With the MLK going this week, there could be some movement for 2 teams with FACS coming on strong at 5-0 right now and Lowrance Middle, currently undefeated as well.
1. Lester Middle (6-0) Beat Dubois last week and play at Kirby today. I honestly don’t see much trouble on the road for them in the coming weeks.
2. Ridgeway Middle (7-1) Put 3 wins in the column last week over Starkville, Holly Springs and a close victory over Cordova. Best part about close wins, it prepares you for later when its playoff time.
3.Bellevue Middle (5-0) In their first game of the MLK, they scored 75 points, that’s a lot for a middle school team. We could see a Bellevue Snowden game in that but first and foremost, Treadwell today.
4. Germantown (6-1) Had to come back down from 11 to beat Snowden at home. 2 things, Cameron Miller would not let them lose and 2, are the Red Devils the most tested team in the city?
5. Snowden (6-1) Close loss to Germantown but it showed one thing, they are legit if some didn’t think so. Jamarius Brooks has quietly become one of the better guards in the city in the 8th grade.
In Large School, the proverbial favorites heading into the season were the Red Devils of Germantown and the Ridgeway Roadrunners but you have to add another team to that mix as well. In middle school, guards are kings and having a good one or 2 can make or break your season but try 4 and you really have a fun group to watch in Snowden.
Kyler Dandridge, Armani McFagdon, Jamarius Brooks and Madricus Pittman all bring different strengths to the game and have impacts individually . Pittman might be the best shooter in middle school, Dandridge scores via the drive, McFagdon is their defender slasher and Brooks gets it done with the jumper, drive and probably is their best facilitator. My #3 ranked team right now, expect them to be in the hunt all season.
1. Lester Middle (2-0) Everyone should be convinced that was in the building on Saturday night. This is the most talented Middle School team in Memphis. There won’t be many close games for this group all season until the MAM or Bartlett tournament around the Christmas holiday. You have to start mentioning Jamarion Harvey as one of the best 7th graders in the city but a bigger statement, Markese might be the best 8th grader in the city. Chauncey Holmes looked as good as I’ve seen him and Lemarkus Wilkerson was a spark despite being in foul trouble on Saturday in their win over Ridgeway.
2. Ridgeway Middle 1-1 How can they be in this spot still? Well it comes down to this, they lost to the best team around, no shame in that and it was 2 point ball game in the 3rd quarter. They also beat my pre-season at the time #3 Germantown. Now that they see somethings to work for going forward, this is still a very good team but they will need to identify their go to scorer in crunch time.
3. Snowden Middle 1-0 You won’t find a team in Memphis 4 good 8th guards and especially as experienced as this group but you have one here . Guards go a long way in Middle School and this team has the ingredients to be successful all year long.
4. Bellevue Middle 1-0 Dangerous team because of their guards, this is a group that their new coach is excited about. AJ Dillworth, Jr Jacobs who had 19 in the opener, Amar Knox and Dustin Richmond will be who they go to in every game. They are on the road tonight and then back at home Wednesday.
5. Germantown Middle 2-1 After a loss to Ridgeway, they were able to get back in the win column last week but this is a team capable of more, a lot more. With the early loss, it could make them hungrier to get back in the convo as a top 2 team again.
Please take notes ladies and gentlemen, a statement was made last night in the Elite Middle School Classic at Bolton High School. The Lester Lions are the best middle school team in the city, bar none and right now, it’s not close. Not saying that they can’t lose because anyone can be beaten but if I were to pencil in anyone this year as a team that could go undefeated, it would definitely be this team.
With a huge crowd in attendance, #1 vs #2 was everything it was billed to be. Both teams matched intensity early on with the game going back and forth with each team not able to get that big run to put it out of reach that you see a lot in middle school games. It looked at one moment like Ridgeway was about to go up 7-8 points but Lester behind the heroics of Jamarion “Woody” Harvey who hit some huge shots to stay close and go up 34-32 to end the 3rd quarter. Lester’s Markese Washington hit a 3 but Kris “Chip” Brunt answered him with a bucket plus the foul with 5:29 left in the last quarter to make it 37-35. After though, Lester took control going on a 13-5 run that ended with pretty reverse by guard Chauncey Holmes and a 3 by Harvey to put them up 10.
Ridgeway had opportunities but they traded baskets and couldn’t get enough stops down double digits late but a lot of that was due to Lester’s length and ability to challenge everything at the basket. Lester showed their depth, perseverance and the ability to rely on different players when they needed to score. Markese Washington was every where for Lester. I stopped counting but I know he had at least 16 rebounds to go with double digits in points. He scored in a variety of ways , had 3-4 impressive blocks and flashed why he might be the best player in middle school. I know the consensus is Chandler Jackson and he’s super talented but for those who don’t know, Markese is nipping on his heels. Every player from the starters to the bench seemed to have an impact in some facet of the game.
Ridgeway will still be tough in Large School and shouldn’t in any way hold their heads down. Lester’s the #1 team in the city and with a win over at the time, #3 Germantown, they still are among the better teams in the city and this too, it’s very early in the season. There were some bright spots from them in EJ Smith who showed some toughness, along with Kristian Spencer. I think when they needed bucket, they just didn’t have enough weapons to be able to keep up with a team like Lester and more than likely, they won’t play a team like them again.
Lester showed why they are who they are and are clear cut favorites in Small Schools at this time.
Coach Carlos Lambert said “man, we got somethings to work on, we not there yet” after yesterday’s scrimmage against Colonial. That’s too be expected so early on but with the season a week from starting for the young Mustangs, you can see the ingredients of a good team.
The Mustangs are very disciplined team that plays within themselves with each player seemingly fitting in their roles. They have players who can make shots from the perimeter and make plays to the rim, they play unselfishly as a group and seem to all to enjoy playing with each other. Their style of plays seems to be fast but they won’t settle for bad shots either as they are content with running offense and being patient if they have to. They have multiple players that can hurt you offensively and but they also get after you with pressure on the defensive end of the floor as well which leads to lay ups for them. The Stegall twins, (Will and Ben) can play both guard positions if need be but also go inside and battle for rebounds. Ryan Stockton just knows how the play, makes great decisions with the ball in hands and he can score it with jumper along with Jack Haugh who will probaly start as well. Stockton I’m sure will lead them in scoring some games as he will probably be one of their more valuable players.
8th grader DJ Sharp should be their leader most nights having played a lot last year as a 7th grader but this season, he will be heavily relied upon not only to score but to rebound and play big when the big moments come. He can put it on the floor some and shows improvement as a ball handler which more than likely will be where his future will be as a guard but he does most of his damage close. He plays hard, can take a bump and foul for and ones, face up and make a move or turn and put up the short jumper. He’s extremely active on the offensive and defensive boards and could a player who you could put on a teams best offensive player. For Houston to really make some noise this year, I think he has to lead by example, every game and he’s more than capable to do just that. 7th grader Maverick Miller (son of Mike Miller) will be one to keep an eye on too. Has the shooters mentality but isn’t afraid to put it on the deck and make a move which he did a few times when I watched him yesterday .I think he’s more comfortable right now as a shooter and he will make some big shots this year for his team. Hayden Mitchell, a 5’11 post player with good size has nice touch close and will help them on the glass this year and Jamison Smith will fill in nicely in the back up pg role.
All in all, I like this Houston team and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them playing late into the season. First up for them, Highland Oaks in what should be a good game and maybe, just maybe we will find out more about them and those who go watch might be surprised.
On the campus of the Lausanne Lynx this past weekend, fans got a chance to see some the better teams in middle school go head to head and also find out who to watch individually this season. With the season 2-3 weeks away for most, these scrimmages are key in seeing rotations, who they count and who will lead by example for coaches. At the same time, it’s new for the 6th graders, a different year and more expectations for some 7th graders like Highland Oaks’ guard Josh Holloway and Regale Moore and for 8th graders, a time to lead and be focal points of their teams.
Due to a prior engagement, I wasn’t able to attend the early games to see Bellevue, coming off another state title and looking for the 4-peat this season but it will be hard this year because of who they have to contend with . I think Terrance “Jr” Jacobs is up for it but will see share of double teams and trap defenses this year to get the ball out of his hands. Who I had a chance to see, Germantown, Lester, Mt.Pisgah, Highland Oaks and Colonial, all showed somethings to be excited about this year at their respective schools
Let’s start with with Colonial, they will be led at the point by Jacquez Brown and have some talent in Cedric Franklin Jr, Courtney Carter, 6’0 Marreco Warren who will be counted on heavily inside and guards Avion Veasley and Antonyus Moore. They were in the game early against a a really talented Germantown team early but their inexperience cost them late. I think once Coach Franklin puts his signature stamp of defense on this team, they will be much improved from last year but need someone to be a counted on scorer for them as well.
Mt. Pisgah was a team who was in the Final 4 last year in the state sectional but Coach Garner was really impacted by 8th graders who are now in high school but should be solid nonetheless. They are really guard heavy so they will all have to gang rebound and be really active on defense putting pressure on the ball to generate turnovers. Lowrance is another team that should be better this year with Braxton Jumper who can play the point but will more than likely be off the ball and the improving play of Javar Daniels, a 6’2 7th grader who’s getting better around the rim with his touch and becoming a better out of his area rebound. You can’t teach his length at this age or his effort.
Coach Mark Freeman will have young guards to count and its definitely good for the future because he has them for 2 more years but will have their share of ups and downs. I think Regale Moore could make the single biggest jump of improvement this year of any 7th grader in the city. He was able to get his shot off from all over and hit the 3 on multiple occasions and he’s capable ball handler and has the look of an athletic big 2 guard in the future. He has a nice release point on his jumper and attacked in the half court as well. He will more than likely lead them in scoring and point guard Josh Holloway was solid looking to distribute. In the past, I’ve seen him be more of score first type but he seems to be trying to make the move to more of traditional style point guard. I think in that role, he could do really well and for them to be successful, they will have to find another guard or forward to help be 2nd or 3rd scorer for them on game night.
Germantown and Lester, I liked what I saw in both teams and you can make an argument that maybe Germantown could be the best team in Middle School right now and they don’t have their full team yet. Two are out for football, one who could be their best player and likely will be (Cam Miller) and 8th grade guard, Rayquan Williams who will be in a key role for them. They are also without Cartier Beverly who most know as one of the premiere guards in the city in 8th grade, due to injury but if they get him back, no doubt in my mind, they could easily be the best team in the city.
Deshun Dunn was all over the player displaying super motor on the glass as a rebounder but also a scorer muscling his way to rim for easy buckets. Dunn will affect every game and will be an absolute load for everyone they play as opponents as a defender as well being able to guard probably every position on the floor. Chris Martin, their floor stretcher is back in lead role and could see some ball handling duty early on with Jhamal Ross, a solid point guard who must be able to run the show with Beverly out. Daniel Egunbinwe was one of the better players I saw on Saturday, hitting the trail 3 and getting to the rim off the dribble better than I’ve seem from him over the years. He looks about 6’1 right now and will be able to be mismatch at his position in any game that they play. I think he has a new found confidence on the perimeter and it will play dividends this year. I really think that once they get their full team which will include Beverly if he’s able to get back, they maybe the best team talent wise that you will find in the area.
Lester right now is my pre-season #1 and they showed some flashes of why. They started a bit slow against Highland Oaks but got up 19 in the second half with the first group which consisted of Marquise Washington, Chauncey Holmes, Devin Jackson, Jamarion Harvey and Lemarkus Wilkerson. They will put so much pressure on teams defensively running and jumping, pressing and they will be able to do it because they are deep and from what their head coach told me, they were missing 2 guys who will be in reserve roles.
They could theoretically play 9-10 players most games and not drop off much. Wilkerson will be their catalyst on defense playing the passing lanes while also showing the ability to put up numbers as scorer in transition or in the half court. Washington’s approach looks different this year, he moves different and becoming the focal point can do that and he will show this year why he could be considered a top 3 player in middle school this year. Chauncey Holmes is a long 6’0 guard maybe 6’1 who will be versatile for Coach Terrell, able to play with the ball at the 2 spot 3 spot and some 4 depending on who they playing against. Devin Jackson will also be a contributor as well and could lead them in scoring some games as well. Expect 6th grade Khylan Page to play a lot to with the second group but speaking of Page, he could be the best 6th grader in the city right now. He just has that look of a future 6’8.
All in all, the excitement is starting to build for the approaching middle school season and it should be fun one to watch…
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.
So I received some feedback from the social media post that I made about transfers and I realized, I didn’t talk about any of the transfers, my bad. It would only be right if I did actually include the names of those who have went to different schools and what type of impact I think they have there.
Usually I wait a week or two to say who is going where because I have a 3 day rule meaning, if that student is at that school 3 days or more, that’s where they are going but does it always happen that way, no. Could there still be a player or 2 that could move to another spot, perhaps and it’s probably going to happen but as of now, I will mention only those that I know about and the schools where they have landed as of right now.
It all starts with literally the city’s biggest transfer, James Wiseman, a 6’11 top 10 player in the country in the 2019 class. The versatile 4 man go East after playing 2 years at Nashville Endsworth last season averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds. I’m sure right now with the all the attention surrounding the Mustang program, he is the most talked about transfer right now maybe in the state and his presence will be felt immediately around the city and he bolsters an already really good East team to elite status once again.
In any other year, Ryan Boyce would be the name that everyone would be talking about right now and maybe that’s a good thing for him. Boyce who recently broke his list down to SMU, Memphis and Florida comes over from Houston High School and will bring high major athleticism as well as rebounding and scoring ability to a team that lost some depth. With TJ Moss leaving and Dude Collum leaving for other programs, East depth will be tested some but with those 2 additions, don’t expect a significant drop off for East.
I talked about Jordan Johnson and his move to Hamilton some in a previous article that I wrote about earlier in the month and what I think he could bring to the Wildcats. I will say this, on paper, Hamilton may have the best guards in Double A in the city. 6’9 2019 Luke Howard comes over from Canada and will figure heavily into Harding’s success this season. I can see him being their leading scorer and maybe the league’s best player mid way into the season.
Brandon Brown will be putting on the green and white this year and playing for White Station after leaving Overton. The 6’4 to the rim guard will be big for the Spartans who needed another guard to score along side Allen Hatchett. His move outside of the obvious 2 up top could affect his team the most because it turns White Station into a top 2-3 in district. Not saying they weren’t before but Brown definitely helps them. Antavion “Dude” Collum left Memphis East and will be playing this year at TN Prep for his junior season. The 6’6 forward is a 3-4 who can handle the ball and from a source close, he could play some point guard this year at his new school.
Another nice pick up for TN Prep, 6’5 Bruce Guy who has several offers will be playing alongside each other this year. Guy is motor on top of motor, relentless rebounder, score out the face up game and hit the short jumper and the 3. Both players bring a lot of talent to prep school.
There are a lot of people excited about Raleigh Egypt basketball this year and one of the main reasons is the Devontae Williams. The 6’2 athletic guard finds ways to score and that will be key for the Pharaohs who are looking to return to the days of old after being down the last few years. Keep this in mind, Double A will be tough this year and even better if they can return to the old days.
Since they are Memphis players as well, TJ Moss and Caleb London must be included in this as well as high profile transfers out of the city. If you don’t know, Moss is transferring to Findlay Prep in Nevada while London will be closer, going to Conway Arkansas. London was rated by me as the city’s best 2020 player so a spot for #1 will open up there for someone.
Transfers To Watch
1. Mark Johnson 6’5 2019Forward (Southwind from Germantown) Adds length to Southwind along side Kameron Jones. Likely starts for the Jaguars.
2. Calvin Temple 6’0 (Center Hill from Olive Branch) Biggest asset is his shooting and his ability to make shots from all over the floor.
3.Jaylon Saulsberry 6’2 2020 (Kirby from Houston) Will start day 1 at new school at the point guard position. He will be as important to his team as anyone in 15AAA.
4. Rodney Mason 6’4 2020 (Bartlett from Houston) Should start the season as big piece for Bartlett. Brings some rebounding and scoring close.
5.Brandon Mason 6’2 2018 (Ridgeway from Central) Plays along Antwan Beans during the summer so the chemistry should be there for those 2. Mason gives them another ball handler and nice trio with Antonio Thomas as well.
6. Takori Rooks 6’5 2019 ( Bartlett from Houston) Along with Mason, should be a starter first day of practice.
7. Shemar Brown 6’5 2019 (TN Prep from Olive Branch) Part of the transfers that will make TN Prep pretty good for the next 2 years and he’s familiar with both Collum and Guy. They played together years ago during AAU. Brown plays hard and isn’t afraid to mix it upside inside.
8. Latrell Carter 6’6 2018 (Whitehaven from Central) Originally went to Whitehaven so he returns home and Coach Phillips hopes he can upgrade the position from last year.
9. Connor Richardson 6’7 2019 (St. George from Lewsiburg MS) Will at worst, their second best player this season. Rebounds, scores with short jump hooks close.
10.Marcus Lee 6’2 2018 (Melrose from Central) Melrose got hit hard with graduation last year so Lee should have an opportunity to step right in and play.
11. Jalen Clay 5’10 2018 (Southwind from Houston) With a starter leaving Southwind to head to a different state, a spot may have been opened up to play next to Mark Freeman who right now is playing football and may not be ready at the start of the season.
12.Jaylen Sanders 6’3 2020 (Southaven from PCA) Southaven has been up and down the last few seasons. Sanders is a reason to give them some optimism for the next 3 years.
13. Will Wilson 6’4 2019 (Ridgeway from Desoto Central) Along with Tylar Haynes and David Dixon, Wilson will have to rebound for them but right now he might be a better offensive player than both which helps.
14. Anthony Howard 6’6 2020 (Harding From Canada Just really getting here so it will take some time to get acclimated to the style of play here in Memphis. His older brother is ahead of the curve some (Luke) but he should be adjusted about mid way into the season.
15. Rodney Newsome Jr 6’4 (Briarcrest from PCA) Might be more so of football move but Newsome adds beef to go along with Omari Thomas on the court 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.
When looking at prospects, everyone’s criteria isn’t the same as some others when judging players and seeing a future in them. Some players you see, they just pass the eye test but don’t perform up to the level of their look but one that does and he stands out in a big way, 2022 Chandler Jackson. When you see the 5’10 guard, you see length, lead ability, big time size, scoring ability, handle, a good get it off the rim and good player who can create for himself and others. I saw him last summer a little and I can tell he’s been working on his game in particular, his perimeter jumper where he can make shots from wherever on the court. He’s really tough to stay in front, has a really good first step right now and a problem offensively because at a young age, he can create his shot off the dribble but is most effective at this stage a finisher and player who gets to the rim at will due t his strength. He handles well, makes good decisions and is very unselfish for a such a talented player. Definitely a big guard at this stage and likely will always be in that role and right now, he looks like he has a big time future. Easily one of the better players in the 7th grade and I wouldn’t argue with you if you said he was the best player in the class right now.