KSR got back on the road for one of the first major recruiting events in 15 months, attending the MADE Hoops Midwest Mania event in the outskirts of Indianapolis this past weekend.
Featuring the likes of the No. 1 and No. 2 overall juniors in Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, respectively, along with several other major Kentucky targets in the coming years, it was certainly one to remember. With the dust now settled a bit after three straight days of non-stop basketball, it’s time to break down what KSR’s Jack Pilgrim and Zack Geoghegan saw and who fans should be keeping a close eye on in the coming months.
Jalen Duren (2022)
- 6-foot-10, 230 lbs.
- 247Sports – No. 2 overall, No. 1 C
- Rivals – No. 2 overall, No. 1 C
- ESPN – No. 2 overall, No. 1 C
Duren is the most physically imposing player in high school basketball and would be an instant-impact player in college this season, let alone waiting another year in high school before making the jump. Standing 6-10, 230 pounds, the nation’s top center looks like he was built in a lab, and plays like it too. He knows how to throw his weight around in the paint and creates position for himself for easy inside opportunities. Duren is clearly working to expand his game, regularly taking jumpers from the elbow and baseline, and the form isn’t broken. Touch is improving inside, but not great, while footwork remains solid. Would like to see him more assertive at times, but doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue. Consensus top-two player in the class for a reason. — Jack Pilgrim
Brandon Miller (2022)
- 6-foot-8, 200 lbs.
- 247Sports – No. 11 overall, No. 5 SF
- Rivals – No. 17 overall, No. 5 SF
- ESPN – No. 12 overall, No. 4 SF
A player with terrific upside, but struggles with staying engaged for extended stretches. Settles for jump shots, but isn’t efficient enough yet to justify the style of play. Plenty of ‘wow’ moments, specifically when attacking the basket, but follows it up with consecutive possessions without touching the ball or forcing jumpers. Impressive size and length, solid frame to add weight. Solid court vision, handles the ball well for his size. When his motor is running, it’s hard to argue his status as a fringe top-10 prospect. When he’s not locked in, production and overall impact is limited on either end. — Jack Pilgrim
Nick Smith Jr. (2022)
- 6-foot-4, 177 lbs.
- 247Sports – No. 23 overall, No. 2 SG
- Rivals – No. 36 overall, No. 14 PG
- ESPN – No. 41 overall, No. 8 SG
Silky smooth scorer and standout shooter, knack for finding the basket. Scored at all three levels, knocking down open 3-point jumpers, looks from the elbow and baseline, and floaters from 5-8 feet. Underrated court vision and passing ability, found open teammates in tight windows both on the perimeter and inside. Comfortable playing the one or two at the next level, looks to thrive at both positions. Impressed with his defensive effort and length, guarded the ball the full length of the floor throughout the weekend. Needs to add 15-20 pounds before college (he tells KSR he’s looking to get to 195 pounds by then), struggles against contact and size in the paint. High-level scorer at the next level. — Jack Pilgrim
Shaedon Sharpe (2022)
- 6-foot-4, 180 lbs.
- 247Sports – No. 40 overall, No. 4 SG
- Rivals – No. 20 overall, No. 5 SG
- ESPN – Unranked, No. 30 SG
The most athletic player in the junior class, Sharpe regularly throws down jaw-dropping slams and explodes through contact at the rim for and-one finishes. Growing confidence as a ball handler and shooter. Smooth shooting form, plenty to work with in that department. Finds his spots and improving as a shot creator, particularly comfortable in the mid-range with turnaround, step-back and pull-up jumpers. Very impressive player when locked in and aggressive on both ends. Would like to see him add 10-15 pounds before heading to college. — Jack Pilgrim
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 23, 2021
Dereck Lively II (2022)
- 7-foot-1, 220 lbs.
- ESPN – No. 24 overall, No. 4 C
- 247Sports – No. 44 overall, No. 7 C
- Rivals – No. 45 overall, No. 7 C
My personal MVP of the Midwest Mania event, Lively boasts great defensive instincts, ridiculous length, runs the floor like a gazelle, and jumps out the gym. Shot-alterer in every sense of the phrase, also uses his impressive wingspan to tip passes and grab steals. Raw offensively, but solid lob finisher and converts on clean-up opportunities. Hard to ignore Willie Cauley-Stein comparisons. Growing confidence as a shooter, took (and made) several jumpers from the baseline, elbow, and even the perimeter. Shooting form is solid.
Duren draws the majority of attention on Team Final, but the gap between Lively and the consensus No. 2 overall prospect in the junior class isn’t significant. Honestly made a greater impact than Duren on both ends of the floor at times. Not a household name quite yet, but will be as exposure ramps up this summer. Hidden gem in the class of 2022. — Jack Pilgrim
Clips of four ?? big man Dereck Lively from this weekend. Lively is very athletic and mobile with great shot blocking ability. Lively is currently one of the top bigs in the country who is being looked at by Duke, Kentucky, Michigan, among others. @dereckl41 @TheHoopGroup pic.twitter.com/VnwF7DvGm6
— Dushawn London (@DushawnLondon1) October 25, 2020
Dereck Lively (@dereckl41 ) 7”0 2022 F/C @WTbbasketball Great in pick and Roll. Moves very well, soft touch around the rim. Elite shot blocker and rebounder. USA invitee, top 50 player in class.Holds offers from UCLA,Providence,Miami,Xavier,PSU @CoachJJohns pic.twitter.com/B5cGN7dJqZ
— Team Final Nike EYBL (@TeamFinalEYBL) April 21, 2020
Reed Sheppard (2023)
- 6-foot-3, 175 lbs.
- 247Sports – No. 65 overall, No. 12 CG
Sheppard showed an all-around offensive game that included attacking the rim and sprinting around screens for jump shots. He doesn’t appear to be the most physically or athletically imposing player on the floor, but he’s typically one of the best because of how smooth he operates on or off the ball.
He mostly played off the ball when KSR watched him perform at Midwest Mania, and he showcased his impressive range along with a calm demeanor on the court. He rarely gets pushed into making a bad play and has a feel that allows him to operate at his pace. He is tough to rattle.
Sheppard also appears to be underrated as a passer and is big enough at 6-foot-3 that he should be able to defend most two-guards at the college level. Remember, he’s only a sophomore in high school and will have every opportunity to bulk up over the next two seasons. The Kentucky interest is there, as well. We’ll be talking about Sheppard for years to come. — Zack Geoghegan