For years, the MAM Christmas Classic has been a staple in the middle school basketball community in Memphis. Each year, this was the tournament to see the city’s best in Large, Small and Private to see who the best team in the city was overall. It’s usually a good indication of who could win the state as well, seen last year by White Station who won the tournament last year, however, things are about to change, at least for the year.
For the first time in the 8-10 years that I’ve covered the MAM, the best teams in the city will not be in the event but in another first year tournament . Bartlett High School will host a holiday tournament that will have 6 of the top 10 teams in the city. It will be held December 21st-23rd and have the likes of Ridgeway, Lester, Snowden, Germantown, Elmore Park and the Memphis Nighthawks who I’ve heard some good things about from several people. This will be an opportunity for them to show how good they are to those who haven’t seen them as well. St. Ann and Appling will also be in the tournament as well from what I was told and there could be potentially really good games that we see in this event. Possible Lester Ridgeway part 2? Snowden Lester? How about a Memphis Nighthawks and Lester game.? Some are convinced that the Nighthawks could be a good game for them.
Whatever the games maybe, it will be new and something different that fans can look forward to seeing this year. I’m sure, details of the tournament will be coming soon.
2014-2015 basketball, well, it flew by and I for one miss basketball already although AAU makes up for it some however, many faces that I’m used to seeing since I’ve been doing the site will now be on to bigger and better, college basketball. Who do I start with? The Middle School basketball season which was all but given to the huge state favorite (Cordova) but a huge upset in the state tournament upended what everyone thought was inevitable, a state title for them. See, that in itself is what Memphis basketball is about, I guess you could say that about basketball all over the country but it’s something special about basketball here in the city. I guess American Way’s win in the MAM was foreshadowing showing that it could be done. Then we saw the state tournament, we saw the great performances of Jeff Walker from Elmore Park who scored over 30 points a game and started being talked about as one of the top 5-10 players in Middle School, we saw Dude McCollum show big time future in the upset over Cordova, we saw Deante Anding (Germantown) and teammate Deante Anding have huge state showings including in the championship game against Elmore Park. Germantown won it’s 2nd state title in 4 years and on the Small School side, we saw Bellevue led by three 8th graders, Tyson Banks, Cassius Bryant and Shemar Nash win it and from the looks of their 2020 group have a chance to go back and be in the thick of it next year. On the girls side, Cordova ended with the magical undefeated season with a win over Snowden. The Williams sister, the two best sisters to come through in awhile, Lanyce and Lanette, teammate Madison Griggs, do it all Jayla Hemingway with a huge season and one of the top 10 8th graders in the country. While the boys 2019 class could be pretty good, 3 of the top 5 girls in this class from Memphis could end up special in their own right.
On the girls side of High School, Ridgeway took an undefeated season into regional play led by seniors who had been through wars in high school basketball like Erin Foster, Oreonna Brown, Alexus Bryson, Breonna Humphrey and Tierney Paylor. It’s funny, I remember going to watch Erin Foster and Humphrey and Alexus Bryson (Hickory Ridge) in Middle School. I guess that means one of two things, I’m getting older or they getting old, I think I agree with the latter but go figure. Once again though, Memphis basketball struck and they were up set in the regional final by Overton who was pretty good this year but not the same super talented team that were accustomed to seeing in recent years. I’m not saying this team wasn’t good but Ridgeway was locomotive train all year long, they ran through competition and from there Ridgeway was sent on the road at Arlington where they lost and Overton who hosted, lost to 14AAA Bartlett who should be pretty good again next year. The one team that everyone thought would get out of here, ended up on a two game losing streak to end the year, that’s why the game must always be played. Bartlett and Arlington and Craigmont (Double A) all ended up going to the state but losing in the first round. I have a funny feeling though that you will see Bartlett again along with the upcoming Central with their guards and young group and rumored huge freshmen additions, I think you can kind of read through the lines there and figure out who I’m speaking on.
Okay okay, what was the biggest story of the year on the high school boys side? Hamilton having to forfeit games due to an ineligible player and still going to state and winning, East High School Coach Desmond Merriwether’s death after a long battle with cancer and how the team came together and rallied which made for a movie type of ending. Kind of hard to pick one of the two but both were remarkable stories, filled with what makes Memphis basketball so good. For Hamilton, rolling along, undefeated, off the first win over Oak Hill by any Memphis team in history and being put into the top 10 teams in the country by various websites across the country ESPN.com. Then, the hammer fell on the toe which was Hamilton and the news of an ineligible player hit twitter and spread like rumor in high school. Hamilton went on despite the news and ended up losing to the aforementioned East who’s story kind of seems parallel to Hamilton. This is the only school that beat Hamilton and it was right after the death of Coach Merriwether. For those who didn’t know him, I can’t say what hasn’t already been said about him but Coach Desmond was one of a kind and his kids went to war to honor his name and in doing so, they went through the region lost to Hamilton before beating Bolton to go to state where they lost in the final 4 to Brentwood. Hamilton showed a lot of resiliency after the ruling and it could have went another way for them, pack it in and get it over with or come together as a group and use it as fuel to win even more. I guess we all know what happened, they won state over Brentwood and finished the season I believe as I believe the team with the most loses to ever win state in Tennessee. Mitchell High School led by Coach Faragi Phillips was going for the 2 peat when the season started and that’s exactly what they did despite being ranked as the #2 team in the state in Single A all year behind Union City who they beat by a large margin in the state championship game. Jeremiah Martin was brilliant that game along with Naba Echols and their other senior leaders. I was really impressed with them all season long how they carried themselves as a team. I’m really going to miss watching some of the seniors because this is the class that I watched maybe the most of any class in the city. KJ Lawson, Dedric Lawson, Khalil Spencer, Naba, Jeremiah, Nych Smith and Kylan Phillips, this was truly a good class, talented on the court and in the classroom as all will play college basketball next year. In the private school sector, CBHS was undefeated before losing in the state championship to Brentwood Academy. Congratulations to them on a great season as well at St.George’s who won their state led by State MVP, Chase Hayden and Mr.Basketball winner, Justin Wertner. Other Mr.Basketball winners include Jeremiah Martin and Dedric Lawson of Hamilton who may end up college teammates at the University of Memphis.
So now what, we look forward to next year, 2015-2016 and an early look at the top 5 teams in Memphis.
1. East High School – Return virtually everyone from a team that was a game away from the state championship game with 2 9th graders in the starting line up, a 10th grader and two juniors.
2. Germantown High School – Darrell Brown Jr, Johnathan Bins, Mike Bamrick and Jacob Ivey will lead this team now as seniors
3. Briarcrest High School – Talented team once again with the group to win it next season. Micah Thomas 6’7, WF, leads this team with Maceo Woodard, Mark French and Will Hrubes.
4. Cordova High School – Roderick Brown will be a year older, Blake Williams will be at the helm and jr Kavion Stewar, a later bloomer might have a break out season.
5.Southwind High School – Same team minus Donte Fitzpatrick who will be hard to replace but with Cheatham, Freeman, Eric Turner who’s knee should be better and CJ Marshall, they could be dangerous team.