As a new generation of basketball talent gets ushered into the world, the Prep Hoops Next Circuit is only a few shy months away and it is loaded with young talent that is going to be filling up box scores for the next few years. The Minnesota Magic who are directed by Cornell Pillow, who took over the program last December, are one of these teams, and are looking to make a name for themselves and become a top program in the state of Minnesota.
Surrounded by Talent
Pillow played at the next level as he was committed to division one NAIA Graceland University after originally playing at St. Cloud Tech. Pillow was surrounded with elite talent in his freshman and sophomore year of highschool when he played with both Tyus and Tre Jones, and Gary Trent JR, three names that are all on NBA rosters now. With Pillow being around such elite talent, he can recognize who has game.
The Passion behind the Youth Movement
Pillow got involved with youth basketball revolved around a lot of things that related to him directly when he was at that age. “Growing up, I wasn’t the richest kid. I didn’t get the opportunities that a lot of other kids did. I didn’t get the training that the Jones brothers got,” Pillow said. “Gary Trent’s JRs dad was in the NBA and was his own trainer, I didn’t have that.”
Pillow wants to make sure that the kids coming up have those opportunities and don’t have potential or talent wasted because they’re not getting equal opportunities. “If I had more guidance on what to do, what to eat and how to handle a schedule I could have had a different career. I don’t want these younger guys making the same mistakes I did when I was that age. I want to help them navigate through those things.”
The History of Magic
The program was founded in 1988 by John Sherman and has been on the grassroots circuit since. They have had a plethora of talent come through the program, such as NBA level players Jon Leuer, Kris Humphries, and both Tyus and Tre Jones. Cornell was given the program last December and wants the Magic to trend upwards.
Rebuilding the foundation
Pillow wants to rebuild the pillars of the program that will lead them to success. “Ultimately, our goal is to become a top five program over the next five years. Is this achievable? Yes. Will it be hard? Yes.”
Pillow wants the biggest foundation to be based on earning everything, from when it comes to winning and getting the respect they want. “College programs don’t want kids who are losing. We need to earn the respect amongst other orgs and we need to earn everything we want. We haven’t been respectable before and we need to get to that level.”
The Magic have potential at their lower levels of the program with guys that are pretty raw but could turn into good prospects once their game becomes a bit more refined with skill development and game repetition.
Top of the Roster:
The Magic are filling out their roster with some young talent that has room to grow, something that any college coach is looking for when they begin recruiting.
Xavier Danials, 5’10”, Forward, Park Cottage Grove, 2025
Xavier Danials is a 5’10” prospect that needs to grow into his athleticism more. He’s built with a square frame and has room to continue to grow. “He’s built like a mini Zion at this point,” said Pillow. “He should be dunking by next year. He’s getting strength, speed, and agility training.”
Xavier is a raw talent that needs to become a better athlete to continue competing at the next level, but he has the ability to be an above the rim player. Once the game gets played at a faster pace with stronger and more athletic opponents, Xavier shouldn’t have a problem if he continues his training with the frame he already naturally has.
Nolan Davis, 6’6”, Forward, East Ridge, 2025
Nolan Davis is a 6’6” player that has the ability to play all 5 positions. He is catching oops with ease and has a good handle to bring the ball up in the back court and could cause mismatch issues with his height at a young age and his ability to do multiple things in all different spots. “He’s legitimately a triple double threat every game. He can score the ball and can rebound with the best of them,” said Pillow. “He can also block the ball and can defend the rim.”
In the fall league that Nolan participated in he was averaging a double-double with points and rebounds, and was close to a triple double with eight blocks a game according to Pillow. He can be a mismatch nightmare with his ability to bring the ball up causing defenders to have to pick him up that are smaller and left at a disadvantage.
Kingston Manning, 6’2”, Guard, Minnehaha Academy, 2025
Kingston Manning is one of their other top players. He’s a gamer checking in a 6’2” currently. “He has the ability to control the tempo of the game, which is a huge plus to be able to speed it up or slow it down at any point,” said Pillow. “He can create shots and he’s a good inside and outside player. He’s the type of guy you can give him the ball and let him isolate and just go to work.”
“Even though he has this ability to create shots, he needs to work on creating angles and getting to the rim. If he can hone in on that part of his game, he’ll be able to open his game up more,” Pillow added.