Joe Hazel, a 6-foot-1 rising sophomore at Bullis Prep (Potomac, Md.), spent most of his freshman year on the junior varsity team, but the talented guard has grown nearly three inches since last summer, adjusted to the higher level of competition, kept elevating his skills and, on July 13, found himself playing in the all-star game at The Rock Summer League at High Point (Beltsville, Md.).
Hazel, whose older brother, Ben, is a heavily recruited, 6-4 senior guard at Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) power Good Counsel High School (Olney, Md.), is fast gaining attention as one of the most promising young guards in the D.C. area.
"He has really improved this last year. He has not only gotten bigger and stronger, he has gained a lot of confidence and worked hard to improve his game," Bullis Prep head coach Bruce Kelley told ESPNRISE.com. "Joe has a chance to be a very special player. He got a lot taller this year and he is still growing. His dad [Butch Hazel] had a big growth spurt when he was in high school."
Hazel played on the Bullis junior varsity for most of the 2008-2009 season, though he did get some varsity experience. Kelley expects him to be a key player on the varsity next year as a sophomore.
"Joe is a guy we'll be counting on," Kelley said. "He is primarily a shooting guard, but he could play some point guard for us. Since we don't have a lot of size, he might even play a little three [small forward] for us this year."
Like his older brother, Hazel was recruited by a number of top WCAC high school hoops powerhouses as an eighth grader, but unlike his brother, decided to remain at Bullis for high school.
"I liked it here at Bullis. I was doing well academically," Hazel said. "I really like Coach Kelley, I just felt it was the best fit to stay at Bullis and I'm happy here."
The younger Hazel said that he would like to be a point guard at the college level, but feels that he could play either backcourt position.
"I'm still working on all parts of my game. I'm working on my shooting, my ballhandling, my defense, getting stronger. I am kind of really still working on all aspects [of my game]," Hazel said.
Several Ivy League schools are recruiting Ben and Joe is equally as talented in the classroom -- begging the question of what the younger Hazel is looking for in a college.
"I haven't really thought a lot about colleges yet, but I would be interested in going Ivy League," Hazel said. "My brother is getting recruited by a lot of colleges, including Ivy League schools. I have gotten straight A's in school and I'm really interested in the academic as well as basketball sides of school."
James Quinn covers high school basketball for MDVarsity.com.