The annual Bill Hensley Run N’ Slam took place last weekend in Indiana with a collection of sponsored & independent teams coming to Fort Wayne to compete for championships. This historic event is always a great one and 2022 was no different. The wide range of high quality programs & players made for tons of good action. To start things off, we look at the teams from the 17U division that reached the Final 4 in the Platinum Bracket.

Midwest Basketball Club
It was at last year’s Run N’ Slam where I first watched Midwest Basketball Club and gained an appreciation for their program. With Kentucky commit Reed Sheppard and Indiana commit Gabe Cupps returning to their 17U team, it was not surprising at all to see them take home the championship. Sheppard raised his level of play as the weekend went on and really picked up the scoring load on Sunday with new Cincinnati commit Rayvon Griffith not being in action. I always walk away impressed with how Sheppard can pass the ball to go along with his highly-touted scoring ability. As he always does, Cupps did a bunch of things both offensively & defensively to help Midwest. He picked up ball-handlers the full length of the court, was a vocal leader directing the offense, and seemed to be more aggressive as a shooter/scorer than usual.

Kent State commit Donovan Hunter, Maki Johnson, Lance Hayes, and Luke Johnson are other who produce at a good rate for Midwest. Hunter’s ability to spread out the defense with his shooting and perimeter skill at 6’8” is very valuable, Maki Johnson gives them a sniper from deep who’s tough & ultra-competitive. Hayes is a good athlete who’s opportunistic with his scoring and has a unique in-between game, Luke Johnson stays ready off the ball on the interior and finishes pretty well with leaping ability off 2 & a body that can take some contact.

Full Package
The Full Package team had people talking all weekend, starting off 5-0 before falling to Midwest in the championship. Among those wins were notable victories over Indy Heat and Illinois Wolves. They play with a chip on their shoulder, play for each other, and were looking to prove something every time out. Jake Fiegen made a strong argument for best shooter at the event. He ended with 8 3’s in the championship game and energized Full Package with big shots nonstop. He has a high, consistent release and always seems to be able to get square & on balance to pull the trigger. Fiegen was extremely impressive moving off the ball; he is very active and has a good understanding of how to set or use screens to free himself up for shooting opportunities. He can also get into rhythm mid-range pull-ups. His energy extended to the defensive end too and his constant activity resulted in him finding some offensive rebounds.

Also with an exceptional weekend for Full Package was Niko Abusara, who is a long, explosive perimeter piece who makes high-flying plays all over the court and possesses a motor that never stops running. He can get up above the rim off of 1 or 2 feet and just has a fearless approach that I liked. Some others worth noting among the team were Mark Nikolich-Wilson with his skill & versatility in the frontcourt as well as the steady, unselfish guard play from Matas & Rokas Castillo. I didn’t get to watch them as much as other teams during the weekend so hopefully I can see Full Package again soon.

Indiana Elite
Another team who I first saw at the 2021 Run N’ Slam, Indiana Elite’s 2023 group is now a year older and still getting the job done. With Penn State commit Logan Imes going down with an injury early in the weekend, they battled through that and reached the semifinals. Fellow Penn State commit Braeden Shrewsberry was firing from deep all weekend and had multiple big shooting games for IE. He also did some good things attacking long closeouts. JQ Roberts had a strong showing as well, bringing physicality, energy, and explosiveness. He flew through for powerful dunks, rebounded aggressively, ran the floor, and protected the basket. With the absence of Imes, I thought Evan Ipsaro gave the team some solid contributions at the PG spot. He has a strong, thick build but is also pretty quick and is able to create off the dribble. Ipsaro scored 13 points and made good reads off penetration while also forcing some turnovers in their win Friday night over Ohio Buckets.

Illinois Wolves
Each year, the Wolves are going to have solid, fundamental teams across all age groups and just find ways to accumulate wins. It seemed like they ran out of gas in the semifinals but were still impressive overall during the tournament. The duo of Cam Christie & Asa Thomas was very productive last summer and that is continuing again this year. They can cause matchup problems as taller players with perimeter skill and were consistent throughout the weekend. I loved what Christie did on both sides of the ball; he connected on a variety of shots, showed good vision, and anticipated on defense for steals frequently. You could count on Thomas to knock down multiple 3’s in every game of the tournament. It seemed like he was always going for around 15 points and 3 or more made triples with a reliable shot that has good form. He is a smart player who passes well, understands spacing, and can use his size at close to 6’7” to score in the lane. 

Other important pieces for the Wolves at Run N’ Slam were Jake Hamilton and Troy Cicero. Against Mac Irvin Fire, Hamilton was particularly good and led them with 18 points. If he can come close to replicating that type of performance on a consistent basis, it’ll be huge for their team. Hamilton shows some of the traits similar to Alonas Peciulis and Caden Pierce on last year’s 17U Wolves team, giving them a physical, rugged wing who is active and doesn’t need the ball much. He will make shots when needed too and is capable of guarding different spots. Cicero gets himself started defensively by being quick & pesty on the ball. He is also confident on offense, proving to be an effective shooter while also using his aforementioned quickness to get places off the bounce.