The 2023 recruiting class has oft’ been maligned as a weak group but there was plenty of talent on display this week at the McDonald’s All American practices and game. There’s not a clear no.1 player in this class but there are plenty of future NBA starters and stars.
What stands out most about this group is how intensely competitive they are. This is a high character bunch of players who take the game seriously and put in the work to be great. The game itself was a battle with both teams giving great effort. The West was out in-front for most of the game but the East made a late push and won the game, led by D.J. Wagner, the game’s MVP, who scored all 19 of his points in the second half.
Isaiah Collier stood out as one of the stars of the game and was co-MVP, doing a bit of everything on the court and scoring 25 points to lead the West team. He did, however, miss two late FTs with a chance to tie the game. He’s a special talent and starting to look like he might be that dude in this class.
Bronny James put on a shooting display, knocking down a game high five 3-pointers. He showed that he very much belonged in this setting. He’s a big time talent with a bright NBA future.
Here’s a look at which players lifted their draft stock this week, how the top players performed vs. expectations and some more draft notes:
- Stephon Castle – PG/SG – Covington (GA) – UConn – The big 6-6 combo guard impressed scouts all week with his on-the-ball ability, play-making and ability to score the rock. He has the tools of a future lottery pick and that might be as soon as next year. Castle is so smooth with the ball, has great handles and a quick first step. Buy stock now!
- Aaron Bradshaw – C – Camden (NJ) – Kentucky – Bradshaw has had a big week here in Houston and that success continued Tuesday night in the showcase game. He’s got a really good face-up game, can stroke the 3 with ease and has impressive length. He also showed a lot of competitive fire, hitting the glass hard and making some big plays down the stretch. He’ll need to get stronger and play with consistent fire but the sky is the limit for how good he can be.
- Bronny James – PG/SG – Sierra Canyon (CA) – Undecided – Bronny is not the most talented player in this class but he’s far and away the most famous baller in the 2023 recruiting class. The 6-2 combo guard came out firing in this game, stroking three early 3pt shots, showing off his elite shooting touch and proving that he belongs (finishing with five 3-pointers!). He’s been on a steady upward trajectory over the past year and is very much in the conversation as a one-and-done first rounder. He’s got elite shooting ability, high BBIQ and is a stout defender. A college decision should be coming soon with USC possibly taking the lead. Here’s more on Bronny.
- Ja’Kobe Walter – SG – Link Academy – Baylor – Walter has been a standout performer this week in practice/scrimmage and in the game itself. He’s a 3-level scorer with good positional size and plenty of athleticism. He comes into Baylor with less hype than Keyonte George but is just as impressive of a prospect.
- Jared McCain – PG/SG – Centennial (CA) – Duke – McCain has been one of the standout performers over the past few days of practice/scrimmage showing of his elite 3pt shooting ability and great feel for the game. He’ll be part of a tantalizing backcourt next year at Duke, with Tyrese Proctor returning for another year.
Potential Top 5 Picks
- Isaiah Collier – PG – Wheeler (GA) – USC – A pure point guard with broad shoulders, great body control and good size, Collier is one of the best passers in the class and can also give you buckets. Collier showed his competitive spirit and play-making ability while also filling it up on the offensive end. Collier might not be the most exciting prospect we’ve ever seen but he’s got a chance to be a top 3 pick next June. In a class that doesn’t have a clear no.1 player Collier has a chance to be that guy.
- DJ Wagner – PG/SG – Camden (NJ) – Kentucky – The third generation McDonald’s All American gamer participant (dad Dajuan and granddad Milt) DJ is lethal with the ball in his hands and was born to get buckets. He had a quiet first half but came on strong in the second half to lead the East to victory and finish as the game MVP. He showed a lot of competitive fire, had some nice defensive plays and got clutch buckets. He’s not the biggest or most athletic player and so the ultimate upside might not be there but he’s highly skilled and looks like a professional scorer.
- Cody Williams – SF – Perry (AZ) – Colorado – The younger brother of NBA star rookie Jalen Williams, Cody looks the part of a future top 10 pick. He’s got great athletic tools, which were on display tonight, but he has a ways to go with refining his game. He’ll have to get a lot stronger but once he does he’ll be even more of a problem going to the basket and making plays in the open court.
- Matas Buzelis – SF – Bel Aire (KS) – G League Ignite – Buzelis came into this week projected to be one of the top selections in the 2024 NBA draft. He had a solid week but really doesn’t jump out at you as a clear top 3 guy. A year in the G League should do him wonders and will give us a better idea whether or not he’s an elite level prospect. Getting stronger and becoming more of a threat from 3pt land will be big for him.
- Justin Edwards – SF – Imhotep (PA) – Kentucky – Edwards had a big game, scoring inside and out and showing why he’s one of the top recruits in this class. He’s got big time athletic ability, just needs to keep polishing his game and develop a go-to move. His 3pt shot is coming along nicely and really opens up the rest of his game.
- Ron Holland – SF/PF – Duncanville (TX) – Texas – This dude brings it on both ends. Holland is a high level athlete who gives elite effort. He’s not necessarily a first-option type of offensive player but projects as a very high level role player and elite defender at the NBA level, who should be a valuable part of a winning team. I think his upside is as a very solid second star on a winning team. That might not sound too exciting but in a weak draft class getting that type of player would be a win.
Stock Holding Steady
- Omaha Biliew – PF – Waukee Senior (IO) – Iowa State – Biliew is a big time athlete with size, speed and explosive ability. He showed all of that in this game, along with an improved 3pt shot. He’s a highly competitive player who looks the part of an elite role-player at the NBA level.
- Elmarko Jackson – PG – South Kent Academy (CT) – Kansas – A powerful 6-2 guard with burst and bounce, Jackson gives Kansas a high level athlete next year to compliment some of their highly skilled guards. He had a solid game and a good week in Houston. Could be a one and done.
- Kwame Evans, Jr. – PF – Montverde Academy (FL) – Oregon – Evans Jr. showed off his versatility on both ends of the floor including some pesky perimeter defense. He’s not a first-option type of offensive player but his all around game should make him a solid NBA player. He’s a possible one and done but a few years in school could do him wonders.
- Sean Stewart – PF – Montverde Academy (FL) – Duke – Stewart had a few nice plays tonight and his athleticism jumps off the screen. He’s sure to have plenty of highlights next year at Duke. He’s more of a high-energy role player than a star but brings value with his rebounding, defense and athleticism in the open floor. He’s starting to flash some mid range and perimeter shot-making.
- Mookie Cook – SF – Compass Prep (AZ) – Oregon – An athletic wing with two-way ability Cook does a bit of everything on the court, hustles, defends, attacks the rim and can stroke the 3-ball. Looks like he’ll be a solid 3&D wing at the next level.
- Aden Holloway – PG – Prolific Prep (CA) – Auburn – Generously listed at 6-1, Holloway is an undersized guard with a big game who should be a star at the college level. He showed a nice ability to penetrate the lane and draw fouls while also splashing shots from the perimeter. He’s probably a multi-year college player.
- Reed Sheppard – SG – North Laurel (KY) – Kentucky – Sheppard is a big name pedigree player who had a nice showing in the game tonight. He’s likely a multi-year college player who should make great NIL money but it remains to be seen if he’ll be a high level NBA prospect.
- Jeremy Fears – PG – Joliet West (IL) Michigan State – A floor general with high BBIQ, fears didn’t have a big game but promises to have a big career for Izzo. He projects as a 3 or 4 year college player for the Spartans.
Brandon Garrison – C – Del City (OK) Oklahoma State – Garrison is solid and has upside. He’s a big who bangs in the paint and does all the dirty work. Probably a 3 or 4 year college player.
- Baye Fall – C – Accelerated Prep (CO) Arkansas – Fall has big time athletic tools but is raw and probably not on the fast track to the NBA. He’ll need to add strength and polish up his game over the next few years at Arkansas.
- Xavier Booker – C – Cathedral (IN) – Michigan State – Booker has all the talent in the world but doesn’t put it all together consistently enough. He made a great decision to go to Michigan State where he’ll be schooled in all aspects of the game and should learn to bring it every time out.
- Mackenzie Mgbako – SF/PF – Roselle Catholic (NJ) – Duke – Mgbako was quiet on the night. He’s got great shooting ability but is mainly an off the ball guy who projects as a role player.
- Andrej Stojakovic – SF – Jesuit (CA) – Stanford – Peja’s son is exactly what you’d expect, a pure shooter from 3 with nice size on the wing. He’s not a high level athlete but has a good feel for the game and spaces the floor well.
Overall this is a solid group of prospects but there’s still no clear star player in this class. I wrote more on that a few weeks ago: Is the 2024 NBA Draft Going To Be A Weak Draft?