This past weekend, USA Basketball held their annual October mini-camp for current high school basketball players attempting to qualify for a spot on Junior Team USA next summer. The event for high-level high schoolers took place from Friday, October 6 through Sunday, October 8, with 84 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed student-athletes in attendance.
Two of those 84 were consensus five-star UNC commits Ian Jackson and Drake Powell. For the high school class of 2024, Jackson and Powell are respectively ranked #9 and #10 in the On3 Industry Average, as well as #10 and #4 in the 247Sports Composite player rankings.
Based on reports from the event, those top 10 rankings are well-deserved for each future Tar Heel. On3’s Jamie Shaw was in Colorado Springs to witness the event and provide his thoughts following each day of camp, plus the weekend as a whole. According to Shaw, both Jackson and Powell were among the top performers in a group of exclusively highly-rated prospects. Shaw ranked Jackson the #6 performer of the camp, while he had Powell at #9.
#6 and #9... nice.
To provide more context to these rankings, let’s dig into Shaw’s thoughts on each player’s performance:
Ian Jackson, the 6’5” shooting guard from the Bronx, profiles as an athletic, free-flowing bucket-getter and those traits were certainly on display at this camp. Jackson spent the weekend showing off his ability to fill up the cup against top competition. Here’s some of what Shaw had to say:
Ian Jackson is at his best when they simply go out and play basketball. This weekend, they limited the sets and the reads, threw in a couple of quick hitters, and allowed the players to play off instinct. Jackson shined. He was able to get to his spots at each level and confidently knocked down jump shots.
Free-flowing? Check. Bucket-getting? Check.
Coach Hubert Davis’ system emphasizes freedom of movement and hitting jump-shots, both points that seem to line up well with Jackson’s game. After the past few seasons, Tar Heel fans are well aware of the importance of hitting three-point shots. If Jackson can continue to build on an already strong jump-shot at multiple levels, he will be a massively productive piece in our offense.
So we’ve got free-flowing and bucket-getting, but didn’t I say something about athletic? Let’s see if Shaw mentioned anything like that...
He finished what might have been the dunk of the weekend, as he dunked on a late-rotating big, and he showed consistent three-point range and form.
LIke we discussed above, three-point shooting is crucial and it’s great to hear that is one of Jackson’s strengths. But, more importantly, dunk of the weekend? I’m going to have to see that.
Oh yeah. Athletic? Check and a half.
Elsewhere in Shaw’s comments about the event, he highlighted Jackson’s ever-present smile and willingness to take on defensive challenges. I know it was only a mini-camp, but those are two pieces of an attitude that any Carolina fan can appreciate.
Speaking of defense...
Drake Powell, the 6’6” wing from just down the road in Pittsboro, has gained quite the reputation in recruiting circles as a defensive stopper. If Shaw’s reports are to be believed, that characterization is only going to grow following Team USA camp.
Drake Powell is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He is capable of guarding on the ball or off the ball and simply cutting off angles for his man and making things very uncomfortable. He has a strong frame with great length. Powell is also a quiet competitor, going hard every possession and making winning plays.
Powell’s overall effect on the game is undeniable. His ability to shut his man down stands out in this setting.
As with Jackson, competitiveness and character appear abundant in Powell’s game. The best and most athletic basketball players are often excused on the defensive end, as they draw so much attention for driving their team’s offense. So, when a five-star recruit is putting in the work on both sides of the court, I take it as a positive indicator of their willingness to grow and compete. When they’re shutting down their highest-rated peers on a regular basis? Well, that’s a sign that we potentially (potentially!) have a Leaky Black-level defender on our hands.
While Powell is not as refined as Jackson as a scorer, he still showed a lot to like on offense over the three-day camp.
On Day 1, Shaw praised Powell’s aggressiveness and playmaking:
With the ball in his hands, he consistently touched the paint. While the play was not always executed properly, the reads were true. During station work, the jump shot looked confident, and in a gym where there were a lot of misses on the day...
On Day 3, Shaw highlighted Powell’s work in transition:
Powell has gotten his offense mostly in transition. He has made plays, either on defense or on the boards, and been able to push the breakto [sic] push pressure on the rim.
And boy, oh boy, when Drake Powell pushes the break, it’s sick:
That’s the type of transition playmaking that’ll make nostalgists of the Roy-era tear up a bit.
Throughout the rest of his comments on Powell, Shaw praised the Northwood High School wing’s silky elbow jumper, as well as his stickiness as both a defender and glue guy.
While this is just one weekend camp, both Ian Jackson and Drake Powell backed up their lofty recruiting rankings with a whole fireworks display of flashes against the best high school talent in the country.
Elliot Cadeau has soaked up most of the UNC Basketball recruiting hype this year, and for good reason. As a star in the ‘23 class, Cadeau linking up with RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, and Co. has shined quite the spotlight on the Tar Heels’ present. However, with 2024 just around the corner, it looks like Ian Jackson and Drake Powell are the stars that will make for a very bright future.