Ahead of the college season, I have been watching more high school EYBL/3SSB/Under Armour games from 2022 of incoming college freshmen. In my most recent film study, I watched several prospects play in the Georgia Stars vs Team Takeover EYBL from Peach Jam last year. The prospect list includes:
DeShawn Harris-Smith (Maryland)
Isaiah Abraham (2024, Connecticut)
Jacoi Hutchinson (George Washington)
Donovan “Donnie” Freeman (2024, Syracuse)
Darren Harris (2024, Duke)
Coen Carr (Michigan State)
Josh Hayes (Appalachian State)
Mari Jordan (Georgia)
Jelani Hamilton (Iowa State)
A brief overview of my takeaways, and how they impact the long-term evaluations of each prospect:
DeShawn Harris-Smith, or DHS, was the main draw for me since he is a top 50 recruit who is headed to Maryland, and was one of the last top 50 recruits to have a full game deep-dive done on. DHS shot 50% from 3 on spot-up attempts in EYBL last year, but the numbers seem to be due to low volume more than elite shooting upside, as evidenced by both 0-10 on off the dribble jumpers and just 64.5% from the free throw line. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with his form that makes me a doubter of his jump shot, but his shot is still a bit away from being impactful on a nightly basis with high volume.
On a more positive note, DeShawn Harris-Smith’s defense, rebounding, and passing stand out as uniquely positive traits. As a rebounder, he finds himself in easy spots because of his motor and constant cutting/rolling towards the basket during plays, without sacrificing or limiting spacing. Defensively, DHS has quick feet, and maintains balance when sliding his feet in front of ball-handlers. Take the play below as an example, where he rotates well into Jelani Hamilton’s space on the catch, which prevents the drive and forces a pass.
As a passer, DHS is an intelligent off-guard playmaker, finishing 17U EYBL with a positive assist:turnover ratio. His ability to pass out of drives and pass on the move with constant vision for shooters makes him a modern combo guard with scalable passing instincts. As he likely gets put into a more minimal role as a freshman, having passing instincts that will allow for the coaching staff to trust him will be key in earning high-pressure minutes.
Being 6’5 with an unproven jumper at the moment makes Harris-Smith a likely multi-year player at Maryland. While he does have nice tools, his wingspan will be key given his somewhat undersized status as a playmaking wing. If Harris can develop into either a combo guard with two-way abilities or a 3&D wing with playmaking ability, his upside will get him drafted.
When watching Darren Harris in this matchup, I found his game to be a simple evaluation in the best way. He’s a shooter with a bit of unconventional form, but impressive touch at any angle over contests. He needs to prove more athleticism with the ball in his hands, which could limit his finishing ability at the rim & defense. As a shooter, one element of his game that stands out as a shooter is his ability to quickly turn his hips on moving screens, and being able to draw shooting fouls without flopping or exaggerating contact. He is comfortable shooting over defenders, which can lead to defenders making mistakes trying to make him pay for risky decisions.
In the first clip, he doesn’t dip when shooting over a looming contest, which is a big testament to his quick shooting touch. His upper portion & release are smooth, but his base appears shaky at times, albeit with a quick release. Adding strength will be important for Harris, both to help him support his shot base, as well as to help him defensively.
As a finisher, his lack of lift highlights that his athleticism leaves a bit to be desired. While Coen Carr, who blocks the shot, is the most athletic player on the floor and arguably the most athletic player in high school at the time of the game, Harris needs to be able to add an element of deception to his driving package, assuming the touch is there, to be able to win on drives.
While Abraham played a year up last year in this game, his athleticism was functional and popped on both ends of the floor. With a strong motor, ideal wing size at roughly 6’7, and outstanding athleticism he has showcased in other games that he can be a lockdown on-ball defender. As a rising junior in this game last year, he was relegated to more off-ball duties on both ends of the floor, but still was generally positive in this game.
Offensively, Abraham was able to hit a spot-up jumper and a monster dunk (above), but was only 3-8 including a blocked jumper (which will be discussed in more detail later). Despite the inefficiency, he still popped, again being able to use his athleticism functionally in game. Even if Abraham only develops as an off-ball play-finisher (i.e: shooting 3s and cutting), with his defensive abilities this is a successful outcome.
A 6’2 combo guard heading to George Washington, Hutchinson showcased defense and playmaking in this game, being able to force turnovers against both other guards and forwards, highlighting his fearless defensive mentality. In these 3 plays, you’ll see a pesky motor with step-for-step mirroring in his footwork, as well as turnover-forcing ability as a blindside/weakside defender on the perimeter. The instincts defensively pop, allowing for him to earn the label of a defensive playmaker. As for the stats, he had the most steals on the team in EYBL with 35 total steals. For reference, the next two leading steal-getters on the team had 18 steals and 14 steals. Watch for Hutchinson as a top defensive freshman in the A-10, as well as a candidate for All-Freshman.
A quick twitch athlete, Freeman has potential as an off-ball player with defensive prowess as he improves his discipline in biting on fakes. One thing Freeman didn’t get to show in this game was jump shooting. In 2022, Freeman went 4/22 (2/9 from 3) on catch & shoot jumpers to shooting 11/28 on spot-up 3s in 2023. A current rising senior, Freeman could be a riser throughout this final year of high school at IMG Academy if he can prove more shooting consistency, defensive discipline, and continued success at the rim.
I admittedly chose to watch this game in particular because I wanted to see how Coen Carr would fare in a neutral statistical game against strong competition, and this may have been the first time I saw Carr turn invisible in all the games I have seen. He had avoidable mistakes with the ball in his hands, he wasn’t dominating in any one area of the game, and he lived exclusively on cuts. While cutting is beneficial, being ~6’6 puts him in a tweener spot that means he will have to impact the game at all times with the little things to truly stick and make up for his size. While this can likely be charted as a ‘everyone has a mediocre or worse game’, Carr had favorable matchups but did not dominate like he could have. Carr will have to improve his shot significantly to be a one & done this year, and games like this can prove it as his impact can often be limited without stretching the defense.
However, plays like the above using his athleticism on cuts is a real threat, but how often he can do that will be key in his freshman year at Michigan State. He also is shown above blocking Darren Harris, which is essentially routine by now. Carr could be among the most polarizing players in the 2023 freshman class this year.
While it was only one shot, Josh Hayes’ defense stood out for me with this block. Freeman shouldn’t have walked into Hayes’ block radius, but Hayes’ length was on display the whole game. Hayes is unlikely to be a one & done at Appalachian State, his upside in the Sun Belt as an all-conference defender is attainable, putting him down as a name to monitor in the long-term
This was one of Mari Jordan’s worst games in his EYBL career, but he showcased more ball-skills than other games, even if it led to more inefficient shot-taking. Jordan is considered a 3&D wing, so seeing him be able to flash on-ball skills was promising. Still, even without the jump shot falling Jordan was focused on defense and did not let his offensive struggles hinder his motor.
Hamilton has a beautiful jumper, but had an inefficient game at 5-14 shooting. With a good jab step and an ability to square up off of his moves, as well as long extension with a deep follow-through, his shot is easy to project as an immediate-impact shooter at Iowa State. Most of his game early on will come from off-ball scoring, which works for him because of his patience and approach to the game with adequate size.
Look for all of these players to emerge on NBA radars down the road. With so many of these players heading to high major schools, at least one of the players in this game should turn into a one & done, with several long-term prospects.