The Hoop Exchange Fall Festival took place this past weekend at the Cooper Palms Sportsplex in Apopka. An event that combines a high school team “camp” type setting as well as an individual exposure event, there is no shortage of talent. In this first look at the individual exposure event, we’ll focus on some fresh faces that grabbed our attention.
Whenever we come across a player from the Panhandle region of the state, we always want to get a look. Adrian Walker, a lithe 6’4 senior wing from Milton earned notice with his speed, quickness, and athleticism. He gets quickly to and finishes well above the rim both in transition and against set defenses. Despite his thin frame, he consistently scored thru contact and converted three point plays. His length and defensive awareness garnered him many steals and deflections.
Jimel Lane, a 6’4 junior wing out of Coral Reef in Homestead was a pleasant surprise. He started the game with high-flying dunk in transition and continued rolling from there. Lane showed he can get to the basket off the dribble and score in traffic as well as get to offensive rebounds and quickly put back missed shots. Just when we thought he might be more athlete than basketball player, he drilled a smooth three-pointer off the dribble over a contesting defender.
Arguably one of the most intriguing and exciting long-term prospects in the event was 6’7 sophomore forward Jayven Millien from Sarasota Riverview. He already checks the boxes in terms of size, length, and athleticism and Millien also plays with a lot of effort and energy. His skills are adequate at this stage as he showed an ability to score with a couple of dribbles from the wing, grab rebounds and go end-to-end and deliver passes to cutters for easy opportunities. Millien will need to re-fine his shooting form and become a more consistent threat from the perimeter to become a high-major prospect but he has all the tools to do so.
Without question the most impressive individual performance of the event was put on by 6’4 senior guard Chase Wilson out of Lithonia, Georgia’s The Wilson Academy. First and foremost, he’s strong, a solid athlete, and is communicative at both ends of the floor. Skill-wise, he doesn’t lack in any area. By our count, he was 9-9 on perimeter jump shots combined off the catch and the dribble, all coming outside of fifteen feet. When he did attack the basket, he finished thru contact. While not a point guard, he had a couple of nice passes for assists against set defenses. Wilson also showed to be a capable rebounder and defender.
The living embodiment of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”, Michael Gavin, a 6’0 senior guard out of Lake Mary Prep absolutely torched various defenders that took him lightly on Sunday. Combing crafty ball-handling with changes in speed and/or direction, Gavin often left defenders grasping at air as he got to the basket and either scored or found open teammates for uncontested shots. He also nailed daggers from deep, both off the catch and the dribble. Gavin is one of those players that is simply wired to score.
If University School in Fort Lauderdale hopes to repeat the success they had last season (City of Palms Champion, Class 5A state champion, 2nd-ranked nationally behind Montverde) then they will need all the help they can get from junior 6’4 wing Roger McFarlane. From what we saw on Sunday, he’s more scorer than shooter right now as most of his points came on drives, putbacks, or in transition. McFarlane did drain his one three point attempt in the game we watched. If he can be consistent from the perimeter then his game goes to another level. A solid ball-handler, passer, rebounder, and overall athlete, McFarlane will be the X-Factor for University this upcoming season.
Forest Hill in West Palm Beach is on the rise and coach Tony Watson expects 6’4 sophomore guard Donovan Draper to be the catalyst for the next few seasons. Playing with a savvy beyond his years, Draper has excellent court vision, anticipates well at the defensive end, and is seemingly one play ahead of the other nine guys on the floor. He missed the only jumper he took in the contest, but it has good form. He got most of his points in transition or on drives to the basket. More than once the rebounded the ball and fired a quick outlet down the court for an easy score. Draper looks like he could still grow some more so with his skills and size he is certainly one to watch.
Talk about fresh faces, Christian Flores, a 5’10 junior guard at Lakeland Victory Christian, just arrived in the states from Puerto Rico a month ago. It’s pretty telling when a coach for the team with four D-I caliber players on it raves not about them but the “pitbull from P.R.” after his first game on Sunday. Flores didn’t score a ton but his aggressiveness on the defensive end, ability to create and come up with 50/50 balls, and deliver the ball to the right place at the right time did not go unnoticed. While he was 1-2 from beyond the arc over the course of the two games we watched his team play, Flores’s scoring ability from the perimeter is something we want to get a better feel for.