In its second season, the adidas Gaunlet series held its championship session last week, where 32 of its top 17U sponsored youth travel teams converged in Siwanee (Georgia) to compete for the league crown while D1 college coaches evaluated from the sidelines.
While there were many players that raised eyebrows throughout the three-day showcase, no one left the Peach State with a buzz in the manner that Brooklyn guard Rawle Alkins did after leading his NY Rens team to the U17 Gold division championship with a 80-66 victory over the Atlanta Celtics.
The 6-5 rising senior, who had dominated the Gaunlet series during its two regular season sessions which included averaging a weekend-best 29.3 points in the first sesh, had one of the best performances in the championship game of the Gaunlet Finale that any prospect has had so far this summer.
Alkins, who led NYC powerhouse Christ the King Regional HS to three consecutive city titles during the past three years, put up a 34-point outing in the chip, including sinking five jumpers from behind the arc.
It was in the first half where most of his work came. While obviously a team effort, at times it was the Alkins vs Atlanta Celtics show — as his total points almost matched his opponents’ entire team roster total during many occasions throughout the game.
For instance, with three minutes to go in the first half the Celtics team had 22 points while Alkins alone already had accumulated 19 of his own. At halftime, the Celtics had 30 points while the NYC stud had 25 himself.
Due to having played some varsity games as an eighth grader in Florida, Alkins will be transferring for his senior year to a prep school to be determined in order to prevent the risk of being declared ineligible this fall, per NY state association rules.
Easily the best guard to come out of New York since Lance Stephenson in 2009, Alkins already possesses an NBA-ready physique with his broad shoulders and seemed to have little trouble getting to the basket whenever he pleased. An impressive shooter from the perimeter, he has the typical gritty and elusive Brooklyn ball handles in his repertoire. All five of his three-pointers in the title game came in the first half and he also did a great job dragging his defenders with him to the basket and drawing contact to get to the free throw line.
Another player that turned heads was Dennis Smith Jr., thanks to this explosive finishes at the rim, whose footage made its way around the web over the weekend. His crafty ball handling skills puts him one (or even two) steps ahead of his opponents when attacking the hole off the dribble. Armed with a quick first step as well as a quick bounce off the floor, there wasn’t much opposing guards could do to contain Smith from having his way (as you can see in the video below). But he isn’t all just flashy moves to the basket. The 6-1 guard from Fayetteville (NC) led the entire league in assists, dishing out 6.9 dimes per game to go along with 16.2 points and 4.8 rebounds.
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Among the other rising seniors that impressed was Frank Jackson, a 6-4 guard at Utah’s powerhouse Lone Peak, who ultimately finished the Gaunlet series with a league’s third-best 24.0 points per game. Jackson demonstrated the ability to play at a control pace throughout and has a high IQ for his age. He averaged 26 points in his two games in Georgia last week.
It should be noted that Jacob Young of Howard Elite led the circuit in scoring this summer with 27.5 ppg but did not participate in the Finale since his team wasn’t among the 16 that qualified.
In the 16U bracket, the New Orleans Elite took home the trophy after going a perfect 5-0. It was a well-balanced squad that saw guard Davontaveon Martin lead the way after averaging 15 points and 4.2 rebounds, while 6-6 wing Devin Gilmore added 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. Lamont Berzat, a 5-6 point guard, chipped in 13.2 points, including 18 points and 3 steals in the title game against the NY Rens. Meanwhile, junior guard Kevin Norman posted a team-high 22 points in the championship victory. In total, five players reached double-digit points for the Louisiana club team.