The 2018 version of the National Hoopfest will go down this weekend starting Friday in Olive Branch with 2 games followed by 6 games on Saturday at White Station High School. There will be 2 games on the first day with Raleigh Egypt taking Huntingdon Prep and the headline game right after, Olive Branch vs Memphis East.
Here are 3 things to watch for on Friday and Saturday at the Penny Hardaway National Hoopfest.
Darius Garland Is The Real Deal In Memphis, it’s Alex Lomax, Tyler Harris, Mark Freeman but national rankings suggest that Darius Garland is the best point guard of them all. Ranked as the 11th best player in the country, Garland is as fun to watch as anyone nationally regardless of class. He has vision, ball like a yo yo in hand, the pull up game and what he was known before before he hit the growth spurt, the 3 ball. He plays like the new age point guards of today but he can play the facilitate role as well. Young point guards in Memphis, if you have a chance to watch him on Saturday, I suggest you watch how a high major point guard looks this weekend.
The Talent Will Be Plentiful There will be a lot of future division 1 players in this event representing their respective classes. When Sunrise Christian comes up, most mention N’Faly Diante first and for good reason. The 6’11 10th grader is ranked among the top 10-15 players in the country in this class but he has a lot teammates with a lot of ability. Malik Hall, a 6’5 guard who played with the Mississippi Express (EYBL) has a Kansas offer, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri just to name a few. He’s a scorer at all 3 levels. Austin Crowley, a 6’5 guard who transferred this season is a Mississippi native and holds offers from Ole Miss and Alabama. Huntingdon Prep doesn’t just have top 20 6’8 wing Jaemyn Brakefield who has been blowing up lately, they also have Quinn Slazinski, a 6’8 who holds a Unviversity of California offer, Marvin Price, a 6’4 guard and a top 20 freshman in the country,6’7 Johnathan Kuminga. Johnathan McGriff is a flashy small guard who plays an exciting brand of basketball from the point guard position for them and he’s in the 2019 class.
Simeon doesn’t have anyone the caliber of a Jabari Parker who prepped their years ago but Talen Horton Tucker is pretty good. The 6’5 big guard committed to Iowa State a few months ago and played pretty well against East 2 weeks ago at the City Of Palms. East beat them 70-60 but the game was much closer and source told me that they maybe better than University School who gave them their first loss.They are a top 20 team for a reason nationally. We also can’t forget about the local talent of Tyler Harris who’s averaging an other worldly 30 plus points a game, DJ Jeffries who is a top 5-10 player in the country in 2019 and teammate Joe Cooper of the Conquistadors who holds several offers. Those who haven’t seen East will get their chance with their roster which features the #1 player in the country by ESPN, James Wiseman, top 25 in ’19, Chandler Lawson, 2x Mr.Basketball and Wichia State commit Alex Lomax and UAB 6’5 wing, Ryan Boyce. 6’9 Malcolm Dandridge is another top 60 player in one of the strongest junior glasses that Memphis has seen in a long time. Paul VI has 2 really good guards in Brandon Slater who has committed to Villanova and another really good sophomore in this event, Jeremy Roach, a 6’2 guard who is ranked 14th by ESPN and holds offers from Texas, Maryland, Miami and Villanova.
Interesting Match-Ups Best thing about events like these, it gives fans a chance to see there favorite high school teams against some of the better teams across the country. Hungtingdon vs Whitehaven comes to mind. I’m looking forward to seeing Cameron Jones go head to head with Jameyn Brakefield and seeing 6’2 Matthew Murrell and Marvin Price go at it. Chicago is know to produce tough gritty guards and that game with Hamilton is going to be full of just that on both sides. Darius Garland vs Jeremy Roach should be a nice pairing of two of the elite guards in the country. Even looking at the Olive Branch and East game, there was a lot of talk about that during the summer and how close the game was when they scrimmaged at Olive Branch. That game has the energy of real game and tomorrow, it will be just that, real.
Remember, this event begins tomorrow at Olive Branch, first game is at 6 followed by the last game of the evening which will be at 730 pm. Games move to White Station on Saturday and start at 12:00.
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