Article by: Scott Golden, Jordan Davidsen, and Joe Lewandoski
ORLANDO, FL — This year’s Hoop Exchange Live Spring brought together some of Florida’s best basketball players from all around the state. The two-day event focused one day on sophomores and freshmen and another on juniors and seniors. With scouts in attendance, the event was a chance for both the unknown and the well-known to establish themselves or remind us why they are who they are. While the seniors and juniors also had some great performances on Sunday, and Saturday all eyes were on the future stars and for some, eventual NBA players, following in the footsteps of Anfernee Simons, Kevin Knox, John Collins, Scottie Barnes, Grayson Allen, Udoka Azubuike, Nassir Little, Tre Mann, Tony Bradley and others who came through this event when they were freshman or sophomores.
We’re no strangers to some of the big-time players who balled out over the weekend. Some highly-touted prospects showed up and showed out against their peers. Sophomore twin, Christian Maxon from Fort Pierce Central High is a 6-2, high IQ guard who can both handle and shoot the ball at a very high level. He’s developed his athleticism, and with a 3.95 GPA, he is definitely a great student as is his brother. Both Westminster Academy sophomores are big-time guys who stood out and both are in the conversation for the best player at the showcase: DJ Wimberly and Alex Lloyd. Wimberly is a point-forward who can put the ball on the floor, play above the rim, and shoot the ball with some range, rebound at a high level. No doubt the team benefits when playing through DJ with his unselfish play. Lloyd has a good skill set, but his high-level scoring ability separates him from most players. He is a tremendous athlete with great bounce and just has great instincts to put the ball in the hole. One of the many reasons he is already considered a top-25 player in the country.
Fresh off a deep run in the regional playoffs, Jalen Reese from Oak Ridge has cemented himself as one of the top point guards in the country with his well-known work ethic, his incredible vision passing the ball up the floor, his wiggle and jerky handle and his ability to create and knock down shots from anywhere. Central Pointe Christian teammates James Bass and Maodo Niang showed their skillsets and cemented themselves as two of the best big men prospects in Florida. Both with high-level motors.
7-1 Moustapha Thiam showed out as well, with his athleticism, length, and size. His advanced IQ and passing ability at this young age bode well for him. With more time at DME Academy, this “sleeping giant” could very well turn out to be one of the best bigs in the country. Guard Evan Sterck from The Rock is continuing his great sophomore season. His shooting, IQ, and leadership on the floor are contagious, elevating the level of play of everyone on the floor with him.
Blake High School’s Joshua Lewis brings home this shortlist and might have the highest ceiling of anyone in the rich talent state of Florida. At 6-7, Lewis is a well-sized small forward/wing-type player with shooting and ball-handling skills. His athleticism and length combined with one of the most energetic motors on the floor at all times leads to plenty of winning plays, including blocked shots, rebounds, tips, put-back dunks, steals, and anything else he wants to do out there.
Brand New Bigs
While we live firmly in the age of the guard, the best big men are still as big a commodity as they always were. And our event highlighted some of the best new big men on the market. The group was led by Marcis Ponder. The 7-foot freshman from Norland is a monster on the block. Ponder was the biggest and strongest player in camp on Saturday. A mobile, athletic big, Ponder’s size is overwhelming. And he carries himself smoothly while trying to rip the rim down on every dunk. He is very reminiscent of the days of Udoka Azubuike trying to do the same to every rim. That is a compliment to Marcis considering Udoka is currently playing for the Utah Jazz.
Garang Dhieu, a 6-11 freshman from Calusa Prep, was another intimidating presence in the paint, although probably his best feature was his ability to move his feet and guard players on the perimeter with his great length. He will be an interesting young guy to track.
Westwood Christian’s Jermane Agyeman, and Lake Mary Prep’s Jayden Rodriguez both highlighted internal prowess and impacted the day. Jalan Wingfield from Thomas County Central represented Georgia well on the block. While his physical frame needs development, his high motor and highly advanced footwork and skillset turned heads. North Tampa Christian’s Toni Bryant is one of the most versatile players with the ability to extend his range and spread the floor, attacking the basket off the dribble or finishing from the paint. And he plays with intensity on the defensive end. Toni certainly has a chance of making it to the highest levels of basketball.
One of the great parts of sophomore/freshman events is officially ushering in the new generation after a high school season under their belt. These freshmen made their mark! D.J. Sandi from St. Thomas Aquinas is a true point guard and was clearly one of the best guards in attendance. His teammate, 6-4 Zane Elliot, is a physically imposing small forward who is very agile with great strength.
North Tampa Christian’s Archie McFadden was able to flex his high IQ style and his physical tools, like athleticism and strength. But his Russell Westbrook style of downhill attack is what truly separates him. Foundation Academy’s Isaiah Gillard is a great shooter who can also put the ball on the floor well. At 6-1, he’s a developing guard with the ability to fill up the stat sheet.
Dallas Lambert had some of the most explosive plays of the day. He is willing to contest anything as well, getting it done on both ends of the floor.
Leesburg’s Angelo Moton and Jupiter Christian’s Collin Paul respectively had incredible days at Hoop Exchange along with great seasons for their high school teams. Both of them made deep runs in the playoffs due to their play. Both have as good a chance as anyone to finish as top 100 players in the 2026 class as both have high basketball IQ and can score at will while making all the right plays.
Herly Brutus, 6’6 Umatilla HS 2026 guard is in a class all by himself. He is a walking triple-double in any setting as he can pass, dribble, shoot, rebound, and defend. He plays as if he loves what he is doing and there is essentially nothing he can’t do on the floor and it would not be surprising if we are looking up his professional stats in the years to come.
Keron Jackson is able to claim the award for the most progress in one year, which on top of his already really good past skills and talents, easily makes him one of the top players in the 2025 class. He is super skilled as a guard and still utilizes and incorporates his post game finishing and rebounding. And the simple reality is that Keron is ALWAYS around the ball making plays. Caleb Sanders, 6’6 Bell Creek HS does it all. He has a great frame, gets downhill, creatively to the rim, passes it well, and defends multiple positions. His future is bright! Darius Washington III is following in a long line of a talented family of guards and he might end up being the best. He has turned into a terrific athlete and just has the “IT”. He is a baller. Joseph Gayle, 6’4 Ft. Pierce Central has an incredible frame, is a big-time athlete and has the skills to boot. He attacks the basket and creates for his teammates. His ceiling is the sky.
Other sophomores really made their names known throughout the weekend. Killian’s Deandry Hardy is certainly in this group of super sophomores. The 6-2 guard was considered one of the best overall guards throughout the weekend playing with a chip on his shoulder going at guys all day. Bilingual Christian’s Jonathan Gibbons was another prospect. He’s an athletic guard with the ability to shoot it, and with a 6-4 frame, he can develop into a high-level guard. Xavier McCray stood out as well for his play at both positions and high-level ball handling and shooting. Auburndale’s Tre Jackson also turned heads with his great play on Saturday, intriguing scouts and coaches alike.
Tate Darner is the definition of don’t judge a book by its cover. When he walks into the building I’m sure players question why he is there. When Tate leaves the building, every player is wondering how he just made all those shots against everyone and anyone. He is unbelievably skilled at that age. Jermichael Johnson was a newcomer to all of us. And one of the more impressive performances of the entire weekend regardless of age. His game is the perfect balance of flash and substance. He is quick and strong to the rim but loves to pass the ball. And he does all of it with tremendous style. As he structures his game, he will be outstanding. And lastly is Alex Pierre-Louis, a 6’3 Coral Springs guard who just puts his hard hat on, laces up the shoes, and goes full speed doing whatever he wants for the duration of the game. He is especially good at making decisions in transition.
Motor for Days
I don’t know if there is a bigger compliment to give a player other than “He has a motor for days.” And in a showcase where the young guys always play harder and play well together, these guys stood out even amongst a pack of hard-playing guys:
Maddox Fowles 6’7 Western HS 2025, Tijan Barrie 6’8, Potters House 2025, and Kaden Toure, 6’2 Sandalwood 2025. Fowles is a really good and long athlete. He uses it to defend multiple positions and gives nobody a free track in transition. Barrie attacks the offensive glass for extra points and always seems to be in the right spot leading to great things for his team. Kaden is downhill in a flash and has no problem giving and taking blows on his way to finishing at the rim.