Seven of the top performers I saw on night one of the NEXT National Championship in Kansas City!
Jaeden Udean (2027 G, D1 Minnesota)- Fresh off of playing in a varsity event with his high school in Minnesota earlier in the week, Jaeden returned to play in his own age group and was dominant at times. He’s a long and lanky guard with a smooth handle and good athleticism for his age. In the first half his shot wasn’t falling, so he utilized his length to get up in passing lanes and pick up steals, allowing him to get some easy buckets at the rim in transition. In the second half was when he truly showcased how dangerous he can be on the offensive end, pulling up for some deep threes while creating off the dribble. He has a ton of confidence, and when that outside shot is falling there isn’t much opposing teams can do to stop him.
Aderyan Contreras-Ward (2026 PF/C, Wisconsin Elite National)- Wisconsin Elite National cruised to an opening round win on Friday night, with Contreras-Ward showcasing what he can do inside. He’s a strong presence in the paint who does well moving off the ball when his guards drive to put himself in good position for dump off passes. Once he catches, Aderyan just has to power up to the basket to finish. Does a great job of maintaining his balance when he looks to score, which allows him to finish at a high percentage even when taking some bumps.
Brock Walser (6’ 2026 G/W, Chapman Basketball Academy South)- Brock is a strong athlete who makes his presence felt when attacking the basket. His frame allows him to take some bumps while he drives through the lane, and once to the rim he was either able to finish or draw a foul just about every attempt. Defensively he has good instincts on where to be off the ball to try to make some plays and force turnovers. Rebounds well from his position as he has size and can explode off the floor to attack the ball out of the air.
Kaden Anderson (5’5 2027 PG, Minnesota Select)- One of the best ball handlers I saw on the night was Kaden Anderson of Minnesota Select. You won’t find many players at the 13u level with the shiftiness that Kaden has. His team was facing a full-court press, and Kaden’s handle allowed Select to break through the press and often times get to the rim with a numbers advantage. While he found success in the open floor, he can also break his man down off the dribble in the half-court. Kaden has a crafty finishing ability at the rim but was it his best creating for his teammates. Does a nice job of drawing in a help defender before dishing it off at the last second to give one of his teammates a wide open layup.
Cameron Pugh (6’3 2026 F, YMOM Diamonds In The Rough)- Cameron was a defensive standout for the Milwaukee based program. At 6’3 he has plenty of length but is a fluid and mobile athlete as well. Does a nice job of positioning himself off the ball on the defensive end to put himself into spots to contest or block shots around the rim. Had some big swats sending the ball straight back to the floor, while also altering what would have been high percentage looks, and forcing misses due to his presence. Runs the floor hard in transition and is a solid finisher around the basket.
Jack Thelen (6’8 2027 C, D1 Minnesota)- You won’t find too many players standing at 6’8, let alone at the 13u level. Jack Thelen is a major presence in the paint on the defensive end, doing a nice job of walling up to contest/block shots in the paint without fouling. Even when guarding quicker players, he worked hard to recover when they tried to take him off the dribble, and he was still able to use his length to get a hand on shots. On the offensive end he does a nice job of seeing the floor and had a few nice passes out of high-low sets. Jack showcased some touch around the rim as well as he finished off a few looks inside throughout the game.
Zach Debaker (5’8 2026 PG, Wisconsin Elite)- Zach plays with a change of pace you don’t often see in young point guards. He just has an understanding of what pace to play with, and it allows him to beat his initial defender off the dribble and get into the paint. Always keeps his head scanning the floor and it allows him to dump it off to cutting teammates at any given moment. Debaker has some impressive passing vision and dropped off a few dimes adding a bit of flair to his passes at times. He can pull up and knock down the open jumper while also showcasing a nice floater to score over size in the lane.