I noted one of the 2022 prospects in the Eye-Openers article as my favorite player to watch in the event, but Midwest was definitely my favorite team to watch from Run N’ Slam. They have good balance among their guards and forwards, to go along with some versatility within those different spots. If you followed along on Twitter, you saw my appreciation of their preparation before games and just how they went about things. Coach Brook Cupps does a really good job with this group. They play in a way which basketball purists would love, combining IQ, skill, and unselfish play. Here’s what was seem from their team last weekend in Fort Wayne.
Starting with the backcourt, Reed Sheppard, Gabe Cupps, and Ajay Sheldon take on the ball-handling duties for this group. Having read a lot about Sheppard and his play during the high school season, I came in with high expectations for my first live look at him, and he exceeded those expectations.
At a solidly built 6’3”, Sheppard is equally capable of playing both on & off the ball with an impressive overall skillset and understanding of how to play. Playing alongside a good amount of talent, he doesn’t have to put up huge scoring numbers like he has at North Laurel, but instead does anything needed to help Midwest win. He can be a pest on defense, being extremely active with his hands, flying around, and anticipating. His vision and creativity as a passer are fun to watch, he’s explosive in transition, and can fill it up when he wants to. Sheppard is a good shooter off the dribble and implements a wide array of shots in traffic that allow him to finish among bigger opponents. The best of the best will be on him before long. I feel very strongly about his future and I’ll expand on him more next week in the 1st edition of the Relentless Rundown with SuvTV.
The other 2023 prospect on this team, Cupps has been in the spotlight for a while and is comfortable playing in big games against top competition. It isn’t hard to figure out that Cupps is the coach’s son as he has a sound game on both ends of the floor. You could often find him picking up ball-handlers full court and applying pressure defensively during the weekend to force turnovers. On offense, he keeps things simple. Like Sheppard, Cupps can play both guard spots with reliable catch & shoot ability, good decision-making, and opportunistic drives. I was impressed with how vocal he was and the way in which he encouraged teammates in the tournament as well.
Rounding out the guard group is Ajay Sheldon, who received offers from Furman and Elon in April. He might not be the biggest, but he’s scrappy, uses a mixture of craftiness & athleticism in the paint, and can get hot from 3 in the blink of an eye. He started with a big game on Friday where he hit 6 3’s, and was pretty consistent the rest of the weekend. A good boost of scoring and energy can be expected from him almost every time out.
Another guy who helped himself last weekend and has been putting together a strong spring is big man Mitchell Rylee. He was just offered by Cedarville on Wednesday in addition to 3 previous offers and more should be on the way. Now he might not be the sexy pick, but Rylee racked up a bunch of points in Fort Wayne and showed some qualities that’ll help him in college. Although he can play above the rim, Rylee seems to know he’s not as athletic as other forwards and instead is physical with his big body to get positioning & make things easy for him at the basket. He keeps the ball high, has decent touch, and is patient. He ran the floor with purpose and gave a good target for his unselfish teammates, along with showing some ability to operate from 12-15 feet in the halfcourt.
Some more size on their team comes in the form of Ben Southerland and Mike Sharavjamts, although they are both more perimeter-based players at 6’7”+. Southerland proved to be capable of hitting a variety of jumpers and played with good confidence. His size allowed him to shoot over guys and he does not hesitate when attacking. Sharavjamts possesses shooting ability as well with soft touch from 3, but also showed he can handle in the open court and displayed some good natural athleticism on fastbreaks.
Last but not least are Rich Rolf and Logan Woods. Rolf is a strong 6’7″ who will provide some physical play alongside Rylee on the interior but also stretches the floor with his efficient 3-point shot. Woods is another perimeter shooting target on the wing for Midwest and I thought he made good, timely passes in multiple games during the weekend.