Germantown Play Day

Antwan Smith ( A Maceo Walker)
Antwan Smith ( A Maceo Walker)

For the first time on Saturday afternoon, fans of Middle School Basketball had a chance to take a look at the who’s who of the best teams in the city at Germantown High School. Bellevue, Cordova, American Way were among the teams in my top 5 in the event with only White Station and Briarcrest not being there in my top 5. Now, honestly, I only saw 2 of my top 5 because I didn’t stay for Bellevue late because frankly I already know what they have and plus I kinda sort of figured they would play their jv players Saturday night. Let me start by saying, Cordova’s girls should have the best team in the city, with their guards play and the big on the inside. I know Colonial maybe pretty decent as well with their really good guard from last year but from all indications, Cordova’s girls are the favorite.

Now, let me turn to the boys and talk a little bit about what I saw. American Way has a good group and it starts with Johnathan Lawson and Jaylen Brown. Their experience playing last year as 6th graders will be key this year and will help them vastly this upcoming season. Now, I’m not saying they will not have help because another player that I was impressed with was the evolution of Alvin Miles. He’s really looking much better, much more focused as a point guard this year as I’ve seen in the past. I’ve always known he could shoot it and he’s always been able to do that but he looks different and I was impressed. I was also impressed with Tadarius Jacobs who shot the ball really well. Marquan Dean was also impressive scoring it inside. I thought W.E.B Dubois had a tough team and they could make some noise in Small Schools but I don’t think they will be in the upper echelon on the Small Schools side of things. They are missing a piece or two.

Mt.Pisgah will be a decent team but again, I’m not seeing a team that will beat any of the 3 better teams in Large Schools. Schilling Farms with Christian Clark, Ben Dimento and Kannon Trice and it will put them in the hunt possibly on their side  and Kingsbury will be a team that will get better as the season goes along but will I say they will make a run like he state sectionals last year, right now, I can’t say that but just depending on what they have that comes off the football field and their best player didn’t play so I think the next time I see them, they will look different.  Let’s understand something too, a few schools will have some come off the football field however, most of the teams I saw, their football teams are done with the exception of Bellevue who as I said only played their JV team. I thought Sherwood showed some things particulary, Rickey Shotwell, a small guard who will be big for them this year along with Delvin White, a slender attacking guard who will lead them in scoring for be second and 6’3 Anterrio Jeffries who has big potential as a player. Sherwood has another 6’4 huge player with big time size who will help them at some point in the season.

A Maceo Walker has a few players I believe that are still playing football and I think 2 are bigs and they will be in contention with Bellevue I believe and might be the biggest threat to Bellevue this year with Antwan Smith, a really quick get to the rim guard along with 6’3 Cedric Davis, a big body 4-5 who will rebound and play close to the rim. I think again, if there is anyone in Small School that will be able to beat Bellevue, it maybe this team, not saying they will but they will have a “chance” Colonial had a nice player, a 2-3 that will be counted on as the go to. Cordova was impressive at times in their games, Jaylon Saulsberry was on his way to the rim at will, wasn’t a finisher at times but he got there when he got ready. Their other best guard, Alfred White, known as a shooter was a little off but that’s nothing to be concerned about. Rodney Newsome Jr was solid inside for them scoring with short turn around shots over his right shoulder. They beat Sherwood scoring on 30 so that concerned me a little bit but this is a good team, a very good one that will be in the race for the state sectional once again and while a different look team, a good team that will rely heavily on guard play, like well, mostly everyone else.

Just some thoughts from the games that I saw and again, I didn’t see everyone but from what I saw, I can pretty much say that I think I did a decent and fair job of my top 5 that I put out last week. There will be a few more play days I’m sure and I will come back here to give you a report when I see other teams.

 

2019 Rankings

Malcolm Dandridge (East High School)
Malcolm Dandridge (East High School)

 

1. Chandler Lawson 6’8 WF (East High School) Uniquely skilled wing prospect, Lawson has been among the top 10 best players in the country for years. Extremely long with 7’4 wing span, Lawson is nightmare mismatch for bigger players and to long for smaller players, Lawson is as difficult a player to guard as anyone in the city right now. Increasingly aggressive, Lawson can play inside out, where he can post inside,  has great touch with the jump hook, play at the high post where he can turn, face up and be a passer and a guy who can hit that jumper from that spot or take it off the dribble from the wing where he loves to uses the spin for floaters or short J. He can shoot the 3 well enough to keep you honest as he confidence has increased his jumper. Can drive at you, stop and shoot the jumper but is more of a driver of the basketball.  As a defender, he can be a problem due to his length with his timing as shot blocker or on the ball as a defender where you think you may have gotten away but his long arms allow him to contain quicker players. He has great ball skills and a high IQ and is more athletic than the two older brothers at the same age where he can finish breaks with big dunks off lobs to the rim or from his own doing, getting it off the rim and taking for end to ends dunks. He can put a lot of pressure on the defense, is a good rebounder particularly on the offensive end and has his strength catches up to his length and he continues to become more aggressive offensively,  watch him for become an even scarier prospect.

2. DJ Jeffries 6’7 WF (Olive Branch Ms) Big time talent, Jeffries is High Major in the making and one that will continually have his  name in discussion as a top 10-25 player in the country for the next few years. Immensely talented as a scorer, Jeffries puts it on the floor as well as any 6’7 in the area as a freshman and knows what to do with it in his hands. Can hurt with the pull up, hit the 3, handle it, bouncy good athlete with ability to score on all 3 levels. He has a good first step, loves to work out of the triple threat position and can score close with assortment of shots. He can look as though he’s quiet in a game and then, have a stretch of 8 straight points as he is capable of putting up numbers on any given night. He rebounds it well and can make a decision on the break as a handler in the open court but again, he’s wired to score. He tends to handle a little high at times but because of his ability level, it doesn’t hurt him much even against smaller defenders because he can rise up and shoot over the top. He never looks like anything bothers him much on the court but make no mistake, don’t let the quiet nature fool you, Jeffries is one of the elite players in the country.

3. Joe Cooper 5’11 PG (Houston High School) Has sprouted some since end of the year last season, Cooper is among the best point guards in 2019 nationally. Has burst and vision in the open court, has a knack for the flair, makes plays for teammates and his handle is strong and low to the ground, always looking and probing for lay ups. Can penetrate the defense and look for teammates for dump offs when guys pull defensively but is also a capable scorer the runner/float game. He makes good decisions on  fast break opportunities seeing the floor and finding  but can play in a half court setting as point guard who knows how to run an offense.  He’s improved offensively with his shooting and become more of a threat maybe that he wasn’t before and has gotten much strong in his body over the past few months. He’s a good defender who likes to gamble a bit but I think he could be really good defensively over time. Cooper has a chance to be pretty good from the moment the steps on the floor this year.

4. Antavion Collom 6’5 WF (Olive Branch Ms) Apart of a great freshman class at Olive Branch, Collom is among others is looking to change the culture there known as a football power. Collom is big body wing type with underrated passing ability, another player who can play with the ball in his hands for his new school and run a team at times. Right now, Collom I think is more a player who’s not necessarily looking to score in big numbers but yet but pretty good at various phases of the game. He’s a good 3 ball shooter but not a shooter, can play with his back to the basket and do it well using his physicality, something I think he should do more often but he doesn’t but I think what he does well is pass it. Not a huge rebounder but he has the ability to be that in time and I would love to see him develop a pull up around the elbow area and not pull up for so many 3 pointers. He’s really talented, I think there is more too him but once he increases his motor, you will start to see more people saying, maybe he could be a little higher on this list or maybe even nationally.

5. Malcolm Dandridge 6’8 PF (East High School) – Has really made strides since the first time I saw him and is no where near a  finished product, Dandridge shows some things that makes you think he will play Division 1 basketball. Great size at 6’8 and long, Dandridge is worker, rebounder who brings energy and some offensive ability where he shows flashes of touch to the 3. Not a big time guy athletically but can finish close, rim running should be point of emphasis for him. He primarily turns over the left shoulder offensively inside and can score there and is a good passer out of the past and has pretty good hands and good feet for a young player. Being a blue collar worker will make him coveted player in the years to come and Dandridge will be a name that those who follow 2019 know.

Updated 2020 Rankings- Top 10 (9/30/2015)

2020

1. Chris Moore 6’3 Forward (West Memphis) Physical specimen already, Moore is  headache around the rim, who uses strength and motor for easy scoring opportunities. Moore is an improving ball handler but not where he do it full time however in transition, handles it well enough to attack a bigger or smaller defenders. Loves to seal, catch and deliver inside and is good defender where he uses good timing to block shots and keep them in play. He can face up some but is primarily effective as a back to he basket player and that’s where he will need to improve offensively, out on the perimeter.  He’s a very aggressive rebounder, keeps it high off the board and isn’t a bad passer out of the post. He has a good feel for when attack his defender and when to pass it out for better shots to open teammates as he doesn’t force the issue a lot or does he try to do things he’s not necessarily comfortable doing yet.  Moore is such a force around the rim, it’s hard not to pencil him in for a double double every time he hits the floor at this stage in his development.

2. Cameron Matthews 6’4 Forward (Olive Branch) Good looking prospect with big time promise at the big guard or wing position, Matthews has the look of a future d-1. Has a good first step where he can take bigger or smaller players off the dribble using his size and body to shed defenders. He’s very reliable inside where he plays for his summer team but is a ball handler who can get where he wants. Playing inside right now, will make him better long term but he projects as strong, big body 2-3 who will be able to knock score at all 3 levels and cause mismatches. He can finish with either hand, a good rebounder and shows some versatility as a defender. He’s a good and willing passer who can pass out the post and the high post and can post smaller players for lay ups. I think playing inside some has kind of taken some of confidence as ball handler away from him but he’s good enough to still be a big time wing in the future. Pretty athletic right now but by this time next year, I think lay ups will turn into dunks for him as I look for him to stretch some and grow into his strong frame and keep his spot atop the ranking for some time. I’m looking for him to have a huge year at Olive Branch this year.

3. Tayson Parker 5’11 (Home School) Has hit the scene in Fall leagues and exploded as one of the premier players in this class. As athletic right now as any in the class in Memphis if not the most athletic, Parker is already playing above the rim elevating for dunks off the break and exploding through traffic for finishes at the rim. Parker possesses excellent speed and quickness in open court and that’s where he maybe most effective but can score in the half court where he can hit the 3 and he gets high on his shot. A good defender, he sneaks in passing lanes for steals and can guard both guard spots. Parker is name that’s hot right now among those who have seen in fall leagues but can he keep this same spot throughout the year? Some guys are coming but  but Parker belongs to be here in this spot right now.

4. Matthew Murrell 5’11 G/F (John P Freeman) Really a scorer, right now at 2 levels to the rim and in 15 feet in, the 3 will come as he matures,  Murrell can put up points in bunches. His demeanor never changes and you never know whether his team is up or not as he goes along about business and operating at a efficient clip. Not flashy,  doesn’t try to do things he can’t do, he has  great fundamentals where he uses the ball fake and loves to get middle for scoring opportunities. He has good form on his shot and elevates enough to get it off and is a solid rebounder from the guard position. Just recently, Murrell has started to play over the rim and has added another each to his future big guard frame.  The more confident he becomes, the better player he will become and that will elevate him even more.

5. Rodney Mason 6’3 Forward (St.George ) Skilled 3-4, Mason is coming into his own and growing on me the more I see him as a player. Has really worked on his perimeter game, improved athletically and  while he’s more so a face up type right now, Mason can go over the top or around and while jumper has improved, to the 3 where he shows that ability,  he’s still more or a mid range player where the jumper looks a little more fluid. Mason doesn’t mind being physical defensively or rebounding and won’t back down from a challenge by stronger players. He projects as a possible 3 but right now is probably more viable as a mismatch 4 type but it will be fun to watch Mason develop over time.

6. Alfred White Jr 5’9  SG (Cordova Middle) Talented shooter who can score it from all over and what I like most is the confidence he displays in himself. He has a good quick release and isn’t shy letting it go but also can make it happen to the rim where he can stop for the pull up and the floater. He can come off the screen but like his younger teammate (Jones) looks more comfortable off the spot up. Really smart player to, when the jumper may not be going, White can get to the line as well, willing to go to the rim but again, is a shooter mostly. As he gets older, scoring in a variety of ways will become a point of emphasis but right now, White is as good as any at what he does in middle school in the city.

7. Caleb London 6’1 (MUS) I really thought about putting him in the top 5 and I have my reasons why I didn’t but let’s just say, it won’t be long before he’s there. London along with Parker are the to most athletic players in the class but London’s ability as a slasher/scorer maybe the best in the class. I haven’t seen him among the players in this class yet but once I do, players above him beware, London is a legit name in this class.

8. Marcellus Brigham 6’0  SG/SF (Snowden Middle) Effective with the jumper, Brigham’s  upside is as high as any in this class in Memphis. Doesn’t wow with athleticism just yet but has the looks of a player who knows how to play the game and get it done. The jumper off the dribble is I think his go to but can attack in the half court or transition. Can create space for the jumper and release it fluidly and is a player who you can go to late in games for a shot to win.

9Isaiah Cathey (Bellevue Middle) Big lead guard, Cathey is pg, power guard who’s best attribute maybe his size and ability to penetrate but Cathey is a good enough shooter to keep you honest from the outside. A leader, Cathey is capable defender using his strength and makes good decision with it in his hands and possesses good handle that allows him to get where he wants to go. Cathey’s addition to Bellevue, makes them as if they already were not, an even bigger favorite to win their classification in Middle School this year.

10. Reggie Neely (Briarcrest Christian) Really solid guard, Neely is scorer to the rim with the jumper or with 3, he’s as versatile a scorer in the class. He can create his own off the bounce, and is unselfish where he can lead from the point but is a scorer by nature and a good one. I really like him and if he continues to grow in length, Neely could really be a good guard as his better days are definitely ahead of him.