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.
Some of the best players in the city, skilled and drilled, matched up to compete in groups against the best in their class in one gym on this past Saturday, let’s just say the “Cream Of The Crop” was absolutely loaded with future of Memphis basketball. This was the first inaugural camp and it was an opportunity for the city’s best to put it on display against the “elite” of Memphis middle school basketball. To be the best, you have to want to play against the best and the campers rose to the occasion and made names for themselves including some who many may not have known much about. Kennedy Chandler, Johnathan Lawson, Jaylen Brown, Terrance “JR” Jacobs, Cartier Beverly, Bryson “Jay” Nash, Earnest “EJ” Smith, I could keep going but the point, it was crazy talented. Some newcomers hit the scene as well as several players really surprised with their play and put themselves into the conversation as some of the city’s best young talent. I know what everyone is waiting for, the rankings from the camp, so with that, I give you the rankings starting with the 6th grade class (2023) followed by the 7th grade (2022) on tomorrow and 8th grade (2021) to follow.
The young ones of the camp, I was extremely impressed with the skill levels of this group. A few players, I hadn’t seen much of but I can see why many are excited about this 2023 group across Memphis. At number 10 in the group, Emerson Tenner (Havenview) is a new name that some will want to keep an eye on, the diminutive guard didn’t shy away from competition during camp against the names. Jailon Hardaway (Ridgeway) is an in between position type of player right now that can do some positive things for you as a player. Not a scorer right now but can rebound and guard most teams forwards in his class right now. Fred Deere Jr (Bon Lin) of the Dream Chasers is an offensive minded guard who’s best days are clearly ahead of him. Rashad Williams (Arlington Middle) is very intriguing because of his length and size right now and he can hit the perimeter jumper due to his touch. Offensively he’s raw but where makes the most impact is defensively with his ability to alter and block shots. Williams will be one of the bigger names to watch in this class and as as he continues to develop, expect to see him near the top of this list.
6. Wesley Street is a new name that I got an opportunity to see and he was impressive on first sight. He was always in the right opportunity to score using the floater over taller defenders and showing big time confidence as a player. He hit the jumper from 3 and mid range and showed off the handle to get to his spots and make it happen. Really crafty with the ball in hands,Street finds ways to score and can play some point guard as well. Don’t forget about this name in this class.
5. Braylen Ragland– Briarcrest Christian – Size, ability and potential put him in this spot and he’s a player who has tools to be really good down the line. He has good range on his shot, shoots the 3 and is a willing to the rim but operates much more off the jumper. Expanding to one, two dribble pull up game and using his strength will add to repertoire as a player who could become the best scorer in this class.
4. Javar Daniels -Super long forward, Daniels is probably the tallest player in this class right now in Memphis. Like a lot of young bigs, Daniels is still a work in progress with his back to the basket, to be expected but he’s really active inside getting his hands on the ball, as showed some ability as offensive rebounder and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the bigger 7th graders during camp play. He showed some versatility to and put it on the floor a few times showing some future as maybe face up type. He has good hands, sprints the floor and is a shot changer right now more so than a shot blocker. Daniels has huge upside, maybe the best upside of anyone in his class, lots to like about him.
3. Regale Moore – -Highland Oaks Middle – Long guard who’s future projects as a athletic slasher, finisher. Drives with the intent to score and has a nice first step, Moore is oozes potential as a go to scorer later on down the road. He has good size his position right now, attacks in transition and has active hands as a defender. Going to be really good in the future!
2. Ernest “EJ” Smith – Ridgeway Middle – The son of former Memphis Tiger Ernest Smith, EJ is going to make a name for himself locally. Fundamentally sound guard, not flashy but gets it done and displays a really good IQ at such a young age. Has a good feel for when to pass it to teammate for a better chance to score or get it himself, He’s much of a point guard than a combo guard right now but he can score through the jumper on the catch and shoot or spot up. He never seems to up or down but is a gamer and one that can silently put together great games without doing a lot of scoring.
1. Bryson “Jay” Nash – Ridgeway Middle – Maturity beyond years and sky high confidence, Nash is a point guard, not a “points” guard. Passing ability, get into the middle for kick outs, thinks the game, very cerebral, what he lacks in size, he makes up in smarts on the floor. He can get his shot through the step back and runners, Nash picks up his game when needed to score. He keeps his dribble low, head up and looks to make the pass and is more than capable with the 3 ball and short jumper to keep you honest. He’s a winner and someone you want with the ball because you know he he’s going to make the right play at the end of the game.
With the school year starting last week, you know what that means right? Only 78 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds until basketball season!! Well okay, it’s a little off, well a lot off but you get the point, the season is approaching soon and very soon and people are asking, what do you think about the season upcoming? It’s early, yes I know but people love to talk basketball all year long in Memphis, Tigers, Grizzlies and high school basketball isn’t immune either. People just love basketball here and why shouldn’t we when this city constantly produces rich talent. So with that said, I give you, a way to early look at the top 5 teams in the city and 5 teams to watch.
1. East High School– State champions last season, go into the season as the favorite in Triple A. Should be number 1 on everybody’s list, across the board. Transfers Antavion “Dude” Collum and Jay Hardaway bolster an already strong roster that features Mr.Basketball Alex Lomax, TJ Moss and Chandler Lawson. With rumored additions to come, this group might get stronger.
2. Christian Brothers High School – Best private school team in the city with who many think is the best player in the city, William Douglas who blew up this summer and has more offers than anyone in the city including one from Tubby Smith and the Memphis Tigers. As always though, comes the praise, you become the hunted, how will they handle it early on?
3. Cordova High School– Bolster one of the best guard duos in the state in Tyler Harris and Blake Williams and the most athletic player in the city, Rod Brown. I don’t think many knew just how important Jalen Dupree was to their success but he will be missed heavily especially early on.
4.Mitchell High School – The back to back state champions were crowned once again in Coach Turner’s first year there with a nice roster of players but they also lost a lot last season. The state MVP is gone in Tevin Ollison who came on strong late but they have 3 returners including guard Tyran Davis, a senior, Tominque Marion, senior forward and Jordon Johnson, a senior guard which will make up a nice nucleus of experience.
5.Houston High School – Look out for Ryan Boyce to have a huge season this year coming off a nice summer. The 6’5 with bounce might be making the transition more to the wing but he could do that with Bruce Guy, another 6’5 who can swing in between positions and be a double digit point scorer every game and sophomore Takori Rooks who will play some 4-5 as well. Transfer Carlos Sandifer gives them value at the pg position with his arrival in a guard heavy league (15AAA) His play will be counted on in a big way.
Others teams to watch
Southwind High School – Really close to putting them in the top 5 and I still might later on. Mark Freeman, CJ Marshall and Robert Boyd give them a chance against anyone.
Whitehaven High School – Cameron Jones and Rashad Williams will leaned heavily for offense this year but others who were in support roles will have to big including Aaron Whitmore and Marquavious Lobbins.
White Station High School – Played well in the summer and Allen Hatchett was one of the main reasons. Aaron Strother, Adam Price and Braxton Winford are back and hoping to make people pay attention to the Spartans again.
Lausanne Collegiate – Took a huge blow when it was learned that Isaiah Stokes (IMG Academy) was not returning for his senior season but this is still a good team, a young one but a good one. Ashton Smith, Kobe Jeffries and Sky Forrest will have increased roles this year and all will have to play older than their grades indicate but all are capable.
1. Cameron Matthews SF 6’4 (TGAND) Physical tools with size to match, Matthews is right now the best prospect in this class locally. Matthews is a 3-4 right now but looks to have a future as 2-3. Mismatch type where can take bigger defenders put on him off the dribble to the rim or post a smaller defender when the chance is given for easy opportunities. Has gotten bigger it seems over the last few months which does nothing but add to upside as a he could become a dominate scorer with increased motor. He rebounds it and doesn’t need to find a guard as he can bring it up, find an open teammate or create the jumper for his self which it looks like he had worked on as well. His athleticism has increased drastically as he is dunking it with ease and now is a player who can play over the rim on a regular basis. Physically imposing but has touch on the jumper he also a player who can become a big time finisher at the rim in the future. He’s a versatile defender right now as he can play the 3-4 and some 5 because of his strong body and could maybe guard some guards at this stage. Still would love to see him get even more assertive with his offense and add the post game to his arsenal as well. As the jumper gets better, it will open everything up to him especially when he’s knocking down the 3 on a regular basis. Lateral quickness might be concern but as he matures, he will become more explosive and his ceiling could rise even more.There is a lot to like about him right now and he has a chance to become a player people begin to take notice of nationally with a big spring and summer
2. Matthew Murrell CG 6’1 (TGAND) Quietly is becoming a player that will make you know his name and it’s easy to see why. He’s has become bouncy, quicker, confidence has increased to the level where he is becoming a scorer on a more consistent basis as he had to take over that role more this year in Middle School. He doesn’t try to force the issue much and will take whatever the defense gives him whether it’s the jumper through the 3 or mid range which he is knocking down now or tot he rim where he finishes with both hands. Right now, he’s more of a combo guard but he could become a pg because he sees the floor well, gets off the ball quick in transition and shows the signs of running a team because of leadership qualities. Never seems to high or low and looks like he enjoys playing the game. As I’ve said about him in the past, the more his confidence grows, the better player he becomes and it looks like it’s happening before our eyes.
3. Tayson Parker CG 5’10 (Team Thad) Some say he’s the best player in this class and the talent is there definitely. I really love his athleticism and people now know about it evidenced by a video floating showing him throwing it down on the break in playoff game for his home school. More of a scorer than anything else right, Parker’s eventual level could be decided by what position some see him as if he doesn’t continue to grow. I’m not sure anyone can touch him right now as a leaper in this class but some are catching up just in the last few months alone. Parker will be a name around a lot now and maybe it’s time to see if he can become a name nationally with his play. Athleticism is premium but so is position especially at his size but a very very talented young guy with a nice future.
4. Omari Thomas PF/C 6’3 ( Team Thad) The best big in Middle School this past season and while some could make the claim for others, Thomas was the focal point his teams offense. He was simply dominate at times off the catch and finish around the rim or in the post with his footwork and low post scoring ability. He possesses really soft hands and touch and can step out and hit the perimeter jumper and while it wasn’t shown a lot, he definitely has that ability. He has a good feel when he catches it low and where the double is coming from and is good passer from the post. Big body and knows how to use it, once he seals you, it’s pretty much foul or finish for him right now. Good rebounder, he might be better offensive board player than defensively because of the space that he eats up inside. Growth in length will be key for him if he is to remain here or lower but his production is high right now and it can’t be overlooked.
5. Marcellus Brigham SG/SF 6’4 (Team Thad) Really talented scorer with big time ability and maybe the most upside of anyone in this class Looks like a classic scoring 2 in the making utilizing the floater and the mid range pull up or the 3, Brigham score it in a lot of of ways. He could be a good defender as well if the desire and want picks up but as a young player, I kind of expect that to come and go at times. Consistency as a shooter from the 3 will lift him more as right now he’s more of a 15 foot shot maker but because of length, he can get that whenever he wants. Plays with a smoothness to his game that’s oozes high major ability and if the killer attitude develops, he goes to the next level. Would love to see him add the post game as well which would increase his production as well.
6. Rodney Mason Jr SF/PF ( Team Thad) The best player on a championship team at St George and he had an outstanding season. Played a lot more on the wing this year than I had seen in year’s past and looked more like he’s adjusting to being there more full time. He has tools you love, size, strength, improving skill set and the look of 6’6 if he continues to keep growing. Kind of still in the inbetween stages of becoming a 3 full time but that’s okay because of his ability to playing the 4 right now and be a problem offensively. Athleticism is increasing however, he’s not playing above the rim quite yet but I expect that to change soon for him if he keeps working hard. Handle is getting better but full time at the 3 will still require more work this summer. Ultimately, how hard he works individually could decide if he’s an “elite” level player and thought of across the country in this talented class.
7.Jaylin Lucas WF 6’3 (??) Strongly built 3-4 man near the rim, really made a name this year and threw himself here with the best players in the class. Tough to guard because his ability to overpower his defenders, he is difficult cover because his physical attributes and ability to hit the jumper. Plays with an aggression and will attack his man off the dribble with pull ups over the top or attack the rim and is a rebounder in traffic and doesn’t quit on plays and can start and finish a break. Needs to tighten handle like in Middle School if he wants to continue that progression to perimeter because he might end up being a big 2 guard or risk becoming that classic “tweener” without added length.
8. Reggie Neely 5’9 PG (Team Thad) Best guard that you may not know much about, Neely is a name you need to remember. Solid to the rim and with the jumper, Neely can play both guard spots right now but as I said in an earlier ranking of this class, is more so a scorer by nature. Shoots it well from 3 but maybe at his best to the basket on drives down hill and is a good decision maker with the ball in hands. Pretty good IQ, plays well off the ball and puts himself in position to score or make a positive play. I think the aggressive nature might be in him, question is, how long before it comes fully out.
9. Isaiah Cathey 5’10 PG (TGAND) Point guard on state championship winning team, Cathey’s best comparison to someone maybe Alex Lomax of East, just slightly bigger at the same age. Plays with a good pace at the lead spot, gets into the lane not with primarily quickness but more savvy and smarts and body. Can be creative with the pass and more of a pass first but is capable offensively when the need is there. Needs to keep refining he jumper to make when teams may lay off of him and be able to hurt teams off the jumper at the free throw line once a defender decides to stop the drive.
10. Caleb London 6’2 SG/WF (Memphis Magic Elite) To talented to take out of the top 10 altogether because I know how talented he is among this class. This spring/summer is big for him to play well among this age group with his slashing and athletic ability.
11. Issac Smith 6’3 SG/SG (Team Thad) Played along side Mason at St George and was in some games, their leading scorer. Has good upside, length, can get hot from the 3 line and put together games where he can hit 3-5. Can be another ball handler and option defensively against opposing wings and 4 men. Would love to see him rebound more from his position and get to the rim to more him more versatile as a scorer in the future.
12.Cedric Davis 6’4 PF (Memphis Magic Elite) Big body 4 with nimble feet and a soft touch around the rim. Has good motor. Raw offensively really but can score with his back to the basket with the over the left shoulder baby hook and really runs the floor well for a player his size. Davis along with Thomas are two of the bigger players in this class in Memphis.
13.Cameron Howard 6’2 SG (Memphis Magic Elite) Built to score, Howard is looking to do one thing, as I said, score. Always on the attack, Howard can score it from all 3 levels so you have to pay attention to him but what makes him pretty good can also be his downfall as sometimes his shot selection may not be ideal. When going though, he is as tough a cover as any guard in the city in this class.
14. Rodney Newsome Jr 6’3 PF/C (Team Thad) Among the best big men in the city, Newsome, is a little different from Davis and Thomas. Mainly because he sometimes plays up at the high post where he can turn face and hit the mid range jumper on the regular and it’s not uncommon for him to linger out to the 3 line and knock one down every so often. He has really good hands, can play with his back to the basket and put it on the floor some. He might end up being one that chooses a football in the future.
15. Joshua Stinson 5’7 PG (??) Scoring point guard that can get hot and put up numbers in bunches. Stinson can make it happen at the rim but at this point, he’s more score score than a creator for others. He put one of the best performances of the seasons up against American Way in the championship game and almost willed his team into a win. Like so many guards at that stature, the evolution into becoming a point guard will be key for his development going forward.