Picking Up My Slack
From the Big Apple to Mississippi, my people have me covered.
by Aggrey Sam
As promised in my last column, I’ve gotten a helping hand or two in covering the prep scene over the last few weeks. First is the return of Megan French, who has more NYC high school hoops for your enjoyment:
by Megan French
One article is funny, a fluke of sorts. A few folks even said it sounded like I knew a little something about high school ball. Yeah it was my mom, but whatever. Second attempts at anything have more pressure, higher stakes.
This was Rice v. Christ the King, New York City powerhouse Catholic teams, and this was the Gauchos gym, and shit, a year ago I didn’t know the significance of all of the above. However, my Wikipedia research was sufficient to assume that if the likes of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Mashburn and Kenny Anderson used to hoop in the Bronx gym back in the day, that I was entering a NYC basketball establishment. Playing for the dominance in the NYC Catholic leagues, this game was at least going to be interesting.
Anyhow, I felt a certain responsibility to expand my earlier notation of smiley faces and checks. Mind you, I didn’t expand much, but I decided to include a tally of points, fouls, and free throws to make myself feel fancy. Of course, I had not taken the time to write down team rosters and so found myself looking at the numbers on the back of jerseys with no clue who these kids were. Suddenly I realized I didn’t know shit about high school basketball. Sitting in the back of the bleachers, I watched the end of the JV game, and pitied my own ignorance. I turned, raising my tattered notebook where I had scribbled the names of players I was supposed to watch, and asked the priest who was talking rapidly about Rice senior Durand Scott if he could at least give me jersey numbers on the Rice side.
He cocked his head, smiled, and said, “I am pretty sure they announce the starting lineup at games like this.”
I turned back to face center court, embarrassed, but relieved that I would be able to follow the game without having to ask the JV team sitting in front of me to point people out.
I’m not even going to lie; the first half of the game was boring. I know that I’m supposed to be impartial and what not, but I wanted to see a close game, especially because I had been told I should go see Rice play. But from tip off, straight boring.
CTK took an early lead and held onto it. Scott, Rice’s golden child, who is bound for Miami in the fall, got in foul trouble early as CTK’s defense pressed early in the game. In fact, the Raiders got themselves into foul trouble real fast with sloppy defense and uncoordinated offense. They had not expected the defensive pressure from the Royals, and that was obvious.
CTK took their leadership from their sophomore guard, Corey Edwards. At just 5’10″ (he looked shorter than that to me), Edwards was agile, good with his hands and feet, had a nice jumper and played solid defense. More than that, to the less competent observer (me) he was fun to watch. Dude was daring with his passing patterns. Sending angled bounce passes through an oblivious Rice defense.
I hear “swagger” everywhere I go in New York. No one on the corner, my ass. Every single middle-school kid I know, and the 72-year-old man I have coffee with in the Columbia University café says they got swagger. But it may be the one word that describes his play. Swagger. His confidence, leadership and aggression served the entire CTK team well.
Sean Johnson, CTK’s 6-1 senior guard and one of the best unsigned NYC high school hoopers, had a good game, as well. Quiet in the paint, his jump shot, particularly from the corner, was consistent and dangerous throughout the first half of the game. It was only when Rice was able to shut Edwards and Johnson down that they made any progress.
Yet, their combined efforts meant little in the last second of the third quarter, the moment the game got interesting. With .9 on the clock, Rice inbounded to Jermaine Sanders, who hit a short jumper to tie the game up.
The first play of the 4th quarter, Rice’s big man James Stukes, a 6-5 senior, came up with a quick perimeter jumper, and turned around a steal to assist the 6-4 Scott with an easy layup. With Scott back in the game, Stukes finally starting to hit shots in the post, and sophomore Jonathan Williams hitting threes, CTK’s luck ran out.
The foul trouble didn’t mean a thing because as Rice started to break through the press, CTK lost their rhythm. Scoring 26 points in the final quarter, Coach Mo Hicks‘ squad took out Bob Oliva‘s team’s early efforts with a final score of 71 to 58.
At the end of the day, I had been to the Gauchos gym and seen the home team win. I couldn’t help but smile. Now, when I walk by Rice, just a few blocks from my house, I might nod in affinity for the green and gold.
My man Jamie Palmer is a scout who covers the South in general, specifically Memphis, Mississippi his home base of Louisiana. On MLK Day, he went out to Jackson, Miss., to see two showcases that were absolutely loaded with talented prospects. I went last year and had planned to go again, but I was sick as a dog. Anyway, with no further adieu…
by Jamie Palmer
MLK JR Classic at Lanier High School:
–Brandon 72, Cleveland Eastside 36
Tyler Adams (2011) 6’8 C Brandon
The 2011 high major prospect had no problem in the paint against his 6’8 circuit teammate Johnny O’Bryant. Adams scored 20 points and snag 11 rebounds. Many of his baskets came with his back to the basket, where he used his jump hook to score over the top of O’Bryant. Adams also looked like he lost most of the baby fat and is shaping up well. The big man listed Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Clemson, Wake Forest, and Memphis.
Tre Brown (2011) 6’5 F Brandon
Although his counterpart Tyler Adams took most of the bulk on offense, this long lanky 2011 forward prospect caught my eye with the way he was very active around the basket on both offense and defense. Low to mid majors should chart this youngster on the recruiting board for future trail rides to Brandon, Mississippi.
Johnny O’Bryant (2011) 6’8 F Cleveland Eastside
The freak of nature 2011 high major prospect may be raw in the offensive skill department, but makes up for it with his out of the world athleticism. Although Tyler Adams outplayed him, O’Bryant scored 12 points on six monster dunks that made his game look comparable to that of Amar’e Stoudamire’s. He did grab nine rebounds and blocked three shots, but never in the game did he dominate the boards or had a “get that shit out of here” or “gimme that” type of block. Along with his backyard buddies Ole Miss and Mississippi State, J-O listed Baylor, Memphis, Kansas, and North Carolina.
–Noxubee County 63, McComb 60
Shaunessy Smith (2009) 6’5 G Noxubee County
Big 50 No. 1 rated player in the state and Mississippi State signee Shaunessy Smith scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Although he shot 9-18 from the field, Smith looked to be bothered by his hip injury when shooting jumpers and most of all from behind the arc where he went 2-8.
LaDarius “Snoop” White (2012) 6’4 G/F McComb
Snoop was probably the most exciting prospect I saw between the two events. On one occasion during his matchup against Shaunessy Smith, the 6’4 2012 swingman put a mean crossover for the opener, followed by a step back move for the main attraction, and then hit the three for the closing act. The crowd gave the ovation and the curtains closed on the “Who’s the top freshman in the state?” show. Oh yeah, his evaluation. Great ball handler that gets to the rack, sweet jumper, and a great body to go along with all that! His stat line read 17 points and seven rebounds.
–Vicksburg 64, Provine 51
Mychal Ammons (2011) 6’5 G/F Vicksburg
The 2011 combo is coming back from an ankle injury that kept him benched till last week. He showed signs of rust in the first quarter where he scored five points on 2-7 shooting, 1-5 behind the arc. Over the next three quarters, he shredded the defense by attacking the basket and hit on all three attempts behind the arc. He finished the game with 26 points on 9-16 shooting, 4-8 from three. The high major prospect listed many schools with none being a favorite and said his recruiting is wide open.
Kelsey Howard (2010) 6’2 F Vicksburg
This 2010 prospect scored 14 points and at times got to the rack with ease. Junior colleges should have him on their radar.
Emery Kelly (2009) 6’6 F Provine
The Big 50 No. 2 player in the state was not a factor in the game, but somehow mustered up 12 points on 5-7 shooting, 2-2 from charity line.
Jalen Courtney (2010) 6’7 F Provine
The 6’7 2010 prospect with a major upside did not have an accurate game from the field, shooting 5-14. He finished with 11 points (six points off putbacks) and 17 rebounds.
–Callaway 54, Starkville 44
Javerick Nelson (2010) 6’7 F Callaway
The 2010 mid major prospect put Callaway on his back in the fourth quarter when he scored eight points on 4-4 shooting down the stretch. One of those baskets came on an alley-oop by Deville Smith from half court. On 7-11 shooting, Nelson finished with a team-high 19 points with most of his points coming in the paint from monster dunks.
Julysses Nobles (2009) 6’1 G Callaway
The Big 50 No. 6 ranked player in the state came out on fire, scoring 8 points on 3-5 shooting in the opening quarter. Nobles cooled off over the next three quarters, scoring only 7 points on 2-8 shooting. The very tough underrated senior guard finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Deville Smith 5’10 G (2011) Callaway
Bothered by an injured thumb, the tough high major 2011 prospect scored only 4 points on 2-9 shooting, 0-5 behind the arc. Smith, a quick and bouncy guard, defended the ball well and showed great point guard skills on the offensive end. He made up for his lack of scoring by tallying five rebounds, four steals and seven assists. Smith listed most of the schools in the south, but it seems Arkansas is recruiting him the hardest.
Rashard Perkins 6’6 F (2010) Starkville
This athletic 2010 small forward showed signs of being a major prospect with his ability to knock down the mid-range shot along with the three. Perkins scored 19 points on 7-13 shooting, 2-2 behind the arc.
–Coaches in attendance: Ole Miss (head, assistant), Mississippi State (head coach, two assistants), Wake Forest, Marquette (head coach), Florida, Auburn (head coach), Missouri, Nebraska, Tulane, Southern Miss (two assistants), Centenary, Arkansas (head coach, two assistants), Southeastern Louisiana (two assistants), New Orleans, Jackson State, Chipola, Jones College, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Xavier-New Orleans, Murray State
–Forrest Hill 73, Biloxi 69
A 2010 top 5 player in Mississippi, Forrest Hill’s Andre Stringer scored 24 points, along with five steals, and three assists.
A Big 50 No. 8 ranked Mississippi prospect, Biloxi’s Isaiah Cannon scored 17 points.
–Lanier 74, Greenville-Weston 65
A 2010 top 15 player in Mississippi, Lanier’s Marcelis Hansberry scored 24 points.
–Wingfield 59, Madison Central 56
A 2010 top 25 player in Mississippi, Wingfield’s Trency Jackson scored 17 points.
A Big 50 No. 32 ranked Mississippi prospect, Wingfield’s Sam Ford scored 13 points.
A Big 50 No. 5 ranked Mississippi prospect, Madison Central’s Jeremy Adams scored 12 points.
Rumble in the South at Mississippi College:
–Madison Ridgeland Academy 51, Pearl 29
Twymond Howard 6’6 F (2012) Pearl
This promising 2012 forward did not have a good showing and looked to be playing out of position. He shot 2-13 from the field, 0-2 from three and grabbed seven rebounds. Most of the shots he took were from the outside and he did not take ball to rack that often. Howard did shy away from the MRA oversized front court during the course of the game and at times got very frustrated, which lead to some bench time. He finished with six points, three blocks, three steals, and only two turnovers.
Ryan Goolsby 6’6 F (2009) Madison Ridgeland Academy
Goolsby is a 6’6 unsigned senior forward who caught my eye with his knack for rebounding and passing from the high post. He is definite D-II or NAIA player, but would make a nice walk-on for any low major. Goolsby took home the MVP of the game trophy and finished with 11 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.
–Lincoln (Dallas, TX) 75, Meridian 73 OT
LeBryan “Too Easy” Nash 6’6 F (2011) Lincoln
This 2011 6’6 beast was too much for Meridian. After hammering down four straight dunks, Nash turns to the home crowd and yells “too easy!” And easy it was. Nash powered his way to the MVP honors and game high 28 points, 13-20 shooting and seven rebounds. He also showed he can knock down the three when he connected on one of his two attempts from behind the lottery line. Mr. “Too Easy” was definitely the best player in this event and is really looking like a top-10 player in the nation. Nash named just about every school and said no one stands above the other.
Desean Miles 6’2 G (2009) Lincoln
Miles, another unsigned senior, impressed me with his ball handling skills and quickness getting to the rack. He’s not always the most consistent shooter, but he got in rhythm early and finished the game with 21 points on 9-15 shooting, 1-3 behind the arc. He also grabbed eight rebounds, three steals, and dished out 5 assists. Southern claims to be the top school on his list, but many Jucos are inquiring.
Jordan Williams 6’6 F (2011) Lincoln
This 2011 major prospect scored the game-winning bucket as time expired in overtime. Williams, who is averaging a double-double on the year, tallied up 15 points on 5-9 shooting and 5-5 from the charity stripe.
Rodney Hood 6’6 G (2011) Meridian
With Florida making the trip to watch the long 6’6 2011 wing, Hood was very impressive early. On 3-5 shooting, 3-3 from behind the arc, he scored nine points in the first half. The second half didn’t come so kind to the future high major player, where he only manage to get off four shots with two coming from behind the arc before fouling out late in fourth quarter. He must improve on rebounding from the wing position (one rebound for the game) and needs to attack the rim more, using his length to score over his opponent (attempted only one free throw). His list consists of Florida, Duke, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and pretty much everybody else.
Kenny Brown 6’7 F (2009) Meridian
Brown, Big 50 No. 10 player in the state, was very impressive in his match-up against the bigger frontline of Lincoln. The 6’7 unsigned senior dominated in the second half, where he scored 12 points, 5-10 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds. An underrated mid-major prospect, Brown finished the game with 20 points, 8-14 shooting and 14 rebounds.
Deshun Carter 6’4 F (2009) Meridian
The Big 50 No. 26 ranked player scored 20 points on 10-22 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.
–Melrose (Memphis, TN) 71, Murrah 57
Adonis Thomas 6’6 F (2011) Melrose
The 6’6 2011 prospect scored 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals in 22 minutes of PT. Thomas is quietly making a case for a top-20 national ranking after a great showing against top ranked player LaQuinton Ross. Although he only attempted one three in the game, which he drained, Thomas is looking more and more comfortable on the perimeter shooting the ball. He showed his athleticism when he caught a oop on one play and hammered it down over the top of Dundrecous Nelson. His future looks bright with Memphis, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Alabama showing early interest.
Nate Rucker 6’7 F/C (2010) Melrose
The 6’7 2010 big man scored 15 points on 5-6 shooting, 5-7 from the free throw line in 17 minutes of PT. He also grabbed six rebounds. Rucker, built like a brick house, is solid in the post but needs to develop more in the back to the basket game. He is tough to handle on the boards and likes to get out and run in transition. He should be tracked by every mid major and on watch list for any majors looking for a third big.
LaQuinton Ross 6’9 F (2011) Murrah
The 6’9 highly skilled 2011 prospect did not have a good showing in front of the home crowd. He scored 14 points on 5-13 shooting, 0-1 behind the arc in 32 minutes of PT. Ross, ranked top-five nationally, had a tough time handling the ball against scrappy Melrose, which led to five turnovers and only one assist. He did get to the rack on some highly skilled moves but had tough time finishing against the bigger bodies of Adonis Thomas and Nate Rucker. Although he got to the charity stripe eight times, he only knocked down four. So what can one bad game do for you? Nothing. Ross is still top-five nationally and skilled as anyone in the nation regardless of class. Yes, I said it. Regardless of class! He just needs to learn how to win and play better at his own event. This is second straight year at the Rumble in the South I watched him play like shit! I want my money back! Wait, I work in media. I get paid to watch shit!
Dundrecous Nelson 6’0 G (2010) Murrah
Well, since I ripped LaQuinton Ross so badly for his shitty game, I will not be as harsh to the top 2010 player in Mississippi. Nelson finished the game shooting 5-15 from the floor, 1-6 from behind the arc and 6-6 from the charity stripe. All that led to 17 points. He was much quicker than anyone on the floor and constantly got to the rack in the first half, where Murrah led, 37-30. In the second half, Nelson did not attempt a free throw and settled for the jumper–that only scored him four points compared to 13 points off penetration to the goal in the first half. Murrah scored 20 points to Melrose’s 41 points in the second half. He needs to learn how to manage a game. Nelson recently picked up an offer from Mississippi State and should see more coming his way.
–Coaches in attendance: Ole Miss, Mississippi State (head coach, two assistants), Wake Forest, Florida, Auburn (head coach), Nebraska, Tulane, Southern Miss (2 assistants), Centenary, Arkansas (head coach, two assistants), Southeastern Louisiana (two assistants), Jackson State, Chipola, Jones College, Xavier-New Orleans, Murray State
–Jackson Academy 45, Harrison Central 44
A Big 50 No. 47 ranked Mississippi prospect, Jackson Academy’s Colin Applewhite scored 18 points.
–Clinton 68, Hillcrest 53
–Hinds AHS 90, Jackson Prep 75
A 2010 top 10 player in Mississippi, Hinds’ Keeslee Stewart scored 30 points, to go with five rebounds, and five assists.
–Brookhaven 49, Ridgeland 44
A Big 50 No. 15 rank Mississippi prospect, Ridgeland’s Jeff Stubbs scored 15 points.