Great 8: New Names & Stock Risers

Two weekends ago was one of the first tournaments of the summer with Teammate Hoops bringing the Great 8 to the Spartanburg and Greenville areas in South Carolina. There was a good combination of local and out-of-state teams in attendance and it gave me a chance to see a variety of 2021-2023 prospects. Here a few thoughts from the event.

6’4” W Dessie Canty (Upward Stars Watson/2021)

Canty had the best individual performance that I watched during the weekend, going for 27 points in a statement win for Upward over the SC Spiders, who had RJ Felton with them for the weekend. He produced early and often in the matchup and kept it going for the game’s full duration. Canty knows who he is and doesn’t overdo things offensively; he’s active off the ball as a cutter, limits his dribbles, and plays through contact. Time and time again, he went into the paint, took hits, and converted. The energy and toughness he played with set the tone for his team. Canty has athleticism that helps him on both ends of the floor and he is under control with his athletic ability for the most part. His shot didn’t look bad but it seems like that part of his game needs to become more consistent. He’ll start to get some solid recruitment if he can continue to play like that.



6’4” SG Malachi Reeves (Upward Stars Watson/2021)

Also impressive for Upward in that SC Spiders matchup was Malachi Reeves, a virtually unknown but very capable guard from River Bluff. He took on the challenge of guarding Felton and did a good job on him with quickness and determination to get stops. He also gave Upward some important offensive contributions. Reeves has a nice outside shot that he gets off quickly and with good form & elevation. He has good positional size and proved to be an effective facilitator as well with good vision and timey passes. Similar to Canty, Reeves brought lots of energy and competed all game, which coaches love to see. It seems to happen with a good number of South Carolina prospects, but Reeves could be another one that flies under the radar for a while and ends up being a nice pickup for a college program.



Upward Stars Bailey 2021

After a last-second loss to the SC Spiders that featured some controversy, this Upward group took it to the Carolina Defenders in their Sunday morning game. This team includes a few guys that I had seen previously, and some new faces. Ian Thomson was particularly good against the SC Spiders; his motor was great, he protected the rim, rebounded on both ends, and showed some shooting touch at right around 6’10”. He still has some polishing up to do but his activity and different pieces to his game are encouraging.


A 6’6” combo forward, KJ McCluney was a nice long-term prospect from the weekend. He has long arms and impressive defensive versatility, showing the ability to switch on ball screens and move his feet against smaller guards. He can play inside or out on offense and moves well. Give him a year or two in college and McCluney should blossom.


One of the surprises from the team was Shep Forrester. He’s a skinny guard but brings scrappy and pesky play to the team. Forrester’s athleticism was on display Sunday as he used his speed to get to the basket and elevated in traffic a few different times for impressive finishes. He has an effective lefty shot from deep and always seems to be looking to get involved in the action. This group has some other prospects that I need to see again who should help lower level programs also.



6’2” G Josh Sapp (Upward Stars Rudy/2022)

Along with Jordyn Surratt’s highly productive weekend, Josh Sapp did some good things throughout the tournament for Upward Upstate also. At the 16U level, there aren’t many guards that can match Sapp physically. He has a big, wide body and understands how to use it to create angles and opportunities for himself. He’s an unselfish passer who sees the floor well and can accurately throw a variety of passes to set up teammates. He’ll need to slow down at times and make the simple play, but the flashes he showed distributing were good. Sapp can also take contact to finish because of his physically mature frame and also connected on some shots off the bounce during the event. I’m interested to track his progress the next 2 years.



Team Rogue 2023

Rogue more than held their own while playing up in the 2022 division of the tournament. They took Upward Upstate in the game I saw of them and almost won even with Jordyn Surratt suiting up for Upward. Wade Witcher and Sean Cusano stood out the most for this young group, but they have a multitude of guys who are have bright futures. Witcher is a confident guard who has on and off ball ability; he shoots fairly well, has toughness, and is a high-IQ player. Cusano is a bigger forward who showed he can handle some in transition and will step out for jumpers. Guys like Luke Jenkins (2024), Eli Briggs, and others were solid in the Upward Upstate game as well.



6’0” PG Hamilton Campbell (Asheville Game Changers/2023)

In the 15U championship game, Campbell sliced up the Upstate Select defense with one of the best displays of passing that I had seen in quite some time. Hardly anyone on the opposition could stay in front of him and once he penetrated the defense, Campbell constantly found teammates even when it looked like a pass wasn’t there. He mixes in some flair to his game but doesn’t overdo and has a combination of quickness and deception that allows him to get in the paint often. Campbell is a pass-first player but also showed he wasn’t scared to challenge guys at the basket and was able to convert in traffic a few different times. His style is very fun to watch and keeps his teammates happy.


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