There were plenty of good players and performances to talk about from both the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament and The First Academy Shootout this past weekend.
Sean Stewart, Montverde Academy: The 6’8 senior was dynamic in the semi-final game against Owyhee out of Idaho. The McDonald’s All-American and Duke signee scored the first six points of the contest, a pair of mid-range jumpers and bucket inside, to pace the Eagles to a lead that would grow throughout the game. He had a trio of dunks in the first half that shook the building and continued to show improvement as a shooter from the perimeter, one & two dribble drive finisher and free throw shooter. Whether starting or coming off the bench, his energy at both ends is contagious. Over the course of the weekend, Stewart averaged fourteen points on over 50% shooting from the field and six rebounds in just under fifteen minutes of playing time per game.
Kwame Evans, Montverde Academy: With all the ranked players on the Eagles squad, the 6’9 senior may have been the most consistent in terms of production from game to game. Another McDonald’s All American, the Oregon signee had games of 14, 12, and 10 points. The lefty is versatile at both ends, is a grab-and-go rebounder, and is wise in his shot selection. Offensively he can stretch a defense with his three-point shot, put the ball on the floor and score and is both active and productive on the offensive glass. His size, length, and anticipation allow him to cover a lot of ground quickly on the defensive end, where he disrupts the passing lanes and challenges opponents in the lane. For his three game stint, Evans averaged twelve points a game on nearly 60% shooting from the floor to go along with six rebounds in just under twenty minutes a game.
Morez Johnson, Chicago St. Rita: A 6’9 junior, Johnson was impressive in going up against a sizable Montverde frontcourt. In the title game, he put together a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds to keep St. Rita somewhat competitive. In the team’s opening round against Riviera Prep out of Miami, Johnson scored sixteen points, showing not only a good scoring touch inside, but the ability to drive it from inside the arc and a respectable perimeter shot, including knocking down a triple early in the contest. He plays with a good amount of energy and doesn’t shy away from physical play at either end of the floor.
Nojus Indrusaitis, Chicago St. Rita: A 6’6 junior, Indrusaitis is what we’ve come to expect from European imports at this level as his game is based on finesse, fundamentals, and footwork. He averaged 18.5 points a game for the weekend, shooting almost 42% from behind the arc. Indrusaitis proved he can make perimeter shots off both the catch and dribble, drive the ball and score if overplayed for the shot, and use fancy footwork and ball fakes to create room for shots inside. He is solid with his ball-handling and passing skills and provides the perfect compliment to St. Rita’s tandem of bigs as he is able to stretch the floor. Indrusaitis is a better athlete than his thin frame suggests and puts in effort on the defensive end.
Liam Campbell, Meridian (ID) Owyhee: The 6’5 junior is a top one hundred player in the 2024 Class and while his numbers may not be efficient, he is always in attack mode and puts great pressure on the defense. He averaged 21.5 points for the two games, mostly on forays to the basket and from the foul line. Campbell will spin, change direction, and back down his defender until he can find or create space to get off a shot. He is a respectable shooter from behind the arc and will get better with time. He rebounds well for his size and is quite active on the defensive end. It will be interesting to follow his progress on the travel circuit this spring and summer.
Tylen Riley, Las Vegas (NV) Durango: The 6’3 senior was very confident in his play and proved to be a tough cover all weekend long. He averaged just over nineteen points a contest for his three-game weekend, nearly all coming from forays to the basket or at the foul line. Riley is very quick and slick with the basketball, very difficult to keep out of the lane, and has developed a reliable floater to go along with an ability to finish through contact in a crowd at the basket. He has no problem taking a hit and getting his points at the foul line. Though not a point guard, Riley willingly shares the ball and will gladly give it up if a teammate has a better shot. An active and alert defender, he has quick feet and hands and can be disruptive in the passing lanes.
Dante Allen, Miami Riviera Prep: The 6’4 sophomore has been playing great all season but this may have been his coming out party. It isn’t a stretch to say he was the best performer in the event not wearing a Montverde uniform. Allen was both efficient and productive over the course of his three games. He averaged just over twenty points a contest while shooting nearly 60% from the field and 44% from three, grabbed nine rebounds a contest and averaged five assists per game. Allen impressed with his ability to play effectively at a variety of speeds and make good shot vs. pass decisions on the move. Both strong and quick, he can overpower smaller defenders or blow by bigger ones. Defensively he works hard and is a vocal leader on both ends of the floor.
Jaylen Carey, Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy: A 6’9 senior, we have been waiting for this version of Carey all season long. In the first couple of games we watched him earlier this season, Carey was too content for our taste to settle for perimeter shots. This weekend, he did most of his damage inside around the rim and at times proved to be unguardable by a single defender in the paint. He was less than one rebound per game away from averaging a double-double and nearly blocked three shots a contest. Carey can hit perimeter shots on either side of the arc if unchallenged and can score on one and two dribble drives to the basket from the high post and short corners. It was good to see him get down and dirty on the offensive end of the floor this past weekend.
Sam Walters, The Villages: The 6’9 senior and Alabama signee showed off a deep bag of scoring tools in the team’s win on Saturday night. He has become adept at knocking down his shot off the bounce and can surprise the defense when on the ball end of ball-screen actions. Despite being a bit on the thin side, he scores well around the basket and is a very reliable free throw shooter. He rebounds the ball well and can push it up the floor if unchallenged. A willing passer, Walters had four assists in the contest, both moving the ball quickly to open shooters on the perimeter as well as finding teammates inside for easy looks.
Caleb Gaskins, Melbourne Holy Trinity: A 6’7+ freshman, Gaskins carries both expectations and upside. He averaged double-figures last year as an eighth grader for a team that reached the final four so there is a tendency to think he should be “the next”. At the same time, he flashes a combination of skill and athleticism that gives credence to some of those thoughts. His perimeter shot is reliable, he handles the ball well out on the perimeter, pursues rebounds in and out of his area and maybe best of all isn’t afraid to play physically at either end of the floor. In fact, he did a fairly solid job in defending Walters in the post Saturday night. Gaskins was given the opportunity to take the game-tying shot near the end of the contest and while it didn’t go down, giving a freshman that kind of opportunity can only build confidence. Florida’s Class of 2026 looks to be outstanding and Gaskins is one of the reasons why.
Martay Barnes, Melbourne Holy Trinity: Listed as a 5’10 eighth grader, Barnes looks taller and plays much older than that. He has good speed and quickness with the ball, looks to get downhill, and sees the court well. On several occasions Barnes had multiple options in transition and seemingly each time he chose the right one that lead directly to a score. While he didn’t connect on any perimeter shots, his form and mechanics appear to be solid. With above-average wingspan and leaping ability, Barnes rebounds well for his size.
Donovan Williams, Orlando The First Academy: A 6’3 freshman, Williams was quite impressive against Victory Christian out of Lakeland on Saturday night. He finished with 33 points, 18 of those in the first half. While all but six of those came from close to the basket or at the foul line, he was three of four on perimeter jumpers, giving off positive vibes about that area of his game in the future. Though right-handed, Williams seemingly prefers to drive to his left. He connected on a couple of floaters and had some tough finishes through contact in a crowd. Williams is also a very good athlete and more than once finished off lob plays designed for him. He is also reliable at the charity strip, going 9-10 in a very close contest. His length and lateral quickness causes problems for opponents on the defensive end.
Lorenzo Cason, Lakeland Victory Christian: If there is a way to get the ball in the basket, the 6’2 junior can do it. Though a very good athlete, it isn’t like Cason is freakishly gifted and dominates because of it. He is just extremely skilled and very confident, a dangerous combination for opponents. To his credit, he isn’t a “give me the ball and get out of my way” player. Cason is quick to get the ball to teammates for easier scoring opportunities. He has become adept at drawing fouls (conning referees to some) when shooting from deep and gets a surprising amount of three-shot opportunities at the foul line. Some may say Cason is putting up big numbers against sub-par competition but he’s been doing that to all opponents this season and Victory has played against some tough competition in Polk Academy. Cason could well be one of those players whose rep explodes over the spring and summer.