Omaha, Nebr. — The inaugural Prep Hoops Next circuit championships marched on over the Memorial Day weekend holiday as teams from across the Upper Midwest and Plains regions gathered for the Midwest Region Final. Onlookers were treated to yet another viewing of a promising pool of talented prospects that are sure to make their mark on the high school scene in coming seasons. Here are the event’s top performers among the eighth-grade point guards in attendance from the Class of 2025…
Walker Braaten | Westhope, ND | Class of 2025
One of the most important pieces to ECI Basketball (ND) in their run to the 8th Grade Championship at the Prep Hoops Next circuit Midwest Region Final, Braaten played a variety of roles in the backcourt, as he shared ball-handling duties in the halfcourt and also delivered timely scoring for his team. While the six-foot guard displayed superb vision and passing touch his greatest contribution at this particular tournament was his reliability as a perimeter shooting threat for his club. Braaten capitalized on his opportunities as well as anyone on the roster, helping command a patient and balanced offense, which produced an unbeaten (4-0) weekend.
Keion Epps | Springfield, MO | Class of 2025
Epps continued to reinforce his status as a breakout player in the inaugural season of the Prep Hoops Next circuit, once again earning the nod as a top performer at the Midwest Region Final, and leading his Missouri Tar Heels (MO) team into the championship game. It was more of the same for Epps, as he has proven to be a difficult match-up for opponents in man-to-man settings due to his craftiness off the bounce, and his perimeter shooting touch makes him effective against zone sets as well. There’s an undeniable poise to Epps’ game and he was consistently one of my favorite prospects to watch in the eighth-grade division.
Carson Healy | Omaha, NE | Class of 2025
Healy was a strong candidate among the top backcourt prospects from the Prep Hoops Next Midwest Region Final. A 6-foot-2 guard capable of playing a variety of perimeter positions, he brings size and confidence to the OSA Crusaders (NE) eighth-grade roster, while also providing a fair amount of strength and athleticism. Although his production was not overwhelming in a single category, he contributed in a multitude of ways for his club before they were bounced in the semifinals, and concluded their weekend with a 3-1 record. It’s easy to see that Healy knows how to play and he is simply more seasoned than the majority of his peers at this stage.
James Martin | Woodbury, MN | Class of 2025
After dropping their opening game at the Prep Hoops Next Midwest Region Final, the Minnesota Magic (MN) reeled off a trio of consecutive wins to conclude their weekend, thanks partly to Martin’s steady play. Currently standing only 5-foot-6, the lead guard isn’t as physically mature as most of the backcourt prospects that he competes against, but his game is already a lot further along. A competent perimeter shooter and qualified ball-handler, there’s a lot that translates with Martin’s game at the next level as his frame develops. His feel and instincts are sharp on both ends of the floor and the spirit with which he competes is admirable.
Ra’Saun Nichols | Columbia, MO | Class of 2025
Easily among the most gifted prospects in attendance at the Prep Hoops Next Midwest Region Final, Nichols glided effortlessly across the floor, displaying elite speed and an advanced ability to change direction with the ball in his hands. Add to that an impressive combination of playmaking tools that often allowed him to serve as the primary ball-handler as well as the top scoring option for his Mid-Mo Elite (MO) club. The six-foot guard has a much lengthier wingspan than his height would indicate, and utilized every inch to his advantage, exhibiting excellent body control and touch as a finisher in the lane while proving to be a very disruptive defender.
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