They say if you want to beat the best, you have to play the best and that was true for the first 2 years of Penny Hardaway’s regime at East. They were the hunters he said in a recent interview and now they have become the hunted. The #1 team in the country has looked every bit like the team that many feared coming into the season especially the last few games. Now, they are on a collision course with some of the country’s best teams starting today with an always loaded City of Palms field.
Last year, the Mustangs lost to Montverde w/RJ Barrett and others in the championship game but this year, the Florida based team decided to skip it for the Iolani Classic in Hawaii. East will play against Lakewood Ranch at 5:15 Florida time and 4:15 CST time for the Memphis area. It’s a game that they shouldn’t have to much trouble with but that’s when it’s gets interesting.
Thursday, they could face an Oak Ridge teams that features a top 25 player in Emmitt Willams who came over from IMG last year, former Memphis target, Antwaan Jones and Damon Harge who at one time was one of the bigger names in youth basketball. In the elite 8 game, they could see Wesleyan Christian with 2 Virginia Tech commits, Keyshaun and Kobe Langley, Jaylen Hoard a Wake Forrest commit and Aaron Wiggins, a Maryland signee. Simeon with Talen Horton who committed to Iowa State and Orlando Christian with Nassir Little who will be Tarheel next year at Carolina and future Buffalo pg, Ronald Segu will also be standing in the way of East . So if your counting, that’s 10 division 1 commits, 2 top 25 players in their respective classes and one top 5 player in the country by Rivals (Little)
I didn’t even mention the other side of the bracket, that’s just their side and players who they could face. The other side includes a top 10 junior in the country, Cole Anthony (Archbishop), 7’1 Moses Brown, a senior who’s top 20 in the country by everyone, 6’8 Trendon Watford, ( Mountainbrook HS-#10 ESPN), and Vernon Carey, a 6’11 PF/C ( University School-#1 by Rivals in 2019 and #2 by ESPN). Scottie Barnes a 6’7 wing ( University School Top 10 by Rivals and Scout) and Louis King, a top 25 who will be attending Oregon next year(Hudson Catholic) are both dynamic offensively and capable 20 point scorers . Catholic also has one of the best point guards in the country in Jahvon Quinerly, a former Arizona commit who is back on the market now and Luther Muhammad who will attend Ohio State. Those 3 players have been playing together since 6th grade that I know of so they have great chemistry.
So again, if you’re counting hopefully you realize by now that this tournament is loaded with studs, that’s 14 high major division 1 players on that side. For East, this will be their biggest test yet and while they have a had a few so far, this will be the hardest test to date. Keys for them will be their experience having played in it last year, they kind of know what to expect and they must rely on the heels of their leaders. I think their bench might determine a game there, which one, I don’t know but I can guarantee, it will be needed in a game there.
Alex Lomax has been as good as he’s ever been the last 2 games racking up assist numbers, getting in the lane at will and getting his team involved and that will need to continue. Wiseman and Chandler Lawson will be matched up with some heavy hitters but the position they must win every game there is that pg position. Malcolm Dandridge must continue his play as of late. Come out from the jump aggressive and play to his strengths. He must be aggressive on the boards in opportunities to score close through tip dunks, put backs and over the shoulder. Ryan Boyce has been knocking the 3 down at a good clip, he must continue to thrive in catch shoot opportunities but also use his athleticism on the glass as well.
The chance to do something special starts for them in a few hours but it’s also a chance to put the stamp on their #1 status for those who may not believe in them nationally just yet.
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
First, let me say this, thank you all for making the Top 10 Point Guard list such a widely discussed topic! I heard some of everyone talking about it, some good, some bad as expected but never the less, the discussions were abound. Now, on to my next list, the top 10 shooting guards in the city and once again, I say one again, THIS IS NOT RANKING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. This is a list of who I think are the top 10 shooting guards in the city in my opinion. Last list (point guards) I had to constantly repeat that but this time once again, I’ve put it out as just a list. A time for ranking them will come but this is for now only a list. I present to you, the top 10 shooting guards in Memphis, regardless of class.
1. Romero Hill 2016 (Hamilton H.S.) Hill was key cog on Hamilton’s state winning team this year with his shooting from 3 and improved mid range game as well as getting to the rim and finishing. Not the most athletic or flashy but he gets the job done and is a great on the ball defender at either guard positon.
2.Kavion Stewart 6’4 (Cordova H.S.) Slasher to the rim, hit nice growth spurt over the last year or so to almost 6’4, I think Stewart is one of the best unknown prospects in the city Improved so much as a player, shooting the 3 with consistency will make him have that much more value as college prospect next year.
3.TJ Moss 6’4 (East H.S.) Probably can play some point too but Moss can score with the best of them. He shot the 3 ball well this year and he flourished in transitions opportunities late. As his confidence grew, his production increased and I look for that to continue next season.
4.Justin Benton 6’3 (Houston H.S.) Athletically, might be unmatched on this list, Benton gets it done with the lift he has on his jumper and ability to make the mid jumper with consistency and create it as well.
5.Mikell Norment 6’2 (Fayette Ware H.S.) Just saw him on Saturday hit 7-3 pointers and in a game a few weeks ago, he hit 8 in a game. Gets it up quick off the catch, might be along with Nate Hoover the best catch and shoot player in the state of Tennessee.
6.Tevin Ollison 6’3 (Mitchell H.S.) Had some big outburst on a team that featured some really good guard play and next year, he gets a chance to show the city a player that will averaged over 20 points a game next year. Really good 3 shooter, can shoot it with little space and has athleticism that you may not think he has. He’s really intriguing as a player and definitely a player to watch next year.
7. Nate Hoover 6’3 ( Arlington H.S.) Best shooter in Memphis but has taken to task what people have said about him, he doesn’t drive to the rim and he’s really become a player who can score on all 3 levels and do it well but his best attribute, the 3. Had 18 and 19 points over the weekend in the Under Armour Association league.
8.Tyler Harris 5’10 (Ridgeway H.S.) A 2 guard in a pg body, Harris is knock down shooter, lethal off the spot up but can create space and get his, Harris has the ability to score from all over the floor. As he becomes more of creator and facilitator, I see him being on the pg list next year but Tyler scores so well, it’s hard to leave him off the this list.
9.Camren Taylor 6’2 (Lausanne H.S.) Came back off a knee injury and had a year where he was named to the Best of the Preps by the Commerical Appeal. Very capable off the pull up, off the dribble and spotting up, Taylor is a capable scorer.
10.Nate Vaughn 6’4 (Memphis Metro) Averaged over 30 points a game this year, should be enough to make you know who he is. Oh, he didn’t play against the best however, for player to average 30 points, it’s very impressive!!
Other players to consider for this list: Michael Bamrick (Germantown H.S.) Tecorrian Smith (Melrose) Tyree Beason (BTW) Parrish Hewitt (Melrose)
Once again, this not a true RANKING but a list of players who I think are the best 2 guards in Memphis. If you have others that you think make a case for the list, don’t hesitate to discuss on Disqus here on the front of the site. It’s under the bottom of each article and it’s easy to sign in as most have Facebook accounts. You can access Disqus by just signing in through facebook and letting the conversation begin underneath the article.