Link Academy begins its second season as one of the top high school basketball programs in the country as it plays on the campus of Camp Kanakuk in Branson.
The Lions had an outstanding season in his inaugural year when they finished as the runner-up at the GEICO Nationals while playing against teams that fans in southwest Missouri typically see in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions.
In January, Link Academy will make its debut in the Tournament of Champions this season. The team is led by former LSU head coach Bill Armstrong after Rodney Perry was hired as an assistant coach at Kansas State.
More:Link Academy: Meet the new Branson High School basketball powerhouse you’ve never heard of
Here’s a look at who’s on the roster entering the 2022-23 season:
Tyler McKinley, 2024
McKinley is a 6-foot-8 four-star forward who comes to the Ozarks from Cincinnati. He has offers from Cincinnati, Dayton, Kansas State, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio.
McKinley is currently ranked No. 61 nationally and was the top player in Ohio before transferring to Branson.
Ryan Forrest, 2023
Forrest is a 2023 guard from Marion, Arkansas, who stands at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. His recent summer earned him offers from Missouri State, Illinois-Chicago, North Carolina A&T and Oral Roberts.
Forrest currently has a three-star ranking from 247Sports.
BJ Davis-Ray, 2025
Ray is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who will surely receive a lot of attention in the rankings in future updates. He has already received several offers from some of the biggest teams in the country.
Schools already offering the incoming sophomore include Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois, LSU, Kansas State and Houston. The Dallas native is ranked as the 18th best player in his class by ESPN.
Aaron Rowe, 2025
The top prospect from Colombia will be coming down to Link Academy. The 6-foot guard is sure to be one of the top prospects in the country.
Already holding offers from Kansas State, Saint Louis, Missouri State, George Mason and Pepperdine, Rowe led Father Tolton deep into the postseason last season during his freshman year.
ESPN has Rowe ranked as its 15th-best player in the 2025 class.
Elliot Cadeau, 2024
Cadeau has emerged as the elite player on this list with a five-star rating and ranking as the No. 7 in place. A lot of attention is going towards him.
Cadeau holds offers from seemingly every school he can get on the phone with. He has offers from North Carolina, Louisville, Baylor, Texas Tech, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Georgetown and many others.
The New Jersey native makes the move as one of the top guards in the country while standing at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds.
Ja’Kobe Walter, 2023
The five-star Baylor commit is ranked as the No. 15 overall player in the country after making the move from McKinney, Texas. He stands at 6-foot-5 and is considered a shooting guard.
Before choosing Baylor, Walter had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, UCLA and just about everyone else.
247Sports projects Walter as a quality Power-5 starter who is one of the most productive and fundamentally sound guards in his class.
Corey Chest Jr., 2023
Chest is transferring to Branson after playing high school ball in New Orleans the last few years. He is an LSU commit who has four stars to his name along with being the No. 62 in the country.
Chest recently committed to LSU over schools like Kansas, Houston, Ole Miss and others. He’s been praised for this drive as a 6-foot-8 forward who was once the top prospect in Louisiana.
R’Chaun King, 2024
King is making the move to the area from Memphis, where he began as one of the city’s rising prospects. He will now have a chance to prove himself on the national circuit.
He has already caught the attention of some with offers from Florida, Ole Miss and Saint John’s. He’s a 6-foot-6 forward with no national rankings, but that’s sure to change soon as he suits up for the Lions.
Jacob Cole, 2023
The Oklahoma-bound Cole is ranked as the No. 81 in the country as a 6-foot-7, 185-pound small forward who chose the Sooners over teams like Nebraska, Georgia, Houston, LSU, Tennessee and others.
The four-star prospect is a lefty who is valued for his size, length and effort at the wing position. He has the “desire to be great,” according to 247Sports, and he’ll be a big-time player once he develops his 3-point shot.
Nate Guerengomba, 2024
Guerengomba is a three-star forward from Washington DC who is racking up offers from Power 5 programs. He has recent offers from Iowa, Mizzou and Virginia Tech while also holding offers from New Mexico State, Rhode Island, Rutgers and others.
The 6-foot-4 small forward is considered a Top 150 prospect and was heralded as someone who is fun to watch. 247Sports wrote that he is an athletic, hard-nosed competitor who finds ways to make things happen around the rim.
Cade Phillips, 2023
Phillips is a three-star offensive lineman who is considered one of the Top 150 seniors in the country. He committed to Tennessee in April over schools including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and others.
At 6-foot-9, Phillips chose the Volunteers even when his parents played for Alabama. The former Jacksonville (Alabama) High standout is regarded as a top shot blocker and he helped lead his high school program to its first state title last year while averaging 13.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game .
Ben Linnemeyer, 2023
Linnemeyer comes down to Springfield from Columbia, where he was a standout at Rock Bridge. His recruitment hasn’t quite taken off, but his 6-foot-6 shooting stature will be attractive to many as he plays in this program.
Cameron Carr, 2023
Carr is a 6-foot-4 combo guard who is originally from Manhattan, Kansas, the home of Kansas State who offered seniors along with the likes of Northwestern, Tennessee and Virginia.
Carr is in his second season with the Link Academy program. 247Sports called him a “late bloomer” who is lean but can score and be a playmaker. His father, Chris Carr, played in the NBA after a career at Southern Illinois. He was an assistant at Kansas State and is now in his second year as an assistant at Drury.
Link Academy 2022-23 timetable
- November 5-6 – The Scrimmage (Dallas)
- November 8 – Vision Academy
- November 12 – Lang Preparatory Academy (Branson)
- November 19 – The Big Show (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
- Nov. 21 – Bentonville West
- November 25-26 – Thanksgiving (Dallas)
- December 1-3 – Marshall County Hoopfest (Paducah, Kentucky)
- December 8 – Ozark Mountain shootout (Glendale High)
- December 10-11 – 48 Hours of Basketball (Springfield)
- December 15 – Norm Stewart Classic (Columbia)
- December 18-20 – City of Palms Classic (Fort Myers, Florida)
- January 6-8 – Gotham City Showcase (New York)
- January 12-14 – Bass Pro Tournament of Champions (Springfield)
- January 16 – Hoophall Classic (Springfield, Massachusetts)
- January 20-21 – Quincy Shootout (Quincy, Illinois)
- January 27-29 – Desert Duel (Phoenix)
- February 10-11 – Dr Pepper Classic (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
- February 15 – OKC Prep (Branson)
- March 31 – April 2 – GEICO Nationals (Fort Myers, Florida)
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can reach him at 417-371-6987, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. He also co-hosts Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6pm.