Carolina Challenge: 2013 Recap

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A trio of junior commits -- Isaiah Hicks, Patrick Rooks and Anton Gill -- stole the show at the Carolina Challenge, an event consisting of the top 80 prospects in the state of North Carolina.

Isaiah Hicks, PF – Arguably the top prospect in the event, Hicks played with confidence and effort from the get go. Matched up against 6-foot-8, 280-pound Kennedy Meeks, Hicks impacted the game in a major way. His length and athleticism affected Meeks on the defensive end, while offensively he ran the floor, scored on the block and by way of face up jump shots. His confidence in his ability to shoot from mid-range is a big addition, as he was pumping in jump shots all day. If there were a MVP at the Challenge, it would have gone to this North Carolina commit.

Anton Gill, SG – Heading into the Carolina Challenge, Gill, a now 6-foot-4 guard, was regarded as one of the top players at the camp. Leaving camp his reputation was in tact. An aggressive scorer, Gill can put up points from all three levels. He uses his athleticism around the basket and is a crafty finisher around the rim. His range extends well past the three-point stripe and he's become an efficient shooter off one and two dribble pull-ups. He was top five in scoring at the event.

Allerik Freeman, PG/SG – Much like Hicks and Gill, Freeman walked into the event with a big name in the state of North Carolina. After a slow start in his first game, Freeman got progressively better. He pumped in a trio of three-pointers and a pull-up from 18-feet, while scoring 19 points in his second game. His third game was strong as well. His jump shot is a weapon and he shoots it well both off the catch and dribble. A high major talent, Freeman is capable of playing either guard position.

Darren Black, PG – As the day wore on, Black, a 6-foot, 155-pound guard, grew on us. Active on both ends, Black showed a nice change of pace and steadily ran his team. He knocked down a three and took good shots. On the opposite end, Black moves his feet well and knows how to defend. At this point, Black, who ran with Team Charlotte last spring and summer, is tracking as a mid-level prospect.

James Hemphill, SF – Over the course of three games, Hemphill, of Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton, made an impression. The 6-foot-6 wing prospect showed good form on his jump shot, OK athleticism and an ability to finish in transition. In his first game he had the game-winning bucket on a coast-to-coast finish. He finished top 20 in scoring at 10.3 points per game.

Tarique Thompson, SF/PF – Pound for pound, Thompson played as hard and as any player at camp. He created scoring opportunities by playing with energy and raising his activity level. The 6-foot-5 combination forward hit the glass, used his strength to score through defenders and even hit jump shots. A relative unknown name nationally, Thompson left the event as a top 15 scorer at the event.

Nigel Holley, PF – Out of the gate, Holley caught my eye because of his energy and willingness to go to the glass and rebound. At 6-foot-7, 215-pounds, Holley mixed it up inside, fought for the ball and positioned himself nicely to grab balls off the rim. His activity and energy on the glass led to multiple put backs situations as well. Holley was consistent with his effort scoring eight points in the first two games and six in the third.

Shannon Hale, PF – A chiseled 6-foot-9, Hale showed up at the Carolina Challenge on Saturday. The early Alabama commit credited the coaches at Arden (N.C.) Christ school to his added weight and strength to his frame. He used that body to fight for boards and played the top performer of the day – Hicks – well. Hale likes to face up for mid-range jump shots, but he showed a hook and touch inside. He scored nine, eight and nine in three games.

Malcolm Matthews, C – It's clear that Matthews' best basketball is ahead of him. Right now the 6-foot-9, 200-pound center lacks strength and is bothered by physical play. With that said, Matthews fought and played hard against what he admitted was the best competition he's ever played against. The tools are there, as he's long, moves well and is a solid athlete. A junior at Charlotte (N.C.) South Meck, Matthews will get plenty of college interest.

Josh Newkirk, PG – Scoring isn't an issue for this 6-foot-1 guard out of Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God. Newkirk finished the Challenge sixth in scoring at 14.7 points per game, including a 20-point outing. The physical attributes are there, as Newkirk has good speed and athleticism and for the most part can get where he wants on the court. He also showed an ability to knock down mid-range shots. On the contrary, Newkirk can get a tad wild and loose with the ball. Overall he has a lot of raw ability and will be recruited at a high level.

Isaac Copeland, SF/PF – Due to an injury this was the first competitive event Copeland has played in quite some time, as the 6-foot-8 versatile forward was forced to the sidelines for his junior season. A lengthy prospect, Copeland moves up and down the floor well, has a nice set of hands and showed good form on his shot. He didn't put up big scoring numbers, but he drew my eye because of his potential and raw ability.

Christian Hairston, SF – Coming out of his junior season, Hairston, a 6-foot-7 combo forward, had some buzz. Based on his performance at the Challenge, it was warranted. An athletic forward with size, Hairston did plenty of damage from the perimeter. He hit a three, a mid-range jump shot and was attacking the basket and grabbing rebounds. Hairston is one to watch this spring and summer, as he appears to be on the uptick as a prospect.

Patrick Rooks, SG – Brad Brownell and his staff at Clemson scored a talented scorer early. Rooks, who grew up near Clemson, was tremendous at the Challenge, finishing third overall in scoring at 15.7 points per game. Rook, a southpaw, has grown to 6-foot-3 and has improved his overall scoring ability. His off the catch jump shot goes down with consistency, but what drew my eye was his off the dribble pull-ups and the confidence in which he showed looking to score. Rooks can put up points in a hurry and the Charlotte (N.C.) Christian standout appears to be getting better at just the right time.

Kennedy Meeks, C – After a slow start to the event, Meeks turned it up a notch in the second game. At 6-foot-9, 280-pounds, Meeks can lock down an area and he did just that. He boarded it on both ends, showed terrific touch around the basket and impressed with his ability to pass out of the post. On top of that, Meeks can step out and shoot jumpers with range to 21-feet. Meeks finished the event top 15 in scoring, while averaging 12 points a game.

*Rian Holland, a 6-foot guard, pumped in quite a few jumpers during the event. He showed nice range on his jump shot and shot it well off from mid-range as well. Holland put together a good camp.

*Sam Hunt, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, knocked in some three-pointers early on in the event. Listed as a point guard on the roster, he seemed more comfortable in a scoring role. In his last game he showed an ability to score off the bounce.

*Jackson Kent, a standout at High Point (N.C.) Christian, showed some skill during his three games. The 6-foot-7 forward hit a few threes and went for 8.7 points per game.

*Arguably one of the better athletes in attendance, Greg McClinton had a few highlight reel dunks and showcased his athleticism in transition. Despite his jump shot not going down, McClinton averaged 11.3 points per game.

*Tyquan Bitting, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound post prospect from Winston Salem (N.C.) Mount Tabor, is intriguing. The lengthy big man hit a right jump hook, as well as a running hook in one of the games we took in. He was also fairly active in his time on the floor. He averaged eight points a game.

*Other prospects that put together solid outings were Clay Byrd, Tyrone Outlaw, Ja'Keem Yates, Dante Reynolds, Tony Nunn and T.J. Williams.

Top 2013 Scorers
*Isaiah Hicks – 17.0
*Patrick Rooks – 15.7
*Anton Gill – 15.3
*Josh Newkirk – 14.7
*Ri'an Holland – 13.7
*Deion Robinson – 12.7
*Kennedy Meeks – 12.0
*Tarique Thompson – 11.7
*Greg McClinton – 11.3
*David Robertson – 11.0

*Josh Newkirk said that Georgia Tech, Xavier, North Carolina State. "They are on me the hardest." Newkirk took a visit to Georgia Tech recently.

*Christian Hairston claims offers from Oklahoma State, Gardner-Webb and Texas-Arlington. He also cited interest from Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.

*Allerik Freeman narrowed his list of schools to Kansas and Villanova a few weeks ago. But his list is changing. Freeman, a five-star prospect, confirmed to that Ohio State and UCLA are actively recruiting him and are on his list.

*Kennedy Meeks said Georgetown, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Louisville are recruiting him the hardest. He also cited interest from Florida, as well as offers from everyone in the ACC except Duke and UNC.

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