As the saying goes ‘only the good die young.’ Unfortunately, this was the case in Josh Level. An explosive 6-foot-5 wing from Greensboro, NC, Level was destined for a bright basketball career that would surely take him to the high-major level and potentially beyond. I covered Josh beginning in his freshman year when he was running with Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello at Westchester Country Day, following him throughout his stops at the Christ School and New Garden Friends School. Then, as a 17-year old junior, he tragically passed away on the court. Saturday night, his memory lived on and he was be back on the hardwood.
Established last year, the Josh Level Classic popped off yet again Saturday at in Greensboro, NC. Kevin Graves of the Karolina Diamonds AAU program did an amazing job of putting things together to benefit the Josh Level Foundation, which strives to limit bullying and gets student athletes involved with special needs students. Two of the nation’s top five juniors, Harry Giles and Dennis Smith Jr., headlined a who’s who of North Carolina basketball that will be took part to remember this talented prospect. Big time players Brandon Ingram, Brandon Childress, Kwe Parker, and Jalen Harris also joined in what was an outstanding night of hoops. Hornets two-guard PJ Hairston was in the building too, offering a few words about his fallen friend.
“I remember when I first met Josh. I was a junior and he was a freshman,” reminisced Hairston. “He had the most heart of any young player that I ever played with and was the most spirited.”
It was ultimately the white team that walked away with a 157-153 W in an up and down contest that provided no shortage of sick highlights. Here are a few of the guys that stood out from the 2015 Josh Level Classic:
Dennis Smith Jr, 6-2, PG, Trinity Christian (NC), 2016
The best junior point guard in the country lived up to his rep in Greensboro. With a style of play that is meant for an all-star game, Smith used his ridiculous bursts to explode to the rim, often finishing with a dunk. Still nowhere near making a college decision, expect Dennis’ last go-around in July with Team Loaded on the adidas circuit to be attended by just about every major coach in the country.
Harry Giles, 6-10, PF, Wesleyan Christian Academy, 2016
Big men don’t get too much touches in games of this fashion, but the nation’s top junior made it a point to get his. He punched countless dunks in transition, showed off his superb handle for a 6-foot-10 big man, and even stepped out to knock down a few J’s. Having narrowed his list to Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Kansas, UNLV, and UNC, you will see college coaches lining the sidelines during the month of July for his CP3 All-Stars games.
Jatarious “JJ” Smith, 6-5, SG/SF, EE Smith HS (NC), 2017
One of the most athletic sophomores in the country, JJ Smith put his aerial attack on display for the nearly sold out crowd at Southeast Guilford. He crushed ridiculous dunks in transition, converted a number of sick oops, and took the challenge to lock down on D when things got competitive. As JJ continues to improve upon his J, expect him to rise up the national rankings for the class of 2017.
Jalen Johnson, 6-6, SF, Wesleyan Christian Academy, 2016
Another dude who was tailor made for an all-star game was Jaylen Johnson. The lanky swingman from Durham straight put a killing on the rims. Seeming like he gets more athletic by the day, there were a number of times in which he got near head level with the rim and shut it down with his between the legs dunk in transition. Running with the most exciting team in the state of North Carolina, Johnson has no shortage of potential suitors at the college level.
Brandon Childress, 5-10, PG, Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC), 2016
The son of ACC legend Randolph Childress is really beginning to build his own reputation. Already committed to play for Danny Manning and his Pops at Wake Forest, he showed that he could get his own shot on just about anyone. Like his Pops, he was fearless attacking the rack and was a constant threat to score every time he had the rock in his hands. The level of improvement that he’s shown over the last few years make us believe that he should be just fine carrying on the family legacy at Wake.
Xavier Hill-Mais, 6-7, PF, Greensboro Page, 2015
Every all star game needs that guy who is going to play harder than anyone on the ocurt and Xavier Hill-Mais was that guy. Built like a football player, he played the Josh Level Classic as if it were the state title game. He blocked shots, ran the floor, and broke up countless attempted oops that were thrown his way. Heading to Oakland for his college ball, Hill-Mais brings the type of physicality that will allow him to fight right in immediately with the MAC’s style of play.