One of my favorite things to see at EST events is the emergence of rising talent. Alongside the usual suspects & most familiar faces doing damage, there always seems to be a few young players that maybe haven’t developed that name recognition yet making a statement. Nearly half of the EST WNY Warm-Up participants were EST event first-timers and there was a notable injection of youth in the fold, so it’s no surprise that a few were in that boat here as well. Some names you may want to get familiar with after their showings at this event:
Rhylin Fehrenbach (5’9″, Victor 2026; Buffalo Titans): Wait, let me put it in caps… RHYLIN. FEHRENBACH. Spell it right, say it right, get familiar. You’ll more than likely hear it a lot in coming years. The 5’9″ lefty Swiss Army knife had a strong freshman campaign in the winter for a sneaky competitive Victor team, but it’s safe to say she’s really just scratching the surface of what could be. In her EST event debut, it didn’t take long for her to make her presence felt. Rhylin displayed the athleticism to excel when the pace picked up in 5v5 along with the versatility to take advantage of various kinds of matchups in 3v3 play. She was comfortable taking guards down to the block where she could physically overpower them, and she looks well-trained in regards to getting/maintaining position and making a decisive move off the catch in the post. When it was a wing or forward on her, Rhylin showed equal comfort operating from the arc as a slasher especially getting to her left, and during 5v5 action, a trail shooter as well with range to the college line. She seemed to understand where she could take advantage in different matchups & made the game easy by going to it. I was also impressed not just by the fact that she was an alpha athlete despite being one of the youngest on the floor in her surroundings, but that she used that to its fullest extent by playing harder than nearly everyone else. Tough on the glass, first to loose balls, took difficult defensive assignments & competed as hard at that end as she did offensively. Every note I took on Rhylin through the entirety of the event was a positive one, which is scary because it’s clear that she isn’t close to her ceiling as a basketball player. If she continues this path of progression, the 585 has a big problem on their hands.
Natalie Hollingshead (5’3″, Baldwinsville 2026; Syracuse Nets): No one – and I literally mean no one – shot it as well as Natalie did at this event. Not a bad first event for her. She took her surroundings and made it her personal highlight for long stretches by torching the nets & playing with a different gear than many around her. She came out the gate guns blazing, shooting & attacking with confidence and hitting at a high percentage. I wrote ‘all gas, no brakes’ multiple times in notes because she was in constant go mode – undying motor & high compete level in every rotation. Between that and a lively demeanor, Natalie already has the sort of ‘it’ factor that catches your eye when she’s on the court, and when she’s firing on all cylinders like this, you can’t turn away. When given space, she shot the three at a noticeably high clip, a necessary tool for a smaller guard. In 5v5, she was consistently a step ahead and actively pushing tempo. When playing in space, she was able to work off the bounce some more & show a little creativity to get downhill. Natalie shot it well the whole night & scored a ton, which is great, but I was most impressed by the motor & energy level that never seemed to waver over 2.5 hours. That’s a gift that not many can say they have & lends to being a *winner*. No one took advantage of their time on the court more than Natalie.
Skylar Herington (5’7″, Randolph 2027; XGen Elite): Despite being one of the very few 8th graders at the event, Skylar probably came in with a more recognized name than anyone else on this list. After all, I’ve been hearing it since she was in elementary school, and she was a primary producer for a Randolph team that made it to the final day of Class C play in March. If you didn’t walk in and know who Skylar Herington was, there’s not a chance in the world that you would’ve been able to pick her out as the 8th grader. Her skill set, physical tools, and court presence all rise far beyond age as she was one of the more impressive players at the event. She put up some gaudy numbers at times during HS season as a sniper, but it was Skylar’s ability to create off the dribble & finishing package at the rim that took center stage here. She seemingly had the entire bag of tools needed along with the feel & understanding of when to use what. She hit the paint consistently, played off two feet in traffic as well as anyone at the event, finished with either hand off different movements & at various angles around/over defenders, powered through contact when required, and made difficult drift passes & kicks in traffic look easy. I’ve mentioned the court presence and ‘it’ factor before, and Skylar’s glass is full of it. The Southern Tier of WNY has produced some monsters in the recent past, and Sky has all the makings of being the next big thing.
Leah Benedict (5’9″, Cicero-North Syracuse 2027; I-90 Elite): Advanced for her age since the first time I watched her, it looks like Leah is continuing to build & now really starting to separate herself from the pack. This was her first time at an EST high school event (she played well at last spring’s Middle School Combine) – despite one of a handful of 8th graders playing up in this, she was another that attacked the format more like one of the old heads & didn’t look the part of a middle schooler. She fit in physically as a 5’9″ wing that’s building on the frame, and what became clear here is she’s starting to establish herself as a sniper with some effortless range. During 5v5 play, she pulled from beyond the college line & connected on multiple occasions without needing a rhythm dribble or any additional time & space. Couple that with the athleticism to be a slasher/finisher in transition, and she presented as a multi-faceted wing scorer. The range took center stage & even extended in 3v3, where she canned 6 threes alone in just 3-4 rotations of play from as far out as 25′. If Leah’s developing into the kind of shooter that she showed at this event – throw that in a pot with her positional size/length & fluid overall athletic ability – she’ll eventually be one of the players carrying the torch in the 315.
Lyla Duskee (5’7″, Phoenix 2027; Syracuse Nets/Syracuse Royals): Not a surprise as she was already a varsity contributor over the winter, but Lyla had no problem holding her own & making herself visible among her surroundings here. The well-built 5’7″ wing displayed as a shooter with relatively effortless range during 5v5 play, knocking down a pair from the college line in the midst of her rotations. She shined in the space & enhanced reps of 3v3 as she was able to get into a rhythm & flash some of the versatility I’ve seen from her this spring on the AAU circuit. The jumper was still fluid & the range was still there, connecting from as far out as 22′, but she also used the spacing to work off the dribble. She has the strength to carve space & maintain the line when she gets to a defender’s hip and had success attacking on straight line drives. I also felt like she attacked the 3v3 session with more energy than most around her, and that life & consistent engagement allowed her to stand out. Lyla is advanced for her age, both in skill & physically, and she’s on track to make noise in the Syracuse area before long.
Taylor Carnevale (5’6″, Clyde-Savannah 2026; Syracuse Royals): Taylor’s night unfortunately got cut short in the last segment after a collision in 3v3 play, but she already made her statement heard by that point. The up & coming small schooler in Section V impressed me with some of what she brought to the table, and that was with 5v5 being pretty much all of the sample set, which is the environment where players can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. She came out of the gate with the hot hand, knocking down 3 threes in as many rotations during her team’s first 5v5 game, including one from beyond the college line. That continued in their second game, but she also flashed some downhill work & displayed the strength to finish through contact at the rim. She was in the process of extending on that point in 3v3 – a couple iso attacks & rim finishes, using her strength to carve a line straight downhill against a quick guard – before getting the wind knocked out of her. A solid night at the office overall for a young gun coming into her own.
Olivia Leazott (5’5″, Depew 2026; XGen Elite): Sometimes… you just know when someone is going to show well. I knew I’d be writing about Olivia. She earned it, but I knew it. When you attack every single situation with an unmatched compete level and desire to win – even when no one is keeping score – you’re going to look good. Simple logic, but something that very few actually do. If you ask me about Olivia as a player, that’s the first thing I’ll say, and she showed those qualities throughout the night. It was utility play that stuck out early, as she did a little bit of everything and was primarily responsible for a bevy of positive plays for her team. She showed the ability to get downhill, get two feet in the paint, and find the dump or kick when the defense collapsed. Then she showed the range. Then she turned defense into offense with a couple steals & transition finishes. Then… her first five minutes on the court was up. So yeah, not a bad first impression. It was a night full of things like that for Olivia, who consistently played harder than nearly everyone else on the court and may not have made a ton of highlight plays, but she made many winning plays.
Meadow Werts (5’7″, Cicero-North Syracuse 2026; Syracuse Nets): Let’s use a hypothetical and say the only basketball you ever watch is EST. If that’s the case, the first thing you’d probably notice about Meadow is that she has grown. At last June’s Middle School Combine, she came in at about 5’4″. New year, new Meadow, as she’s sprouted upwards of 3 inches since. That’s only a part of it though – mix in the physical development with a year of competitive varsity basketball at CNS under her belt, and I’m now seeing a more confident player that’s coming into her own. Her skill level as a lead guard showed in all segments of the event. She’s a capable ballhandler & showed confidence handling against pressure to get to spots on the court & to get downhill. She changes directions well and showed some creativity off the bounce without overdribbling. This was particularly noteworthy to me as she was matched up with some opponents in 5v5 that actually made an effort to get up & guard, so she had to work to put her team in advantageous situations. She extended on that in 3v3, working effectively off the dribble to get into the paint & finish around the rim. Some her age look like they’re about maxed out physically… Meadow is about the opposite. I’m going to guess she’s not done growing and there’s a ton of physical development to be realized in coming years. She’s taking the right steps forward from a skill standpoint and the dividends could be seen in her play here. Keep an eye on Meadow… I think she’s just scratching the surface.
Cheyenne Barabas (5’8″, Williamsville South 2027; I-90 Elite): Scorers often show more of their value in 3v3 as everyone gets more touches & operates with more naturally enhanced spacing, but it was 5s when Cheyenne really got busy. I’ll call her a wing, but I’m not even sure if that describes her game with the most accuracy as she has her own unique style of play. She has an advanced scoring skill set at her age, can shoot it with some range (pulled & connected from 23′ comfortably), will work off the bounce without getting sped up, and got to her spots on the court over and over again. When she let the game come to her, she was potent & scored at three levels, including the midrange game that players often forget about. Because Cheyenne has a unique style of play and doesn’t have some easy direct comparison of the recent past that I can think of, I’ll be very intrigued to watch her develop in the years to come.