The 2016 NY2LA Sports Invitational came to a close over the weekend. In one of the final events of the spring, a number of players closed things out with big performances and set themselves up well for the much anticipated July evaluation period. A player flying under the radar and worthy of more attention after his play this weekend, Trevell Cunningham led Playground Elite to the 17U title in Milwaukee. Here are 10 stock boosters from the Invitational that we’ll be watching more closely come July.


Wyatt Cook – 2017 – F – Wisconsin Shooters 
Cook has always been a hidden gem in the state of Wisconsin and had a really nice run for the Wisconsin Shooters, helping them reach the 17U title game. Cook is very versatile and can be effective in a number of ways. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior has so much finesse with the basketball. He can bring the ball up against pressure and isn’t afraid to go coast-to-coast. Cook has a really intriguing mid-range game as he can shoot off-balance and even off one foot. With a high release, his shot is very difficult to contest, let alone block. Cook can stretch the floor with three-point shooting, also allowing him to pull people out of the paint and go by them to the rack. 

Trevell Cunningham – 2017 – PG – Playground Elite 
The unsung hero for Playground Elite in their run to the 17U title, Cunningham was a difference maker on both ends of the floor. His defensive intensity and quickness, flustered opponents through three games. Cunningham applies to much pressure to the ball handler and forces a lot of mistakes. Offensively, Cunningham makes sound, smart plays in transition. He can fly with the ball in his hands and get to the cup, but is also very effective when finding wings on the run and setting them up for easy buckets. 

Xzavier Jones – 2019 – G/F – Playground Elite 
Jones has a very high ceiling and is about as athletic of a freshman as you can find. A 6-foot-5 wing, Jones has tremendous leaping ability. His skillset is very raw, but Jones flashes the ability to do some special things with the basketball. Jones can score from all over the floor. He needs to improve his ball handling and shooting ability, but he showed the ability to make plays offensively when he had an opening. One thing working for Jones at this time is his motor. A kid that never stops moving, Jones is willing to do the dirty work under the glass, run the floor in transition, and chase the ball on defense.  

Ryan Kutsor – 2018 – SG – Kessel Heat Black 
Kutsor continues to show the makings of a high level shooter. Sunday was his day as Kutsor caught fire and led Kessel Heat Black to a huge upset win of Howard Pulley. Kutsor knocked down five triples in that game, en route to game-high 17 points. Kutsor has good size at 6-foot-3 and sees over the top of the defense. He didn’t appear to be fazed with a hand in his face. A player that’s shown up here and there over the past year, perhaps Kutsor is on the verge of taking his game to the next level over the summer. 

Zeke Nnaji – 2019 – F – Howard Pulley 
A very intriguing and promising combo forward, Nnaji had a great effort throughout Sunday. Nnaji posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the 15U semifinals and flirted with a double-double throughout the weekend. A long, athletic freshman, Nnaji can score from inside and outside the paint. He’ll get more consistent as he gets older, but Nnaji can occasionally shoot long jumpers, but is better as a slasher from the high post. Nnaji uses his long wing span to control the glass and also has the potential to be a solid rim protector.  

Victor Nwagbareoche – 2017 – G – Wisconsin Rap 
Talk about a sleeper, Nwagbareoche went toe-to-toe with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors on Saturday and more than held his own. Nwagbareoche was defended quite well, but he found ways to get the ball in the hole. Nwagbareoche has an array of moves with the ball in his hands and even better footwork when he picks up his dribble to bail him out of trouble. Nwagbareoche hit some tough shots from the perimeter, but was more effective going to the basket, especially in transition where he also showed the ability to play above the rim. 

PJ Pipes – 2017 – PG – Illinois Stars IBA
A talented lead guard with skill and potential, Pipes made a concerted effort to create and serve as a floor general Saturday and Sunday and the results were more solid performances.  Already a scorer from all three levels, Pipes displayed a willingness to distribute the ball and create while also being active across the board and his performances elevated as a result.  A strong weekend of improvement for the talented lead guard from Illinois.

Jake Poetzl – 2019 – SF – Wisconsin Playground Warriors 
Poetzl had a solid weekend, including a couple of double figure scoring efforts. He can fill a number of different roles for the Playground Warriors as well. The 6-foot-5 wing is mostly a slasher and provides an edge of toughness around the rim. Poetzl was a little erratic with his three-point shooting, but showed he can knock down perimeter looks. Poetzl also has some exciting versatility. He can post up and bully people on the block. He brought a lot of energy both offensively and defensively throughout the weekend.  

Bilam Shabazz – 2018 – F – DTA 
Shabazz is a really intriguing prospect. He’s very raw, but was surprisingly consistent from mid and even three-point range. Shabazz can bring people out of the paint and either attack off the dribble or pull up and shoot off the bounce. A long, 6-foot-6 forward, Shabazz is also an exceptional shot blocker and rim protector. Shabazz’s highlight came Saturday when he poured in a game-high 20 points in Saturday’s loss to the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in 16U play.   

Kahlil Whitney – 2019 – SF – Mac Irvin Orange 
A skilled and talented wing, Whitney makes the game look easy at times. An advanced skillset with some impressive physical tools, Whitney proved to be an exciting prospect to watch in the coming years. He has explosive athletic ability, length, and he pairs that with an offensive game that allows him to score at all three levels. Whitney has a smooth stroke from beyond the arc, he can hit the mid-range jumper, and can score off the bounce in traffic while being able to post up if he gets a smaller defender on him.