The nation’s independent schools face a plethora of challenges. Many times, public schools within the state association will refuse to play them, resulting in programs such as Findlay Prep playing 90% of their games against teams outside of Nevada, despite being located just outside of Vegas. Travel is both expensive and chaotic playing games all over the country, but The Grind Session is here to provide a national platform for the nation’s top independent teams.
With events in twenty cities throughout the country, The Grind Session pegs top players such as Josh Jackson, De’Andre Ayton, Thon Maker, and Miles Bridges against each other throughout the year. Rivalries are both made and settled, while also giving fans an opportunity to see some of the best high school basketball players in the USA without leaving their home turf. The Houston stop just was just another example of this, as fans, scouts, and college coaches all saw throughout the eight game slate in South Houston at Victory Prep.
Here are a few of the players who stood out from the Houston leg of The Grind Session:
DeAndre Ayton, 7-0, PF/C, Hillcrest Prep (AZ), 2017
The top player in the class of 2017 may have lost his running mate in Marvin Bagley due to transfer, but that didn’t stop him from showing out in Houston. A simply ridiculously fluid 7-footer, Ayton showed the type of inside/out game that made him the consensus top dog in the class. He showed off a soft jump hook, was exceptional running the floor, and hit countless jumpers out to the three point line facing up. While the KG comparisons may be a bit premature right now, the 36 and 14 that he put up certainly got the conversation going.
Onuralp Bitim, 6-5, SG, Huntington Prep (WV), 2017
A heralded overseas prospect, Bitim was a lade addition to this year’s Huntington Prep squad that looks like a whole new group than when we saw them against Oak Hill last month. At 6-foot-5, he showed off crazy court vision, had no problem creating his own shot, and proved that he could get up well above the rim on finishes. Onuralp’s high IQ and super skill level should make him one of the more highly sought after 2-guards in the class of 2017.
Curtis Jones, 6-3, PG/SG, Huntington Prep (WV), 2016
This was a totally different Curtis Jones than we saw versus Oak Hill, as he made it a point to let all onlookers know how serious of a prospect he is. “CuJO” shot the lights out from beyond the arc, was unstoppable going at the rack with his right hand, and seemingly got wherever he wanted on the court. Finishing up the night with 33 points and 5 dimes, Jones showed why Indiana fans are so excited to get him to Bloomington.
JJ Caldwell, 5-11, PG, SATCH (TX), 2016
One of the better pure point guards in the country, JJ Caldwell made it a point to get absolutely everyone the pill during SATCH’s upset victory over Hillcrest. With a build similar to that of Kyle Lowry, Caldwell busted out a great change of pace and was incredibly shifty attacking the rim. Not coincidentally, the Texas A&M recruit was named MVP after posting 14 points, 12 dimes, and 6 boards against Hillcrest.
Miles Bridges, 6-6, SF, Huntington Prep (WV), 2016
One of the better small forwards in the country, Miles Bridges came out on top of his matchup with top-5 junior Jarred Vanderbilt. The powerful lefty crushed the rim with his dunks, finished at the rim with both hands, and was a physically punishing defender. Bridges’ hard nosed style of play will allow him to fit in perfectly in East Lansing.
Jachai Taylor, 6-5, SF, Planet Athlete (AZ), 2016
A product of Waukegon, Illinois, Jachai Taylor made the move across the country for a post grad year and it has certainly paid off. Taylor showed off his crazy bounce on a number of dunks, has an explosive first step, and had no problem knocking down threes when left open. Still on the board, Taylor should have a chance to blow up for the late signing period.
Justin Whitfield, 6-5, SF, SATCH (TX), 2017
Another addition to the SATCH program, Justin Whitfield brought the type of diverse game that Hillcrest didn’t know how to match. He hit open three pointers, showed off nice court vision, and showed the ability to lock down on multiple positions. Things are just getting started in the recruiting process for Whitfield, who has heard from programs such as Rice, Stanford, and Tulsa.