2022 UpNext Sports High Academic Showcase Standouts
I visited Boy's Latin School of Maryland in Towson, Maryland to take a look at the talent on hand for the UpNext DMV Sports High Academic Showcase. This showcase, which was organized by the folks at Mid Atlantic Select, one of the best grassroots programs in the DMV, featured local prospects from the 2023,2024,2025 classes with high achievement in Academics. There were some hidden gems out of the bunch as always, so, let's get down to business.
Xavier Blackmon/ 5'10/ G/ Gaithersburg/ 2024/ 3.0 GPA:
Quick, shifty floor general excelled in transition and in the half court. Blackmon used his quickness to live in the paint where he created scoring opportunities for himself and teammates throughout the showcase. He also showed he could knock down shots from 3-point range, which kept defenders off balanced. The 5'10 point guard definitely plays with toughness, he consistently set screens on bigger guards and forwards to get his teammates open, when he was off the ball and battled on the glass. Blackmon is a prospect that impacts winning in many ways and one college programs should keep an eye on.
Evan Brown/ 6'2/ G/ Walt Whitmore/ 2025/ 3.5 GPA:
Brown got it done on both ends which is refreshing to see these days. With his ball handling, speed, and attacking mindset, Brown couldn't be stopped in transition where he either scored inside or found teammates running the floor for easy baskets. Defensively, Brown was a pest on the ball and showed great instincts jumping passing lanes for steals. He has a world of potential considering he's just a sophomore and I wouldn't be shocked to see his stock rise sooner than later.
DII- Low Major DI
Ben Bradford/ 6'3/ G/ Gaithersburg/ 2023/ 3.0 GPA:
Good all around athlete. Bradford is at his best slashing to the basket, cutting back door and running the floor in transition to score inside, which often times resulted in a dunk. Versatile defender due to his athleticism and size, he can defend the 1-3 and some 4's. Extending his range and becoming more efficient as a shooter from all three levels will take his game to new heights.
Mason Ellison/ 6'3/ G/ Loyola Blakefield/ 2025/ 3.5 GPA:
Ellison is the total package and an argument could be made that he has the highest ceiling out of all of the prospects on hand. With his combination of size, athleticism, skill and I.Q., it's just a matter of time before he's seen as one of the top players in the area if he stays focused and continues to work. Ellison can score from all three levels, pass well, defend multiple positions and competes consistently. Adding more strength (which will come as he continues to mature), will enhance his overall game.
Low Major DI-Mid Major DI
Les Johnson/ 6'4/ G-F/ Good Counsel/ 2024/ 4.0 GPA:
Tough, physical defender who can spread the floor with his 3-point shooting. Opponents have to be careful throwing lackadaisical passes, Johnson is great at baiting players to thinking they have a pass available and jumping passing lanes for steals. Improving his ball handling would expand his game to being more of a threat offensively, however, he's a quality 3-D prospect.
Solomon Mensah/ 6'3/ G/ Gaithersburg High School/2023/ 3.0 GPA:
It's rare to have a player that can shoot the leather off the ball, regardless of range, while also being a strong athlete, yet, that's exactly what Mensah brings to the table. Mensah is a threat to score off the dribble, shoot from mid-range, no matter if it's moving without the ball or off the bounce, while also being an efficient shot maker from deep, once again off the bounce and spotting up. At 6'3, with a college ready frame and the ability to defend multiple positions, Mensah could be a hidden gem for DI programs who aren't reluctant to take a chance on him.
DII-Low Major DI
Favor Okigweh/ 6'5/ F/ Parkville High School/ 2023/ 3.4 GPA:
Workhorse is one of the best ways I can describe Okigweh as a player. At 6'5 and the motor that he brings to the table, he overwhelmed the competition at the showcase. Okigweh defended all FIVE positions well throughout the day, on ball, hedge outs in pick & roll situations, close outs on shooters, fighting over screens to stay with his match-up, rotating to block shots, rebounding....you name it, he did it. Yet, offensively he made an impact as well. He's automatic from mid-range, and to be honest, he should have shot more, he's decent scoring off the bounce and is good with offensive put backs. Extending his range to 3-point territory and adding a couple of go to moves on the perimeter off the bounce, where he can further utilize his automatic mid-range jumper, would boost his stock tremendously.
Ian Robinson/ 6'8/ McDonogh High School/ 2023/ 3.9 GPA:
Big man, although raw offensively, is a walking double double when he is fully engaged. Simply put, he does the dirty work and that is something every team needs. At 6'8, he's a decent athlete, strong, can play above the rim, is a capable rim protector and strong rebounder. Robinson also showed he could take the rebound and bring the ball up court and make plays with his passing, a valuable, underrated skill for bigs. Improving his offensive skill set to be more of a threat as a scorer, is what's holding him back from having his choice of offers.
Jacob Wimbush/ 6'3/ G/ Boys Latin/ 2024/ 3.0 GPA:
Fearless scorer that can put the ball in the basket in a multitude of ways. Wimbush while at times, lets it fly too much, can put points on the board, quick fast and in a hurry. He's also a good rebounder and solid defender. Becoming more efficient to compliment his fearless scoring nature, takes his game to a whole new level.
DII-Low Major DI
Eric Zhang/ 6'3/ G/ Dulaney/ 2023/ 3.9 GPA:
Zhang is a prospect that is good at many things.....he just gets the job done. Nothing flashy, yet, when you look at his production after the game, you'll see quality numbers across the board. Zhang has good size, can score from all three levels, is a solid defender, reads the game well, has good vision where he finds open teammates and understands that while he may have a good shot, he is patient enough to find someone who has a great shot, which stresses defenses that much more. You don't find this in many prospects at the high school level. Zhang has winning traits and understanding and that's something many college programs can utilize right away.