Almost 20 years ago, Cedric Henderson averaged 16 points a game at Memphis State (University of Memphis) to go along with 6 rebounds and was regarded as one of the best defenders in college basketball. That summer, he went on to be drafted with the 45th pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to have a 5 year career in the NBA followed by stints in other countries and overseas before returning home to Memphis. Henderson is enshrined in Memphis basketball culture because he’s a Memphis product who made it the biggest stage in the world for basketball but now, he’s hoping the next Henderson can make his own name for himself.
A bit of an unknown right now, the 6’5 SF with the broad shoulders of his father is a developing rangy prospect who is improving each time I see him. Right now, he’s more effective as slasher rather than player who scores often off the jumper but he can make the outside shot. He gets his shoulders square and has a good release on his jumper so the mechanics are there for him to be a solid shot maker as he continues to mature. He’s a good ball handler and a versatile defender who can guard some 2-3 and 4 position and is a better than average passer. Really unselfish, sometimes to a fault, I would love to see him pick up his motor as a scorer and as a rebounder. With the Adidas Gauntlet coming up, a chance to boost his stock nationally is right around the corner and for him, the time is now entering his junior season to make a little noise in this last period before school starts back . The chance to make himself more well known locally and lead a Briarcrest team looking for leadership to a nice season this year as it’s best player would solidify him as one of the best players in the city in the vaunted 2018 class. I see him as a late bloomer who has a chance to play at the D-1 level and has he gets more confident and into himself as a player, you will start to see it as well.
2018 and 2019 are both classes that many people locally and across the country are looking forward to and they should. In 2018, Alex Lomax , TJ Moss, Tyler Harris and Ryan Boyce are the names you hear the most. Mark Freeman is another player that is discussed a lot as well but there is another guard that everyone should know about in Memphis and his name is Trey Davis. Davis is a 6’0 guard with a great feel for the attack in transition or in the half court setting and one not afraid to embrace big situations. He has strong handle with ball in his hands, picks and chooses his spots and can get to where he wants on the floor for the floater for pull up jumpers and is very aggressive to the basket where he’s a finisher or finder for teammates. He plays with a lot of confidence and poise and it shows as he never gets to up or down during the course of games.
The St Benedict/Team Penny product has an offer from Rice University but has interest from Kent State, Wofford, Virginia, Belmont and Florida State. Next week is Peach Jam for his 16U group so I expect his interest and maybe some offers to come his way after the tournament but for now when you thinking of players in the city in this class, make sure you remember to add Davis to it as he is one of the city’s best 10 players in that class.
1.East is the team to beat in Tripe A, No question about it however it’s a group that will be new in some aspects because but also have the familiarity that prompted them to a state title last season. They are the biggest team in the city bar none, talented with 2-3 guys in some spots. Keys for them, establishing roles for Martrell Brooks, Kevon Mcmahan and Antavion” Dude” Mccollom and getting Alex Lomax back to 100 percent. They also have to get Malcolm Dandridge back to playing how he was at the beginning of the season last year before having to sit a few games. Saw some this weekend that Chandler Lawson will play a lot more on the wing this year than last which will be a new look to them as well.
Whitehaven will be pretty good once again and be in contention with East in 16AAA. Reasons why? Coach Faragi Phillips is a good coach who knows to get the most from his players, that’s 1. Number 2, lots of guards to help in creating turnovers off the press, so essentially, lots of guard depth. Number 3, the addition of Rashad Williams will help tremendously, he’s a good scorer off the mid-range jumper and should be the guy they have to count on to score along with Kameron Jones. Jones is a long 6’6 who will likely lead them in scoring this year and rebounding. They lost a lot last year in Hill, Hamlet and Fofana, replacing them will be hard. If they can get one more to step up like Marquavious Lobbins and another post to rebound and take pressure off Jones, the Tigers will be right there with East.
Kirby is a scary team because they have 2 guards that can get 20 any night, Desmond Johnson andDarius Carter. The 6’0 guard had prepped at Woodale for 3 years but from all indication, he’s headed to Kirby to form a great duo with Johnson. Desmond has been called the best guard in the city by some and if the summer is any indication, expect a huge senior season for him. I can see him being a 20 plus point scorer nightly. Transfer Nick Jackson will also help out with energy on the glass and Dontrell Sanders will help with scoring when Johnson and Carter’s shots are not falling. Is this the year we give Kirby a chance of winning district?
How many freshmen will have impacts this year? Marcellus Brigham? Matthew Murrell? Cameron Matthews? Rodney Mason Jr? The biggest impact I believe will come from Caleb London, who might start this year at MUS. He had a 29 point game this past weekend and looked very comfortable doing so. The 6’3 bouncy 2 guard has a bright future for the Owls and a move up in the rankings in 2020 is inevitable. I also expect Cameron Matthews to make the second biggest impact on his high school team next year along with Matthew Murrell and maybe, Marcellus Brigham of Briarcrest but there will be a sleeper or 2 to come out of no where as freshmen. Watch out for Delvin White, Cat Moore and Jaylin Lucas.
Who will have the best freshmen class in the city? Most of the time, it’s a Triple A school or city school however this year, Briarcrest Christian has that locked up with 3 of my top 10 players in the 2020 including Omari Thomas, Marcellus Brigham and Reggie Neely which will make for an exciting future for the Saints. Maybe they can get back to the days of Leslie McDonald with that young group.
Graduation has hit a lot of teams hard and the effects will be seen immediately at the start of the next season. Arlington lost Nate Hoover to Wofford, Jalen Fisher was Mr Everything at Bolton for 4 years and now, he’s at TCU among others. Arlington will now rely heavily on Garret Golday, a 6’5 2018 post, Luke Wiseman and Ray Price. Bolton will struggle some early on and could struggle all season if they don’t find someone to score. Germantown must rely on a young core of 10th and 11th graders and 6’7 senior, Demarcus Mitchell. He will have to lead a team that lost 13 seniors last year, a team that lost more than anyone in the city. Right now, it looks like Houston, Southwind or Southwind Houston, whichever you prefer, then Kirby; it’s up to them how much that order changes. Houston will be pretty good again but graduation hit them with body blow as well losing 6 of their top 9 players. 6’5 Ryan Boyce has turned into one of the top 10 players in the city, 6’6 Bruce Guy is worker around the rim and Takori Rooks will be put in the rotation and might be a starter. Kavious Newsome will have to play well this season as he will be vital to their success.
Will Douglass is a top 3-5 player in the city in 2017 without a doubt. With Isaiah Stokes rumored to be leaving the city for prep, whether he left or not, Douglass would have had a spot but now, it’s cemented. So when you making your top 5, don’t forget about him and he could be number 1.
Along with CBHS, expect Lausanne to be pretty good this year in private school. They didn’t lose a summer game and were without Jessie Neloms at MUS and Eric Gray. It’s still an extremely young team and even with some defections, this team is still formidable led by Ashton Smith, (10th) Sky Forrest, (10th) Kobe Jeffries (10th) and 6’4 James Babb and Camren Taylor both seniors who won a state titles as a freshmen. The three guards above will be important for Lausanne and might determine how far they go. MUS will be solid with Zach Street, John McBride, Luke Wilfong and Josh Gray. Don’t forget about Trey Davis at St. Benedict, he’s one of the best guards in the city.
Who is going to challenge Mitchell this year? Judging from the summer, my best guess would be MAHS and Booker T Washington. BTW has a nice front line with Tyrone Sumlin and Ethan Jones but at the guard position, that’s when the edge goes significantly to the state champions. MAHS has nice size, Demetrius Morrow, a few 6’3 6’4, a 6’7, Brandon Streeter and a host of other players who will help however until then, Mitchell is the favorite again in the city in Single A.
Transfers happen every year and this year is no different. East has 3 in what will bolster an already great team. However there will be more and I know of 1 that is for certain that will be big in 16AAA and possibly 2 that could shake up a spot in that district.
Team camp month has come to an end after what I think is the best event during the month of June for high schools, the MUS Summer Classic . 20 plus high schools every year, great competition and most of all, a chance to take a look into the upcoming high school basketball season. Of course, some teams don’t have their whole compliment of players for whatever reasons, whether some kids are deciding to transfer, family vacations, working jobs or not playing because they saving themselves for the pivotal month of July for evaluation period that’s so important especially for sophomores and juniors. Sometimes though, events like this can make people get a high sense of hope depending of who they played through out the event but any who, let’s take a look who I thought were the best 5 teams at the Mus Summer Classic. Before I do that though, let me say this, this is by no means, who might start out as Top 5 teams in the city on my end as a team or 2 who could be in the discussion didn’t not play in the classic. So with that being said, let’s start the show.
1. Brentwood Academy (Nashville Tn) 6-0 – First, I wouldn’t normally do this, put a team from outside of the area in this discussion because well they not from here but the reason I’m doing so now is because, they came in and put everyone on notice, they are the team to beat not only in their classification but in the entire state at least until further notice. Reason why, well there are many but it’s starts with D and D, Darius Garland. He might be the best guard in the state and I know there are a lot of talented guards, 1 here who didn’t play over the weekend due to injury however, Garland particularly against East looked as good as any I’ve seen in the state. Handle on a string, poise, confidence, runs the show but still finds ways to score when he has to. They are very well coached by former a coach who many should remember in Memphis, Hubie Smith who was the helm of Bartlett at one time. Garland isn’t their only player though as they have several players who can hurt you in Jeremiah Oatsvall who is also one of the state’s best quarterbacks and a player who played on the national championship team coached by the late Desmond Merriwether a few years back. Cameron Johnson is a all state wide receiver who was once a top 30 player in the country in basketball as a youngster and Gavin Schoenwald, who was considered the number player in the country by many before a young man named Marvin Bagley came along and took over the crown 4 years ago. Did I mention that Johnson, Schoenwald and Garland have been playing together for 5 years or more so talk about continuity and cohesiveness and it’s them for sure. I’m not saying they can’t be beat but I think it’s safe to go ahead book for room for the state if your a Brenwood fan.
2. East High School (5-1) Took one loss to the team above in a great game on Friday night but make no mistake about it, the road to the state goes through the defending state champions once again. This a group that is definitely a little different though in terms of players than last year. I know what’s probably going through your head if your reading this, they have the same team and they have a lot of same pieces however, 3 of those pieces are new this year. Martrell Brooks and Kevon Mcmahon are new along with 6’6 Dude Mccollum. They must replace their two defensive stalwarts from last season, Courtney Carter and Teddrick McGhee and Kevon I think can do that along with Brooks who maybe than both players from last year offensively. Mccollum brings versatility, length, scoring and rebounding and of course their main core is back for this year. Gatorade Player of the Year, Mr Basketball and Best Of The Preps player of the Year Alex Lomax didn’t play this weekend and was missed particularly in that game against Brentwood because of his defensive ability. TJ Moss, looked pretty good at times, hitting the 3 and showed the ability to play on the ball as the lead guard on occasions as well. Chandler Lawson was the subject of conversation a few weeks back about whether he would return or possibly prep school it at Oak Hill or IMG Academy but this weekend, he was with his team and showing why he’s one of the elite player in the country in 2019. Malcolm Dandridge, 6’8 improved game by game, at times looks like one of the better bigs in the city at that says a lot because he’s only a sophomore. His progression is key this year as he will play a lot beside senior Rodarius Washington, who cleans everything up on the glass and can be another ball handler when needed. Senior Nick Merriwether will be another player asked to give them quality minutes. Senior TK Smith didn’t play due to illness but will be counted on heavily once again as a primary guy off the bench for the Mustangs. East is once again, the favorites to come out of Memphis but everyone is gunning to knock them off and they will have to be on their A game every night but I expect that from a Penny Hardaway coached team.
3. Christian Brothers High School (4-2) Played both Brentwood and East really close and was up 7-8 in both games in the 3rd and it wasn’t by default, they deserved to be up in those games and probably should have won. Memphis, let me introduce you to Will Douglass if you don’t know about him already. He’s arguably the best prospect in the class and it shouldn’t be a debate. 6’4 long, best on ball guy in the city of defense, great instincts playing passing lanes, scoring it more with confidence I haven’t seen, hitting the 3, Douglass did it all this week. He had 36 against Brentwood and almost beat them by his self, that’s just how well he played that game as I think it was his coming out party if you were there in attendance. When you mention Blake Williams, DJ Jackson, Chase Hayden, make sure you mention his as well in that top tier. 6’0 Ryan Schweitzer is as pure a set shooter as you will see in the area off the spot up and is a lefty who will lead them in scoring on some nights along with Jacob Lyons, a strong 4-5, who can put it on the floor or play with his back to the basket and score it. Ben Spence, 6’6, will also be very valuable to his team as he seems to be their glue type, can handle some.They have seen their nemesis the last two season once already (Brentwood) so they know what to expect if they didn’t already but they are probably the best threat to beat them in the state on the private school side.
4.White Station High School (5-1) Only loss over the weekend was to Fayette Ware from a source on a controversial call that led to a 4 point loss but other than that, White Station was pretty good all weekend. A year old with a good group mixed with seniors and juniors, the Spartans will be in the mix in 16AAA this year and they will be there because of Aaron Strother, a 6’2 guard who can play bigger than his height and provide scoring, Adam Price who’s one of the better shooters in the city, 6’3 Michael Watkins, Braxton Winford and 6’2 Allen Hatchett who hit seven 3 pointers in the game against Fayette Ware showing improved outside jumper. He works as hard as anyone in the city on his game and it will pay dividends for him this year. Price is another player who I think can be among the best seniors in the city with his shooting. Keep an eye on White Station this year.
5. Bartlett High School (5-1) No one really talked about them much this weekend but they quietly went into Saturday undefeated before losing to White Station in the evening game. Coach Real is quietly doing a good job and what they lack in size, they make up for in good guards with Carlos Sandifer who had a 25 point game over the weekend, sophomore Jeff Walker who’s one of the better players in 2019 and senior Jalen Reed, a 6’1 who could be pretty good for Bartlett this year. Quentin Williams who was used a lot last year maybe counted on this year as well to score this year but they do have a few options that they can go to because of their guard depth. Questions about size will be persist but this is a team that can scare top teams. Can this be the year that Bartlett makes a lot of noise in 14AAA? With Cordova on that side, not sure but you know, anything is possible in Memphis, night in night out.
Now that I’ve talked about teams, let’s look at the top 10 players from the event in my opinion. I have to say this, this is not a rankings list, just a list of player that I thought were the best players that I saw over the weekend.
1. Darius Garland 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Regarded as top guard in the state, did little to make people dispute it.
2. TJ Moss 6’4 (East High 2018) Top 3-5 scorer in Memphis
3. Will Douglass 6’4 (Christian Brothers High 2017) You can make a case now that he’s the best player in this class in Memphis.
4. Chandler Lawson 6’9 ( East High 2019) The most unique player in the state
5.Ryan Boyce 6’5 ( Houston High 2018) Was a little bothered by injured back but showed enough to make him appear here.
6. Desmond Johnson 5’11 (Kirby High 2017) Expect big numbers this year, leading candidate to lead city in scoring.
7. Jeremiah Oatsvall 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2017) Shot maker, tough, heady player.
8. Cameron Johnson 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Athletic finisher, good mid range game.
9. Taeylr Gatlin 6’2 (Brighton High 2018) Big lead guard, great passer, excellent in transition with his vision.
10.Parker Stewart (Union City) Best shooter maybe in the state