SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — The top high school basketball teams descended on the Basketball Hall of Fame for one of the best showcases of the year, the Hoophall Classic. Basketball fans packed the gym at Springfield College over the weekend to get a glimpse of future NBA stars.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum even made the two-hour drive from Boston to support his alma mater, Chaminade High School, on Sunday. The Celtics star played in this event in 2016, scoring 40 points against Markelle Fultz and DeMatha Catholic High School.
This year, sophomore guard Ian Jackson had a breakout performance, scoring 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting and was one of the best players on the court Sunday. But the seniors, and potential 2023 NBA draft picks, really put on a show.
Here’s a look at seven up-and-coming players to keep an eye on as future draft prospects.
College commitment: Duke
Height/weight: 7-2, 220 pounds
Lively is currently the No. 1 player in the country and the best rim protector, averaging five blocks per game. In his game Friday night, Lively was the best prospect on the court, putting up 22 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks. He runs the floor extremely well for his 7-foot-2 frame and has a natural feel for the game, impacting plays when the ball isn't in his hands. He's started to develop an outside jump shot and connected on three 3-pointers at the Hoophall Classic.
"It's definitely something I've been working on since the summer," Lively told Yahoo Sports. "The center position is no longer a player that hangs around the basket; we have to be able to move, make good reads and knock down open shots from all over the court."
"Evan has been killing it this year and someone I've been watching for a while," Lively added. "He's a big that can handle the ball, has great footwork and can knock down shots. He's a triple threat, and I watch him, Bam Adebayo and film on Anthony Davis a lot."
Lively is headed to Duke next year and is part of the No. 1 recruiting class coming in for head coach Jon Scheyer's first year.
G/F Chris Livingston
College commitment: Kentucky
Height/weight: 6-8, 220 pounds
Kentucky coach John Calipari was sitting on the baseline to watch Livingston put on a show Sunday. He had 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a win over Gonzaga College.
"Having Coach Cal there for the game was great," Livingston said after the game. "Him and the coaching staff have showed me a lot of film on Keldon Johnson and Kevin Knox and even Devin Booker just in the way he sees the court, so I feel like we have a really good idea of how I'll be playing next year."
Livingston has a great first step off the wing and finds ways to score at all three levels. Defensively, he has the physicality to guard down low and step out on the perimeter. Livingston will always challenge players at the rim and is a high-level rebounder for his size. He will be joining other five-star prospects Shaedon Sharpe, Skyy Clark and Cason Wallace next season at Kentucky and will be a player NBA scouts will be watching closely.
College commitment: Duke
Height/weight: 6-7, 215 pounds
Whitehead is a big guard with incredible speed in the open court and has improved his decision-making off the pick-and-roll. He is a very poised and composed player in pressure situations and typically has the ball in his hands at the end of the shot clock. The jump from high school to a blue-blood program like Duke will be an easy transition with Whitehead coming from one of the best high school programs in the country, Montverde Academy.
"Just being at a big-time program like Montverde, it's definitely preparing me for the next level and playing at Duke," Whitehead told Yahoo Sports. "I spent a lot of time this past summer on my jump shot and my playmaking abilities, so that's just something I'm focused on developing more before I get to Duke."
College commitment: Texas
Height/weight: 6-8, 200 pounds
Mitchell has high upside and is one of the most athletic players in the country. He loves to play above the rim and can take players off the dribble with ease. Mitchell chose the Longhorns over Florida State and will join top-10 point guard Arterio Morris and Rowan Brumbaugh next year.
"Coach [Chris] Beard is just telling me I need to work on my jumper to be an instant-impact guy next year," Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. "I'm going to be in the gym every day this summer working out and getting that jumper to where it needs to be so I'm ready next season."
When Mitchell does add an outside jump shot to his game, he'll have endless tools and options as an offensive threat and could be a high pick in the 2023 NBA draft. There's a ton to like about Mitchell's game, and he will be undoubtedly be a player to watch next season.
College commitment: Baylor
Height/weight: 6-3, 190 pounds
George is a high-level point guard who loves to get downhill and create for others. He's visibly more comfortable stepping into his 3-point shot and is patient while running the halfcourt set. Defensively, he's a lockdown defender with a long frame, making it easy to contest shots.
"This year at IMG [Academy], I've just been able to really focus on my game and going up against other high-major players every day in practice has really helped me defensively," George told Yahoo Sports. "Baylor has a great track record with guards with guys like Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and even Kendall Brown, so I'm just ready to step in, learn as much as I can and get to work."
Against Montverde, George had great hands, dropping down to help in the post, and created multiple turnovers. George finished with a team-high 17 points in a close win.
College commitment: Houston
Height/weight: 6-8, 220 pounds
He has an NBA-ready body and is a freak athlete who is able to bully defenders in the lane. His mid-range game is solid, and he's working on developing an outside jump shot. Walker is an underrated passer and makes the right read whether it's in the high-low option or finding a 3-point shooter in his inside-out game. Defensively, he's quick enough to get out and guard the ball handler while hedging the screen and is an excellent shot blocker for his size. Walker chose Houston over LSU and Auburn and has all the tools to dominate the post in the American Athletic Conference next year.
G/F Gradey Dick
College commitment: Kansas
Height/weight: 6-7, 195 pounds
Dick might end up being a two-year player at Kansas but will definitely be on NBA scouts' radar. He's currently shooting 50% from 3-point range in his senior season and is extremely athletic, playing above the rim in transition and blocking shots with his 7-foot wingspan. Kansas head coach Bill Self does a great job developing guards and has had success with one-and-done players in the past. It will depend on how quickly Dick adjusts to pace of the college game and how well he shoots the ball next season.