Posted On: 04/30/18 11:50 AM
The second NCAA evaluation period weekend took us (back) to Orange County for the Double Pump Hoopfest. While sneaker company circuits have sapped many of the independent tournament operators of top-tier talent, there are still quite a few hidden gems at the events.
Some players took advantage of the weekend and made a big impression. Who were some of the biggest revelations? We explore a few names, both locally and out of the area.
Bellach who hails from Montana, was the biggest revelation of the weekend. He shot the lights out in Select’s victory over Prodigy Elite. While his shooting is impressive (quick, smooth release and great footwork), Bellach is much more than a shooter. He did a solid job attacking off the dribble against Prodigy’s stout halfcourt defense, and was strong enough to absorb the contact and finish at the rim. He also has solid bounce, which allows him to corral rebounds at the high point and make plays above the rim in transition. Bellach, whose father was a star at NAIA Montana Tech, claims interest from Denver and Incarnate Word. Expect the local D1 schools (Idaho, Montana and Montana State) to get in the mix sooner than later.
Red & Black, a Bay Area program full of players from several private school powers, took a solid College Bound 17u team to the wire on opening night. McMillan, a wiry scoring point guard, was one of the catalysts. Though slight of frame, McMillan maneuvered his way to the basket and made several crafty finishes around the rim. He also canned several deep threes off the catch. The second leading scorer on a quality St. Patricks-St Vincents program, McMillan looks like a player who can become a quality combo guard at the next level, if he can get stronger with his off hand and against pressure, and get physically stronger.
While his freshman back court teammates Kenneth Simpson and Keith Higgins might get a lot of the attention, Walker might be the team’s best long-term prospect. Blessed with great length, broad shoulders and a excellent motor, Walker made plays both in the post and on the perimeter for a BTI team that ultimately won the entire 16u Division. In the game against a very good Prodigy 16u team, Walker was active on the boards, blocked shots, ran the floor like a deer in transition, knocked down shots from midrange and the college three and scored in the post (excellent hands). BTI is a program known for having under-the-radar prospects. Count Walker as possibly the next in line.
There might not have been a more explosive athlete in the gym this weekend than Okeke, a role player for a strong Damien team. For Prodigy, however, Okeke was able to show off his budding slashing ability and explosive finishing in the half court. His weekend was punctuated by a baseline drive and slam over several Idaho Select players that seemingly came out of nowhere. He has an excellent motor and runs the floor, protects the rim, rebounds with aggression and always gives maximum effort. Okeke is still quite raw, however, and needs to continue to polish his skill set on the perimeter and in the post on offense.
Hopping was lights out from the perimeter in the team’s opening win against the Alaska Blugolds. When his feet are set and shoulders are square to the basket, Hopping rarely misses a shot. He can also score off the dribble, using his body nicely to drive and finish through contact. Defensively, he will have to continue to improve sliding his feet against quicker perimeter players. But offensively, there’s no questioning his abilities. Coming from a high school program that has produced some of San Diego’s best shooters, Hopping looks to be next in line.