Bellevue, Cordova and American Way Capture City Titles

L-R (Cathey, Payne, Thomas)
L-R (Cathey, Payne, Thomas)

In their first meeting during the MLK tournament, Bellevue took home a narrow victory but on Monday night, there would be no dramatics as they cruised to a 59-37 win over A Maceo Walker. The trio above of Isaiah Cathey, Jessie Payne and Omari Thomas along with other contributions from teammates including 7th grader Eric Jacobs was to much for A Maceo who was down their biggest player, Cedric Davis. The 6’4 injured his foot in their win vs Sherwood during their game last week and is likely out the remainder of the year which will hurt their chances going forward but someone will have to step it up. Bellevue right now has to be the favorites to repeat as Small School State champs.

Cordova Vs Hickory Ridge (Girls)

Great game, I mean truly a good game between the two best teams on that girls side. Went back and forth the entire contest before a Se’quoia Allmond bucket under 20 seconds put her team up 38-36 and a big time defensive play by Sierra Drew who anticipated the inbound and got the steal. She hit 1 of 2 free throws after being fouled and Hickory Ridge ran out of time as Cordova went on to win it 39-36. Nyaa Stewart, a 2021 guard is right there as the best guard in the city in my opinion. She has great feel, finds her way to the rim in transition and is a play maker for your teammates. I have a feeling down the line, both teams will play each other again and also look out for Colonial’s girls as well.

 

Cordova Girls (City Champs)
Cordova Girls (City Champs)

American Way vs Snowden

Two teams that hadn’t played each other yet found themselves in the Large School title game, kind of rare this year seeming as though everyone has played each other. I thought before the game, it would be intriguing  because both teams kind of mirrored each other. Good guards and an elite 6’3 6’4 who’s good enough to take over game. Let me say this, Marcellous Brigham, I really like his upside and scoring ability, very tough match up.  He is hard to guard right now because of his length and ability to play the 2-3 spot. He got in foul trouble early along with Troy Stephenson who was outstanding in the game getting to the rim whenever he wanted to.  Teams took each others punches and each time one looked like it might get ready to make a run, their was an answer. Johnathan Lawson was tremendous in the game, in his best game of the year looking like a player on a mission  scoring 34 points but also having timely shots from his teammates Alvin Miles and Jaylen Brown in the final period for a 55-48 win and a Large School City title.

 

American Way (City Champs- Large)
American Way (City Champs- Large)

Bellevue’s girls also won the Small School city title over Sherwood in a 1 point game which I wasn’t able to attend. Congratulations to Coach Allgood-King and Coach Jacobs on their win.

Next up for all 4 teams, the King Of Courts games tomorrow at the SCIAA Complex (Airways Middle) where the Large Schools will take on the Small Schools for bragging rights. Not really much significance as all 4 teams must get ready for the state sectionals which will start on Saturday but more of  showcase type game as the teams get ready for the big prize, a Large or Small title. Congratulations to all the teams who have come this far but it’s about to get real now.

 

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“Us vs Them” (Part 2 Of The Memphis Mentality)

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In every gym that I walk in, you can almost feel it, different conversations in each little corner and not all but some are filled with animosity and negativity. Towards who? Well, let’s see, teams, high school and middle school, different summer travel or AAU organizations. In the first segment of the “Memphis Mentality”, I spoke on that and how different organizations talk down on other organizations which creates that division among other things as well. Well this is the focus in this section of the “Us Vs Them” mentality of the the basketball community.
When I talk about this, what am I saying? You ever been in the stands in games and it’s always, they this, they think they this, look at them, we beat them, they can’t do this, my kids are better than those. The comments in the stands by parents and onlookers can be well distasteful but you have to keep in mind though that lots of comments are coming from 30 plus and 40 year old adults about children. It’s fueling from them, coaches and influential figures and that in lies some of the problems associated with basketball in the city and it’s always and don’t let anyone tell you differently, we over here and they over there and we don’t like like well I won’t say that but we don’t associate with that group over there. Is it team vs team? Is it just friendly competition against rival teams? Maybe it is but  not the way it’s set up in Memphis because it becomes much more, more personal. . Rivalries are born in that maybe schools close to each other might not necessarily like each other based on history and past meetings, your Melrose and Hamilton’s and it’s a heated game when the schools meet up but when it’s over, it’s over and after the game, the kids can come together and still be kids. Not in Memphis, the summer carries over to the high school and middle school seasons but right now it’s more prevalent in middle and the animosity among certain travel teams is felt through out the city and creates rifts.
Some of you reading this, your guilty of driving the tension that exist in the Memphis basketball culture. I know you may think your not but in fact,  you maybe one the names in Memphis that people put their trust in with their children and where a lot of what goes on is coming from.  It’s not to talk about you or bash you but it’s to bring to light to  everything I’m saying exist in Memphis. Last year at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest held out at Arlington watching Hamilton take on Oak Hill. During the opening minutes, Hamilton found themselves in a whole and people behind me where cheering for Oak Hill during that time. Now keep in mind what I said, people were cheering for Oak Hill, adults and kids behind me. Now, I’m not great at states or counties or anything like that but I know that Oak Hill isn’t in TN, it’s in Virginia I believe and people were cheering them on against the home team. When Hamilton went up, the cheering stopped but when things got somewhat interesting late, they were back at it cheering on Oak Hill. To me, there something wrong with that but as the crowd begin to form out, I begin to see why they were rooting against Hamilton and it was because they were from different organizations. Is the “Us VS Them” mentality rooted in summer primarily? Is this where it stems from?
 I’ve seen coaches come to middle school games, not to scout, not to watch a good game but in my opinion, to watch and hope  another team loses. I’ve heard them downplay a teams win and this was recently against a good team. Could I be wrong? Well perhaps but when it’s the same coaches, over and over, it’s becomes pretty transparent to see why they are there because why else would they be. The same thing I think went on this year in the event, this was a quote out of the paper from this year’s Hoopfest, “Everyone except our families came out to see Malik Monk score 60 on us … but we wanted to wear him down, take away his legs.” That was from Penny Hardaway who coaches at East comment, now someone tell me why would he say that if what I said wasn’t  some what true here? There were sections in the gym cheering for Bentonville who has as Kentucky commit (Monk) and hoping that they would beat them. You maybe saying to yourself, no way that was happening but I beg to differ not because of opinion, it’s because of what I know that happens. Why is this? Is it the Memphis Mentality? I couldn’t imagine another city that would go against their own to see the other team win.
Their is a division among kids, parents, teams and the tension so thick, you can cut it with a knife. The other night, I was at a game and I will not call the name of player but there were a group of kids that were walking past a local basketball star  who’s name is the head of poplar travel organization here. One of the kids in that group is a very well known player here. As the kids walked past, 2 of the young men spoke however one player that plays with another organization rolled his eyes and never spoke a word or gave acknowledgement which surprised me to an extent but it didn’t because of the cloud that surrounds the city. How do we change the mentality here when it comes to basketball because it’s rough. How do we change the mentality that’s been funneled through for the past few years? Me and a local coach were talking and he brought up what might happen if the cycle keeps going the way it is which will probably end up in violence of some sort in game during the fall or summer. Animosity will continue to build and build while the perpetrators of what goes on will  revel in the we didn’t do anything, we are the good guys, those are the ones that are causing everything routine.  Can the city’s basketball culture be changed or is it to late when it comes to “Us vs Them”

The “Prep” Poll (Final Regular Season Poll)

 

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1. Bellevue Middle ( 19-1) Quality Wins- American Way, Cordova, A Maceo Walker. First loss of the season, I won’t count it against them to much because they have been so good all season but now everything about be favorites in Small School is about to come to light. I still think they are the team to beat but there are those who may feel they can beat them. Omari Thomas is the best big in Middle School, point blank period. Going to need Jabari Small and Isaiah Cathey to be more aggressive in the playoffs, they will need both to play well.

2. American Way Middle (16-4) Quality Wins- Briarcrest x2, Cordova, Bellevue, White Station. Got a huge win over Bellevue last week and ended regular season last night with win over Havenview. They will face Havenview again on Saturday at 11:20 at American Way. American Way can make a run but it’s a hard team to figure out at times it’s that time of year where everyone is even.

3. Cordova Middle (18-3) Quality Wins- Snowden x2, White Stationx3. Ranked #2 at the beginning of the season, few slip ups but now they find themselves just one spot down and going through their league, that’s impressive. Still talent wise, strong in their starting 5 but no one looks at them as being unbeatable anymore so that’s a new dynamic going into the playoffs but still, I expect them in the championship game on Tuesday of their league after Kate Bond on Saturday.

4. White Station Middle (15-5) Quality Wins – American Way x2, St George, Snowden x2, MAM title. Impressive set of wins, got back to winning against Germantown Monday night after losing final game in league play. Really tough draw in first game against Snowden who is capable of beating them but they way that their guards are playing, they are going to be tough to beat and especially if you cant keep them off the offensive glass. I expect them to advance but they must not take Snowden lightly, new season on Saturday.

5. St George’s (20-2) Quality Wins – Briarcrest x2, A Maceo Walker, Snowden, Germantown. Fully expect them and Briarcrest to be in the championship game.

6. Briarcrest Christian (17-4) Quality Wins – St George, A Maceo Walker, Snowden. Is Kennedy Chandler the best scorer in Middle School, one source tells me he thinks he is.

7. A Maceo Walker Middle (18-3) Quality Wins – Colonial, Hickory Ridge, John P Freeman. League champs with win last night at John P Freeman. Two years straight but now eyes turn towards finishing what they started last year after suffering a devastating loss in playoffs last season in overtime.

8. Bon Lin (18-2) Quality Wins- Ridgeway, Schilling Farms. Rewarded them for a great league season going 15-0. It’s a great accomplishment and one that makes everyone on that side looking to take the crown from them as the best team on the Municipal side.

9. Snowden Middle – Quality Wins – Cordova, Bon Lin. Don’t overlook them because of their losses. This team plays really hard and they have an elite scorer in Brigham but it’s going to be tough against White Station on Saturday at 2:00pm at Cordova. Can they pull the upset or will there season end this weekend?

10. Highland Oaks Middle (16-4) Quality Wins – Sherwood, Germantown. I think this a good team but just most young players, some are up and down some games but again, good team who will fight with Germantown and Hickory Ridge in their league tournament. On that side, like White Station’s side, some team that can make a run will get put out early.

The Memphis Way

 

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I love my city, I’ve been to a lot of places in my lifetime but Memphis has some of the nicest people in the country. I might be a little bias however, if your a native Memphian and been to other states/cities, sometimes there is a little difference like in just speaking and saying how you doing. I love my city because of it’s personality, it’s like each part has it’s own way of thinking. I love Memphis because of the heritage, the music,  the soul food, the barbecue and did I mention the barbecue, sorry St. Louis and anywhere else, Memphis is King when it comes to that. Of course, the basketball is top notch, we have some of the best players in the country here. Year in, year out, we can compete with anyone with the best 5 from Memphis in any class but one thing, just one thing is always present and it’s something that is prevalent through out, the Memphis Way, the mentality.

What do I mean by this? The culture of Memphis basketball has changed drastically throughout the years  but I just call it the Memphis Way. Let me explain this in the best way I know how to without trying to be harsh but if it comes off this way, then maybe you might be a part of the problem. Where do I start, in other cities, good players are celebrated, in Memphis, there is a “he ain’t that good sentiment” A lot goes on behind the scenes that many people don’t know about. I’ve seen coaches and refs hanging out together at restaurants on several occasions at least once or twice a year.

I see vitriol and venom directed at kids that’s unlike any that I’ve seen other places. In the last two summers, I’ve been to 10 plus states, I haven’t yet encountered a place that treats young kids the way that players are treated here. I’ve been to tournaments all over and most teams will cheer for other teams from their hometown if they are in championship games of whatever events they are at. I’ve seen with my own eyes, other teams from the city cheering for other teams when they play the Memphis teams in Travel/AAU/Exposure events.  Again, this happens and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in other places but in Atlanta, I’ve seen the GA Stars root for the Atlanta Xpress if they were playing the Birmingham Ballers but here, oh no and it’s not all teams but we don’t want to see you all win and we not playing, we are going to root against you. Parents talk down on kids during games, they say things that no one should say when it comes to kids but it happens and it filters down to the kids playing which creates a hostile environment almost on site when certain teams play one another. An atmosphere of negativity that goes on and on and sometimes, well most times, carry to the summer.

After a recent game, and I will not say the coach that I was told this by but he said that after all over, a local official who is well known in the city asked him, why didn’t this player perform for you tonight? This is supposed to be an official who presides over games but after, a statement is made like this. To me, that sounded like this, why didn’t super player get it done for you, he supposed to be good right?  Again, keep in mind that this is an official and he was talking about a middle school player.  This is not a referee bashing article, most do a good jobs, some good, some bad, but I’m telling you about what goes on in the basketball community in Memphis.

Lots of telling or what’s called snitching goes on here and it’s becoming more and more poplar  year in and year out. Last year, was the first time, I’ve ever seen a team give up a season, right before a city title game. I’ve been watching Middle School basketball almost 10 years, I’ve never ever seen that until last year. Sign of the times, most definitely in my opinion. There is a lot of jealousy here, lots of I don’t want to see you do well, let’s pull you down a notch to get your head out the clouds.  Lots of summer stuff  has trickled down into middle school basketball and even into high school, the us versus them thing. Maybe it’s always been like that but again, I’ve  been in this awhile and the level that’s it’s on now, is unbelievable. Once friends, used to be on teams when they were younger, now are enemies because of basketball. Why is this? Is there something deeper behind it?

In Part 2 of the look into Memphis basketball culture in the coming days, I will take a look at the “Us vs Them” syndrome radiates throughout the city. The coaches and influential people in basketball here that have their hands on the infrastructure of the basketball scene, the division among travel organizations and how that negatively affects fall basketball and if u could change one thing about Memphis basketball, what would it be?  Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen.

 

 

 

 

MAM RECAP & MORE

 

MAM Champions (White Station Middle)
MAM Champions (White Station Middle)

The Spartans came, they saw, they conquered and won the MAM tournament to which no one really should be surprised. My predictions were wrong however I did say, this was a very dangerous team very capable of not only winning it all (MAM) but winning the Large School sectional. They defeated American Way in the championship game leading pretty much the entire way with a 6 to 10 point margin. When it got close, White Station quickly shut the door led by Amauri Abner and Alden Applewhite. I thought Abner played as well as I’ve seen him, especially the last two games of the tournament. He made plays for teammates, hit open jumpers and was quick with his hands get timely steals and deflections for easy scores for his teammates. For those who may not have known him, he should be a known commodity now as one of the best point  guards in the class in the city. Applewhite was huge as well in the title game, hitting pull up from 10-15 feet, attacking some off the dribble which will increase his productivity and hitting the 3 off the spot up. I’ve always loved the talent level but increased action and aggression level will push him up into the upper echelon of the 2021 class locally. Here are a few things that I noticed from the MAM and outlook on some more teams from the event with the season getting ready to come to an end then following it up, in my opinion, the top players from the tournament (MAM)

White Station, well I spoke on them up top however last night, up big, they took a loss to Cordova who was king early in the season but kinda came back down to earth later on in the season. It just shows you how quickly things can change in Memphis. On high one minute and the next you can slip and become a big win for another team looking for a momentum swing in their season.

I was told that I was crazy for always bringing up size but that is what hurt American Way and against well, bigger teams. It showed against White Station and all of their losses on the season accept for Hickory Ridge. Still like the team but I’m not expecting them to make a deep push in the playoffs unless they rebound more as a team  and pick up effort defensively.

Briarcrest and St George are clearly the two best teams in private schools. Both are 2 quality players at the top and solid role players to back them. Summer Parks can be the leading scorer some nights for Briarcrest along with Chandler or Neely. Rodney Mason and Isaac Smith are tough on that side, on any side but I expect those two teams to be there at the end, maybe in their title game as they should be put on opposite sides according to a source.

A Maceo Walker has a nice duo in Smith and Cedric Davis. Maybe one that can beat Bellevue, just maybe but I think they need another one of their guards to step up. Someone that can knock that jumper down when teams double Davis but if not, they will face teams that will just double Davis and sag in to help on Smith driving the basketball and Bellevue can neutralize because they have player the size of Davis (Omari Thomas)

Snowden is a dangerous team on any given night,they can beat anyone but they can also be in games tight with maybe teams that shouldn’t be with them. With season’s end approaching, they must be careful but on their side, they have no easy games.Bon Lin proved they belong, Elite 8, played teams tough, lost to Snowden by 4. They are what people said they were on the municipal side of things, a really good team.

Germantown is a team that I wouldn’t want to play late. They have adequate length at the 4-5 positions and tough guards and Cordova with their win last night may have regained some of it’s swagger back from earlier in the season. I think this year, it’s as wide open as ever for a good solid team. No really powerful teams, some good teams but not one that I think is guaranteed to have a spot in the title game. Any given night, anyone can lose and pretty soon, Small schools to me is Bellevue, A Maceo and then probably Sherwood. Sherwood I think could play with both and make the game at least interesting because his kids play hard

 Note: This is in no particular order or ranking but just a look at who I thought were the best players. Let me repeat, this is not a an individual ranking of players

1. Amauri Abner White Station (2020) Maybe the smallest pg of the best guards in the MAM but had probably the biggest impact of anyone for their team.Showed signs of true pg, vision, operated well in tight spaces, found ways get teammates shots, defended his position better than any point guard on this list. Right now, as he goes, so do the Spartans.

2. Alden Applewhite White Station (2021) Stepped it up big time in the MAM including a game winning 3 pointer against St George and in the title game, I thought he got them rolling providing shots early. Early in the season, I said someone would have to step it up for them if they were to take the next step. Apparently, someone told him.

3.Kennedy Chandler Briarcrest Christian (2021) Really shot the 3 well in the tournament scoring 24 against American Way and 21 the following night in a win over A Maceo Walker. Scores mostly with the jumper and is becoming a better play maker for other while still being able to be effective as scorer. He got in the lane for dump offs and made decisions which bodes well for him long term.

4. Antwan Smith A Maceo Walker (2020)  – Really one of the quickest players on the floor at all times, Smith’s first step allows him to get where he wants when he’s ready. Gets to the rim but doesn’t really seem at times like he’s comfortable being a score score type. Confidence in his jumper will make people respect him more as shot maker instead of sagging and playing for the drive exclusively but really a good young guard.

5. Reggie Neely Briarcrest Christian (2020) Mature game with great feel and knack for a basket, Neely has look of a really good guard in the future. He has ball handling ability that allows him to create the shot for himself but the speed and quickness to get by you for easy scores. I think he could look for his offense more for Briarcrest but he’s unselfish and not one to need lots of shots to be involved.

6. Marcellus Brigham Snowden Middle (2020) Could be a high major type of guard as he has great length and natural scoring ability. He’s extremely versatile because of the ways he can score because he has good ball skills that allow him to show his multi faceted ability.  Can get it off the pull up, 3, to the rim but like Neely, I think he could be even more aggressive because he’s such a problem to guard. Would love to see the mid range more from him where that would allow him to get going as he expands out throughout a game. Lots to like about Brigham as you will be hearing his name more and more through out the years.

7. Johnathan Lawson American Way Middle (2021) Long on top on long, can play all 5 positions right now but excels as a playmaker and often it’s at pg. Could score a lot more but seems to be a more comfortable right now as facilitate type. He rebounds, has good timing blocking shots and can guard the pg position most night. Very skilled, high basketball IQ and will only get better as matures and gets older.

8.Willie Foreman White Station Middle (2021) Was all over the glass during the MAM and was scorer off the offensive glass giving his team second chance points. Foreman was protector of the rim for his team during the MAM coming from the weak side and blocking shots and contesting shots. He’s  capable offensively off the spin move and the catch over left shoulder and he likes the free throw jumper which he can make. Right now, he’s playing like the top 5 player that I had him ranked as.

9.Rodney Mason Jr St George (2020) 24 in the first game, 14 against White Station, 21 against A Maceo Walker, Mason was one of the best scorers in the MAM. He brings a strong physical frame, skill set to be a 3 depending on growth and tough mentality.

10. Cedric Davis A Maceo Walker (2020) Space guy,  tough around the rim, loved over the left shoulder, made free throws and was able to seal and finish most around the rim. He was mostly exclusively on the left block but once he pinned you in position, he was really hard to move,  it was a foul or he was scoring. Will just out muscle most due to size but  if motor was a little higher, he could have really dominated with his stature alone in the MAM.

MAM