Seattle Rotary qualified for Peach Jam during the final session, marking their first trip to North Augusta, South Carolina in six years. How did Washington’s Elite Youth Basketball League representative end the drought? Look no further than Jaden McDaniels. The 6-foot-10 swingman absolutely blew up this spring, skyrocketing to the top five in most national rankings after a eye-opening 16-game run. Throw in a well-assembled and highly-productive nine-man supporting cast, and the result was a 10-6 record and a berth to July’s grassroots super bowl. Rotary will enter July with four double-digit scorers, and they hit the third most three-pointers of any Peach Jam contender (110).
By the time July is over, McDaniels might mess around and become the best player in the country. The Federal Way (WA) product averaged 19.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 blocks, scoring in double-figures in all 16 games & shooting 50% from the floor. McDaniels put up a number of jaw-dropping stat-lines this spring, but the most impressive part of watching McDaniels was his repeated passing of the ‘eye’ test. Rotary’s star operates like a pro. His offensive arsenal is chocked full of skill. He can beat you off the dribble, post you up, or simply outwork you in the paint. Throw in his athleticism, open-court sprinting ability and his non-stop motor, and you’re reading about a budding superstar. The only noticeable mark on his resume is his perimeter shooting; McDaniels hit 19 three-pointers on 30 percent shooting. With how smooth and natural his perimeter stroke looks, it would be a wise assumption that his percentage will improve with time. As long as McDaniels is on the floor and producing, Rotary will have a chance to advance in Pool C.
There’s a lot to like about Rotary’s crop of guards. Junior guard Marcus Tsohonis - one of two players on the roster from Oregon - had a terrific second season in the EYBL. A veteran of Portland BC in 2017, Tsohonis (247 3-star) is arguably the most-improved player on the circuit. The 6-foot-4 lead guard averaged 12.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 assists in 16 games, co-piloting the backcourt with fellow junior veteran Noah Williams. Also coming off modest 2017 averages, Williams (247 3-star) had an extremely underrated spring. The 6-foot-5 floor general chipped per-game averages of 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and a team-high 3.8 assists. Williams doesn’t get much of the ‘pub’ for Rotary, but he’s vitally important to their chances in July. Williams’ does a great job of utilizing Rotary’s biggest perimeter threat, RaQuan Battle. A 6-foot-6 sharpshooter verbally committed to coach Mike Hopkins & the hometown Washington Huskies, Battle hit a team-high 40 triples for Rotary. Battle scored 3rd Team All-Indianapolis honors after a second session that saw him average 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals while hitting 17 triples. Four juniors - Kenny Curtis, Stevie Smith, Jishai Miller and Jaden Nielson-Skinner (3.2 APG) - combine to average 12.8 points per game off the bench for Rotary. All four bench players will see minutes at Peach Jam, but their core three will log a ton of minutes.
McDaniels needs to be on the floor for Rotary to be successful. Since their frontcourt rotation only runs three deep, the same exact sentiment can be said for Paolo Banchero. The EYBL All-Underclassman selection is a special talent, and will enter July as the most productive freshman at Peach Jam. Banchero (ESPN No. 5) was efficient and consistent in 16 EYBL games, averaging 13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting a team-high 90 free throws. The 6-foot-9 prospect is only beginning to tap into his limitless potential, and his continued production will be crucial to Rotary’s chances in pool play. Recently reclassified junior Nate Stokes will play limited minutes off the bench for Seattle, while Battle and Williams will see time at the small forward position when Rotary goes small.
This may be their first trip to Peach Jam in a number of years, but don’t be fooled; this team can make noise. They hold regular season wins over the Playaz, Renaissance, PSA Cardinals and Woodz Elite, and lost a number of razor-close games against Peach Jam contenders. Their chances of advancing will come down to their defensive output. McDaniels has proven to be a star, their supporting cast is on point, but just like their regular season chances, they will need to defend at a high level in order to make it out of pool play. Can they advance? Absolutely. Will they? We can’t wait to watch it unfold.