Lead guards tend to dominate the ball at the high school level as the July live evaluation period saw a number of talented players with the ball in their hands. Some of these players are more scoring-minded players while others can distribute and run an offense with the best of them.
Here are nine names to watch out for in the Classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Cole Anthony, PSA Cardinals — Once again one of the best players on the circuit, the son of Greg Anthony delivered plenty of big-time games. An effortless scorer who can attack the basket and finish using his underrated athleticism, Anthony also had the three-pointer going at times during another high-scoring string of games.
A triple-double threat who can hit the defensive glass and push up the floor, Anthony also showed effectiveness playing off the ball and letting teammates bring the ball up at times. Anthony can make plays if he’s getting the ball around a screen and he’s tough to stop with any momentum going off of the catch. Still strong in ball-screen situations as a primary handler, Anthony made some tough reads on passes to shooters as he was good in that role as well. Anthony has a strong understanding of how to play on and off the ball as he continues to evolve as a complete backcourt threat.
Nico Mannion, West Coast Elite — Recently reclassified into the Class of 2019, the 6-foot-2 Mannion is an intriguing lead guard thanks to his scoring arsenal and athleticism. With good foot work and skill level, Mannion is a strong shooter from the perimeter off the catch or off the dribble. Good at making the right read as a passer and playmaker, Mannion can find easy looks for others by putting pressure on the defense.
Mannion does a solid job of playing fast while always remaining under control as his play never comes off as reckless. Sometimes, Mannion hunts his own offense very aggressively as he is probably more of a scoring-minded lead guard at this point in his development. Defensively, Mannion does a solid job of ball-screen recognition as he fights through screens and tries to limit perimeter looks. Physicality, on both ends of the floor, doesn’t seem to bother Mannion much, even though he could stand to add some weight.
Bryan Antoine, Team Rio — At close to 6-foot-5, Antoine has great size and athleticism to bring to the point to go along with a workable jumper. Established at the high school level, Antoine has confidence at all three levels as a scorer while he also does a good job of making the right play with the ball in his hands while running offense.
Antoine is a good athlete who can be explosive with time to load up, but he’ll need to add weight to his skinny frame to be able to endure contact at the rim at the next level. If Antoine can continue to master the nuances of playing point guard, while continuing to add to his scoring arsenal, than he has a chance to be a very intriguing prospect.
Jeremy Roach, Team Takeover — Perhaps July’s biggest winner, Roach went from winning a gold medal with USA Basketball in the U17 World Cup, to winning Peach Jam with Team Takeover in a matter of days. The 6-foot-2 guard in the Class of 2020 has done a great job of sacrificing himself for talented supporting casts as he’s done the little things to win.
Roach will penetrate and kick, rebound, make pinpoint outlet passes and defend on the perimeter. Although Roach needs to improve his field goal percentages and his ability to consistently knock down shots, he makes plays in crunch time and always stays under control with the ball in his hands.
Jalen Lecque, Rens — Ultra-athletic and explosive around the basket, the 6-foot-4 Lecque has a lot of physical gifts in his game. When it comes to finishing at the basket and playing above the rim at lead guard, it doesn’t get much better than Lecque.
Skill development is going to be the key for Lecque’s development. New to the point guard position, Lecque is still learning the nuances of running offenses with the ball in his hands, while he’s also still refining his handle and jumper. Once Lecque starts to become more natural at the point, it should help his game take a potential leap, although improving his three-point percentage would help his game the most. Lecque also cleans the defensive glass at a high level — out-jumping opposing big men with ease sometimes. Defensively, Lecque can also get into smaller guards and make things tough on them since he is so physically developed.
DJ Carton, Quad Cities Elite — An Ohio State commit who didn’t play for a shoe company team, the 6-foot-1 Carton is explosive. With a good first step and an ability to finish around the basket, Carton can punch dunks from well above the rim off of one or two as he’s a talented aerial performer.
Learning how to play more nuanced areas of point guard, Carton has shown flashes of being a very solid lead guard, as he makes good passes and puts pressure on opposing defenses with the drive. Carton still needs to improve an inconsistent perimeter jumper, but he’s good enough scoring near the basket that it makes up for some of it. Carton has a chance to be a very good get for Ohio State and his athleticism makes him an intriguing long-term prospect.
Zion Harmon, Brad Beal Elite — Some have this 5-foot-11 floor general in the national top 10 in the Class of 2021 as Harmon has already been playing in USA Basketball and up on the 17U level of the EYBL. Harmon didn’t put up the biggest numbers, but he executed some solid stretches of play.
Harmon is capable of already being a double-figure scorer while running an offense and finding others with easy looks. Although Harmon is a bit smaller and still lacks some of the strength of his older peers, he plays with a certain toughness. Once Harmon adds more strength, and gains more polish on his jumper, then he could see his numbers ascend even higher.
Tre Mann, E1T1 — Putting up monster numbers in some cases, Mann was an efficient scorer from all over the floor while also contributing to other facets of the game. At Peach Jam, Mann went on some electric scoring runs, as he’s a plus perimeter shooter and an efficient driver. Knocking down free throws at a high clip, Mann is also great at closing out games and three-point plays.
Mann put up great numbers during points in July, but he still needs to make more of an imprint on the defensive end. There are too many times that Mann is out of position or doesn’t close out enough on a play when he could. Mann has a chance to be a really good two-way guard if he wants.
RJ Hampton, Mudiay Elite — It’s still an up-and-down experience with Hampton, a Class of 2020 guard. But the 6-foot-4 guard brings a ton of talent to the equation. With good size, length and athleticism, Hampton has a lot of tools while also having a good first step and a lot of ways to get to spots on the floor.
When Hampton gets somewhere with the dribble, he can force some looks at times, but he’s talented enough to make some of them. If he doesn’t force a bad look or a turnover, Hampton is also adept at finding the easy open perimeter shooter or a lob threat. There are times that Hampton gets rattled by bad calls or missed opportunities, so maintaining focus through adversity is something to watch for with him. But when he’s focused, Hampton is as talented a guard prospect in the country.