DALLAS, TX — The sixth-grade division was the youngest that I was able to watch at the HYPE Sports Winter Jam and tournament director Brandon Ray did not lead me astray when he stated that it was likely the deepest division in terms of national-caliber talent.
Going head-to-head against a loaded field featuring shoe-sponsored organizations such as Drive Nation (Texas), HHBC (Texas), Pro Skills (Texas), Team Griffin (Oklahoma), Woodz Elite (Arkansas), and more, it was the STL Knights (Missouri) that were crowned Platinum Division champions from the Class of 2026.
The St. Louis-based squad was impressive from start to finish and should find themselves in contention for a top-ten national ranking when the initial list is released in the coming weeks. Platinum Division semifinalists, Next Page Force (Arkansas), as well as Gold Division champions, Cy Fair Elite Austin (Texas), also deserve special mention as the most accomplished teams without a shoe sponsor in attendance for the 2020 HYPE Sports Winter Jam.
Helping lead the St. Louis Knights to the Winter Jam title was Devin Houston. Standing 6-foot-0, the event’s MVP is a do-it-all player, capable of playing any position on the court when competing against his Class of 2026 peers. He has already built a reputation for himself both locally at Grace Chapel Lutheran School, and nationally within his class, as a talented athlete. He’s certainly ahead of the curve physically and is crafting his perimeter skills with the hope that his talents translate to the next level.
Although his team was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Platinum Division, 6-foot-2 forward Frederick Smith was perhaps the most intriguing prospect I watched from the Class of 2026 at the HYPE Sports Winter Jam. Under the tutelage of former Team Penny program director, Chris Campbell, the Memphis, Tennessee native is suiting up for CEBA (Campbell Elite Basketball Academy) this season.
As far as projections are concerned, Smith appears to have tremendous upside, and showed promise throughout the weekend due to his willowy frame and fluid athleticism. His father, Fred Smith, Sr. played at Oral Roberts University and later with the Harlem Globetrotters, where he once held the record for the world’s highest dunk, at 11-feet-11 inches. Thus, it’s easy to understand why there is some excitement for the younger Smith’s potential, assuming he continues working diligently to improve his game.
DALLAS, TX — The seventh-grade division was the largest of the HYPE Sports Winter Jam, and in the end, AET (Oklahoma) emerged as the Platinum Division champions from the 42-team field as well as the only unbeaten team in the Class of 2025.
An opening 40+ point win against HHBC Red (Texas) set the tone for the weekend, as AET earned a 6-0 record at the tournament, with an average margin of victory of 21 points per game. Their opening bracket game against Team Griffin (Oklahoma) proved to be their closest, but following wins versus San Antonio Future (Texas), Gladiators Sports (Texas), and BTR (Oklahoma) there was little doubt that AET was the most talented team in attendance.
The Gold Division winners, Drive Nation (Texas), also impressed as their only loss of the weekend was against AET (Oklahoma) in pool play. Lastly, the Silver Division champs, Mansfield Trojans (TX), are deserving of special mention after bouncing back from a pair of pool play losses to end their weekend with four consecutive victories.
Personally, I’m very curious to see how all of these teams will fare at the national level in the coming months, because typically Texas is regarded as one of the most respected states when it comes to youth hoops talent. Considering that fact, it should not be overlooked that Oklahoma currently appears to have at least three teams deserving of national recognition in the Class of 2025, including AET, Below The Rim (BTR), and Team Griffin.
DALLAS, TX — The HYPE Sports Winter Jam has become a fixture on my calendar for the last several years thanks in part to the impressive amount of star power consistently delivered by the Lone Star State. This year’s event was highlighted by the Houston Hoops Blue Chips, as they proved that they belong at the top of the list among the Class of 2024 teams in the South region.
Coached by Christian Begg, a longtime fixture in the Houston Hoops organization, the HHBC 8th-grade group blazed through pool play at Winter Jam, averaging 74 points per game with a running clock, while only surrendering an astonishing 33 points in two games.
Taking advantage of a first-round bye, HHBC then advanced past BTR Blue (Oklahoma) 57-31 in the quarterfinals and escaped ProSkills (Texas) 43-40 in their closest and lowest-scoring game of the tournament. They finished out their championship weekend with a dominant victory against Team Griffin (Oklahoma) by the score of 59-41.
The 2020 HYPE Sports Winter Jam Platinum champs absolutely deserve top-five consideration nationally to begin the year and should be rewarded such when I release my team rankings at the end of the month. Additionally, Drive Nation (Texas) and the aforementioned Pro Skills (Texas) and Team Griffin (Oklahoma) will likely find their way onto the list as well.
Lastly, HYPE Sports Winter Jam Gold Division winners, TJ Ford Super Stars (Texas), could be yet another under the radar team to monitor as the travel circuit season gets going. After suffering an opening loss to the Texas Tar Heels in pool play, the Class of 2024 squad finished their weekend with five consecutive double-digit wins.