With 7 schools in pursuit, Top-35 junior Layden Blocker is 'just scratching the surface' for No. 1 ranked Sunrise Christian | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / August 13.
  • With 7 schools in pursuit, Top-35 junior Layden Blocker is ‘just scratching the surface’ for No. 1 ranked Sunrise Christian

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    After reeling off three wins at the NIBC Weekend extending its record to 12-1 on the season, Sunrise (KS) Christian Academy is looking to go from 2021 runner ups to the 2022 GEICO National Champions. And after coming in at No. 1 in the latest SCNext Top 25, ranking the best boys’ high school basketball programs, Sunrise looks to be in good position.

    While seniors Mark Mitchell and Gradey Dick have been integral parts to this year’s team, class of 2023 guard Layden Blocker has proven to be another key addition with all-around improvement in his game throughout his junior season.

    “Layden has developed most as a playmaker and in his pace,” Sunrise coach Luke Barnwell said. “He has elite speed and he is learning to use that in bursts in the half-court to create advantages for our team. He is just scratching the surface though and I look forward to continuing his growth and development.”

    The 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard out of Arkansas, has made the transition to Sunrise look easy, developing chemistry with teammates and making smart plays on the court.

    Blocker, the No. 34-ranked prospect in the class of 2023, has drawn the attention of numerous high-major programs as he focuses on seven schools: Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, Auburn and Arkansas.

    “As time goes on, it’s going to be hard to choose which schools I want to continue to be on my list because they’re all showing love,” Blocker said in an interview with ZAGSBLOG Wednesday evening. “Right now, I’m just staying focused and not trying to think too much about the recruitment. We’re still in the season. I’m still a junior so I still have a year left, so I’m just trying to stay focused on staying present.”

    Blocker broke down each school:

    Memphis: “What appeals to me is that they’re getting coached by one of the NBA’s greatest guards – Coach Penny (Hardaway). I feel like going there you can get a lot of knowledge about just how to play the game. He’s been through all the levels – NBA, college, he’s done it all. You can get a lot of knowledge, especially with me as a point guard, learning how to score, how to get teammates involved and how to be a leader. I think that’s how going to Memphis could help me.”

    Baylor: “Coach (Scott) Drew is a really energetic coach with a lot of life into him. They have a great coaching staff that does a great job of developing guards. I’ve watched them play. The guards have a lot of freedom within the offense. They play with energy on offense and defense. That’s what I like about Baylor.”

    Kansas: “They have a hall-of-fame coach in Bill Self. He pushes his players to be the best they can be. I like how they play with athletic, versatile bigs. It makes the game easier for the guards to shoot or score. One of my teammates, Gradey Dick, is committed to Kansas. That’s really a good fit for him. He can shoot the ball really well. I think he’s one of the best shooters in high school basketball. I just like how they play with their guards. I think they do a great job of letting their guards work out by also having a structure.”

    Oklahoma State: “The coaching staff really cares about their players. I like their offense. It’s a transition, fast-paced offense, open-style guard play. You saw Cade Cunningham have a lot of freedom in the system last year. I really feel like the offense is good for me. It’s very fast. I like to get down in transition a lot, just using my speed to create an advantage. It allows me to attack and create for my teammates and myself.”

    Gonzaga: “They also have freedom with their guard play. They fell short in the championship last season, but I was watching them throughout the whole season. Jalen Suggs had a lot of freedom in their offense being a freshman. He’s an athletic, two-way guard just like me. I feel like I’m an athletic, two-way guard. They have a fast-tempo, high-scoring offense with a lot of pick-and-rolls and motion. Those are two of my favorite styles – pick-and-rolls, getting out in transition fast. One thing that people don’t really see is that they play defense too.”

    Auburn: “I like how they play. Coach (Bruce Pearl) motivates his players well. They play with a lot of energy on both sides of the floor. They turn their defense into offense and they have a fast, up-tempo style of play also. Their guards have freedom just like all the other schools. You saw Sharife Cooper. He had a lot of freedom coming off not being able to play. He had a lot of freedom when he came in. I like that type of offense allowing the guards to have freedom, create for teammates and make plays.”

    Arkansas: “I’m from Arkansas. They have a pro-experienced staff. Most of the things they do come from the NBA. Their guards have freedom within the offense. They play great in transition. Like I said, I like to get out in transition and play fast. They like to play up-tempo. When I went there for an unofficial, they said that most of the stuff they do is similar to the NBA. If I want to go to the league, that’s a good thing to go to a school that plays like that. I think they have a great system and a great program just like the rest of the schools in my top seven.”

    Outside of his top seven schools, Blocker has also started to receive interest from Oregon, receiving a call from assistant coach Chris Crutchfield Tuesday evening.

    Blocker says it was difficult to develop chemistry between teammates early in the season, but as the team gets more familiar with each other, everything is starting to free up.

    “I love the group of guys,” he said. “We’re a new team, but we bond really well together. We fight everyday together in practice.”

    Playing alongside fellow Division 1 prospects in Mitchell (Duke), Dick (Kansas), Dillon Hunter (Baylor) and Cameron Corhen (Florida State), among others, Blocker is doing his best to get advice from his teammates on how to navigate the recruiting process.

    “They’ve just been helping me and telling me not to go to a school based on the name. You can get caught up just trying to go to a school just because they’re a blue-blood or just because of the name,” Blocker said. “Go to a school that fits you, really wants to recruit you and play you. I feel like that’s the main thing anyway in my recruitment. I don’t want to just go to a big name school. I want to go to a school that’s just going to let me play my game and be me.”

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