Middle School Basketball Report
November 28, 2014
American Way vs. Snowden
Thanksgiving Eve I got a chance to check out the biggest game in Middle School basketball since Cordova played American Way at Memphis Catholic. I would assume that most people expected American Way to win. After all American way has the advantage in the post with Chandler Lawson and American Way is much deeper than Snowden.
I myself expected American Way to win, after seeing how DJ Jeffries dominated Snowden in the paint on a bad night. But I knew Snowden wouldn't lay down. They played up to their competition. They took Cordova to the buzzer and they beat White Station by double-digits.
One thing about basketball, if the game is close within the final two or three minutes then its anybody's game I don't care who's on the court. And that's exactly what happened between the Eagles and the GreenDogs.
A lot of people are saying American Way's problem is that they're too young. First of all, they're not too young (They start three eighth graders;Chandler Lawson, Dontae Horne, and Dee Merriwhether, a seventh grader; Dbo Coleman, and the best sixth grader in the city; Jalen Brown). Second of all, they don't have a problem. American Way has Chandler, but they must use him. They can post him up and he can score fifty points a game. They have veteran guards in eighth graders Dontae Horne and Dee Merriwhether. They've got shooters, everybody on the team can shoot. They can defend.
If its one thing that they're lacking I would say that its a strong slasher that can get to the rack and finish. Dontae Horne is quick enough to be that guy and Jalen Brown is skilled enough, but neither of them have consistently taken that can.
Snowden has a guy that can do that. And he just may be the best scorer in Middle School; Devontay Williams. He's long. He's strong, and he can get it done. No one can hold him. He's played three of the best teams in the city and he's been able to do whatever he wanted to do in all three games.
American Way does a good job of putting forth a good team effort. They have about an eight or nine man rotation and everybody in that rotation scores. But no one in that rotation dominated in the game against Snowden, not even Chandler. And I believe that's why they lost. American Way had enough weapons to beat Snowden by 15 or 20 points, instead they weren't able to hold to the lead and lost to the GreenDogs.
Snowden is the kind of team that makes very few mistakes, they've got kids that know their roles and don't try to do more than they can. Versus American Way that had some kids to make some big shots. Cory Griggs started with a big three, Antonio Thomas hit a tough turnaround jumper, and down the stretch Marcellus Brigham hit two critical treys. Snowden is not the best team in the city, but they sure play like they are.
November 26, 2014
I got a chance to check out the Cummings Eagles vs. Bellevue Bobcats yesterday at 1pm at Bellevue. I had seen Cummings play before in a scrimmage and I had seen Bellevue play a couple times before also, so going into the game I expected Bellevue to come away with the win. But let's talk about the teams first.
Cummings is a little known team. Some people may have never heard of it. But one name you will be hearing of is Catterious Moore. Moore, a nice sized shooting guard, who is a decent ball-handler, aggressive defender, and won't back down from any challenge. And don't let me forget he can shoot, from anywhere on the court, and off the court too.
But after Moore, the Eagles don't have much help. Their second best player is either Kevin, a feisty guard who well-undersized but can get it done at times, and is a pesky defender or Markelrion Hines, a sixth grader who starts and who can knock down big threes.
Cummings has a nice-sized big in Tim, and hopefully through more varsity game experience he can become a producer on both ends of the court.
The Eagles have enough pieces to compete this year but they will have to execute. Aside from Moore, their guards make poor decisions under pressure and they haven't proven that they can beat a fullcourt or halfcourt press. And they rebound horribly and do not box out. That lack of rebounding will haunt them this year.
Bellevue came into this season highly ranked and with big expectations. They have a lot of AAU kids on the roster. They added Omari "Big O" from the Wareagles, Eric Roberts from the Wildcats, and another big #5. Not to mention, they returned all their starters and a lot of their bench.
Bellevue is another one of those teams that looks good on paper. I think one of their biggest assets is their depth.
Point guard Tyson Banks, has a great court IQ, he passes well, he handles the ball well, and he has the ability to get to the rack. One thing I like about Tyson, he is very vocal and clearly wants to be a leader. Jabari Small, is another point guard who defends well, has the ability to penetrate, and makes good decisions. The there's the shooter, Jesse Payne. Give him any room and you can go ahead and give the Bobcats three points before he even shoots. There is not another kid in middle school will the accuracy of this kid. "Cece" is another great asset to the the Bobcats squad, he's got good size, he's quick, he's fast, he's athletic, and he's a great defender. Bellevue also has two good bigs; Big O and Travis. Big O, may be the most skilled 7th grade big in the city, he's got so much experience from playing in big-time AAU games, he boxes out, he scores well around the rim, passes well, he really adds another dimension to the team. Travis is strong kid and definitely a presence in the paint. He's got great size, he rebounds well, and he can score in the paint. And there's this new kid #5 who is over six feet, athletic, and a great rebounder.
Then you add Eric Roberts who will be the future of this team. Roberts has the ability to penetrate and knock down a nice little midrange floater, shoots well from outside, and also has big game experience.
I don't exactly know why Bellevue's record doesn't reflect the amount of talent on the team. I think it may be the fact that they don't really have a true slasher that can finish at the rack. I've seen glimpses of that in Jabari in AAU play but I haven't seen it carry over in school ball yet. Jesse Payne is probably their best scorer with his shooting ability but most teams zero in on him. The Bobcats do have a great frontcourt with Big O and Travis, definitely one of the top five frontcourts in the city.
All in all, Bellevue is a better team than what they've shown thus far.
Cummings Eagles vs. Bellevue Bobcats
I walked into the gym expecting Bellevue to win, but expecting Catterious Moore and Kevin to play good enough to make the game competitive.
Not quite. Bellevue's fullcourt press and halfcourt press forced dozens of turnovers and Cummings was not able to adjust. Bellevue racked up point after point on fast breaks.
The Bobcats also dominated the boards. And had so many second, third, and fourth chance points.
Catterious Moore led all scorers with just shy of thirty points but it was enough as Bellevue dominated Cummings and won in a blowout with ease.
November 20, 2014.
I was able to check out the Snowden vs. White Station game last night and I must say I was surprised. But before we talk about the game let's talk about the teams.
White Station Spartans
Let's start with White Station. Of course in the preseason and early in the season there were high expectations for the Spartans. We knew thy weren't going to be in championship form because they lost so many starters, but they were still far from a rebuilding season. But then they lost Eric Gray. Even without Gray I would still say White Station just may be one of the deepest teams in the city. And when I say deep I mean kids that can play, kids with real competitive and summer ball experience. Now they don't have many skilled bigs but the way 6th grader Willie Foreman played last night he'll be good enough and big enough to be productive for them in most games.
Speaking of Willie, I must say he played a very good game last night, especially in the first half. I didn't expect for him to be as productive as he was since this is first year playing varsity ball. But he rebounded well and he scored very well, especially 8 to 10 feet away from the basket, he showed a nice touch.
But back to the Spartans depth, when it comes to guards they are deep; Kevon Woodley, Ashton Smith, and Ryan Dortch, then add Kavion McClain and Amauri off the bench. That's five good guards, though they're all small guards except for Woodley. And they all can handle the ball, make fairly decent decisions, good IQ, and can shoot the three. But none of them are slashers, none of them really have the ability to get to rack and finish. That's where they really miss Gray. With Gray they would've had that kid that could get to rack, they would've had Willie down low, and they would've had a choice of five other guards on the perimeter to shoot the three.
Personally I think White Station is one of the top teams in the city, on paper. They've got good guards, they've got good bigs, they've got shooters. But I think they have a fatal flaw. Down the stretch in a tough game against a good team, who do they go to? They really don't have a player that can create for himself, at least I didn't see one last night.
Snowden is a different kind of team. They are not deep, at all. They've got two really good players; Devontay Williams and Antonio Thomas. Devontay is a true scorer. He's got a decent shot, he hustles, and he's freakishly athletic. But what I like the most about this kid, he can get to the rack and finish. There may not be a kid in middle school that can hold him one on one. Then there's Tonio. Tonio is the foundation of the team. He does the small things that allow Vontay to shine. Tonio is the floor general, he rebounds, he plays defense, and he can shoot the three too. I like his poise and decision making.
Snowden has a few role players that contribute. I really don't want to call Coryonte "Cory" Griggs a role player because he's usually going to be one of the best players on the court and he does complete what I like to call Snowden's Big 3. Outside of Cory there is Ryan, Marcellus, and Troy. I like Ryan's game too. He doesn't do anything fancy but he gets it done.
Snowden is lacking in the post. Tonio and Vontay are their bigs, meaning on defense they are playing out of position. If Snowden had a true big they'd be in comparison to Cordova. But without that big man every game against a good team is going to be a battle, like their loss to Cordova at the buzzer. Another problem Snowden has that their role players miss a lot of layups. In both games against Cordova and White Station they missed a lot of easy buckets.
If Snowden is going to make a deep run into the playoffs they can't afford to ever let Tonio or Vontay get into foul trouble, they're going to have to box out when they are playing against trees, and their role players are going to have to make layups.
Snowden vs. White Station
Like I said earlier, I was surprised that Snowden won the game so convincingly. On paper White Station looks better than Snowden. White Station has a skilled big in Willie Forman. And they have other true bigs. Snowden's bigs are a point guard and a shooting guard. Initially White Station jumped out to a little lead, but in my opinion it was Willie who really separated White Station from Snowden and gave them the advantage. Willie rebounded and more importantly scored well around the basket, and not just layups but midrange shots as well. Antonio Thomas was in foul trouble, and to be honest when he went out the GreenDogs played sloppy, proving my point, they can't afford for Tonio or Vontay to be in foul trouble.
At halftime the game was tied 18-18.
Down the stretch I won't say that Snowden just really outplayed White Station. I do have to point out that Antonio Thomas was on the bench for most of the second half and had he been in the game Snowden's margin of victory may have been even greater.
In the second half the Spartans stopped going inside to Foreman, they settled for a lot of threes (and missed), didn't control the boards like they should have, and gave up a lot of fast breaks points. On the other end White Station didn't force many turnovers and I can't remember them scoring many if any points off fast breaks.
Snowden really controlled the game in the second half, without Antonio. The made the shots they were supposed to make, they didn't give up easy buckets, and they didn't turn the ball over.
Snowden won 51-39.
I was able to check out the Mt. Pisgah vs. Kingsbury game last week. It was my first time watching Kingsbury play, although I was already familiar with most of their players.
Kingsbury has a lot going for them, but they have a lot going against them. Let's look at the positive. They've go the twins; Michael Rice and Mikell Rice, two kids that are pitbulls on defense, a fullcourt press' dream, that are quick as heck, don't get tired, not scared of anybody, and can score. Then add Davionne "AJ" Stewart, a undersized point guard who can play ball and is a nice piece to offset the twins and allow them to work off the wing. Now add Keveon, a true big, a true athlete. And you've got a team that can compete with the best and will run mediocre teams out the gym.
The negatives? They are not deep. They pretty much will have to play those four kids the entire game against top teams and all four of them all foul prone, which is what you expect out of aggressive defenders. Aside from lacking depth, they lack outside shooting. The twins can shoot, but their game is midrange and at the rack. They're not pure shooters.
In the end, the Falcons success will depend on Keveon. He has to rebound. He has to make put-backs, and he has to ready to receive the ball when the twins penetrate and dish it to him.
I saw some kids play this summer that I thought were primarily going to be Mt. Pisgah's varsity team and they got blown out. So going into last week's game I was expecting Kingsbury to blow them out. That was not the case however.
Mt. Pisgah is one player deep, if you're talking about real skilled competitive ball players. They have one; Cam.
Mt. Pisgah is basically rebuilding, they'll win some, they'll lose some, but with only one good ball handler it will be hard for them to compete against top teams.
Mt. Pisgah vs. Kingsbury
I walked into the gym late expecting Kingsbury to be up twenty. They weren't. Kingsbury's press was obviously too much for Mt. Pisgah, there were times when Pisgah couldn't get the ball up the court. There were times when Pisgah turned the ball over back to back. There were times when Kingsbury showed flashes of greatness. It was clear that Mt. Pisgah was outmatched and Kingsbury won the game by double digits, but I will say that the win wasn't as convincing as it should have been.
Some say they're the second best team in the city(maybe state) some say they're the best. They played Cordova a couple weeks ago and you would think that that would've settled it but you know how that goes.
Are they the best? They're probably the deepest. Are they the best? They probably will be next year. Are they the best? Let's look at the facts.
Like I said, they're probably the deepest. They can go almost ten deep if not deeper. Let's go; Chandler Lawson, Dallan "Dbo" Coleman, Dontae Horne, Alvin "Al" Miles, Johnathan Lawson, Jalen Brown, Marquan Dean, and Dee Merriwhether. I don't think its a team in the city with as many names from the summer.
Do they have bigs? They've got the biggest big, the most talked about player in middle school 6'6/6'7 Chandler Lawson.
Do they have shooters? Dbo, Dontae, Al, Johnathan, Dee and Jalen can all shoot, long range and midrange.
Can they defend? American Way may have the most talented and aggressive team on the defensive end. Al and Dontae are cat quick. Jalen defends well, as does Johnathan whose wingspan adds to his defending. And of course Chandler is a threat in the post. All that being said they should be able to simply press most teams into submission.
I think American Way lacks a strong veteran guard to called the top team in the city. They only have one eight grade guard, Dontae. They don't have a real facilitator, all their guards are basically natural wings, they really don't have a real facilitator. Now don't get me wrong all their guards are capable of running the point, but none of them are natural point guards.
Chandler is going to make it easy for them in most games, afterall he is ranked No.1 in his class. He's going to get all the rebounds, he's going to get a lot of second and third chance points, and he's going to force to teams to settle for jump shots.
If they had had the same team last year I probably would've given them a lower grade. I feel like last year there were a lot of stronger more dominant players. But this year American Way definitely has what it takes to dominate.
They're definitely not the team anyone expected them be. There's no Shemar, there's no Rodney Mason, and there's no Sky. Three kids, at least 6'2, who would probably all be starting. But even without those three, they've still got the best tag-team in the city Joe Cooper and DJ Jeffries. Joe is the best guard in the city; he's smarter, quicker, faster, and more talented. He's poised, he's confident, and he's got the IQ. He's a true facilitator. Then you give him a player like DJ to work with, they're like Shaq & Kobe. There is only one kid in the city who can compare to DJ, and you all know who that is. DJ is 6'5/6'6, and jumping out the gym. And it's a lot of people who are calling him the best player in the city.
They're backcourt is the best in the city. Joe and Josh are more experienced, more confident, and more battle tested than any other two guards in the city, hands down. Josh may not be the flashiest kid, but he's got skills and he's probably more familiar with Joe than anybody else.
Cordova is still deeper than most, but just not as deep as I think Coach Rodney originally expected to be. They've got shooters; Kameron, Zeke, Alfred, and Rodney "Lil Rodney" Newsom. I wouldn't say they were necessarily deep in the post but DJ (like Chandler at American Way) is just going to be too much for most teams. There is not going to be an answer for him.
I don't see anyone being able to beat them, especially with Sky returning to lineup soon.
Cordova vs. Snowden
Just being honest, Snowden should've won this game. Not saying Snowden is better than Cordova, but on that night, they should've won. They kept the game low scoring. DJ was missing shots. Snowden was making shots. Joe didn't do much scoring. Everything was working in Snowden's favor. In my opinion had I been coaching against Cordova with almost a ten point lead I would've stalled the ball.
This was my first game actually getting to see Devontay Williams play, and this was the night I became a fan. Williams proved himself as true competitor that night.
In the end, the GreenDogs couldn't put the Cougars away. Cordova stuck around around, and Joe Cooper took it coast to coast and knocked down a floater at the buzzer to escape Snowden and remain undefeated.
Coming Soon: WEB Dubois, Cordova vs. American Way, & Middle School Rankings
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