2021 Rankings Pre Spring/Summer (*Updated 03/29/2016)

2021 L-R ( Johnathan Lawson, #2 Kennedy Chandler, #3 Willie Foreman)
2021 L-R ( Johnathan Lawson, #2 Kennedy Chandler, #3 Willie Foreman)

 

  1. Johnathan Lawson 6’4 Guard/Forward (American Way Middle/Memphis Wildcats) Has grown 2 inches since the firs ranking of this class, the last in line of the Lawson brothers, is a special talent that  definitely takes after his siblings.  The freakishly long and skilled 6’4  guard has a piece of each brother which could lead him to become the best brother of them all, high praise but if you watch him, you don”t have to watch long to see. More of a play maker, than dogged scorer of older brother KJ but he’s very capable and he showed it during the season particularly late in the year when his team needed it most. Johnathan is a big time gamer, Lawson doesn’t shy away from the moment and isn’t afraid of the moment when it arises. He handles like a player much smaller, has vision in the open court as a passer and can finish to the basket. More driver make it happen type right now, he can keep you honest with the 3 and be a shot maker, taker  but is at his best finding where he uses his length to his advantage where he is creative with the pass  to find the easy scores. Improved with the 3 ball, the pull up off the bounce is where it’s at for him. He’s anticipates well defensively and knows when and when not to gamble in the passing lanes for a steal and can guard both guard positions as well as the 3 spot when needed. His basketball IQ is as high his age as any of his brothers and his will to win is  immeasurable. Lawson has the tools to make his own name and be not only the last out but the best in a long line of his brothers.
  1. Kennedy Chandler 5’5 PG (Briarcrest Christian Middle/Team Thad)– Diminutive in stature, Chandler gets it done with great ball handling and knack for scoring off the jumper or the drive on floaters and runners. What he may not have in size, he makes up for with skill and toughness and he can run a team in the half court and he can make shots from all over the court which makes him a very viable scoring option. He can put up points in bunches via the jumper but isn’t shy about attacking off the dribble. Not afraid to take a risk, he’s as confident as any guard in the city and isn’t afraid to challenge on as a defender or against a bigger defender where he can get his shot. He’s a sneaky good passer and pest as a defender able to bother his opponents using good positioning and quick hands for steals. He plays with excellent pace and savvy beyond his years and never gets rattled under pressure. While not the quickest, Chandler gets by you with handle and is good enough to get his shot on the pull up. Chandler already known around the country as one of the best players in the country, should be among the best players in this class for years to come especially locally.

3. Jaylen Brown 5’9 Guard (American Way/Memphis Wildcats) – Puts constant pressure on the defense by always being in attack mode, Brown is a classic scoring point guard that many have become accustomed to in Memphis. Can play off the ball and on, Brown scores it with an assortment of runners, pull up jumpers and hits the 3 at a above average rate so you just can’t play him for the drive. He’s tough to the basket, where he’s not afraid of contact from bigger strong players. He just has that ability to make the big shot in big moments for his team and seems to relish in that opportunity. He seems to really work well from baseline where he utilizes the floater game and the short jumper and can create space for the jumper from the free throw line to the short corners. He seems to be more comfortable scoring but over time, I think he becomes more  point guard who can score but also facilitate when needed but right now, Brown is a get a bucket player and he’s good at it.

4. Aldon Applewhite 6’1 Combo Guard (White Station/M33M) – Coming along nicely, the younger Applewhite, is a versatile guard who can facilitate and score it in a few ways. Really good off the spot up and catch 3, Applewhite is actively now looking for his shot more than in years past when I’ve watched him. He has all the physical tools that you like in future 2-3, can create for himself off the dribble, smart defensively, takes chances but doesn’t try to do what he can’t do. Potentially a top 2-3 guy down the road with added athleticism and growth. Tons of upside in this young player

5. Willie Foreman 6’2 PF (White Station Middle/M33M) -Relentless worker on the glass, offensively and defensively, Foreman’s biggest strength is his motor, athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. He fights for every rebound, using his long arms and is an improving offensive player outside of 5-10 feet where he can step out to the free throw line and make the jumper and shows some ability to handle in the open court off the rebound but will mostly score off energy and hustle. He’s a good help side defender where he can be a shot blocker/ shot alter type and he will go to war with bigger players for rebounds. He will expand his offensive game, because he seems to be a hard worker which will help him become more versatile as offensive player. Handle and jumper must become point of emphasis but Foreman is still a highly thought of player among players locally and a top 25-30 player in the country in this class.

6. Deebo Coleman 5’10 Guard (Lausanne/Memphis Suns) Coleman is new to the class but already might be the best shooter in this group. Coleman has spurted a little bit and added a little more quickness to him where he can be a driver of the basketball and become better rounded as an offensive player. Catch and shoot from the wing or off the spot, he’s one of the best in the area but he can also can play some on the ball and run a team if it calls for it. As he continues to grow, so will upside for Coleman who will become more known by middle school fans in 2021.

7. Tadarius Jacobs 5’9 SG (American Way/Memphis Wildcats) Solid guard who might be the best on ball defender in the city with his quick hands in this class but also good playing the passing lanes Capable scorer, Jacobs is a good shooter from the mid to 3 and is good to the rim off the jump stop, where he can draw fouls. Jacobs athletic ability is often overlooked but he has really good timing as I’ve seen him get blocks on what were thought to be lay ups. Confidence,  confidence is the key for him as he continues to develop offensively and if he does, Jacobs is a top 5 player in the city in this class.

8. Kameron Jones 5’5  (Cordova/Memphis WarEagles) Best spot up shooter in the class, Jones is trying to shed the notion of him being just that.  He starting to be able to get it off the dribble more instead of just being stationary has good range on the 3 and is showing more willingness as a stop and pop the 10 foot jump shooter. Evolution as a point guard is key going forward with decision making and added quickness to go along with his shooting ability.

9. Cameron Donegan 5’6 (Highland Oaks/Memphis WarEagles) Smart point guard with a good feel, knows when to turn the the corner and kick to teammates or tuck it to try and make it happen and finish. A traditional lead guard, Donegan never seems too high or low, plays the game at a good pace and is player you can lean on in key stretches. He shows leadership on the floor but can be counted on to score some if the team needs it but is right now more of a point guard than a “points guards”

10. Dorian George 5’10 (White Station/Memphis WarEagles) Strong 4-5 with good physical stature,  George is a worker off the glass, energy type who does most of his scoring off the put backs and around the rim. Plays to his strength literally and despite being undersized at his position, he’s consistently around the ball coming off the rim and has good anticipation of where it’s coming off. Projecting long term will need added ball skills and work on the perimeter jumper in case of 6’2, 6’3 future.

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Season Top 5 (Middle School)

 

Willie Foreman (White Station)
Willie Foreman (White Station)

 

It’s almost that time of year, basketball season is coming and it’s coming faster than some think as we will have our first play day coming up this weekend at Germantown High School on Saturday. For some schools, a lot of players are still playing football however, Saturday can give a good look at who’s who in the Middle School ranks. You just kind of know if you watch Middle School basketball all year and during the summer, you get a feel because you know what schools they are going to. For example, Bellevue is one of the more talented teams if not the most talented team in Middle School this year because they had several returning from last year including “Big O” Omari Thomas, point guard Jabari Small, Jessie Payne a few others however, they also added a impact guard in Isaiah Cathey, who played the last two years at Lester Middle. Bellevue is undoubtedly the favorite in Small Schools this year and the best Middle School in the city regardless of classification (Large or Small) because of all the talent that they have at various positions. I can see why Coach Harris says that he likes the looks of this team so much. Some may not remember but back in the day, Bellevue was the top spot for Middle School talent,basketball wise, have those days come back? Who’s after the Bobcats though  is the question and I will try my best to give you remaining 4 and the reasons why.

It gets tricky because you could go with 2 teams for the number 2 spot in the city. White Station or Cordova could both make cases but I would probably go with Cordova but it’s not in concrete but’s that is where I’m leaning right now. I like White Station because because they have a chance to form a nice starting 5 leading the way for them would be Willie Foreman, a top 3 player in the 2021 class locally, who will be hard to keep off the boards a be good for double digits every game, newcomer Aldon Applewhite, a  6’1 G/F who started as a 6th grader last year at Colonial and 7th grader Dorian George who will be among others coming off the football field including Durias Dyer, another point player who will be heavily counted on by Coach Mcclain this year and a starter from last year. I like the look of their team but  the reason that I’m going with Cordova at #2 though is because their experience at the guard spot in Alfred White and Jaylen Saulsberry and they can come off the bench with Cameron Jones or start 3 guards if you include him. Last year, they were so big and athletic and it’s changed a lot this year and I think that could be a spot of weakness for them this year, inside however guard play will carry them a long way and if you notice, if you have strong guard play in Middle School, you can make a run. They are not Cordova of last year, not close but they are good enough to be a team that wins their side.

At 3, I will go with aforementioned White Station and at 4, I will go with American Way who returns a good 7th grade class and one of the best 6th graders in the city, Terrance Jacobs Jr.  Gone is big brother Chandler but 7th grader Johnathan Lawson is looking to take over the responsibility as the go to for his team including becoming more of a scorer but yet still looking to get players involved as creator. Jaylen Brown is back as well and will be a scorer for Coach Franklin along with Tadarius Jacobs and 8th grader Alvin Miles who is one of the better spot up shooters in Middle School. This year, there just isn’t much size like like last year all around and it will effect most but American Way is another team that will rely heavily upon guards.  At # 5, I haven’t ranked a private school in awhile in pre-season but I’m going to go with Briarcrest Middle here. Here is why, they have a really good point guard in Kennedy Chandler who can score and make plays for others running the team and Reggie Neely, a not much talked player who deserves to be in the conversation as a top 10 player in 2020 in Memphis. Neely is a scorer, pure and simple and knows what to do with it when he has the ball in his hands. He can beat you with the jumper or the drive and is a pretty defender. If he’s not, I would like to think that he’s among the top 5 best players in Private Schools if not the best .

A few other schools have a chance to have a say in this including A Maceo Walker who has Antwan Smith and maybe even Hickory Ridge with Jaylon Sanders but right now, the teams I mentioned are who I think are the top 5 in the city. If you don’t think so, please tell me who you think are the better teams below in the comment section. I’m always up for good banter on middle school basketball.

So here we go, the Pre-Season Top 5

1. Bellevue Middle School – Key Players: Omari Thomas, Isaiah Cathey, Jesse Payne, Jabari Small, 2021 Jacob Roberts, Keshaun Harris, Chris McKnight, Ariyon Parker,

2. Cordova Middle School– Key Players: Alfred White Jr, Jaylen Saulsberry, Cameron Jones, Rodney Newsome Jr.

3. White Station Middle School– Key Players: 2021  Willie Foreman, Durias Dyer, 2021 Aldon Applewhite,  2021 Dorian George

4. American Way Middle School– Key Players: 2021 Johnathan Lawson, 2021  Jaylen Brown, 2021  Tadarius Jacobs, Marquan Dean, Alvin Miles,  2021 Terrance Jacobs Jr.

5. Briarcrest Middle School – Key Players: 2021 Kennedy Chandler, Reggie Neely

 

Reggie Neely (Briarcrest)
Reggie Neely (Briarcrest)

Bluff City Girls League

L-R ( Dontrecia Johnson (Overton) Rochelle Lee (Southwind) Jireh Washinton (Central)
L-R ( Dontrecia Johnson (Overton) Rochelle Lee (Southwind) Jireh Washinton (Central)

Some ask me, why don’t you cover girls that much and my answer is pretty much the same, it’s because I didn’t wanna spread myself to thin, being a one man operation is cool sometimes but also the pits at others but I manage. There is so much talent in the city on both sides, girls and boys, that’s it hard to pick where you want to go when it comes to games so I pretty much spend time on my niche, boys basketball however, if what I saw was an indication about how exciting girls could be this year, I may have to change my mind a little bit. I’m taking about the Bluff City Girls League and in it’s first year, looks as though it could be well on it’s way to becoming one of the best leagues in the state for Fall Ball. It was talented represented from everywhere, Mississippi, Arkansas, East Memphis, South Memphis, you name it, there was a player and I was throughly impressed with a lot of girls that I saw. It’s so many name but I just wanted to take time out to speak on a few who caught my attention on Sunday.

1. Dontrecia Johnson PG- Overton High School– One of my favorite guards from back in the Bellevue days, Johnson is looking to establish herself as one of the best guards in the city this year she’s looking capable. Johnson can lead, hit the 3 and is a better than you know passer and one that doesn’t shy away from competition. I’m looking for a break out type year for her this year at Overton.

2. Charity Savage SG/SF – Bartlett High School  – Her last name fits her game “savage” relentless on the attack to the rim but a good jump shooter, Charity is as tough to guard as there is in the city. She can face up, get by at 5’10 5’11, rebound it and push and find ways to score but I love how tough she is. She fights for position and will post, another reason why she maybe more versatile than anyone in the city right now. The MTSU commit is a big time player and one that will have her high school team back in the run at state again this year.

3. Jayla Hemingway Combo Guard – Houston High School – Last time I saw Jayla, she was tearing it up in my all star game but now it’s on to high school for her and I think, well she has a chance to be one of the best the area has produced in awhile. Outside of Savage, I’m not sure if anyone plays as strong and aggressive as her. Full head of stead, she’s a problem as she can score with bump or play the finesse game. Jayla’s impact will be felt immediately on the high school level because of her ability to score but also play with an understanding of how to play like player much older. For those who doubt what she did in middle school, doubt no more, she will be big time.

4. Courtney Banks PF/C – Desoto Central High School – 6’0, extremely active, keeps everything alive inside with her hands, tough around the basket and worker bee mentality, what’s not the like about Banks? She can drop step you and up and under you where she shows out good footwork in the post. There were not many post that I saw who rivaled her skill as a post.

5. Myah Taylor PG – Olive Branch High School – Everything I’ve heard about Taylor is true and then some. There are not many with her vision that I’ve seen in awhile, ball on a string, always looking but always a finder, she is a true true point guard. A leader, exudes confidence and one thing about her, she makes everyone play up a notch with her, she makes others better. Her hands were quick defensively, she was in passing lanes, she was active on ball and just when you thought you spotted a weakness as a shooter, she knocked a few down and quick enough to get by most and finish with her left like she’s a natural lefty.  Taylor was as good as advertised!!

 

Charity Savage
Charity Savage

Major Prep Basketball League (MBL) Notes

 

 

Get To Know Your "Laws"
Get To Know Your “Laws”

 

For the second year in a row, the MBL (Major Prep) has put together a nice group of young talent with all games taking place at Lausanne Collegiate School in effort to get some run before things get serious in later on in September.  I like to get out to leagues like this one and the upcoming Super 80 that will have a middle school division this year to see the progression of some players and to see some new faces. While I have not familiarized myself with 2022 class a lot, I’ve heard names and see a few players who are worth keeping a track of as they mature and come into their own as players. One name I’ve heard a lot and some say he’s the best player in that class is 5’6 Chandler Jackson, who as a mature game for a player so young, who looks to drive but looks for teammates on the kick out but also is right now a scorer to the rim mostly. He wasn’t afraid contact and moved well in tight space where he drew fouls. I was impressed with him really for the first time seeing him but there have been a few others who have caught my attention in the two weeks that I have been out to Lausanne. Here are a few of them to maybe take a peak at if you want to get out and get a chance to see some basketball in this league. Now I do not know their exact teams but just some players who fans may want to see and be able to associate with middle school teams this fall.

6th-7th Grade

Cartier Beverly PG- Bellevue Middle School – 2022 Beverly has a chance to play some minutes this year on 8th grade loaded Bellevue team that won a state sectional last year. He’s a point guard looking to penetrate and make it happen but also has good form on the 3. He didn’t try to do to much and was good aggressive and showed some quickness and good handle with defender on him. He didn’t look to concerned about players playing him close and plays the game like a player who has been playing for a long time. He’s definitely a player that will among the best players in his class right now in the city.

Dylan Hayden PG – St George – 2022 Younger brother of basketball and football standout, Chase Hayden, Dylan reminds me a little of his brother at that age because of his speed and attack mode nature and I do mean attack mode. Once his mind is made up, he’s  tough to contain and he can finish in the half court but is best in the open court. I love how competitive he is and he plays with a lot of passion.

Caleb Jackson PG – KIPP – 2022 – Of the younger guards, Jackson looked to be more of a shot creator for himself which his essential but you don’t see it much in players this young. Jackson used the 2 dribble pull up from the free throw line and looked comfortable doing so. He has good shooting mechanics and is extremely confident in himself as a player just from observing.

8th- 9th grade (Division)

Tayson Parker SG/SF – Home School – 2020- Parker is arguably the best player in this division from what I’ve seen but again, I haven’t seen everyone but it’s tough not to consider. Parker is athletic slasher, with great first step but his strength right now is how athletic he is. A few times, I saw him over the rim for tip ins but he’s not a shy player with the jumper that he can make, particularly from the top but is right now a slasher and he’s a problem in transition where he is adept finisher.

Sylvester Thompson PG – 2019 Quick point guard who does what small guards should do, best pesky on defense, get there’s when it’s presents itself and he was able to put himself in position to have an impact whether offensively or defensively. He seemed to want the ball as the game got closer and made good decisions with the ball when it was in his hands. He will have to make his mark as a defender to be a guy who gets on the floor for as a freshmen which may not be hard for him depending on what situation he’s in and where he goes to high school.

Dorian George SF/PFWhite Station – 2021 Strong 3-4 in transition to wing and it’s possible due to increased handle and confidence in it. Strong enough to play against 4-5s, George is versatile defender and a solid rebounder  where he can get it off the rim and push up to half court which I hadn’t really seen him do in the past. Right now, kind of hard to label him as position but he’s productive and will get the benefit of a lot of playing time this year at White Station.

Tadarius Jacobs SG American Way – 2021- 18 points on Sunday in his first game, Jacobs for those who didn’t know, he can PLAY. Jacobs is known more as a shooter/defender but on Sunday, he looked to lead and was looked every bit like a player capable of having a break out year in Middle School. Thing I like most maybe is him defensively where you can put him on the other teams best guard and he can contain with his length, and good footwork Growing confidence will continue to make him one of the better 7th graders in the city and soon, more and more people will begin to know Jacobs.

Kaeden Laws PF – Home School- 2021 – Maybe the biggest surprise I’ve seen of the league, 6’1  Laws is legitimately becoming a top 5 player right in front of my eyes. Really active rebounder, he rebounds out of his area and is hard to box because he works hard and he goes after everything off the rim and sprinting the floor to contest shots and misses. Don’t think of him as just a rebounder though, he’s skilled, showing so with the catch facing up and making the spin move back of the left shoulder for a score, scoring off the euro step but is truly at his best around the basket. Laws has truly earned himself a look as a top player in this class and while there is still some more to see of him, he’s in the conversation. Remember this name as he continues to grow.

 

Chandler Jackson ( City's Best 6th Grader)
Chandler Jackson ( City’s Best 6th Grader)