MAM Elite 8 Predictions

 

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

 

We are down to 8, let’s take a look at the games today and my predictions on the outcomes of each.

MAM Elite 8 Match Ups

A Maceo Walker vs Briarcrest Middle – This is an interesting game because the point guards involved, Antwan Smith and Kennedy Chandler.  The 2021 guard is coming off a 16 point performance but for those who think it’s just him, his two teammates, combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds against Germantown (Neely, Parks).  Briarcrest will have to get off to a good start against a bigger and more seasoned A Maceo who has been in battles this year including one against #1 Bellevue.  Key matchups will be I think with the lead guards and turnovers  but  if Neely has a strong game because he is capable then this game could go towards Briarcrest but I think A Maceo will win it behind Smith and his ability to get to his spot and score with his quickness and speed in the open court. Grizz Center 7:00pm

American Way Middle vs Hickory Ridge Middle – In an earlier game in the season, it was Hickory Ridge with the blow out win over American Way in the MLK but American Way did play without 3 of its starters for 3 quarters but HR capitalized off it and that’s what they were supposed to do. Now the attention is on today, the rematch as I saw some on Facebook calling it and I think both teams will come to play. The Eagles are led by a talented group at the height of it, Johnathan Lawson who injured his finger on yesterday; will it come into play today?  Jaylen Sanders leads Hickory Ridge and a group that plays really hard defensively. Will they double Lawson?  If so, things open up for Jalen Brown and Marquan Dean? American Way has tendency to start slow and if they do and Hickory Ridge is making shots early, they will find themselves in trouble. This might be a physical tough game but I think American Way pulls it out. Grizz Center 8:00pm

White Station Middle vs St George– Maybe the most intriguing game of the evening and one that I’ve been looking forward to since the schedule of the MAM came out. Why is this game one to watch, well for starters, Rodney Mason Jr is playing against his former team where he was at as a 6th grader. So there is familiarity on both sides but I’m sure he will be looking to show them what they have missed. With 24 points yesterday, I think he will be even more locked in today and come out very aggressive early and often. Issac Smith will be another player for White Station to contend with at 6’3 6’4 with the ability to hit the 3, drive and rebound and Nick Floyd, a fundamentally sound player who is really steady at pg and doesn’t turn it over much from what I’ve seen but also can score some so you can’t leave him defensively. White Station can counter with Amauri Abner, Wille Foreman and Aldon Applewhite and all 3 will need to be in double figures on tonight. They must also be careful, both teams of not getting into foul trouble and White Station will need to cut down on 3s taken because they will lead to lay ups. Unforced turnovers will be key as well as the Spartans have to take care of the ball. Both teams will have to but I’m more concerned with White Station because their best handler is Abner as I think Applewhite is more comfortable off the ball. This will be tight game with some emotion in it so both teams need to be careful of that but I like St George in this game.  Streets 7:00pm

 

Bon Lin vs Snowden Middle  – Both teams survived last night in close games (combined 5 points) and now face each other with Bon Lin’s undefeated record on the line. Snowden I believe will be their toughest test of the season and Bon Lin will have to play very well to beat them but even with that said, Bon Lin has really showed a lot of resiliency this season. Lots of close games but they have always found a way to win. Can they do it tonight in their toughest challenge? My answer is I don’t think so. I think Snowden schedule has prepared them for this and it will advance them into the final four. Streets 8:00pm

 

MAM Holiday Classic
MAM Holiday Classic

 

The biggest middle school tournament of the year is back and once again, it includes the city’s elite all on one stage. Large Schools, Small Schools and Private for a chance at bragging rights and the chance to say that they are the best team in the city. Now now, I know that Bellevue isn’t in but, going through this, whoever comes out on top could theoretically make that claim.  Would it have been nice to see everyone in? Most definitely but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen but now we will turn our attention to who’s in and who will win it. First up, Monday’s games…

12-28-2015

Colonial Vs MUS @ Grizz Center 8:00pm- Pick (MUS) Always well coached, Colonial has a nice piece but MUS will be a team that will cause them fits because of their methodical style.

Mt Pisgah vs West Jr High @ Grizz Center 7:00pm- Pick (West Jr High) I don’t think West is coming here just to lay down and get beat and go home.  Mt Pisgah is a scrappy team but I like West here in some what of an upset, just a gut feeling.

Hickory Ridge vs Barrets Chapel @ Grizz Center 8:0opm- Pick (Hickory Ridge) Just don’t think Barrets will be able to match up talent wise.

Kate Bond vs ECS @ ECS 8:00pm- Pick (Kate Bond) At ECS but I like Bond because of Kendall Thomas however they must go in with mind set of taking out ECS early or risk being in a tight one late.

Sherwood vs Grizz Prep @ Grizz Center 8:00pm- Pick(Sherwood) Will be all Sherwood and all the time tonight.

Ridgeway vs Woodstock @ Grizz Center 7:00pm – Pick (Ridgeway) Woodstock doesn’t get the caliber of player that Memphis gets but Woodstock could come in here looking for early upset but highly unlikely unless Ridgeway takes them for granted.

These are just Monday’s games and I will take a look at the rest of the week on Tuesday.

 

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Is There Something Wrong On The Grassroots Level?

 

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Memphis basketball is special because of the fanatical way that people view it here.  Years ago, when I started covering youth basketball, mostly high school, it took me just one game, just one game to fall in love with middle school basketball. Why middle school? Well for one, the parents are much more involved, more participation, the kids are playing harder and while it maybe a prima donna or two developing, for the most part, the kids are pretty humble. It’s a certain excitement that it brings, the crowds, the sometimes wild things that happen that come along with it and since, I’ve spent much more time on middle school than high school. This year, I’m noticing something and maybe because it’s after a year in which we may have saw one of the best classes to come through in awhile (2019) but it’s not a great year overall and I’m wondering why.  I’m seeing the basketball play not be the same and it’s not just the 8th grade class, it’s all the way across the board, 6th graders included. This is not to say the basketball is bad, it’s just something doesn’t seem to be right about it.

What is the problem? Well, it could be a combination of things. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten spoiled with like I mentioned, the 2019 class last year with 2 potential McDonald All American types, 2017 with Blake Williams, Chase Hayden and the 2016 class. I could go on and on because each year, it’s been a dominate player or players who just killed it in their 8th grade years,  even going back to the Jajuan Johnson days and the Johnathan Williams and a step further, Adonis Thomas at Mt Pisgah.  I can’t even  identify that dominate  player right now that’s does it night in night out  in middle school. What’s the reason behind this? Is it just the times and this year, is it just not as  good as other years? If so, then there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever but I think it goes deeper. Is there something wrong with basketball on the grassroots level? Are there enough avenues where kids can get better?

What’s grassroots? Well, it beginning stages of basketball, it’s where the fundamentals are developed. Shooting, dribbling, just the basics and I think there is a problem there locally. I watch kids during games and they can’t protect the ball with off arm, I see kids losing the ball with no one guarding them in the middle of the floor. Again, not with defense on them, no one guarding them and they lose the ball out of bounds. I watch kids countless 3 pointers and most can’t make a 10-15 jump shot. I see 10-15 lay ups a game being missed on the regular as well in virtually every middle school game I go to.  It’s either to the rim for a wild shot or a 3, sometimes 2 feet behind the line and again, I’m talking about middle school basketball. Why am I speaking on this? Well, it because, it goes up and it affects high school basketball in 2 years and sometimes in a year if the player is able to play varsity as freshman. Is there enough attention being paid to fundamentals? Jab stepping, using the triple threat, ball fakes, shot fakes? Just a simple drop step for taller kids? Most young post I’ve seen can’t do it at all.

Is there to much emphasis placed on shooting by trainers locally? I see videos of work outs and I see kids shooting, doing euro steps but I don’t see kids working getting your behind down on D, knowing how to read a screen or knowing how to play out of pick and roll. The pretty elements of basketball is cool but what about the basics? Are there other problems that are affecting basketball locally? Are kids not competing enough with each others, your better players? Is the problem that kids don’t play enough basketball altogether?  Again, there is nothing wrong with training individually but are kids putting that to use against their peers on a regular basis? That even goes for high school players, when I was in school, kids played against each other at other gyms back in the day. Kids from Orange Mound, if it was hooping going on in North Memphis, they were there and vice versa. Even going back farther, a friend of mine told me, if it was a guy averaging 30, everybody wanted to get at him. It was just about competing and it made everyone better.

I don’t know about the rules, maybe the rules are to harsh now but what if it was a way where the kids could come together, no school teams, no AAU affiliation and just play and compete. The only time you see that now is in fall leagues and all the best don’t come together even then. How can this happen because it needs to, the best need to play against each other and push the next person to be the best they can be. I hear kids say, I’m going to hoop when asked where they playing at, they say they working out which isn’t the same. I realize, a lot of kids can’t get around like that but they are taking kids to workouts, what if they took kids to where all the best played together, to get better. Maybe if it was someone that was looking out for the city’s best basketball and it’s future, one could start now.

Whether you think my points are valid or not, there is something going on and I’m not going to even mention girls basketball as it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it. Something fundamentally (pun intended) is going on there. We have good athletes here but, only a few know how to really play. It’s why there are maybe only 2-4 good teams on the girls side of things and that’s being kind of generous. What can be done to improve basketball on the grassroots level here? The city has to many talented players to just sit idle and watch good basketball players not fulfill their potential the older they get. Hopefully, I don’t offend anyone but if I do, maybe I can put something on your mind to think about if your a basketball fan in middle school, or just a basketball fan in general because while we are sitting back and watching, other city’s kids are getting better. We want to keep Memphis relevant as one of the top 10 places in the country for basketball because that’s where it belongs and that’s where we have always been.

 

And The Best Player In Middle School Is?

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 In last few years, we have seen some great middle school players come through the city. Each different in their own way but never the less, great young players that everyone knew about. Every year is different with a different set of players, new teams emerging, star players being star players and then there is one that really stands out among them  and puts himself out in the fore front as the best player of them all. Question is though, who is that player this year? Is there clear cut player who you can say is the best  in Middle School right now? It’s been awhile since honestly since I haven’t been able to identify that player by now but have you as fans been able to identify that one player as the best? Is it Omari Thomas at Bellevue? One parent told me that he was emphatically but what about his teammate, Isiah Cathey? Is it Jaylen Saulsberry at Cordova? He has the physical attributes but hasn’t been as dominate as I thought he might have been initially. Is it Matthew Murrell at John P Freeman, Marcellus Brigham at Snowden? What about teammates Rodney Mason Jr and Issac Smith? Is it a 7th grader and not an 8th grader this year? Can a case be made for a select few 7th graders? Maybe it’s a player that I haven’t mentioned and if you think so, I’m more than willing to listen below in the commentary(Disqus).  I’m waiting on that alpha type to thrust himself into the best player in middle school role and nobody can do anything about mentality. The names I mentioned are capable of being the guy and with the “MAM” rapidly approaching, we could see that player really step it up because I have seen it before. It was where Chandler Lawson took the throne last year and became that player. Will the MAM bring him out?  I truly hope so and I will be watching.

The Prep “Poll” (Middle School 12/6/2015)

 

Omari Thomas (Bellevue M.S.)
Omari Thomas (Bellevue M.S.)

 

1. Bellevue Middle School (10-0) After their MLK title, they proved to everyone who doubted them that they are the real deal but this week, they have another challenge on Thursday as they travel to American Way and face the Eagles. Is Omari Thomas the best big in Middle School? After the championship game performance, Isaiah Cathey the best guard overall? The player who may not get the credit they deserve though or players, Jessie Payne and Jabari Small. Payne is arguably the best spot up shooter in Middle School.

2. American Way Middle School (9-1) In one loss, 3 of their starters sat but they regrouped and got a huge come from behind win this week over Cordova in the Renee Lupus Classic. Alvin Miles was lights out from 3, shooting the best I’ve seen him shoot it all year. If he starts to play that way every night to go along with Lawson, Brown and Jacobs, American Way is a dangerous team. They have White Station in their second meeting tomorrow at their home gym, which will be tough game to win but after them, #1 Bellevue comes in and it should be the game of the week, #1 vs #2. Great guard play both teams but will the difference be inside? We will see and it  goes down Thursday.

3. Bon Lin Middle School (10-0) Lots of talk lately about this team in social media and deservedly so. Who have they played, would they be undefeated if they played the city schools? I can’t answer those questions but I can’t disregard what they have done. They have to be careful though of not overlooking anyone before they get to the MAM.

4. A Maceo Walker Middle School (9-1) Still to me, right behind Bellevue as the team to beat in Small School although they did get a scare from John P Freeman a few weeks ago. Is the gap getting closer between them and other teams in Small Schools?

5. Cordova Middle School (7-3) Up huge in the first half and as many as 14 in the 3rd, they found themselves on the losing end to American Way. Why are they here at 5 with 3 losses. Well, 3 of those losses have been top 5 teams and  now ( #1 and #2) and Snowden. The fear of them has gone away and now some teams who thought they maybe they couldn’t play with them will now come harder.

6. White Station Middle School (7-3) Have a chance to avenge a loss to American Way on tomorrow but they will be the visiting team in trying to do so. This to me, is still a really really talented team looking for signature win and maybe an identity. Talent wise, they may have more than anyone individually and when it comes together, they will look like a team that has a chance to be back in the top 3 again.

7. St.George ( 9-1 ) Waiting on the MAM…

8. Briarcrest Middle School (11-3) See St.George…

9. Snowden Middle School (8-3) You will not want to draw Snowden in the MAM tournament.

10. Highland Oaks Middle (8-2) Showed well in the MLK losing to Cordova by 7 but had a set back when they were beaten by motivated Hickory Ridge team.