(Article written by Thomas Gilbert)
There was a plethora of young talent on display at the Prep Hoops Next West Coast Kickoff. The event was held at the Ladera Sports Center in beautiful Laguna Hills, California. An outstanding backdrop for some high-level hoops. I just want to take a moment to spotlight a handful of players who caught my eye from my seat as a tournament director.
James “J-Rob” Croy — Team Eleate 2026
J-Rob is as automatic as they come as an 8th-grade shooter. He has a feathery touch, consistency, and head-turning range which make him a threat from the time he walks in the gym. He shoots it equally as well off the catch and off the bounce. His ability to read the floor and constant motion enables him to get clean looks at will. Croy has a balanced blend crafty handle and basketball IQ which makes him fun to watch. One of the more impressive facets of his game is the way he competes on the defensive end. James is relentless in fighting over screens and refusing to allow his opponent to see the rim. He is also icy cool in clutch situations. Croy sank 3 consecutive free throws with no time left on the clock to propel his team to a one-point win over a stacked Just Breathe Elite squad.
Jason Crowe Jr — Paul Pierce’s The Truth Select 2026
As a combo guard, Jason is a slick ball-handler with the ability to deliver tough finishes amongst the trees. He gets to any spot on the floor that we wants with relative ease. The lefty not only finishes creatively in the paint, but his bread is buttered with his unlimited range. He casually pulled up from the volleyball line, reminiscent of the four-point shot in Ice Cube’s Big Three League. Jason plays hard and fast on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he uses his speed in conjunction with innate anticipation, to get his hands on more than his fair share of balls.
Tyran Stokes — Just Breathe Elite 2026
Stokes is a 6’6″ wing with the ability to cause problems on all three levels. He plays a very spirited and energetic brand of basketball. Tyran is long, mobile, athletic player who is defensively disruptive on the perimeter, as well as in the paint. He effectively uses his length to get into passing lanes for deflection and at the goal as a rim protector. He has the agility to stay in front of guards at the three-point line and the size to battle bigs in the post. Stokes can really do some of everything. His handle makes it easy for him to push the ball in transition off of a direct rebound or initiate the offense in a half-court set. Tyran’s overall game and IQ make him match nightmare. His size, athleticism, skill set, and competitive spirit will have coaches salivating at every level of his matriculation.
Joseph immediately dispels the myth that nice guys finish last. I did not come across a more pleasant young man the entire weekend. However, that easy-going off-court demeanor gave way to a quiet competitive fire that fueled him in leading his team to the tournament championship. Despite his mature and imposing frame, Joseph’s offensive game is a unique mix of power and finesse. This leaves many defenders completely off balance. In the paint, he uses his body well to position himself for strong finishes with great touch. He owns a variety of post moves executed with great footwork and balance. His ability to knock down the mid-range jumper keeps many defenders at bay. Equally as impressive is his ability beat defenders off the dribble. One of the greatest nuances of Terry’s game is his communication on the defensive end. There were very few possessions where he wasn’t verbally quarterbacking the defense. we haven’t even mentioned his tenacious rebounding on both boards.
There were truly too many awesomely talented player to mention the weekend, but these are four that I noticed from the director’s chair.