The name is legendary and what he meant to the city at a time when basketball brought people together, stands on it’s on. Larry Finch was a symbol of Memphis basketball and you couldn’t talk the sport without his name in the 70, 80s or 90s. His name still resonates when you talk basketball and those who still revere him as the face of the sport in Memphis and now to go with that, the first annual Larry Finch Classic.
The first ever event will pair some local talent along with a national power in Findlay Prep who will be traveling from Nevada for the event. The classic features Mitchell High School coached by one Coach Finch’s former player, Andre Turner and in the headline game, another one of his former players, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway (East High School). Holly Springs will take on Tigers while East get’s USA today’s number 1 team in the country, Findlay Prep.
Mitchell has a good pair of guards in Michael and Mikell Rice and 6’7 twins Deante and Devante Logwood. They will want to get up and done at a good pace but will have a tall task in dealing with Murray State commit, Daquan Smith. The 6’2 dynamic guard can really score the basketball from anywhere on the floor. This will be the 6:00 pm game
In the main event at 7:30, there will be a few things to watch. For one, it’s the homecoming of TJ Moss, a 6’4 guard who playing his high school basketball at East for 3 years but decided to transfer to Findlay Prep for his senior season. I’m sure it will be different for him playing for another school in his hometown but one that will be interesting as well for fans. Secondly and it probably could have been the first story line, 7’3 Bol Bol will be in the Pilot uniform after transferring from Mater Dei in California just over a week ago . If you don’t know who Bol Bol is…
Now with that being said, Bol is easily a top 5 player in the country in 2018 and yesterday, he committed to Oregon and you have a chance to see him in action Saturday. He is one of the most unique players you will find in the country. Another reason you want to see to East and Findlay Prep, 7’3 Connor Vanover who is a University of Memphis commit. For Memphis fans, this might be the only chance you get to see him before he hits the Bluff City next season. For those counting, they have 2 players over 7′ ft tall and they could easily throw both out at the same time in the line up.
Findlay Prep also has a host of other division 1 commits for next year including Kyler Edwards who is heading to Texas Tech, 6’3 pg Jamie Lewis who may or may not play (Wake Forrest), Reggie Chaney, a 6’8 4 man who committed to Arkansas, and Jack Schweitz, another division 1 commit. 6’9 Nathan Mensah is also playing as well and brother of PJ Washington (Kentucky) Spencer Washington who is a 6’7 forward.
East will have a different looking team considering what could have been when they were picked pre-season as the #1 team in the country by Max Preps however, still the city’s best team overall and a very formidable one on the national level. Mr.Basketball and Wichita State signee Alex Lomax, 6’8 Chandler Lawson, 6’9 Malcolm Dandridge, top 10 freshman in the country Johnathan Lawson, a 6’6 guard and 6’4 Jalen Brown, another one of the country’s best freshmen will anchor this team this season. Expect for this game to be excitement from start to finish with story lines to boot.
Don’t miss out on what promises to be a memorable event. For more information, please contact 901 600-6136.
When it comes to the summer, really how much can you tell when it comes to high school basketball? June kind of gives you a small look into what could be for the next high school basketball season as teams get together for team camps and look for something to build on before November comes around.
It’s also a good chance to see the always plentiful transfers because let’s face reality, it happens here and it happens a lot. Good or bad but always interesting, there were a lot and a few will be able to help their respective teams in some way. Some will be starters, some will be valuable role guys and some might become the ” go to” types on their new teams. It’s also a great time to see where the the 2021 class of freshmen could end up but let me say this, just because you saw them there, doesn’t mean that they stay there. I saw a few kids who played for one high school in one team camp, play for another in the last team camp (MUS. That goes for transfers as well because until you are enrolled in that school, then there is a chance that that player ends up at another school or at his original school.
Now, let’s take a look at somethings I learned over the course of June and give an early look into the city’s top 5 schools for the 2017-2018 season.
1. There has been a lot of talk about East and deservedly so.They ended the year last season ranked in the top 10 in the country by most and while they will lose some valuable contributors in Jay Hardaway, Pig Washington and Nick Merriwether, East is in position to maybe be better than last years. They added one of the top 5 players in the city in 2018 in 6’5 Ryan Boyce who adds unmatched athleticism and scoring to them and 3 of the areas top 5 freshmen in 6’6 Johnathan Lawson, 6’3 Jalen Brown and 5’8 Kennedy Chandler and Tadarius Jacobs, another really 2021. 4 starters return for them in Lomax, Lawson, Moss and Malcolm Dandridge and a sometime starter last year, Dude Collum might be their 5th starter. Their veterans will carry the load and bring the young freshmen along with Dee Merriwether, James Dejesus who could start for a lot of teams here, Isaiah Cathey and 6’4 George Bee who will be in the rotation. There a lot of rumors flying about James Wiseman being at one their games last week and he was there however, there hasn’t been a transfer on his part. Could it happen? That remains to be seen but regardless if that happens or not, this team has a chance to do something similar to last season and end it with something special late in the year.
2. The 2021 class was out in full effect during the team camps which is always fun to see. The adjustment from middle school to high school can be rough for some and this was a chance to get their feet wet so to speak with a chance to play against juniors and sophomores. It’s in essence, starting back over but most I think will have good transitions although it might take until December January before they get comfortable. As mentioned earlier Johnathan Lawson, Jalen Brown, Kennedy Chandler and Tadarius Jacobs are all at East. That’s 4 of the areas top 10 freshmen but where did everyone else land?
Willie Foreman 6’4 White Station- Might be a starter for the Spartans this year. Didn’t look intimidated at all in the times I saw him. Will play in the best district in TN so he will grow up fast.
Alden Applewhite 6’5 Lausanne– Gives last year state champs another ball handler with length and ability to shoot the 3. Like former middle school teammate, he has a chance to start the season off in the first 5.
Davon Barnes White Station– Will see some minutes this year and get a lot of time this year to make young mistakes. Not really talked about a lot in this class but the 6’2 Barnes is a sleeper.
Zander Yates Briarcrest-Might be closer to 6’8 now, Yates should see a lot of time this year for the Saints. Besides the value that he adds on the glass, Yates can also score with his back to the basket.
Jelani Willis 6’0 FACS– With FACS losing 8 seniors last season, Willis will play and play a lot. Question is, will that be sooner or later as he also shines on the football field.
Kaeden Laws Center Hill- Had some good moments for his high school team. Might play some 3 for them in spots as he is looking to expand his game to the perimeter some.
Kameron Jones ECS- Coach Tippett’s group looks pretty set at guard spot so finding minutes might be hard to come by for the point guard. Jones shooting ability could land him on the floor at some point of the year though.
Reese McMullen CBHS– Another name that’s not mentioned among the elite in this class but McMullen might play a lot of minutes this year for the Purple Wave. Can play both guard spots and be a scorer.
Bryson Potts- Houston- With all the transfers from Houston, Potts might be forced into the show quickly but it could help him adjust quickly in 15AAA.
Jace Lockhart- Arlington-Really solid guard, good defensively on ball, good fit for him with the Tigers and might have an opportunity for some playing time there.
Other 2021 players include, Brennan Jones- ECS, Eddie Buxton- Lausanne, Rod Seals- Cordova, Tyler Harrington- Briarcrest Christian, Tristen Jones- TN Prep
3. Ah, the aforementioned transfers and there have been a lot of them. At one school, it seemed like the entire team left with the exception of one or two players. Bartlett was able to snap a few from the 15AAA school putting them in the running as a favorite in 14 Triple A. Takori Rooks and Rodney Mason will probably be starters for them and on for Kirby, Coach Spears got a good guard in Jaylen Saulsberry, a good size lead guard who might lead them in scoring next season. Brandon Brown who last year played at Overton is now heading to White Station where he could form a nice duo with Allen Hatchett and have them in the running for a nice finish in district. Brown is a 6’3 6’4 big guard who can get you a bucket and improving jump shooter. He led Overton in scoring last year and is the type of pick up that White Station was used to getting in the past.
The Harding Lion got two of the biggest pick ups in the city in the Howard Brothers, Luke and Anthony. Both from Canada, Luke is a 6’9 who can put it on the deck and finish with both hands, shoot the 3 and rebound A part of the 2019 class, Howard could have a say in the top 10 by season’s end. His brother is a 2020 6’6 forward who has to get used to the different style of play than he’s accustomed to and the physicality of Memphis but he’s skilled enough that he will be able to be on the floor this year for Harding. Luke’s transfer could have the most impact of anyone this year especially on the private school side. Brandon Mason is also heading to Ridgeway to be a Roadrunner to form a nice trio of guard with Antwan Beans and Antonio Thomas. 6’6 Mark Johnson will help at Southwind and add a long forward who can help inside with Kameron Jones who will have to help pick up scoring slack after the departure of CJ Marshall.
4. What schools will be in contention with East to be in state next season? Looking at it, kind of hard to say right now but I guess I would say Southwind and Ridgeway for starters. Maybe Bartlett in 14AAA or maybe even Arlington who also has 2-3 starters back and the return of Tate Kolwyck to the basketball court who is stand out at quarterback. For those who remember, Kolwyck can play and will definitely help this year. Whitehaven I think will be pretty good but state run, not sure but remember the name of Matthew Murrell, he will take a huge step this year for Coach Phillips. Only a sophomore, Murrell has big time athleticism and can score in bunches and looks more like a D-1 player every time you see him. Can Coach Real’s Bartlett team make a run this year? They have some pieces and a steady guard in Jeff Walker to help lead this year. With their transfers and guards, Wynne Brown and Sylvester Thompson, Bartlett can have a say in who wins that district and beyond.
5. Can Lausanne repeat as state champs next season? Who will have the best private school team in the city next year? Bubba Luckett always has CBHS in the mix as well as Briarcrest who has really solid 9th and 10th group grade,maybe the best in the city. MUS with Caleb London, John McBride and Zach Street should have the Owls in the conversation. St.George’s with Issac Smith and the best shooter you haven’t heard of, Hagan Imorde will be good for St.George as well as a 6’7 transfer out of Mississippi who will start for them.
Early Top 5: 2017-2018
East High School- Best team in the city, the eyes are watching and everyone is hoping to knock you off. They went through it last year and this year will be no different. This year is a little different for them because of they have some youth this year on the bench as opposed to 11th graders and 12th Not to say that’s a bad thing because they are very talented but will be different nonetheless. They will need to bring them along slowly but I’m sure they can with their core talent. Talks of a national schedule, will East play TSSAA this year, there is a lot of chatter when to the Mustangs this year but one thing remains, this team is really really good with a chance to 3-peat.
Olive Branch High School– DJ Jeffries, Joe Cooper and Kelvin Allen lead this very talented team who should make that move to state this year with a chance to win it all. Jeffries is a top 10 prospect in the country that should put up crazy numbers this year. Cooper had some early injuries this spring but is coming on strong late which should will parlay into a great high school season. Kelvin Allen might be their heart and soul of this team, he guards the opposing teams best guard, a relentless defender and has bounce to him, when he’s on the floor, good things happen. Watch out for Josh Stevenson, 6’6 Cameron Matthews who could break out this year and Wes Taylor.
Southwind High School– This is Mark Freeman’s team now and as he goes, they will go. His leadership will be key this year as well as his ability to make his teammates better all way having to score a lot as well for them. Another player who will have to increase production and he has the ability to do it, Kameron Jones, a 6’8 long forward who has shown flashes but as a junior now must be counted on every game. Christian Jones and Quentin Williams must be big as well.
Whitehaven High School– Kameron Jones and Matt Murrell will be the bulk of their offense and another one of last year’s freshmen will have to be ready to contribute nightly for them. Latrell Carter returns to the Tigers after playing at Central last year and gives them another player on the glass and will have a lot of silent double digit games this year.
5. Lausanne Collegiate School– Last year’s state champs return Ashton Smith, Sky Forrest, Cameron Sims and Eric Gray from last year’s team. Add Kobe Jeffries to that who was hurt last year as well as Johnathan Dejurnett, a 6’6 2022 and freshman Alden Applewhite and it looks like Lausanne has the ingredients to make it back but it will be tough.
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 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.
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.
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 (picturedup 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mitchell Gets 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.
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.
If someone told you this morning that Nashville Hillsboro would be up by almost double digits on East in first half, you would say they were crazy. If someone told you it would be pretty tightly contested game until last quarter, you wouldn’t believe it either. You definitely would’t believe someone that would tell you that the Nashville team would hit 14 -3 pointers including 8 in the first half and that’s exactly what happened. What many observers and fans thought would be a blowout in the making turned into an entertaining game, well for the fans I’m sure but not for the East staff during the game. All of Hillsboro’s shot were 3 pointers in the first half as they jumped out as many as 7 on East who was sloppy early which led to their 8 first half turnovers and couldn’t make any shots only shooting 43 percent from the field in the first half. Hillsboro was able to capitalize on open opportunities at the 3 and they made the Mustangs pay often including hitting a half court buzzer beater to end the 2nd quarter. Everything was working for Hillsboro and it appeared that the magic hadn’t ended for them to start the 3rd as they opened with 2 more 3 pointers but East got going thanks to freshman forward, Chandler Lawson. He scored the first points of the last half before scoring 9 more points in the quarter as East found it’s way offensively (22-12 in the 4th) and defensively, East picked it up and forced turnovers and converted off of them and eventually took control for a win in their opening game, 70-61. Alex Lomax led with 12, followed by 11 by both Lawson and Moss.
Coach Rocky Johnson said, “Those guys did good, they definitely stepped up to the occasion, they made it real tough for us to advance but at the end, it’s all about how you finish the game and finishing on top, I don’t care if it’s a 1 point win or a 50 point win, we will take a half a point win, as long as we end up with more on the scoreboard than them”
SINGLE A: Memphis Booker T Washington got their first win of the tournament over Nashville Christian 63-51 putting 3 in double figures with Decorian McDaniel scoring 19, Chauncey Blakely scoring 18 and Tyree Beason accounting for 13 points.
Now that the team camps are over for high school teams, we can get to who I think are the top 5 teams in the city. This doesn’t mean that this team may stay there all the way through when the season actually starts however just a look into some of the best teams that I saw, key word being “saw” during the month of June. Ladies and gentlemen, 901Prep’s Top 5 ranking of high school teams in Memphis.
1. East High School – From what I saw, this is the best team in the city and there are several reasons for my decision to put them here. For starters, they return their virtually their entire core and when I say entire, I mean everyone. Rising Sophmores Alex Lomax, TJ Moss, Jr Courtney Mclemore, Jr Rodarius Washington who were starters last year are all back and Teddrick Mcghee who is also a great football player and was a starter . Last year, they went on a great run to end the season and made it to Mufreesboro losing in the Final 4 game to Brentwood, just a game away from a dream season. Not bad for a team full of freshman and sophomores with no expectations right? That team will be back, a year older, more mature and ready to finish this year off with a state championship but with a few new faces including 2019, 6’8 Chandler Lawson, a consensus top 10 player in the country and Malcolm Dandridge,a burgeoning 6’7 with high upside to match. They have great guard play, length, lots of talent but still lots of youth which can’t be discounted but this is a team very very capable of going back to state and this time winning but again, this is way early and again a young group to depend on. Have to mention also that they may have a new coach in the fold in Memphis legend Penny Hardaway who coached them at the University Of Memphis team camp and MUS. His addition is huge to a group that he knows because of his time at Lester where he won 3 middle school state sectionals will greatly enhance their chances because of his familiarity them. The only starter or future starters in the group that didn’t play for him is Lawson and Moss. They took a loss to Brentwood Academy in the MUS Summer Classic who won state in private last year but turned around and beat very good Germantown team who beat Brentwood by double digits the next day after their loss. I had two teams to choose from then but that made the decision a little easier. This is the team to beat and one likely to be in this position through out the season.
Key Players: 6’4 TJ Moss, (#18 on ESPN 2018 rankings) 2018 5’11 Alex Lomax, 2017 6’4 Rodarius Washington, 2016 6’2 Courtney Mclemore, 2016 6’7 Robert Washington, 2017 5’7 Nick Merriwether, 2019 6’8 Chandler Lawson, 2019 6’7 Malcolm Dandridge
2. Germantown High School – Senior laden team and a good one!!! Strong guard play with Darrell Brown Jr, a Tulsa commit, who is one of the best scoring guards in the state, Jonathan Bins, 6’2 Michael Bamrick, a shooter, Rodney Williams, a strong athletic 4 man, Jacob Ivey and transfer, 6’7 Marcus Mitchell, who will provide some inside scoring ability and rebounding which they needed at times last year.While it can be tough to repeat what you did in Middle School, parts of this team has been together since 7th and 8th grade and were apart of a state sectional championship 5 years ago. This is group that has a lot of chemistry and cohesion, been through tough games and now, many are expecting this to be the year for Germantown to get out of here and on the state and with that becomes expectations and a little pressure. Brown is the heart and soul of this team but Williams does the dirty work while Bins is a solid guard who can be another point guard and get you 10-15 points a game. Mitchell will be a big time addition for the Red Devils and Coach Davis. The added length will allow them to have interchangeable lineups, big or small and give Williams help on the glass. Is this the year for Germantown? It happened in 8th grade for a few of them, maybe history repeat itself.
Key Players: 2016 6’0 Darrell Brown Jr, 6’0 2016 Jonathan Bins, 2016 6’5 Rodney Williams, 2016 6’7 Marcus Mitchell, 6’4 2016 Jacob Ivey, 2016 6’2 Michael Bamrick, 5’9 2016 Dacoda Stone, 6’0 2016 London Gool
3. Cordova High School – One of the more talented rosters in the city, Cordova after a few years off, came back to the scene last season where they finished just a few games away from a state berth. At the head of this team, Blake Williams, a name that’s been among the city’s best players for the last few years but really came on strong late in the year. Blake is one of the top 4 pgs in the City and you could argue, that he could be the best. It will all start with him but Rod Brown, a rising sophmore and one of the best young players in the state could come into his own this year. Brown is super athletic 3-4 who in transition and at the rim maybe as good as anyone in Memphis. 6’8 Jalen Dupree has turned himself into one of the best big man prospects in the city and rumored to have interest from Memphis. Dupree is a rebounder shot blocker who will benefit from playing summer basketball this year at a high level. Kavion Stewart will also play a large role with his ability to slash and hit the jumper but also look for Cordova to make a splash with a transfer or two. The lights will be on them this year and they should be, Cordova has a really talented team.
Key Players: 2017 5’11 Blake Williams, 2016 6’4 Kavion Stewart, 2016 6’8 Jalen Dupree, 2018 6’6 Rod Brown
4.Southwind High School – Like Arlington, the Jaguars lost a lot of talent last year and must find players on the roster to take up for what they lost. Donte Fitzpatrick is off to Ole Miss, was their top scorer, best player last year and now, they have to find a go to guy to fill his shoes. Enter in Carlos Marshall, a 6’4 forward who can play with the ball in his hands on the perimeter and score from mid to low post. His value to his team will substantially increase as he will likely be required to be that guy but Mark Freeman could be a player who they can go to as well. Freeman quick true pg who can score and a terrific defender on the ball where he can wreck havoc for opposing point guards. His jumper has improved as as made him a viable scoring option any where on the floor. 2017 Robert Boyd is starting to come into his own some and will be relied upon this year, maybe in a starters role and Tyler Brewer who didn’t play last year is said to be back in the fold again as one of the teams guards. 6’6 Freshman, Antavion Collom is top 3 player in the freshman class and one of the immediate impact freshmen in the city. He’s a versatile as any, can be a guy than can start the offense as big guard/forward, handle, create with the pass and be an added rebounder to help Boyd and Marshall on the boards. Maybe not as talented as their teams have been in the past but this is still maybe even the team to beat still in 15AAA because they have always seemed to be right there and winning in the past few years and even with #2 Germantown being in this district. I’m looking for big years from Mark Freeman and Carlos Marshall and to keep them in contention all year long.
Key Players: 2017 6’4 Carlos Marshall, 2018 5’10 Mark Freeman, 2019 6’6 Dude Collom, 2017 6’6 Robert Boyd
5.Arlington High School – One year removed away from a state appearance in 2014, Arlington was just a game away losing to eventual state champions, Hamilton. They lost keys guy in Adarius Avery and Kendall Jefferson but do return Nathan Hoover, one of the best shooters around in 2016 who has received multiple interest and some offers from schools around the country. 6’6 Sophmore Garret Golday is also back after a starters role last year and he should be much better after summer on the circuit but had a nice year in his freshman season. Luke Wiseman will be another handler who maybe asked to score a little bit more this year but is I think up to the task and transfer Demonte Person, a best of the preps player from last year is now there and will bring scoring from the point guard position and a guard who can give them 15-20 point per night on average. I think Hoover becomes one of the top 5 scorers in the city and could theoretically make a case as the best player in 2016 with Fisher, Thomas leaving the city.They will have a lot of competition in district however from the #3 ranked Cordova but this is like last season, a team that capable of a similar run as last season.
This is just a look into the upcoming season. One of these teams could drop out depending on who I see in scrimmages etc before the next season starts and again, these are based on teams that I’ve seen in person.
In just a few weeks, 60 players lives will change forever as they hear their name called in the NBA draft. For many of them if not all, the NBA seemed unfathomable, improbable, well impossible but yet some how, they worked hard and more importantly had the talent level to make it to the epitome of basketball in the country. Do you know how hard it is for a player to make it to the NBA? Let me give you an idea of how hard it is, there are 15 players per team, 30 teams in the league which means there are 450 players only in NBA but you have a million players who all think they are going to get there but one player locally though has a chance to be drafted in the and become the first Memphis born player to be drafted in the lottery in 25 years. Cameron Payne, a 6’2 point guard who prepped at Lausanne Collegiate School before becoming one of the best point guards in college basketball at Murray State from the jump as a freshman averaging 16ppg and 5 assist and increasing that number this year to 20 and 6 as sophomore. He has a chance to become the highest drafted player born here as I said , key word being “born” since well that guy, “1 Cent” (Penny Hardaway) in the top 14 picks. People may say well What about Lorenzen Wright? Well yes, Lorenzen played high school ball in Memphis at Booker T Washington and was drafted in the 1996 draft at number 7 however Lorenzen wasn’t born and raised here, he was from Lafayette County or Oxford Mississippi and moved here for his senior year.
Sure there have been other guys from the program to be drafted high like Memphian, Shawne Williams who went 17th overall in 2006, Elliot Williams was selected number 22 by the Portland Trailblazers and going back to 1997, Cedric Henderson (East) went 45th overall to Cleveland but none have been higher Penny in the last 20- 25 years but Payne could change that June 25th as a possible lottery pick where he projected right now by nbadraft.net
How did this happen though? Cameron Payne wasn’t a hot commodity coming out of Memphis right? Cameron wasn’t even considered the best guard coming out to the city that year in Memphis but now, he’s a lottery pick seen as high as pick 13? He had great prep numbers averaging 20 points and 10 assist, even winning the state at Lausanne his senior year and leading the way for his team also winning Mr. Basketball in his final year. For those who don’t remember Payne young, he was at the age of 11, 12, the best guard in Memphis but as years progress, guys got older and while still really good, other guys became bigger names including Nick King, Jajuan Johnson and Johnathan “J3″ Williams.
Looking at different sports groups on social media, tweets and other message boards across the city, the narrative has been, how did Memphis and Josh Pastner miss out on Cameron Payne? Man, see this is what I’m talking about, Josh can’t coach, he can’t evaluate talent, why wasn’t Payne a Tiger? Well, let me ask this question? Why wasn’t Payne a Tennessee Volunteer, a Ole Miss Rebel, Mississippi State Bull Dog or Vanderbilt Commodore? Pastner wasn’t the only person who missed on Payne and what about all the recruiting services who didn’t even have Payne as a 2 star let alone a 4 or 5 star? A lot of people locally said that maybe his success on the high school level was because he played private school and that he couldn’t be that good because of the competition level at Lausanne right? Cameron played in the Nike EYBL with Bluff City Legends(Team Penny), he played some on the Adidas circuit with the Memphis Magic, so I mean there was chance after chance to be seen by colleges right? According to Rivals, Murray State was the biggest offer that he had. ESPN had him with a rating of 73 and said he was the 10th best point guard in the state of TN and overall the 57th best player in the region. This was according to the World Wide Leader in Sports , ESPN, not WREG but ESPN. They have writers for days for high school basketball as it becomes big business once young players enter 9th grade where they start to rank them. 247 sports had him as the 291 best player in the country, we talking about a lottery pick, 291? Did people just really overlook Payne? After all, some locally did it as well downplaying his success due to whatever reason they could think of . There have been several players over the years who could be the “out of no where type” stories, like NBA hall of famer Scottie Pippen who was the team manager at Central Arkansas and didn’t play much high school basketball or Avery Johnson, a champion with the Spurs after having success in high school but only being recruited by junior colleges going on to a 16 career in the NBA. There are examples and examples but when it touches the Memphis area so close with Payne, it kind of intrigues people as to why Payne wasn’t highly recruited especially by the hometown team. Am I saying Payne will be a hall of famer or have a 16 year career? No, however, it makes you wonder, how did so many people miss?
You mean to tell me that everyone but Murray State was right about Payne? According to his recruitment, many were wrong including well Josh but again, everyone else was too. Was it that Murray State’s staff was just that much smarter than everyone else? You could see the tools, the length, the passing and scoring ability, make other players better around him, the creativity he possessed as a play-maker but no one else but the Racers saw this? This isn’t the first time though that Murray has pulled one out the hat, former Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan wasn’t a big national guy coming out of high school but now he is a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after being drafted by the Houston Rockets as the 34 pick of the 2013 NBA draft. How is it that everyone missed on Payne? We are talking about a lottery pick possibly here?
Is it possible that Payne went to the right situation, that best fit him and excelled so much so that he is in the position that he is in now? I see not only locally but around the country where players pick schools that may not necessarily fit them as players but are “big” time schools, that play on TV all the time so they assume that’s the best opportunity to shine and be a player who could become a NBA draftee when more times than not, it doesn’t always work out that way due to a lot of factors but never the less, it doesn’t work out. Word to the wise young players, when it comes time to make a decision, you better think long and hard, why is this the best school for me, academically, athletically? Does the style of play fit who I am as a player? These are things you must consider, when picking colleges.
Why is it so hard to see by some fans of our local program here that Payne was missed on? Is it such an indictment on Coach Pastner because if that is the case, wouldn’t it also have to be an indictment on other local programs around region and the country right? Was it a miss? Perhaps it was but the Tigers are not the only ones who didn’t take their bats off their shoulders and swing.