Patosha Jeffery has been in girls basketball for over a decade and she continues to put out a great product through her passion for the game of basketball. Her Fall Exposure League has plethora of talent in the Memphis and surrounding area and features such players as Gigi Lewis (MHEA) Endya Buford respected by many as the best 9th grader in the area (Olive Branch) Ashtyn Baker, (Northpoint) who had fans raving on Saturday, Bionka Massie (Central), Sade Hudson (Trezevant) and several other names that people should know in the girls game.
I hate that I missed the first match up of the day which featured Buford and Baker against each other as I heard both played very well but I did see the last 2. In the second game, Syracuse vs Washington, Jayla Hemmingway was incredible. The 5’11 scored on all 3 levels and with the improved jumper especially from 3, Hemmingway might contend as the area’s leading scorer. She’s so physical on her way to the rim and can finish with fouls with either hand. Jayla’s very good with the ball in her hands and she makes good decisions as a passer but she’s at her best with the intent to score and she’s down hill, not a lot of east to west in her game. She looks for mismatches and when she sees it, she exploits it to her advantage. Hemmingway was the best player that I saw on Saturday, hands down but others stood out s well.
Johnna Jones, a 5’8 guard from Munford and CBU commit was really good, polished shooter who can maybe able to play some combo next year when she begins college. You simply can’t leave her because every time she shot the ball, it looked like it was going in. Really sound fundamentals, she moved well without the ball and got in positions to score via the jumper. Christian Brothers is getting a really good player in Jones, an absolute steal.
Tamia Aldridge was a surprise for me because when the game first started, it appeared she was more of a pure post but as the game progressed, so did she. She put it on the floor, handled full court and looked comfortable enough to play on the perimeter maybe more than she has in the past at her new school, Bolton High. She’s more athletic than one may think at first glance and plays every possession hard. She showed she can score it close and be a finisher and while she didn’t shoot the ball a lot from the perimeter, her mechanics were good when she did. She’s going to do some really positive things for Bolton this year and make a name for herself while doing so. Her teammate Heaven Thompson just keeps going and going, so active and she’s more than a ball hawk, I might call her a ball eagle. You can’t loft passes around her and you better guard your basketball because she gets after whoever she’s guarding . She takes chances and will gamble a lot but it’s something you can live with because of how hard she plays. She was the best on ball defender that I saw Saturday but Thompson isn’t just a defensive pest, she can score it as well. She did most of her damage off lay ups in transition where she thrives because of her speed and showed she can get where she wants in a half court setting. She’s just a ball of energy and she’s fun to watch because she looks like she loves to play.
Stay tuned to more coverage from Patosha Jeffery’s Fall Exposure League in the coming weeks.
Pictured Left To Right (Beverly, Willis, Donegan, Holloway)
After not getting a chance to get out on the first weekend of the Major Prep Basketball League, I thought Sunday was a good opportunity to see some the best young talent in the city and I came away impressed. Some players, I already had a feel for after seeing them last year and during the summer but a few players that I’d heard great things about but only had limited views on them as players like Joshua Holloway who some consider as the best player in the 6th grade class. Holloway is smallish in stature but big in game as a player right now who’s at his best scoring the ball. Has a little twitch to his game where he can change speeds, something you don’t see in kids so young and has creative ways to score whether off the dribble or through as assortment of floaters. He will team up with Cameron Donegan at Highland Oaks and make a formidable duo and make the Hawks a threat in Large Schools this year. Speaking of Donegan, the more I see him, the more I start to say that he might be the best pure point guard in this class in 8th grade. He’s the prototypical pass first who can knock down the shot, either the 3 or mid range and he’s always under control. He has a good feel for when to be aggressive offensively and he values the basketball.
Known as Turtle across the city by his peers and coaches, Cartier Beverly is a tough as they come as a guard in 2022. The stocky strong pg lives to get into the lane and is a fearless attacker off the pick or just straight line down hill. He gets to his spot off the dribble and plays with a lot of confidence and as his jumper gets better, he will be able to keep opponents more honest but his development as a finder is more important then just being a finisher because he has a solid future. 5’10 Jelani Willis is an athletic 2-3 with motor on top of motor and he plays a physical brand of basketball due to his football background. He’s at his best on the attack 10-15 feet out from the basket and is a really good rebounder from his position. Willis will be important to White Station this year and he could raise his stock in this class locally.
Other players who stood out on Sunday
7th and 8th Grade Division
Eli Federman 5’8 (St George) Filed it up off the pull up, runners, however he wanted to score, he did it. He will be among the best guards in Private School this year. He leads the league in scoring right now and shouldn’t drop below the top 5 of scoring unless he starts to get doubled.
Cedric Franklin 5’6 (Colonial) Shows a lot of promise, scored 5 of his teams last 7 points including an and 1 to put his team up. Good fundamentally, improving as an athlete will up him in this class.
Ashton Smith 5’8 2019 (Lausanne) Probably a starter this year but at no worse, will see starter minutes. Smith might be the best guard in the league. Can shoot the 3 off the spot up but is becoming for adept penetrating and making it happen as a playmaker.
Kennedy Chandler 5’7 (Briarcrest) Shifty and looks to have added more quickness, Chandler’s talent was on display even playing up high school. Scored with the hesitation dribble, made decisive moves to the rim and constantly put pressure on the defense. Chandler certainly didn’t look out of sorts with older competition
Brogan Brewer 6’3 (Arlington High) The worker 3-4 looks like he has put on some weight and it’s showing in his game. Always a worker around the rim, he does all of the work that coaches value, whether it’s grabbing an offensive rebound or hitting the floor for a loose ball, Brewer plays hard and doesn’t take possessions off.
Matthew Murrell 6’2 (Whitehaven High) Looks like he has stretched some and his frame might see another inch or two added in his future but Murrell is a driver/slasher and a top 5 player in 2020 easily. Continued progression as a jump shot maker from the perimeter will add versatility to his game but there is so much to like about his future. The team he is on will force him to be more assertive in this league and he should benefit from that.
Jalen Brown 6’0 (Kingsbury Middle) Like Murrell, Brown has added some inches to his slender frame and will be a terror this year in Middle School. Like Kennedy Chandler, Brown is playing up and looks like he belongs. I think it will help him kind of get used to some of the physicality of high school.
I think Coach Brown has the best team in the High School division (Team Oregon) talent wise and on paper however some coaches are gunning for him. Next week might be there toughest challenge when they face Ethan Jones (BTW) who is senior and should give them some problems if they don’t rebound. Coach Drapers team with Federman should be pretty good along with the Knicks, Raptors and Spurs (Donegan) all which play in the 7th and 8th grade division of the MBL.
The 2015-2016 middle school basketball season was a good one, one of the most interesting that I’ve seen in awhile. American Way was crowned the Large School champion and Bellevue went back to back with the Small Schools crown. Can this season match last year’s stories? I’m not sure, one might say the large school division is down some while small looks looks a little better competition wise. Can there be a team that comes out of no where and be a contender in middle school? Sure it could but where is that team coming from? Maybe a municipal school like Houston or Bon Lin who had a great start last year I believe going undefeated until the MAM Classic. Maybe it’s a school like Germantown or a Hickory Hill, no one truly knows right now but isn’t it fun to try and guess? Can a team like A Maceo have a another great year like last year? Is Cordova going to be in the mix like they have been the last 3-4 years? Will White Station run Large Schools this year? Well enough, read it, check it out, comment underneath the story, it’s really simple. Yeah or nah, don’t like it, it’s okay, it’s pre-season, it’s supposed to be speculative, enjoy.
1. Bellevue Middle School – No other school received a better gift than getting the best player in Middle School in Johnathan Lawson. The 6’5 G/F had a huge summer and will be looking to add another state title to his resume, this time on the Small Schools side. He is not alone though, the Jacobs brothers (Tadarius and JR) also came over and will be huge contributors this year. The older Jacobs ended the summer on a high note and while mostly known as a great on ball defender, his offense is starting to catch up. Terrance (JR) play sparingly last year but this year, fans will see why so many speak of him as the best guard in 2022. Watch out for Cartier “Turtle” Beverly this year as well who got a chance to go against some of the best guards in middle school last year in practice..
2. White Station Middle School – Once again, the Spartans have that title contending look and look of one of if not the biggest teams in the city this season. Starts up front with Willie Foreman, Aldon Applewhite, Dorian George and guard Jelani Willis. I’ve heard whispers of guard play being their weak spot but I have a feeling that it won’t be the case. 3 of the players I mentioned started all year long so they have plenty of experience. Is it state title or bust this year for them?
3. Cordova Middle School– This will be a much different looking Cordova than in years past because they lost so much last year and while the overwhelming talent may not be there, this should still be a good team. A lot will be contingent upon Cameron Jones who for the first time in his middle school career will be “the guy” He will be counted on as primary scorer and as he adapts to that role, so will the team around him. Marcellous Boyd must also be a factor this year!!
4. Ridgeway Middle School– Looked at as being a team of the future for next year with their young guard play but Coach Jarvis Stephen wants to win now! He got 2 top 5 guards in 2023 in Ernest Smith Jr and Jay Nash to come to him along with a 6’4 raw but developing big in David Dixon. Dixon is the brother of Ridgeway stand out, Elizabeth Dixon and looks every bit of 6’7 6’8 in his future. Although again, a long way off from what he could be, length and size are something that he gives Ridgeway that a lot of schools lack. Kristian Spencer is a 2022 forward who’s brother also prepped Ridgeway (Khalil Spencer- TSU) and Chris Brunt was one of the only 6th graders to play much last year for Ridgeway. They are young but very talented, question is, will they be up for the challenge with a precocious roster.
5. Kingsbury Middle School – Top 5 2021 standout Jalen Brown comes in and will immediately be a top 2 player in this division. The wiry guard is a scorer at heart and he does it well and he will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Caleb Jackson comes over from Kipp Academy and will be likely be a starter along with Tristen Jones who has some tools and Chris Nelson who will also be leaned on heavily this year.
With the school year starting last week, you know what that means right? Only 78 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds until basketball season!! Well okay, it’s a little off, well a lot off but you get the point, the season is approaching soon and very soon and people are asking, what do you think about the season upcoming? It’s early, yes I know but people love to talk basketball all year long in Memphis, Tigers, Grizzlies and high school basketball isn’t immune either. People just love basketball here and why shouldn’t we when this city constantly produces rich talent. So with that said, I give you, a way to early look at the top 5 teams in the city and 5 teams to watch.
1. East High School– State champions last season, go into the season as the favorite in Triple A. Should be number 1 on everybody’s list, across the board. Transfers Antavion “Dude” Collum and Jay Hardaway bolster an already strong roster that features Mr.Basketball Alex Lomax, TJ Moss and Chandler Lawson. With rumored additions to come, this group might get stronger.
2. Christian Brothers High School – Best private school team in the city with who many think is the best player in the city, William Douglas who blew up this summer and has more offers than anyone in the city including one from Tubby Smith and the Memphis Tigers. As always though, comes the praise, you become the hunted, how will they handle it early on?
3. Cordova High School– Bolster one of the best guard duos in the state in Tyler Harris and Blake Williams and the most athletic player in the city, Rod Brown. I don’t think many knew just how important Jalen Dupree was to their success but he will be missed heavily especially early on.
4.Mitchell High School – The back to back state champions were crowned once again in Coach Turner’s first year there with a nice roster of players but they also lost a lot last season. The state MVP is gone in Tevin Ollison who came on strong late but they have 3 returners including guard Tyran Davis, a senior, Tominque Marion, senior forward and Jordon Johnson, a senior guard which will make up a nice nucleus of experience.
5.Houston High School – Look out for Ryan Boyce to have a huge season this year coming off a nice summer. The 6’5 with bounce might be making the transition more to the wing but he could do that with Bruce Guy, another 6’5 who can swing in between positions and be a double digit point scorer every game and sophomore Takori Rooks who will play some 4-5 as well. Transfer Carlos Sandifer gives them value at the pg position with his arrival in a guard heavy league (15AAA) His play will be counted on in a big way.
Others teams to watch
Southwind High School – Really close to putting them in the top 5 and I still might later on. Mark Freeman, CJ Marshall and Robert Boyd give them a chance against anyone.
Whitehaven High School – Cameron Jones and Rashad Williams will leaned heavily for offense this year but others who were in support roles will have to big including Aaron Whitmore and Marquavious Lobbins.
White Station High School – Played well in the summer and Allen Hatchett was one of the main reasons. Aaron Strother, Adam Price and Braxton Winford are back and hoping to make people pay attention to the Spartans again.
Lausanne Collegiate – Took a huge blow when it was learned that Isaiah Stokes (IMG Academy) was not returning for his senior season but this is still a good team, a young one but a good one. Ashton Smith, Kobe Jeffries and Sky Forrest will have increased roles this year and all will have to play older than their grades indicate but all are capable.
Each year, hundreds of teams from across the country converge on the city that never sleeps, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but two Memphis teams are bringing hardware to the city. The Memphis Wildcats 13U led by Coach Dedra Lawson won the Big Foot Classic defeating Vegas Elite 7 Premier 82-76 in the title game but it wasn’t easy. The young team that has been together awhile found themselves down big early, a total of 22 but clawed back into it by shortening the court and picking up the defense according to an observer who was present at the game. Down a player (Marquan Dean) and only having 6 at their disposal for the last two games of the tournament and the night before going into 8 overtimes in a game that was won by 1 point, I’m sure fatigue was a factor on Sunday but they got it together enough to win 1 game that morning and then the title game, in come back fashion The big 3 of Johnathan Lawson 24 points and 11 rebounds, Jalen Brown, 25 points and 8 rebounds and Tadarius Jacobs who had 20 and was a catalyst on defense, combined for 69 of the 82 points scored for the Wildcats. Next up for them, the Primetime Nationals which will be held in Dallas this week.
Newly founded M32P22 coached by former University of Memphis players Marcus Moody and Paris London went to Las Vegas on one mission and one mission only, to earn respect as one of the best upcoming teams in the country. and that’s exactly what they did. In a city that features Team Penny, Team Thad and M33M, bigger programs through admission by most, the 16U squad won the FAB 48 coming back from a deficit with under 10 minutes left in the game. The Hoop 4 Life Foundation sponsored team features a few players who have shined some this summer and at their high schools including Allen Hatchett, a 6’3 (White Station) progressing guard who works near the rim and with the mid range jumper who had a game high 30 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game, 6’6 Cameron Jones (Whitehaven) 20 points and 6 rebounds and 8 assists, 6’5 Reco Gibson (St.Benedict) 16 points and 8 rebounds and Jalin Clay (Houston) who ended the game with 16 points 6 rebounds. I got a chance to speak with Coach Moody earlier and he said, “It was a great tournament, my team stayed poised & focused throughout the title game, Sacramento had incredible guard play, but I think our depth & length was too much for them” . This is a team that could draw some looks of a shoe company by next year as they continue to establish themselves as a top 3-5 organization in the city. With this FAB 48 title under their belt, M32P22 is taking a step forward in doing just that.
There was a discussion the other day on social media about the top guards in the city of Memphis and there was a lot of debate about who should be on the list. There were the same names mentioned by most, the consensus players and a few surprises mentioned by some on the post. One of the names though that I think should be on everybody’s list though, Jalen Crutcher. The 6’3 combo guard has good length, range on the jumper, the ability to make others better and great touch around the basket where he uses an assortment of runners and floaters. He’s really crafty with the ball and one of those players that just knows how to score it from anywhere on the floor. He boast offers from UC-Santa Barbara, UMASS who has for years been trying to get into the Memphis high school scene and have had success with a Ridgeway product before (Sampson Carter), UT-Chatt, Missouri State, SEMO and Missouri State and Murray State. Of course we all know the the success they had with now Oklahoma City player, Cameron Payne who played two years there before being a lottery pick last year. He has interest from LSU, Wake Forrest, Alabama and Arkansas but with the live period starting this week in Spartanburg South Carolina for his travel team, the interest could take a boost up in the right direction.
Crutcher also has value as a shooter off the spot up or creating the jumper off the dribble and could be a pretty good defender with his arms and instincts defensively. Memphis Magic Elite Coach Eric Robinson says, “he’s an all around point guard can score with the best but loves to get his teammates involved and people may not know he a great defender”. His best days are clearly ahead of him and those days are of Jalen being a D-1 guard at the school of his choice.
Almost 20 years ago, Cedric Henderson averaged 16 points a game at Memphis State (University of Memphis) to go along with 6 rebounds and was regarded as one of the best defenders in college basketball. That summer, he went on to be drafted with the 45th pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to have a 5 year career in the NBA followed by stints in other countries and overseas before returning home to Memphis. Henderson is enshrined in Memphis basketball culture because he’s a Memphis product who made it the biggest stage in the world for basketball but now, he’s hoping the next Henderson can make his own name for himself.
A bit of an unknown right now, the 6’5 SF with the broad shoulders of his father is a developing rangy prospect who is improving each time I see him. Right now, he’s more effective as slasher rather than player who scores often off the jumper but he can make the outside shot. He gets his shoulders square and has a good release on his jumper so the mechanics are there for him to be a solid shot maker as he continues to mature. He’s a good ball handler and a versatile defender who can guard some 2-3 and 4 position and is a better than average passer. Really unselfish, sometimes to a fault, I would love to see him pick up his motor as a scorer and as a rebounder. With the Adidas Gauntlet coming up, a chance to boost his stock nationally is right around the corner and for him, the time is now entering his junior season to make a little noise in this last period before school starts back . The chance to make himself more well known locally and lead a Briarcrest team looking for leadership to a nice season this year as it’s best player would solidify him as one of the best players in the city in the vaunted 2018 class. I see him as a late bloomer who has a chance to play at the D-1 level and has he gets more confident and into himself as a player, you will start to see it as well.
2018 and 2019 are both classes that many people locally and across the country are looking forward to and they should. In 2018, Alex Lomax , TJ Moss, Tyler Harris and Ryan Boyce are the names you hear the most. Mark Freeman is another player that is discussed a lot as well but there is another guard that everyone should know about in Memphis and his name is Trey Davis. Davis is a 6’0 guard with a great feel for the attack in transition or in the half court setting and one not afraid to embrace big situations. He has strong handle with ball in his hands, picks and chooses his spots and can get to where he wants on the floor for the floater for pull up jumpers and is very aggressive to the basket where he’s a finisher or finder for teammates. He plays with a lot of confidence and poise and it shows as he never gets to up or down during the course of games.
The St Benedict/Team Penny product has an offer from Rice University but has interest from Kent State, Wofford, Virginia, Belmont and Florida State. Next week is Peach Jam for his 16U group so I expect his interest and maybe some offers to come his way after the tournament but for now when you thinking of players in the city in this class, make sure you remember to add Davis to it as he is one of the city’s best 10 players in that class.
1.East is the team to beat in Tripe A, No question about it however it’s a group that will be new in some aspects because but also have the familiarity that prompted them to a state title last season. They are the biggest team in the city bar none, talented with 2-3 guys in some spots. Keys for them, establishing roles for Martrell Brooks, Kevon Mcmahan and Antavion” Dude” Mccollom and getting Alex Lomax back to 100 percent. They also have to get Malcolm Dandridge back to playing how he was at the beginning of the season last year before having to sit a few games. Saw some this weekend that Chandler Lawson will play a lot more on the wing this year than last which will be a new look to them as well.
Whitehaven will be pretty good once again and be in contention with East in 16AAA. Reasons why? Coach Faragi Phillips is a good coach who knows to get the most from his players, that’s 1. Number 2, lots of guards to help in creating turnovers off the press, so essentially, lots of guard depth. Number 3, the addition of Rashad Williams will help tremendously, he’s a good scorer off the mid-range jumper and should be the guy they have to count on to score along with Kameron Jones. Jones is a long 6’6 who will likely lead them in scoring this year and rebounding. They lost a lot last year in Hill, Hamlet and Fofana, replacing them will be hard. If they can get one more to step up like Marquavious Lobbins and another post to rebound and take pressure off Jones, the Tigers will be right there with East.
Kirby is a scary team because they have 2 guards that can get 20 any night, Desmond Johnson andDarius Carter. The 6’0 guard had prepped at Woodale for 3 years but from all indication, he’s headed to Kirby to form a great duo with Johnson. Desmond has been called the best guard in the city by some and if the summer is any indication, expect a huge senior season for him. I can see him being a 20 plus point scorer nightly. Transfer Nick Jackson will also help out with energy on the glass and Dontrell Sanders will help with scoring when Johnson and Carter’s shots are not falling. Is this the year we give Kirby a chance of winning district?
How many freshmen will have impacts this year? Marcellus Brigham? Matthew Murrell? Cameron Matthews? Rodney Mason Jr? The biggest impact I believe will come from Caleb London, who might start this year at MUS. He had a 29 point game this past weekend and looked very comfortable doing so. The 6’3 bouncy 2 guard has a bright future for the Owls and a move up in the rankings in 2020 is inevitable. I also expect Cameron Matthews to make the second biggest impact on his high school team next year along with Matthew Murrell and maybe, Marcellus Brigham of Briarcrest but there will be a sleeper or 2 to come out of no where as freshmen. Watch out for Delvin White, Cat Moore and Jaylin Lucas.
Who will have the best freshmen class in the city? Most of the time, it’s a Triple A school or city school however this year, Briarcrest Christian has that locked up with 3 of my top 10 players in the 2020 including Omari Thomas, Marcellus Brigham and Reggie Neely which will make for an exciting future for the Saints. Maybe they can get back to the days of Leslie McDonald with that young group.
Graduation has hit a lot of teams hard and the effects will be seen immediately at the start of the next season. Arlington lost Nate Hoover to Wofford, Jalen Fisher was Mr Everything at Bolton for 4 years and now, he’s at TCU among others. Arlington will now rely heavily on Garret Golday, a 6’5 2018 post, Luke Wiseman and Ray Price. Bolton will struggle some early on and could struggle all season if they don’t find someone to score. Germantown must rely on a young core of 10th and 11th graders and 6’7 senior, Demarcus Mitchell. He will have to lead a team that lost 13 seniors last year, a team that lost more than anyone in the city. Right now, it looks like Houston, Southwind or Southwind Houston, whichever you prefer, then Kirby; it’s up to them how much that order changes. Houston will be pretty good again but graduation hit them with body blow as well losing 6 of their top 9 players. 6’5 Ryan Boyce has turned into one of the top 10 players in the city, 6’6 Bruce Guy is worker around the rim and Takori Rooks will be put in the rotation and might be a starter. Kavious Newsome will have to play well this season as he will be vital to their success.
Will Douglass is a top 3-5 player in the city in 2017 without a doubt. With Isaiah Stokes rumored to be leaving the city for prep, whether he left or not, Douglass would have had a spot but now, it’s cemented. So when you making your top 5, don’t forget about him and he could be number 1.
Along with CBHS, expect Lausanne to be pretty good this year in private school. They didn’t lose a summer game and were without Jessie Neloms at MUS and Eric Gray. It’s still an extremely young team and even with some defections, this team is still formidable led by Ashton Smith, (10th) Sky Forrest, (10th) Kobe Jeffries (10th) and 6’4 James Babb and Camren Taylor both seniors who won a state titles as a freshmen. The three guards above will be important for Lausanne and might determine how far they go. MUS will be solid with Zach Street, John McBride, Luke Wilfong and Josh Gray. Don’t forget about Trey Davis at St. Benedict, he’s one of the best guards in the city.
Who is going to challenge Mitchell this year? Judging from the summer, my best guess would be MAHS and Booker T Washington. BTW has a nice front line with Tyrone Sumlin and Ethan Jones but at the guard position, that’s when the edge goes significantly to the state champions. MAHS has nice size, Demetrius Morrow, a few 6’3 6’4, a 6’7, Brandon Streeter and a host of other players who will help however until then, Mitchell is the favorite again in the city in Single A.
Transfers happen every year and this year is no different. East has 3 in what will bolster an already great team. However there will be more and I know of 1 that is for certain that will be big in 16AAA and possibly 2 that could shake up a spot in that district.
Team camp month has come to an end after what I think is the best event during the month of June for high schools, the MUS Summer Classic . 20 plus high schools every year, great competition and most of all, a chance to take a look into the upcoming high school basketball season. Of course, some teams don’t have their whole compliment of players for whatever reasons, whether some kids are deciding to transfer, family vacations, working jobs or not playing because they saving themselves for the pivotal month of July for evaluation period that’s so important especially for sophomores and juniors. Sometimes though, events like this can make people get a high sense of hope depending of who they played through out the event but any who, let’s take a look who I thought were the best 5 teams at the Mus Summer Classic. Before I do that though, let me say this, this is by no means, who might start out as Top 5 teams in the city on my end as a team or 2 who could be in the discussion didn’t not play in the classic. So with that being said, let’s start the show.
1. Brentwood Academy (Nashville Tn) 6-0 – First, I wouldn’t normally do this, put a team from outside of the area in this discussion because well they not from here but the reason I’m doing so now is because, they came in and put everyone on notice, they are the team to beat not only in their classification but in the entire state at least until further notice. Reason why, well there are many but it’s starts with D and D, Darius Garland. He might be the best guard in the state and I know there are a lot of talented guards, 1 here who didn’t play over the weekend due to injury however, Garland particularly against East looked as good as any I’ve seen in the state. Handle on a string, poise, confidence, runs the show but still finds ways to score when he has to. They are very well coached by former a coach who many should remember in Memphis, Hubie Smith who was the helm of Bartlett at one time. Garland isn’t their only player though as they have several players who can hurt you in Jeremiah Oatsvall who is also one of the state’s best quarterbacks and a player who played on the national championship team coached by the late Desmond Merriwether a few years back. Cameron Johnson is a all state wide receiver who was once a top 30 player in the country in basketball as a youngster and Gavin Schoenwald, who was considered the number player in the country by many before a young man named Marvin Bagley came along and took over the crown 4 years ago. Did I mention that Johnson, Schoenwald and Garland have been playing together for 5 years or more so talk about continuity and cohesiveness and it’s them for sure. I’m not saying they can’t be beat but I think it’s safe to go ahead book for room for the state if your a Brenwood fan.
2. East High School (5-1) Took one loss to the team above in a great game on Friday night but make no mistake about it, the road to the state goes through the defending state champions once again. This a group that is definitely a little different though in terms of players than last year. I know what’s probably going through your head if your reading this, they have the same team and they have a lot of same pieces however, 3 of those pieces are new this year. Martrell Brooks and Kevon Mcmahon are new along with 6’6 Dude Mccollum. They must replace their two defensive stalwarts from last season, Courtney Carter and Teddrick McGhee and Kevon I think can do that along with Brooks who maybe than both players from last year offensively. Mccollum brings versatility, length, scoring and rebounding and of course their main core is back for this year. Gatorade Player of the Year, Mr Basketball and Best Of The Preps player of the Year Alex Lomax didn’t play this weekend and was missed particularly in that game against Brentwood because of his defensive ability. TJ Moss, looked pretty good at times, hitting the 3 and showed the ability to play on the ball as the lead guard on occasions as well. Chandler Lawson was the subject of conversation a few weeks back about whether he would return or possibly prep school it at Oak Hill or IMG Academy but this weekend, he was with his team and showing why he’s one of the elite player in the country in 2019. Malcolm Dandridge, 6’8 improved game by game, at times looks like one of the better bigs in the city at that says a lot because he’s only a sophomore. His progression is key this year as he will play a lot beside senior Rodarius Washington, who cleans everything up on the glass and can be another ball handler when needed. Senior Nick Merriwether will be another player asked to give them quality minutes. Senior TK Smith didn’t play due to illness but will be counted on heavily once again as a primary guy off the bench for the Mustangs. East is once again, the favorites to come out of Memphis but everyone is gunning to knock them off and they will have to be on their A game every night but I expect that from a Penny Hardaway coached team.
3. Christian Brothers High School (4-2) Played both Brentwood and East really close and was up 7-8 in both games in the 3rd and it wasn’t by default, they deserved to be up in those games and probably should have won. Memphis, let me introduce you to Will Douglass if you don’t know about him already. He’s arguably the best prospect in the class and it shouldn’t be a debate. 6’4 long, best on ball guy in the city of defense, great instincts playing passing lanes, scoring it more with confidence I haven’t seen, hitting the 3, Douglass did it all this week. He had 36 against Brentwood and almost beat them by his self, that’s just how well he played that game as I think it was his coming out party if you were there in attendance. When you mention Blake Williams, DJ Jackson, Chase Hayden, make sure you mention his as well in that top tier. 6’0 Ryan Schweitzer is as pure a set shooter as you will see in the area off the spot up and is a lefty who will lead them in scoring on some nights along with Jacob Lyons, a strong 4-5, who can put it on the floor or play with his back to the basket and score it. Ben Spence, 6’6, will also be very valuable to his team as he seems to be their glue type, can handle some.They have seen their nemesis the last two season once already (Brentwood) so they know what to expect if they didn’t already but they are probably the best threat to beat them in the state on the private school side.
4.White Station High School (5-1) Only loss over the weekend was to Fayette Ware from a source on a controversial call that led to a 4 point loss but other than that, White Station was pretty good all weekend. A year old with a good group mixed with seniors and juniors, the Spartans will be in the mix in 16AAA this year and they will be there because of Aaron Strother, a 6’2 guard who can play bigger than his height and provide scoring, Adam Price who’s one of the better shooters in the city, 6’3 Michael Watkins, Braxton Winford and 6’2 Allen Hatchett who hit seven 3 pointers in the game against Fayette Ware showing improved outside jumper. He works as hard as anyone in the city on his game and it will pay dividends for him this year. Price is another player who I think can be among the best seniors in the city with his shooting. Keep an eye on White Station this year.
5. Bartlett High School (5-1) No one really talked about them much this weekend but they quietly went into Saturday undefeated before losing to White Station in the evening game. Coach Real is quietly doing a good job and what they lack in size, they make up for in good guards with Carlos Sandifer who had a 25 point game over the weekend, sophomore Jeff Walker who’s one of the better players in 2019 and senior Jalen Reed, a 6’1 who could be pretty good for Bartlett this year. Quentin Williams who was used a lot last year maybe counted on this year as well to score this year but they do have a few options that they can go to because of their guard depth. Questions about size will be persist but this is a team that can scare top teams. Can this be the year that Bartlett makes a lot of noise in 14AAA? With Cordova on that side, not sure but you know, anything is possible in Memphis, night in night out.
Now that I’ve talked about teams, let’s look at the top 10 players from the event in my opinion. I have to say this, this is not a rankings list, just a list of player that I thought were the best players that I saw over the weekend.
1. Darius Garland 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Regarded as top guard in the state, did little to make people dispute it.
2. TJ Moss 6’4 (East High 2018) Top 3-5 scorer in Memphis
3. Will Douglass 6’4 (Christian Brothers High 2017) You can make a case now that he’s the best player in this class in Memphis.
4. Chandler Lawson 6’9 ( East High 2019) The most unique player in the state
5.Ryan Boyce 6’5 ( Houston High 2018) Was a little bothered by injured back but showed enough to make him appear here.
6. Desmond Johnson 5’11 (Kirby High 2017) Expect big numbers this year, leading candidate to lead city in scoring.
7. Jeremiah Oatsvall 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2017) Shot maker, tough, heady player.
8. Cameron Johnson 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Athletic finisher, good mid range game.
9. Taeylr Gatlin 6’2 (Brighton High 2018) Big lead guard, great passer, excellent in transition with his vision.
10.Parker Stewart (Union City) Best shooter maybe in the state