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All-Upside Hoopers Vol. VI

Antonio Losada brings you three high school ballers calling for your attention. In this Volume he takes a look at an impressive 8th-grader and a couple of very different members of the 2019 class.

Cameron Clark/York Daily Record

2022 | Jarace Walker | SF | Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy

I don’t like to watch under-14 year old kids play. I normally set my bar at 8th-graders. Jarace Walker made the cut, and I can’t be happier he did because we have something on our hands with him. Look, we all know what IMG Academy has been for lately, and it is no other thing than forming soon-to-be pro basketball players that want to hone their skills during their senior (or junior, in some spare cases) high school basketball seasons. Michael Beasley played at IMG. Erick Dampier, Trevon Duval, Jonathan Isaac, etc etc. The list is long and not only for hoops prospects. In the case of Walker, well, let’s say it is not going to be just a short stop-and-go. In just his freshman season Walker has shared the floor with the likes of Josh Green, Noah Farrakhan, and Armando Bacot. All of those are considered top-notch prospects. Walker was the only freshman on the varsity team and even while tasked with playing the reserve role to those coveted guys, he has been able to make an impact in his first season at Bradenton’s prep school.

On an average of 10.4 minutes of playing time per game, he’s putting up 4.7 points on a 57.1% from the floor. He’s grabbing 3.3 boards per and putting 1/1/1 numbers on assists, steals, and blocks per game also. Those numbers are not going to pop out on any stat sheet, but again, consider that this kid is a freshman playing for one of the most stacked teams in the nation and he’s only getting started. No wonder he’s already ranked among the 10-best players of the 2022 class. He’s athletic as they come, already has plus-defensive instincts and can cover any wing position on both sides of the ball. About scoring, have no worries, because he’s as good putting it in from close range as he is from outside the three-point line. Effortless. Not a lot of players show the frame he already holds at his age and it is not rare to see him catch bodies in the paint to slam the rock down the rim often and with ease. We are still years from seeing him play at the next level, but if he follows the path that he’s barely outlined this season at IMG we may be in for quite a nice trip.

T. Rob Brown/The Kansas City Star

2019 | Lamel Robinson | PG | Kansas City (MO) Park Hill

You probably have not heard much about the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks D-I basketball program. They have only seven seasons to show for, after all, and a 103-111 win-loss record in the top NCAA division since the 2011-12 season. They play in the Summit Conference and of course have never made much of an impact either as a team or producing individual talents. Don’t sleep on this small school though, because they have signed one of the most underrated points in the nation on Lamel Robinson, from Kansas City (MO) Park Hill. The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder will be bashed because of his body. He will be criticized and deemed useless at the college level due to his frame. The thing is, Robinson was able to light defenses up and down the high school circuit as a junior (he averaged 23.8 points per game) and he’s doing the same in his last season at Park Hill, which he started as a POY candidate after featuring as the leading PG for the team the past three years, let alone this one. Although Robinson may come as a little undersized, he’s a walking muscle scoring over 27 per contest and doing it all on the court to ease his teammates’ work. And he’s focused on improving his physic during his senior year in order to be ready for the opposition he’ll face at the next level.

I’m not going to lie, either. Robinson is flying under the radar because he is not ranked by any of the major scouting platforms out there. His choice of Nebraska Omaha came down to an easy decision because there were not many offers on his table. All of that is true, yes, but it is also true that Robinson is all upside and can only improve a Mavericks team that hopes to be part of the Madness sooner rather than later. Robinson has the ability to put rivals under pressure and you can find him often putting them under suffocating coverages from as close as it can get on defense. He’s got quick hands to peak the ball and get the steal and is always active. At first sight, you may think it’d be impossible for him to reach the rim without having trouble lifting the ball and getting the easy layup but he makes it feel natural and gets buckets from all three levels of the floor while also showing prowess at the charity stripe. We may not be discussing a generational talent here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if more than one or two colleges regret not offering him before Omaha snatched him from their hands.

HoopFocus

2019 | Christian Braun | SF | Overland Park (KS) Blue Valley Northwest

Kansas State is not giving the NCAA any top-tier talent this upcoming season. Not a single player from the state is ranked among the Top 50 in the class, but on average it is not a bad group of players with around five to ten players in the 50. to 200-best clip of prospects. Enter Christian Braun, probably the best wing between all of the names and of course, a Kansas University commit since November. KU already has some of the best recruits in his personal HOF with the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson and Joel Embiid playing for Jayhawks back in the day. Don’t rule out adding Braun to the list as soon as next season, because he will bring an A-Level game to campus. The native of Burlington, KS, hails from a hoops-linked family all around the place. His mother played pro ball after donning Missouri’s colors, same as one of his aunts and uncles. His father also played in college, only he did it at Saint Louis and Kansas. The 6-foot-7 Braun won back-to-back Class 6A chips with Blue Valley as a sophomore and junior. Let’s say gold attracts him as much as he attracts gold.

Already with more than a polished game that will serve him good at KU, things won’t be overly easy for him when he finally sees himself on the Jayhawks roster and facilities next fall. The Hawks are perennial contenders and he will have to battle other coveted youngins like Quentin Grimes or Ochai Agbaji assuming they stay on campus at least for another season. No matter what, Braun will come locked and loaded. Get accustomed to watching over-the-head passes to trailing teammates, knee-bending crossovers, ankle-breaker moves on the way to the rim, and sprint-finishing dunks and alleys in the paint. And that is only the offensive side of things, mind you. While on defense, Braun can also give you the performance, but let’s be honest and call him an offensive bucket, because that is where he excels. A lot of players are accustomed to the “overrated” chants that populate high school gyms around the nation. Braun is one of them, and that proves he’s got everything to succeed and that it is more about jealousy from the crowd than a lack of talent from the kid. Don’t call me crazy when I say this may be the second coming of White Chocolate, because the nickname is fitting and the handles don’t fall short in comparisons.