Former Central High standout and Team Penny 2018 guard Jordan Johnson is on the move. The 5’10 known for his scoring and 3 making ability is headed to South Memphis to play for Hamilton High School. This is a huge addition for Hamilton who will be in Double A this year and could have a huge say in who comes out of a much improved classification.
Johnson will give Hamilton maybe the best trio of guards AA this upcoming year pairing him with Kevon Williams, Martrell Brooks and you can’t forget about Delvin Lane, a 6’2 guard who can score. Hamilton who last won a state title in 2015 could find themselves back in the picture this year as a team you definitely have to pay attention to this season.
When it comes to the summer, really how much can you tell when it comes to high school basketball? June kind of gives you a small look into what could be for the next high school basketball season as teams get together for team camps and look for something to build on before November comes around.
It’s also a good chance to see the always plentiful transfers because let’s face reality, it happens here and it happens a lot. Good or bad but always interesting, there were a lot and a few will be able to help their respective teams in some way. Some will be starters, some will be valuable role guys and some might become the ” go to” types on their new teams. It’s also a great time to see where the the 2021 class of freshmen could end up but let me say this, just because you saw them there, doesn’t mean that they stay there. I saw a few kids who played for one high school in one team camp, play for another in the last team camp (MUS. That goes for transfers as well because until you are enrolled in that school, then there is a chance that that player ends up at another school or at his original school.
Now, let’s take a look at somethings I learned over the course of June and give an early look into the city’s top 5 schools for the 2017-2018 season.
1. There has been a lot of talk about East and deservedly so.They ended the year last season ranked in the top 10 in the country by most and while they will lose some valuable contributors in Jay Hardaway, Pig Washington and Nick Merriwether, East is in position to maybe be better than last years. They added one of the top 5 players in the city in 2018 in 6’5 Ryan Boyce who adds unmatched athleticism and scoring to them and 3 of the areas top 5 freshmen in 6’6 Johnathan Lawson, 6’3 Jalen Brown and 5’8 Kennedy Chandler and Tadarius Jacobs, another really 2021. 4 starters return for them in Lomax, Lawson, Moss and Malcolm Dandridge and a sometime starter last year, Dude Collum might be their 5th starter. Their veterans will carry the load and bring the young freshmen along with Dee Merriwether, James Dejesus who could start for a lot of teams here, Isaiah Cathey and 6’4 George Bee who will be in the rotation. There a lot of rumors flying about James Wiseman being at one their games last week and he was there however, there hasn’t been a transfer on his part. Could it happen? That remains to be seen but regardless if that happens or not, this team has a chance to do something similar to last season and end it with something special late in the year.
2. The 2021 class was out in full effect during the team camps which is always fun to see. The adjustment from middle school to high school can be rough for some and this was a chance to get their feet wet so to speak with a chance to play against juniors and sophomores. It’s in essence, starting back over but most I think will have good transitions although it might take until December January before they get comfortable. As mentioned earlier Johnathan Lawson, Jalen Brown, Kennedy Chandler and Tadarius Jacobs are all at East. That’s 4 of the areas top 10 freshmen but where did everyone else land?
Willie Foreman 6’4 White Station- Might be a starter for the Spartans this year. Didn’t look intimidated at all in the times I saw him. Will play in the best district in TN so he will grow up fast.
Alden Applewhite 6’5 Lausanne– Gives last year state champs another ball handler with length and ability to shoot the 3. Like former middle school teammate, he has a chance to start the season off in the first 5.
Davon Barnes White Station– Will see some minutes this year and get a lot of time this year to make young mistakes. Not really talked about a lot in this class but the 6’2 Barnes is a sleeper.
Zander Yates Briarcrest-Might be closer to 6’8 now, Yates should see a lot of time this year for the Saints. Besides the value that he adds on the glass, Yates can also score with his back to the basket.
Jelani Willis 6’0 FACS– With FACS losing 8 seniors last season, Willis will play and play a lot. Question is, will that be sooner or later as he also shines on the football field.
Kaeden Laws Center Hill- Had some good moments for his high school team. Might play some 3 for them in spots as he is looking to expand his game to the perimeter some.
Kameron Jones ECS- Coach Tippett’s group looks pretty set at guard spot so finding minutes might be hard to come by for the point guard. Jones shooting ability could land him on the floor at some point of the year though.
Reese McMullen CBHS– Another name that’s not mentioned among the elite in this class but McMullen might play a lot of minutes this year for the Purple Wave. Can play both guard spots and be a scorer.
Bryson Potts- Houston- With all the transfers from Houston, Potts might be forced into the show quickly but it could help him adjust quickly in 15AAA.
Jace Lockhart- Arlington-Really solid guard, good defensively on ball, good fit for him with the Tigers and might have an opportunity for some playing time there.
Other 2021 players include, Brennan Jones- ECS, Eddie Buxton- Lausanne, Rod Seals- Cordova, Tyler Harrington- Briarcrest Christian, Tristen Jones- TN Prep
3. Ah, the aforementioned transfers and there have been a lot of them. At one school, it seemed like the entire team left with the exception of one or two players. Bartlett was able to snap a few from the 15AAA school putting them in the running as a favorite in 14 Triple A. Takori Rooks and Rodney Mason will probably be starters for them and on for Kirby, Coach Spears got a good guard in Jaylen Saulsberry, a good size lead guard who might lead them in scoring next season. Brandon Brown who last year played at Overton is now heading to White Station where he could form a nice duo with Allen Hatchett and have them in the running for a nice finish in district. Brown is a 6’3 6’4 big guard who can get you a bucket and improving jump shooter. He led Overton in scoring last year and is the type of pick up that White Station was used to getting in the past.
The Harding Lion got two of the biggest pick ups in the city in the Howard Brothers, Luke and Anthony. Both from Canada, Luke is a 6’9 who can put it on the deck and finish with both hands, shoot the 3 and rebound A part of the 2019 class, Howard could have a say in the top 10 by season’s end. His brother is a 2020 6’6 forward who has to get used to the different style of play than he’s accustomed to and the physicality of Memphis but he’s skilled enough that he will be able to be on the floor this year for Harding. Luke’s transfer could have the most impact of anyone this year especially on the private school side. Brandon Mason is also heading to Ridgeway to be a Roadrunner to form a nice trio of guard with Antwan Beans and Antonio Thomas. 6’6 Mark Johnson will help at Southwind and add a long forward who can help inside with Kameron Jones who will have to help pick up scoring slack after the departure of CJ Marshall.
4. What schools will be in contention with East to be in state next season? Looking at it, kind of hard to say right now but I guess I would say Southwind and Ridgeway for starters. Maybe Bartlett in 14AAA or maybe even Arlington who also has 2-3 starters back and the return of Tate Kolwyck to the basketball court who is stand out at quarterback. For those who remember, Kolwyck can play and will definitely help this year. Whitehaven I think will be pretty good but state run, not sure but remember the name of Matthew Murrell, he will take a huge step this year for Coach Phillips. Only a sophomore, Murrell has big time athleticism and can score in bunches and looks more like a D-1 player every time you see him. Can Coach Real’s Bartlett team make a run this year? They have some pieces and a steady guard in Jeff Walker to help lead this year. With their transfers and guards, Wynne Brown and Sylvester Thompson, Bartlett can have a say in who wins that district and beyond.
5. Can Lausanne repeat as state champs next season? Who will have the best private school team in the city next year? Bubba Luckett always has CBHS in the mix as well as Briarcrest who has really solid 9th and 10th group grade,maybe the best in the city. MUS with Caleb London, John McBride and Zach Street should have the Owls in the conversation. St.George’s with Issac Smith and the best shooter you haven’t heard of, Hagan Imorde will be good for St.George as well as a 6’7 transfer out of Mississippi who will start for them.
Early Top 5: 2017-2018
East High School- Best team in the city, the eyes are watching and everyone is hoping to knock you off. They went through it last year and this year will be no different. This year is a little different for them because of they have some youth this year on the bench as opposed to 11th graders and 12th Not to say that’s a bad thing because they are very talented but will be different nonetheless. They will need to bring them along slowly but I’m sure they can with their core talent. Talks of a national schedule, will East play TSSAA this year, there is a lot of chatter when to the Mustangs this year but one thing remains, this team is really really good with a chance to 3-peat.
Olive Branch High School– DJ Jeffries, Joe Cooper and Kelvin Allen lead this very talented team who should make that move to state this year with a chance to win it all. Jeffries is a top 10 prospect in the country that should put up crazy numbers this year. Cooper had some early injuries this spring but is coming on strong late which should will parlay into a great high school season. Kelvin Allen might be their heart and soul of this team, he guards the opposing teams best guard, a relentless defender and has bounce to him, when he’s on the floor, good things happen. Watch out for Josh Stevenson, 6’6 Cameron Matthews who could break out this year and Wes Taylor.
Southwind High School– This is Mark Freeman’s team now and as he goes, they will go. His leadership will be key this year as well as his ability to make his teammates better all way having to score a lot as well for them. Another player who will have to increase production and he has the ability to do it, Kameron Jones, a 6’8 long forward who has shown flashes but as a junior now must be counted on every game. Christian Jones and Quentin Williams must be big as well.
Whitehaven High School– Kameron Jones and Matt Murrell will be the bulk of their offense and another one of last year’s freshmen will have to be ready to contribute nightly for them. Latrell Carter returns to the Tigers after playing at Central last year and gives them another player on the glass and will have a lot of silent double digit games this year.
5. Lausanne Collegiate School– Last year’s state champs return Ashton Smith, Sky Forrest, Cameron Sims and Eric Gray from last year’s team. Add Kobe Jeffries to that who was hurt last year as well as Johnathan Dejurnett, a 6’6 2022 and freshman Alden Applewhite and it looks like Lausanne has the ingredients to make it back but it will be tough.
Cordova High School and Team Thad stand out Rod Brown as committed to the Wichita State Shockers announcing via twitter this morning. The 6’6 2018 forward still hasn’t made it clear if he plans to join the 2017 class as reports indicated a month or so ago or just finish his career out in his original graduating class but it’s a great move for him and Wichita State. Brown is an athletic freak with a man physique and tools that spell out stand out in the AAC conference where he will have a chance to come home and play the Tigers once a year. Congratulations to Brown on his college choice!!
Don’t look now but the class of 2022 isn’t as far away as it once seemed. The rising 8th grade class has a few players in it who could have bright futures as their games keep progressing. At 6’1 almost 6’2 with an imposing physical stature, Bryce Dailey is a name that will likely see among those when talking about the best players in Memphis for the next few years. He has pretty good handle, a natural feel for making the right play and is above average rebounder at this stage. Dailey can score the basketball close and is developing into a jump shot maker off the dribble. It’s easy to see him long term as likely one of the best in this class and if he grasp an aggressive nature offensively, he could become the best player in this class in Memphis.
2022 has a pretty good list of upcoming 8th graders in a city that most know about like Chandler Jackson and Jr. Jacobs but there are a few names coming up that you will want to keep an eye on. I got a chance to out and see some talent at the BluePrint tournament this weekend and few new faces made an impression on me.
Ahmed Abdulahi (M33M-Catholic), Quincy Porcha (M33M- Oxford) and Jon Chalmers(DMG-Southaven) all stood out with their play each showing signs of a good prospects in the future. Abdulahi is a long 6’1 almost 6’2 guard who played some lead guard for his team but seems to be more comfortable as a scorer for his team. He seems to project more as a 2 guard especially if he gets to 6’4 6’5. Definitely a young player who Coach Erik Buggs over at Catholic should be excited about.
Quincy Porcha is diminutive in stature but he gets it done with the jumper and off the drive to the rim. He plays within himself and he picked his spots hitting some big shots late in a win for them on Saturday afternoon. Porcha is from the Oxford area in Mississippi and should be one of the players in that area for years to come. 5’11 Jon Chalmers out of Southaven might have been the best prospect I saw over the weekend in the tournament showing off his athleticism to the rim that you don’t see from many at this age. Chalmers could get to rim at will using a good first step and when he got there using body control to score on finishes. When he missed, he was getting off the floor quickly for rebounds and stick backs and was the primary ball handler for his team. I think by his time next year, he will be playing above the rim if not sooner as he definitely has a future as an athletic 2. Cedquavious Hunter(DMG) is another player out of Misissippi (North Panola) who will people will start to hear about about very soon. Best shooter I’ve seen in the area in the 7th grader off the catch that I’ve seen this early spring. He hit 3 in the first half and when he wasn’t spotting up, he putting on the floor making plays for himself or a teammate.
These are names that you will want to keep an eye on, not only through the spring and summer but going forward as well.
2018 has Alex Lomax, Tyler Harris and TJ Moss at the top who are all receiving a ton of attention from coaches around the country followed by 2019 who which is probably the best upcoming class to most locally which includes Chandler Lawson, DJ Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge. There is another class though whose starting to show that their trio should be mentioned as well. 2020’s Cameron Matthews, Whitehaven High School Matthew Murrell and Briacrest 6’5 guard ,Marcellus Brigham. All different in how they play but one thing that they do have in common, they are all future division 1 basketball players and they make up what could make this area once again a prime location in 2020 for college coaches.
Murrell is probably the best scoring guard in the city in the freshman class and has star written all over him. Scores it in bunches from all 3 levels, unmatched athleticism at the 2 guard position and you can play him some on the ball as well. He showed off the leaping ability this weekend with an array of dunks and finishes and he looks a lot more comfortable taking hits and scoring plus fouls. That’s what a year in the best district in the state will do for you. Matthews is a 6’5 small forward who will remind some of Antavion Collum (East) in body structure , has definitely added new bounce to his game. Does most of his damage close now but is a player who can get it of the rim and go with it and finish strong and he looks at his best when attacking where he can use his athletic ability to finish. He can defend multiple positions and is a good rebounder and weak side shot blocker. He’s improving his jumper and handle every year and I expect that to continue to get better the more comfortable he gets shooting it. Brigham is maybe the most intriguing because of his shooting ability from the mid game to the 3 and has some post up in his game as well. Has a smoothness about him, loves the pull up from the elbow and short corner and utilizes the floater when necessary. A mismatch because he’s a true big guard, most times to big for smaller players and able to drive around bigger players, the more aggressive he gets, his ceiling gets that much higher! Some say he could end up being the best player in this class in Memphis.
While I’m not ready to say that this class is better than another right now, I will say this, this class is starting to evolve into a pretty good and it starts at the top with these 3. Be on the look for these 3 as all run with Team Penny in the spring and summer.
When looking at prospects, everyone’s criteria isn’t the same as some others when judging players and seeing a future in them. Some players you see, they just pass the eye test but don’t perform up to the level of their look but one that does and he stands out in a big way, 2022 Chandler Jackson. When you see the 5’10 guard, you see length, lead ability, big time size, scoring ability, handle, a good get it off the rim and good player who can create for himself and others. I saw him last summer a little and I can tell he’s been working on his game in particular, his perimeter jumper where he can make shots from wherever on the court. He’s really tough to stay in front, has a really good first step right now and a problem offensively because at a young age, he can create his shot off the dribble but is most effective at this stage a finisher and player who gets to the rim at will due t his strength. He handles well, makes good decisions and is very unselfish for a such a talented player. Definitely a big guard at this stage and likely will always be in that role and right now, he looks like he has a big time future. Easily one of the better players in the 7th grade and I wouldn’t argue with you if you said he was the best player in the class right now.
I remember going to the 16AAA media day at Whitehaven at the start of the season and wondering a little if the expectations might be a bit much for this East team. Sure, I knew they were defending champs but I also knew that this year, there would be a target big enough to fit on the side of the Fed Ex Forum on their backs, Every team in the city’s best shot, every night and it showed right at the beginning of the season. Melrose fought them hard in their first district game and was within 10 in the 3rd quarter of that game but after a 20 something to 4 run, East found it’s stride in that game and never looked back during the season.
By now we all know what the Mustangs led by Coach Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson did on Saturday, they repeated as TSSAA Triple A State champions beating Southwind in an all Memphis final for the second straight year in a row. It wasn’t easy though especially the second game having to come back down from 6 a few times in the game against a good Oak Ridge team to win it with some big plays down the stretch from their trio of Moss, Lawson and Alex Lomax. The title game I felt like was one that would be won in the 3rd quarter and I just knew that East would go on one of those runs like they always do and win in by double digits because I just felt like Southwind was a good team but they didn’t have enough scoring to be able to keep up with East.
Let me say this, the story is amazing in a sense because this was years in the making. We remember the story of Desmond Merriwether and fast forward up to now and you just shake your head and say wow. These Mustangs have been to the state tournament 3 straight years and if you really want to think about it, players like Alex Lomax, Pig Washington and Nick Merriwether have been to the state 5 straight years with 4 state titles if you want to include Middle School in as well (Lester). This is a group that I will remember for as long as been doing middle school and high school coverage as one of the more memorable teams that I can recall.
Chandler Lawson was named MVP of the state tournament with Lomax, Moss and Malcolm Dandridge making the all tournament. Christian Jones, Mark Freeman and Carlos “CJ” Marshall were also members of the all tournament team for Southwind. Southwind who won it a few years ago (2012) had a nice run to end the year I thought and Freeman and Marshall were their catalyst. Freeman will return next season along with Jones who played well in the state and Kameron Jones, a 6’7 touching 6’8 developing post who should start to draw interest from colleges this summer. Guard Quentin Williams who had some huge moments in the post season for the Jaguars will also return in a starters role and they should have big Kristian Williams back as well. Someone will have to take up the scoring slack for Marshall and rebounding of Robert Boyd in order for them to be in the running again next season but they will have as good a shot as anyone.
East could return 4 of their 5 starters for next season and it will likely not only make them the state favorite again but also be in the running as a top 3-5 team in the country next season. Some are saying number possibly and that would be incredible for the school located in Binghampton. Could be see a 3-peat for East? One would have to think that they have a pretty good chance but we can wait till next season to give a definitive answer but for right now, congrats to the East Mustangs, your 2016-2017 State Champs.