1. Lester Middle (7-0) Big game tomorrow for the Lions with Lowrance coming to Binghampton in a battle for first place in Area 2B. It’s been a while since Lester has been tested so it should be interesting because when your #1, everyone wants to beat you. Tomorrow will be no different.
2. Bellevue Middle (9-0) After winning the MLK, the Bobcats move up the list from 3 to here. They beat a good Havenview team in the championship game and appear to be catching their stride right now.
3. Ridgeway Middle (9-1) The Roadrunners are at home against Highland Oaks on Tuesday who have a few losses on their record but a team that they shouldn’t overlook either as well as Cordova who recently played within 7 points.
4. Germantown Middle (8-1) Will be on the road at Hickory Ridge on Tuesday but a grudge match with #3 Ridgeway is looming, their only loss of the season. That will be a game you want to attend, if you love middle school basketball.
5. Havenview Middle (9-2) Beat #5 Snowden in the MLK tourney by double digits but lost to a good Bellevue team in the finale. With that being said, you must take the Tigers seriously as a contender in Large Schools. “We are an unselfish team that knows we have to play together in order to win” says head coach, Lawrence Myers.
With tryouts which began on Monday officially, It’s almost that time of the year again, the 2017-2018 Middle School Basketball season is here in what promises to be one of the more interesting years that I’ve seen in awhile. There are a lot of questions this season but a lot of them will be answered soon as play days are on the way as well with the first being next week at Lausanne on October 7th.
Who is the best player in Middle School this year? Is it Chandler Jackson who finishing up his final year at St.Louis? Markese Washington at Lester? Are the Roadrunners of Ridgeway the best Middle School in Large Schools this year or the Germantown Red Devils who are equally talented in the starting 5? Speaking of Germantown, transfer Cartier Beverly, a two sport standout who won a state title at Bellevue last year hurt his leg and will be out for a substantial amount of time. If he’s able to get back during the season, Germantown could be become the favorite. Expect 6’1 Cameron to make a push as a top 3-5 player in this class this season.
Will Lester turn back the clock to a few years ago where they were the best team in the city or will Bellevue who lost a lot of production be right there with them with Jr Jacobs? Can John P Freeman put themselves in position to make a run this season? How much better will Lowrance be this year with Braxton Jumper and ever improving Javar Daniels, a 6’2 7th grader with tons of potential? Can Snowden contend with their guards? There are a lot of questions but soon and very soon, we will begin to see our thoughts and questions become realities as we are within a few weeks of the season getting underway.
Below, my pre-season top 5 middle school teams in the city based on what I think they have right now. Will it be the same when the season starts? Maybe, maybe not, can a team jump into the top 5, yes they can. Will the number 1 team right now but the # 1 team when the season starts, I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch and see.
1. Lester Prep- On paper, they are so talented starting with Markese Washington, to me a top 5 player in this class in Memphis. Nearing 6’2 if not there already, Washington will be there best player most nights and have a chance to be the best player in Small Schools and perhaps, maybe the city. Lemarkus Wilkerson and Ahmed Abdulahi will be besides him to form maybe the best duo in Middle School. Wilkerson and Abdulahi are to 5’10 plus guards who can score for Coach Steve Terrell who’s excited about this year’s team. Abdulahi has kind of flown under the radar but I think a lot of people will be high on him by the end of the year. 6th grader Khylan Page will be leaned on a little because of is size alone but with their experience, they will able to bring him along slowly along with Jamarion Harvey. Watch for Chauncey Holmes as well.
2. Ridgeway Middle – Was very tempted to put them at #1 for several reasons. Chip Brunt, EJ Smith and Kristian Spencer all got better last year put into situations where they had to play and it should pay off this year. Smith is getting better and better and should play the lead guard spot this year. Brunt had some big moments for them last year and Spencer gives them value as a defender and athleticism from the 3-4 spot. All of them should be big this year and take that next step up to be the early favorite in Large. They have enough talent to do so but they will also be counting on others to be help the trio. Adarion Miles must play big on the glass and Coach Stephen expect a nice group of 6th graders to play a lot including Kody Hickerson, Javion Stephen and Tyler Wilson. Might be the deepest team in the top 5, top to bottom.
3. Germantown Middle– Cameron Miller, Daniel Egbuniwe and Chris Martin are all back this year and will have them vying for a state title this season. Miller has a chance to put his name on everybody’s list as a top 5 player in 2022. He’s a scorer who you can put on the other team’s best player, go get you rebound and take over the game type and he will be all those things this year for this team. Chris Martin is one of the areas best shooters if not the best and Egbuniwe is quiet stat sheet stuffer. The key for them to make that run might be if Cartier Beverly can get back to basketball after a football injury. If he can and from sources, its possible, Beverly could put them above anyone locally in Large Schools. Rayquan Williams must contribute with Beverly being out but he’s a capable piece to their aspirations of becoming champions. Even if Beverly doesn’t return, the Red Devils will be in the thick of it at the end of the year.
4. Snowden Middle– Very guard laden team but a team never the less that will be tough to play against on any given night. Guard play reigns supreme in Middle School and if you have it, chances are, you can go a long way and Snowden as a lot of it. Kyler “KD” Dandridge, Madricus Pittman, another one of the area’s best shooters and Jamarius “Chunky’ Brooks give Snowden some firepower. Armani Mcfagdon will be asked to do a little bit of everything for this team but he’s more than capable of accepting that challenge.
5. Bellevue Middle- Beside White Station, not sure if one school lost more than them. Coming off back to back state tournament titles, the Bobcats will have a brand new look all the way around. Enter in former Kingsbury Middle coch, Mario Taylor who will be in his first year there but he will have a few players to help ease the transition. Terrance “JR” Jacobs, is diminutive in stature but big in game is ready to lead after playing some last year but will be in an entirely different role this year. Jacobs is very capable 15-20 point scorer and if he gets rolling, can put up big numbers. AJ Dillworth and Amar Knox will both have to play well this year if they are to continue the tradition of Bellevue and deep playoff runs.
Other teams to watch out for
FACS– Maybe the most talented private school in the city with Landon Jeffries, Kobe Wilks, Corey Savage and Tim Thomas Jr. Don’t be surprised if they appear in the top 5 next time around.
John P Freeman Middle- Bryce Dailey had a nice summer and he hopes to continue that into this season. He should lead this group along with Eric Steward and Harold Draper Jr.
Highland Oaks Middle– I’m really interested in watching Regale Moore and Josh Holloway this season. Their progression from last year to this year will determine how far Highland could go.
Lausanne Middle- A name you need to remember, Hayden Ledbetter is there and he’s one of the more talented 8th graders you may not know much about. Owen Babb and Peyton Piacetti will give them perimeter shooting.
Colonial Middle– Jacquez Brown and Cedric Franklin Jr will be trying to turn around a some what unmemorable season last year in Coach Franklin’s first year. He’s excited about Antonyus Moore as well.
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.
1. White Station (20-0) MLK title check, MAM title check and now they will be looking to finish the regular season strong on their way to a middle school state title. In the playoffs though, anything can happen and Snowden is still lurking but right now, the Spartans look invincible right now.
2. Bellevue Middle (15-2) Played White Station pretty close before they pulled off in the 4th quarter without their best player in the MAM Championship game. Bellevue is still the leader right in Small Schools with everyone else looking at them but Kingsbury will be an obstacle down the road that they could see during their state run.
3. Highland Oaks Middle (14-3) Third in the MAM and probably the only team that give White Station problems right now in Large Schools that I’ve seen. The Hawks must watch for let downs against teams that they should beat.
4. Kingsbury Middle (13-4) Good showing in the MAM making it to the Final 4 before losing to a much more talented White Station team. The Falcons right now are the second best team in small schools and will need to play like it down the home stretch.
5. Schilling Farms Middle (13-1) Suffered their first loss before the break I believe to Bon Lin so they dropped a little bit here but Schilling Farms is still in position to be in it late in the year. I think the Stallions will refocus and finish the season strong but they can’t let that loss linger with them.
The 2016 MAM Christmas Classic starts on today with everyone having the same goal, to play on Thursday in the championship. Last year, the White Station Spartans won the event beating American Way and this year and this year, look to be the overwhelming favorite. The number 1 middle school in the city has everything needed to win it, length, guard play and a lot of talent, all keys to having a great team in middle school. Along with White Station, the other teams that could be looked as the other top 3 schools were, Highland Oaks, Bellevue and Kingsbury.
The best part of the MAM to me is to see all the teams regardless of classification in the same tournament. Large Schools, Small Schools and Private Schools because you really never see them all one event until this. In fact, this is probably the only time you see this all year which makes the MAM Classic, the biggest stage of the year in my opinion for middle school players locally. It’s going to have a little different feel this year because it’s starting earlier in the month than it normally would, usually starting after Christmas and ending on a Saturday but never the less, the MAM is the MAM, the biggest middle school tournament of the year and it’s starts on today.
Here are my MAM classic predictions for the entire tournament
Sherwood vs Woodstock 5:30 pm – Grizz Center West (Winner-Sherwood)
Bon Lin vs Snowden 5:30 pm– Grizz Center East – Has a chance to be one of the better games of the day. Bon Lin is coming off a win over previously undefeated Schilling Farms (Winner-Snowden)
Kate Bond vs Collierville– Grizz Center East- 4:30pm (Winner- Kate Bond)
Lester vs Riverdale– Grizz Center West- 4:30pm (Winner-Lester)
Briarcrest vs SBEC– World Overcomers CT 2 – 4:30pm (Winner-Briarcrest)
Lowrance vs Southaven– World Overcomers CT 1- 5:30pm (Winner-Southaven)
Memphis Nighthawks vs Colonial– World Overcomers CT 2- 7:00pm (Winner-Colonial)
Lausanne vs Dexter– World Overcomers CT 2-7:00 pm (Winner- Lausanne)
MAHS vs Ridgeway– Grizz Center East- 8:00 pm (Winner- Ridgeway)
PCA Knights vs Rise Academy – Grizz Center East- 8:00 pm (Winner- PCA)
Grizzlies Prep vs Harding– Harding Academy – Gym 1- 8:00 pm (Winner-Harding)
Kirby vs GSL– World Overcomers CT 2- 8:00 pm (Winner-Kirby)
12-20- Sweet 16
Bellevue vs Ridgeway– Grizz Center East- 7:00 pm- (Winner- Bellevue) This game can be close if the young players play up to their talent level and not necessarily their grade. Ridgeway’s talent level is pretty good, just young. If David Dixon plays extremely well, Ridgeway can make it uncomfortable for Bellevue.
Kate Bond vs Lausanne- Grizz Center West- 7:00 pm (Winner-Lausanne) I think Deebo Coleman maybe one of the best players that they have seen this year and they are going to see a lot of him in this game.
Lester vs Briarcrest– World Overcomers CT1 7:00 pm (Winner-Briarcrest)
Southaven vs Sherwood– World Overcomers CT 1- (Winner- Southaven) Sherwood is dangerous if they are making shots from 3 because they shoot a lot of them but if not, I look for Southaven to take advantage.
Highland Oaks vs Kirby– Grizz Center East- 8:00 pm- (Winner-Highland Oaks) These two teams played each other a few weeks ago and it was a closer than anticipated game with Highland getting the W. Highland shouldn’t over look them at all but I think they win this one.
Kingsbury vs PCA– Grizz Center West-8:00 pm- (Winner-Kingsbury) The Falcons will be to much for PCA from the start.
Colonial vs Snowden-World Overcomers CT 2- 8:00 pm (Winner-Snowden) Tempted, Colonial has some size but experience leans towards Snowden.
White Station vs Harding- Harding Academy- Harding Gym 1 -8:00 pm (Winner- White Station)
12-21 Elite 8
Bellevue vs Snowden – Grizz Center East- 7:00 pm- (Winner-Bellevue) Interesting game, Snowden has the guards to stay in it but Bellevue has the guards to match them.
Highland Oaks vs Southaven- Grizz Center West- 7:00 pm- (Winner-Southaven) Jordan Hibbler and BJ Morgan make up a nice guard duo and one that Highland is going to have to contend with. Anderson and Donegan are going to be lot to deal with but I think Southaven role players might be a little bit better.
Briarcrest vs White Station-Grizz Center East- 8:00 pm- (Winner- White Station) Contrast in styles for both teams but this another game that can be closer than what fans might think. I think if the Saints can keep it close and make it to the 3rd without being down big, they will have say so in the 4th. Easier said than done though and I think White Station’s talent takes over in the 2nd half for a victory. Watch out for Zander Yates and Willie Foreman match up.
Lausanne vs Kingsbury– Grizz Center West- 8:00 pm- (Winner- Lausanne) Kingsbury has a top 5 player in Kingsbury but so does Lausanne, Deebo Coleman. I think it might come down to players like Owen Babb, Landon Jeffries and Dillon Woods. Woods athleticism may give Kingsbury problems. I look for Lausanne for pull away in the 4th quarter.
12-22 Final Four
Bellevue vs Southaven – Harding Academy (New Gym)- 4:30 pm- These teams are familiar with each other from a pre-season scrimmage and both know who each has. Bellevue tends to start slow and if they do, Southaven will take advantage. If they come out in the mode to take them out of the game early, the Chargers will have problems.
White Station vs Lausanne– Harding Academy (Old Gym) – 4:30 pm- Like the other final 4 game, White Station and Lausanne have faced each other before but in a real game during the season where White Station won at Lausanne. Coleman will have to do a little of everything for them to have a chance but in the end, it may not be enough.
The championship game will be the same day as the final 4 at 7:30 pm
White Station vs Bellevue– Last time these two faced each other, the Spartans were as good as I’ve seen them all season. They shot it well and ran Bellevue out of the gym. Can it be different it time? Maybe, keys for Bellevue, another person has to step up, Johnathan Lawson played extremely well the last time they played but needed a second to help out with the scoring slack. Tadarius Jacobs will have to be the player for them in order for them to stay in the game. Can White Station play that same way again, I’m not sure, they looked like they prepared for that game for a few weeks. In the end, I think White Station is the better team, on paper, on the floor but things can be different if changes are made in strategy. Bellevue is good but who’s stopping White Station? MAM Champs: White Station
1. White Station Middle (12-0) – Best team in the city right now and it’s not close. To big, to talented and in a few weeks, their biggest challenge might be the MAM of everything left in the season. One team has played them close and that was Highland who might be their biggest challenge on the large school side along with Schilling Farms. Jelani Willis has become their x factor and best utility player able to guard the best player on the other team, rebound and score through the drive.
2. Schilling Farms Middle (9-0) -Rolling in municipal right now, still without a blemish to their record. Really hoping to see them in the MAM against the best of the best.
3. Bellevue Middle (9-1) – After a big loss to the #1 team, Bellevue has rebounded but another opportunity is lurking around the corner but in small schools right now, clear cut favorite to win it for the 3rd straight year. Cartier Beverly and AP Paige must be big in the upcoming weeks, defensively and offensively.
4. Highland Oaks Middle (8-2) – Only team in the city to have White Station on the ropes late in a game and from fans, probably should have won it however, the Hawks remain a formidable threat for the crown.
5.Briarcrest Middle (10-3)– Lost a few tough ones without one of their leader at the point guard position but Briarcrest is still going to be a tough out late in the season. They will be tough draw for any team in the MAM tournament.
1. Bellevue Middle (3-0) Test are on the way with the MLK tournament fast approaching but I don’t see any problems on the horizon for them this week. It’s easy right now but it could be a problem next week when competition gets stiffer in tournament play but I think they will be up to task.
2. White Station Middle (4-0) Was tempted by this team and I still am to put them at #1 heading into the King tournament. Played closer than expected games twice last week against league foes so they have to be careful to overlook anyone as a easy win in their area.
3. Schilling Farms Middle (6-0) Best team on the municipal side right now with their last win coming over Bon Lin last week. They are the best team that no one hardly talks about locally in Middle School but with an undefeated record, maybe it’s time to start.
4. Briarcrest Christian (2-0) Won 44-32 over FACS on Friday in the Harding Tip Off Classic and will play again on tomorrow night. 6’5 Zander Yates is one of the best bigs in Middle School.
5. Hickory Ridge Middle (4-0) Another team that’s doing it’s job under the radar. Be on the look out for this team in the MLK.
The try outs, the hard work, the practices and now the season is here as the first week of games have arrived. Last year I started the “Prep” Poll as a way for fans to keep up with some of the better teams in the area and once again, I will do the same thing. There are some interesting games this week and a few that could affect this season’s very first week of basketball. Next week, we could see a whole new top 5 or will it remain the same? It’s time for young players to step up and for new players to emerge. For those that find it hard to find recognition, this is the time for you and your teams. Coaches who feel there teams deserve more attention, this is the start of a new season, the chance to be mentioned among the best teams in the city. How do you do that? In the immortal words of Al Davis, Just win! I give you the first regular season “Prep” Poll.
1. Bellevue Middle (1-0) Got off a to a good start last night with a win by a huge margin over Westside. Johnathan Lawson, Tadarius Jacobs and Eric Roberts and JR Jacobs were all in double figures as the team scored 80 points. Not bad for a team that Coach Byron Harris says has only practiced 3 times as a full team. They are without point guard Cartier Beverly right now due to injury but expect him to be back in mid November. This team has 3-4 players only any given night that can get 15-20 points but Lawson will probably will lead them in scoring in most of their games. He’s more than capable of carrying a team but on this team, there is a lot of talent around him so he can play passer as well. Also watch for Carlito Tuggle, a stand out running back who will play some back up pg and be a defensive nightmare on teams best guards. Tadarius Jacobs is coming into his own, more confident in his scoring ability, he has underrated athleticism and the best defensive instincts of any guard in the city and can make the open 3 at a high rate and an effective slasher. His brother Jr. Jacobs is instant offense and will be that all season for the Bobcats but you can play him on the ball as well. Right now as constructed, the Bobcats will be extremely hard to beat in Small Schools or Large.
2. White Station Middle (1-0) Once again, probably overall, the biggest team in the city hands down with size at every position accept the pg position and they can go big there depending on who starts. They will be led by Willie Foreman, Aldon Applewhite who have been heavily counted out since the 6th grade. This year, if they want to finish the season as champions, both most be huge along with Jelani Willis, an athletic who can swing at the 2,3, and 4 positions and guard them. Willis will lead them in scoring some nights because of his motor alone. Dorian George could end up being vital to their success playing inside along with Foreman but like Willis, he can go to other spots and be valuable as a utility player. They have 2 pretty tough games this week back to back, Wednesday against Snowden at their place and Highland Oaks on the road on Thursday. Snowden ended there season last year and will be a thorn in their side this year once again. They are probably favorites by most in both games but must be careful or they could drop both games.
3. Highland Oaks Middle(0-0) I missed them in my pre-season rankings but I won’t make that mistake again because the Hawks are state contenders. Why? Well it starts with Cameron Donegan and Allen Anderson who form maybe the best guard duo in the city. 6th graders Josh Holloway and Regale Moore will be in the rotation as well and will be asked to play minutes even though both are capable but still very young. Donegan and Anderson had Highland in at the end of the last season before losing to American Way, the eventual state champs but this year they are looking for more. Highland is very capable of being the best team in the city this year and they have a chance to prove it starting on Thursday if they can upset White Station. Going to be tough but playing at their gym will have a hand in the game.
4. Ridgeway Middle (0-0) Youngest team out of their group with 4 starters in 6th or 7th graders including their 2 guards who are in 6th grade. This is the most talent that Coach Stephen has had since the state run at Hamilton Middle a few years back and while he may not admit it, I will say it for him, this team could do the same thing. Yes, the inexperience of at the middle school level will be something to overcome for them early on but by the middle of the season, they should be fine. David Dixon is their x factor this year and rightfully so. The 6’5 rim protector is one of of the longest players in middle school this year, his presence alone should play dividends for a team looking for someone to be their leader. Again early on, they may lose a game or 2 that they shouldn’t lose but by December this will be a dangerous team. Their first game is tonight against Hickory Ridge Middle.
5. Kingsbury (0-0) Jalen Brown, Jalen Brown and more Jalen Brown, Mario Taylor will lean on his nationally ranked guard and locally #3 in the 2021 class . The Falcons have had good guards over the years but Brown might be the best of them, he will have to score 20 plus, rebound, play defense and be asked to find offense for his teammates. Someone else will have to step up and they have a few candidates in Caleb Jackson and Tristan Jones. Jackson is a 7th grade guard who will start along side Brown and Jones who will be asked to provide rebounding also to go along with the shooting that he can give them. Chris Nelson, an 8th grade guard is another who has experience of playing the last few years will be someone that Coach Taylor can rely on in key games this year.
The 8th grade class is one that is interesting because there are a few nationally rated players at the top in Lawson, Chandler and Brown, so it has some flair to it. It’s one that interesting too because it’s one that a few players will be the main causes in their team success this season, a position that they haven’t been in before. 8th grade is crucial because it can set the tone going forward as these players head to high school next year. I’m really excited about a lot of these players this year and to see how they react to having the spotlight placed on them. The final rankings from the “Cream Of The Crop” Camp, the 2020 class.
Nehemiah Ausley (St George) was able to do some positives in camp. He came into against some of the best players in his class and held his own. Teaming up with Eli Federman this year, Ausley has a chance to get his name out there more. Fredric Morgan (Southaven) is a quick guard who should be one of the best players in that area this year. Jordan Hibbler (Southhaven) is a talented 2-3, who looked pretty good in drills. He along with Morgan had to leave a little before the games started otherwise he could have put himself up a bit more here. Justin Collier (Desoto Central) is another Mississippi product, long frame, another who is trying to change positions as he’s been primarily undersized at the 4 in the past. Ball skills, handle and becoming more confident in his ability as a player will take him up this list because the talent is there. Jaylon Holmes (Kirby) is a high high motor player who was every where during game play. Right now, his best attribute is as a rebounder and defender because he can guard 2,3,4 right now. He has infectious energy and is a worker and I think his upside is good with the ability to create offense for himself off his own and ball handling.
Thomas Kizer (MUS) put himself in the conversation as one of the best shooters in this class. He hit several deep spotting up, hitting the wing 3, handled pressure well and showed fight as a defender. I think he is capable of more offensively because of his jumper. Would love to see him add the pull up from 10-15 feet out in the future but Kizer is a good young player. Eric Roberts (Bellevue) Aggressive tough guard who can score and get to the rim. Strong with it, Roberts is player who you can depend offensively and I think he’s in route to a spurt that will really help him going forward. You can play him at the 1 some, 2 and against some teams, some 3 as well. Jace Lockhart (Arlington) one of the best on ball defender in this class, easily, he will draw the other teams best player nightly. You can put him on bigger guards or smaller guards, Lockhart competes has good hands and good instincts and quick feet that make for an elite perimeter defender. I’ve seen him score in the past so I know the ability is there however, in camp, his biggest impact as as an on ball defender.
Ethan Roberts (Houston) Roberts is another shooter in this class who’s up there as a top 3-5 shooter in 2020 but that’s not all he can do. He’s a better than you think passer, can lead as the point guard as well. Really smart as a player, he’s another that plays to his strengths but again, the shooting ability stands out for him. Dorian George (White Station) Strong frame makes him able to play inside and battle with bigger players but shows some future as a really good player who you can put on a guard as well. His future projects as a guard and he’s been working on that as he showed the 2 and 3 dribble pull up from mid range and he’s improved as a jumper maker. He can be a bit loose with the ball at times which can lead to turnovers in open court but those are things he can tighten up on by staying lower on the dribble.
Tyler Harrington (Briarcrest) New to the scene in 2021, Harrington is arguably a top 2 shooter in this class right now. He has good mechanics on his shot which makes him a consistent knock down 3 shooter right now. He makes the right pass, uses the shot fake to get the defenders in the air where he can step in and take the jumper. Late bloomer type who can move up this list in time.
Bryson Potts(Houston) another player who keeps getting better, Potts was really good when he set his feet on the jumper and he put it on the floor where he used the floater. He’s gotten a lot more confident in himself as a player and it shows in his play. Potts showed a willingness to drive it tough to the rim, something that I haven’t seen in the past well. He’s coming along as a player and will be counted heavily this year at Houston. Eli Federman (St George) has blown up from fall leagues and he played well in camp. The thing you notice about Eli first is his scoring ability, off the dribble pull ups, the 3, off the catch, Federman can fill it up. He’s a player who can get into a groove and get you 25 in games. Just knows how to fill it up and by now, most middle school fans will be familiar with him by the end of the season.. More of a 2 right now, Federman’s ability to be a pg in the future by creating for others by penetrating to find instead of to score.
10. Zander Yates (Briacrest) Upside, Upside, Upside!!! Reminds me a lot of Austin Nichols at the same age but Yates is bigger, Yates has the look of a high major player down the line. Runs the floor, soft hands, has the turn over the left shoulder short hook, keeps high on the rebound, has touch around the rim and can play with his back to the basket. Yates offensively is still raw but the key is, he shows that he’s capable of being a consistent back to back post because right now, he’s a traditional post player. As I said though, right now, more of a 4-5, he will need to be able to face up and take the dribble and power up and shoot the free throw line jumper so he’s not just a back to the basket player. He’s still growing into his body so it may take a little longer because he’s a big however, all signs point to him being really good and I wouldn’t bet against that right now.
9. Jelani Willis (White Station) Plays extremely hard, Willis is not going to let you out work him. He’s extremely effective free throw extended where he can use his athleticism and finish and get off the floor quick for put backs off offensive rebounds. An improving ball handler, Willis is much better spotting up than creating off the dribble for his shot but will shoot the pull up. He’s multi-dimensional defender who you can play against 1-4 spots and he will defend those spots well. As he becomes better with creating for himself going both directions and becoming a more consistent jumper maker, he will become a much more versatile player but right now, he’s highly effective because of his motor.
8. Kameron Jones (Cordova) Best shooter in this class, hands down, you can’t leave the lefty guard. He can get it with the step back, off the crossover dribble, spotting up, Jones is a consistent 3 point shooter. Creating his own jumper was a concern for me a year ago but not anymore. Jones impacts games as a scorer and is deceptive with his handle and deliberate. He has the soft runner at the basket and stops and shoots the 15 ft shot which he didn’t do a lot of earlier in his 6th, 7th grade days. He’s definitely added to game from somethings that I saw in camp. As a player who will have the ball a lot this year in the go to role, Jones will have an opportunity to prove that he’s learning to be a point guard as well. I think he’s capable as a defender but taking certain angles will be important for him. Was kind of uncharacteristic at points during the camp with his shooting but again, he’s a great shooter so I expect the confidence to be there because he does it well. I think he’s headed for a great year and with that, a move ahead in the rankings is possible.
7. Tadarius Jacobs (Bellevue) Added confidence from big time end to the summer, Jacobs is in the “elite” group of defenders in Middle School. In fact, I will that he is the best perimeter defender at the 1 and 2 position in the city because of his instincts and anticipation on the ball. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s going to defend his man and make an impact late with a steal or get in the passing lane for a deflection. His demeanor never changes on the floor, takes and makes big shots, another really good shooter who gets through gaps in defenses using his slender frame, offensively his game is expanding. He’s a finisher in transition and makes the right decision with the pass in transition as well. Takes on challenges and is another player who score 15 quiet points and gets 4-5 rebounds because of his athleticism. I would love to see him attack the rim more because I think he’s one of the best finishers in the class.
6. Kaeden Laws (Center Hill) Should be the best player playing in Mississippi Middle Schools locally this year, Laws name is here and it will be here for awhile. A player who’s getting better and better, Laws known as more of post last year, now he’s putting it on the floor more shooting the jumper off the dribble and hitting the occasional 3 using his expanded ranged but still showing the face and post game. He doesn’t force much, he’s patient offensively and is very unselfish and he works well from the high post. Laws is also a good passer who displayed that on several occasions during camp and he finishes around the rim. He doesn’t give up on plays and he and his motor is pretty good. Continuing progression as a guard/wing with added ball skills will be important to him.
5. Deebo Coleman (Lausanne) The 6 ft guard has made tremendous strides since the last time I saw him. For one, he’s added inches to his frame and he has a lot of confidence in himself now. He was driving to rim expecting contact, something I hadn’t really seen him because he’s been known as more of a shooter in the past. He looked more fluid with the dribble, attacked in both directions and hit the pull up jumper on multiple occasions and just was always on the attack when it was there to attack. Like most taller young guards, Coleman tends to stand upright at times especially when tired and sometimes when all else fails, he goes his strong suit, the 3 when he could attack off the dribble. Coleman should be the best player in Private School this year.
4. Calvin Jennings (Snowden) Had the most motor of anyone in camp, Jennings was absolutely relentless during the camp. He attacked, attacked and attacked again. If you played up on him, he attacked, if you played off, he attacked, he wasn’t letting his man off the hook at any point. A junk yard type of mentality, he tried to get every rebound, he pushed it in transition and he had a mind to score it by any means necessary. Didn’t turn down any challenge defensively either contesting and closing out on everything and plays a physical style of basketball that will bother other teams and he’s ultra competitive. At this stage, not sure if he’s a combo forward of big guard as he hasn’t really defined his self with a position. He’s stretched out some and will likely stretch some more because of his frame. Handled the ball well in attack situations and drove it hard one direction, would love to see him add going both directions and finishing strong with either hand. You just have to love how hard he plays right though and that alone make him one that could swing Snowden into the mix of things in their tough league.
3.Jalen Brown (Kingsbury) Another year but Brown has come back much longer than when some remember him from last year. A natural scorer, simply no other way to put it, a get the bucket type player, Brown does it with the best. Takes driving lanes never afraid of big games or big situations, Brown has clutch game in him because he has taken and made huge shots in games. You can’t keep him from getting to his spots on the floor, handles it well and is one of the few players that shoots the mid range jumper on the regular with pull ups at the free throw line. Operates on the baseline, really good touch near with the float game and a better than you think shooter, there just isn’t a way that he can’t score it. Is a natural 2 right now but has some combo guard in him, he showed some underrated vision during camp leading teammates with passes for lay ups. Can finish with the bump and is a really good free throw shooter when he gets there. Will be he go to guy easily this year for Kingsbury and I expect him to have a huge year for the Falcons. Would love to see him use his length for steals, he could create problems because he’s long. A good rebounder at his position as well and while he shoots the mid range jumper well on the move, hitting that 3 off the dribble and creating separation on it will be somethings he can work with. I can see him getting 30 on multiple occasions this season at his new school.
2.Kennedy Chandler (Briarcrest) Chandler has went from being a score first type to more of a true pg and it’s showing. Ball on a string, Chandler handles it better than anyone in Middle School, in traffic, in tight spaces and he puts pressure on the defense and his defender by always trying to to push tempo and find or if you play off, hit the jumper. More shifty than quick, Chandler works out of hesitation dribbles and the crossover and uses them to get off the jumper with his quick release on his shot. Just always seem to be relaxed and under control as a point guard, he sees the entire floor has a IQ and great overall feel for how to play his position. Knows when to look for his shot and can get it off on bigger defenders where he gets them off balance with his handle and he just has a knack for big shots. Knocks down the 3 and understands how to play off the pick roll, is a play maker off penetration looking for shooters and he has vision, chandler just knows how to play basketball. Improving quickness and getting better athletically for Kennedy are things to work towards but he’s not afraid of the work and doing what it takes to get to where he trying to go.
1. Johnathan Lawson (Bellevue) Do it all type of forward, Lawson is a combination of all his brothers before him. KJ’s fiery demeanor, Dedric’s passing ability and versatility , Chandler’s length, Johnathan is only getting better. A 6’5 touching 6’6, Lawson oozes high major talent, more of a play maker early on and it’s still in him but now he’s scoring it more to go along with that ability. Lawson is just hard to guard for anyone, to long for guards because he can finish and shoo over the top of them, to skilled for bigger players because he can go around them, he’s a mismatch nightmare for opposing coaches. As a scorer, he scores at all 3 levels and with his length, it’s just hard to keep him out of lane and as a passer, he can see over the top of smaller players and find teammates for scores. He’s the best big passer in middle school and he can raise up the level of play of others. Can score with his back to the basket as well with the jump hook and face He rebounds it well, gets it and goes to find teammates for finishes at the rim. He can be almost to unselfish at times but when it’s time, can take over games. Probably a better 3 point shooter than a mid range shooter right now but that’s something that will improve over time for him. There’s a reason why a few websites across the country have him as high as #7 in the country in the 2021 class. He could end up being the best of all the Lawson brothers.
The 2022 class is one that is really guard heavy right now but it’s heavy with good ones. Most will have a bigger role this year at their respective middle schools which means of course, the more people will see them. There will be a few from this list who will be starters and they will be counted heavily for production this year, meaning they will have to grow up fast from their 6th grade years. Some are getting ready to make statements this year on the bigger stage and the fans will be watching but now, the Cream Of The Crop camp 2022 rankings from camp.
Cedric Franklin Jr (Colonial) is trying to evolve from more of a 3 to a guard position,this year will be key for him. He has some scoring ability and as he increases athleticism and foot speed, he will become a more consistent player offensively and defensively. Corey Savage (FACS) is a quick guard who can spot up and knock it down from 3 and has improved as a ball handler from when I saw him in the summer. Winston Moore (Millington) had a good camp, finished, handled well and got off the ball early and played at a good pace in the games.
Harold Draper Jr (John P Freeman) makes good decisions and didn’t try to do what he couldn’t do. Makes the right play for others with his patient dribble and the jumper looks good on the catch right now. Landon Jeffries (Lausanne) is a very talented pg who can hurt you in a lot of ways. Was good with it in his hands and was able to get into the paint when he wanted and use the floater. He’s a confident player who should be one of the main pieces at Lausanne this year. Caleb Jackson is very quick with the ball in his hands, Jackson is great in isolation and his ball handling allows to operate well in tight space. As he evolves from an isolation player, Jackson can go up this list.
Dallan Hayden (St George) is an athlete who plays downhill to the rim and isn’t afraid of the bump or fouls. His strong frame allows him to guard both guard spots and he is a fierce competitor and will never back down. He’s the type of guard that you love to have on your team. Kyler Dandridge (Snowden) was quiet in drills but when games started, he looked like the player I saw in a few tournaments this summer. He can run a team, lead and do it all quietly but effectively. He has some shooting ability and will drive it. Not overly quick, he just simply gets it done. Tim Thomas Jr, athletic strong defender who you can put on 1,2,3 and he can do a good job of containment. He can score too but his calling card right now, his athleticism and defensive ability. Anticipates well and takes gambles and is a slasher to the rim.
10. Phillip Dotson Jr (Arlington) Solid well rounded guard, who can score but looked in camp like he was trying to get everyone involved and them himself. He played well without the ball trying to find open spots in the defense and he defended with enthusiasm. As a play maker, he seems to be comfortable and that will take him a long way as a point guard.
9. Kristian Spencer (Ridgeway) Lanky 3-4 athletic player,who’s always around the rim, Spencer is intriguing because he looks like a future 6’4 6’5. Has good instincts, plays out of the triple threat and can play with his back to the basket some, showing versatility. A good rebounder and active as a defender, Spencer definitely has some upside to him.
8. Christopher Brunt (Ridgeway) Was in passer mode and was really good in that role finding his teammates in transition and in open court. His vision is really good for a bigger guard right now and his length allows him to see over smaller guards for lay ups for lay ups. Ideal size as 2 right now, Brunt is in the mold of a big lead guard.
7.Daniel Egubwnie (Germantown) Old school type type of forward who can both forward positions, Daniel is a skilled big who can put it on the floor against bigger players. He shoots the 3, hits the boards and has good touch inside, Daniel is another name who could rise in the future.
6. Bryce Daniels (John P. Freeman) Oozes number 1 type in his class type talent.Handles full court, size, length, everything you want in a player so young. He’s a capable rebounder, can take the length of the floor pass it or score it on the break. If he asserts himself more offensively and revs up the motor a little, Daniels jumps 3-4 spots on this list. Reminds me a lot of Rodarius “Pig” Washington at East.
5. Chris Martin (Germantown) Prototypical 2 guard, Martin is a knock down shooter but is effective on the move scoring the ball as well. Has some combo in him but right now, he a smooth scorer with attitude that says he’s as confident as any player in this class. He has a fluid jumper and is a player who excels in the catch and shoot and shoots a soft runner/floater that he hit regularly during the camp. Martin just knows how to score it.
4. Cartier Beverly (Bellevue) As aggressive to the rim as any player in Middle School, Beverly is a problem that you can’t stop in front of. He imposes his will on his way to the basket where he can get to the free throw line and score there or through and ones. Has blow by speed, quickness and displays characteristics as a good on ball defender. Beverly just needs polish as a point guard but right now, he’s one of the best in middle school.
3. Kobe Wilkes (St.George) Skilled guard combo guard with added length, Wilkes is starting to realize his potential. He has reliable handle, can score in bunches via the the jumper, 3 but has become better at attacking his defender off the dribble going both left and right. Very poised, Kobe is a talented offensive player who seemed to raise his game during the camp games.
2. Terrence “JR” Jacobs (Bellevue) Don’t let his size fool you, Jacobs is hard to guard and is the best pg at scoring the ball as you will see in this class. He shoots the 3 and can hit it with range, runner, floater, mid range, Jr is just a bonafied scorer from the point guard position and is fearless, irregardless of who’s in front of him, he’s going to keep coming at you. He’s finishes equally with both hands and is another who can put up big scoring numbers in any game he plays in. Defensively, he struggles with bigger guards but isn’t afraid of taking on those assignments.
1. Kyler Herring (MUS) There wasn’t a player at camp in this class that was more dominant than Herring in this class. Size on size, Herring eats space and has the best touch around the rim of any big in the 7th grade. Once he catches and seals, there isn’t much you can do to stop him from scoring. Everything he touches sticks him because of his great hands and he isn’t shy about punishing you or taking you with him for scores in close. He’s gotten noticeably more nimble and his footwork is pretty good which could have to do with his football background. Simply put, there was not a player who could stop Herring from doing what he wanted once he caught it deep.