Tag Archives: Chandler Lawson

10 Things To Watch For This High School Season

 

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that I can’t wait for basketball season to come from so many people. Well the wait is over and we are finally here as the first week of high school basketball is upon us.

Now I know that many people are wondering, who is going to be good this year, what teams are primed for a state tournament run, who are the best 5, 10 teams in the city, what freshmen can make an impacts and on and on. I’m going to give you 10 things to watch for this season as we get ready to go on the roller coaster that is high school basketball in Memphis.

1.  Obviously, East has a very very talented team, in fact, by some, the best team in the country. They return Mr. Basketball and now Wichita State commit, Alex Lomax, 6’8 Chandler Lawson, 6’9 Malcolm Dandridge and have added a consensus top 3 player in the country in James Wiseman, a 7 ft and 6’5 UAB commit Ryan Boyce.  They also have a strong freshman class with Johnathan Lawson, a 6’6 guard, 6’4 Jalen Brown and 5’11 Tadarius Jacobs. 5’11 Dee Merriwether, Nautica Hartwell and 4 star receiver Keveon Mullins will provide depth nightly. Okay, enough with the semantics, the question is this, will Wiseman and Boyce be eligible to play and the answer is, I don’t know and neither does anyone else at the moment.

Malcolm Dandridge (East HS)
Malcolm Dandridge (East HS)

I’ve heard all that comes with it, it’s not fair, I’ve heard about coaches calling to the TSSAA and I’ve heard some other stuff that I can’t share here however, with the rules in place, I think those surrounding East including Penny Hardaway seem to think they should be fine. When will they have the answer to their question about their eligibility,? I’m assuming soon enough, as they have games approaching, one in fact his weekend at home against Mitchell. If the 2 don’t play, they will be hindered some but  you still have to contend with Lomax, Dandridge and Lawson who are all division 1 players who have been in wars and played against the best players in the country. They will be a different team this year though based on the defections of TJ Moss and Antavion Collum and will rely on some inexperience and youth to counteract those losses.  They will have to defend with bigs and depend on them to handle the ball in situations that they may not necessarily be used to and in some in game moments, you could see Chandler Lawson running the offense. All of this to though is contingent upon the TSSAA and their ruling which again, they hope to find out something soon on.

2.Are the Raleigh Egypt Pharaohs back? I know fans in that area are excited and they should be. Coach Moe Miller, a former player there as well as a GA Tech alum , is trying to resurrect it back from the past few years where they fell on tough times. Some people are saying, they are the best team in 2A this year and a team that can make that run to Mufreesboro this year.

Jordan Johnson (Raleigh Egypt)
Jordan Johnson (Raleigh Egypt)

Deovaunta Williams, a 6’2 guard will be a major catalyst for this year’s team as well as senior forward, Jadakiss Williams,a 6’7 who was able to get his confidence up this summer playing with a good Team Thad team. Ethan Burnett led them in scoring last season and they have some more guards in Darrell Christian, a 6’2 guard and another 6’4 guard in Quintavios Bailey.  I think it’s great when certain schools are good and with this group, Raleigh Egypt should be in the convo as one of the best teams in Memphis. I can’t forget about 6’4 Jordan Johnson as well, one of the areas best kept secrets in 2020. There is no question in my mind, he’s right now a top 10 player in that class and can move up into conversation as a top 5 guy by the end of the season.

3. Is Double A this most competitive classification this year in Memphis? Perhaps it is and there are reasons. For one, I think there are at least 2 times right now that can get out of here this year, the aforementioned Pharaohs and the Hamilton Wildcats. I also think that Mitchell has a shot as well. The Tigers coached by legendary Tiger star Andre Turner will be good and get better as the season goes along. They will need younger guards to step up but have the height and size to compete everyone locally. Remember when I said that it’s good to see certain teams be good? Hamilton is another one of those teams.

They won a state title in 2015 in Triple A but since, things didn’t go so well.2 players from that teams are still playing, Kevon McMahan and Martrell Brooks. Both are starters this year but they got some big news when Jordan “Poppi” Johnson transferred in for this senior year. Johnson is legit as if not the best shooter, the second best shooter in the area.  I’m telling you, barring injury, Hamilton is a top 2 team in Double A in Memphis.

Kevon McMahan (Hamilton HS)
Kevon McMahan (Hamilton HS)

4. Is there a better story right now in Memphis than Nick London? If there is, someone let me know but his comeback has been amazing to watch. For those who don’t know, Nick was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago as an incoming 9th grader. Fast forward a few years later, Nick is playing again and starting at Hamilton where his father played years almost 20 years ago. You can’t make up a story like his and it’s one that if you get a chance this year, you must see.

5. On November 25th, the first annual Larry Finch classic will take place on the campus of the University of Memphis at the Elma Roane Field house. The event will feature  2 coaches who played for the legendary coach in Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, and Andre Turner. The main event will be East vs Findlay Prep who will feature TJ Moss who left for the Nevada school from East, University of Memphis commit, 7’3 Connor Vanover and 7’3, Bol Bol, a top 5 player in the country in 2018 who just transferred there recently. There should be a lot of excitement in the air for that one and some emotion as well headlined by a game that will  have 10 or more division one basketball players.

Penny Hardaway Leads East HS
Penny Hardaway Leads East HS

6.  Are the old powers of Memphis High School basketball coming back around? Raleigh Egypt seems to be moving in the right direction and reclaiming their position as school to fear when it comes to basketball, Can White Station do the same this year?  To be fair, the answer is probably no if your comparing it to the days of Joe Jackson and more recently, Chris Chiozza (FLA) Leron Black but this team is capable of a top 2 finish in 16AAA and right there with Whitehaven vying for that spot. Allen Hatchett and Brandon Brown are going to have to produce numbers every night as scorers and rebound guys. Hatchett’s leadership will be key, it should be his team. Melrose who won a state a few years ago  is still a few year away but a move to Double A should definitely speed up the rebuild for first year head coach, Joe Washington.

7. How good will Cordova be this year? It’s pretty much a new cast for Tyler Harris who many think is the best player in Memphis in 2018. Gone, Rod Brown who enrolled at Wichita State early and Blake Williams who’s he’s played with over half his basketball playing career. Tyler is a dynamic scorer who you simply can’t leave from anywhere on the floor. He’s been a player who played off the ball a lot but this year, the situation may call for him to be more on it which I’m sure he will be comfortable with. There has been a lot talk around his recruitment but I’m sure that Tyler is just looking forward to playing in his final high school season and he will have some help. 6’6 Bruce Guy will be there and should be able to take up some of the slack that Brown left. For them to be pretty good, he needs to adjust and adjust fast in a new district but Bruce is talented enough to get the job done. I can see him being a 18 and 9 or 10 rebound type forming a nice duo.

Tyler Harris (Cordova HS)
Tyler Harris (Cordova HS)

8. Does Lausanne have 2 peat in them? They like a lot of teams lost a few seniors and while maybe not their best players, they were invaluable as leaders for them for years. This is where point guard Ashton Smith and Sky Forrest must will come into play. They are the old guys on the team as juniors along with football players Cameron Simms and Eric Gray with a host of youthfulness and the second best freshman class in the city. Alden Applewhite, Calvin Jennings and Eddie Buxton are their future but at least one of them could be counted on to log some minutes and that will probably be  6’5 Applewhite. 6’4 guard, Bo Montgomery will step into a bigger role this year as well as 6’6 Johnathan Dejurnett who was lost last year to injury and 6’6 Kohan Thompson. On paper, I think this is the best team on the private school side in the city but they still must prove it on the court as well.

9.Outside of East who most think will be  a lock to go to the state, who will be that other team? Southwind, Ridgeway? Southwind will have to replace CJ Marshall’s scoring and maybe they can do it by committee there with guard play. LIU-Brooklyn commit Mark Freeman will do his part and pick up his scoring but where else will it come from nightly? Christian Jones is capable from the outside and had some big games last year for them. 6’8 Kameron Jones who was probably just a bit in their offense last year will now be a big piece to the puzzle if Southwind want’s to go back. Ridgeway without Jalen Crutcher early on will be a transition. They have a nice trio with Antwan Beans,  Antonio Thomas and new to the party, Brandon Mason. Tylar Haynes is a bit undersized but plays a bigger, will be asked to rebound and score probably more than he’s used to along with Will Wilson, a 6’6 who can go inbetween the 3 and 4 position. Maybe that other team can be Cordova? Anyone with Tyler Harris has a chance but a lot teams will be keying in on him and he will see his share of 2 guys on him to take the ball out of his hands and the keys for their state trip. Maybe it’s Whitehaven’s turn to make that ride with Coach Phillips who took several trips there while at Mitchell. Cameron Jones and Matthew Murrell will be in 2 front seats if they take that ride though.

Matthew Murrell (Whitehaven HS)
Matthew Murrell (Whitehaven HS)

10.  Could Bartlett win 14AAA?  It’s been a few years since you could mention Bartlett as maybe winning this district. I think last time it happened, Anthlon Bell was lighting it up there before he headed to Arkansas for 4 years. Now let me say this, are they favorites? No,  probably not but that doesn’t meant they won’t end up winning over there but that league still goes through Tyler Harris and Bartlett has to get over that hump as well as a sound Arlington team who will be ready to play in every game. Coach Real has a few transfers who could help this year in 6’4 Rodney Mason, 6’5 Takori Rooks to go along with guards, Sylvester Thompson, Shemar Brown and 6’2 Jeff Walker. I could be a year early on the prediction but don’t be surprised by them this year.

What We Learned: Summer Team Camps

 

East HS Guard TJ Moss
                                                                             East HS Guard TJ Moss

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 2019 6'9 Luke Howard- Harding Lions
2019 6’9 Luke Howard- Harding Lions

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.

 2018 John McBride MUS (One Of The Best Forwards In Private School
2018 John McBride MUS (One Of The Best Forwards In Private School

Early Top 5: 2017-2018

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 

 

East 2-Peats!!!

 

East HS State Champs
                                                                        East HS State Champs

 

I remember going to the 16AAA media day at Whitehaven at the start of the season and wondering a little if the expectations might be a bit much for this East team. Sure, I knew they were defending champs but I also knew that this year, there would be a  target big enough to fit on the side of the Fed Ex Forum on their backs, Every team in the city’s best shot, every night and it showed right at the beginning of the season. Melrose fought them hard in their first district game and was within 10 in the 3rd quarter of that game but after a 20 something to 4 run, East found it’s stride in that game and never looked back during the season.

By now we all know what the Mustangs led by Coach Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson did on Saturday, they repeated as TSSAA Triple A State champions beating Southwind in an all Memphis final for the second straight year in a row.  It wasn’t easy though especially the second game having to come back down from 6 a few times in the game against a good Oak Ridge team to win it with some big plays down the stretch from their trio of Moss, Lawson and Alex Lomax.  The title game I felt like was one that would be won in the 3rd quarter and I just knew that East would go on one of those runs  like they always do and win in by double digits because I just felt like Southwind was a good team but they didn’t have enough scoring to be able to keep up with East.

Let me say this, the story is amazing in a sense because this was years in the making. We remember the story of Desmond Merriwether and fast forward up to now and you just shake your head and say wow. These Mustangs have been to the state tournament 3 straight years and if you really want to think about it, players like Alex Lomax, Pig Washington and Nick Merriwether have been to the state 5 straight years with 4 state titles if you want to include Middle School in as well (Lester). This is a group that I will remember for as long as been doing middle school and high school coverage as one of the more memorable teams that I can recall.

Chandler Lawson- MVP of The State Tournament
                                                  Chandler Lawson- MVP of The State Tournament

 

Chandler Lawson was named MVP of the state tournament with Lomax, Moss and Malcolm Dandridge making the all tournament. Christian Jones, Mark Freeman and Carlos “CJ” Marshall were also members of the all tournament team for Southwind.  Southwind who won it a few years ago (2012) had a nice run to end the year I thought and Freeman and Marshall were their catalyst. Freeman will return next season along with Jones who played well in the state and Kameron Jones, a 6’7 touching 6’8 developing post who should start to draw interest from colleges this summer. Guard Quentin Williams who had some huge moments in the post season for the Jaguars will also return in a starters role and they should have big Kristian Williams back as well. Someone will have to take up the scoring slack for Marshall and rebounding of Robert Boyd in order for them to be in the running again next season but they will have as good a shot as anyone.

alltournament

East could return 4 of their 5 starters for next season and it will likely not only make them the state favorite again but also be in the running as a top 3-5 team in the country next season. Some are saying number possibly and that would be incredible for the school located in Binghampton. Could be see a 3-peat for East? One would have to think that they have a pretty good chance but we can wait till next season to give a definitive answer but for right now, congrats to the East Mustangs, your 2016-2017 State Champs.

Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson
Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson

Top 10 High School Players In Memphis

 

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Naming  a top 10 list in Memphis regarding high school basketball players is hard on any level, middle school or high school but harder on the high school level. Why? Well, it’s simple, there is just so much talent  in the city. Keep in mind now, when talking about the best 10 players in the 901, it’s not just the 10 best seniors, 10 best juniors, I’m talking about the top 10 players overall, regardless of class. Get the picture now but hey, why not, I’ve done it before so with that said, here is who I think are top 10 players in Memphis regardless of class in high school.

To those who may want to put this in order, you can however, I’m not. THIS IS JUST A LIST AND NOT RANKING!!!

1.TJ Moss 6’4 CG (East HS) 2018  – There was a lot of talent in Memphis last year but Moss could have been in that conversation as well however, definitely this year. Moss is a flat out scorer of the basketball whether from the 3 to mid range or as a slasher, Moss can put up numbers any night. He attacks you, attacks you and then attacks you again, always looking to keep pressure on his defender, finishes with soft floaters over the rim showing great touch close. He might be the best finisher in transition in the city but when fouled, he goes to the line and makes free throws. Loves the pull 3 in transition as well but he an adept 3 point shooter spotting up and off the dribble.   He looks a little quicker to me this year and is getting lower on the dribble in the open floor, seeing the floor and hitting players teammates for lay ups.  Has everything in his repertoire to be dominant scorer nightly and when needed, Moss that ability to turn it on. The East high team is so talented that some nights he may not lead them but make no mistake, he’s a capable 20 point a night guy every time he touches the floor.

TJ Moss (1 of 3 in Double Figures)

2. Tyler Harris 5’10 PG (Cordova HS) 2018 – Best pure shooter in Memphis, hands down. It’s not close, I know there a lot of good shooters here however, Harris on the catch, off the crossover, the pull up, lights out. He will  lead the city in scoring this year but Harris has added some find you in his game over the last year. He’s a  clutch type who isn’t afraid to take and make huge shots in game evidenced by catching fire last year in the state title game against East late. Catch and shoot, off the dribble, the crossover, behind the back, their simply isn’t a shot that he can’t take and you don’t think it’s going in.  Not only is he the 3 ball maker in the state, he may have the best handle of anyone as well and is one of best one on one guys I’ve seen in while. Tyler can put up huge numbers on any night against anyone, evidenced by his 29 point performance against Mae Jemison this past weekend who won their state tournament in Alabama last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some 40 point games this year from him, that’s just how talented he is.

Tyler Harris (One of the Best Guards In The State)

3.Alex Lomax 5’11 PG (East HS) 2018 –  Went into the summer underrated and came out with 8 high major offers? Not bad for a player who virtually had no offers   the summer before but it’s not for any reason, Lomax is the real deal. Tough physical punish you for mistakes guard with some flair at times, Lomax may not win a lot of style points but always ends up finding ways to get Ws in the column. Lomax plays with great pace to him, knows when to go to the extra gear, finishes on bigger player and will do something that a lot of guards don’t do, post. An underrated passer as well, Lomax gets in the lane at will,  if you pull up to help, he lobs for dunks or drops off passes for easy points or gets the 2 himself.  He’s the strongest pg in the city and he knows how to take advantage of it and is a solid on ball defender. He plays within himself at all times, never trying to do what he can’t and he looks a bit more explosive with the ball in his hands than in years past.  His shooting has increased so that you can’t leave him for the 3 and he creates space for the jumper via the crossover and step back dribble and uses a variety of floaters and runners for scores. He’s very crafty  and he plays bigger than most opposing point guards locally at 190, Lomax is a handful for anyone.   The state MVP and Mr.Basketball is back for more this year but the scary thing is, he’s still only a junior who’s getting better each year.

aloanddarrell

4. William Douglas 6’4 SG (CBHS) 2017 – SMU commit now, Douglass can play free this year and get that elusive state title that he’s been chasing and his team has a chance to do it this year. A lot will be on him though but I think he can handle it.  An athletic fundamentally sound 2 who can score it at a high clip and defend the 1,2 and 3 positions at the high school level. He takes what you give him, the short jumper if you play off, you play tight, he can go back and get to the line or finish. Can flourish in the open court or in half court and is sneaky athletic, probably more so than people give him credit for. Douglass gets good elevation on the jumper and is as unselfish as they come being as talented as he is. He is fighting an injury right now but Douglas is the best private school player in the city and this year, he will live up to that title.

Will Douglas Made His Name Known This Weekend (Pictured W/Ball)

5. Jalen Crutcher 6’3 CG (Ridgeway HS) 2017– When he was younger, you saw the potential, long wiry with scoring ability with size. As the years have gone by, you saw potential start to produce and produce big time and now, he’s  a D-1 commit (UT-Chattanooga) and one of the most feared guards in Memphis. He hit 7-3 pointers  in there first  win scoring 33 points putting it out there that he might be coming for the scoring title this year. He has deep range on the 3, 5-6 feet behind the line at times and the soft floater at the basket which I would love to see him use more often because he can do it when he wants.  20 plus for him should be a given and he must carry a Ridgeway team with some pieces but still fighting an uphill battle with Southwind and Houston for supremacy in district 15AAA. Behind Harris, I think he’s the best shooter but I can see some point guard in him particularly at the college level going forward.I think he scores because he has to for Ridgeway but could also be comfortable with the ball in his hands leading. Crutcher is without a doubt, one of the best guards in the city and fans it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you went to see him.

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6. Chandler Lawson 6’9 WF (East HS) 2019–  The most unique player probably in the state with his ability to post, play on the wing and defend 1-5. Freakishly long, Lawson is as athletic as any 6’9 in the state, has touch around the rim with the jump hook and jumper and is finishing stronger at the rim and over it more than in years  past. Handling the ball this year more for East especially off the rebound,  he can score on all 3 levels, start the offense and be a player you can go to when you need a basket. Has a smoothness to his game and great feel for when to be aggressive, he’s unselfish at times to a fault but non the less, a great quality to have. His length and wing span make him a nightmare offensively and defensively because on the offensive boards, he’s hard to keep away because of his reach, tipping the ball to himself and defensively he gets a lot of deflections and steals because of his ability to cover so much ground with his length . Has some point forward in him and play maker ability and is a mismatch for bigger players and hard to guard for smaller players because he can just go over the top. Might end up stretching out to 6’10 which makes an already elite prospect  have a scary future as a player who will be able to play on the wing full time

TJ Moss (1 of 3 In Double Figures For East)

7. Ryan Boyce 6’5 SF (Houston HS) 2018– Bouncy 3-4 who will be the go to for Houston this year and I think he’s ready for that role. He might have been in that  last year but this year, it’s definitely his team. Boyce knocks down the 15 footer with regularity but has also worked to improve range to the 3 as well. He  has improved his ball handling  and he plays above the rim at all times. Maybe the most athletic player in the city, he uses it to the rim for athletic finishes. Can create for himself off the dribble but seems more comfortable with shooting the short jumper off the catch.  He crashes the offensive and defensive boards with his high motor, making him a double double virtually every game and he is an active defender capable of high light blocks because of his athleticism.  He boast a few offers on his plate as a player who projects as a wing on the college level including from the likes of  Ole Miss, UT-Martin and Florida.  He’s is the heart and soul of Houston and as he goes, they go this year.

 6'5 Ryan Boyce Already Has Ole Miss Offer  (2018)

8. DJ Jeffries 6’7 WF (Olive Branch MS) 2019– Plays in Olive Branch but with Memphis ties and running with Memphis based Team Thad, Jeffries deserves to be here and why not. Top 5-10 player in the country by several scouting services including ESPN and 247 Sports.  Jeffries might be the best scorer of anyone in this 10 and anyone in the surrounding area. Athletically, you won’t find many in the country on his level. He gets numbers off the bounce, the 3, to the rim with dunks, dribble pull ups, Jeffries is a terror offensively, super skilled, just flat out knows how to score the  and is a threat to get 25-30 points in every game. For Olive Branch to make the jump to an elite team and be in the mix for state, Jeffries production will have to be high but I think he’s a player who is ready to take that step this year with his team.

djjeffries

9. Mark Freeman 5’10 PG (Southwind HS) 2018 – Stable over the last 3 years for Paul Edwards, Freeman is undoubtedly one of the best point guards in the state. Natural point guard with scoring ability, Freeman excels in the transition game using his quickness as a finisher and a passer and has the  ability to run offense in the half court. Freeman has really improved his jumper over the years and is a player who can get going and score in spurts via the 3. He’s a ball hawk on the ball, who frequents creates open court steals in the games that I’ve watched him. He plays angles well, has quick hands and takes chances as a defender when they present themselves which makes him maybe the best point guard defenders in the area. Freeman has really good handle and uses it to create space for his jumper or finding gaps in the defense for his or a teammate offense.  He’s capable of impacting a game either scoring or distributing and shows all the signs of a college pg at a high level proved by his offer from Alabama and Coach Avery Johnson. A big time gamer, Freeman is the type of guard who can carry a team deep into the post season and I think he can do that . If Southwind is to go back to the state for the first time since 2012, it will be based on how Freeman leads this season.

Mark Freeman  2018 (Southwind HS)

10. Carlos “CJ” Marshall 6’5 WF (Southwind HS) 2017- The UT-Martin commit  has kind of been overlooked through the years among the best players in the city but not this year, Marshall deserves this spot. Marshall is do it all 3-4 who can score the ball from anywhere but does a lot of work through the mid range game. Loves the pull up jumper from the elbow to 15 feet out  but won’t hesitate from 3 where he can get hot.  He gets to the rim with a good first step, can  play the mismatch game and tries to  find the mismatch and  and exploit  smaller players. He can post and finish over the top. Aggressive with the ball  in his hands, Marshall can also initiate offense for his team and is a he’s a versatile defender who you can put on a 2, 3 or 4 and guard some 5s on the high school level.  Hard nose type of player, Marshall is as tough as any player in the city and the type of player you need if you want to be playing in March.

Others In Consideration

1. Desmond Johnson 5’11 PG( Kirby High School) 2017 – Was hard to leave him off, really hard, dynamic scoring point guard.

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2. Blake Williams 5’11 PG (Cordova High School) 2017 – Another that was tough to leave off.  One of the top 3-5 point guards in the city still and a player who you just can’t forget about when your playing Cordova because Williams will hurt you.  I think he’s as important as Harris in their success this year.

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3. Demarcus Mitchell 6’7 PF (Germantown High School) 2017– UT-Chattanooga commit is a strong athletic 4-5.

4. Rod Brown 6’5 Forward (Cordova High School) 2018 27 in game over the weekend for athletically unmatched forward in the city.The Arkansas Razorbacks I believe have offered.

Rod Brown 6'6  (Cordova HS)

5. DJ Jackson 6’5 Forward (Fayette Ware High School) 2017 – Constant in the conversation over the years as a top 5 player in this class locally. Jackson should be back on the court soon coming off surgery.

6. Jordan Johnson 5’9 PG  (Central High School) 2018 – 26 in a win over a big Central Park team last Friday.  Johnson can play with any guard in Memphis.

7. Cameron Jones 6’6 WF (Whitehaven High School) 2018- Will be in much different role this year for this team as their leader. Has to be get the bucket guy and rebounder if Whitehaven hopes to finish above 4th in district as predicted by league coaches.

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8. Chase Hayden 5’11 PG (St.George) 2017– Wouldn’t you know, the Arkansas football commit  is a  pretty good basketball player as well winning Mr.Basketball  last year. Chase is the best point  guard in private school and it would take a lot for anyone to dispute that in my eyes.

9. Malcolm Dandridge 6’8 PF/C (East High School) 2019– Big time prospect, hasn’t sniffed potential yet but looks really good so far in this young season.

10. Taeylr Gatlin 6’3 PG (Brighton High School) 2018 – If he was in the city, Gatlin would be more talked but let me give you look into him. Big point guard who can score it but is a passer at heart. Gatlin is a division 1 basketball player.

Again, THIS IS NOT RANKING but a list of who I think are the top 10 players in the city.

16AAA Media Day

 

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Whitehaven High School and Coach Faragi Phillips hosted a first of it’s kind media day for the 16AAA district on Wednesday evening giving players and coaches a glimpse at  the annually super competitive league. I’ve been  around awhile and I don’t think it’s ever been done but then again, I could be wrong but never the less, a great event and something that is much needed especially for those seniors who have committed and will go through this every year in college. Coach Jesus Patino of White Station said to the players on hand, “you should embrace this, all of you that are here, you all hope to go on and play in college but this maybe the only time you get to do something like this for some of you” A true and profound statement but one needed to get the attention of some who may have thought that it was just another evening with teammates and their coach.

Legendary head coach, Verties Sails spoke of the importance of education to the players and getting a degree. “I worked in athletics for 50 years as an administrator and coach but without that piece of paper, I couldn’t have done it” He spoke on some of the history of high school basketball and mentioned to the players that they were standing on the shoulders of those who played before them and that that those after them would be on the shoulders of them. Then the good part, the pre-season predictions for 1st, 2nd and 3rd team all district and predictions on how each team would finish on the boys and girls side.

*The predictions for 16AAA were done by the coaches

16AAA Pre-Season Predicted Order Of Finish (Girls)

1.White Station – Absolutely loaded group for Coach Warren. 4 Division 1 commits, Teal Battle, Zaire Hicks, Damiah Griffin, Taylor Williams along with Tamia Jones. Brittni Moore, Taelor Manning and Kyla Harris  will also be really important to this team with state aspirations. Best team in the city easily…

White Station Picked Pre-Season Number 1 In District
                                              White Station Picked Pre-Season Number 1 In District

2. Central– Lost one of the better guards in the city but don’t feel sorry for the Lady Warriors. Still have one of the best trio of guards in Johne Stewart, Brianna Cooks and a top 10 player in the city regardless of class, Jireh Washington. I love Jireh’s scoring ability and and she can create offense for herself when she wants but si also a really good passer in the half court or in transition. Dynamic defensive guard Kynandi  Kuykendoll was a 1st team selection and Brittany Ivory must be big for them this year.

Central
                                                                                                Central 

2. Whitehaven– This could be a team that can see battling for that second spot as well. Dontrecia Johnson, Aexus Williams and Ariel Williams will carry the load but 5’11  forward, Shmya Ward  could be due for a break out season this year. On any given night, this team can beat anyone locally.

3. Hamilton – Has the best player in the city to me in Tesia Thompson but I’m wondering what options she will have beside her.

4. Melrose– Their coach got it started yesterday with some strong words and he hopes that his confidence in his girls.Keanna Conner who was picked on the 2nd team by the coaches along with Zandra Watkins as a player to watch, translates to the court.

5. Overton– Lost their coach to district foe Whitehaven  and will be in total rebuild mode this year.

 6.East – Another team  with a new coach in Demond Fason who is returns to his old alma mater from the middle school ranks. He was able to coach a few of the players who are on the roster from his Lester Middle days and is happy to be in his new position. Kayla Freeman is one of the best players in the city that you may not know much about as well as teammate Japerria Robinson who were in their new coaches back court as 8th graders. I can see a higher finish for them if they come together quickly.

Pre-Season 1st Team Selections

  1. Jasmine Carson -Whitehaven
  2. Damiah Griffin- White Station
  3. Kynandi Kuykendoll- Central
  4. Brittni Moore- White Station
  5. Johne Stewart- Central
  6. Tesia Thompson- Hamilton
  7. Jireh Washington- Central
  8. Ariel Williams- Whitehaven

Pre-Season 2nd Team Selections

  1. Dontrecia Johnson- Whitehaven
  2. Alexus Williams- Whitehaven
  3. Kyla Harris- White Station
  4. Taylor Williams- White Station
  5. Shmya Ward- Whitehaven
  6. Kayla Bradley- White Station
  7. Keanna Conner- Melrose

Pre-Season 3rd Team Selections

  1. Montysia Bennet- Central
  2. Kayla Downs- Central
  3. Brittney Ivory- Central
  4. Tamia Jones- Whitehaven
  5. Ariel Lane- Central
  6. Danielle McAdams- Hamilton
  7. D’Aysia Reeder- Whitehaven
  8. Faith Rodgers- Central
  9. Joelysia Spencer- Melrose
  10. Taylor Williams- White Station
  11. Jayla Woods- Whitehaven

16AAA Pre-Season Predicted Order Of Finish (Boys)

1. East– #3 ranked by MaxPreps in the country, returns 3 starters and overall, 9 players from a team that won the state title last year. The Mustangs are the hunted and one of the best teams in the country so everyone is coming with their best to upset them. They have a few new players who will have to get acclimated to style of play but this team is really really talented so those thinking beating them will have an uphill battle locally. Look out for newcomers Antavion “Dude” Collum and 6’4 guard, Jay Hardaway.

easttrio

2. White Station– Aaron Strother, Adam Price and Allen Hatchett are back for Coach Patino and a good freshman class headlined by Tyland Mitchell. Price is the team’s best shooter, Strother and Hatchett will lead them in scoring most nights and junior Braxton Winford had some moments last year but should be better this year.

3. Central– Another team that if you put in another district, they might come in first. Long with some depth at the forward position and guard position, Central is still pretty young however.  Guards Jordan Johnson, Brandon Mason and John Anderson Jr are all underclassmen. They could find themselves in the second spot in district my years end.

4. Whitehaven– Mike Fofana, Romero Hill, Javion Hamlet, all gone, how will second year head coach Faragi Phillips replace their production? The emergence of Cameron Jones will play into that this year as well as Marquavious Lobbins and point guard Paul Williams. Freshman Matthew Murrell could be in the rotation and be one of the only players in this year’s freshman class to be contributor as a freshman.

Whitehaven
                                                                                     Whitehaven

5. Hamilton–  Will Smith inherits two of the district’s best players in Kevon McMahan and Martrell Brooks and they give them a chance at upsets in district. Bad news is, they play in this district and every night will be tough as there are  no pencil that in as a W type games.

Hamilton
                                                                                          Hamilton

6. Melrose– Sherman Jones has realistic expectations of his team and he knows what he’s up against. “We trying to get it together” said Jones who is in his 4th year as head coach and trying to get the Golden Wildcats back on track as one of the premier teams in Triple A. Devante Luellen is a tough guard who will be asked to do a lot of scoring for Melrose as well as Shajuan Jones and senior guard, Ahmad Webster

7. Overton– Eric Brent takes over for the Wolverines this year but he is familiar with the program because he’s been at the school for almost 8 years.  They are really young with only 1 senior but do have some players who have some good futures. Monterrio Ryan is really good off the spot up from 3, Anterrius Jeffries shows’s promise as a freshman at 6’6 and they have a go to in Brandon Brown, a 6’3 attack guard who can score the basketball. Only a sophomore, Brown will have to lead this team but is a capable 15-18 pt a night type player.

Overton
                                                                                               Overton

Pre-Season 1st Team Selections

  1. Alex Lomax- East
  2. TJ Moss- East
  3. Devonte Leuellyn- Melrose
  4. Chandler Lawson- East
  5. Kevon McMahan- Hamilton
  6. Aaron Strother- White Station
  7. Cameron Jones- Whitehaven
  8. Jordan Johnson- Central

Pre-Season 2nd Team Selections

  1. John Anderson Jr- Central
  2. Martrell Brooks – Hamilton
  3. Allen Hatchett- White Station
  4. Nick Merriwether- East
  5.  Rodarius Washington- East
  6. Paul Williams- Whitehaven
  7. Ahmad Webster- Melrose

Pre-Season 3rd Team Selections

  1. Brandon Brown- Overton
  2. Latrell Carter- Central
  3. Malcolm Dandridge- East
  4. Shajuan Jones- Melrose
  5. Marquavious Lobbins – Whitehaven
  6. Adam Price- White Station

 

 

 

Observations From The GBC Lock-In

 

 

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You always know what time it is when you see the GBC Lock-In, the start of high school basketball.  For several years, Germantown Baptist Church has hosted the lock in where several of area’s high school come together for a weekend of bonding with teammates and fellowship on Sunday at church. It also gives players a chances to see old middle school teammates and AAU teammates before it get’s serious in the next few weeks. It consisted of 20 teams, some just trying to get a feel for what they had, some maybe even using it for a try out of sorts to see who will be on the varsity roster but for some, business as usual.  There were the teams that you know are going to be pretty good, like East, Southwind, Houston, Mitchell but then were a few surprises as you can expect in an event of this nature.

Let’s start with the known, East has star power, length and size and are coming off a season where they won the state title and returning a majority of their team. They are led by Alex Lomax, TJ Moss and Chandler Lawson, the glue, Rodarious “Pig” Washington (pictured up top) and transfers Jay Hardaway and Dude Collum. Malcolm Dandridge will play a bigger role this season as well as Nick Merriwether who will likely be the back up point guard but Laquincy Parker is another back up guard who will be needed this year defensively. East lost 2 of the best defenders in the area last season so they will have to as a team make up defensively for what gave them last season. Roles will have to be established early on and they must know, that every night will be dog fight with teams looking to knock them off. As evidenced by W.E.B Dubois on Saturday as they escaped with a 41-40 win. Running clock games, you know never know and who knows  what would happen in a real game with both teams however, they can expect that type of game on the average because everyone wants to beat you and some teams will have nights where they play out of their minds against you.

Speaking of Dubois, I was impressed with their team overall as they may have placed themselves in the thick of it in the Single A race to state. Coach Johnson has a lot to be excited about in Rameek Wooten, Chris Mitchell and Josh Conrad. The 6’4 guard is a knock down 3 shooter off the set, hitting I know at least 5 against East. His point guard, Branson Bush was getting where he wanted and when he wanted as well and Mitchell and Wooten can score as well. We are used to Mitchell and BTW being there for Single A but you have to throw Dubois is there as well, they are pretty good.

Arlington will be a top 2-3 team in 14AAA and they will be that on the heals of Luke Wiseman and 6’6 Garrett Golday. The 6’2 guard is as steady as they come and should be one of the top guards in that district and Golday will be the big who can step out and make the 15 footer on the regular as well as play inside with his back to the basket. He gives them a rebounding and shot blocking presence and might be the best big in that league. Southwind will be bigger than they have been in past years this season with the addition of Khaliff Davis. That gives them, 6’7, 6’5 (CJ Marshall) 6’5 (Robert Boyd) and 6’7 (KJ Johnson). That will help out Mark Freeman who is one of the best players in 2018 in Memphis. Davis gives them size and will be a starter for them at the season’s tip and will be vital to them as a rebounder. Freeman and Marshall will provide the scoring but that third person who can be in double digits for them will have to be Boyd. Ridgeway and Houston will have to something to say in 15AAA but right now, I might be more apt to say that Southwind should be the favorite in an always competitive district.

Robert Boyd  (2017)
Robert Boyd (2017)

Mitchell should be pretty good once again but not the overpowering favorite as they have been in the past. They lost their leading scorer last year as well as several key players who stepped it up late in the season. Tyran Davis, a 5’11 guard will be their go to for leadership and points as he comes back to a team that will truly need him this year. 6’5 Tominique Marion will also be called upon for more this year particularly on the offensive end, rebounding and as a player who can protect the basket. Their will be a lot of new faces to this team including a few transfers however the quicker they adapt to Coach Andre Turner’s system will be big in deciding how far they go this season.

Tominique Marion
Tominique Marion 6’5 2017 (Mitchell High)

The Kirby Cougars are interesting because they have a lot of talent but a few fresh faces to Cheyenne Gibson’s team. Darius Carter, Shemar Chambers and Nick Jackson will likely be starters along with Desmond Johnson who some say is one of more underrated guards in the state. Johnson can score with the best of them and as he goes, they go. Carter is a bouncy combo who will be good for double figures virtually every game and lead them on  some nights. There is no reason to think that this team can’t be right there with a shot to win the district. Houston was without Ryan Boyce when I saw them and that was big because of what he brings to them but they do have a lot to go around him. Expect to see a lot more of Takori Rooks this year along with guard Kavious Newsome. Freshmen Rodney Mason Jr and Jaylen Saulsberry could see time as well.

Shemar Chambers Kirby High School (Blue Jersey)
Shemar Chambers Kirby High School (Blue Jersey)

Central will be long and could have a Whitehaven like year last year this season, meaning being the second team in district but I still think that White Station could have a say in that as well. Brandon Mason, Jordan Johnson, John Anderson, Latrell Carter and 6’7 Karl Johnson are all back from last season, older, stronger and knowing what to expect every night. The leader must be identified and it’s Johnson’s job to lose. This has a chance to be a good team late in the season but early on they have to also establish a number 2 guy.  Bartlett might be sneaky to play but losing their 2 best guards to transfer will hurt them. I like the job that Coach Real is doing there, his players are buying in. Sophomore Jeff Walker should be who he can count for production in tough games. Melrose also got hit with the transfer bug as their best player from last season left for the north side of town but Coach Jones is ready for the challenge for this upcoming. They beat Mitchell on the first night and he said, “we have somethings to work on but we getting there” Shajuan Jones and Ahmad Webster will anchor them and they have a 6’8 and 6’4 so they should be in games but the question for the Golden Wildcats is, can they improve on last year?

Germantown will be young and rebuilding after losing 10 plus seniors last year but do have 6’7 Demarcus Mitchell.  City University has a pretty good guard in TD Bonds and Hamilton has talent in Martell Brooks and Kevon McMahon but needs someone else to step up and play with them this year. PCA (Power Center Academy) is a program still building but has some young guys who will get better this year and Craigmont, is Craigmont, tough, scrappy and will press you into turnovers. This is not going to be a team that you wanna play as the season progresses.

In all, a great weekend of basketball, another successful GBC Lock In but most all, a look into the the high school basketball season.

“Summer16″ Team Camps (What We Learned)

 

 

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What We Learned This Summer (Team Camps)

1.East is the team to beat in Tripe A, No question about it however it’s a group that will be new in some aspects because but also have the familiarity that prompted them to a state title last season. They are the biggest team in the city bar none, talented with 2-3 guys in some spots.  Keys for them, establishing roles for Martrell Brooks, Kevon Mcmahan and Antavion” Dude” Mccollom and getting Alex Lomax back to 100 percent. They also have to get Malcolm Dandridge back to playing how he was at the beginning of the season last year before having to sit a few games.  Saw some this weekend that Chandler Lawson will play a lot more on the wing this year than last which will be a new look to them as well.

  1. Whitehaven will be pretty good once again and be in contention with East in 16AAA. Reasons why? Coach Faragi Phillips is a good coach who knows to get the most from his players, that’s 1. Number 2, lots of guards to help in creating turnovers off the press, so essentially, lots of guard depth. Number 3, the addition of Rashad Williams will help tremendously, he’s a good scorer off the mid-range jumper and should be the guy they have to count on to score along with Kameron Jones. Jones is a long 6’6 who will likely lead them in scoring this year and rebounding. They lost a lot last year in Hill, Hamlet and Fofana, replacing them will be hard.  If they can get one more to step up like Marquavious Lobbins and another post to rebound and take pressure off Jones, the Tigers will be right there with East.
  1. Kirby is a scary team because they have 2 guards that can get 20 any night, Desmond Johnson and Darius Carter. The 6’0 guard had prepped at Woodale for 3 years but from all indication, he’s headed to Kirby to form a great duo with Johnson. Desmond has been called the best guard in the city by some and if the summer is any indication, expect a huge senior season for him. I can see him being a 20 plus point scorer nightly. Transfer Nick Jackson will also help out with energy on the glass and Dontrell Sanders will help with scoring when Johnson and Carter’s shots are not falling. Is this the year we give Kirby a chance of winning district?
  1. How many freshmen will have impacts this year? Marcellus Brigham? Matthew Murrell? Cameron Matthews? Rodney Mason Jr? The biggest impact I believe will come from  Caleb London, who might start this year at MUS. He had a 29 point game this past weekend and looked very comfortable doing so. The 6’3 bouncy 2 guard has a bright future for the Owls and a move up in the rankings in 2020 is inevitable. I also expect Cameron Matthews to make the second biggest impact on his high school team next year along with Matthew Murrell and maybe, Marcellus Brigham of Briarcrest but there will be a sleeper or 2 to come out of no where as freshmen. Watch out for Delvin White, Cat Moore and Jaylin Lucas.
  1. Who will have the best freshmen class in the city? Most of the time, it’s a Triple A school or city school however this year, Briarcrest Christian has that locked up with 3 of my top 10 players in the 2020 including Omari Thomas, Marcellus Brigham and Reggie Neely which will make for an exciting future for the Saints. Maybe they can get back to the days of Leslie McDonald with that young group.
  1. Graduation has hit a lot of teams hard and the effects will be seen immediately at the start of the next season. Arlington lost Nate Hoover to Wofford, Jalen Fisher was Mr Everything at Bolton for 4 years and now, he’s at TCU among others. Arlington will now rely heavily on Garret Golday, a 6’5 2018 post, Luke Wiseman and Ray Price. Bolton will struggle some early on and could struggle all season if they don’t find someone to score. Germantown must rely on a young core of 10th and 11th graders and 6’7 senior, Demarcus Mitchell. He will have to lead a team that lost 13 seniors last year, a team that lost more than anyone in the city. Right now, it looks like Houston, Southwind or Southwind Houston, whichever you prefer, then Kirby; it’s up to them how much that order changes. Houston will be pretty good again but graduation hit them with body blow as well losing 6 of their top 9 players.  6’5 Ryan Boyce has turned into one of the top 10 players in the city, 6’6  Bruce Guy is worker around the rim and Takori Rooks will be put in the rotation and might be a starter. Kavious Newsome will have to play well this season as he will be vital to their success.
  1. Will Douglass is a top 3-5 player in the city in 2017 without a doubt. With Isaiah Stokes rumored to be leaving the city for prep, whether he left or not, Douglass would have had a spot but now, it’s cemented. So when you making your top 5, don’t forget about him and he could be number 1.
  1. Along with CBHS, expect Lausanne to be pretty good this year in private school. They didn’t lose a summer game and were without Jessie Neloms at MUS and Eric Gray. It’s still an extremely young team and even with some defections, this team is still formidable led by Ashton Smith, (10th) Sky Forrest, (10th) Kobe Jeffries (10th) and 6’4 James Babb and Camren Taylor both seniors who won a state titles as a freshmen. The three guards above will be important for Lausanne and might determine how far they go. MUS will be solid with Zach Street, John McBride, Luke Wilfong and Josh Gray. Don’t forget about Trey Davis at St. Benedict, he’s one of the best guards in the city.
  1. Who is going to challenge Mitchell this year? Judging from the summer, my best guess would be MAHS and Booker T Washington. BTW has a nice front line with Tyrone Sumlin and Ethan Jones but at the guard position, that’s when the edge goes significantly to the state champions. MAHS has nice size, Demetrius Morrow, a few 6’3 6’4, a 6’7,  Brandon Streeter and a host of other players who will help however until then, Mitchell is the favorite again in the city in Single A.
  1. Transfers happen every year and this year is no different. East has 3 in what will bolster an already great team. However there will be more and I know of 1 that is for certain that will be big in 16AAA and possibly 2 that could shake up a spot in that district.

 

 

 

MUS Summer Classic Provides Look Into 2016-2017 Season

 

Will Douglas Made His Name Known This Weekend (Pictured W/Ball)
Will Douglas Made His Name Known This Weekend (Pictured W/Ball)

 

Team camp month has come to an end after what I think is the best event during the month of June for high schools, the MUS Summer Classic . 20 plus high schools every year, great competition and most of all, a chance to take a look into the upcoming high school basketball season. Of course, some teams don’t have their whole compliment of players for whatever reasons, whether some kids are deciding to transfer, family vacations, working jobs or not playing because they saving themselves for the pivotal month of July for evaluation period that’s so important especially for sophomores and juniors. Sometimes though, events like this can make people get a high sense of hope depending of who they played through out the event but any who, let’s take a look who I thought were the best 5 teams at the Mus Summer Classic. Before I do that though, let me say this, this is by no means, who might start out as Top 5 teams in the city on my end as a team or 2 who could be in the discussion didn’t not play in the classic. So with that being said, let’s start the show.

1. Brentwood Academy (Nashville Tn) 6-0 – First, I wouldn’t normally do this, put a team from outside of the area in this discussion because well they not from here but the reason I’m doing so now is because, they came in and put everyone on notice, they are the team to beat not only in their classification but in the entire state at least until further notice. Reason why, well there are many but it’s starts with D and D, Darius Garland. He might be the best guard in the state and I know there are a lot of talented guards, 1 here who didn’t play over the weekend due to injury however, Garland particularly against East looked as good as any I’ve seen in the state. Handle on a string, poise, confidence, runs the show but still finds ways to score when he has to. They are very well coached by former a coach who many should remember in Memphis, Hubie Smith who was the helm of Bartlett at one time. Garland isn’t their only player though as they have several players who can hurt you in Jeremiah Oatsvall who is also one of the state’s best quarterbacks and a player who played on the national championship team coached by the late Desmond Merriwether a few years back. Cameron Johnson is a all state wide receiver who was once a top 30 player in the country in basketball as a youngster and Gavin Schoenwald, who was considered the number player in the country by many before a young man named Marvin Bagley came along and took over the crown 4 years ago. Did I mention that Johnson, Schoenwald and Garland have been playing together for 5 years or more so talk about continuity and cohesiveness and it’s them for sure. I’m not saying they can’t be beat but I think it’s safe to go ahead book for room for the state if your a Brenwood fan.

2. East High School (5-1) Took one loss to the team above in a great game on Friday night but make no mistake about it, the road to the state goes through the defending state champions once again. This a group that is definitely a little different though in terms of players than last year. I know what’s probably going through your head if your reading this, they have the same team and they have a lot of same pieces however, 3 of those pieces are new this year. Martrell Brooks and Kevon Mcmahon are new along with 6’6 Dude Mccollum. They must replace their two defensive stalwarts from last season, Courtney Carter and Teddrick McGhee and Kevon I think can do that along with Brooks who maybe than both players from last year  offensively. Mccollum brings versatility, length, scoring and rebounding and of course their main core is back for this year. Gatorade Player of the Year, Mr Basketball and Best Of The Preps player of the Year Alex Lomax didn’t play this weekend and was missed particularly in that game against Brentwood because of his defensive ability. TJ Moss, looked pretty good at times, hitting the 3 and showed the ability to play on the ball as the lead guard on occasions as well. Chandler Lawson was the subject of conversation a few weeks back about whether he would return or possibly prep school it at Oak Hill or IMG Academy but this weekend, he was with his team and showing why he’s one of the elite player in the country in 2019. Malcolm Dandridge, 6’8 improved game by game, at times looks like one of the better bigs in the city at that says a lot because he’s only a sophomore. His progression is key this year as he will play a lot beside senior Rodarius Washington, who cleans everything up on the glass and can be another ball handler when needed. Senior Nick Merriwether will be another player asked to give them quality minutes. Senior TK Smith didn’t play due to illness but will be counted on heavily once again as a primary guy off the bench for the Mustangs.  East is once again, the favorites to come out of Memphis but everyone is gunning to knock them off and they will have to be on their A game every night but I expect that from a Penny Hardaway coached team.

3. Christian Brothers High School (4-2) Played both Brentwood and East really close and was up 7-8 in both games in the 3rd and it wasn’t by default, they deserved to be up in those games and probably should have won. Memphis, let me introduce you to Will Douglass if you don’t know about him already. He’s arguably the best prospect in the class and it shouldn’t be a debate. 6’4 long, best on ball guy in the city of defense, great instincts playing passing lanes, scoring it more with confidence I haven’t seen, hitting the 3, Douglass did it all this week. He had 36 against Brentwood and almost beat them by his self, that’s just how well he played that game as I think it was his coming out party if you were there in attendance. When you mention Blake Williams, DJ Jackson, Chase Hayden, make sure you mention his as well in that top tier. 6’0 Ryan Schweitzer is as pure a  set shooter as you will see in the area off the spot up and is a lefty who will lead them in scoring on some nights along with Jacob Lyons, a strong 4-5, who can put it on the floor or play with his back to the basket and score it. Ben Spence, 6’6, will also be very valuable to his team as he seems to be their glue type, can handle some.They have seen their nemesis the last two season once already (Brentwood) so they know what to expect if they didn’t already but they are probably the best threat to beat them in the state on the private school side.

4.White Station High School (5-1) Only loss over the weekend was to Fayette Ware from a source on a controversial call that led to a 4 point loss but other than that, White Station was pretty good all weekend. A year old with a good group mixed with seniors and juniors, the Spartans will be in the mix in 16AAA this year and they will be there because of Aaron Strother, a 6’2 guard who can play bigger than his height and provide scoring, Adam Price who’s one of the better shooters in the city, 6’3 Michael Watkins, Braxton Winford and 6’2 Allen Hatchett who hit seven 3 pointers in the game against Fayette Ware showing improved outside jumper. He works as hard as anyone in the city on his game and it will pay dividends for him this year. Price is another player who I think can be among the best seniors in the city with his shooting.  Keep an eye on White Station this year.

5. Bartlett High School (5-1) No one really talked about them much this weekend but they quietly went into Saturday undefeated before losing to White Station in the evening game. Coach Real is quietly doing a good job and what they lack in size, they make up for in good guards  with Carlos Sandifer who had a 25 point game over the weekend, sophomore Jeff Walker who’s one of the better players in 2019 and senior Jalen Reed, a 6’1 who could be pretty good for Bartlett this year. Quentin Williams who was used a lot last year maybe counted on this year as well to score this year but they do have a few options that they can go to because of their guard depth. Questions about size will be persist but this is a team that can scare top teams.  Can this be the year that Bartlett makes a lot of noise in 14AAA? With Cordova on that side, not sure but you know, anything is possible in Memphis, night in night out.

Now that I’ve talked about teams, let’s look at the top 10 players from the event in my opinion. I have to say this, this is not a rankings list, just a list of player that I thought were the best players that I saw over the weekend.

1. Darius Garland 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Regarded as top guard in the state, did little to make people dispute it.

2. TJ Moss 6’4 (East High 2018) Top 3-5 scorer in Memphis

3. Will Douglass 6’4 (Christian Brothers High 2017) You can make a case now that he’s the best player in this class in Memphis.

4. Chandler Lawson 6’9 ( East High 2019) The most unique player in the state

5.Ryan Boyce 6’5 ( Houston High 2018) Was a little bothered by injured back but showed enough to make him appear here.

6. Desmond Johnson 5’11 (Kirby High 2017) Expect big numbers this year, leading candidate to lead city in scoring.

7. Jeremiah Oatsvall 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2017) Shot maker, tough, heady player.

8. Cameron Johnson 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Athletic finisher, good mid range game.

9. Taeylr Gatlin 6’2 (Brighton High 2018) Big lead guard, great passer, excellent in transition with his vision.

10.Parker Stewart (Union City) Best shooter maybe in the state

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What Happens Now Memphis?

 

coachlawson

 

The University of Memphis finds itself in a bit of an awkward premise and it’s making national noise through social media and websites around the country. Here is what most know who have followed the story,  Memphis has a new coach in Tubby Smith, formerly of Texas Tech who was brought in after Josh Pastner left for the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.  Questions started to fly around town, who’s going to be on staff and will Coach Smith keep assistant coach Keelon Lawson on staff.  You know Keelon, he’s the father of players Dedric and KJ Lawson, 2019 top 10 player in the country, Chandler Lawson and 2021 Johnathan Lawson who will be a top 10-20 player in the country, already in the top 10 by one national site. The table started to be set by Tubby who hired Pooh Williamson, who’s been with him for years and Joe Esposito who worked under him as well at Texas Tech.  With those two being added, one spot remained, who would be the third assistant? Well according to several media sources, it wouldn’t be Coach Lawson and this is where we stand now.

Coach Lawson, who’s been at the University of Memphis for 2 years met with Coach Smith and it was apparent that Coach Smith wasn’t to fond of the idea of him as the third assistant. Which is what I thought would happen honestly when I first heard Tubby coming to Memphis , old school, 60 plus year old coach, ” You guys will not tell me who I can hire type of guy. He didn’t know Coach Lawson, probably honestly never heard of him or the 4 Lawson offspring so why would I keep him but just wait, this is where it heats up. Dedric Lawson is your best player, he will be your best player next season, he averaged 16 and 9 as a supposed to be senior in high school. He averaged 20 and 10 in the AAC tournament before losing to UCONN in the championship game and he took his name out of the draft immediately after Coach Smith committed to the program. Well just a few days ago, he put his name back in to test the waters and it started, why would Dedric do this? It’s apparent, that something has happened right?

I think there was a little bit of behind the back kind of done in secret meetings, hey guys, I’m gonna do things my way, you guys hired me, I’m not keeping Keelon, okay how about this Tubby, let’s see if we can get Coach Lawson off the bench and into another role like player development.  Well, that won’t work because the NCAA rules say that you can’t hire a guy who has ties to a player just to get him and it’s a 2 year time frame and KJ and Dedric are just in that first year so that wouldn’t work. So, how about this, maybe we can get a waiver, yeah that’s the ticket but talk to Keelon and see if he will go for it. Problem is, Keelon didn’t go for it, he’s smarter than what they thought and he felt played to an extent. So much for that plan and besides that, that waiver thing, not happening because it would go against what the rule was put into place for.  Now you have a Coach in Lawson who was told to kind of keep the guys together when the administration was looking for the new guy and  was also told that he would be okay as an assistant irregardless of who comes in. Maybe that was contingent upon a younger guy coming in who kind of knows how things are done and not a 65 year old who lives by my way or the high way mentality but it was the kind that he University hired.

Keelon is leveraging his kids, Keelon is a pimp, Keelon doesn’t the deserve the job, he’s under qualified for it and Dedric and KJ aren’t that good any way, let them leave. Those are the things I’ve heard the most.  Well, let me tackle a few of those and this is something that I’ve pondered doing a few days because some may think, hey man, you to close to this and maybe I am but I have to give my opinion on it. I remember last year around this time, it was all good, people were really excited about Keelon and the boys and now you are calling Keelon a pimp? Now, let’s get rid of Keelon, screw em, don’t need em? Same fan base begged Josh to get it done and he did, Keelon did what he promised and delivered both sons as the third assistant, a McDonald’s All American and a top 50 in the country.  If he’s not hired on by Coach Smith, why would the sons stay? What did you really think would happen? Ah, don’t worry about it, you guys go ahead and stay but that’s fantasy land and that ain’t how it works. If you say your going to do something and then go back on, there will be some backlash and this is it. Keelon doesn’t deserve the job? What are his qualifications? There have been 2 high school basketball coaches to go undefeated in Tennessee High School Basketball history, one is the legendary Verties Sails, the other, I will let you take a stab at it, I’m sure you can figure it out. In his household, there are a total of 5 High School state titles, 9 AAU/Travel ball national championships and over 20 years of coaching experience on his resume. Who do you think is at the head of all that? His name, Keelon Lawson.

He’s not just a guy, basketball has been his whole life and he has college degree for those who might be wondering.  This is what bothers me about people, most don’t know any of what I said in the previous paragraph, most probably think, he just a big dumb guy with good kids but there is a reason they are good and it all points at him.  If you just could see the  the hours of work put in by him over the years and for those who know him, you wouldn’t be so eager to put him in the “daddy needs the money” category . That’s insulting to him and his sons and part of the reason why I sometimes wished that all 3 were not apart of the Memphis program from the start.

I understand the culture that surrounds the city when it comes to basketball. I understand the under tones of you not supposed to get or have that type of position which most will say I’m tripping about but well, it’s true.  I understand that everyone wasn’t happy for him when the job was given to him 2 years ago. I know how people can be concerning the Tigers, if they are good, everyone is Tiger blue, if you lose, them dudes suck and that’s pretty must the gist of it or am I wrong?  Don’t take this from Coach Lawson, he holding the program hostage, stand your ground right Tubby? This is another thing that’s coming from this, KJ Lawson is some what of an after thought and people think that he can’t play because of what they last season which was 50 percent version of himself. He didn’t have any lift on his foot which had been giving him some problems for awhile but he tried to play through it and it resulted in, KJ is a serviceable player, he wasn’t good when he played tweets and post on social media. He’s since had surgery on his foot, that’s kind of what happens when you try to give it a go but you really not 100 percent but you playing anyway. People don’t see you at full potential and think your just mediocre  player even though you were  a top 30 guy all the way up until you committed to the University of Memphis.

Now that it’s all come out, the University of Memphis is trying to sort of save face by saying well, we thought he would be okay with just a job but if that was the case, why did you already have a  waiver from the NCAA in mind before you asked him about another position on staff?  Coach Lawson was pretty straight up years ago and has always been that however the same was not done to him. Maybe it put Tubby in a weird spot and he’s still on the I’m doing it my way tip but one thing Coach Smith, this is Memphis, your grace period won’t be long. You would lose your 2 top scorers from the previous year and have to fill 5-7 roster spots instead of 4-5.  So what’s happens now? Does Tubby give in and say, Coach Lawson your my 3rd guy for this year or does he say, Coach it’s been real? Does he go ahead and make the hire of Saul, his son who played under him at Kentucky? What’s kind of funny, he’s trying to replace the father of kids with his son who played for him, kind of ironic. What guys are the new assistants going to bring in that are better than the two that you will lose? Based on track record and Tubby not having a NBA guy on his rosters in 8 years, I would say that the odds of them bringing in a stud this late are slim to none. People here like 4 stars and up players and the 2 stars that Tubby new staff is accustomed to getting, that won’t fly in Memphis. There are some on both sides of this, saying he would be making a mistake by not doing the deal and some saying, let him leave, question is, who you listening to because while they are praising your moral stand now, they will screaming for your head if you don’t win. With all that’s happened,  how do you know that Coach Lawson,  Dedric and KJ stay regardless of whether they offer the job or not because of everything that occurred in the last few days? Their father and family name as been ran into the ground and the patriarch has been vilified as Pimp of The Year locally. Don’t think that they haven’t heard and seen what’s been written about their father and them as well so it makes it bad on bot sides. The weight of the scrutiny is a lot especially with a personal issue that’s been affecting the family since last week. With all of this being said, the ball is in Tubby’s hands and it’s up to him and as the old saying going, let your next move be your best move.

East And Mitchell Bring State Titles!!!!

East Becomes State Leader In Titles With 7
East Becomes State Leader In Titles With 7

Do It For Dez, Do It For Ms Shaw, those were this year’s mantra for East High’s Basketball team and as you know by now, that was done on yesterday.  For those who may not know the story,  Binghampton legend and former coach of Lester and East died on last year after a long battle with cancer followed by Sharon Shaw. Shaw, the grandmother of Alex Lomax and loyal member of the community and team mom, suddenly during the summer. The season was dedicated to both and it came to pass as East defeated a good Cordova team, 64-60 reaching number 7 and taking over the state as the leader in titles in Triple A and it’s second title in 4 years but it wasn’t easy, not at all.

Up 36-21 after a great half by reserve junior TK Smith who scored 9 points along with TJ Moss who was good early, and holding one of the state’s best scorers to just 3 at the break, East was feeling good about their chances. They pushed the lead up to 18 after a Rodarius Washington steal under the goal produced a lay up plus the foul, it looked like it might have turned into a route in the 4th but that’s not what was on his mind of the WolfPack. Cordova went on a 17-3 run capped by an awaken Tyler Harris who’s Curry (Stephen) pretty behind the back move and rise with the deep 3 moved them closer, 58-53 late in the 4th. East had to make free throws down the stretch and after a missed free throw by Lomax, Cordova still had a chance to tie but they couldn’t get the 3 try to go down and Lomax was fouled again. Lomax was would go on to make 4 free ones and freshman Chandler Lawson was fouled with 18 seconds left where he made both. All year, the Mustangs didn’t fold in the final moments and it held true on Saturday for a 64-60 win a state title. “I’ve given enough speeches man, I just want to enjoy this” said Coach Rocky Johnson who brought the team down last year and came a game away from state. Penny Hardaway, who Coach Dez asked to come in and be coach years ago at Lester added, “All the hard work, it’s led to this, I’m really proud of you guys, I know Dez and Ms. Sharon looking down on us and they smiling, everybody get they fingers up, one time for D-MAC” Do it For Dez and Ms Sharon, now has turned into Did it for them both. Congratulations East, Triple A state Champs.

 

L-R (TJ Moss, Alex Lomax, Rodarius Washington, Chandler Lawson) All underclassmen
L-R (TJ Moss, Alex Lomax, Rodarius Washington, Chandler Lawson) All underclassmen

 

Mitchell Gets The 3 Peat!!!

 

Mitchell Throwing Up The 3 peat!!!
Mitchell Throwing Up The 3 peat!!!

 

It wasn’t pretty, both teams didn’t shoot it that well from the floor, it was a low scoring affair but it was the end that first year head coach Andre Turner wanted, a state title, his first at the helm and Mitchell’s 3rd state title in a row. The team’s had played each other 3 times before Saturday with Booker T Washington beating them for the city and district and Mitchell beating them in the regional and again on Saturday. I thought earlier, Mitchell just looked like they wanted the game more and late in the game it showed as well. I thought Coach Turner did a great job of it not being a track meet, his team was patient on offense and they leaned on state MVP Tevin Ollison who scored a game high 27 points. Ollison was the best guard in the tournament in Single A easily in my opinion and his college options should be flowing even more now. Mitchell got contributions all tournament long from who they relied on the entire season including Tyran Davis, Ladarius Lee and Tominique Marion, all who were named all tournament.  50-40 was the final, how sweet it is for the Tigers, 3 in a row, can they make it 4 next year? I wouldn’t bet against Andre Turner and his Mitchell Tigers next season.

 

Tevin Ollison (MVP)
Tevin Ollison (MVP)

 

Also, congratulations to Cordova and Booker T Washington on their year as well. Cordova honestly, I could see making another run back here next year. Tyler Harris, Blake Williams and Rod Brown will all return next year but replacing Jalen Dupree will be very hard. The Murray State commit is load inside and replacing his production might be a 2-3 person job. Coach Terrance Scales after the game said, “All year, all we heard about was East and Germantown, we wanted to prove that we belonged and we did that” For Booker T Washingotn, rebuilding will be even harder for them, they will lose a bulk of their scoring in senior guards Chauncey Blakely who is underrated in the city and Tyree Beason, their shooter but Tyrone Sumlin and Ethan Jones will return, both over 6’5. Booker T Washington always seems to come up with guards so it may not be a huge problem but losing guards of that caliber will be really hard to replace.