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!!!
The sweet 16 has turned into the Elite 8 with teams advancing, some by small margins, others in lop sided wins. Today will be interesting because all of the championship bracket games will move to the Grizz Center to give it that true MAM feel before the final 4 and championship game move to Harding tomorrow. Below is a schedule of today’s games which go at 7:00 and 8:00 on both courts at the MAM on Ball road.
Bellevue vs Snowden – 7:00 pm Grizz Center East- Hearing that Calvin Jennings didn’t play last night and don’t know it’s he playing tonight. That will leave Snowden with one true big and that might not be good especially with a team that’s bigger and has rebounder in 6’6 Johnathan Lawson, Aryion Paige who played pretty well yesterday and along with Tadarius Jacobs. Lawson as a passer was as good as I’ve seen him yesterday. Look for him to continue to be aggressive today as a play maker and scorer.
Highland Oaks vs Southaven– 7:00 pm Grizz Center West- “He doesn’t think we can the game” That’s what I heard yesterday from a Highland Oaks player but let’s say this, it’s one way to prove me wrong. Southaven got a win yesterday over a Sherwood and Highland Oaks cruised to an easy win over Grace St. Luke. Alex Anderson was big time for his team last night as well as Cameron Donegan. If both play well tonight, they can come away with the win but they need both to play up to expectation. Southaven plays hard and Highland will see that tonight. Show and prove Highland Oaks, make my prediction on this game wrong.
Briarcrest vs White Station– 8:00 pm Grizz Center East- White Station should win this one going away but I have a feeling it won’t be easy. A few things go there way, the Saints can make it a game but the problem is, more things have to go right for them than have to go wrong for White Station. If they get behind early, I don’t think Briarcrest will have enough fire power to come back from a big deficit. If Briarcrest can keep it within a 8-10 game, it will be interesting late. Big if though…
Lausanne VS Kingsbury– 8:00 pm Grizz Center West- Maybe the best overall scorer in Middle School (Jalen Brown) against another scorer in Deebo Coleman and it will make for a great game. Problem for Lausanne will be if Dillon Woods doesn’t play tonight because he was out last night. My guess is though, he plays and he can cause problems for Kingsbury because he keeps a lot of missed shots alive for them. Kingsbury is really reliant on Brown to do a little of everything but Tristan Jones and Caleb Jackson both have to play well tonight. Watch for a big shot or 2 from Owen Babb and Landon Jeffries in this one.
The 8th grade class is one that is interesting because there are a few nationally rated players at the top in Lawson, Chandler and Brown, so it has some flair to it. It’s one that interesting too because it’s one that a few players will be the main causes in their team success this season, a position that they haven’t been in before. 8th grade is crucial because it can set the tone going forward as these players head to high school next year. I’m really excited about a lot of these players this year and to see how they react to having the spotlight placed on them. The final rankings from the “Cream Of The Crop” Camp, the 2020 class.
Nehemiah Ausley (St George) was able to do some positives in camp. He came into against some of the best players in his class and held his own. Teaming up with Eli Federman this year, Ausley has a chance to get his name out there more. Fredric Morgan (Southaven) is a quick guard who should be one of the best players in that area this year. Jordan Hibbler (Southhaven) is a talented 2-3, who looked pretty good in drills. He along with Morgan had to leave a little before the games started otherwise he could have put himself up a bit more here. Justin Collier (Desoto Central) is another Mississippi product, long frame, another who is trying to change positions as he’s been primarily undersized at the 4 in the past. Ball skills, handle and becoming more confident in his ability as a player will take him up this list because the talent is there. Jaylon Holmes (Kirby) is a high high motor player who was every where during game play. Right now, his best attribute is as a rebounder and defender because he can guard 2,3,4 right now. He has infectious energy and is a worker and I think his upside is good with the ability to create offense for himself off his own and ball handling.
Thomas Kizer (MUS) put himself in the conversation as one of the best shooters in this class. He hit several deep spotting up, hitting the wing 3, handled pressure well and showed fight as a defender. I think he is capable of more offensively because of his jumper. Would love to see him add the pull up from 10-15 feet out in the future but Kizer is a good young player. Eric Roberts (Bellevue) Aggressive tough guard who can score and get to the rim. Strong with it, Roberts is player who you can depend offensively and I think he’s in route to a spurt that will really help him going forward. You can play him at the 1 some, 2 and against some teams, some 3 as well. Jace Lockhart (Arlington) one of the best on ball defender in this class, easily, he will draw the other teams best player nightly. You can put him on bigger guards or smaller guards, Lockhart competes has good hands and good instincts and quick feet that make for an elite perimeter defender. I’ve seen him score in the past so I know the ability is there however, in camp, his biggest impact as as an on ball defender.
Ethan Roberts (Houston) Roberts is another shooter in this class who’s up there as a top 3-5 shooter in 2020 but that’s not all he can do. He’s a better than you think passer, can lead as the point guard as well. Really smart as a player, he’s another that plays to his strengths but again, the shooting ability stands out for him. Dorian George (White Station) Strong frame makes him able to play inside and battle with bigger players but shows some future as a really good player who you can put on a guard as well. His future projects as a guard and he’s been working on that as he showed the 2 and 3 dribble pull up from mid range and he’s improved as a jumper maker. He can be a bit loose with the ball at times which can lead to turnovers in open court but those are things he can tighten up on by staying lower on the dribble.
Tyler Harrington (Briarcrest) New to the scene in 2021, Harrington is arguably a top 2 shooter in this class right now. He has good mechanics on his shot which makes him a consistent knock down 3 shooter right now. He makes the right pass, uses the shot fake to get the defenders in the air where he can step in and take the jumper. Late bloomer type who can move up this list in time.
Bryson Potts(Houston) another player who keeps getting better, Potts was really good when he set his feet on the jumper and he put it on the floor where he used the floater. He’s gotten a lot more confident in himself as a player and it shows in his play. Potts showed a willingness to drive it tough to the rim, something that I haven’t seen in the past well. He’s coming along as a player and will be counted heavily this year at Houston. Eli Federman (St George) has blown up from fall leagues and he played well in camp. The thing you notice about Eli first is his scoring ability, off the dribble pull ups, the 3, off the catch, Federman can fill it up. He’s a player who can get into a groove and get you 25 in games. Just knows how to fill it up and by now, most middle school fans will be familiar with him by the end of the season.. More of a 2 right now, Federman’s ability to be a pg in the future by creating for others by penetrating to find instead of to score.
10. Zander Yates (Briacrest) Upside, Upside, Upside!!! Reminds me a lot of Austin Nichols at the same age but Yates is bigger, Yates has the look of a high major player down the line. Runs the floor, soft hands, has the turn over the left shoulder short hook, keeps high on the rebound, has touch around the rim and can play with his back to the basket. Yates offensively is still raw but the key is, he shows that he’s capable of being a consistent back to back post because right now, he’s a traditional post player. As I said though, right now, more of a 4-5, he will need to be able to face up and take the dribble and power up and shoot the free throw line jumper so he’s not just a back to the basket player. He’s still growing into his body so it may take a little longer because he’s a big however, all signs point to him being really good and I wouldn’t bet against that right now.
9. Jelani Willis (White Station) Plays extremely hard, Willis is not going to let you out work him. He’s extremely effective free throw extended where he can use his athleticism and finish and get off the floor quick for put backs off offensive rebounds. An improving ball handler, Willis is much better spotting up than creating off the dribble for his shot but will shoot the pull up. He’s multi-dimensional defender who you can play against 1-4 spots and he will defend those spots well. As he becomes better with creating for himself going both directions and becoming a more consistent jumper maker, he will become a much more versatile player but right now, he’s highly effective because of his motor.
8. Kameron Jones (Cordova) Best shooter in this class, hands down, you can’t leave the lefty guard. He can get it with the step back, off the crossover dribble, spotting up, Jones is a consistent 3 point shooter. Creating his own jumper was a concern for me a year ago but not anymore. Jones impacts games as a scorer and is deceptive with his handle and deliberate. He has the soft runner at the basket and stops and shoots the 15 ft shot which he didn’t do a lot of earlier in his 6th, 7th grade days. He’s definitely added to game from somethings that I saw in camp. As a player who will have the ball a lot this year in the go to role, Jones will have an opportunity to prove that he’s learning to be a point guard as well. I think he’s capable as a defender but taking certain angles will be important for him. Was kind of uncharacteristic at points during the camp with his shooting but again, he’s a great shooter so I expect the confidence to be there because he does it well. I think he’s headed for a great year and with that, a move ahead in the rankings is possible.
7. Tadarius Jacobs (Bellevue) Added confidence from big time end to the summer, Jacobs is in the “elite” group of defenders in Middle School. In fact, I will that he is the best perimeter defender at the 1 and 2 position in the city because of his instincts and anticipation on the ball. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s going to defend his man and make an impact late with a steal or get in the passing lane for a deflection. His demeanor never changes on the floor, takes and makes big shots, another really good shooter who gets through gaps in defenses using his slender frame, offensively his game is expanding. He’s a finisher in transition and makes the right decision with the pass in transition as well. Takes on challenges and is another player who score 15 quiet points and gets 4-5 rebounds because of his athleticism. I would love to see him attack the rim more because I think he’s one of the best finishers in the class.
6. Kaeden Laws (Center Hill) Should be the best player playing in Mississippi Middle Schools locally this year, Laws name is here and it will be here for awhile. A player who’s getting better and better, Laws known as more of post last year, now he’s putting it on the floor more shooting the jumper off the dribble and hitting the occasional 3 using his expanded ranged but still showing the face and post game. He doesn’t force much, he’s patient offensively and is very unselfish and he works well from the high post. Laws is also a good passer who displayed that on several occasions during camp and he finishes around the rim. He doesn’t give up on plays and he and his motor is pretty good. Continuing progression as a guard/wing with added ball skills will be important to him.
5. Deebo Coleman (Lausanne) The 6 ft guard has made tremendous strides since the last time I saw him. For one, he’s added inches to his frame and he has a lot of confidence in himself now. He was driving to rim expecting contact, something I hadn’t really seen him because he’s been known as more of a shooter in the past. He looked more fluid with the dribble, attacked in both directions and hit the pull up jumper on multiple occasions and just was always on the attack when it was there to attack. Like most taller young guards, Coleman tends to stand upright at times especially when tired and sometimes when all else fails, he goes his strong suit, the 3 when he could attack off the dribble. Coleman should be the best player in Private School this year.
4. Calvin Jennings (Snowden) Had the most motor of anyone in camp, Jennings was absolutely relentless during the camp. He attacked, attacked and attacked again. If you played up on him, he attacked, if you played off, he attacked, he wasn’t letting his man off the hook at any point. A junk yard type of mentality, he tried to get every rebound, he pushed it in transition and he had a mind to score it by any means necessary. Didn’t turn down any challenge defensively either contesting and closing out on everything and plays a physical style of basketball that will bother other teams and he’s ultra competitive. At this stage, not sure if he’s a combo forward of big guard as he hasn’t really defined his self with a position. He’s stretched out some and will likely stretch some more because of his frame. Handled the ball well in attack situations and drove it hard one direction, would love to see him add going both directions and finishing strong with either hand. You just have to love how hard he plays right though and that alone make him one that could swing Snowden into the mix of things in their tough league.
3.Jalen Brown (Kingsbury) Another year but Brown has come back much longer than when some remember him from last year. A natural scorer, simply no other way to put it, a get the bucket type player, Brown does it with the best. Takes driving lanes never afraid of big games or big situations, Brown has clutch game in him because he has taken and made huge shots in games. You can’t keep him from getting to his spots on the floor, handles it well and is one of the few players that shoots the mid range jumper on the regular with pull ups at the free throw line. Operates on the baseline, really good touch near with the float game and a better than you think shooter, there just isn’t a way that he can’t score it. Is a natural 2 right now but has some combo guard in him, he showed some underrated vision during camp leading teammates with passes for lay ups. Can finish with the bump and is a really good free throw shooter when he gets there. Will be he go to guy easily this year for Kingsbury and I expect him to have a huge year for the Falcons. Would love to see him use his length for steals, he could create problems because he’s long. A good rebounder at his position as well and while he shoots the mid range jumper well on the move, hitting that 3 off the dribble and creating separation on it will be somethings he can work with. I can see him getting 30 on multiple occasions this season at his new school.
2.Kennedy Chandler (Briarcrest) Chandler has went from being a score first type to more of a true pg and it’s showing. Ball on a string, Chandler handles it better than anyone in Middle School, in traffic, in tight spaces and he puts pressure on the defense and his defender by always trying to to push tempo and find or if you play off, hit the jumper. More shifty than quick, Chandler works out of hesitation dribbles and the crossover and uses them to get off the jumper with his quick release on his shot. Just always seem to be relaxed and under control as a point guard, he sees the entire floor has a IQ and great overall feel for how to play his position. Knows when to look for his shot and can get it off on bigger defenders where he gets them off balance with his handle and he just has a knack for big shots. Knocks down the 3 and understands how to play off the pick roll, is a play maker off penetration looking for shooters and he has vision, chandler just knows how to play basketball. Improving quickness and getting better athletically for Kennedy are things to work towards but he’s not afraid of the work and doing what it takes to get to where he trying to go.
1. Johnathan Lawson (Bellevue) Do it all type of forward, Lawson is a combination of all his brothers before him. KJ’s fiery demeanor, Dedric’s passing ability and versatility , Chandler’s length, Johnathan is only getting better. A 6’5 touching 6’6, Lawson oozes high major talent, more of a play maker early on and it’s still in him but now he’s scoring it more to go along with that ability. Lawson is just hard to guard for anyone, to long for guards because he can finish and shoo over the top of them, to skilled for bigger players because he can go around them, he’s a mismatch nightmare for opposing coaches. As a scorer, he scores at all 3 levels and with his length, it’s just hard to keep him out of lane and as a passer, he can see over the top of smaller players and find teammates for scores. He’s the best big passer in middle school and he can raise up the level of play of others. Can score with his back to the basket as well with the jump hook and face He rebounds it well, gets it and goes to find teammates for finishes at the rim. He can be almost to unselfish at times but when it’s time, can take over games. Probably a better 3 point shooter than a mid range shooter right now but that’s something that will improve over time for him. There’s a reason why a few websites across the country have him as high as #7 in the country in the 2021 class. He could end up being the best of all the Lawson brothers.
The 2015-2016 middle school basketball season was a good one, one of the most interesting that I’ve seen in awhile. American Way was crowned the Large School champion and Bellevue went back to back with the Small Schools crown. Can this season match last year’s stories? I’m not sure, one might say the large school division is down some while small looks looks a little better competition wise. Can there be a team that comes out of no where and be a contender in middle school? Sure it could but where is that team coming from? Maybe a municipal school like Houston or Bon Lin who had a great start last year I believe going undefeated until the MAM Classic. Maybe it’s a school like Germantown or a Hickory Hill, no one truly knows right now but isn’t it fun to try and guess? Can a team like A Maceo have a another great year like last year? Is Cordova going to be in the mix like they have been the last 3-4 years? Will White Station run Large Schools this year? Well enough, read it, check it out, comment underneath the story, it’s really simple. Yeah or nah, don’t like it, it’s okay, it’s pre-season, it’s supposed to be speculative, enjoy.
1. Bellevue Middle School – No other school received a better gift than getting the best player in Middle School in Johnathan Lawson. The 6’5 G/F had a huge summer and will be looking to add another state title to his resume, this time on the Small Schools side. He is not alone though, the Jacobs brothers (Tadarius and JR) also came over and will be huge contributors this year. The older Jacobs ended the summer on a high note and while mostly known as a great on ball defender, his offense is starting to catch up. Terrance (JR) play sparingly last year but this year, fans will see why so many speak of him as the best guard in 2022. Watch out for Cartier “Turtle” Beverly this year as well who got a chance to go against some of the best guards in middle school last year in practice..
2. White Station Middle School – Once again, the Spartans have that title contending look and look of one of if not the biggest teams in the city this season. Starts up front with Willie Foreman, Aldon Applewhite, Dorian George and guard Jelani Willis. I’ve heard whispers of guard play being their weak spot but I have a feeling that it won’t be the case. 3 of the players I mentioned started all year long so they have plenty of experience. Is it state title or bust this year for them?
3. Cordova Middle School– This will be a much different looking Cordova than in years past because they lost so much last year and while the overwhelming talent may not be there, this should still be a good team. A lot will be contingent upon Cameron Jones who for the first time in his middle school career will be “the guy” He will be counted on as primary scorer and as he adapts to that role, so will the team around him. Marcellous Boyd must also be a factor this year!!
4. Ridgeway Middle School– Looked at as being a team of the future for next year with their young guard play but Coach Jarvis Stephen wants to win now! He got 2 top 5 guards in 2023 in Ernest Smith Jr and Jay Nash to come to him along with a 6’4 raw but developing big in David Dixon. Dixon is the brother of Ridgeway stand out, Elizabeth Dixon and looks every bit of 6’7 6’8 in his future. Although again, a long way off from what he could be, length and size are something that he gives Ridgeway that a lot of schools lack. Kristian Spencer is a 2022 forward who’s brother also prepped Ridgeway (Khalil Spencer- TSU) and Chris Brunt was one of the only 6th graders to play much last year for Ridgeway. They are young but very talented, question is, will they be up for the challenge with a precocious roster.
5. Kingsbury Middle School – Top 5 2021 standout Jalen Brown comes in and will immediately be a top 2 player in this division. The wiry guard is a scorer at heart and he does it well and he will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Caleb Jackson comes over from Kipp Academy and will be likely be a starter along with Tristen Jones who has some tools and Chris Nelson who will also be leaned on heavily this year.
Each year, hundreds of teams from across the country converge on the city that never sleeps, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but two Memphis teams are bringing hardware to the city. The Memphis Wildcats 13U led by Coach Dedra Lawson won the Big Foot Classic defeating Vegas Elite 7 Premier 82-76 in the title game but it wasn’t easy. The young team that has been together awhile found themselves down big early, a total of 22 but clawed back into it by shortening the court and picking up the defense according to an observer who was present at the game. Down a player (Marquan Dean) and only having 6 at their disposal for the last two games of the tournament and the night before going into 8 overtimes in a game that was won by 1 point, I’m sure fatigue was a factor on Sunday but they got it together enough to win 1 game that morning and then the title game, in come back fashion The big 3 of Johnathan Lawson 24 points and 11 rebounds, Jalen Brown, 25 points and 8 rebounds and Tadarius Jacobs who had 20 and was a catalyst on defense, combined for 69 of the 82 points scored for the Wildcats. Next up for them, the Primetime Nationals which will be held in Dallas this week.
Newly founded M32P22 coached by former University of Memphis players Marcus Moody and Paris London went to Las Vegas on one mission and one mission only, to earn respect as one of the best upcoming teams in the country. and that’s exactly what they did. In a city that features Team Penny, Team Thad and M33M, bigger programs through admission by most, the 16U squad won the FAB 48 coming back from a deficit with under 10 minutes left in the game. The Hoop 4 Life Foundation sponsored team features a few players who have shined some this summer and at their high schools including Allen Hatchett, a 6’3 (White Station) progressing guard who works near the rim and with the mid range jumper who had a game high 30 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game, 6’6 Cameron Jones (Whitehaven) 20 points and 6 rebounds and 8 assists, 6’5 Reco Gibson (St.Benedict) 16 points and 8 rebounds and Jalin Clay (Houston) who ended the game with 16 points 6 rebounds. I got a chance to speak with Coach Moody earlier and he said, “It was a great tournament, my team stayed poised & focused throughout the title game, Sacramento had incredible guard play, but I think our depth & length was too much for them” . This is a team that could draw some looks of a shoe company by next year as they continue to establish themselves as a top 3-5 organization in the city. With this FAB 48 title under their belt, M32P22 is taking a step forward in doing just that.
The Elite Middle School Invitational location has changed, I repeat the location has been changed and it will now be played at MississippiBlvd Christian Church on 70 North Bellevue. Event coordinators apologize for the inconvenience but the change was not in their control. Again, the location has been changed from Catholic to Mississippi Blvd Christian Church. The schedule of games has not changed and all games will still be played at the same times.
The 3:50 game might be as intriguing as any as Covington Crestview comes in, usually a solid team against Snowden featuring Marcellus Brigham, one of my top 10 players in the 2020 class in the city. His scoring ability is as good as anyone in middle school as he can use the jumper. Normally Crestview is pretty competitive so I expect nothing less. Colonial’s girls are led by India Buford, maybe the best guard in Middle School and that’s not an exaggeration. If you have not seen Buford, Saturday would be ideal because she’s worth the drive.Now that the location change has been announced, let’s take a look at some of the games that will take place on Saturday. For years, Fayette East was a solid program that now has Fayette Ware High School in the hunt as a team that could make a state run this year. Coming off a so so year last year, I don’t expect them to be down long and they will be coming in to face Kirby Middle at 12:00 pm. Kate Bond’s girls program made some noise last year but each year brings different challenges as I saw in the jamboree that they may have a young team. At 2:00 pm, Colonial led by 6’3 Rolando Martinez takes on Bolivar Middle which might be an interesting game. Martinez is a capable scorer for them and will lead them in most games in scoring. I’m not sure if Bolivar may have an answer for him that can match his length.
The final two boys games are showcase games starting with Kate Bond vs St George followed by the last game of the event, American Way and Briarcrest. Kate Bond is 2-1 on the year so far and a top 5 team in Middle School will come in off a loss to the city’s #2 team will hungry to get the W in the column against a St George team featuring a top 10 player in Rodney Mason, a 6’3 forward who is looking to make a bigger name for himself along with 6’3 Issac Smith, a wing type with some ability. Some say he belongs in the conversation as a top 10 player so Saturday would be a good opportunity to see that. Last game of the evening pit’s 3 of my top 5 in 2021 against one another and a top 10 8th grader in Reggie Neely. Neely is scorer and one of the best in the city at it but Kennedy Chandler receives a bulk of the attention. His match up with Jalen Brown and Alvin Miles will fun to watch. For what’s it’s worth, this is a something because both are top 5, who know how this could play into the next ranking! Johnathan Lawson is as talented as any player in Middle School, looking more as an attacker now as in years past so his scoring output is picking up and we might see this on Saturday evening. He’s going to one that has to be game planned against as well as Neely as many may not have seen him but again, he knows how to score if from the 3 to the finish and his facial expression never changes, silently scoring 15-20 points. 9 games, one location, 4 of my top 5 teams in the city, 3 players ranked in the top 50 in the country in 2021, 2 top 10 players in the city in 2020, the best girls guard in the city and so much more talent, the Elite Middle School Invitational, see you there!!!
Johnathan Lawson 6’4 Guard/Forward (American WayMiddle/Memphis Wildcats) Has grown 2 inches since the firs ranking of this class, the last in line of the Lawson brothers, is a special talent that definitely takes after his siblings. The freakishly long and skilled 6’4 guard has a piece of each brother which could lead him to become the best brother of them all, high praise but if you watch him, you don”t have to watch long to see. More of a play maker, than dogged scorer of older brother KJ but he’s very capable and he showed it during the season particularly late in the year when his team needed it most. Johnathan is a big time gamer, Lawson doesn’t shy away from the moment and isn’t afraid of the moment when it arises. He handles like a player much smaller, has vision in the open court as a passer and can finish to the basket. More driver make it happen type right now, he can keep you honest with the 3 and be a shot maker, taker but is at his best finding where he uses his length to his advantage where he is creative with the pass to find the easy scores. Improved with the 3 ball, the pull up off the bounce is where it’s at for him. He’s anticipates well defensively and knows when and when not to gamble in the passing lanes for a steal and can guard both guard positions as well as the 3 spot when needed. His basketball IQ is as high his age as any of his brothers and his will to win is immeasurable. Lawson has the tools to make his own name and be not only the last out but the best in a long line of his brothers.
Kennedy Chandler 5’5 PG (Briarcrest Christian Middle/TeamThad)– Diminutive in stature, Chandler gets it done with great ball handling and knack for scoring off the jumper or the drive on floaters and runners. What he may not have in size, he makes up for with skill and toughness and he can run a team in the half court and he can make shots from all over the court which makes him a very viable scoring option. He can put up points in bunches via the jumper but isn’t shy about attacking off the dribble. Not afraid to take a risk, he’s as confident as any guard in the city and isn’t afraid to challenge on as a defender or against a bigger defender where he can get his shot. He’s a sneaky good passer and pest as a defender able to bother his opponents using good positioning and quick hands for steals. He plays with excellent pace and savvy beyond his years and never gets rattled under pressure. While not the quickest, Chandler gets by you with handle and is good enough to get his shot on the pull up. Chandler already known around the country as one of the best players in the country, should be among the best players in this class for years to come especially locally.
3. Jaylen Brown 5’9 Guard (American Way/Memphis Wildcats) – Puts constant pressure on the defense by always being in attack mode, Brown is a classic scoring point guard that many have become accustomed to in Memphis. Can play off the ball and on, Brown scores it with an assortment of runners, pull up jumpers and hits the 3 at a above average rate so you just can’t play him for the drive. He’s tough to the basket, where he’s not afraid of contact from bigger strong players. He just has that ability to make the big shot in big moments for his team and seems to relish in that opportunity. He seems to really work well from baseline where he utilizes the floater game and the short jumper and can create space for the jumper from the free throw line to the short corners. He seems to be more comfortable scoring but over time, I think he becomes more point guard who can score but also facilitate when needed but right now, Brown is a get a bucket player and he’s good at it.
4. Aldon Applewhite 6’1 Combo Guard (White Station/M33M) – Coming along nicely, the younger Applewhite, is a versatile guard who can facilitate and score it in a few ways. Really good off the spot up and catch 3, Applewhite is actively now looking for his shot more than in years past when I’ve watched him. He has all the physical tools that you like in future 2-3, can create for himself off the dribble, smart defensively, takes chances but doesn’t try to do what he can’t do. Potentially a top 2-3 guy down the road with added athleticism and growth. Tons of upside in this young player
5. Willie Foreman 6’2 PF (White Station Middle/M33M) -Relentless worker on the glass, offensively and defensively, Foreman’s biggest strength is his motor, athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. He fights for every rebound, using his long arms and is an improving offensive player outside of 5-10 feet where he can step out to the free throw line and make the jumper and shows some ability to handle in the open court off the rebound but will mostly score off energy and hustle. He’s a good help side defender where he can be a shot blocker/ shot alter type and he will go to war with bigger players for rebounds. He will expand his offensive game, because he seems to be a hard worker which will help him become more versatile as offensive player. Handle and jumper must become point of emphasis but Foreman is still a highly thought of player among players locally and a top 25-30 player in the country in this class.
6. Deebo Coleman 5’10 Guard (Lausanne/Memphis Suns) Coleman is new to the class but already might be the best shooter in this group. Coleman has spurted a little bit and added a little more quickness to him where he can be a driver of the basketball and become better rounded as an offensive player. Catch and shoot from the wing or off the spot, he’s one of the best in the area but he can also can play some on the ball and run a team if it calls for it. As he continues to grow, so will upside for Coleman who will become more known by middle school fans in 2021.
7. Tadarius Jacobs 5’9 SG (American Way/Memphis Wildcats) Solid guard who might be the best on ball defender in the city with his quick hands in this class but also good playing the passing lanes Capable scorer, Jacobs is a good shooter from the mid to 3 and is good to the rim off the jump stop, where he can draw fouls. Jacobs athletic ability is often overlooked but he has really good timing as I’ve seen him get blocks on what were thought to be lay ups. Confidence, confidence is the key for him as he continues to develop offensively and if he does, Jacobs is a top 5 player in the city in this class.
8. Kameron Jones 5’5 (Cordova/Memphis WarEagles) Best spot up shooter in the class, Jones is trying to shed the notion of him being just that. He starting to be able to get it off the dribble more instead of just being stationary has good range on the 3 and is showing more willingness as a stop and pop the 10 foot jump shooter. Evolution as a point guard is key going forward with decision making and added quickness to go along with his shooting ability.
9. Cameron Donegan 5’6 (Highland Oaks/Memphis WarEagles) Smart point guard with a good feel, knows when to turn the the corner and kick to teammates or tuck it to try and make it happen and finish. A traditional lead guard, Donegan never seems too high or low, plays the game at a good pace and is player you can lean on in key stretches. He shows leadership on the floor but can be counted on to score some if the team needs it but is right now more of a point guard than a “points guards”
10. Dorian George 5’10 (White Station/Memphis WarEagles) Strong 4-5 with good physical stature, George is a worker off the glass, energy type who does most of his scoring off the put backs and around the rim. Plays to his strength literally and despite being undersized at his position, he’s consistently around the ball coming off the rim and has good anticipation of where it’s coming off. Projecting long term will need added ball skills and work on the perimeter jumper in case of 6’2, 6’3 future.
It’s almost that time of year, basketball season is coming and it’s coming faster than some think as we will have our first play day coming up this weekend at Germantown High School on Saturday. For some schools, a lot of players are still playing football however, Saturday can give a good look at who’s who in the Middle School ranks. You just kind of know if you watch Middle School basketball all year and during the summer, you get a feel because you know what schools they are going to. For example, Bellevue is one of the more talented teams if not the most talented team in Middle School this year because they had several returning from last year including “Big O” Omari Thomas, point guard Jabari Small, Jessie Payne a few others however, they also added a impact guard in Isaiah Cathey, who played the last two years at Lester Middle. Bellevue is undoubtedly the favorite in Small Schools this year and the best Middle School in the city regardless of classification (Large or Small) because of all the talent that they have at various positions. I can see why Coach Harris says that he likes the looks of this team so much. Some may not remember but back in the day, Bellevue was the top spot for Middle School talent,basketball wise, have those days come back? Who’s after the Bobcats though is the question and I will try my best to give you remaining 4 and the reasons why.
It gets tricky because you could go with 2 teams for the number 2 spot in the city. White Station or Cordova could both make cases but I would probably go with Cordova but it’s not in concrete but’s that is where I’m leaning right now. I like White Station because because they have a chance to form a nice starting 5 leading the way for them would be Willie Foreman, a top 3 player in the 2021 class locally, who will be hard to keep off the boards a be good for double digits every game, newcomer Aldon Applewhite, a 6’1 G/F who started as a 6th grader last year at Colonial and 7th grader Dorian George who will be among others coming off the football field including Durias Dyer, another point player who will be heavily counted on by Coach Mcclain this year and a starter from last year. I like the look of their team but the reason that I’m going with Cordova at #2 though is because their experience at the guard spot in Alfred White and Jaylen Saulsberry and they can come off the bench with Cameron Jones or start 3 guards if you include him. Last year, they were so big and athletic and it’s changed a lot this year and I think that could be a spot of weakness for them this year, inside however guard play will carry them a long way and if you notice, if you have strong guard play in Middle School, you can make a run. They are not Cordova of last year, not close but they are good enough to be a team that wins their side.
At 3, I will go with aforementioned White Station and at 4, I will go with American Way who returns a good 7th grade class and one of the best 6th graders in the city, Terrance Jacobs Jr. Gone is big brother Chandler but 7th grader Johnathan Lawson is looking to take over the responsibility as the go to for his team including becoming more of a scorer but yet still looking to get players involved as creator. Jaylen Brown is back as well and will be a scorer for Coach Franklin along with Tadarius Jacobs and 8th grader Alvin Miles who is one of the better spot up shooters in Middle School. This year, there just isn’t much size like like last year all around and it will effect most but American Way is another team that will rely heavily upon guards. At # 5, I haven’t ranked a private school in awhile in pre-season but I’m going to go with Briarcrest Middle here. Here is why, they have a really good point guard in Kennedy Chandler who can score and make plays for others running the team and Reggie Neely, a not much talked player who deserves to be in the conversation as a top 10 player in 2020 in Memphis. Neely is a scorer, pure and simple and knows what to do with it when he has the ball in his hands. He can beat you with the jumper or the drive and is a pretty defender. If he’s not, I would like to think that he’s among the top 5 best players in Private Schools if not the best .
A few other schools have a chance to have a say in this including A Maceo Walker who has Antwan Smith and maybe even Hickory Ridge with Jaylon Sanders but right now, the teams I mentioned are who I think are the top 5 in the city. If you don’t think so, please tell me who you think are the better teams below in the comment section. I’m always up for good banter on middle school basketball.
So here we go, the Pre-Season Top 5
1. Bellevue Middle School – Key Players: Omari Thomas, Isaiah Cathey, Jesse Payne, Jabari Small, 2021 Jacob Roberts, Keshaun Harris, Chris McKnight, Ariyon Parker,
2. Cordova Middle School– Key Players: Alfred White Jr, Jaylen Saulsberry, Cameron Jones, Rodney Newsome Jr.
3. White Station Middle School– Key Players: 2021 Willie Foreman, Durias Dyer, 2021 Aldon Applewhite, 2021 Dorian George
4. American Way Middle School– Key Players: 2021 Johnathan Lawson, 2021 Jaylen Brown, 2021 Tadarius Jacobs, Marquan Dean, Alvin Miles, 2021 Terrance Jacobs Jr.
This is the first time, I’ve done rankings in awhile and it takes sometime, some will hate them, some will like them, some will love them however it’s what makes the basketball world go in Memphis. I do not look at other rankings when I do my own locally. Well, why is this person over this person and on this site, they are higher than that person on another site. The answer, I don’t know but I don’t base my opinion on the opinion of another because that’s their opinion. Thank you to those who continue to support the site.
1. Johnathan Lawson 6’2 Guard/Forward (Memphis Wildcats) – The last in line of the Lawson brothers, Johnathan definitely takes after his siblings. The freakish long 6’2 pushing 6’3 guard has a piece of each brother which could lead him to become the best brother of them all, high praise but if you watch him, you don”t have to watch long to see. More of a playmaker, than dogged scorer of older brother KJ but he’s very capable, showing it when it’s needed. Highly skilled, Johnathan is a big gamer, Lawson doesn’t shy away from the moment and isn’t afraid of the moment when it arises. He handles like a player much smaller, has vision in the open court as a passer and can finish to the basket. More driver make it happen type right now, he can keep you honest with the 3 and be a shot maker, taker but is at his best finding where he uses his length to his advantage where he is creative with the pass to find the easy scores. He’s anticipates well defensively and knows when and when not to gamble in the passing lanes for a steal and can guard both guard positions as well as the 3 spot when needed. His basketball IQ is as high his age as any of his brothers and his will to win is in measurable. Lawson has the tools to make his own name and be not only the last out but the best in a long line of his brothers.
2. Willie Foreman 6’2 PF (M33M) -Relentless worker on the glass, offensively and defensively, Foreman’s biggest strength is his motor and ability to finish around the rim. He fights for every rebound, using his long arms and is an improving offensive player outside of 5 feet where he can step out to the free throw line and make the jumper and shows some ability to handle in the open court off the rebound but will mostly score off energy and hustle. He’s a good help side defender where he can be a shot blocker/ shot alter type and he will go to war with bigger players for rebounds. He will expand his offensive game because he seems to be a hard worker which will help him become more versatile as offensive player.
3. Kennedy Chandler 5’5 PG (Team Izod)– Diminutive in stature, Chandler gets it done with great ball handling and knack for scoring off the jumper or the drive on floaters and runners. What he may not have in size, he makes up for with skill and toughness and he can run a team in the half court and he can make shots from all over the court which makes him a very viable scoring option. He’s a sneaky good passer and pest as a defender able to bother his opponents using good positioning and quick hands for steals. He plays with excellent pace and savvy beyond his years and never gets rattled under pressure. While not the quickest, Chandler gets by you with handle and is good enough to get his shot on the pull up. Chandler already known around the country as one of the best players in the country, should be among the best players in this class for years to come especially locally.
4. Jaylen Brown 5’9 Guard (Memphis Wildcats) – Puts constant pressure on the defense by always being in attack mode, Brown is a classic scoring point guard that many have become accustomed to in Memphis. Can play off the ball and on, Brown scores it with an assortment of runners, pull up jumpers and hits the 3 at a above average rate so you just can’t play him for the drive. Tough to the basket, where he’s not afraid of contact from bigger strong players. He just has that ability to make the big shot in big moments for his team and seems to relish in that opportunity. He seems to really work well from baseline where he utilizes the floater game and the short jumper and can create space for the jumper from the free throw line to the short corners. He seems to be more comfortable scoring but over time, I think he becomes more of traditional point guard who can score but also facilitate when needed.
5. Kameron Jones PG 5’5 (Memphis WarEagles) -Shooter to the core, Jones is one of if not the best 6th grade shooters in the city. Off the spot up is where he excels especially spotting up in the corner but is a better than given credit for off the catch and shoot 3. He was productive primarily as a shooter but will be asked more of this year at Cordova to be a ball handler and player who can make his teammates better in half court and in transition off the pass. His knock is size but shooting is value and Jones does it as well as any in this class in Memphis.
Who is the best player in 2021? I get it, for some people, it’s to far away right? These young guys are to young to be talked about as far as ranking as the best. You shouldn’t do this, your setting them up for failure, your stopping them from working hard by doing this so soon because if they see this, they will think they have arrived. I think that the furthest thing from the truth and here is why, that class locally will have a huge impact on the middle school season next year because I think it’s better than the 2020 class in Memphis. How can the younger class be better than the older class? Well, 2021 boast a very talented group up top and some more players who show potential to be really good players looking towards the future.
4 of the players in the class have garnered national attention already including Johnathan Lawson (Memphis Wildcats/Team Penny), Kennedy Chandler ( and Willie Foreman and Jalen Brown Chandler has been seen as high as #5 according to some while Lawson has seen himself in the top 10-15 range as well as Brown who’s been ranked as the 20th best player in the country by one source. Chandler is more of a scoring point guard right now but he gets it done from the 3 and in an assortment of ways. The knock on him maybe size but Kennedy’s production is big time. Foreman is worker around the rim, a high motor rebounder with some ability to step away from the rim as well and hit the free throw line extended jumper. Improving handle will elevate him more. Brown is in the mold of the classic Memphis guards, a get the basket type through the floater and jumpers. He’s trying to get back into the swing after a light leg injury but Brown in the conversation. Lawson is the last of the Lawson brothers but the talent didn’t stop at Chandler and he might end up being the best of them all. Already at 6’2, he has vision from the pg position, where he’s a big guard, he loves to get others involved but has the take over attitude when needed. He’s much improved offensively over the last year but I think it comes from just wanting to instead of not having the the ability . Several other players will have a chance to become pretty good over the next fews year in this class including, Kameron Jones, a knock down spot up 3 point shooter who might be the best in the city in that role, athletic defender but with scoring ability, Tadarius Jacobs, Ethan Roberts and 5’9 Dorian George.
When I decide to rank this group, I will not base on national rankings but on my own merit because I’ve seen them so much locally as I will do with all rankings that I will do from now on but the discussion starts now, who’s the best 6th grader in the city?