Atlanta's opening session saw the Mac Irvin Fire enjoy their most successful opening session in a number of years. Head coach Mike Irvin carefully assembled his 2019 17-and-under squad, and after a 3-1 opening session in Atlanta, they have plenty of optimism heading into their final nine games.
Through four games, Ryan Kalkbrenner - one of the main frontcourt pieces that Irvin added to the Fire's rotation - has already made him look smart.
Standing at 7-feet tall, Kalkbrenner passes the Division 1 eye-test. He has great size and length, and while he's not the physically-strongest prospect as of yet, his natural defensive-instincts and high basketball IQ helped set him apart in Atlanta.
Kalkbrenner was a rim-protector the entire weekend for the Fire, racking up 14 total blocked shots (3.5 BPG) while contesting countless others. He blocked six shots in a one-point win over Team CP3, and it's not likely that the Fire pulls out a victory without Kalkbrenner's production in the paint.
His teammates were able to defend more aggressively on the perimeter, and ultimately, Kalkbrenner's rim-protecting presence allowed the Fire to implement their patented high-paced, up-and-down style-of-play.
"Ryan is a big-time defender," head coach Mike Irvin said. "He can guard the pick and roll, and he’s an elite rim protector."
On top of the defensive chops and rebounding rate (7.0 RPG) that Kalkbrenner showed off in Atlanta, the junior also added value in other aspects of the game. The Trinity Catholic (MO) product averaged 9.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting while knocking down 11 of 13 free throws (84.6%).
Kalkbrenner's play has caught the notice of high-major schools across the country. After Atlanta, the Missouri-native picked up offers from Stanford and Creighton, adding to the nine offers he already had pocketed.
His skill-set is improving across the board, but Kalkbrenner should be considered a true center right now. Irvin knows what he has in his talented big man, and now the rest of the nation has the chance to take note.
"By him winning defensive player of the session," Irvin said. "(Ryan) is showing he’s one of the best centers in the country."