I was in Chicago last night to check out Denard Bros, a new 17U program run by Eddie and Aubery Denard, two staples in the Chicago basketball community. It was one of the more high-energy AAU practices I’ve been to recently. A few of the players were out of town for break, so it was a combination of drill work and some 3-on-3, but here are the evaluations on the kids who were there.
Ali Mbaye (6’7 PF, De La Salle)
Mbaye may be still developing, but he showed a lot of signs of heading in the right direction of being a presence on both ends. Listed at 6-foot-7, he plays much bigger with his long arms and springy athleticism. He had some of the most impressive dunks of the night with how powerful and agile he is in different situations.
Although he is raw offensively, he understands how to roll and finish from the dunker’s spot. And he excels defensively as a help defender and ball screen stop gap. He seems to be willing and able to learn, taking coaching well throughout the practice and applying some of those things during the live segments. That’s a great sign for a player like Mbaye who is just starting to tap into his potential on both ends.
CJ Worsham (6’7 SF/PF, Christ The King)
A walking mismatch, Worsham has the frame of a defensive lineman but is light on his feet and handles it like a guard. Working with the bigs for part of the practice, he has good technique and tenacity when sealing off defenders in the post. He’s a bit of a unique interior finisher, being adept at scoring with both hands around the rim with hooks, push shots, and driving layups.
His lefty shot looked solid in spot up drills, which is an added bonus with how well he rebounds and makes plays off the dribble. In the live segments, he was able to draw defenders out and get downhill before using his power to finish plays. Worsham can play all over the floor and will be a tough cover for most teams this spring wherever he plays.
DeKwon Brown (6’3 PG, Peoria)
Coming off a big junior season, Brown looks primed for a breakout spring. His ability to handle the ball in tight spaces and create advantages with his speed during 3-on-3 work stood out. He’s very effective at sizing guys up and attacking angles to the rim where he can make cross court passes or hit bigs on time.
When guarding the ball, he was quick to recover and cut off ball-handlers in open space. He has a chance to be an impactful on-ball defender at the next level with his quickness and anticipation. As a shooter, he displayed some potential as a stop-and-pop guy around the elbows or as a mid-range scorer off separation moves. His three point shot has improved as well and should continue to develop with time. He can really catch fire at times from out there. The comfort being a vocal leader during practice stood out as well. Brown has Division 1 ability and scoring instincts at the point guard spot.
Robert Hutson Jr. (6’4 SG, Bishop McNamara)
Hutson was among the most skilled players at the practice. His footwork is clean when gathering into his shot or probing in the lane and his lefty shot from the perimeter was on the mark. He’s wiry and fluid with the ball, changing speeds and moving with good pace when he had the ball. There is little wasted movement in his shot and he has deep range on it off the dribble.
I like his future as a slasher as well. In 3-on-3 portions, he used his long strides to get around defenders and extend out on finishes or elevate over guys. He’s got some shiftiness to his game too, which helps him create space. Expect for him to have some big scoring outputs this season with the different ways he can fill it up. He’s not as well known around the state; but he was terrific for Bishop McNamara this year. Another scholarship level talent.
Sam Mickelson (6’7 PF, Vel Phillips [WI])
Mickelson showed a ton of versatility, athleticism, and skill at his size. At around 6-foot-7, he has a strong base and very good touch and footwork to maneuver on the block and from the high post. During post drills, he looked comfortable making hooks over both shoulders while understanding how to use his body to create angles on drop steps where he dunked easily off of two feet.
Although he’s probably more of a four than a wing, he moves well laterally on the defensive end and communicates well to call out actions as a back line defender. I was impressed with his shot mechanics. He shot a high percentage during the practice from three and off of one to two dribbles. Mickelson is a highly efficient, high academic four man who should get plenty of scholarship looks.
Tavariyuan Williams (6’6 SG/SF, De La Salle)
Williams may have the most long-term upside of the group. His physical range to cover ground and smooth movement on and off the ball really stood out. A dangerous open court player, Williams glides to the rim and is explosive at and around the rim. He was dunking everything from different angles, but also showed much improved physicality to play through contact.
His ball handling ability is solid for a taller wing and he did a nice job of setting his feet off of pindowns and handoffs. The high release point on his shot makes it tough to contest and he showed that he can knock them down with time and space. Defensively, he could be a difference maker at the next level. A true 6-foot-6 with a long reach and quick-twitch movement give him an edge. Willlams definitely looks the part as well, having put on noticeable weight to his frame. He is one of the more promising long-term wings in the 2024 class.