Please take notes ladies and gentlemen, a statement was made last night in the Elite Middle School Classic at Bolton High School. The Lester Lions are the best middle school team in the city, bar none and right now, it’s not close. Not saying that they can’t lose because anyone can be beaten but if I were to pencil in anyone this year as a team that could go undefeated, it would definitely be this team.
With a huge crowd in attendance, #1 vs #2 was everything it was billed to be. Both teams matched intensity early on with the game going back and forth with each team not able to get that big run to put it out of reach that you see a lot in middle school games. It looked at one moment like Ridgeway was about to go up 7-8 points but Lester behind the heroics of Jamarion “Woody” Harvey who hit some huge shots to stay close and go up 34-32 to end the 3rd quarter. Lester’s Markese Washington hit a 3 but Kris “Chip” Brunt answered him with a bucket plus the foul with 5:29 left in the last quarter to make it 37-35. After though, Lester took control going on a 13-5 run that ended with pretty reverse by guard Chauncey Holmes and a 3 by Harvey to put them up 10.
Ridgeway had opportunities but they traded baskets and couldn’t get enough stops down double digits late but a lot of that was due to Lester’s length and ability to challenge everything at the basket. Lester showed their depth, perseverance and the ability to rely on different players when they needed to score. Markese Washington was every where for Lester. I stopped counting but I know he had at least 16 rebounds to go with double digits in points. He scored in a variety of ways , had 3-4 impressive blocks and flashed why he might be the best player in middle school. I know the consensus is Chandler Jackson and he’s super talented but for those who don’t know, Markese is nipping on his heels. Every player from the starters to the bench seemed to have an impact in some facet of the game.
Ridgeway will still be tough in Large School and shouldn’t in any way hold their heads down. Lester’s the #1 team in the city and with a win over at the time, #3 Germantown, they still are among the better teams in the city and this too, it’s very early in the season. There were some bright spots from them in EJ Smith who showed some toughness, along with Kristian Spencer. I think when they needed bucket, they just didn’t have enough weapons to be able to keep up with a team like Lester and more than likely, they won’t play a team like them again.
Lester showed why they are who they are and are clear cut favorites in Small Schools at this time.
The 2022 class is one that is really guard heavy right now but it’s heavy with good ones. Most will have a bigger role this year at their respective middle schools which means of course, the more people will see them. There will be a few from this list who will be starters and they will be counted heavily for production this year, meaning they will have to grow up fast from their 6th grade years. Some are getting ready to make statements this year on the bigger stage and the fans will be watching but now, the Cream Of The Crop camp 2022 rankings from camp.
Cedric Franklin Jr (Colonial) is trying to evolve from more of a 3 to a guard position,this year will be key for him. He has some scoring ability and as he increases athleticism and foot speed, he will become a more consistent player offensively and defensively. Corey Savage (FACS) is a quick guard who can spot up and knock it down from 3 and has improved as a ball handler from when I saw him in the summer. Winston Moore (Millington) had a good camp, finished, handled well and got off the ball early and played at a good pace in the games.
Harold Draper Jr (John P Freeman) makes good decisions and didn’t try to do what he couldn’t do. Makes the right play for others with his patient dribble and the jumper looks good on the catch right now. Landon Jeffries (Lausanne) is a very talented pg who can hurt you in a lot of ways. Was good with it in his hands and was able to get into the paint when he wanted and use the floater. He’s a confident player who should be one of the main pieces at Lausanne this year. Caleb Jackson is very quick with the ball in his hands, Jackson is great in isolation and his ball handling allows to operate well in tight space. As he evolves from an isolation player, Jackson can go up this list.
Dallan Hayden (St George) is an athlete who plays downhill to the rim and isn’t afraid of the bump or fouls. His strong frame allows him to guard both guard spots and he is a fierce competitor and will never back down. He’s the type of guard that you love to have on your team. Kyler Dandridge (Snowden) was quiet in drills but when games started, he looked like the player I saw in a few tournaments this summer. He can run a team, lead and do it all quietly but effectively. He has some shooting ability and will drive it. Not overly quick, he just simply gets it done. Tim Thomas Jr, athletic strong defender who you can put on 1,2,3 and he can do a good job of containment. He can score too but his calling card right now, his athleticism and defensive ability. Anticipates well and takes gambles and is a slasher to the rim.
10. Phillip Dotson Jr (Arlington) Solid well rounded guard, who can score but looked in camp like he was trying to get everyone involved and them himself. He played well without the ball trying to find open spots in the defense and he defended with enthusiasm. As a play maker, he seems to be comfortable and that will take him a long way as a point guard.
9. Kristian Spencer (Ridgeway) Lanky 3-4 athletic player,who’s always around the rim, Spencer is intriguing because he looks like a future 6’4 6’5. Has good instincts, plays out of the triple threat and can play with his back to the basket some, showing versatility. A good rebounder and active as a defender, Spencer definitely has some upside to him.
8. Christopher Brunt (Ridgeway) Was in passer mode and was really good in that role finding his teammates in transition and in open court. His vision is really good for a bigger guard right now and his length allows him to see over smaller guards for lay ups for lay ups. Ideal size as 2 right now, Brunt is in the mold of a big lead guard.
7.Daniel Egubwnie (Germantown) Old school type type of forward who can both forward positions, Daniel is a skilled big who can put it on the floor against bigger players. He shoots the 3, hits the boards and has good touch inside, Daniel is another name who could rise in the future.
6. Bryce Daniels (John P. Freeman) Oozes number 1 type in his class type talent.Handles full court, size, length, everything you want in a player so young. He’s a capable rebounder, can take the length of the floor pass it or score it on the break. If he asserts himself more offensively and revs up the motor a little, Daniels jumps 3-4 spots on this list. Reminds me a lot of Rodarius “Pig” Washington at East.
5. Chris Martin (Germantown) Prototypical 2 guard, Martin is a knock down shooter but is effective on the move scoring the ball as well. Has some combo in him but right now, he a smooth scorer with attitude that says he’s as confident as any player in this class. He has a fluid jumper and is a player who excels in the catch and shoot and shoots a soft runner/floater that he hit regularly during the camp. Martin just knows how to score it.
4. Cartier Beverly (Bellevue) As aggressive to the rim as any player in Middle School, Beverly is a problem that you can’t stop in front of. He imposes his will on his way to the basket where he can get to the free throw line and score there or through and ones. Has blow by speed, quickness and displays characteristics as a good on ball defender. Beverly just needs polish as a point guard but right now, he’s one of the best in middle school.
3. Kobe Wilkes (St.George) Skilled guard combo guard with added length, Wilkes is starting to realize his potential. He has reliable handle, can score in bunches via the the jumper, 3 but has become better at attacking his defender off the dribble going both left and right. Very poised, Kobe is a talented offensive player who seemed to raise his game during the camp games.
2. Terrence “JR” Jacobs (Bellevue) Don’t let his size fool you, Jacobs is hard to guard and is the best pg at scoring the ball as you will see in this class. He shoots the 3 and can hit it with range, runner, floater, mid range, Jr is just a bonafied scorer from the point guard position and is fearless, irregardless of who’s in front of him, he’s going to keep coming at you. He’s finishes equally with both hands and is another who can put up big scoring numbers in any game he plays in. Defensively, he struggles with bigger guards but isn’t afraid of taking on those assignments.
1. Kyler Herring (MUS) There wasn’t a player at camp in this class that was more dominant than Herring in this class. Size on size, Herring eats space and has the best touch around the rim of any big in the 7th grade. Once he catches and seals, there isn’t much you can do to stop him from scoring. Everything he touches sticks him because of his great hands and he isn’t shy about punishing you or taking you with him for scores in close. He’s gotten noticeably more nimble and his footwork is pretty good which could have to do with his football background. Simply put, there was not a player who could stop Herring from doing what he wanted once he caught it deep.