The holiday hoops scene is in full swing across the country with more exciting matchups tipping off this week and into next including, but not limited, to a potential statement type showdown game for junior super talent Zion Williamson and Spartanburg Day.  Here’s a look at that and more in today’s news and notes from across the country…

TEAMS TO WATCH
Note – Listed in Alphabetical Order

CHINO HILLS (CALIFORNIA)
Arguably the most explosive and exciting team in the country, Chino Hill is in the midst of the 46 game winning streak that’s been powered by the family trio of brothers Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo Ball, and LaMelo Ball.  All three are exceptionally talented with Lonzo currently delivering big results for UCLA while LiAngelo and LaMelo are doing the same for Chino Hills.  A big win over in-state power Mater Dei earlier this week extended their win streak to 46 games and once again served notice that they are the team to beat in California, which isn’t much of a surprise.  A must watch team with two must watch prospects in the Ball brothers if you get the time this season.

LA LUMIERE (INDIANA)
Despite all the hoopla surrounding programs across the country La Lumiere keeps on rolling along after another win at the Chick-Fil-A Classic in South Carolina.  A potential matchup with explosive 2018 SF Zion Williamson and Spartanburg Day later this week looms on the horizon and without question that’s must watch basketball if you get the opportunity.  La Lumiere is exceptionally well coached and very deep.  Regarded as the top team in the country by most experts, they are paced by sophomore lead guard Tyger Campbell who seems to really be the straw that stirs the drink.  A two-time MVP for his grade of our annual fall Futures Camp, Campbell is tough, physical, and serves as the alpha most nights with his activity and aggressiveness.  After Campbell you only have to deal with Jaren Jackson (Michigan State), Brian Bowen (Undecided HM), Jordan Poole (Michigan), Australian big man Jacob Epperson etc.  On paper they’re the team to beat this season.

MONTVERDE ACADEMY (FLORIDA)
The undefeated power from Florida just wrapped up its third City of Palms Classic title in five years and sophomore R.J. Barrett was catalyst throughout the week.  Montverde is loaded annually and this year is no exception as former Patrick School (NJ) head man Kevin Boyle once again has a buffet of talent that will challenge for the #1 spot in the country throughout the year.  Fueled by last year’s semi-finals loss to eventual champion La Lumiere at the Dick’s Nationals, Montverde is on track for another huge year thanks to R.J. Barrett who has been sensational so far this season.

SIERRA CANYON (CALIFORNIA)
A major statement win by this team earlier this week solidified them as a top 5 team nationally as they outlasted perennial power Oak Hill Academy (VA) behind 28 points from standout junior Marvin Bagley III who is arguably the top junior in the country.  Teammate Cody Riley is another talented prospect as the senior big man is headed to UCLA.  Regarded by many as the top team in the state of California, which is loaded this year, Sierra Canyon is another on this list who could challenge for national supremacy thanks largely to the 1-2 punch of Bagley and Riley.

HOT PROSPECTS
Note – Listed in Alphabetical Order

MARVIN BAGLEY – 2018 – PF – SIERRA CANYON (CA)
A multi-skilled forward who is being courted by the blue blood programs from coast to coast, one need only witness his stellar 28 point effort against Oak Hill Academy (VA) earlier this week in Indiana to see just a glimpse of his exceptional potential.  Equipped with a 6-11 plus length frame, athleticism, skill, instincts, and feel, Bagley is regarded by most as the top junior in the country and he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.  You want a list of schools…good luck…he can go anywhere he wants.  Arizona, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona State, etc. are making generating the most buzz right now.

LiANGELO BALL – 2017 – G/F – CHINO HILLS (CA)
The second of three Ball brothers to grace the hardwood at Chino Hills, LiAngelo is already committed to UCLA and along with his young brother LaMelo the Ball brothers have Chino Hills continuing to roll along this season.  A powerful old school type scoring machine who plays angles, momentum, and to his strengths offensively, Ball averaged over 51 points a game at one point this season after pouring in 72…yes let that sink in…72 points in a high school contest.  His ranged extends well beyond the arc as he is a stellar spot up catch and shoot talent but it doesn’t stop there as he can post up on the blocks with easy success and he has the ability to score at the mid-level in a variety of ways and off the bounce getting to the rim.  He’s a difficult matchup for opposing teams as he can deliver video game like scoring numbers by ripping the nets with jumpers or going old school 21 style and just punishing you inside 15 feet.  

R.J. BARRETT – 2019 – SF – MONTVERDE ACADEMY (FL)
Regarded by many as the top sophomore in the country, Barrett is an explosively athletic wing who can score at each level and he pairs that with solid vision, nice handles, a plus length frame, etc.  The left handed gem with Canadian roots makes the game look easy on occasion as he slices up defenses with dribble drive assists and then follows that up with transition dunks, mid-level scoring drives, and the occasional trey ball with a solid and smooth effortless stroke.  A high major impact talent who is just getting started athletically and skill wise, Barrett is already sitting on offers from Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas…need I say more.

COURTNEY RAMEY – 2018 – PG – WEBSTER GROVES (MO)
The more they disrespect the real the more some keep on delivering and that’s exactly this case with this young floor general from Missouri who continues to put forth quality efforts on the hardwood despite not always getting the national cred he deserves.  A long wiry guard with a killer instinct for winning games, Ramey has already posted one triple double this season and he delivered another near one last weekend in a victory over Chicago Uplift, which featured Southern Illinois bound senior Damarius Jacobs and Kansas commit sophomore guard Markese Jacobs.  Ramey dropped a stellar 32 point 12 rebound 7 assist effort in the win and once again showed first hand his ability to deliver a high major floor impact performance on a big stage.  You pick your poison with Ramey as he can score from all three levels, he can create, and if needed he is instinctive defensively and can take over on that end of the court as well.  The game comes easy to him instinctually and physically he can play through contact and deliver in that fashion if needed.  Currently holding a laundry list of offers including, but not limited to, ones from Louisville, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Texas, etc. Ramey is a bona fide top 25 prospect nationally who is as good a PG as there is in the 2018 class both regionally and nationally.

ZION WILLIAMSON – 2018 – SF – SPARTANBURG DAY (SC)
Watched this young man closely at this past summer’s NBPA Top 100 camp where he captured top honors for the camp and his continued progression is not surprising.  I’ll echo the sentiment many have said that he reminds them of a young Larry Johnson type and that’s real.  Williamson is a man child at this stage as he’s equipped with natural power and explosion that few have seen at this level.  He plays with a youthful exuberance on the court and has fun while absolutely destroying opposing teams and defenders.  You want a trey ball he can do that, a mid-level jumper he’s got that too, and if needed he can always just go to the blocks to punish and dominate players in insultingly easy fashion.  Love watching this young fella play basketball and isn’t it interesting that the best generally enjoy the game but also are willing to deliver in terms of effort and intangibles in the same sense.  If anyone took the position that Williamson was the top player in the country for his class I wouldn’t have any issue with that as on any given day he, Bagley III, and Romeo Langford can look the part.  This young man is young for his gage, gifted on an advanced level for his ability, and he’s only getting better.  In case you don’t believe any of this…simply witness his 53 point 16 rebound explosion earlier this week at the Chick-Fil-A Classic and you’ll change your mind quickly.  A potential showdown later this week with top ranked La Lumiere Prep (IN) at the same event could be one of the most anticipated showdowns in recent memory as Williamson is must watch hoops theater any time he takes the court.  Williamson is being courted by the usual suspects as he holds offers from Louisville, UCLA, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, etc.  Another who can pick up the phone and go wherever he wants.  

GAME OF THE WEEK…POTENTIALLY
LA LUMIERE PREP (IN) VS. SPARTANBURG (SC) – FRIDAY 

Both teams must win today in the semi-finals of the Chick-Fil-A Classic and if they do a showdown Friday night in the championship game in South Carolina would be one of the most anticipated games the past few years at the high school level.  Not necessarily because it’s #1 and #2 but more because the flavor and atmosphere in the gym brought by junior South Carolina native son Zion Williamson is second to none nationally.  When you add his enormous talent and continued high level exploits to the storyline and then just sprinkle in who many regard as the #1 team in the country in La Lumiere (IN) you have the recipe for an explosively exciting matchup on the hardwood.  A must watch affair if this goes down tomorrow night.