6’1” PG Ben Roy & 6’2” PG Jayden Pierre (Team Rio)
Rio’s showing at Southern Jam Fest was honestly overlooked, as they went 3-1 with a notable win over Team Durant on Saturday night. Thy were led by the duo of Roy & Pierre, who are a skilled, competitive backcourt tandem. Both have the ability to play on or off the ball and complement each other well.
Roy sticks out quickly with the swagger and confidence he brings on the court. His ability to break down defenders, get in the lane, and make the right read with the ball was impressive Friday night in Rio’s opening win. He is quick & shifty off the dribble and knows how to utilize floaters in the paint or use his body against bigger defenders. Roy’s jumper also looked improved and he shot it confidently while still being unselfish. His skill and competitive nature allows him to be effective against almost anyone and it should result in an uptick of recruitment in July.
Pierre was electric in both Rio games I watched, igniting transition opportunities with his defensive prowess and using a slithery game off the bounce to hurt teams from mid-range. His long arms are a big help in creating turnovers as he can defend on the ball or jump in passing lanes. I was impressed with his savviness and patience when operating in the halfcourt; Pierre rarely gets sped up and strikes a nice balance of scoring & distributing without forcing much. He is a superb athlete as well, with good lateral and vertical abilities. Creighton offered him shortly after the tournament and I’m sure that won’t be the last this summer.
6’5” W Justyn Fernandez (DC Premier)
Fernandez came out of Southern Jam Fest as the clear breakout performer of the event, with his signature performance coming against New World in a double-digit win. Fernandez started off the weekend with a great 2nd half against District Basketball Club in the game I took in, lifting Premier to a victory. He is an effortlessly explosive athlete who can fly to the rim off of 1 foot without needing much momentum. After halftime he quickly rose up for some powerful dunks and then showed off some nice shooting off the dribble. He finished up with 2 more huge slams to put the game away, one of which was caught in the tweet below. Fernandez has the body and size to convert in traffic and his overall combination of tools immediately attracts coaches. Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, VCU, George Mason, and more have all offered him since the conclusion of the tourney.
6’4” SG Jordan Derkack (SJ Hoops Elite)
SJ Hoops took down Wildcat Select on Saturday while only having 6 players in uniform, and it probably wasn’t talked about enough. With a Virginia commit, an Ohio State commit, and other HM recruits on the other side, Derkack willed his team to a win with 25 points. He is more than capable as a perimeter shooter but was tremendous attacking the basket in this game. He finished above the rim multiple times and was not afraid to challenge anyone in his way contesting. I liked the edge and mentality that Derkack played with as well; you could tell that it was a game that he wanted to win desperately and he embraced having the ball late in the game, going 10/11 from the FT line down the stretch. His upcoming post-grad year at Spire should be beneficial and result in numerous college options.
6’5” PG Desmond Claude (Expressions)
Alex Karaban and Reed Bailey have deservedly gotten a lot of attention this spring with Expressions, but Claude has played a nice role on their team as well and produced throughout the weekend at Southern Jam Fest. At 6’5”, he has plus size as a lead guard and can run a team well. The pace he played with during the tournament was what I really liked. It was unique the way he played fast but rarely was in a rush, smoothly working his way past opponents and getting into the teeth of the defense. His body takes contact well, he has pretty good vision, and will keep you honest with his perimeter shot. The variety of Division 1 programs in the Northeast will allow him to get a good chunk of recruitment and could end up with him being a steal for the right school.
6’4” SG Amari Pearson (Team Wall)
A player who I was really impressed with 2 summers ago at the 15U level but wasn’t able to watch last summer, Pearson was solid for Team Wall at both Bob Gibbons & Southern Jam Fest. He’s always one of the most energetic, vocal players on the court and that is the first reason why I enjoy watching him. With that energy and impressive physical tools, Pearson can be a menace on defense. He’s explosive and physical going to the basket and has consistently progressed as a shooter & creator. His handle is slick and keeps defenders off balance, he also gets into pull-ups well where he elevates and has good touch from mid-range. He isn’t talked about a ton, but as coaches do more digging, they should realize that he’s a worthy prospect.