MJ Rice, Caleb Houstan, Keyonte George and Others Shine at the St. James NIBC Invitational
After 10 days of high-level basketball at the St. James NIBC Invitational there were many takeaways and revelations. From consistent dominance to underrated players entrenching themselves firmly on the radar, multiple players stepped up and made their case for upward mobility in their respective classes.
Here are some of the players who caught our attention.
RELATED: SI99 2021 Basketball Rankings
Gradey Dick, Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, Kan.), SF, 2022
Why He Stood Out: Dick plays with great poise and calculation on the offensive end. He’s got great size and a high basketball IQ, which enables him to impact the game in multiple ways, some of which don’t show up on the stat sheet. Dick led Buffaloes past Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), posting 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in the 73-58 win.
Kennedy Chandler, Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, Kan.), PG, 2021
Why He Stood Out: Chandler capped off his dominant showing at the event with a 26-point outing in a win against No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) on Monday. Chandler continues his firm grip on the top point guard spot in the SI99 with consistent dominant showings against the country’s top teams. His ability to score at all three levels, ignite the offense and make his teammates better is second to none.
Langston Love, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, SG, 2021
Why He Stood Out: Love keeps constant pressure on the defense with his ability to drive into the lane and finish through contact. Love, who is ranked No. 20 overall in the SI99, posted 20 points in a blowout 93-60 win over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). He maximizes his impact on a loaded roster, whether he’s rebounding in abundance or defending.
MJ Rice, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), SG, 2022
Why He Stood Out: Rice capped off his dominant run at the event posting 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a double overtime win over iSchool (Texas). Despite not being at 100 percent coming off an ACL tear less than a year ago, Rice displayed the perfect blend of his trademark brute strength, crafty maneuvering to the basket, efficient perimeter shooting and playmaking ability. His dominance is more impressive when you consider that he has to guard the opposing team’s center most nights since the Warriors don’t have a true post presence in their main rotation.
Keyonte George, iSchool (Texas), SG, 2022
Why He Stood Out: George has a killer mentality on the offensive end and a diverse skill set, which makes him tough to stop. In a loss to Oak Hill Academy, George posted 27 points, five rebounds, three assists, five steals and three blocks. His motor remains in overdrive and he plays with a competitive chip that’s infectious with his teammates.
Ryan Nembhard, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, PG, 2021
Why He Stood Out: Nembhard’s game has grown leaps and bounds in the past year, evident of his play at the NIBC Invitational. He played a masterful floor game all week, running the show for the most talented team in the country. He picked his spots well, kept pressure on the defense by pushing the pace and kept his teammates engaged with his passing ability.
Jayden Epps, Blue Magic (Va.), CG, 2022
Why He Stood Out: Epps continues to prove that he’s in the upper echelon of prospects in the 2022 class, picking up where he left off last summer and fall with a dominant performance at the NIBC Invitational. Epps scored 27 points in a loss to St. Frances (Md.). Epps’ ability to score in bunches and his ability to shred a defense with his playmaking ability is exceptional. It’s time to start talking about Epps as one of the top guards in the 2022 class. Now.
Jalen Duren, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, F, 2022
Why He Stood Out: There’s little you can do to stop a player with Duren’s size (6-foot-10, 220 pounds) and abilities. From back-to-the-basket to face-up to passing to rebounding to efficient shooting from the mid-range, Duren displayed the full arsenal at the NIBC Invitational. He capped off his dominant run with a 15-point, 12-rebound, five-assist outing in a win over Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah).
Caleb Houstan, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, SG, 2021
Why He Stood Out: Houstan is a master of pace and never gets sped up on the offensive end. He’s patient and calculated with his movements, which makes him effective and efficient. Houstan, who is ranked No. 12 overall in the SI99, scored 16 points on just six shot attempts in the Eagles’ 55-51 win over IMG Academy.
Julian Reese, St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.), F, 2021
Why He Stood Out: Reese’s versatility was on full display at the NIBC Invitational, averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks a game. Reese, who is ranked No. 75 overall in the SI99, continues to make a strong case for his upward trajectory in the class.