As part of my preseason tour this week, I stopped in to watch the jamboree at Hazelwood Central High School. The event featured matchups between the host, Hazelwood Central Hawks, Confluence Academy, Battle and Mehlville. The event had several division one prospects in the house so it was bound to be an eventful night. And indeed, the final matchup between Mehlville and Hazelwood Central had the feel of a regular season rivalry game. 

2020 Davion Bradford C Mehlville – The 7-0 Kansas State commit punished the rim throughout the evening. There has been some obvious growth in his strength, footwork and balance from the past season that allows him better to catch, square up and finish through contact. Bradford handled double teams and collapsing defenses well and showcased a number of hook shots, pivots and counters to finish in the lane. Although, admittedly, the real fun was watching Davion dunk on much smaller opponents. 

2023 Jayden Nicholson SF Hazelwood Central – The 6-4 freshman is already distinguishing himself as a prospect and the first game of the season has yet to be played. Nicholson is a small forward that can defend and has a solid offensive skill set. He has good size and strength for his age and didn’t shy away from the heated back and forth in the Mehlville match. Nicholson got up in the face of ball handlers, exchanged baskets with his opponents, knocked down a couple shots from three, and scored or drew fouls attacking off the dribble. Nicholson is an explosive player that can create his own shots and finish through contact. With the history of guard development at Central, the trend is certainly upward from for Jayden from here. In fact, despite his showing, the most tantalizing part about this youngster is that he still has a nice ceiling. 

2020 G Dylan Branson Mehlville – The big wing was aggressive throughout the evening. Branson was at his best dialing it up from long distance. Whether it was off the dribble or off the screen, Dylan didn’t miss many three-point shots. Dylan is also capable of getting to the rim and uses his size and strength to maintain an advantage over his opponents. Branson showed his versatility during the night setting up teammates, rebounding, and using and setting picks.

2020 Nate Garrett G Hazelwood Central – Garrett showed what a difference a year could make in his development. The talented 6-5 guard has stepped forward to show that he could possibly be one of the leading bucket getters out the gate. Garrett showed off a variety of offensive tools slashing and shooting his way past opposing defenses. Garrett could be the area sleeper coaches are waiting for to round out their recruiting class. The big guard can shoot the three, attack off the dribble, knock down the midrange and finish over the top. It was eye-opening to see the more aggressive side of Garrett and his style fits in nicely with the Hawks system of play. 

2020 David Roberts G Hazelwood Central – The 6-2 guard was impressive throughout the event. Roberts was effective on both sides of the ball. He is an explosive guard that can get you buckets in a hurry. He was at his best attacking the rim and took it to another level when challenged one on one. His stop and pop game is legit. When he’s clicking, it makes it much harder for defenses to choose who to focus their coverage on in order to stop the potent Hawks offense.

2020 Maricus Grant PG Battle – The 6-2 guard left an impression on both sides of the ball. Grant is an exceptional passer and does a good job of setting up teammates. He shot the ball well from the three-point line but was at his best attacking off the drive, directing traffic, and controlling the tempo. Grant was a blur on defense where he excelled at wreaking havoc on passing lanes and tallying up deflections and steals. He looked good in the role of “glue guy” rattling the nerves of ballhandlers. 

2021 Cole Farrell G Hazelwood Central – “Watch your head!” The 6-4 high flyer was looking for every opportunity to take flight. It didn’t matter whether it was a half court set or in transition, his defenders were advised to keep their head on a swivel to disrupt the lob action to Farrell. Far from a one trick pony, Farrell is also one of the top slashers in his class and can also shoot it out to three.  Cole is also active on defense and got his hands on a fair share of errant passes.

2021 Kameran Bevel G Confluence – The Titans don’t have much height on their roster, so a lot of the grunt work fell on athletic guards like Bevel and Helm. Bevel is a certified bucket-getter. He is a thrill in the open court where he was able to hit teammates with pinpoint passes or use his excellent ballhandling skill to navigate through the defense to the rim. The 6-1 Bevel did a good job of rebounding and many of those boards were snatched over much taller opponents. 

2020 Caleb Helm G Confluence – Helm was one of the better slashers of the evening. He is tough on the board rebounding outside his area and over much taller players. The 6-4 wing was difficult to defend in the open court due to his ball quickness and evasive moves using the speed dribble. Helm can finish above the rim and at one point even attempted to go over the 7-0 Bradford. In transition, he was able to lead the break, find teammates ahead or easily take it the distance and finish himself. 

2020 King Waller G Confluence – Waller is an excellent athlete with good strength, speed, and agility all of which he summoned to launch his perimeter assault on each opponent. Waller never appeared hurried on offense and did an excellent job of picking his spots. The 6-2 guard has a quick first step but can quickly go vertical and score the mid-range jumper or shoot the floater. He has nice form on his jump shot and didn’t miss much. He also did a great job on the defensive end and sank a few three pointers. 

2021 Jonathan Dunn F Hazelwood Central – I’m pretty sure that the Hawk’s guards appreciate having a forward like Dunn to toss the ball ahead to on the break. Dunn is a power dunker that constantly tested the integrity of the rims. He was consistent nailing turnaround jumpers in the lane and was also able to put the ball on the floor and bully his way past opponents big and small. Dunn is playing with a lot more confidence with the ball in his hands and will definitely be a thrill to watch this season.