The 6th Annual 901PrepScoop All Star Games will be held Sunday, February 19th at Lausanne Collegiate School at 1381 W.Massey Rd, Memphis TN, 38120. The games will begin a showcase 5th grade game, followed by the all star contest. These games has featured several players who have went on the play college basketball including Darrell Brown Jr (Bradley), Jaylen Fisher (TCU), Dedric Lawson (University of Memphis) and several players who are still tearing it up on the high school level as sophomores, juniors and seniors including Tesia Thompson (Hamilton) and Dontrecia Johnson (Whitehaven). This year is no different with talent on the boys side with players like Jalen Brown, Johnathan Lawson, Aldon Applewhite, Calvin Jennings , Kennedy Chandler, Deebo Coleman and Zander Yates. I could keep going but it would take me another 2 paragraphs to talk about all the talent in this game but the girls aren’t slacking in that department either. Sequoia Allmond, 6’4 Dionna Reed, Amaya Mull, Schilling Farms’s Destiny Todd, the Taylor twins at Arlington and many many more. This year’s 8th grade girls class might be one of the best in years with what looks like at least 10 division 1 caliber players in the future.
There will be some Mississippi flavor in this year’s game as well with Olive Branch’s Amya Black, Desoto Central’s Rachel Hightower and playing in the boys game, Kaiden Laws from Center Hill. This is the first year that I’ve ever had kids from out of the area in the game and they bring immense talent to the event.
Their are a total of 3 games on Sunday with the Memphis Wildcats playing Memphis United showcasing two of the area’s best team’s in the 5th grade at 2:00 pm. Then at 3, the All Star Games begin with the girls tipping it and followed by the boys at 4:30. The event is $6.00 dollar for the boys and girls all star games. Come see the future of Memphis high school basketball!!!
1. Bellevue Middle (3-0) Test are on the way with the MLK tournament fast approaching but I don’t see any problems on the horizon for them this week. It’s easy right now but it could be a problem next week when competition gets stiffer in tournament play but I think they will be up to task.
2. White Station Middle (4-0) Was tempted by this team and I still am to put them at #1 heading into the King tournament. Played closer than expected games twice last week against league foes so they have to be careful to overlook anyone as a easy win in their area.
3. Schilling Farms Middle (6-0) Best team on the municipal side right now with their last win coming over Bon Lin last week. They are the best team that no one hardly talks about locally in Middle School but with an undefeated record, maybe it’s time to start.
4. Briarcrest Christian (2-0) Won 44-32 over FACS on Friday in the Harding Tip Off Classic and will play again on tomorrow night. 6’5 Zander Yates is one of the best bigs in Middle School.
5. Hickory Ridge Middle (4-0) Another team that’s doing it’s job under the radar. Be on the look out for this team in the MLK.
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.
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.
Kirby is a scary team because they have 2 guards that can get 20 any night, Desmond Johnson andDarius 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2016 NBA post season is finally here after a year in where the NBA regular season seemed like it took forever to end. Golden State broke the league record for wins with 73 surpassing the 95-96 Bulls and putting themselves in the history books. How do you feel honestly about that? Lots of questions were asked in the last few weeks, some to former players, coaches and each said great things about this year’s Warriors. Charles Barkley said that the Bulls of that year would kill the little Warriors, Scottie Pippen said that they would have swept the Warriors in 4 in a series. Some slick shade but today’s game is different than in the mid and early 90’s. The game has evolved a lot, some good some bad but I think the league is definitely softer but that’s another article in itself. One question for you to think about though, Who’s your favorite out of the East? Who’s your favorite out of the West?
I think Golden State’s road is tougher than in the East because of 2 teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder are led by the best duo in the league in my opinion, regardless of what you may feel about Russell Westbrook, he’s a savage, averaging 23 ppg and 10 assist and has a league high 16 triple doubles on the season. That’s second to only Michael Jordan for Triple Doubles in a season who had 17 of them in the 88-89 season. The knock on him used to be that he didn’t pass enough to Kevin Durant, well, what say you now? If it wasn’t for Curry’s year in Golden State, he would probably be right there as a league’s MVP. His teammate I mentioned, arguably the best scorer in the league, the 6’9, even though we know he’s taller than that Durant, oh, he’s just putting in 28 a night. They are going to cause a lot of problems for teams as evidenced by their thrashing of Dallas yesterday by 30 plus. The Spurs are well, the Spurs, model of consistency for years and this year is no different. It’s the same cast with a splash of youthfulness and one of the best young players in the league in Kawhi Leonard.
67-15 on the year but yet people have kinda of forgotten about them because of the year that the Warriors have had. I think they give the Warriors the toughest out of anyone in the West in a 7 game series because they are veterans, PDG (Parker, Duncan Ginobli) have been there, done that, 5 titles with Popovich as the head and maybe the best coach as a strategist guy in the league. I just have a feeling that they haven’t showed it all to Golden State and Pop might pull out a trick or two when both teams meet up. I do have the Spurs meeting them eventually though, what did you think I would take the Grizzlies over them? I think Aldridge will be more involved if both teams play because there is a clear advantage there for them because the Warriors like to play small ball and it works for them but it can hinder them defensively. I think this is Duncan’s last go around but he’s not going to make it all about himself like someone I know, I think he will be huge in that series when they play. Sorry Clippers, Chris Paul is great but nothing they have done in recent memory makes me think they will do anything this year. Memphis, too many injuries, not enough scoring, my dad had a 10 day with them this year, sad but that’s how the Grizzlies year has been. Portland, no deals, Houston has James Harden but outside of him, who else, Dwight Howard, who hasn’t been good since he left Orlando?
I know Steph Curry is that dude right now, averaged 30 on the year, Klay Thompon is the second best shooter in the league behind his teammate averaging 22 ppg on 42 percent shooting from 3 which is absurd but Curry was 46 percent, that’s even more absurd. Most guys don’t even shoot over 42 percent from 2 but you two guys on your team shooting the cover off it nightly. Curry is of another planet, something we haven’t seen before, on the break 2 on 1, he shooting the 3, in half court, guys hanging on him, he’s still taking and making. Sometimes, it looks like he’s playing against high school kids, making guys fall with his handle, dabbing doing whatever he wants, that’s how good he’s looked this season and this off last year where they won a title. They have other guys who can hurt you as well with Draymond Green who led them in rebounding, Andrew Bogut and player who doesn’t get a lot of credit, Shawn Livington who kills with his post-up game from the guard position. Andre Iguodala is another versatile guy who defends multiple spots and can make shots. I just have this feeling about San Antonio, it’s like they turn it on every other year and I love Popovich and the games that he plays within the game The Spurs will need a big time playoff series from Danny Green another veteran and David West who always seems to play big in the playoffs. This is what he was brought to the Spurs for, now it’s time to see it. If they can’t get key contributions, the Warriors will handle them but I like the Spurs chances and I pick them to come out of the West.
In the East, I think it’s the Cavaliers coming out because I can’t see anyone beating them in a 7 game series in their conference. I know the Raptors are good with Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan, Detroit is a tough team with the best rebounder in the league in Andre Drummond a guy who could be an all-star, Reggie Jackson. The Hawks, Celtics and Hornets all had the same record at 48-34 this year but to me, the Miami Heat are their biggest opposition. I think star power this time of the year is where it’s at and Miami has a future first ballot hall of famer in Dwayne Wade. All those teams I mentioned have good players, a few of them all stars in their own right but how many of them are on Wade’s level? Can take a game over, even at his age, through all the miles and bumps on those legs, Wade is still Wade and very capable. He’s stayed injury free for the most part so we know he’s fresher than he has been in the past at this time of the year which is a great for Miami. Joe Johnson was a nice pick up when he chose the Heat over the Cavs, at a time when they needed after Chris Bosh went down. Not having Bosh isn’t what fans envisioned but Johnson has been a welcomed sight and Hassan Whiteside has continued to get better and better. He’s the best shot blocker in the league and improving offensively but he has mentor help in Amare Stoudemire and a good young shooter from the University of Tennessee, Josh Richardson. Goran Dragic was a fringe all-star with the Suns and is kind of underrated among point guards in the world’s best league. I would love to say a Wade Lebron match-up, his old stomping grounds, where he won his first two titles and going at it with his guy in the Eastern Conference finals would be epic.
Remember that star power thing I was telling you about? The takeover type guys, the reason I give Cleveland the nod out East, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. I know most reading, probably don’t like Lebron but to some, still the best player in the game, different from Curry but results nonetheless, you can’t deny. 25 a night, 6 assist and 7 boards a night are great numbers but ho hum numbers for him and his impact is over looked by most because he’s been doing numbers for years. Kyrie Irving is one of the best scoring point guards I’ve seen, off the jumper, step back, the 3, floater game, everything is at his disposal. He had 31 today and Kevin Love, the forgotten amigo had 28 and 13 today as all 3 combined for 81 points and 24 rebounds. Tristan Thompson is great rebounder especially on the offensive glass, JR Smith was third in the league in 3 point makes and they have good role guys who do their jobs in Mozgov who’s been down from last year but solid still, Richard Jefferson and Matthew Delladova. Mo Williams and Iman Shumphert will also contribute to, defensively and offensively at some point if both can stay healthy. The one thing that bothers me about Cleveland though, their outside shooting, it’s not great but good and in the playoffs, that can get you beat. Not saying they are going to win the title but I do think, this is your team out of Eastern Conference.
Don’t ask me whose winning, I haven’t made up my mind yet but I guess I will get into that in the coming days and when I do, I will tell you my reasons why.
When looking at a player and what their upside maybe like, one has to think about a few things. Physical attributes like length, size, skill set, athleticism are just a few that come to mind. In some, you may just get two of those, athleticism and length, some you just get the athleticism but their is one in 2018 that could end up being the total package, his name, Rod Brown. The 2018 product and Cordova High player is oozing with potential to become a high major 3 and make a name not only locally but nationally when it all said and done. Athletically, he maybe unmatched by anyone in the city with the maybe the exception of 1 or 2 maybe, Brown gets high on his jumper, a good mid range jump shooter and capable off the dribble who can get his shot over anyone. He’s explosive to the rim where’s he a finisher strong, plays above the rim at all times and a good rebounder. He can take a hit at the basket and finish because of his strong body and has great body control.
He can score in a lot of ways, over the top of you, through you or around you but he’s still a work in progress on offense. In transition, he maybe at this best where he can show off the bounce with lobs at the rim and get the rebound and go Defensively, he a good shot blocker, catching shots on the way up, strong enough to hold his position against bigger strong players and nimble enough to guard some shooting guards. As I mentioned, he’s still a bit raw offensively at this stage as his ball handling needs to improve some and extend his range to the 3. I would also love to see him be a little more aggressive offensively as with his physical gifts, somethings could come easier to him than most. He has a good motor but increased a level, his stock will go higher. It’s vital for him to be able to handle the ball some this summer and have the ability to work in space with the ball in hand or next year as upside and potential must meet production soon but he’s got everything you can want in a what could be a high major player in the years to come.
1. Cameron Matthews SF 6’4 (TGAND) Physical tools with size to match, Matthews is right now the best prospect in this class locally. Matthews is a 3-4 right now but looks to have a future as 2-3. Mismatch type where can take bigger defenders put on him off the dribble to the rim or post a smaller defender when the chance is given for easy opportunities. Has gotten bigger it seems over the last few months which does nothing but add to upside as a he could become a dominate scorer with increased motor. He rebounds it and doesn’t need to find a guard as he can bring it up, find an open teammate or create the jumper for his self which it looks like he had worked on as well. His athleticism has increased drastically as he is dunking it with ease and now is a player who can play over the rim on a regular basis. Physically imposing but has touch on the jumper he also a player who can become a big time finisher at the rim in the future. He’s a versatile defender right now as he can play the 3-4 and some 5 because of his strong body and could maybe guard some guards at this stage. Still would love to see him get even more assertive with his offense and add the post game to his arsenal as well. As the jumper gets better, it will open everything up to him especially when he’s knocking down the 3 on a regular basis. Lateral quickness might be concern but as he matures, he will become more explosive and his ceiling could rise even more.There is a lot to like about him right now and he has a chance to become a player people begin to take notice of nationally with a big spring and summer
2. Matthew Murrell CG 6’1 (TGAND) Quietly is becoming a player that will make you know his name and it’s easy to see why. He’s has become bouncy, quicker, confidence has increased to the level where he is becoming a scorer on a more consistent basis as he had to take over that role more this year in Middle School. He doesn’t try to force the issue much and will take whatever the defense gives him whether it’s the jumper through the 3 or mid range which he is knocking down now or tot he rim where he finishes with both hands. Right now, he’s more of a combo guard but he could become a pg because he sees the floor well, gets off the ball quick in transition and shows the signs of running a team because of leadership qualities. Never seems to high or low and looks like he enjoys playing the game. As I’ve said about him in the past, the more his confidence grows, the better player he becomes and it looks like it’s happening before our eyes.
3. Tayson Parker CG 5’10 (Team Thad) Some say he’s the best player in this class and the talent is there definitely. I really love his athleticism and people now know about it evidenced by a video floating showing him throwing it down on the break in playoff game for his home school. More of a scorer than anything else right, Parker’s eventual level could be decided by what position some see him as if he doesn’t continue to grow. I’m not sure anyone can touch him right now as a leaper in this class but some are catching up just in the last few months alone. Parker will be a name around a lot now and maybe it’s time to see if he can become a name nationally with his play. Athleticism is premium but so is position especially at his size but a very very talented young guy with a nice future.
4. Omari Thomas PF/C 6’3 ( Team Thad) The best big in Middle School this past season and while some could make the claim for others, Thomas was the focal point his teams offense. He was simply dominate at times off the catch and finish around the rim or in the post with his footwork and low post scoring ability. He possesses really soft hands and touch and can step out and hit the perimeter jumper and while it wasn’t shown a lot, he definitely has that ability. He has a good feel when he catches it low and where the double is coming from and is good passer from the post. Big body and knows how to use it, once he seals you, it’s pretty much foul or finish for him right now. Good rebounder, he might be better offensive board player than defensively because of the space that he eats up inside. Growth in length will be key for him if he is to remain here or lower but his production is high right now and it can’t be overlooked.
5. Marcellus Brigham SG/SF 6’4 (Team Thad) Really talented scorer with big time ability and maybe the most upside of anyone in this class Looks like a classic scoring 2 in the making utilizing the floater and the mid range pull up or the 3, Brigham score it in a lot of of ways. He could be a good defender as well if the desire and want picks up but as a young player, I kind of expect that to come and go at times. Consistency as a shooter from the 3 will lift him more as right now he’s more of a 15 foot shot maker but because of length, he can get that whenever he wants. Plays with a smoothness to his game that’s oozes high major ability and if the killer attitude develops, he goes to the next level. Would love to see him add the post game as well which would increase his production as well.
6. Rodney Mason Jr SF/PF ( Team Thad) The best player on a championship team at St George and he had an outstanding season. Played a lot more on the wing this year than I had seen in year’s past and looked more like he’s adjusting to being there more full time. He has tools you love, size, strength, improving skill set and the look of 6’6 if he continues to keep growing. Kind of still in the inbetween stages of becoming a 3 full time but that’s okay because of his ability to playing the 4 right now and be a problem offensively. Athleticism is increasing however, he’s not playing above the rim quite yet but I expect that to change soon for him if he keeps working hard. Handle is getting better but full time at the 3 will still require more work this summer. Ultimately, how hard he works individually could decide if he’s an “elite” level player and thought of across the country in this talented class.
7.Jaylin Lucas WF 6’3 (??) Strongly built 3-4 man near the rim, really made a name this year and threw himself here with the best players in the class. Tough to guard because his ability to overpower his defenders, he is difficult cover because his physical attributes and ability to hit the jumper. Plays with an aggression and will attack his man off the dribble with pull ups over the top or attack the rim and is a rebounder in traffic and doesn’t quit on plays and can start and finish a break. Needs to tighten handle like in Middle School if he wants to continue that progression to perimeter because he might end up being a big 2 guard or risk becoming that classic “tweener” without added length.
8. Reggie Neely 5’9 PG (Team Thad) Best guard that you may not know much about, Neely is a name you need to remember. Solid to the rim and with the jumper, Neely can play both guard spots right now but as I said in an earlier ranking of this class, is more so a scorer by nature. Shoots it well from 3 but maybe at his best to the basket on drives down hill and is a good decision maker with the ball in hands. Pretty good IQ, plays well off the ball and puts himself in position to score or make a positive play. I think the aggressive nature might be in him, question is, how long before it comes fully out.
9. Isaiah Cathey 5’10 PG (TGAND) Point guard on state championship winning team, Cathey’s best comparison to someone maybe Alex Lomax of East, just slightly bigger at the same age. Plays with a good pace at the lead spot, gets into the lane not with primarily quickness but more savvy and smarts and body. Can be creative with the pass and more of a pass first but is capable offensively when the need is there. Needs to keep refining he jumper to make when teams may lay off of him and be able to hurt teams off the jumper at the free throw line once a defender decides to stop the drive.
10. Caleb London 6’2 SG/WF (Memphis Magic Elite) To talented to take out of the top 10 altogether because I know how talented he is among this class. This spring/summer is big for him to play well among this age group with his slashing and athletic ability.
11. Issac Smith 6’3 SG/SG (Team Thad) Played along side Mason at St George and was in some games, their leading scorer. Has good upside, length, can get hot from the 3 line and put together games where he can hit 3-5. Can be another ball handler and option defensively against opposing wings and 4 men. Would love to see him rebound more from his position and get to the rim to more him more versatile as a scorer in the future.
12.Cedric Davis 6’4 PF (Memphis Magic Elite) Big body 4 with nimble feet and a soft touch around the rim. Has good motor. Raw offensively really but can score with his back to the basket with the over the left shoulder baby hook and really runs the floor well for a player his size. Davis along with Thomas are two of the bigger players in this class in Memphis.
13.Cameron Howard 6’2 SG (Memphis Magic Elite) Built to score, Howard is looking to do one thing, as I said, score. Always on the attack, Howard can score it from all 3 levels so you have to pay attention to him but what makes him pretty good can also be his downfall as sometimes his shot selection may not be ideal. When going though, he is as tough a cover as any guard in the city in this class.
14. Rodney Newsome Jr 6’3 PF/C (Team Thad) Among the best big men in the city, Newsome, is a little different from Davis and Thomas. Mainly because he sometimes plays up at the high post where he can turn face and hit the mid range jumper on the regular and it’s not uncommon for him to linger out to the 3 line and knock one down every so often. He has really good hands, can play with his back to the basket and put it on the floor some. He might end up being one that chooses a football in the future.
15. Joshua Stinson 5’7 PG (??) Scoring point guard that can get hot and put up numbers in bunches. Stinson can make it happen at the rim but at this point, he’s more score score than a creator for others. He put one of the best performances of the seasons up against American Way in the championship game and almost willed his team into a win. Like so many guards at that stature, the evolution into becoming a point guard will be key for his development going forward.
I love my city, I’ve been to a lot of places in my lifetime but Memphis has some of the nicest people in the country. I might be a little bias however, if your a native Memphian and been to other states/cities, sometimes there is a little difference like in just speaking and saying how you doing. I love my city because of it’s personality, it’s like each part has it’s own way of thinking. I love Memphis because of the heritage, the music, the soul food, the barbecue and did I mention the barbecue, sorry St. Louis and anywhere else, Memphis is King when it comes to that. Of course, the basketball is top notch, we have some of the best players in the country here. Year in, year out, we can compete with anyone with the best 5 from Memphis in any class but one thing, just one thing is always present and it’s something that is prevalent through out, the Memphis Way, the mentality.
What do I mean by this? The culture of Memphis basketball has changed drastically throughout the years but I just call it the Memphis Way. Let me explain this in the best way I know how to without trying to be harsh but if it comes off this way, then maybe you might be a part of the problem. Where do I start, in other cities, good players are celebrated, in Memphis, there is a “he ain’t that good sentiment” A lot goes on behind the scenes that many people don’t know about. I’ve seen coaches and refs hanging out together at restaurants on several occasions at least once or twice a year.
I see vitriol and venom directed at kids that’s unlike any that I’ve seen other places. In the last two summers, I’ve been to 10 plus states, I haven’t yet encountered a place that treats young kids the way that players are treated here. I’ve been to tournaments all over and most teams will cheer for other teams from their hometown if they are in championship games of whatever events they are at. I’ve seen with my own eyes, other teams from the city cheering for other teams when they play the Memphis teams in Travel/AAU/Exposure events. Again, this happens and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in other places but in Atlanta, I’ve seen the GA Stars root for the Atlanta Xpress if they were playing the Birmingham Ballers but here, oh no and it’s not all teams but we don’t want to see you all win and we not playing, we are going to root against you. Parents talk down on kids during games, they say things that no one should say when it comes to kids but it happens and it filters down to the kids playing which creates a hostile environment almost on site when certain teams play one another. An atmosphere of negativity that goes on and on and sometimes, well most times, carry to the summer.
After a recent game, and I will not say the coach that I was told this by but he said that after all over, a local official who is well known in the city asked him, why didn’t this player perform for you tonight? This is supposed to be an official who presides over games but after, a statement is made like this. To me, that sounded like this, why didn’t super player get it done for you, he supposed to be good right? Again, keep in mind that this is an official and he was talking about a middle school player. This is not a referee bashing article, most do a good jobs, some good, some bad, but I’m telling you about what goes on in the basketball community in Memphis.
Lots of telling or what’s called snitching goes on here and it’s becoming more and more poplar year in and year out. Last year, was the first time, I’ve ever seen a team give up a season, right before a city title game. I’ve been watching Middle School basketball almost 10 years, I’ve never ever seen that until last year. Sign of the times, most definitely in my opinion. There is a lot of jealousy here, lots of I don’t want to see you do well, let’s pull you down a notch to get your head out the clouds. Lots of summer stuff has trickled down into middle school basketball and even into high school, the us versus them thing. Maybe it’s always been like that but again, I’ve been in this awhile and the level that’s it’s on now, is unbelievable. Once friends, used to be on teams when they were younger, now are enemies because of basketball. Why is this? Is there something deeper behind it?
In Part 2 of the look into Memphis basketball culture in the coming days, I will take a look at the “Us vs Them” syndrome radiates throughout the city. The coaches and influential people in basketball here that have their hands on the infrastructure of the basketball scene, the division among travel organizations and how that negatively affects fall basketball and if u could change one thing about Memphis basketball, what would it be? Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen.
We are down to 8, let’s take a look at the games today and my predictions on the outcomes of each.
MAM Elite 8 Match Ups
A Maceo Walker vs Briarcrest Middle – This is an interesting game because the point guards involved, Antwan Smith and Kennedy Chandler. The 2021 guard is coming off a 16 point performance but for those who think it’s just him, his two teammates, combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds against Germantown (Neely, Parks). Briarcrest will have to get off to a good start against a bigger and more seasoned A Maceo who has been in battles this year including one against #1 Bellevue. Key matchups will be I think with the lead guards and turnovers but if Neely has a strong game because he is capable then this game could go towards Briarcrest but I think A Maceo will win it behind Smith and his ability to get to his spot and score with his quickness and speed in the open court. Grizz Center 7:00pm
American Way Middle vs Hickory Ridge Middle – In an earlier game in the season, it was Hickory Ridge with the blow out win over American Way in the MLK but American Way did play without 3 of its starters for 3 quarters but HR capitalized off it and that’s what they were supposed to do. Now the attention is on today, the rematch as I saw some on Facebook calling it and I think both teams will come to play. The Eagles are led by a talented group at the height of it, Johnathan Lawson who injured his finger on yesterday; will it come into play today? Jaylen Sanders leads Hickory Ridge and a group that plays really hard defensively. Will they double Lawson? If so, things open up for Jalen Brown and Marquan Dean? American Way has tendency to start slow and if they do and Hickory Ridge is making shots early, they will find themselves in trouble. This might be a physical tough game but I think American Way pulls it out. Grizz Center 8:00pm
White Station Middle vs St George– Maybe the most intriguing game of the evening and one that I’ve been looking forward to since the schedule of the MAM came out. Why is this game one to watch, well for starters, Rodney Mason Jr is playing against his former team where he was at as a 6th grader. So there is familiarity on both sides but I’m sure he will be looking to show them what they have missed. With 24 points yesterday, I think he will be even more locked in today and come out very aggressive early and often. Issac Smith will be another player for White Station to contend with at 6’3 6’4 with the ability to hit the 3, drive and rebound and Nick Floyd, a fundamentally sound player who is really steady at pg and doesn’t turn it over much from what I’ve seen but also can score some so you can’t leave him defensively. White Station can counter with Amauri Abner, Wille Foreman and Aldon Applewhite and all 3 will need to be in double figures on tonight. They must also be careful, both teams of not getting into foul trouble and White Station will need to cut down on 3s taken because they will lead to lay ups. Unforced turnovers will be key as well as the Spartans have to take care of the ball. Both teams will have to but I’m more concerned with White Station because their best handler is Abner as I think Applewhite is more comfortable off the ball. This will be tight game with some emotion in it so both teams need to be careful of that but I like St George in this game. Streets 7:00pm
Bon Lin vs Snowden Middle – Both teams survived last night in close games (combined 5 points) and now face each other with Bon Lin’s undefeated record on the line. Snowden I believe will be their toughest test of the season and Bon Lin will have to play very well to beat them but even with that said, Bon Lin has really showed a lot of resiliency this season. Lots of close games but they have always found a way to win. Can they do it tonight in their toughest challenge? My answer is I don’t think so. I think Snowden schedule has prepared them for this and it will advance them into the final four. Streets 8:00pm
1. Bellevue Middle School (3-0) KIPP today, Treadwell tomorrow, not seeing a real challenge this week, so I’m going to assume they finish the week out at 5-0.
2. Cordova Middle School (3-0) Big one today against what is becoming some what of a rivalry, White Station. The Spartans are coming off a nice first week and bursting with confidence while Cordova is also undefeated and let me say this, at home for this game. Not saying it can’t happen but let’s just say, Cordova is hard to beat on their floor. Might be the best game of the week. Look for Alfred White to have big game.
3. White Station Middle School (3-0) Going into the “ice box” as Cordova fans call it, just another week in Area 1, the toughest division of Middle School basketball in the city. Need big games from Foreman and Dyer to neutralize Cordova’s outstanding guard play. If they can do it, they could be boosted to the #1 team in the city.
4. American Way Middle School (3-0) Got up big on Briarcrest thanks to Johnathan Lawson’s 25 points including 17 in the first half but they ended the game kind of sloppily. With no games this week, look for them to try to fix some kinks before they play Havenview next Monday and then on the road to White Station.
5. St George’s (1-0) Really was impressed with them on Saturday in the Elite Middle School Invitational as they beat a good Kate Bond team by double digits and looked impressive doing it. Their trio of Mason, Smith and Nick Floyd maybe as good as any and Mason and Smith combined for 43 points with Smith finishing with 27 points for the biggest scoring output of anyone on Saturday. Doing that, he put himself on the radar and a player I will be sure to monitor in 2020.
6.A Maceo Walker Middle School (3-0) Geeter at Geeter and on the road for Lanier (W.E.B. Dubois). I think both will be wins.
7. Highland Oaks Middle School (3-0) In what might be the second best division in Middle School (Area 3) Highland Oaks will be challenged and almost by every team in the division and tomorrow, they are at Germantown..
8. Bon Lin Middle School (4-0) Schilling Farms today at Schilling Farms, might be upset alert but this team is rolling early.
9. Briarcrest Christian Middle School (0-1) Lost to #4 American Way but have new to the rankings St George’s on Wednesday at Briarcrest. Can they beat suddenly nice looking Gryphon team?
10. Germantown Middle School (0-1) Had starters missing in an anticipated game last week against White Station, damper but reasons why, integrity and for good reason. At home against Highland Oaks might be a good game to go watch for those wanting to see both teams.
1. TJ Moss 6’4 SG/PG East High School – Wired to score, Moss made a name and a big one on the circuit this summer with Team Penny garnering a spot in the ESPN top 20 for freshmen in the country. The slender guard gets it done with myriad of ways to score, the 3, the pull up 15 footer, to the rim as a slasher but as really improved as a 3 ball maker over the last year. He can finish with fouls, create off the dribble I think he’s an underrated passer in that mode and can play some lead guard if need be but is at heart a scorer. Capable of big scoring outputs whenever he’s on the floor, just really knows what to do when it to put points on the board. He keeps defenders off balance because he’s versatile scoring it but I would love to see him rebound a little bit more at that big guard position and continue to be a playmaker for others as he can be when engaged. Love his ability as player who isn’t afraid to take a big shot as I saw him make a few game winners this summer. There is no denying TJ as a player who has a chance to a HM player.
2. Tyler Harris 5’10 PG/SG – Cordova High School – Tyler has always been among the best players in his class and it hasn’t changed. Known primarily as a shooter, Harris is now showing some creator in him for his teammates as a passer but you know what Harris is, one of the best shooters in the country and isn’t up for debate. Loves hesitation pull up at the top but can make shots from every spot on the floor and has really good handle that gives him the ability to rise up over and get that shot he wants including the floater which also uses well. Always under control and confident, he’s a big time gamer and up for the challenge against anyone. This year, he will be asked to be pg, not a traditional pg but he can play that spot and play it well, question is, that that take away from what he does best which is score but he must be in that role to keep from being labeled a small 2 guard. I think he’s in for a big year and one that might thrust him into the conversation as the best player in the class locally.
3. Ryan Boyce 6’5 SF – Houston High School – Bouncy athletic 3-4 who really gets off the floor and is one of the more gifted guys in the area with his ability to play over the rim. Boyce is a quick jumping, mid range maker who is a bit undersized for where he plays but he’s highly effective. He’s really active around the glass and is great in transition and shows some ability as a ball handler although he will need to work hard to be able to be on the perimeter full time which he still has time. Really love his attitude on the floor, comes across quiet but is tenacious as a player and will not shy away from contact.
4. Alex Lomax 5’10 PG – East High School Maybe the best pure point guard in the city but just to be in debate as a 10th grader says a lot about “ALO” The strong bodied leader, runs the shows, is vocal, a trait which point guards need, he can make the open 3, get middle to kick out for shots for his teammates, is a high level defender but is at his best as a passer and guy who can thrive in open court as a decision maker or play the half court game. Exudes a level of confidence, that you don’t see in players going into their sophomore year. He won’t try to do to much that he can’t do but to become an even bigger college prospect, the ability to hit that jumper consistently will be key which he has worked on improving off the pull up. Not overly quick or athletic but Lomax is a get it done player who you would love to have on your team and someone you would hate to play against because of his competitiveness. He is a classic East High guard, tough and a winner.
5. Mark Freeman 5’10 PG – Southwind High School – Him and Alo are little similar, Freeman is quick on quick, good with the ball in hands as a passer, a really good on the ball guy on defense, a constantly getting better offensive player who can’t leave for the jumper. He is a player who you can count on night in night out to be productive at the point guard spot and Mark is really coach-able and will do what’s asked of him. Not really a score first type which bodes well for him long term but will have to show like some other guards, that he can hurt you offensively as well. Freeman works hard so that shouldn’t be a problem and he will be player who will play at the D-1 level when he’s done with high school. Really had a nice finish to the summer, particularly in Vegas where he gained a lot of attention of schools including Alabama. Southwind has there leader for the next 3 years and a good one in Freeman.