HYPE Sports #WinterJam2k18: Friday Recap

by Spencer Pulliam

January 5 2018


DALLAS, TX — It’s hard to believe that a half dozen years have passed since my last trip to the DFW area to cover the HYPE Sports Winter Jam. On my last trip, the 2012 version of the event provided a preview of what was to come for guys like De’Aaron Fox, Terrance Ferguson, and many others. While waiting for the eighth-grade championship to start that year, I was introduced to a fifth-grader named R.J. Hampton, who a few locals thought might turn out to be pretty special one day.

Needless to say, this event has never let me down on my quest to discover new youth hoops talent, and on Friday night, as the 2018 edition of Winter Jam kicked off, I was reminded of how things have changed in youth basketball, but yet also remain the same.


When you stand 6-foot-8 in the 7th grade, you are going to attract attention, especially on a basketball court. On Friday night at #WinterJam2k18, Cameron Barnes and his Drive Nation teammates were outplayed in the first half, but that changed moments into the second half. Barnes came across the baseline demanding the ball, caught a pass and spun in one motion, before dunking on an opposing player. It was a game-changing moment as Drive Nation then cruised to a 60-43 victory.

Expect Barnes to have a lot more of those in coming years, particularly if he can play inspired basketball, and remain engaged in the action at all times. It’s important to remember that Barnes is only in seventh grade and his maturation as a player will require patience. The lean forward has all the necessary physical tools and early skill-set to be a premier prospect in the Class of 2023. While Barnes demonstrated confidence and ability with his face-up game, his length allows him to dominate around the rim on both ends of the floor, and the hope is he’ll continue to utilize that advantage.



The game is changing and positions are becoming more blurred. This fact is apparent, even at the youth level, where prospects are attempting to make their games as versatile as possible. As #WinterJam2k18 kicked off on Friday, I pulled aside B.M.M. Elite seventh-grade guard Aric Demings after his team’s win and asked him a simple question. What position do you play?

“I play basketball,” Demings respectfully responded. He sure did, and the developing lead guard consistently made plays with his quickness and vision. The ‘Basketball Means More’ program has a growing reputation for putting together competitive teams in the DFW area, and Demings will be counted on to lead, make shots, and play aggressive but smart basketball to give B.M.M. Elite’s 2023 team a chance to compete for a title this weekend.

The floor general is fortunate to be flanked by two other key players. Keep an eye on 6-foot-6 big man Matthew Reed, and 5-foot-10 marksman Quentin Wright, as both should garner additional attention as the tournament moves forward.



Ethan Wilkerson had the most productive 12-minute stretch of any player that I watched on Friday night at #WinterJam2k18. The Durant, Oklahoma-native scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the first half against Drive Nation Red in the seventh-grade division. Although his United Ballers team would ultimately lose their opening game, the young post prospect made an excellent first impression.

Most notable is that Wilkerson is a current sixth grader and a member of the 2024 class. Despite being only 12 years old, he stands 6-foot-5, weighs over 200 pounds, and wears a size 16 shoe. His uncle, Justin Wilkerson, played under legendary coach Bobby Knight at Texas Tech during the mid-2000s, and the younger Wilkerson displayed an advanced game for his age.



Some people travel the country to see various professional baseball and football stadiums, but I’ve checked off a pretty long list of youth sports facilities in my time on the circuit. The #WinterJam2k18 marks my first visit to ‘Drive Nation’, a new state-of-the-art sports facility located on the grounds of the DFW Airport, and it certainly impressed.

I expressed my admiration of the amateur sports facilities in Texas with a Drive Nation staffer on Friday night, to which the response was, “I passed four of these on the ride here from my house.” Don’t be fooled, the Drive Nation complex is top-notch, and I hope that players, parents, and coaches in the Lone Star State realize how fortunate they are to have so many of these places. The goal is that the rest of the nation will catch up sooner than later and that the infrastructure will continue to provide opportunities while helping youth sports continue to grow and improve.



Drive Nation is well-represented at #WinterJam2k18, not only by their facility but by their actual program and number of quality teams. The 2023 Drive Nation Black squad has a number of developmental prospects on their roster and 6-foot wing Justin McBride flashed potential on the event’s opening night with a variety of offensive displays.

I was really impressed with the United Ballers program. A quick glance around the gym provided a glimpse at several of their teams, and they all compete and appear very organized. The United Baller seventh grade backcourt comprised of point guard Addison Harmon and scoring guard Dean Balo should not be overlooked as standouts in their respective division.



Spencer Pulliam

Spencer Pulliam is the National Scouting & Recruiting Director for The Prep Insiders. Born and raised in North Carolina, he has 12 years of industry experience in youth basketball, and is respected as a nationwide leader in the field. See the 'About Us' page for Spencer's full bio.
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