2023 Tarkanian Classic Takeaways


A yearly favorite, I was on tap for the Tarkanian Classic this past week in Las Vegas for both the Prep and High School action. From new names to surges in developments, there's plenty to parse through. Here, I'll break down the overarching takeaways along with a variety of parting thoughts and notes.

Meet Sandra Day O'Connor's Michael Simcoe

The breakout of the 2023 Tarkanian Classic. A natural part of the evaluation process, but it never fails to surprise each time it occurs. Simcoe, a 6-8 forward out of the Phoenix area, had previously been a target of a variety of West coast mid-majors like UCSD, Portland and UC Irvine among others. Following a few days at Tark, he's on the radar of no shortage of high majors across the country and will be at the top of evaluation lists heading into the spring. In addition, he's vaulted from unknown to a Top-75 prospect nationally in 2025 for us. Why?

The lifelong swimmer has a prototypical four-man's frame at the next level, and one that's uniquely advanced for a 17-year-old. Long, strong and full of pop when he has a head of steam. There's a simplicity and an unselfishness to his game that drew intrigue, as even his big flashes were a product of impact winning in versatile ways. A willing and eager ball mover, a hard-nosed driver out of a variety of different actions, a physical screen-setter and hyper-competitive approach that was apparent from the tip of each outing. Around the cup, he has a simple yet impactful post game, generating a ton of opportunities at the line and showcasing impressive feel passing out of doubles. Paired with the interior aggression, he's a very willing floor spacer. The next step will be speeding up his release and growing more adept with less time and space, but there's a strong foundation of touch and confidence already in the fold. Simcoe displayed real comfort operating as a handoff hub, popping to space in ball screens and bringing a cerebral presence to O'Connor's offense as their fulcrum. Defensively, he weaponizes his length to stifle shots and has a knack for pushing legitimate five-men off their spots in deep. Rebounds with purpose and was one of those presences who always seemed to be around the ball. There's more to polish up looking ahead, namely his right-hand, but the blend of productivity, raw versatility, intangibles and BBIQ all packed into a modern four-man from a physical and athletic standpoint warrants a lofty debut on the rankings front. Look for Simcoe's recruitment to quickly take shape over the next six months.

Reframing the lens on Illini signee Jase Butler

Jase Butler, a 6-4 guard out of NorCal, ascended this past spring and summer as a potential national prospect, eventually signing with Illinois over a number of WCC and MWC schools. Viewed as a reach by many on the outside looking in based off of the recruitment and the consensus ranking, but it's quickly looking like the opposite -- a steal -- for the Illini. Why?

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