1. Lester Middle (2-0) Everyone should be convinced that was in the building on Saturday night. This is the most talented Middle School team in Memphis. There won’t be many close games for this group all season until the MAM or Bartlett tournament around the Christmas holiday. You have to start mentioning Jamarion Harvey as one of the best 7th graders in the city but a bigger statement, Markese might be the best 8th grader in the city. Chauncey Holmes looked as good as I’ve seen him and Lemarkus Wilkerson was a spark despite being in foul trouble on Saturday in their win over Ridgeway.
2. Ridgeway Middle 1-1 How can they be in this spot still? Well it comes down to this, they lost to the best team around, no shame in that and it was 2 point ball game in the 3rd quarter. They also beat my pre-season at the time #3 Germantown. Now that they see somethings to work for going forward, this is still a very good team but they will need to identify their go to scorer in crunch time.
3. Snowden Middle 1-0 You won’t find a team in Memphis 4 good 8th guards and especially as experienced as this group but you have one here . Guards go a long way in Middle School and this team has the ingredients to be successful all year long.
4. Bellevue Middle 1-0 Dangerous team because of their guards, this is a group that their new coach is excited about. AJ Dillworth, Jr Jacobs who had 19 in the opener, Amar Knox and Dustin Richmond will be who they go to in every game. They are on the road tonight and then back at home Wednesday.
5. Germantown Middle 2-1 After a loss to Ridgeway, they were able to get back in the win column last week but this is a team capable of more, a lot more. With the early loss, it could make them hungrier to get back in the convo as a top 2 team again.
With tryouts which began on Monday officially, It’s almost that time of the year again, the 2017-2018 Middle School Basketball season is here in what promises to be one of the more interesting years that I’ve seen in awhile. There are a lot of questions this season but a lot of them will be answered soon as play days are on the way as well with the first being next week at Lausanne on October 7th.
Who is the best player in Middle School this year? Is it Chandler Jackson who finishing up his final year at St.Louis? Markese Washington at Lester? Are the Roadrunners of Ridgeway the best Middle School in Large Schools this year or the Germantown Red Devils who are equally talented in the starting 5? Speaking of Germantown, transfer Cartier Beverly, a two sport standout who won a state title at Bellevue last year hurt his leg and will be out for a substantial amount of time. If he’s able to get back during the season, Germantown could be become the favorite. Expect 6’1 Cameron to make a push as a top 3-5 player in this class this season.
Will Lester turn back the clock to a few years ago where they were the best team in the city or will Bellevue who lost a lot of production be right there with them with Jr Jacobs? Can John P Freeman put themselves in position to make a run this season? How much better will Lowrance be this year with Braxton Jumper and ever improving Javar Daniels, a 6’2 7th grader with tons of potential? Can Snowden contend with their guards? There are a lot of questions but soon and very soon, we will begin to see our thoughts and questions become realities as we are within a few weeks of the season getting underway.
Below, my pre-season top 5 middle school teams in the city based on what I think they have right now. Will it be the same when the season starts? Maybe, maybe not, can a team jump into the top 5, yes they can. Will the number 1 team right now but the # 1 team when the season starts, I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch and see.
1. Lester Prep- On paper, they are so talented starting with Markese Washington, to me a top 5 player in this class in Memphis. Nearing 6’2 if not there already, Washington will be there best player most nights and have a chance to be the best player in Small Schools and perhaps, maybe the city. Lemarkus Wilkerson and Ahmed Abdulahi will be besides him to form maybe the best duo in Middle School. Wilkerson and Abdulahi are to 5’10 plus guards who can score for Coach Steve Terrell who’s excited about this year’s team. Abdulahi has kind of flown under the radar but I think a lot of people will be high on him by the end of the year. 6th grader Khylan Page will be leaned on a little because of is size alone but with their experience, they will able to bring him along slowly along with Jamarion Harvey. Watch for Chauncey Holmes as well.
2. Ridgeway Middle – Was very tempted to put them at #1 for several reasons. Chip Brunt, EJ Smith and Kristian Spencer all got better last year put into situations where they had to play and it should pay off this year. Smith is getting better and better and should play the lead guard spot this year. Brunt had some big moments for them last year and Spencer gives them value as a defender and athleticism from the 3-4 spot. All of them should be big this year and take that next step up to be the early favorite in Large. They have enough talent to do so but they will also be counting on others to be help the trio. Adarion Miles must play big on the glass and Coach Stephen expect a nice group of 6th graders to play a lot including Kody Hickerson, Javion Stephen and Tyler Wilson. Might be the deepest team in the top 5, top to bottom.
3. Germantown Middle– Cameron Miller, Daniel Egbuniwe and Chris Martin are all back this year and will have them vying for a state title this season. Miller has a chance to put his name on everybody’s list as a top 5 player in 2022. He’s a scorer who you can put on the other team’s best player, go get you rebound and take over the game type and he will be all those things this year for this team. Chris Martin is one of the areas best shooters if not the best and Egbuniwe is quiet stat sheet stuffer. The key for them to make that run might be if Cartier Beverly can get back to basketball after a football injury. If he can and from sources, its possible, Beverly could put them above anyone locally in Large Schools. Rayquan Williams must contribute with Beverly being out but he’s a capable piece to their aspirations of becoming champions. Even if Beverly doesn’t return, the Red Devils will be in the thick of it at the end of the year.
4. Snowden Middle– Very guard laden team but a team never the less that will be tough to play against on any given night. Guard play reigns supreme in Middle School and if you have it, chances are, you can go a long way and Snowden as a lot of it. Kyler “KD” Dandridge, Madricus Pittman, another one of the area’s best shooters and Jamarius “Chunky’ Brooks give Snowden some firepower. Armani Mcfagdon will be asked to do a little bit of everything for this team but he’s more than capable of accepting that challenge.
5. Bellevue Middle- Beside White Station, not sure if one school lost more than them. Coming off back to back state tournament titles, the Bobcats will have a brand new look all the way around. Enter in former Kingsbury Middle coch, Mario Taylor who will be in his first year there but he will have a few players to help ease the transition. Terrance “JR” Jacobs, is diminutive in stature but big in game is ready to lead after playing some last year but will be in an entirely different role this year. Jacobs is very capable 15-20 point scorer and if he gets rolling, can put up big numbers. AJ Dillworth and Amar Knox will both have to play well this year if they are to continue the tradition of Bellevue and deep playoff runs.
Other teams to watch out for
FACS– Maybe the most talented private school in the city with Landon Jeffries, Kobe Wilks, Corey Savage and Tim Thomas Jr. Don’t be surprised if they appear in the top 5 next time around.
John P Freeman Middle- Bryce Dailey had a nice summer and he hopes to continue that into this season. He should lead this group along with Eric Steward and Harold Draper Jr.
Highland Oaks Middle– I’m really interested in watching Regale Moore and Josh Holloway this season. Their progression from last year to this year will determine how far Highland could go.
Lausanne Middle- A name you need to remember, Hayden Ledbetter is there and he’s one of the more talented 8th graders you may not know much about. Owen Babb and Peyton Piacetti will give them perimeter shooting.
Colonial Middle– Jacquez Brown and Cedric Franklin Jr will be trying to turn around a some what unmemorable season last year in Coach Franklin’s first year. He’s excited about Antonyus Moore as well.
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.