by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
This past weekend in Memphis, some of the best high school players in the state of Tennessee put on a show in the first-ever 10aC Elite Showcase. The event was stockpiled with high-major recruits from the Class of 2013, ’14 and ’15, and as you would expect, the outstanding collection of talent made for an exciting weekend of hoops.
From top to bottom, Tennessee has an unusually deep high school roster. The 2013 group features six unanimous “top-100” players, and at least 10 other kids who undoubtedly belong in that conversation. There’s the “known” guys—the Memphis-bound triumvirate of Austin Nichols, Markel Crawford and Nick King; explosive shooting guard Robert Hubbs (Tennessee); versatile swingman Shannon Hale (Alabama); JaJuan Johnson (Marquette); and Johnathan Williams III (Missouri).
But the list just gets deeper. There’s VCU-bound PG JeQuan Lewis, Richmond-bound Josh Jones, Miami-bound Corn Elder, Wichita State-bound DJ Bowles and Murray State-bound Cameron Payne. And that’s without including guys like Demetrius Dyson and 7-footer Sam Edwards—gifted recruits who are still searching for the right college fit.
The 2014 class? Plentiful. Forwards Leron Black and Jalen Lindsey will, in my estimation, be All-Americans next season, while guys like Marcanvis Hymon, CJ Anderson, Chris Chiozza, Fattod Lewis and Ladarius Chester have a chance to be special. In the sophomore ranks, 6-10 combo forward Skal Labissiere already has an offer from Kentucky, and with steady development, 6-4 guard Donte Fitzpatrick has the tools to make noise nationally.
If none of these names ring a bell, don’t fret—you’re not alone. The talent in Tennessee isn’t covered as heavily as, say, the talent in New York or California or Texas, but make no mistake about it: These boys can play with anybody in the country. I’m not saying Tennessee is breeding the next NBA superstar, but I am saying that as a collective entity, these boys would give other groups a run for their money.
Organized by Left Hand Right Hand, LLC (the same group that organized the Big Strick Classic), the showcase commenced Friday night at Hickory Hill Missionary Baptist Church, where players of all age groups ran through a series of drills to sharpen their basketball skills and acumen. Led by coach and workout guru Sam Clark, the players worked through a series of dribbling, shooting and rebounding exercises. After an hour or so of workouts, the players got their first lick at each other in a 30-minute scrimmage.
The following afternoon, crowds of spectators and family members gathered in the gymnasium of Southwest Tennessee Community College for the main event.
Before the game, a number of players took part in a three-point contest to showcase their shooting abilities. In the finals, future Crimson Tide swingman Shannon Hale took home the crown, defeating junior CJ Anderson.
The showcase pitted the players against one another, in what quickly turned into a fast-paced highlight factory. The teams were split into “Red” and “Blue” teams. In a high-scoring game that could’ve gone either way, junior Jalen Lindsey paced the Blue team to a 145-140 victory. The jack-of-all-trades forward scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while junior point guard Ladarius Chester contributed with 21 points and sophomore Donte Fitzpatrick chipped in 19. For the Red team, Leron Black had the most profound impact of all players, scoring 35 points to go along with 22 rebounds, while Hale contributed 26 points and 8 rebounds, including four three-pointers.
After the game wrapped up, the excitement in the gym reached a climax. This was, of course, because the Dunk Contest was next.
The contestants included Black, Chester and ETSU commit AJ Merriweather. All three were freakishly athletic, getting eye-level with the rim on every dunk, but in the end the 6-1 Chester took home a well-deserved victory. Fittingly, the Dunk Contest was the final scene of a memorable weekend in Memphis.
10aC Elite Showcase
Blue defeats Red, 145-140.
MVPs: Blue — Jalen Lindsey (24 pts, 15 rebs); Red — Shannon Hale (26 points, 8 rebs)
Most Outstanding Player: Leron Black (35 pts, 22 rebs)
Scouting Report: Notable Players
Leron Black (Memphis, TN/White Station HS)
2014, SF/PF, 6-7, 215
Initially committed to Baylor; de-committed in January 2013. Offers from UConn, Illinois, Florida, Ohio State and others
One of the top rated juniors in the country, Black was the most impressive player in Tennessee, finishing with 35 points and 22 rebounds. At 6-7, 215 pounds, he’s a matchup nightmare because he’s too agile and quick for bigger defenders, and too massive for smaller defenders. Black can set up anywhere on the court and go to work; he has great mobility and athleticism to flourish in transition (Black is a legitimate one-man fast break) and has an arsenal of moves in the half-court. On defense, he’s athletic enough to guard three positions.
What’s scary is that most of Black’s 35 points came off second-chance opportunities, as he attacked the boards and finished with at least four put-back dunks. Black’s motor is remarkable, his competitiveness is relentless and he’s attacks the paint—both on scoring and rebounding opportunities—with a vengeance. In terms of his motor, think Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; while his peers are grasping for air in the fourth quarter, Black seemingly gains energy as the game goes on.
At this point, Black has a good chance to be a top-5 player in his class. He’s the complete package—an inside-outside threat that impacts the game with or without the basketball. To give you an idea: In a three-play series during the third quarter, Black first completed a one-man fast break, then backed down his defender for a turn-around tear drop, and then nailed a pull-up three the next play. If Black wants to take his game to the next level, he’ll need to continue to fill out his frame and develop his ball handling, because he’ll likely be playing more on the wing in college. Still, Black is an elite player whose upside is through the roof.
Jalen Lindsey (Christ Presbyterian Academy)
2014, SF, 6-7, 185
Offers from Florida, Louisville, Ohio State, Tennessee and others
Lindsey is a rare breed: He’s a cerebral player with freakish athleticism. He operates smoothly on the wing, is an effective slasher and explodes to the rim with even the slightest inch of separation. He has great length, plays with an infectious energy and can shoot out to 20 feet. What’s fascinating about Lindsey is that although he’s right handed, he prefers to go left, which keeps defenders on their toes. He can explode off either foot, knows how to space the floor, and attacks the boards with bunny-like bounce. Lindsey doesn’t’ waste dribbles, and understands how to gain position on drives by lowering his shoulder and sinking into his defender.
At this point, Lindsey needs to shore up his handle to consistently create his own shot, but he has all the tools to do so. Picture CJ Leslie with strong fundamentals and extended range.
Shannon Hale (Christ School)
2013, SF, 6-8, 210
Committed to Alabama
Hale committed to Alabama during his sophomore season, and it’s safe to say Anthony Grant is getting a real good player next year. Hale seems to be improving every time he steps on the court, and has a great feel for the game. He’s automatic from mid-range, and showcased strong shooting mechanics from long range as well. He has soft touch inside, and overall has the tools to make a big impact on the college level.
Hale is versatile enough to guard three positions—he’s long, can block shots and gets way above the rim to grab rebounds and slam home put-backs. He’s a big-time rising prospect with unusual basketball IQ, and is also a delightful young man. In other words, Alabama got a good one in Shannon Hale.
Skal Labissiere (Evangelical Christian School)
2015, PF/C, 6-10, 200
Offer from Kentucky; Interest pick up from several high-major schools
A native of Haiti, Labissieri is very advanced for his age. He has great length, a vast arsenal of moves in the low post—jump hooks with either hand, turn-around and step-black jumpers, etc—and at 6-10 has range out to 18 feet. His defensive instincts are already there, and he’s a point guard’s best friend in transition. When watching Skal, it was evident this kid has the potential to be a future pro. He needs to gain weight, but as far as under-the-radar sophomores go, there aren’t many better than Labissieri. He’s a silky-smooth big man with next-level mobility and the footwork of a college player. There’s a reason Kentucky has already offered.
Chris Chiozza (White Station HS)
2014, PG, 5-10, 160
Offer from Missouri; Interest from Florida, Richmond and others
A 5-10 lead guard, Chiozza had the best handles at the event. He’s lightning quick with the ball, can change direction on a dime and has an unteachable feel for setting up his teammates. Chiozza is faster with the ball in his hands than without it—think Phil Pressey—and he consistently draws in defenders to set up his teammates for easy baskets. At the scrimmage on Friday, Chiozza beautifully set up his teammates first, and then when the defense was on their heels, he knocked down four three-pointers in a row. He’s undersized, but what he lacks in size he makes up in speed and court vision. Chiozza uses his handle and quickness to penetrate the defense and create open lanes for cutters.
Ladarius Chester (Melrose HS)
2014, PG, 6-1
Chester could be the best junior you’ve never heard of. Only 6-1, he’s an electric PG with next-level athleticism (check the dunk contest, above) and a massive chip on his shoulder. He showed flashes of Russell Westbrook-type athleticism and body control.
Chester is a bully. He has broad, wide shoulders, and uses his strong frame to finish through contact at the rim. He plays with a mean streak, and the overall level of play automatically rises when Chester is on the court. The next step for him is learning how to run an offense—namely, the pick and roll—but if I were a college coach, I’d be very intrigued by the thought of acquiring Chester. He’s a fearless competitor who digs into his opponent every game.
Marlon Hunter (Melrose HS)
2015, SG, 6-4
Hunter is an aggressive scorer who had one of the more impressive showings on the weekend. His jumpshot was near-automatic all afternoon and he got to the cup in transition, finishing with 20 points on the day. Hunter’s stock has been rising since late last year, and it was evident why. He can score from all over the floor, has a tight handle and good athleticism. With two years of high school remaining, Hunter’s is definitely worth keeping tabs on.
Josh Jones (Memphis Central HS)
2013, SF, 6-4
Committed to Richmond
Jones is a bouncy athlete with good range on his jumpshot and high versatility on the defensive end. Right now he’s more of a small forward, but if he develops his handle to deal with pressure he can make a seamless transition to shooting guard. He’s a smart player who can be highly effective without forcing the issue. Earlier this year, Jones scored 52 points vs Leron Black and the rest of the White Station crew, and he has a chance to immediately start at Richmond.
Marcanvis Hymon (Whitehaven HS)
2014, SF, 6-6, 185
Offers from Mississippi, Cincinnati, Missouri, Arkansas and others
Hymon is one of the most skilled juniors in the country. The combo forward has strong hands, and he’s an automatic basket when he receives the ball in the mid or high post. He has good length and athleticism, enabling him to make an impact on both defense and the glass, and also cleans up nicely in transition. Going forward, Hymon needs to be more assertive and demand the ball in the post. That being said, Hymon has all the tools of a high-major prospect, and could garner even more attention this summer.
Demetrius Dyson (Covington HS)
2013, SG/SF, 6-5
De-committed from Lipscomb in March 2013; Interest picking up
A lengthy 6-5 shooting guard, Dyson showcased lots of skill off the dribble, and when given space he knocked down a number of outside shots. He digs into his man on defense, using length and lateral quickness to deflect passes and disrupt shots. He’s athletic enough to defend either guard position, and there’s no question he has mid-major abilities. It will be very interesting to see which schools offer him a scholarship this late in the game. Dyson said he’s recently heard from La Salle, Tennessee and UMass.
Donte Fitzpatrick (Melrose HS)
2015, SG, 6-4, 175
Fitzpatrick is a skilled shooting guard with a vast offensive arsenal. He uses a strong crossover to get to the rim, and can also stop on a dime for a pull-up jumpshot. He has a great feel for the game, and can adjust speeds on cue. Fitzpatrick is an effective rebounder from the wing, and if he can develop his jumpshot, he could rise up the charts as an upperclassman.
Sam Edwards (Oakhaven HS)
2013, C, 7-0, 260
Reported offers from Arkansas, Memphis, Nebraska and others
Regardless of skill set or mental make up, you can’t teach 7-feet, 260 pounds. Edwards has a long ways to go in terms of skill, polish, shooting ability and footwork, but he was the most noticeable player on the court and has the physical tools to make an impact. It’ll be a long shot—a year of prep school or JUCO wouldn’t hurt—but Edwards is certainly worth keeping tabs on.
CJ Anderson (Arlington HS)
2014, SG, 6-4, 180
Offers from VCU, Arizona State; Interest from Georgia Tech, LSU and others
Anderson is a wiry guard who flourishes in a fast-paced setting. He’s a pest on defense, gets up the floor quickly and can get to the rim, but he’ll need to shore up his jumpshot and ball handling to deal with pressure and have a more significant impact. Still, Anderson is raw and the potential is there.
Rob Marberry (Franklin Road Academy)
2014, PF, 6-7, 195
In terms of playing style, Marberry reminded me of Josh McRoberts. The lefty has a strong build, fights to get rebounds on the interior and can also knock down the three-pointer in transition. Marberry was once a scrapper, but now, with a variety of over the shoulder and step-back moves, is a threat to contribute on offense.
AJ Merriweather (South Side HS)
2013, SF, 6-4, 195
Committed to East Tennessee State
Merriweather does a lot of things at a “good” level, but not much at an elite level. He’s a good athlete who has shown the ability to knock down three-pointers, and can also defend both guard positions. He has the physical tools to succeed; he just needs to stay in the gym and keep working.
Khalil Spencer (Mitchell HS)
2015, G, 6-4, 180
Coming off a serious knee injury, Spencer was just easing his way back into things at the 10aC Elite Showcase, but he showed why he’s one of the top sophomores in the state. He has a high motor, can rebound from the wing and has the ability to score in bunches. As he regains his strength in his knee and gets more comfortable, Spencer could emerge as a consistent impact player.
Damon Cox (Germantown Academy)
2013, PG, 5-10
Although undersized, Cox has a strong basketball IQ and knocked down two straight jumpers to open the game. He picked and choosed his spots wisely, and made the defense respect his shot all afternoon.
Wray Fuller (South Side HS)
2013, G, 6-2
Fuller scored 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and scored key baskets in crunch time to help the blue team secure victory. He was kind of like a silent assassin— he won’t blow you away with elite skills or athleticism, but he understands how to make the correct basketball play and was a difference maker down the stretch.
Fattod Lewis (Raleigh-Egypt HS)
2014, SF/PF, 6-6
Offer from Missouri; Interest from Auburn, Memphis, Tennessee and others
Like Anderson, Lewis competes on both ends of the floor but is waiting for his skill level to catch up with his athleticism. Lewis embraces contact down low and attacks the glass. If he can get a few go-to moves on the interior, and then refine a mid-range jumpshot, Lewis will become a major threat. The future looks bright.