Penny Hardaway HoopFest Preview

 

KJ Lawson University Of Memphis (Left) Donte Dorsey Ole Miss (Right)
KJ Lawson University Of Memphis (Left) Donte Dorsey Ole Miss (Right)

 

The 2015 Penny Hardaway Hoopfest kicks off tomorrow but on Saturday at 1:00,  the Memphis teams will all take to the floor in a day filled with some of the best players in the country all in one location, Arlington High School. Below is a look at the games on Saturday afternoon.

Germantown vs University Lab out of Louisiana should be a pretty good game however could they be a little lagged from Friday night when their rival comes in, Southwind. University Lab has 3 Division 1 players on the roster in Skylar Mays who have verballed to LSU, A 6’3 point guard who can shoot it when he get’s going, Jalen Jones, a 3-4 6’6 forward who can stretch the floor with the 3 and Wade Sims who can rebound and score from 15 ft in. Germantown may have a problem with their size on the inside/rebounding wise and if Mays get’s going and gets confident scoring early. Brown should remember Mays, they played against one another a few summers ago when Mays played with the Red Storm. Brown has been one of the better guards in the city this year and I expect him to play well  but who else will play well with him on Saturday? Dakota Stone, Johnathan Bins?  Keys for Germantown will be to get out to a good start early and be careful not to play to fast against Lab who may try to get out and run with them if need be. They must be patient on offense and rebound defensively. If they can do those things, they will be in good shape to get a win but if University and especially Mays hits some shots early in the game, they may find themselves struggling down the stretch.

In the 3:00, the ESPN televised game will take place, Oak Hill vs Hamilton.  If you haven’t heard about Oak Hill, your not a fan of high school basketball. Oak Hill historically is the best prep in high school and this year it’s no different, they have size on size, 7’0 (Rodney Miller), 6’10 (Daniel Giddens Ohio State), Khadim Sy (6’9 2016)  6’5 Andrew Fleming (Iowa) 6’6 guard (Dwayne Bacon, Florida State) and point guard Terrance Phillips, the brother of Brandon Jennings (Detroit Pistons) who had the infamous dunk here last year at Houston High School. From their meeting last year in the same classic, Hamilton should not be big eyed at the site of the powerful Oak Hill squad. They got down big last year before mounting a rally in the 2nd to get the game to within 8 but the early struggles offensively haunted them as they took the loss 81-65 to Oak Hill and now North Carolina State freshmen, the Martin twins. Hamilton’s Lawson brothers are not unused to seeing teams like this due to competition in the Nike EYBL and this Oak Hill team will be like one of those teams but both are more than capable of keeping Hamilton in this game. Dedric at 6’9 will be a match up problem for Miller or Sy and KJ will probably match up up some with Bacon who is an attacker and a shot taker and maker and has that fearless attitude that makes him in some rankings, one of the top 25 players in the country but not back down at all from him in fact I expect both to compete at college like levels on Saturday. KJ and Dedric rebounding will also be big in this game along with Tarrance Baker, 6’7 who has been playing well this year.  6’7 Janerio Pettis will have to grow up even more so in this game as he faces his steepest test as first year forward. If he can give them decent minutes, it’s a plus. Romero Hill maybe asked to guard Bacon and maybe Phillips at times who maybe one of the quickest players in the country but also be able to knock that 3 down which he can do with the best in the city. Key for Hamilton, don’t be intimidated by the lights and cameras from ESPN but they shouldn’t because they played a game last year on the same channel. Don’t look at Oak Hills record and play the game as if it were another game. Oak Hill has a big team so whenever opportunities present themselves for easy points in transition, they must capitalize otherwise you risk the chance for Oak Hill to set their defense. They have to attack Oak Hill and I think that will be done by KJ and Dedric but Baker will have to be double figure rebounds and points on Saturday as well. Expect 22-25 point range for both brothers and 10-15 rebounds. If they can limit Bacon some what and not allow him to go off for one of those 30 point games, I think they can keep it close and after that, you never know. Unlike HaddockSports on another site that I looked at, I’m not so sure about Oak Hill massacring Hamilton as he said there but we all know in Memphis anything can happen and I wouldn’t overlook a Memphis team against anyone.

Dwayne Bacon (Oak Hill)
Dwayne Bacon (Oak Hill)

Arlington Simeon game could be confidence game for the Tigers or it could be all Simeon who feature Memphis target, Zach Norvell at the guard spot, a shooter at the lead guard who can make shots from all over, 6’7 Ben Coupet, Illinois commit, DJ Williams, 6’7 and Ed Morrow, another 6’6 G/F. Arlington’s success is contingent upon Nate Hoover and Adarius Avery, an athletic 6’5 who can score driving it. Hoover is one of the best shooters in TN and they will need that shooting on Saturday. Luke Wiseman will be needed to give them some offense as well if they want to stay within striking distance against Simeon.

CPA vs Southwind – Southwind has a lot more talent on paper but CPA is so well coached and they spread you out and hit those 3 pointers from all over. 8th grader Tyger Campbell should be back after missing a few games due to foot injury but should he not be, it will hurt them because that will make 6’8 Braxton Blackwell their primary ball handler. Blackwell is a do it all player who does a little of everything well. He rebounds, he’s unselfish, lead the break, find his teammates and be a terror on the offensive boards. If Campbell plays, I think Blackwell will be a lot to handle for Southwind inside and outside because of his versatility. Campbell is one of the best guards in the 8th grade in the country, in fact the best according to some. He has it on a string and is a great creator but also can get his in the lane and finishing tough lays. Southwind must also find Evan Ragsdale who might be the best spot up shooters in the State. If they don’t find him, they will know his name after the first quarter. Southwind has star of it’s on in Donte Dorsey who can score score and cause problems for CPA in the half court because of his slashing ability. Mark Freeman and Tyger Campbell are used to each other, both played summer basketball together but Freeman always could make his presence known as well in this game with his on the ball defense and as a creator. Lucky Cheatham, a junior guard must play well on Saturday as well if the Jaguars are to beat CPA. Again, Southwind on paper, the much better team but CPA ability to shoot the basketball and having Blackwell gives them a chance against Southwind as well.

White Station vs Whitney Young doesn’t quite have the ring to it as it would have had even last year. Why, Whitney Young lost the best player in the country last year in Jahlil Okafor (Duke) along with 2 other High major D-1 players and White Station was decimated with departures of seniors. Now, Nych Smith and Dillon Mitchell lead this young group and while they have struggled record wise, they still are two of the best guards in TN. Whitney Young has a familiar name on it’s roster in Herenton, Rodney and Willie both former residents of Memphis who have found homes in Chicago. Rodney is a 2015 guard who will be asked to score a lot for Whitney Young and he can do it evidence by his 22 against Southwind. This is a chance for White Station to get a quality win over a national program and it can only help their confidence the rest of the year.

 

Adarius Avery (Arlington)
Adarius Avery (Arlington)

 

 

 

American Way Gets The Upset In 60-55 Win In MAM Title Game

 

American Way (MAM Champs)
American Way (MAM Champs)

 

Raining and gloomy the whole day in Memphis, most would stay at home right? Not in Memphis, not with the biggest Middle School tournament of the season coming to an end with a MAM championship on the line right?  American Way vs Cordova, an undefeated Cordova boiling over with talent highlighted by DJ Jeffries, Joe Cooper and Sky Forrest. How did both these teams get here? Cordova in the elite 8 took down Memphis Metro and in the Final 4 beat a  pesky Snowden team by 1, 50-49. American Way with Lawson Brothers, Chandler and Johnathan,  2021 guard Jalen Brown and 2019 Dee Merriwether who didn’t play in their first matchup got victories over White Station in the Elite 8 and Germantown in the Final 4 but this was for everything, a chance to say who is the best Middle School team in the city. When I spoke to Coach Franklin earlier in the day, he said, “Chuck,  I’m ready, War Ready” and you could tell from the moment the game started, his players were too.

Dee Merriwether got them started with a 3 to open the gym with the 3 sign going to the head as American got off to a strong start. After a and 1 on the tear drop, Chandler Lawson showed off the American Way on his jersey to give his team a 14-4 lead with 1:30 left in the 1st quarter. With A-Way up 9 to start the 2nd quarter, DJ Jeffries got it going coming alive with the 3 followed by the pull up jumper to give the 22-20 lead over American Way on 16-4 run. Later on, Joe Cooper would hit a 3 to make it 31-22 and Cordova would later on make it a 10 point lead before a huge 3 by Merriwether would end the half 32-25 which I thought was huge because it’s a difference in being down 10 as opposed to 7. I thought that American Way did a good job early on in the game, swinging the ball around getting open looks but got careless with a few turnovers and quick shots and it almost cost them big late in the half.

After half time,  it was clear that American Way needed someone to spark them, someone to say, we are not losing this game however, no one expected it from a 6th grader, his name, Johnathan Lawson. The 6’1 guard came out on a mission and it was one thing, everything to the rim. He attacked the rim and finished scoring his teams first 6 points to make it 35-31 with Cordova leading with 4:45 left in the 3rd. After 2 Jeffries baskets, Jalen Brown answered with a short jumper to tie the game and after a Chandler Lawson lay up, American Way went into the final period, 45-41. The younger Lawson was there again with a huge finish over DJ Jeffries for a 47-42 lead showing a lot of emotion with the score as the mood in the gym began to become more electric. Maybe the biggest play in the game happened minutes later a little after the 4:00 minute mark of the 4th as Lawson dunked over a Cordova defender off vertical to push the lead to 8, 53-45, their biggest lead since the start of the 1st quarter. Sky Forrest hit a 3 to cut it to 5 and moments later added a rebound and 2 to make it a 3 point lead but the poise of 6th grader Brown showed with 1:01 left where he went to the line and calmly sank two free throws. Forrest would try the soft floater over Lawson extended arms but his shot would be blocked and Cordova had to foul forcing Merriwether to the line where he made two more which all but sealed the game before Brown hit 2 more late for the 60-55 win and a MAM title.

I think this is and I’m sure people would agree with me as the biggest upset of the season thus far. I thought both teams played well and the talent and competitive nature  of the teams was as good as I’ve seen in any year of the MAM recently. DJ Jeffries was great for Cordova all game! I thought he was aggressive offensively all game and did a good job of rebounding the basketball. Johnathan’s play was really good as a 6th grader as well as Brown. These two have really bright futures in the city of Memphis and nationally. Chandler Lawson was a man child, 15 point, 22 rebounds, 9 blocks, incredible game for him but more so than that, American Way’s perseverance when it looked like Cordova was about to go on one of those Cordova runs, they answered and that’s a great sign for the rest of the year. How will Cordova bounce back? Well it’s simple, they will get back to being Cordova, winning!! I’m not worried about them at all and I think we could have just seen what will end up being the second of at least two more times playing each other.  Congratulations to both teams on a hard fought game and to the American Way Eagles on their MAM Championship. Jalen Brown was named MVP while Johnathan Lawson, Chandler Lawson, DJ Jeffries and Joe Cooper were named to the all tournament team. Let me add another name to that as well, Sky Forrest, I thought he was deserving of that honor as well. He played great in the Final 4 game on Friday night.

 

Snowden (MAM Champions)
Snowden (MAM Champions)

 

In the girls title game, Cordova cruised to a title defeating a Snowden team who lost one of it’s best player early to injury. Lanetta Williams, Zypourah Davis were named to all tournament team and Destiny Wells was named tournament MVP. Congratulations to them as well and this team is still undefeated on the year. Right now, the definite favorite to win the Large Schools title.

 

 

 

MAM Championship Set (American Way vs Cordova)

 

Joe Cooper

Key for American Way, limit Cordova easy basket off long jumpers as one always leaks out and is always there for the layups off the long pass. Missed long jumpers will become the first pass in transition for them (Cordova) and they will convert most into points. American Way must be careful of getting into a running match as well because Cordova does it better. Do what Snowden did a good job or doing, passing it around, get good shots and go through the best player in middle school, who has to get going early. If he does assert himself, he can make life difficult for Cordova all game long. I thought Snowden took a few bad shots late yesterday and it cost them but another thing, they must limit their turnovers to Cordova, they are too good to just give easy points too.

For Cordova, it’s simple, do what they have been doing to get here, do what they have been doing to go undefeated, big 3 perform well. Right now, some say that DJ is the best right now and this will be a game where he can try and make that statement. Sky Forrest had 23 points last night and is rounding back into form that made him one of the city’s best player! He has the potential to lead them in scoring every night if he’s scoring it good. Joe must get out and push and get easy shots for teammates but also be careful of the oh and ah play which Cordova thrives off of and it turn into unforced turnovers for them. Limit Chandler on the boards as he keeps plays alive with his length which could cause fouls that will factor into the game late. Play through DJ, out rebound a much smaller American Way and they pull it out but should they not do those things, they will find themselves in a close game.

The stage for tonight is huge for everyone, especially those who may not have played on this level before. How will some of the kids respond? Will the young kids for American Way finally show their age or will they rise and play up a level? Will Cordova’s experience and talent be too much? Will it be all about Chandler and DJ? We find out soon!!!

Key for American Way, limit Cordova easy basket off long jumpers as one always leaks out and is always there for the layups off the long pass. Missed long jumpers will become the first pass in transition for them (Cordova) and they will convert most into points. American Way must be careful of getting into a running match as well because Cordova does it better. Do what Snowden did a good job or doing, passing it around, get good shots and go through the best player in middle school, who has to get going early. If he does assert himself, he can make life difficult for Cordova all game long. I thought Snowden took a few bad shots late yesterday and it cost them but another thing, they must limit their turnovers to Cordova, they are too good to just give easy points too.

For Cordova, it’s simple, do what they have been doing to get here, do what they have been doing to go undefeated, big 3 perform well. Right now, some say that DJ is the best right now and this will be a game where he can try and make that statement. Sky Forrest had 23 points last night and is rounding back into form that made him one of the city’s best player! He has the potential to lead them in scoring every night if he’s scoring it good. Joe must get out and push and get easy shots for teammates but also be careful of the oh and ah play which Cordova thrives off of and it turn into unforced turnovers for them. Limit Chandler on the boards as he keeps plays alive with his length which could cause fouls that will factor into the game late. Play through DJ, out rebound a much smaller American Way and they pull it out but should they not do those things, they will find themselves in a close game.

The stage for tonight is huge for everyone, especially those who may not have played on this level before. How will some of the kids respond? Will the young kids for American Way finally show their age or will they rise and play up a level? Will Cordova’s experience and talent be too much? Will it be all about Chandler and DJ? We find out soon!!!

Jalen Brown(American Way)

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