The 2021 City of Palms Classic will begin Friday December 17, when Greensboro Day School (NC) takes on Calvary Christian (FL).
It’s just the start of a tournament that is filled with plenty of really good high school basketball programs and a lot of elite level talent. This event features at least one consensus top 10 player from the senior, junior and sophomore class with the highest rated prospect (in terms of cumulative ranking) attending the event being Naasir Cunningham from Gill St. Bernards (NJ), the No. 1 rated prospect in the class of 2024 by ESPN and Rivals.
Dariq Whitehead is the lone returning player from the 2019 Montverde program that won it all the last time the City of Palms tournament was in play but they’ve reloaded and enter with 10 ranked prospects among 247 Sports, ESPN and Rivals. IMG Academy (FL) has seven players ranked among ESPN, Rivals & 247Sports, while Greensboro Day School enters undefeated with a sneaky good roster that features four Division I commits.
Notable Ranked Players | Calvary Christian | Greensboro Day | IMG Academy | Montverde Academy | Oak Hill Academy | Dr. Phillips | Gill St. Benard’s |Signature Series | Sunshine Series | Hugh Thimlar Tribute
HIGHEST RATED PLAYERS TO KNOW IN 2021 CITY OF PALMS CLASSIC
2024 small forward Naasir Cunningham, Gill St Bernard
Naasir Cunningham is the No. 1 ranked player by both ESPN and Rivals in their preliminary rankings for the sophomore class. He is the highest rated player at the event this season and enters after averaging around 14 points and 7 rebounds last season as a freshman, and following that up averaging 15.1 PPG for the NY Rens on the 16u EYBL circuit. He recently visited Rutgers when the Scarlet Knights defeated Clemson and also has the likes of LSU, Texas Tech, UConn, St. John’s, Illinois, Michigan, UCLA, USC and more recruiting him.
2023 combo forward Kwame Evans Jr, Montverde Academy
A consensus top-5 rated prospect by all recruiting services with his lowest ranking coming from Rivals at 4. He has early offers from Kentucky, Oregon, Ohio State, Indiana, Memphis, Texas, USC and Florida, just to name a few. The do-it-all combo forward can play either on the wing or in the post and has been a solid contributor for Montverde this season hitting a clutch three point shot to tie the game up late against Duncanville (TX), the No. 1 team in the country according to Max Preps.
2023 small forward Mackenzie Mgbako, Gill St Bernard
Junior Mackenzie Mgbako recently visited Rutgers along with No. 1 sophomore Naasir Cunningham and has coaches from all over the country recruiting him. He recently averaged 13.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG on the Nike EYBL circuit with NJ Scholars and comes into this season as one of the best players in his class. He is the top rated junior in this event with his lowest ranking coming in from ESPN at 5. Each of the national recruiting services rank him inside the top 5 of the 2023 class.
2022 shooting guard Keyonte George, IMG Academy (Baylor commit)
George hit the game-winner earlier this season to take down Montverde in a game where he finished with 14 points and five rebounds. He’s scored in double-figures in all NIBC Series games except for one and is the highest rated senior at the event with his lowest ranking being 7th by Rivals. George is a good mixture of scoring and facilitating, and should make a big impact for IMG, who finished 2nd in 2019.
2023 small forward Mookie Cook, AZ Compass Prep
The junior forward is a consensus top 10 recruit by all recruiting services with his lowest ranking coming in at seven by ESPN. Cook looked fantastic in the Hoophall West tournament scoring 10 against Oak Hill, while also scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from three against Wasatch Academy (UT). He helped AZ Compass Prep to a perfect 3-0 record that included multiple 20-point wins.
2022 small forward Dariq Whitehead, Montverde Academy (Duke commit)
The Duke commit has made big strides in his game since he last appeared in the City of Palms. As a sophomore, Whitehead averaged 9 PPG in this event on a team with four NBA draft picks. His scoring ability has continued to improve and his jump shot has consistently gotten better. He’s 1 of 2 players to score 30 points during the NIBC series and he did so by hitting five threes. He could easily be COP tournament MVP when it’s all said-and-done.
2022 small forward Chris Livingston, Oak Hill Academy (Kentucky commit)
Livingston is headed to Kentucky and he certainly fits the bill for a Calipari recruit. He can’t be stopped moving downhill, and has also progressed as a respectable shooter. His biggest impact is around the rim where he can play bully ball on either end of the floor whether its to get a bucket or rebound. I expect him to continue to showcase his elite scoring ability at the COP and be one of the top scorers at the event.
2023 point guard Caleb Foster, Oak Hill Academy (Duke commit)
Arguably the best point guard prospect in the event and played up to that potential thus far this season. Foster has scored in double-digits and dished out at least four assist in his last three NIBC series games and that includes an impressive 18 point, 8 rebound and 7 assist game against Sunrise Christian (KS). The do-it-all guard should be one of the highlight players in the event and a triple-double threat.
TEAMS TO KNOW IN 2021 CITY OF PALMS CLASSIC
Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Head coach: Cilk Mcsweeney
4-0 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2023 Marvel Allen: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 30 recruit by 247 Sports (28), ESPN (14) and Rivals (13).
– 2022 Gregg Glenn: Michigan commit (four star recruit): consensus top 80 recruit by 247 Sports (80) and Rivals (77).
– 2022 Taylor Hendricks: UCF commit (four star recruit): consensus top 120 recruit by 247 Sports (118), ESPN (54) and Rivals (87).
– 2023 Carl Cherenfant: open recruitment (four star recruit): consensus top 125 recruit by 247 Sports (124) and Rivals (82).
– 2022 Tyler Hendricks: UCF commit
– 2022 Brenen Lorient: Florida Atlantic commit
Calvary Christian is off to a great start this season winning their first three games and as MaxPreps pointed out, they’ve won them by an average of 44 points. Littered with Division I talent across the roster, expect Calvary Christian to be a major player in the tournament.
Greensboro Day School (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Head coach: Fred Johnson
13-0 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2023 Jaydon Young: open recruitment (three star recruit)
– 2022 Michael Zanoni: Mercer commit
– 2022 Nikolas Graves: Charlotte commit
– 2022 Jackson Noble: Navy commit
– 2022 Vernon Collins Jr: Princeton commit
Spearheaded by four Division I commits and three star junior Jaydon Young, Greensboro Day School is off to an 13-0 start to the season with an early win over nationally ranked Oak Hill.
IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)
Head coach: Sean McAloon
6-1 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2022 Jaden Bradley: Alabama commit (five star recruit); consensus top-25 recruit by 247 Sports (22), ESPN (8) and Rivals.
– 2022 Keyonte George: Baylor commit (five star recruit); consensus top-10 recruit by 247 Sports (2), ESPN (3) and Rivals (7).
– 2022 Jarace Walker: Houston commit (five star recruit); consensus top-20 recruit by 247 Sports (12), ESPN (19) and Rivals (13).
– 2022 Eric Dailey Jr. : open recruitment (four star recruit); consensus top-50 recruit by 247 Sports (44), ESPN (21) and Rivals (38).
– 2022 Jett Howard: Michigan commit (four star recruit); consensus top-50 recruit by 247 Sports (43), ESPN (41) and Rivals (35).
– 2022 Noah Batchelor: Memphis commit (three star recruit)
– 2023 Jacoi Hutchinson: open recruitment; four star rated recruit by 247 Sports (96)
The runner-up from the 2019 City of Palms won back-to-back games earlier this season over Montverde and Oak Hill. They have a roster littered with Division I talent and a starting five that Rivals anyone in the country. Eric Dailey Jr and Jarace Walker both return from that 2019 squad that lost to Montverde in the championship game.
Montverde Academy (Montverde, Florida)
Head coach: Kevin Boyle
5-2 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2023 Kwame Evans Jr.: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 5 recruit by 247 Sports (2), ESPN (3) and Rivals (4).
– 2024 Derik Queen: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 5 recruit by ESPN (2) and Rivals (4).
– 2022 Dariq Whitehead: Duke commit (five star recruit); consensus top 10 recruit by 247 Sports (3), ESPN (5) and Rivals (9).
– 2022 Vince Iwuchukwu: USC commit (five star recruit); consensus top 20 recruit by 247 Sports (16), ESPN (11) and Rivals (15).
– 2022 Jalen Hood-Schifino: Indiana commit (four star recruit); consensus top 25 recruit by 247 Sports (23), ESPN (24) and Rivals (20).
– 2022 Skyy Clark: Kentucky commit (five star recruit); consensus top 25 recruit by 247 Sports (17), ESPN (16) and Rivals (21).
– 2024 Amier Ali: open recruitment (four star recruit); consensus top 25 recruit by ESPN (22) and Rivals (14).
– 2022 Malik Reneau: Florida commit (four star recruit); consensus top 30 recruit by 247 Sports (30), ESPN (23) and Rivals (24).
– 2022 Dillon Mitchell: Texas commit (four star recruit); consensus top 35 recruit by 247 Sports (33), ESPN (18) and Rivals (28).
– 2023 Sam Walters: open recruitment; four star rated recruit by Rivals (26).
Dariq Whitehead is the only returning player from the 2019 City of Palms squad that won the COP tournament but Montverde has completely reloaded and has just as much talent as anyone in the country. They will likely get a chance at revenge on IMG Academy, a team they lost to at the buzzer this season and could be the first repeat champions since they did it almost a decade ago.
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Virginia)
Head coach: Steve Smith
10-5 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH
– 2022 Chris Livingston: Kentucky commit (five star recruit): consensus top 15 recruit by 247 Sports (4), ESPN (12) and Rivals (8).
– 2023 Caleb Foster: Duke commit (five star recruit): consensus top 15 recruit by 247 Sports (12), ESPN (13) and Rivals (11).
– 2022 Judah Mintz: open recruitment (four star recruit): consensus 75 recruit by 247 Sports (73), ESPN (43) and Rivals (68).
– 2022 Devin Ree: Mississippi State commit (four star recruit); consensus top 140 recruit by 247 Sports (84), ESPN (96) and Rivals (137).
– 2022 Jeremy Gregory: East Tennessee State commit
– 2022 Christian Reeves: open recruitment (three star recruit)
Oak Hill has five early losses but don’t let that deter you from the fact that they are still one of the best teams in the tournament. They are led by Kentucky commit Chris Livingston, their highest rated recruit. They are seeking their first COP tournament win in the event’s history.
Dr. Phillips High School (Orlando, Florida)
Head coach: Ben Witherspoon
4-1 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2022 Ernest Udeh Jr: Kansas commit (four star recruit): consensus top 40 recruit by 247 Sports (26), ESPN (38) and Rivals (29).
– 2022 Denzel Aberdeen: Florida commit (three star recruit)
– 2022 Riley Kugel: Mississippi State commit (three star recruit)
Spearheaded by a few SEC and Big 12 commits, Dr. Phillips reeled off back-to-back wins after losing their season opener by just one point. Ernest Udeh Jr will be a force at Kansas in the Big 12 and having him in the middle will keep Dr. Phillips High School in a lot of games at the City of Palms tournament.
Gill St. Bernard’s School (Gladstone, New Jersey)
Head coach: Mergin Sina
0-0 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2024 Naasir Cunningham: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus No. 1 recruit by ESPN (1) and Rivals (1).
– 2023 Mackenzie Mgbako: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 5 recruit by 247 Sports (3), ESPN (5) and Rivals (3).
– 2022 Denver Anglin: Georgetown commit (four star recruit): consensus top 100 recruit by 247 Sports (85), ESPN (92) and Rivals (97).
This roster features two young stars in No. 1 overall sophomore Naasir Cunningham and top five junior Mackenzie Mgbako, and don’t forget about the outside shooting of Georgetown commit Denver Anglin. No one at this years Peach Jam hit more three pointers than Anglin, who hit 38 of his 78 attempts. That’s 48-percent for anyone that’s wondering.
The Signature series will kick off on Sunday, December 19th with the championship taking place that following Tuesday, December 21 at 5:30pm. It opens up putting Victory Rock Prep (FL) vs AZ Compass Prep (AZ) and Combine Academy (NC) vs Crestwood Prep (ON). The losing teams will play each other in the Third Place game Tuesday at 12:20pm.
AZ Compass Prep’s Mookie Cook is the highest rated prospect in this series. He’s ranked in the top 7 by all major recruiting services and is paired with another five star in Kylan Boswell, who’s highest ranking is 18.
AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Arizona)
Head coach: Ed Gipson
14-1 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2023 Mookie Cook: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 10 prospect by 247 Sports (5), ESPN (7) and Rivals (2).
– 2023 Kylan Boswell: open recruitment (five star recruit): consensus top 20 prospect by 247 Sports (13), ESPN (18) and Rivals (9).
– 2022 Chance Westry: Auburn commit (four star recruit): consensus top 40 prospect by 247 Sports (38), ESPN (32) and Rivals (26).
– 2022 Sadraque Nganga: open recruitment (four star recruit): consensus top 50 prospect by 247 Sports (49), ESPN (46) and Rivals (49).
– 2022 Dylan Andrews: UCLA commit (four star recruit): consensus top 55 prospect by 247 Sports (31), ESPN (51) and Rivals (51).
– 2022 Lamar Washington: open recruitment (three star recruit): top 125 rated prospect by 247 Sports (123)
– 2022 Collin Smith: Vanderbilt commit (four star recruit): consensus top 130 prospect by 247 Sports (130) and Rivals (73).
– 2022 Max Allen: San Jose State commit (three star recruit)
– 2022 Josh Ola-Joseph: Minnesota commit (three star recruit)
– 2022 Mekhi Mason: Rice commit
This years AZ Compass Prep team is probably one of the deepest in the country on pure talent alone. They boast 10 Division I prospects led by juniors Mookie Cook and Kylan Boswell. They have one loss on the season to Richardson (TX), the No. 2 team in the country according to Max Preps but has dispatched almost everyone else on their schedule by double-digits.
Combine Academy (Lincolnton, North Carolina)
Head coach: Jeff Mcinnis
9-1 this season
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
– 2022 Jayden Epps: Illinois commit (four star prospect): consensus top 105 recruit by 247 Sports (59), ESPN (94) and Rivals (105).
– 2022 Patrick Wessler: Virginia Tech commit (three star recruit)
Combine Academy is off to a quick 9-1 start with an early loss to Moravian Prep (NC) by just eight points. Their roster is still coming together as a team after Preston Murphy Jr, a three star rated prospect from St. Andrew’s announced he would be finishing his senior season with Combine. The one-time DePaul commit makes a big difference to a team that already has a Big Ten and ACC commit in the starting lineup.
Choctawhatchee High School (Fort Walton Beach, Florida)
Excerpt from COP team bio: “An all-senior starting lineup that helped power “Choctaw” into three Final Fours in four years has graduated, but a talented young nucleus now steps in to fill the void, led by versatile lefty 6-8 SOPH Asa Newell (4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg).” Click to read full bio.
Life Christian Academy (Kissimme, Florida)
Excerpt from COP team bio: “Expect a lot of buzz around Life Christian, thanks to 6-6 SR Hansel Emmanuel, who moved to Orlando from the Dominican Republic early this year and has gone viral for his flashy dunks, passes and shooting against top talent despite having only one arm (due to a wall collapse when he was 6).” Click to read full bio.
Miami Norland High School (Miami, Florida)
Excerpt from COP team bio: “Six-time state champion Coach Lawton Williams (403 career wins) has his most promising young group, highlighted by nationally-known 6-5 SOPH Marcus Allen(12.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg as a freshman).” Click to read full bio.
Tampa Catholic High School (Tampa, Florida)
Excerpt from COP team bio: ” The latest, 6-5 SOPH Karter Knox (17.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.8 apg), is surrounded by a talented young team – point guard 6-3 JR Eddrin Bronson is another emerging prospect, and is joined in the lineup by 6-4 JR Karmelo Branch and 6-5 SR Roderick Watson-Pearcey.” Click to read full bio.
HUGH THIMLAR TRIBUTE
Christopher Columbus (FL) vs SW Florida Christian Academy (FL)
For reference, Hugh Thimlar is the original creator of the City of Palms Classic. He also created the Indiana-Kentucky High School All-Star series that’s still played today and was inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame. His importance to the game of basketball was felt in so many different ways and it was only right to honor him with a game at the very tournament he created and helped sustain.
This year’s highlight of the Hugh Thimlar Tribute are the Boozer twins. If the name sounds familiar it’s because it should. Their elder Carlos Boozer had a long and successful career in the NBA. Cameron and Cayden Boozer are now freshmen Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Florida. They are one of the top freshmen in the state and will have a chance to really make a claim as one of the best in the country moving forward with a great showing at the COP.
Information in this report was aided by the City of Palms Classic team bios and MaxPreps