Nestled in the heart of San Antonio’s northeast side is a basketball goldmine — Karen Wagner High School.
A foundation set at the turn of the decade by head coach Clifton Ellis, who led Wagner to back-to-back state semifinal appearances behind current NBA standouts Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) and Andre Roberson (Thunder), is now helmed by head coach Rodney Clark and a slew of young prospects on the rise.
Sitting at 21-1 on the season and ranked No. 28 nationally and No. 3 in Texas, the familiar national and state powerhouse label remain. With the bulk of Clark’s productivity being underclassmen, not much is expected to change.
Scott Drew has a special talent on his way to Waco next season in Tristan Clark. One of just two seniors on the roster, the four-star Baylor power forward commit is every bit of a Power 5 prospect. At 6’9, 230 pounds, Clark’s size is too much for most high school competition, even at the 5A level. His evident athleticism and fluid skill-set will aid in earning minutes as he transitions the Big 12 next season.
The primary and often only way to slow Clark down is by sending help defenders as soon he touches the ball. In Wagner's 86-67 win over rival Converse Judson, a double-team still resulted in a Clark dunk and late in the second half — one of his seldom wide open looks — Clark sent the crowd into a frenzy with a dunk that momentarily dislodged the rim.
Rated as the nation's No. 100 player, per 247Sports Composite, Clark is averaging 16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a senior.
Previously, from his time with Findlay Prep:
Arguably Wagner’s most intriguing college prospect, aside from Baylor’s Clark, is sophomore wing Kevin McCullar (pictured above). Just a sophomore, McCullar already houses intangibles that stand out among a host of high-level talent and looks be just scratching the surface of his potential.
At 6’4, McCullar is a do-it-all contributor on the wing for Wagner with a pure and consistent shooting stroke, evident in his 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in Tuesday night’s victory over Converse Judson. His ball handling is fluid with plenty of creativity and he’s able to get to the rim and finish with relative ease, despite his 168-pound frame still needing to fill out.
For such a high-usage guard, he plays notably errorless basketball and defensively, he’s a menace whose length causes noticeable issues for opponents. McCullar’s game is more mature than his age and it’s pretty clear as soon as you watch him that he’ll play at the next level; most likely in a major conference.
“He is a great defender and very versatile guard,” Coach Clark told Burnt Orange Nation. “[McCullar] has a very, very high IQ. He is a Division I prospect.”
For Wagner, McCullar sees minutes as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward, but Clark noted that he envisions McCullar as a point guard at the next level.
Though he’s yet to add an offer, McCullar has garnered interest from a handful of programs and with a strong summer circuit, he’ll enter the 2017-18 season as a need-to-know junior.
An almost immediately noticeable standout on a roster already featuring a Baylor pledge and a handful of intriguing college prospects is sophomore point guard Jalen Jackson. The son of San Antonio AAU powerhouse Hard Work head coach Terence “Boo Man” Jackson, the sophomore’s constant involvement in high-level competition is already apparent.
Physically, Jackson is well on his way to being an elite prospect and if he adds another couple inches to his 5’10 frame, as the skill-set and intangibles are in place to become one of the nation’s premier 2019 point guards.
Though he doesn’t have great length, Jackson is considerably explosive with the ball and thrives in up-tempo situations. In half-court settings, he’s capable of breaking defenders down off the dribble or simply utilizing his athletic edge to create space and get to the rim; often finishing through contact or drawing enough attention to open lanes for cutters. This was the case much of the night against Converse Judson, in which Jackson finished with eight assists and just one turnover, along with 14 points.
Most impressive when watching Jackson is despite being a sophomore, Jackson has already emerged as a vocal leader and expends just as much effort as the primary on-ball defender as he does orchestrating the offense; a trait familiar across the board at Wagner.
Jackson currently holds offers from UTSA, UT-Arlington, and Middle Tennessee and he’s generated interest from Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Creighton, Memphis, and Oregon, among a host of others.
DaRaun Clark, the nephew of head coach Rodney Clark, could be in store for a breakout senior season in 2017-18.
Though he doesn't quite pop out on a play-by-play basis just yet, he'll have several flashes throughout a game that display why he's a legitimate college prospect. His frame needs some work in the weight room, but at 6'4 with ideal length, Clark looks the part of a college shooting guard prospect and has the skill-set to match.
With a quick release and good shooting form, Clark is a confident and capable perimeter threat and can find points from mid-range, as well. More notably, he’s an above-average athlete that already plays defense at an elite level and offensively, he shows great potential as a slasher.
Averaging 12.8 points per game, Clark is Wagner’s second-leading scorer, behind only Tristan Clark.
Another crafty and creative ball-handler sharing duties with a host of talent around him is sophomore Jelen Hanspard. At 5’10, the lefty floor general plays with great rhythm and body control for a player of his age and the game looks as if it slows down when he’s at work. In addition to already being comfortable finishing around length at the rim, he displays a confident and smooth jump shot that falls more often than not.
Alongside Jackson, Hanspard is a really intriguing point guard prospect for the next two years if the two can mesh and complement each other as their games evolve, which would make for arguably 2019’s most electric point guard tandem.
Few freshmen earn minutes on a national power clustered with backcourt talent, but Braelon Seals is doing just that. A 6’1 floor general, Seals has great size for his age and though he’s a year or two from becoming a true impact player, as are most freshmen, he’s a young prospect that will see college interest throughout the next few seasons. Assistant coach Andre Jackson raved about Seals as a major piece in Wagner’s future.
It’s rare for a high school program to house so much talent and young potential at one time, but that’s the current case for Clark and the Thunderbirds. With two years of development ahead of them, Jackson, McCullar, and Hanspard are on pace to become the premier backcourt in the state, which will be bolstered next season by a senior DaRaun Clark.
By the end of next season, most, if not each of Wagner’s current crop of college prospects will be names to know in major recruiting circles.