Posted On: 01/22/21 10:32 PM
With roughly half the season in the books, I wanted to give an update on this year’s freshman class and the impact players I’ve seen so far. Here are six of the best 2024 prospects I’ve seen compete this season:
Rickey Loftin II Omaha South
Physically, Loftin looks a year or two older than he is, and he can use that strength to muscle himself into the lane. When there is a gap to be exploited, Rickey doesn’t waste much time seeking it out. When he is fouled he can brush it off, but he does need to do a better job initiating that contact. That is an acquired skill that comes with more experience, and because he does attack the rim so much, he will have plenty of in-game reps to figure that out. At times, the game moves too quickly for him to make the right play consistently. Sometimes he will see a pass, but the information processes slowly and the lane is closed by the time he acts on it. Luckily for him, the Packers are a young team and he will have lots of minutes to adapt to the varsity high school game.
Will CooperWillCooper6'1" | SGMillard South | 2024NE Millard South Cooper has a limited shooting arsenal, but you cannot shade off him without him punishing you with his spot-up shooting. The development of a one-dribble side step would improve his shooting greatly. A few times this season he has rushed the shot or passed up on an opportunity to punish a late closeout because he can’t do much with the ball at this point. What impresses me more is his awareness on defense. He digs in at the correct moments and has success doing so. He’s valuable away from the ball as a screener on offense, too. He does a decent job of setting good angles on his screens which have created a handful of good looks near the rim in the Millard South games I’ve watched. Landon Pokorski Gretna This is a player to keep your eye on moving forward. Landon has been handed the keys to the Dragons’ offense in his first year, and has taken advantage of the opportunity, averaging 10 points, 3.5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. He consistently penetrates the paint, and once that corner defender digs in, he nails the corner pass at precisely the right time. When in the paint, he does an excellent job protecting the ball, whether it’s with his free hand or with a crossover to avoid a swipe. He is not a top tier defender, but he stays in front of man without fouling too much which is great at this stage of his career. Alex Wilcoxson Gretna Alex Wilcoxson has been the beneficiary of a lot of Pokorski’s dribble penetration this season. Wilcoxson’s offensive game does not include much movement with the basketball yet. He can knock down catch and shoot opportunities with confidence, and if the shot isn’t there he can drive hard with a few dribbles and pass it on, but that’s about it. He is a crafty rebounder, though, and uses his hips and lower half to seal and bump on the box out. Daleron Thomas Omaha North It has been an up and down season for the Vikings, but I find myself tuning into their streams when I can to watch the talented Daleron Thomas. I find him to be a patient player, especially for his age. Pressure doesn’t affect him like it does many other players. There is no panic, because he understands how to counter the aggression. He has an escape dribble that he uses to evade the defender, and if he has already used up his dribble he’ll pump fake to widen a passing lane and release the pressure that way. He is shooting 37% from distance so far, and he looks very comfortable shooting the ball off the catch, even when tightly contested. Jaden JacksonJadenJackson5'10" | SGBellevue West | 2024NE Bellevue West This freshman guard has carved himself out minutes a deep Bellevue West squad, which speaks volumes in itself. He has been a great catch and shoot option off the bench for the Thunderbirds. He is limited offensively when the dribble is incorporated, but he can receive the swing pass and make the next decision quickly. As a shooter, he shows good touch. Sometimes a shot requires a bit of lean one direction, or possibly a different angle on the release, and Jackson has shown the touch required to calculate those differences. I’ve also been impressed with his team defense. He stays aware off the ball, and intuitively make some of the right decisions in terms of positioning and angling around screens.