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Hoophall Classic: Five Things We Learned

Duke will welcome one of the country's youngest, most talented frontcourts next season.

After five days of mind-boggling individual performances at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, multiple storylines and realizations have emerged.

From the race for the top sophomore in the country intensifying to why Duke shouldn’t miss a beat with its high-low post dominance next season, here are five of the most important takeaways from Blake Arena.

RELATED: Top Five Standouts at Hoophall

Top Sophomore is a Competitive Race

While the race for SI All-American Player of the Year intensifies as we come down the homestretch of the high school basketball season, the conversation around top dog among underclassmen has begun to heat up as well, specifically in the 2024 class.

Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) scoring guard Ian Jackson put on a show in an 80-41 win over De La Salle (Chicago) on Sunday.

Jackson showed the full range of his offensive repertoire, scoring in every way imaginable and displaying elite athleticism, quickness and agility to get to the rim and finish with ferocious dunks in route to posting 30 points, four rebounds and four assists in a win.

Gill St. Bernard’s wing Naasir Cunningham was equally impressive against Dereck Lively, the top player in the SI99, posting 23 points and 10 rebounds in a win.

Cunningham is widely regarded as the top player in the class, while Jackson is a consensus top five prospect. Both players are superior athletes with great length and efficient three-level scoring ability. 

Other top players in the class like Derik Queen, Isaiah Elohim, Tre Johnson and Jahki Howard will also challenge for the top spot, and in the end, the spring and summer shoe circuit leagues will have the final say on who ultimately ends up No. 1, but both Cunningham and Jackson made strong cases to set the stage for a spirited debate.

Dereck Lively

Dereck Lively has the ability to dominate both ends of the floor.

The High-Low Post Action for Duke Will be Tough Next Year

One of the keys to Duke’s dominance on the offensive end is that the Blue Devils manage 40 points a game in the paint this season, thanks in large part to the duo of Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero. Though both bigs are likely gone next season, new head coach Jon Scheyer will have the benefit of one of the most talented young frontcourts in the country when he welcomes Wilbraham (Mass.) & Monson center Kyle Filipowski and Westtown School (West Chester, Penn.) center Dereck Lively.

Both bigs displayed the special aspects of their games at the Hoophall and why the Lively-Filipowski high-low will be a devastating hurdle for the ACC next season.

Both can make you pay from the perimeter and should complement each other well offensively.

Lively is the ultimate finisher with great hands and anticipation as a rebounder. He outworks bigs in the paint and doubles as the best shot blocker in high school basketball. Lively’s best performance at the Hoophall Classic was a 22-point, 20-rebound, six-block outing against Vertical Academy (Charlotte, N.C.). 

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Fillipowski thrives as a playmaker with great vision as a passer and the ability to take his man off the dribble from the perimeter as well as knock down shots consistently from the perimeter and the mid-range, evident in him posting 28 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two steals in a win on Monday.

The best part?

Both players are extremely unselfish and are already attune with how playing off each other’s strengths could make them both unstoppable next season in Durham.

Judah Mintz’s Stock Continues to Rise

The Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) guard has been a hot commodity ever since he decommitted from Pittsburgh in November, but his play over the last two months has made his stock soar even further.

Mintz initially picked the Panthers over Florida, Georgetown, LSU and Maryland, among many others.

Now, Florida, Tennessee, Xavier, Vanderbilt, DePaul, Wake Forest and Kansas are all involved for what will undoubtedly be one of the most hotly contested recruitments over the next couple of months.

His ability to efficiently score from all three levels, most dominantly in the mid-range, coupled with his unrelenting motor makes him one of the most dangerous scorers in the class.

For now, he has one official visit set up to Xavier on Jan. 25, but if Mintz lets his recruitment linger expect more and more heavyweights to be all in for the 6’2” guard.

Buy Stock in Dillon Mitchell

The 6’7” wing currently checks in at No. 22 overall in the SI99, but his play this season is warranting his ascension into the top 15 and potentially beyond. Mitchell, arguably, has the best high-wire act in high school basketball with multiple Sportscenter-esque dunks this season, including catching his own miss off the backboard and throwing down a ferocious put-back slam at the Hoophall on Monday.

Still, it’s his elite driving ability, playmaking ability and overall awareness on both ends of the floor that has translated into dominance on a Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad stocked full of fellow SI99 prospects.

Mitchell, a Texas signee, is long, super agile and quick off his feet, which, coupled with his intense motor spells doom for the opposition.

The GEICO Nationals Race is Wide Open

Ask five people who their pick is to cut down the nets at GEICO Nationals this season and you’ll undoubtedly get an extended pause before they resort to a frantic scratching of their head.

The reality is there’s no clear-cut favorite to win the national title this year, which will undoubtedly make for a wild four-day stretch in early April.

Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, Kan.) currently holds down the top spot in the SB Live/SI Power 25 and their only loss came to No. 4 Montverde (Fla.) Academy who has taken two Ls to No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.).

Duncanville (Texas) sits at No. 3 but will have to fight its own state association rules to be able to compete at GEICO.

Link Academy (Branson, Mo.) has steadily climbed the rankings and now sits at No. 5, but doesn’t play in the NIBC, hands down the most grueling high school basketball league in the country with IMG, Montverde, Sunrise, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and other powerhouses.

Expect at least half of the seeds in this year’s field to come from the NIBC, but with talent-laden squads like Link, Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Roselle (N.J.) Catholic proving to be fully capable contenders expect the unexpected.