2018 has Alex Lomax, Tyler Harris and TJ Moss at the top who are all receiving a ton of attention from coaches around the country followed by 2019 who which is probably the best upcoming class to most locally which includes Chandler Lawson, DJ Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge. There is another class though whose starting to show that their trio should be mentioned as well. 2020’s Cameron Matthews, Whitehaven High School Matthew Murrell and Briacrest 6’5 guard ,Marcellus Brigham. All different in how they play but one thing that they do have in common, they are all future division 1 basketball players and they make up what could make this area once again a prime location in 2020 for college coaches.
Murrell is probably the best scoring guard in the city in the freshman class and has star written all over him. Scores it in bunches from all 3 levels, unmatched athleticism at the 2 guard position and you can play him some on the ball as well. He showed off the leaping ability this weekend with an array of dunks and finishes and he looks a lot more comfortable taking hits and scoring plus fouls. That’s what a year in the best district in the state will do for you. Matthews is a 6’5 small forward who will remind some of Antavion Collum (East) in body structure , has definitely added new bounce to his game. Does most of his damage close now but is a player who can get it of the rim and go with it and finish strong and he looks at his best when attacking where he can use his athletic ability to finish. He can defend multiple positions and is a good rebounder and weak side shot blocker. He’s improving his jumper and handle every year and I expect that to continue to get better the more comfortable he gets shooting it. Brigham is maybe the most intriguing because of his shooting ability from the mid game to the 3 and has some post up in his game as well. Has a smoothness about him, loves the pull up from the elbow and short corner and utilizes the floater when necessary. A mismatch because he’s a true big guard, most times to big for smaller players and able to drive around bigger players, the more aggressive he gets, his ceiling gets that much higher! Some say he could end up being the best player in this class in Memphis.
While I’m not ready to say that this class is better than another right now, I will say this, this class is starting to evolve into a pretty good and it starts at the top with these 3. Be on the look for these 3 as all run with Team Penny in the spring and summer.
With the season heading into January and teams having their rotations set in place, a few freshmen are providing quality minutes and producing for their varsity teams. To even be able to play as a freshman speaks volumes for such a young player who has to adjust to faster, bigger and older players coming from middle school but a few have done it at a much quicker pace than most. Some of the names that you will see mentioned might not be at top of 2020 in Memphis however, their play thus far has put them in position to be mentioned among the best young players in the city. While they still have some ways to go, these young guys have impressed at this early stage of their prep careers.
1. Caleb London 6’2 (MUS) Easily, the most productive member of the 2020 class to the varsity ranks of this year. Not only is London playing well, he’s starting and playing like a junior and he might be their leading scorer overall. Has had more than 4 games of 20 or more points and played well against Memphis East, London has easily pushed himself into the upper echelon of the 2020 class. He’s made strides with his jumper off the pull up and is taking what the defense gives him and being more patient offensively. Right now, he could make a case as the best 9th grader in the city. I know there are other talented players but London has been really good.
2. Marcellus Brigham 6’5 (Briarcrest Christian) When you look at him, Brigham just looks like a division 1 basketball and with the flashes that he shows, that looks like it will be happening for him. Brigham is a long 2 guard with a good pull up game who has shown that he can play big minutes in the Saints system and for a program that rarely plays players so young, Coach John Harrington has to be happy knowing that he has him for 3 more years and watching him develop into maybe one of the best players that he has had there. I can see him leading them in scoring by next year as he continues to get better and better.
3. Kendall Thomas 6’2 (Harding) Quietly having an outstanding season, just last night scoring 27 hitting 7-9 from 3 in a tournament in Nashville. Thomas is big physical guard who can play some forward, who has grown a lot of height but has also gotten much stronger since the end of the summer. After losing Anthony Yarbrough last year who played 4 years there and was a big time stand out, Kendall was a welcomed addition to a team looking for another player to score. Thomas just recently was named MVP of the Battle Ground Tournament scoring 27 in game 1, 18 game 2 and 15 in game 3 of the event. When thinking of the top players in this class, Thomas has to be put into the conversation.
4. Rickey Shotwell 5’5 (Melrose) One of the smallest players in the city playing varsity in any classification, Shotwell’s play is shocking some who might have doubted him. He’s started some games for Melrose and had 15 in a win over W.E.B. Dubois at a Holiday Tournament in St. Louis. Coach Sherman Jones said “More poised than I could have ever imagined he would be, lost a lot of the scoring that came as a surprise but the IQ and toughness that as replaced the scoring has be vital and I have no reason to believe that he will take a step backwards” I remember Jones being high on him telling me, he would be more than role player this season and from the looks of it, he’s right.
5.Anterrius Jeffries 6’6(Overton) All arms and legs forward who’s also started some games for his high school team, Jeffries best days are clearly ahead of him. Jeffries is averaging 7 and 7 for a young Overton team that boast only 2 seniors so as to be expected, they will struggle in 16AAA but Jeffries has displayed some touch and rebounding ability and might end up being a player who can play some on the perimeter the older he gets. The more who adjust to playing with his back to the basket and as he gets stronger, Jeffries might turn into a big name in this class.
1. Cameron Matthews SF 6’4 (TGAND) Physical tools with size to match, Matthews is right now the best prospect in this class locally. Matthews is a 3-4 right now but looks to have a future as 2-3. Mismatch type where can take bigger defenders put on him off the dribble to the rim or post a smaller defender when the chance is given for easy opportunities. Has gotten bigger it seems over the last few months which does nothing but add to upside as a he could become a dominate scorer with increased motor. He rebounds it and doesn’t need to find a guard as he can bring it up, find an open teammate or create the jumper for his self which it looks like he had worked on as well. His athleticism has increased drastically as he is dunking it with ease and now is a player who can play over the rim on a regular basis. Physically imposing but has touch on the jumper he also a player who can become a big time finisher at the rim in the future. He’s a versatile defender right now as he can play the 3-4 and some 5 because of his strong body and could maybe guard some guards at this stage. Still would love to see him get even more assertive with his offense and add the post game to his arsenal as well. As the jumper gets better, it will open everything up to him especially when he’s knocking down the 3 on a regular basis. Lateral quickness might be concern but as he matures, he will become more explosive and his ceiling could rise even more.There is a lot to like about him right now and he has a chance to become a player people begin to take notice of nationally with a big spring and summer
2. Matthew Murrell CG 6’1 (TGAND) Quietly is becoming a player that will make you know his name and it’s easy to see why. He’s has become bouncy, quicker, confidence has increased to the level where he is becoming a scorer on a more consistent basis as he had to take over that role more this year in Middle School. He doesn’t try to force the issue much and will take whatever the defense gives him whether it’s the jumper through the 3 or mid range which he is knocking down now or tot he rim where he finishes with both hands. Right now, he’s more of a combo guard but he could become a pg because he sees the floor well, gets off the ball quick in transition and shows the signs of running a team because of leadership qualities. Never seems to high or low and looks like he enjoys playing the game. As I’ve said about him in the past, the more his confidence grows, the better player he becomes and it looks like it’s happening before our eyes.
3. Tayson Parker CG 5’10 (Team Thad) Some say he’s the best player in this class and the talent is there definitely. I really love his athleticism and people now know about it evidenced by a video floating showing him throwing it down on the break in playoff game for his home school. More of a scorer than anything else right, Parker’s eventual level could be decided by what position some see him as if he doesn’t continue to grow. I’m not sure anyone can touch him right now as a leaper in this class but some are catching up just in the last few months alone. Parker will be a name around a lot now and maybe it’s time to see if he can become a name nationally with his play. Athleticism is premium but so is position especially at his size but a very very talented young guy with a nice future.
4. Omari Thomas PF/C 6’3 ( Team Thad) The best big in Middle School this past season and while some could make the claim for others, Thomas was the focal point his teams offense. He was simply dominate at times off the catch and finish around the rim or in the post with his footwork and low post scoring ability. He possesses really soft hands and touch and can step out and hit the perimeter jumper and while it wasn’t shown a lot, he definitely has that ability. He has a good feel when he catches it low and where the double is coming from and is good passer from the post. Big body and knows how to use it, once he seals you, it’s pretty much foul or finish for him right now. Good rebounder, he might be better offensive board player than defensively because of the space that he eats up inside. Growth in length will be key for him if he is to remain here or lower but his production is high right now and it can’t be overlooked.
5. Marcellus Brigham SG/SF 6’4 (Team Thad) Really talented scorer with big time ability and maybe the most upside of anyone in this class Looks like a classic scoring 2 in the making utilizing the floater and the mid range pull up or the 3, Brigham score it in a lot of of ways. He could be a good defender as well if the desire and want picks up but as a young player, I kind of expect that to come and go at times. Consistency as a shooter from the 3 will lift him more as right now he’s more of a 15 foot shot maker but because of length, he can get that whenever he wants. Plays with a smoothness to his game that’s oozes high major ability and if the killer attitude develops, he goes to the next level. Would love to see him add the post game as well which would increase his production as well.
6. Rodney Mason Jr SF/PF ( Team Thad) The best player on a championship team at St George and he had an outstanding season. Played a lot more on the wing this year than I had seen in year’s past and looked more like he’s adjusting to being there more full time. He has tools you love, size, strength, improving skill set and the look of 6’6 if he continues to keep growing. Kind of still in the inbetween stages of becoming a 3 full time but that’s okay because of his ability to playing the 4 right now and be a problem offensively. Athleticism is increasing however, he’s not playing above the rim quite yet but I expect that to change soon for him if he keeps working hard. Handle is getting better but full time at the 3 will still require more work this summer. Ultimately, how hard he works individually could decide if he’s an “elite” level player and thought of across the country in this talented class.
7.Jaylin Lucas WF 6’3 (??) Strongly built 3-4 man near the rim, really made a name this year and threw himself here with the best players in the class. Tough to guard because his ability to overpower his defenders, he is difficult cover because his physical attributes and ability to hit the jumper. Plays with an aggression and will attack his man off the dribble with pull ups over the top or attack the rim and is a rebounder in traffic and doesn’t quit on plays and can start and finish a break. Needs to tighten handle like in Middle School if he wants to continue that progression to perimeter because he might end up being a big 2 guard or risk becoming that classic “tweener” without added length.
8. Reggie Neely 5’9 PG (Team Thad) Best guard that you may not know much about, Neely is a name you need to remember. Solid to the rim and with the jumper, Neely can play both guard spots right now but as I said in an earlier ranking of this class, is more so a scorer by nature. Shoots it well from 3 but maybe at his best to the basket on drives down hill and is a good decision maker with the ball in hands. Pretty good IQ, plays well off the ball and puts himself in position to score or make a positive play. I think the aggressive nature might be in him, question is, how long before it comes fully out.
9. Isaiah Cathey 5’10 PG (TGAND) Point guard on state championship winning team, Cathey’s best comparison to someone maybe Alex Lomax of East, just slightly bigger at the same age. Plays with a good pace at the lead spot, gets into the lane not with primarily quickness but more savvy and smarts and body. Can be creative with the pass and more of a pass first but is capable offensively when the need is there. Needs to keep refining he jumper to make when teams may lay off of him and be able to hurt teams off the jumper at the free throw line once a defender decides to stop the drive.
10. Caleb London 6’2 SG/WF (Memphis Magic Elite) To talented to take out of the top 10 altogether because I know how talented he is among this class. This spring/summer is big for him to play well among this age group with his slashing and athletic ability.
11. Issac Smith 6’3 SG/SG (Team Thad) Played along side Mason at St George and was in some games, their leading scorer. Has good upside, length, can get hot from the 3 line and put together games where he can hit 3-5. Can be another ball handler and option defensively against opposing wings and 4 men. Would love to see him rebound more from his position and get to the rim to more him more versatile as a scorer in the future.
12.Cedric Davis 6’4 PF (Memphis Magic Elite) Big body 4 with nimble feet and a soft touch around the rim. Has good motor. Raw offensively really but can score with his back to the basket with the over the left shoulder baby hook and really runs the floor well for a player his size. Davis along with Thomas are two of the bigger players in this class in Memphis.
13.Cameron Howard 6’2 SG (Memphis Magic Elite) Built to score, Howard is looking to do one thing, as I said, score. Always on the attack, Howard can score it from all 3 levels so you have to pay attention to him but what makes him pretty good can also be his downfall as sometimes his shot selection may not be ideal. When going though, he is as tough a cover as any guard in the city in this class.
14. Rodney Newsome Jr 6’3 PF/C (Team Thad) Among the best big men in the city, Newsome, is a little different from Davis and Thomas. Mainly because he sometimes plays up at the high post where he can turn face and hit the mid range jumper on the regular and it’s not uncommon for him to linger out to the 3 line and knock one down every so often. He has really good hands, can play with his back to the basket and put it on the floor some. He might end up being one that chooses a football in the future.
15. Joshua Stinson 5’7 PG (??) Scoring point guard that can get hot and put up numbers in bunches. Stinson can make it happen at the rim but at this point, he’s more score score than a creator for others. He put one of the best performances of the seasons up against American Way in the championship game and almost willed his team into a win. Like so many guards at that stature, the evolution into becoming a point guard will be key for his development going forward.
In last few years, we have seen some great middle school players come through the city. Each different in their own way but never the less, great young players that everyone knew about. Every year is different with a different set of players, new teams emerging, star players being star players and then there is one that really stands out among them and puts himself out in the fore front as the best player of them all. Question is though, who is that player this year? Is there clear cut player who you can say is the best in Middle School right now? It’s been awhile since honestly since I haven’t been able to identify that player by now but have you as fans been able to identify that one player as the best? Is it Omari Thomas at Bellevue? One parent told me that he was emphatically but what about his teammate, Isiah Cathey? Is it Jaylen Saulsberry at Cordova? He has the physical attributes but hasn’t been as dominate as I thought he might have been initially. Is it Matthew Murrell at John P Freeman, Marcellus Brigham at Snowden? What about teammates Rodney Mason Jr and Issac Smith? Is it a 7th grader and not an 8th grader this year? Can a case be made for a select few 7th graders? Maybe it’s a player that I haven’t mentioned and if you think so, I’m more than willing to listen below in the commentary(Disqus). I’m waiting on that alpha type to thrust himself into the best player in middle school role and nobody can do anything about mentality. The names I mentioned are capable of being the guy and with the “MAM” rapidly approaching, we could see that player really step it up because I have seen it before. It was where Chandler Lawson took the throne last year and became that player. Will the MAM bring him out? I truly hope so and I will be watching.
1. Chris Moore 6’3 Forward (West Memphis) Physical specimen already, Moore is headache around the rim, who uses strength and motor for easy scoring opportunities. Moore is an improving ball handler but not where he do it full time however in transition, handles it well enough to attack a bigger or smaller defenders. Loves to seal, catch and deliver inside and is good defender where he uses good timing to block shots and keep them in play. He can face up some but is primarily effective as a back to he basket player and that’s where he will need to improve offensively, out on the perimeter. He’s a very aggressive rebounder, keeps it high off the board and isn’t a bad passer out of the post. He has a good feel for when attack his defender and when to pass it out for better shots to open teammates as he doesn’t force the issue a lot or does he try to do things he’s not necessarily comfortable doing yet. Moore is such a force around the rim, it’s hard not to pencil him in for a double double every time he hits the floor at this stage in his development.
2. Cameron Matthews 6’4 Forward (Olive Branch) Good looking prospect with big time promise at the big guard or wing position, Matthews has the look of a future d-1. Has a good first step where he can take bigger or smaller players off the dribble using his size and body to shed defenders. He’s very reliable inside where he plays for his summer team but is a ball handler who can get where he wants. Playing inside right now, will make him better long term but he projects as strong, big body 2-3 who will be able to knock score at all 3 levels and cause mismatches. He can finish with either hand, a good rebounder and shows some versatility as a defender. He’s a good and willing passer who can pass out the post and the high post and can post smaller players for lay ups. I think playing inside some has kind of taken some of confidence as ball handler away from him but he’s good enough to still be a big time wing in the future. Pretty athletic right now but by this time next year, I think lay ups will turn into dunks for him as I look for him to stretch some and grow into his strong frame and keep his spot atop the ranking for some time. I’m looking for him to have a huge year at Olive Branch this year.
3. Tayson Parker 5’11 (Home School) Has hit the scene in Fall leagues and exploded as one of the premier players in this class. As athletic right now as any in the class in Memphis if not the most athletic, Parker is already playing above the rim elevating for dunks off the break and exploding through traffic for finishes at the rim. Parker possesses excellent speed and quickness in open court and that’s where he maybe most effective but can score in the half court where he can hit the 3 and he gets high on his shot. A good defender, he sneaks in passing lanes for steals and can guard both guard spots. Parker is name that’s hot right now among those who have seen in fall leagues but can he keep this same spot throughout the year? Some guys are coming but but Parker belongs to be here in this spot right now.
4. Matthew Murrell 5’11 G/F (John P Freeman) Really a scorer, right now at 2 levels to the rim and in 15 feet in, the 3 will come as he matures, Murrell can put up points in bunches. His demeanor never changes and you never know whether his team is up or not as he goes along about business and operating at a efficient clip. Not flashy, doesn’t try to do things he can’t do, he has great fundamentals where he uses the ball fake and loves to get middle for scoring opportunities. He has good form on his shot and elevates enough to get it off and is a solid rebounder from the guard position. Just recently, Murrell has started to play over the rim and has added another each to his future big guard frame. The more confident he becomes, the better player he will become and that will elevate him even more.
5. Rodney Mason 6’3 Forward (St.George ) Skilled 3-4, Mason is coming into his own and growing on me the more I see him as a player. Has really worked on his perimeter game, improved athletically and while he’s more so a face up type right now, Mason can go over the top or around and while jumper has improved, to the 3 where he shows that ability, he’s still more or a mid range player where the jumper looks a little more fluid. Mason doesn’t mind being physical defensively or rebounding and won’t back down from a challenge by stronger players. He projects as a possible 3 but right now is probably more viable as a mismatch 4 type but it will be fun to watch Mason develop over time.
6. Alfred White Jr 5’9 SG (Cordova Middle) Talented shooter who can score it from all over and what I like most is the confidence he displays in himself. He has a good quick release and isn’t shy letting it go but also can make it happen to the rim where he can stop for the pull up and the floater. He can come off the screen but like his younger teammate (Jones) looks more comfortable off the spot up. Really smart player to, when the jumper may not be going, White can get to the line as well, willing to go to the rim but again, is a shooter mostly. As he gets older, scoring in a variety of ways will become a point of emphasis but right now, White is as good as any at what he does in middle school in the city.
7. Caleb London 6’1 (MUS) I really thought about putting him in the top 5 and I have my reasons why I didn’t but let’s just say, it won’t be long before he’s there. London along with Parker are the to most athletic players in the class but London’s ability as a slasher/scorer maybe the best in the class. I haven’t seen him among the players in this class yet but once I do, players above him beware, London is a legit name in this class.
8. Marcellus Brigham 6’0 SG/SF (Snowden Middle) Effective with the jumper, Brigham’s upside is as high as any in this class in Memphis. Doesn’t wow with athleticism just yet but has the looks of a player who knows how to play the game and get it done. The jumper off the dribble is I think his go to but can attack in the half court or transition. Can create space for the jumper and release it fluidly and is a player who you can go to late in games for a shot to win.
9. Isaiah Cathey (Bellevue Middle) Big lead guard, Cathey is pg, power guard who’s best attribute maybe his size and ability to penetrate but Cathey is a good enough shooter to keep you honest from the outside. A leader, Cathey is capable defender using his strength and makes good decision with it in his hands and possesses good handle that allows him to get where he wants to go. Cathey’s addition to Bellevue, makes them as if they already were not, an even bigger favorite to win their classification in Middle School this year.
10.Reggie Neely (Briarcrest Christian) Really solid guard, Neely is scorer to the rim with the jumper or with 3, he’s as versatile a scorer in the class. He can create his own off the bounce, and is unselfish where he can lead from the point but is a scorer by nature and a good one. I really like him and if he continues to grow in length, Neely could really be a good guard as his better days are definitely ahead of him.
1. Cameron Matthews 6’3 G/F (Bluff City Ballers) Good looking prospect with big time promise at the big guard or wing position, Matthews has the look of a future d-1. Has a good first step where he can take bigger or smaller players off the dribble using his size and body to shed defenders. He’s very reliable inside where he plays for his summer team but is a ball handler who can get where he wants. Playing inside right now, will make him better long term but he projects as strong, big body 2-3 who will be able to knock score at all 3 levels and cause mismatches. He can finish with either hand, a good rebounder and shows some versatility as a defender. He’s a good and willing passer who can pass out the post and the high post and can post smaller players for lay ups. Pretty athletic right now but by this time next year, I think lay ups will turn into dunks for him as I look for him to stretch some and grow into his strong frame and keep his spot atop the ranking for some time.
2. Rodney Mason 6’3 Forward (Team Impact) Skilled 3-4, Mason is coming into his own and growing on me the more I see him as a player as I thought long and hard about him being the overall best player. Has really worked on his perimeter game, improved athletically and while he’s more so a face up type right now, Mason can go over the top or around and while jumper has improved, to the 3 where he shows that ability, he’s still more or a mid range player where the jumper looks a little more fluid. Mason doesn’t mind being physical defensively or rebounding and won’t back down from a challenge by stronger players. He projects as a possible 3 with his skill set and will be fun to watch him develop over time.
3. Matthew Murrell 5’10 G/F (Bluff City Ballers) Really a scorer, right now at 2 levels to the rim and in 15 feet in, the 3 will come as he matures, Murrell can put up points in bunches. His demeanor never changes and you never know whether his team is up or not as he goes along about business and operating at a efficient clip. Not flashy, doesn’t try to do things he can’t do, he has great fundamentals where he uses the ball fake and loves to get middle for scoring opportunities. He has good form on his shot and elevates enough to get it off and is a solid rebounder from the guard position. The more confident he becomes, the better player he will become and that will elevate him even more.
4. Alfred White Jr 5’8 SG (Memphis WarEagles) Talented shooter who can score it from all over and what I like most is the confidence he displays in himself. He has a good quick release and isn’t shy letting it go but also can make it happen to the rim where he can stop for the pull up and the floater. He can come off the screen but like his younger teammate (Jones) looks more comfortable off the spot up. Really smart player to, when the jumper may not be going, White can get to the line as well, willing to go to the rim but again, is a shooter mostly. As he gets older, scoring in a variety of ways will become a point of emphasis but right now, White is as good as any at what he does in middle school in the city.
5. Marcellus Brigham 6’0 SG/SF (Memphis WarEagles) Effective with the jumper, Brigham’s upside is as high as any in this class in Memphis. Doesn’t wow with athleticism just yet but has the looks of a player who knows how to play the game and get it done. The jumper off the dribble is I think his go to but can attack in the half court or transition. Can create space for the jumper and release it fluidly and is a player who you can go to late in games for a shot to win.