Juan Diego Palacios, 17, who goes by "Tello", is a junior forward at Our Savior New American (N.Y.) who has a nice soft touch for a big man and already has an NBA body. UNC assistant coach Fred Quartlebaum traveled to his high school this fall to scout him and was in attendance to watch Palacios again in Delaware at the War on the Shore last month, but the staff did not pay Palacios a visit while playing in the Preseason NIT in New York shortly thereafter.
The 6-8, 245-pound native of Colombia has only been in the United States for a little more than a year, but he's already attracted the attention of big-time programs such as Florida, Illinois, UConn, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville, Villanova, Florida State and UNLV.
"This was a good opportunity for me to come to the U.S. and play basketball," said Palacios, who is an only child. "Basketball is not a big thing in Columbia. We like soccer."
Palacios, who admits he knows very little about specific colleges at this time, has been dominating so far this season and his quickness has improved after he lost some weight in the offseason. He's also a terrific ballhandler for a player his size.
He scored 22 points in a loss to Blair Academy's one-two punch of Loul Deng and Charlie Villanueva and followed it up with strong performances at the War on the Shore (Del.) and the Bull City Classic (N.C.).
His worst game of the season was an 8-point, 5-rebond effort in a loss to Winchendon in the first game in Delaware, but he bounced back with 22 points in a rout over Patrick Ewing Jr.'s National Christian club. He also showed he can knock down the trifecta when he buried both of his attempts from three-point land against National Christian.
Palacios then earned MVP honors at the Bull City Classic after scoring 27 and grabbing 9 rebounds in the title game, a win over Life Center (N.J.).
Palacios is most comfortable facing up, but he's extremely versatile and can be a force on the boards and in the paint once he develops more of a low-post presence and continues to adapt to the American game.
He played this past summer for NY Elite, but was originally spotted while playing with the Columbian Junior National Team by Lisandro Miranda, a scout out of Argentina.
"I saw him in the tournament and I thought he had great potential," Miranda said. "His upside is terrific and he's a great kid as well. He's really a complete player who can do just about everything well."