With a straight face, Trae Hannibal said he practices the play that all but shut down the gymnasium at Ben Lippen High School on Saturday afternoon.
Hannibal is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard who’s skilled enough to draw two South Carolina coaches to his games. Both Frank Martin and Chuck Martin had bleacher seats Saturday as Hannibal led Hartsville High to a win over Nation Ford in a Capital City Jam showcase event put on by Phenom Hoop Report.
The final two of Hannibal’s 23 points were unassisted. The junior, working a semi-fast break, took a step inside the top of the key, launched the basketball off the top of the backboard, sprinted past two Nation Ford defenders and slammed home his own dish.
“I saw it the whole way,” Hannibal said afterward, “I’m not even going to lie to you. It opened up and I threw it up. I practice that.”
The Martins had a clear view of the rim-rocker.
“Trae goes from zero to 100, quick,” Hartsville coach Yusuf English said when asked what college coaches like most about Hannibal’s game.
Phenom Hoop, which closely scouts the state of South Carolina, ranks Hannibal as SC’s No. 8 player in the 2019 class.
As of now, his offer list included just Stetson and S.C. State. But bigger programs are interested, too.
“It’s been blowing up,” Hannibal said of his recruitment. “From ACC, Pac-12, SEC. I’m loving it, man. Bunch of schools are hitting me up. It’s crazy.
“I love it, though. I just got to stay humble. It’s all because of God.”
The Gamecocks were there Saturday. Hannibal said Clemson checked him out earlier in the week. Oklahoma State is scheduled to watch him next week when Hartsville plays a tournament in North Carolina. Wake Forest and Kansas State are also in the mix.
With the Martins in attendance against Nation Ford, Hannibal had nine rebounds, six assists and five steals to go along with the 23 points.
“They love my game,” Hannibal said of USC. “They love my attack game, how I get my other teammates involved and how I crash the boards. They basically love me like that.
“But they’ve been talking about family a lot. They’re trying to get me hard, but I’m not gonna bait into it just yet.”
Hannibal’s pre-game tradition involves watching clips of Russell Westbrook. Like Oklahoma City’s all-star guard, Hannibal wants opponents to fear his aggressive through the lane.
“He can finish around the rim,” English said. “He’s very strong. And his athleticism is out of this world.”
Hannibal said he plans to visit USC once his busy basketball schedule settles down. Hannibal is a member of the Carolina Wolves AAU program. The Wolves, Hannibal said, mimic the Gamecocks in playing style.
“My AAU coach runs the same system,” he said. “Deny ball, hard defense and get after it. Just run the floor.
“I basically like their game. They stay up-tempo. That’s just basically what I like about (USC).”