You Missed, You Missed? You Missed Like This?

Cameron Payne Murray State ( Lausannae  pic from 2012)
Cameron Payne Murray State ( Lausanne pic from 2012)

In just a few weeks, 60 players lives will change forever as they hear their name called in the NBA draft. For many of them if not all, the NBA seemed unfathomable, improbable, well impossible but yet some how, they worked hard and more importantly had the talent level to make it to the epitome of basketball in the country. Do you know how hard it is for a player to make it to the NBA? Let me give you an idea of how hard it is, there are 15 players per team, 30 teams in the league which means there are 450 players only in NBA but you have a million players who all think they are going to get there but one player locally though has a chance to be drafted in the  and become the first Memphis born player to be drafted in the lottery in 25 years. Cameron Payne, a 6’2 point guard who prepped at Lausanne Collegiate School before becoming one of the best point guards in college basketball at Murray State from the jump as a freshman averaging 16ppg  and 5 assist and increasing that number this year to 20 and 6 as sophomore. He has a chance to become the highest drafted player born here as I said , key word being “born” since well that guy, “1 Cent” (Penny Hardaway)  in the top 14 picks. People may say well  What about Lorenzen Wright? Well yes, Lorenzen played high school ball in Memphis at Booker T Washington  and was drafted in the 1996 draft at number 7 however Lorenzen wasn’t born and raised here, he was from Lafayette County or Oxford Mississippi and moved here for his senior year.

Sure there have been other guys from the program to be drafted high like  Memphian, Shawne Williams who went 17th overall in 2006,  Elliot Williams was selected number 22 by the Portland Trailblazers and going back to 1997, Cedric Henderson (East) went 45th overall to Cleveland but none have been higher Penny in the last 20- 25 years  but Payne could change that June 25th as a possible lottery pick where he projected right now by nbadraft.net

How did this happen though? Cameron Payne wasn’t a hot commodity coming out of Memphis right? Cameron wasn’t even considered the best guard coming out to the city that year in Memphis but  now, he’s a  lottery pick seen as high as pick 13? He had great prep numbers averaging 20 points and 10 assist, even winning  the state at Lausanne his senior year and leading the way for his team also  winning Mr. Basketball in his final year. For those who don’t remember Payne young, he was at the age of 11, 12, the  best guard in Memphis but as years progress, guys got older and while still really good, other guys became bigger names including Nick King, Jajuan Johnson  and Johnathan  “J3″ Williams.

Looking at different sports groups on social media, tweets and other message boards across the city, the narrative has been, how did Memphis and Josh Pastner miss out on Cameron Payne? Man, see this is what I’m talking about, Josh can’t coach, he can’t evaluate talent, why wasn’t Payne a Tiger? Well, let me ask this question? Why wasn’t Payne a Tennessee  Volunteer, a Ole Miss Rebel, Mississippi State Bull Dog or Vanderbilt Commodore? Pastner wasn’t the only person who missed on Payne and what about all the recruiting services who didn’t even have Payne as a 2  star let alone a 4 or 5 star? A lot of people locally said that maybe  his success on the high school level was because he played private school and that he couldn’t be that good because of the competition level at Lausanne right? Cameron played in the Nike EYBL with Bluff City Legends(Team Penny), he played some on the Adidas circuit with the Memphis Magic, so I mean there was chance after chance to be seen by colleges right?   According to Rivals, Murray State was the biggest offer that he had. ESPN had him with a rating of 73 and said he was the 10th best point guard in the state of TN and overall the 57th best player in the region. This was according to the World Wide Leader in  Sports , ESPN, not WREG but ESPN. They have writers for days for high school basketball as it becomes big business once young players enter 9th grade where they start to rank them.  247 sports had him as the 291 best player in the country, we talking about a lottery pick, 291? Did people just really overlook Payne? After all, some locally did it as well downplaying his success due to whatever reason they could think of . There have been several players over the years who could be the “out of no where type” stories, like NBA hall of famer Scottie Pippen who was the team manager at Central Arkansas and didn’t play much high school basketball  or Avery Johnson, a champion with the Spurs after having success in high school but only being recruited by junior colleges going on to a 16 career in the NBA. There are examples and examples but when it touches the Memphis area so close with Payne, it kind of intrigues people as to why Payne wasn’t highly recruited especially by the hometown team. Am I saying Payne will be a hall of famer or have a 16 year career? No, however, it makes you wonder, how did so many people miss?

You mean to tell me that everyone but Murray State was right about Payne? According to his recruitment, many were wrong including well Josh but again, everyone else was too. Was it that Murray State’s staff was just that much smarter than everyone else? You could see the tools, the length, the passing and scoring ability, make other players better around him, the creativity he possessed as a play-maker but no one else but the Racers saw this? This isn’t the first time though that Murray has pulled one out the hat, former Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan wasn’t a big national guy coming out of high school but now he is a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after being drafted by the Houston Rockets as the 34 pick of the 2013 NBA draft.  How is it that everyone missed on Payne? We are talking about a lottery pick possibly here?

Is it possible that Payne went to the right situation, that best fit him and excelled so much so that he is in the position that he is in now? I see not only locally but around the country where players pick schools that may not necessarily fit them as players but are “big” time schools, that play on TV all the time so they assume that’s the best opportunity to shine and be a player who could become a NBA draftee when more times than not, it doesn’t always work out that way due to a lot of factors but never the less, it doesn’t work out. Word to the wise young players, when it comes time to make a decision, you better think long and hard, why is this the best school for me, academically, athletically? Does the style of play fit who I am as a player? These are things you must consider, when picking colleges.

Why is it so hard to see by some fans of our local program here that Payne was missed on? Is it such an indictment on Coach Pastner because if that is the case, wouldn’t it  also have to be an indictment on other local programs  around region and the country right?  Was it a miss? Perhaps it was but the Tigers are not the only ones who didn’t take their bats off their shoulders and swing.

Chandler Lawson Competes At Adidas Nations

Chandler Lawson 2019 (Last On End of Second Row)

Now that KJ and Dedric Lawson are on to the University Of Memphis to begin their college careers, a new journey begins for the 3rd Lawson brother. Chandler Lawson, a 6’8 skilled oozing crazy potential but with talent to match, competed as one of only 2 8th graders invited in the country to Adidas Nations in Houston Texas. He just was there 2 weeks prior in the John Lucas International Middle School Combine where he was named the best 8th grader at the camp by Clark Francis, of HoopScoopOnline.com. As May comes to an end soon, questions will soon begin to come around again, what school will Chandler attend as he enters high school as June summer league approach. IMG in Florida still an option? Perhaps however, the soon to be 9th grader may also decide playing in Memphis might be the option as well. We will soon see where he and family chooses but Lawson looks primed to continue what his brothers did and make his own way as well.

 

Nych Smith To The Atlantic 10 (Flashback)

 

As many know by now, White Station point guard Nych Smith has committed to Fordham University in New York making him another one of the city’s division one players in the class of 2015. Fordham, your getting a great one in Nych, a smooth pg with a get the bucket mentality but can shine in the role of a distributor as well. Nych can create his own off the jumper both ways, finish with both hands and hit the 3 consistently and has a great feel for the game and can score on all 3 levels. I think he will become of the Atlantic 10 best guards if not by end of freshman year, he will be an all conference player by his sophmore season. A few years ago (10th grade) I had a chance to get Nych on video and talk a little bit. I know it’s not throwback Thursday but hey, to those who watch or have watched Nych, I always find it nice to look back at the maturity of a player over the years as a person and a player. Congratulations Nych.

 

 

 

Do You “Believe” Or Are You Just Bluffing?

DO YOU BELIEVE???

It was all good just a week ago right? BELIEVE!!! The Grizzlies mantra, We Don’t Bluff right? Bluff is a term used a lot in poker and sometimes to indicate if someone is real about action or playing around but if we were playing spades right now, the Warriors would be running a Boston or 10 hand for the spade beginners on the Grizzlies. What happen is my question? No, I don’t necessarily root hard for the Grizzlies however I like to see them do well so I have some interest in them however, these last 2 games have been disastrous and tonight, the Warriors have a chance to end the season of the beloved Memphis Grizzlies. My question is, does this surprise you? After the playoffs begin with the thrashing of Portland, it was on to Golden State, the best team in the league with the league MVP, Stephen Curry,  Memphis believed. Memphis fans believed that they had a shot in this series because Golden State is a jump shooting team, the Grizzlies ground and pound attack and boasting a top 5 in the league front line in Zach Randoph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies fans thought they had a clear cut advantage. The Grizzlies came out first game and took one on the chin with a 101-86 loss but they had reason for optimism, Mike Conley was supposed to come back in next one and that he did. Afterward his facial fracture  surgery, Mike Conley looked like a thriller zombie and the game before, I thought it would be unlikely that he would play in Game 2 but I gained a lot of respect for him. He came back like he never left, masked and all and came out in the first quarter and killed it and overall scoring 22 points as the Grizzlies tied the series, 1-1 behind his 22 points. Courtney Lee contributed big time as well scoring 15 points and that guy Tony Allen, he was everywhere, a one man defensive hawk. Allen is that guy that you hoop with at the gym that’s wild as ever, you don’t like playing against him,” hey man, you  guard him” he can’t score at all,  but playing with you, you love him on your team.

In Game 3, it was Grizzlies again with a dose of Randolph and Gasol who finished with 21 and 15 while Randolph had 22 points got another win. Curry looked normal for a change, going 8-21 and 2-10 from 3 and just didn’t seem like his self. Did the Grizzlies great defense have to do with this? The thing about jump shooters or 3 ball shooters, it’s great when you making them but there is a old phrase, you live by the 3, you die by the 3 and when you not on, it can be a long night for you and great night for the other team. The Grizzlies found themselves up 2-1 in a series that Charles Barkley said they would get swept in, that’s right swept and now, it’s 2-1, WE DON’T BLUFF RIGHT? “BELIEVE” Well, I can’t lie, they even had me saying maybe they can pull this series out but not so fast mr.postman. Game 4, Steph Curry with the shot woke up out of the slump he was in and went to work scoring 21 points in the first half. He had 21 the whole game in Game 3 and he got that amount in the 1st half. As I watched at Clicks with friends, that game got ugly and ugly quick and it seemed as though someone came in the Sports Bar and put a little needle in the building and let all the Grizzlies air out. The team seemed deflated after that game but once again, “BELIEVE” This is Memphis, we don’t bluff right? Game 5, the Grizzlies had a great start, it looked like they were going to make it a game even getting up by double digits early but once again, that man Curry came alive hitting 4- 3 pointers to put the Warriors up at the end of the 1st quarter, 26-25. Late, the Warriors toyed with the Grizzlies, it looked like a rec game with old college pros and college players playing against plumbers, lawyers and guys that own restaurants, it looked bad. Whatever the Warriors threw up, they hit but was it because Tony Allen didn’t play? No, people, let me reiterate that, Tony Allen wouldn’t have made a 20 point difference. Please stop with that, I love his effort on the floor but offensively, he is a  liability because the Warriors don’t have to guard him so he can be a hindrance as well.

So now it’s 3-2, the Warriors look like they have gotten their swagger back, the Grizzlies looked shaken and rattled and now have to figure out a way to snap out of it and play like are capable or be eliminated on their home floor. What can they do to bolster the offense? What role player is going to have to play out of their mind tonight? Can old man river Vince Carter get you 15 tonight and make you think about when he was half man half amazing or is just now old half man? I remember people really  being on Beno Udrih, like he was a really good player, what happen to him?  Who’s going to be the shot maker from the outside tonight? Speaking of shot makers, why haven’t the Grizzlies addressed their horrible shooting from the perimeter in the last 2 years? It’s great to have 2 guys be able to score on the inside but what happens when you can double 1 and sag off (Allen) to help out on the other block? There has to be a guy able to make a shot consistently for them and if they don’t find it tonight, the season will be over. Maybe it’s me but I think Gasol could be better, he produces okay numbers to be called a top 2 or 3 center in the league but his numbers should be 20 10 consistently. I think he plays passively at times and isn’t as forceful on the offensive side as he should be. He passes sometimes 3-5 feet from the rim when he should be powering up for and ones or getting to the foul line. In this series, he has a clear cut advantage, well I at least I thought he had one on Bogut and while has played okay, I guess maybe I’m expecting more. My prediction on tonight’s game, hmmmm, well since the Warriors have won the last two by 15 plus, although the Grizzlies will be at home and they should play better here, I just don’t think the Grizzlies can score enough to keep Golden State from winning comfortably by 10 besides they haven’t scored 100 points in the series yet and we 5 games in. Do you believe or are you just bluffing?

 

Rumored Coaching Moves Become Reality

Coach Faragi Phillips (New Head of Whitehaven HS)

All aboard, all aboard and welcome to the Memphis coaching carousel!On board snacks will  include popcorn, candy, cokes and transfers to the likes of which the city hasn’t seen in the last few years due to the recent movement of coaches around the city. All the talk in recent weeks that were “rumors” became factual on yesterday as two coaching positions were filled at prominent Triple A schools, Central and Whitehaven High.

At Whitehaven, this was one most  talked about by everyone and maybe the most anticipated as  former Mitchell High School Head Coach Faragi Phillips took the helm as the Tigers lead guy. Phillips brings along with him, winning which he has done at every level he’s been on so far including Middle School where he won a sectional state (Ridgeway) and at Mitchell,  where he was as successful as any coach in the state in recent memory. 4 state appearances in 4 years, two in Double A, a state championship in 2014 in Single A and following that up with another for back to back state titles this year. His credentials, they speak for themselves and for those who think that accomplishing what he accomplished at Mitchell was because he was Single A are down playing his coaching ability. All Phillips has done is won wherever he was and I don’t think it will be any different at Whitehaven. As a motivator, I think he’s one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory as his players speak the world of him as coach and mentor. This is a great hire for the community of Whitehaven and one that will pay big dividends very soon as Whitehaven featured one of the best freshman classes in the city last season.

John Anderson who was at one time the assistant to Coach Ricardo Patton  at Colorado, who in a surprising move resigned suddenly,  will take over for him at the school that he recently left, Central High School. Anderson  was the head coach at Hillcrest (1987-2005) where he had a great career including Coach of the Year awards in 94, 95 and 1996 and garnering a top 20 ranking (17th in country) for his team,  before embarking on a career at the D-1 level as an assistant from 2005-2007 (Colorado) and Northern Illinois University. Anderson’s teams at Overton improved greatly during this time there including making it to the semi final of the regional before bowing out to East. He has a very structured style of coaching but he allows his players to read and be creative within the comforts of the offense.

Now that the moves have been made, how many more transfers might we see across the city? These two coaching changes could shape the always perennially strong 16AAA and keep it as the best district in Triple A possibly in the state but again, with this comes questions that each coach entering new positions must wonder. Transfers in Memphis do happen but each must do their due diligence in regards to each player who could arrive or that may already be at their schools.

We remember the Hamilton Wildcats right? Hamilton was rolling along, undefeated looking like a team capable of challenging for the 2006 record in the state (Hamilton 39-0)  beating Oak Hill Academy on national TV,  ranked in the top 5 by most national polls in the country however shortly after, a player on the team was ruled ineligible  soon after and they were forced to forfeit a significant amount of games. Was it done in malice by officials? No, definitely not but sometimes when things are done early on by the parents who may not necessarily know all the rules and quirks of the TSSAA, then it could become an issue down the line for someone should they not do their homework. Triple A brings a lot of attention to it and Coach Phillips and Coach Anderson are both high profile coaches who some may not have the best wishes for. Is that right to say? Maybe not but this is Memphis and everyone doesn’t always want you to have terrific teams regardless of what school you are at.

I think both of these coaches are great coaches who will do big time things at their new schools. I will even go this far, I think based on what’s at Whitehaven right now and what is to come, I think Phillips might have a chance to compete for the district title along with East as soon as next year. Coach Anderson’s job much like his first year at Overton will be in the mix late in the year but I look for bigger things in his second season but make no mistake, Central will still be a team that will be able to beat anybody in the city because of Anderson’s ability to coach.

 

2021 Impact Soon To Be Felt

 

2021 Impact To Soon Be Felt
L-R (Johnathan Lawson, Kennedy Chandler, Willie Foreman)

Who is the best player in 2021? I get it, for some people, it’s to far away right? These young guys are to young to be talked about as far as ranking as the best. You shouldn’t do this, your setting them up for failure, your stopping them  from working hard by doing this so soon because if they see this, they will think they have arrived. I think that the furthest thing from the truth and here is why, that class locally will have a huge impact on the middle school season next year because I think it’s better than the 2020 class in Memphis. How can the younger class be better than the older class? Well, 2021 boast a very talented group up top and some more players who show potential to be really good players looking towards the future.

4  of the players in the class have garnered national attention already including Johnathan Lawson (Memphis Wildcats/Team Penny), Kennedy Chandler ( and Willie Foreman and Jalen Brown Chandler has been seen as high as #5 according to some while Lawson has seen himself in the top 10-15 range as well as Brown who’s been ranked as the 20th best player in the country by one source. Chandler is more of a scoring point  guard right now but he gets it done from the 3 and in an assortment of ways. The knock on him maybe size but Kennedy’s production is big time. Foreman is worker around the rim, a high motor rebounder with some ability to step away from the rim as well and hit the free throw line extended jumper. Improving handle will elevate him more.  Brown is in the mold of the classic Memphis guards, a get the basket type through the floater and jumpers. He’s trying to get back into the swing after a light leg injury but Brown in the conversation. Lawson is the last of the Lawson brothers but the talent didn’t stop at Chandler and he might end up being the best of them all.  Already at 6’2, he has vision from the pg position, where he’s a big guard, he loves to get others involved but has the take over attitude when needed. He’s much improved offensively over the last year but I think it comes from just wanting to instead of not having the the ability . Several other players will have a chance to become pretty good over the next fews year in this class including, Kameron Jones, a knock down spot up  3 point shooter who might be the best in the city in that role, athletic defender but with scoring ability,  Tadarius Jacobs, Ethan Roberts and 5’9 Dorian George.

When I decide to rank this  group, I will not base on national rankings but on my own merit because I’ve seen them so much locally as I will do with all rankings that I will do from now on but the discussion starts now, who’s the best 6th grader in the city?

 

 

 

Video Highlight: TJ Moss, Memphis East HS/Team Penny 2018

Here are a few highlights from Memphis East’s 2018 standout, TJ Moss’s freshman year. Moss can just about do anything on the basketball court. He’s a proficient shooter. He also can get to the rack at will. Moss has the ability to play the passing lanes on defense with great anticipation. At 6’4″, TJ Moss has good size and length. TJ is one of the top scoring guards in the state irregardless of class. Catch TJ this Spring and Summer on the EYBL circuit ballin’ for Team Penny.

Who’s The Best in 2018???

Is Rod Brown (Cordova) the Best Player In 2018?

 

The first initial high school season is over for the 2018 class in Memphis. For some it was business as usual, the same success that some had in Middle School, they had the same in High School while some struggled adjusting to bigger, stronger, older players and the pace of high school. Who had the best year of the freshman in the city? What freshman stood out the most? Who was the most valuable to their team. Basically, who is the best freshman in the city? Some say Rod Brown of Cordova and I can see people having that opinion, Brown was really good at times for Cordova showing flashes of a high major wing type with with athleticism that make college coaches keep track of him all the way through High School. Do you like Alex Lomax at East or “ALO” as he’s been called for years. Coached by the best guard to come through Memphis (Penny Hardaway) high IQ, defensively a difference maker, a poised play maker offensively and every improving jumper making him another mid to high prospect with a bright future. His team went to state where he had a 20 plus point game in the first round with a now you see me type performance. How about Mark Freeman at Southwind, another pass first but improved pg who makes great decisions a point guard, runs a team, knock down the jumper and is as good defensively as any guard in Memphis regardless of class. How about Tyler Harris at Ridgeway? Polished as anyone in the class at the guard position, knows when step up and the be a shot maker, very cerebral and isn’t  afraid of the big moment. The list can go on and on with St Benedict guard Trey Davis, Ryan Boyce at Houston, Jordan Johnson at Overton,  how about the year that Garret Golday had at Arlington who I believe might be the only freshman other than TJ Moss to start every game as a freshman. What about Moss? Leading scorer on a young team at East that went to state, a  very versatile mature scorer who’s production has really increased with the 3 inserted into his game more. This weekend in Birmingham, Moss was perhaps one of the 5 best players in the entire tournament. He can make shots off the catch and the 1-2 pull up in rhythm and can post smaller guards and finish. Who’s the best player 2018 in Memphis? I will give my answer soon enough as I believe 3-4 players can make that claim as the best player overall. TJ Moss, Alex Lomax, Mark Freeman and Roderick Brown.