RALEIGH, N.C. – The Holiday Invitational has been a staple of North Carolina’s renowned basketball culture over the past 46 years. When Christmas Day comes to an end, the vibes of “there’s still one more present left” reverberate around the city: that present being the annual 4-day tournament held at Broughton High School’s Holliday Gymnasium.
In its second year with the John Wall Family Foundation as the name sponsor, the Holiday Invitational set an all-time record for attendance.
When looking at the names in the record books, it’s hard not to find big-shot names that pop out: Devin Booker, Jaylen Brown, De’Aaron Fox, Jerry Stackhouse, Harry Giles, Brandon Ingram, Shawn Bradley, Thon Maker, Rajon Rondo, Dennis Smith Jr., Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, DeAndre Ayton, Penny Hardaway and the entire 2017 North Carolina NCAA national champions’ starting five.
For many, the Holiday Invitational is where basketball players become stars. In 2013, Smith Jr. went from a name only known inside Fayetteville city limits to a nationwide household name after then-N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried gave him his first high-major offer on the court after a game.
For others, it’s a stage to prove the hype is real: Coby White etched his name amongst the immortalized in the record books and others like Justin McKoy saw their name blip onto the nationwide hoops radar for the first time.
Here are the top performers from this year’s tournament.
Vernon Carey Jr., 6-10, PF, University School (Fla.)
The top-ranked junior in the country didn’t disappoint in his second appearance at the Holiday Invitational, leading his school to a championship in the stacked T.J. Warren bracket. At 245 lbs., Carey Jr. out-muscled the competition with his back to the basket but also knew when to step out and shoot his more than capable outside shot. At times, the game almost looked effortless as he scored 27 points per game on just 11.7 field goal attempts per contest.
“When he wants to get into the post, he’s almost un-guardable right now,” University School Adrian Sosa said. “With his size and finesse and skillset, I think the best thing he has is the awareness of when to go inside and when to come out … tie game situation, he gives you a look like ‘I know.’”
A section of the crowd received two thumbs up from North Carolina coach Roy Williams after it chanted “UNC! UNC! UNC!” after Carey Jr. threw down a dunk in the championship game.
Coby White, 6-5, G, Greenfield School (N.C.)
Coby White was what the customers paid to see as he smashed Donald Williams’ 27-year scoring record by dropping 41 in the David West bracket championship game, putting him at 39.7 points per game for the week. White showed why he’s one of the best—arguably the best—scorer in the country. He created opportunities for himself to score at all three levels and made an effort to get to the line when his shot wasn’t dropping.
“I’ve known Coby since he was a youngin’ and since day one it was obvious there was something special about him on and off the court,” said Team Wall director and White’s mentor Kendrick Williams. “When he was to put on a platform to shine at John’s tournament, there was never a doubt in my mind he’d make the most of it.
He continued: “His ability to create space and score on all three levels is uncanny. It’s rare we see young scorers with as pure and developed of a game as Coby.”
Despite a 90-80 loss in the title game, the crowd’s largest cheers came when he capped off a 3-point play with a free throw that broke the record.
White is committed to North Carolina.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAMonline_HS) December 29, 2017
Justin McKoy, 6-8, W, Panther Creek (N.C.)
Panther Creek was thoroughly outmatched as it lost each of its three games, but it was the play of McKoy that made the Catamounts entertaining to watch. In his team’s first game against University School, McKoy cut backdoor and flushed down a two-handed slam in the game’s opening possesion en route to 28 points.
Despite not racking up a ton of assists, McKoy encouraged ball movement that made an undersized Panther Creek squad tough to guard.
“What I’m most proud of is how he keeps his guys involved,” Panther Creek coach Shawan Robinson said. “Great players make their teammates around them better and (McKoy) did that tonight and has all season.”
McKoy finished the tournament with 24 points—48.6 percent of his team’s points—and eight rebounds per game. Expect McKoy, who currently holds just four mid-major offers, to become a household name with Team CP3 on the EYBL circuit this summer.
Jairus Hamilton, 6-8, SF, Cannon School (N.C.)
Hamilton gave the opposition in the T.J. Warren bracket fits with his blend of size, athleticism and skill. An elite scorer at all three levels, even competition like IMG Academy (Fla.) had no answer for Hamilton.
Playing with another elite scorer in Qon Murphy, Hamilton showed stellar instincts and game awareness.
“I see a lot of players in the NBA and watching them play, it’s not really like taking turns, it’s really finding ways to work off each other,” Hamilton said. “When I get double-teamed, it’s kicking it out … for a wide open 3. When (Murphy) drives and someone steps, it’s dropping down and having it fed to me.”
Hamilton finished the week with 26 points per game on 68 percent shooting from the field and committed to Boston College after the tournament.
Qon Murphy, 6-4, SG, Cannon School (N.C.)
Murphy was possibly the most efficient scoring guard in the tournament for the second straight year as he dropped 26 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and from behind the arc. Like Hamilton, Murphy has exceptional basketball IQ, particularly on offense.
“I’m smart and know a lot about the game. I see plays before they happen and I’ll throw it to one place knowing that if I can get it to that spot that it’ll be easy for my teammate to make a play,” Murphy said. “I’ll make plays for myself and others from the two-guard position, but I can control the game from a mental aspect from the one, too.”
With just five offers, Murphy was one of the most under the radar players of the entire tournament. With Cannon School also playing in the Chick-Fil-A Classic over the holidays, expect Murphy’s stock to skyrocket.
Trey Doomes, 6-3, G, University School (Fla.)
It’s fitting that Doomes is committed to play for the West Virginia Mountaineers, because this high-flyer can reach crazy altitudes. Doomes gets to the rim with ease and being surrounded by two NCAA Division-I commits and five-star recruits, he knows when to pick his time to go. With a 6-7 wingspan, Doomes can defend multiple positions as well.
“Athletically, he’s at another level. He finishes everything right-handed but shoots it lefty,” Sosa said. “He gets to the rim and finishes through contact.”
“I can do everything. I get my teammates involved, rebound, push the ball and am a leader as a senior guard,” Doomes said. “I feel like my playing style will fit well with West Virginia.”
Doomes stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds per game.
Jarren McAllister, 6-3, SG, Heritage (N.C.)
The Virginia Tech commit was one of the top players in last year’s Holiday Invitational and his performance carried over into 2017. McAllister showed he was still a true bucket thanks to his outlandish athleticism–he scored 24 points per 36 minutes on 54 percent shooting from the field.
The biggest part of his game that improved, however, was his defense. For a player that can score at such an elite level, the pride he takes in man-to-man is unmatched.
“I really think my defense is what’s unique because everybody can score. I just want to be able to stop their main player and work hard on defense so I can provide energy on both ends of the court,” McAllister said. “At Virginia Tech, they like to run the floor and with my athleticism I can help them be more aggressive on defense and get the stops they need to keep going up and down the floor.”
In Heritage’s final game, McAllister held the second-leading scorer of the tournament up to that point, Justin McKoy, to just 11 points and pressured him into four turnovers.
“He has a tireless work ethic that matches his athleticism and ability,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said. “When you combine those two factors together, it does wonders for a player like him … he’s tough as nails and a Buzz Williams guy through and through.”
Kyree Walker, 6-5, W, Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.)
Walker fell just short of helping the Bruins win their second-straight Holiday Invitational championship, but he put on a show on and off the court and quickly became a fan favorite. His windmill dunk in the T.J. Warren bracket semifinals, that had fans regretting they left early, was the highlight of the entire tournament.
Walker carried Hillcrest Prep on his back, scoring 22 points per game against the likes of University School, IMG Academy and Heritage–one of the top 4A public schools in North Carolina.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAMonline_HS) December 29, 2017
Jalen LecQue, 6-4, G, Christ School (N.C.)
“Baby Westbrook” lived up to his named as LecQue averaged 20 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting from the field. LecQue wasn’t on fire from outside, but he showed poise and confidence regardless as he focused on his mid-range game, getting to the rim–his dunks were electrifying–and earning trips to the foul line. Though his assist numbers don’t jump off the page, LecQue was the jump starter to the Greenies’ offense both in transition and in a half-court setting.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAMonline_HS) December 30, 2017
Jaylen Hoard, 6-8, F, Wesleyan Christian (N.C.)
Hoard showed off his versatility at this year’s Holiday Invitational, sliding into the center slot–not his true position–and averaging 30 points per 36 minutes while shooting 73 percent from the field.
Playing alongside the best starting five in North Carolina, Hoard was an elite passer at his position, drawing in opposing defenses and finding ways to hit his open teammates and he crashed the boards with tenacity.
Hoard is committed to play at Wake Forest.
Marque Maultsby, 6-3, PG, Garner (N.C.)
Maultsby is a household name in the 919, but despite his success at Garner, he’s yet to receive attention on a more national stage.
After a second-straight strong showing in the Holiday Invitational, expect that to change. Maultsby earned all-tournament team honors after averaging 15 points and 3 steals per game for the Trojans. There was little question that Maultsby was the best point guard defender in the tournament.
Playing in Garner’s up-tempo offense, Maultsby is ready for the speed of the college level. Currently holding just one offer from Saint Augustine’s, expect that interest to rise as Garner pushes for one of the top seeds in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
Maultsby earned a preferred walk-on offer from North Carolina after the David West bracket championship game.
Greg Gantt, 6-7, F, Trinity Christian (N.C.)
The scouts and fans bought tickets to see Duke commit Joey Baker, but Greg Gantt was the Crusader that rose to the occasion at the Holiday Invitational. He was a double-double machine and used his uber athleticism to hustle on both ends of the floor. On offense, he was able to score from all three levels and kept opposing defenses on their toes. It was a lackluster showing for Trinity Christian, but Gantt was rewarded with an all-tournament team appearance.
DonQuez Davis, 5-11, PG, Greene Central (N.C.)
The most inspiring story of the tournament was small-town Greene Central’s emotional run to its first-ever Holiday Invitational victory and the grit of Davis contributed to that.
Greene Central coach Charles Harris was enamored with Davis always asking to play man-to-man on each opposing team’s best player, regardless of their size; however, he noted that it’s not an unusual request for him.
Davis scored 16 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field and 46 percent from 3 with 2.5 steals per contest in the Rams’ final two games.
“I feel like I’m the leader of the team and whoever the best player is, I feel like I have to stop them, I have to control the game,” Davis said. “I want to bring energy every time I step on the court.
He continued: “We come from a small town. We always have something and people to play for.”
Davis is currently being recruited by Division-II and JUCO programs in North Carolina.
Jayden Gardner, 6-8, PF, Heritage (N.C.)
Like his teammate, McAllister, Gardner also strung together back-to-back all-tournament performances for the Huskies. The East Carolina commit (for now) added a smooth mid-range shot to his game that made him a far more efficient scorer. Despite not being as tall as some Division-I power forwards, Gardner’s relentlessness on the glass–especially against high competition–should place him amongst the nation’s top freshmen rebounders in college next year.
“I think (Jayden’s mid-range game) really added another dimension that’ll translate to the next level,” Brill said. “In the paint, he has so many moves, fakes, and has the patience to execute them. That doesn’t factor in how strong he is. He’s a nightmare to guard.”
Gardner is the first player in school history to amass over 1,000 points and rebounds. He finished the Holiday Invitational averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds and just over 2 stocks per game on 57 percent shooting from the field.
Elijah McCadden, 6-4, SG, Greenfield School (N.C.)
Coby White stole the show and put butts in seats at the Holiday Invitational, but Greenfield School wouldn’t have made the David West bracket championship game if not for the play of Elijah McCadden.
McCadden is listed as a shooting guard, but has the mentality of a point guard on offense, displaying exceptional court vision when driving to the rim to dish it off to open players outside or in the post. On defense, he had the length and work ethic to guard three positions.
McCadden stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, 6 assists and 9 rebounds per game and made the David West all-tournament team.
Jalen Finch, 6-2, G, Broughton (N.C.)
Maybe it was the rambunctious home crowd, maybe it was the competition. Nonetheless, Finch rose to the occasion as he dropped 22 points per game on an astounding 66 percent shooting performance from the field. He got the job done on defense, holding YouTube star Julian Newman 12 points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field and top recruit Jalen LecQue to 15 points and pressuring him into five turnovers.
“We have been able to rely on him for production from anywhere,” Broughton manager Trey Walker said. “His unselfish attitude on the court really helps elevate the entire team’s game and he makes the other four players on the court better when he’s out there.”
Jahmius Ramsey, 6-4, G, IMG Academy (Fla.)
A shorthanded IMG Academy squad struggled with consistency at the Holiday Invitational, but Ramsey’s consistency on the offensive end was a bright spot for the Ascenders as he scored 22 points per game on a blazing 66 percent shooting from the field 42 percent from 3.
His teammates struggled to knock down shots at times, but Ramsey spurred offensive movement with his off-ball movement and high-IQ passing decisions.
Scottie Barnes, 6-8, G, University School
Outside of a 8-for-12 shooting performance against Panther Creek, Barnes had a tough time making his shot drop at the Holiday Invitational, but he was one of the tournament’s most intriguing players.
Barnes is listed as a small forward by Rivals, but his coach declared that he’s a point guard. Based on how Barnes plays, it’s a fitting description. At 6-8 with a lengthy wingspan, Barnes has potential to grow into the tall ball handler archetype that has Ben Simmons in rookie of the year conversation and Giannis Antetokounmpo pushing for most valuable player.
“His ability to defend 1 through 5, rebound and most importantly, his passing ability,” Sosa said. “He’s very unselfish and you don’t see that often in a five-star.”
Like the two players listed above, Barnes pushes the tempo when he has the ball, defends with tenacity and can see the entire court.