Holiday Hoopsgiving: Undervalued Seniors

As usual, top teams from around the country were brought to Atlanta for Holiday Hoopsgiving. It was a great 2 days of competition with lots of intense battles. Although the stars came and performed at a high level, there were some available seniors who proved their worth as well and helped their teams during the event. Here’s a look at 8 unsigned 2021 prospects from Holiday Hoopsgiving who deserve more attention.

6’2” G Brennan Rigsby & 6’6” F Casey Jones (Wasatch Academy)

Wasatch had arguably the best team at the event, highlighted by a Kentucky signee, a BYU signee, and a Top 50 2022 prospect. Brennan Rigsby and Casey Jones give them two solid complementary pieces that know and excel in their roles.

Alongside Nolan Hickman and Richard Isaacs in the backcourt, Rigsby plays an efficient, simple game. He gives Hickman & Isaacs a reliable target to find for spot-up 3’s after they penetrate the defense with a soft outside shot that has good arc. When defenders make him put it on the deck, Rigsby doesn’t overdo things, stays composed, and sees the floor well. Rigsby is also an exceptional athlete; he’s always on his toes and can force turnovers often. Once he does so, Rigsby shows his leaping ability in the open court, getting up to the rim quickly off of 1 or 2 feet. His style should allow for a smooth transition to college as he develops his body.

Jones is a physical specimen with a chiseled frame that has minimal fat. While he can play some 3, Jones is best using his muscular build and hard-hat mentality to be effective against bigger forwards. He bangs inside, fights for rebounds, and takes charges. There were some eye-popping athletic moments in both games from Jones as he got to the launching pad in the paint to explode off of 2 feet on both sides of the ball for dunks or blocks. He contests and swats away shots with force and gives effort outside of his area while also not being afraid to go through contact at the rim to finish on offense. Another thing I really liked about his game was his vision and passing ability; Jones whipped numerous crisp passes right to his teammates that most watching did not expect. The different things he brings to the table and does effectively on a top tier team should elevate his recruitment.

Najhae Colon, Ramir Chester, & Jaylen Harris (Kell)

Scoot Henderson stole the show with his dominance at Hoopsgiving but these 3 guys were instrumental in Kell’s come from behind win over Lake Norman Christian as well. They played with the type of intensity and effort you want to see from your seniors on the big stage, and it paid off in the 2nd half. As he always does, Colon set the tone on the defensive end by bringing passion and intensity while matching up with Mikey Williams and trying to take him off his game. He helped Kell gain possession more than a few times and made some momentum-changing plays defensively that helped to ignite their huge comeback. With Henderson taking over offensively, Colon knew to give the Longhorns a boost in other ways.

After a slow start, Harris had some important baskets after halftime. He’s a bigger guard that can finish in traffic and doesn’t mind contact. Kell struggled to hit perimeter shots in the 1st half but Harris hit 2 3’s himself in the 2nd half and a few others chipped in with some triples down the stretch as well. Like all the Kell players, Harris brings a competitive fire that you like to see and he uses his physicality on the defensive end. He had to sit out last year and you can tell he’s hungry to prove himself and help the Longhorns make some noise in 6A.

Similar to Colon, Chester was all over the court making energy plays and playing bigger than his size. He uses his quick feet and long arms to make a big impact on defense, racking up a lot of steals and igniting transition opportunities for the team. Chester was not tentative inside as he went up against Lake Norman’s size on both ends for rebounds and finishes. He’s a guy who knows who he is, brings a ton of energy, and will play whatever role is needed.

6’7” W Aleksa Ristic (Solid Rock)

Although not many people in Georgia are familiar with Solid Rock, they have some solid prospects and were able to hang highly-regarded Liberty Heights from NC. Solid Rock features a few promising 2022 & 2023 pieces, Ristic was the senior that left the biggest impression for them against Liberty Heights. At 6’6-7”, Ristis is a very confident shooter with a quick release and deep range. He doesn’t need much time to get his feet set or get square to the basket and will take some unexpected shots that he’s actually capable of hitting. Ristic is thin but isn’t afraid to mix it up inside as he can make some sneaky plays off the bounce and find ways to finish among size and length. He has a good understanding of the game, plays hard, and has a mixture of size & skill that is attractive. I’m going to need to get another look at him and their whole team again this season.

6’5” F Dara Olonade (Berkmar)

Olonade has had some good moments throughout his career at Berkmar and came through for them in what was an off-game for Malique Ewin as the Patriots took on Milton. It seemed like he was a factor on the offensive boards almost every possession in the 2nd half, using his quick, explosive hops and ripped upper body to get extra opportunities for the Patriots. Olonade isn’t a forward who likes to hang around the perimeter, he sticks to inside work and never gives up on plays down low. He has a good 2nd jump, finishes through contact, and has good timing as a rebounder. It might not be one that generates a ton of excitement, but Olonade’s game is important to this Berkmar team. He is a noteworthy performer on the football field as well.

6’8” PF/C Nate Gordon (Mt. Pisgah)

You won’t find many forwards in Georgia who are more impressive physically than Gordon. He’s built like a guy who has been in college a couple of years and can overpower most opponents at the high school level. Gordon’s physical stature allows him to get great position inside whenever he wants and makes him a force as a rebounder. His motor could be more consistent, but when it is going, Gordon reels off some impressive stretches on the offensive glass. He’s a powerful leaper, can go through bodies, and attacks the ball & rim with aggression. Gordon has big, strong hands with decent touch around the basket and a good 2nd jump. He asserted himself in the 2nd half against Chattahoochee and finished with 8 points and 13 rebounds.

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