Covering Prospective Student-Athletes in the SouthEast US and beyond
Calumet Park, IL –
For the 2nd straight year I attended the Illinois X-Citement Winter Hoop Fest hosted by X Walton and his organization. This has definitely become a destination for me during this time. High School events have essentially ended until state tournament time, which for most states is still a few weeks away. X Walton puts together this middle school and younger event and gives many of the top 8th thru 5th grade players a chance to showcase their abilities in front of numerous media people such as myself. This year there were about 5 or 6 national media outlets there. If you were a MS/Elementary school team in the region and didn’t participate in this event, your kids missed a great opportunity to be seen. Hats off to X Walton, his wife Quiana, and their entire staff for a job well done.
The Winners –
5th Grade – St. Louis Eagles – This team is absolutely stacked especially in the backcourt with a number of young players who could eventually turn into prospects as they develop and mature. They have a some nice players inside which allows their guards to really get after it defensively on the perimeter. They didn’t play many close games and essentially breezed thru the division en route to a championship.
6th Grade – Lady Select 360 – This was arguably the toughest division and was the only age group that was split into multiple pools. To win the championship teams had to battle for seeding during their 2 pool games then win 2 or 3 games in the tournament bracket to win the “Chip”. Lady Select 360 out of Iowa was able to win all their pool games then 2 playoff games to go 4-0 for the event. Their team is loaded, with a number of highly skilled and highly talented players. Without question one of my favorite teams to watch during the event.
7th Grade – St. Louis Eagles – Another loaded division, with 4 really good teams, the St. Louis Eagles were the best of the bunch. This division featured a ton of potential prospects but two of the best were the Eagles backcourt duo of Chantrel Clayton and Janyla Bush who are just 6th graders playing up. I wasn’t there for the semis or finals since I had to catch my flight home, but I would have loved to see those games.
8th Grade – The Truth – When you have on of the top prospects at the event surrounded by a well coached group of savvy, high IQ shooters, chances are you are going to fare pretty well and The Truth did just that. Taylor Charles a 6’2 inside/outside threat is a name college coaches and media people should be getting familiar with. Charles can essentially play 3-5, scores in a variety of ways including a smooth stroke from 3. That 3 point shot helped seal the deal in a number of games but it was her teammates who knocked down countless 3s in the title game vs St. Louis Phenoms.
The Insider Exposure All-Tournament Team –
Taylor Charles – The Truth – 6’2 W/F – 2022 – MVP – As mentioned above, versatile player with size. Can play inside or out. Smooth, moves fluidly. Can shoot the 3 and finish down low back to the basket. Uses ball fakes to displace defenders. Going to be a high level prospect.
Camryn Smith – KC Gold – G/F – 2024 – Physically imposing big guard. When she gets the ball going downhill in transition especially with her right hand, mark it down, it’s a bucket. Not many 6th graders can consistently drop 20+ but she was close to 20 every game. As she matures it will be important for her to develop her perimeter skills more but for now she’s unstoppable.
Elise Jaeger – Lady 360 Select – G/F – 2024 – Was routinely impressed with the maturity of her game, she did so many little things well, especially from a player only in 6th grade. She’s already long and somewhat deceptively athletic. She was so versatile that defensively she was guarding the post all the while playing PG on offense. She’s surrounded by some high caliber teammates which made standing out that much more difficult.
Nevaeh Caffey – St. Louis Eagles – G/F – 2025 – Another player who’s game was much more mature than her age was Caffey. The thing that impressed me was her use of ball fakes and her ability to read defense. This ability lead to her almost always taking the best possible shot she could, whether it was a 3, a mid range pull up or getting all the way to the rack.
Chantrel Clayton – St. Louis Eagles – PG – 2024 – Flashy point guard with jets, Clayton really showed off some nice handles and an explosive change of speed/direction. She shot the ball well in some games and defensively was active on the ball and off which lead to a bunch of steals.
Xamiya Walton – IL X-Citement – CG – 2024 – Crafty guard who has some high level experience for such a young player. Not afraid to make the big play, “My My” had a monster game in the 6th grade semifinals dropping 29 points and almost leading her team to huge comeback that fell a few FTs short after trailing by almost 20 in the 2nd half.
Players to Keep an Eye On –
Jenica Raine Lewis – Lady 360 Select – CG – 2026 – One of only a small handful of 2026 players at the event, Lewis’s age was not a factor in her ability to produce playing up 2 grade levels. Physically she wasn’t tiny compared to her teammates and she moved very fluidly. She has a nice shot which she can stroke consistently from 3 point range. Her IQ is well advanced as is her entire game. Her awareness off the ball defensively was as impressive as her ability to guard on the ball.
Vanessa Bickford – Lady 360 Select – SG – 2024 – Like most of her 360 teammates, Bickford has nice size and basketball build for someone her age. She shoots the ball well and with good form. Her ability to get to the rim and draw fouls was impressive. She can really score the ball when she’s on.
Sophia Shannon – Lady 360 Select – SG – 2024 – Another well built lanky athlete, Shannon finished fluidly around the basket on drives and putbacks. Has guard skills in a forward body. Good footwork and fundamentals, which seemed on par with the rest of her teammates.
Skylar Jones – PowerHouse – SG – 2023 – Awesome left handed athlete that I’ve had the pleasure of watching since last year at this event. The 3 or 4 events I’ve seen Skylar at she’s been impressive. Since last winter she’s grown significantly and her game has become more consistent.
Lilly Montavlo – PowerHouse – PG – 2023 – Lilly had some of the best handles at the event and she plays with a poise and savvy well beyond her years. She’s not ultra athletic but more than makes up for that, with a great understanding of the game and how to beat people off the bounce.
Bria Brown – South Bend Elite – SG – 2022 – Bria has a quick release on her shot and can get it off with just a small amount of room. Had some nice finishes especially in their final game on Sunday when she seemed to be more aggressive and assertive in her willingness to attack the basket.
Kiyiko Proctor – St. Louis Eagles – PG – 2025 – In all truthfulness I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the 2025 division, because these young ladies are just so young. That said I really enjoyed watching the Eagles 5th grade team. This group in general was so talented they whopped everyone in their division and could have done well in the 6th grade division. Proctor is a player I’ve heard about but haven’t had a chance to watch in the past. She’s a feisty on ball defender and her ability defensively leads to lots of easy baskets and assists. She’s got good handles for a player her age and can shot the ball from 3 with some consistency.
Kali Whitfield – St. Louis Eagles – PG – 2025 – Another special player from the Eagles, she’s got handles and skills to compliment Proctor nicely in the backcourt. The duo plays nicely off of each other and both are very very good. I certainly look forward to watching these 2 grow and develop over the next few years. Has the potential to be a very big time player.
Janyla Bush – St. Louis Eagles – PG – 2024 – Hard to believe Nyla is only in the 6th grade. I feel like I’ve known her forever. She’s an athletic guard with the ball on a string. She can shoot the rock and her game is elite in almost every aspect.
Jailah Pelly – St. Louis Eagles – SG – 2023 – Great athlete with a frame that was just built for basketball. She’s long and lanky, built for pressing and an uptempo game. Her perimeter game is still somewhat raw, but she’s got the ability to knock down the 3 ball and her handles especially in transition are more than adequate.
Arrielle Lawrence – St. Louis Phenoms – F – 2024 – One of a few players that have only recently started playing organized basketball, her upside was apparent without that knowledge. She’s got amazing athleticism in a 5’9-5’10 frame. Although she’s still really raw she finished well around the basket and her ability to just out physical smaller less athletic players was obvious.
Mackenzie Wilson – St. Louis Phenoms – PG – 2022 – Really strong athletic PG, she was one of the top prospects in the Phenom organization. Wilson was really scrappy and physically tough, this was the signature of all the Phenom teams. They just punked the teams they faced, beating them up and taking the ball from them. Wilson was the most skilled of the bunch.
Trinniti Mathews – St. Louis Phenoms – F – 2022 – I’ve known Trinniti since last summer and she just keeps getting better. While she’s somewhat of an unassuming blue collar type player, she also has a scorers mentality, finding a way to produce each game.
Faith Feuerbach – The Truth – G/F – 2022 – Great size and feel for the game. Wiry long wing guard with a smooth athletic game. Can really stroke the 3 ball. Fun player to watch, heady and a good basketball IQ. All the tools to make an easy transition to HS.
Angelina Smith – IL X-Citement – F – 2024 – Without question one of my favorite players to watch, Smith was the always the toughest, most physical player on the floor for her IL X-Citement team. She did all the blue collar things to help her team win. She was a high motor rebounder which also led to a number of putbacks and easy baskets around the rim as well as quite a few free throws. Her team really missed her in the semi-finals vs KC Gold, a game they got down early because of physical toughness. Had they had Smith I think it’s unlikely they would have lost that one.
Lanyra McGill – IL X-Citement – Post – 2024 – The improvements made by some players in a single year is impressive. McGill is one of those players. She’s slimmed down and is starting to learn how to score down low. She’s moving better and catching the ball. She’s starting to go after rebounds and she’s close to or finishing most putbacks. At 6’3 her development has a long way to go, but she’s come so far in just a year, it’s exciting to think of how good she will eventually be if she stays focused.
Talia Harris – IL X-Citement – PG – 2024 – Ty Harris’s little sister, although someday soon, we maybe calling Ty, Talia Harris’s older sister. Talia is well advanced for her age, but that certainly shouldn’t be surprising. She’s got all the physical tools and hopefully she continues to grow and develop. Her game is ambidextrous, although she’s worked on being more of a lefty at this point. The fact that she’s worked on that in of itself is impressive. She’s humble on the court, a true PG, willing to make other players better than try to shine on her own. If I was a player I know I’d want to play with players like Talia, someone who doesn’t need the accolades and makes me better.
Joirdyn Smith – IL X-Citement – CG – 2024 – A scoring guard with a competitiveness you don’t see too often in players this age. Smith is a feisty defender and a more than capable scorer. She finished well in transition making some really tough baskets. Her game extends to 3 point range and her shot which is still a little bit raw in terms of form, is a quick release and goes in consistently.
Kennise Etienne – IL X-Citement – CG – 2023 – Another player who continues to improve at a nice rate is Kennise Etienne. She’s a shifty guard with nice handles, but doesn’t play around and uses those handles to attack the basket. She’s a nice scorer and a willing passer. Definitely moved up this weekend in regards to her “rating” in Insider Exposure recruiting.
Taylor Curry – IL X-Citement – SG – 2023 – Taylor has grown physically and her game is growing too. She didn’t shoot it great in the games I watched but she’s got a smooth stroke and I can imagine normally shoots it well. She’s got a nice lean athletic frame and her handles are definitely above average. She’s great in uptempo basketball and she’s an active defender.
Ayanna Jackson – IL X-Citement – F – 2023 – A new player to me, Jackson is a lanky athlete, who is really aggressive on the boards which leads to plenty of easy baskets and transition opportunities. She displayed nice footwork and her upside especially if she grows or develops a perimeter game is tremendous.