Spotlight back on Jaylen Brown

Last year it was in the Class AAAAAA state championship with Wheeler down one with 0.5 seconds left. This time it’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with leading scoring Tyrone Wallace sidelined. The spotlight has always found a way to shine brightest on Jaylen Brown, the consensus No. 2 ranked player coming out of high school last year and a presumed lotto pick in the upcoming NBA Draft if/when he decides to go pro.

So can Brown come up big one more time? He buried two free throws to break Pebblebrook’s heart 59-58 and posted 22 points, nine rebounds and was a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. Now he has a chance to carry Cal deep into the postseason. Brown averaged 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the regular season and is the team’s leading scorer now that Wallace, a senior, broke his hand.

With the catalyst of the Golden Bears offense down, expect the offense to run through Brown even more. The NBA-bodied swingman is best in transition, slashing to the rack in the open floor. Hawaii will need to limit fast breaks to keep Brown in check. In the half court game, Brown will be tested with his jump shot. Top shooters Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird remain available on the perimeter but with their top assist man out, threes might not be as easy to come by.

It will be on Brown’s shoulders to create more when the ball is in his hands and become a playmaker to open up looks for his snipers. The Rainbow Warriors would be wise to force Brown into becoming a jump shooter. The one area of the NBA bound forward’s game that needs the most work is his outside shot. He shot 30 percent from beyond the arc but struggled even more so down the stretch.

Through his final four games of the regular season, Brown averaged just 8.75 points and shot only 9-of-42 from the field, good for 21 percent. But Brown always finds a way to produce when put on the big stage. Against the toughest defense the Golden Bears have faced all year, Brown shot 5-of-11 and went 8-of-9 from the line for 18 points and six rebounds in a 63-62 loss at Virginia. He is a 65 percent foul shooter but seems to make them when they matter most.

So will Brown leave a lasting legacy at Cal and help his Bears to a deep March Madness run as a four seed? Or for the first time of his career, will the moment be too much for the five-star prospect? Either way history will be made and Jaylen Brown will be in the middle of it…again.

Is post play a dying breed?

Harken back to the 90’s when big men roamed the paint. Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning. Playing down low wasn’t just a thankless job it was a right and a privilege. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. You knew if you were going inside and playing on the block, you were going to end the night with a couple scrapes, bruises and if you’re lucky enough, maybe a black eye or a broken nose from an elbow.

Fast forward to today’s game. The amount of three-point attempts across each level of play seemingly increases each year. That thin line arcing around the paint has slowly changed the way basketball is played. Just like a meteor coming to wipe out the dinosaurs, the three-point line has methodically pushed the interior play of big men into extinction.

As generations come and go, the athletes continue to get stronger, quicker and more aerodynamic, able to soar through the air for acrobatic dunks never before thought to be possible. As highlight reel slams and launching threes from 35-feet out become more popular and sexier to the common fan and the young player growing up, the yeomen’s work of battling at the pivot position drifts into obscurity.

With more and more tall players focusing more on their ball handling skills and standing at the three-point line to become the next Kevin Durant, the harder it is becoming to find true back-to-the-basket big men that can score and rebound. To find a forward or center in the high school ranks with footwork and technique is like finding a leprechaun with a pot of gold; it rarely happens but if you do find one, he’s a gem.

It looks like today’s game a lot of big guys get away with their size and athleticism. When you ask them to slow it down and show you a post move or a counter move, they freeze and can’t think of what to do. Being bigger, stronger and taller than everyone growing up can work for only so long until you reach the elite level of high school and beyond where you start matching up against players your own size.

The undersized big man who may thrive in high school at 6-foot-4 or the Mid-Major stud (see Jameel Warney of Stony Brook) that isn’t quite tall enough to really pound away at true 6-10 or 7-footers, eventually must rely on technique and footwork to hone their craft and survive. They can’t tower over others for easy hoops instead they have to play the angles, use pump fakes and bait defenders in by outsmarting them and leave them wondering how a smaller guy just hung 20 on them.

Smaller, less athletic players that want to be true post players understand that everything they do must be calculated. Ball fake middle, go baseline. Up & under. Sky hook. Face up or fade away, every trick in the book has to be utilized when going up against size or an elite shot blocker.

If that mindset of every movement matters was instilled into players with hard to teach size, imagine the possibilities. Veterans like Pau and Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan and Brook Lopez by no means are the athletes like DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond or Dwight Howard, but they are cerebral players that take their time on the block when they aren’t hitting shots from the mid-range.

I write this just to remind post players embrace the fact that you are a post player. Take pride in your craft and try to perfect the little things. Feel with your back to the basket is something that can’t be taken for granted. Bigs don’t have to score every time they touch the ball, but they should be rewarded every few trips down to keep the defense honest. Good things happen when the ball goes inside. It’s a post move and a score, a foul, or a kick out to an open shooter. Trust your big men and reward them for battling for position. Nothing is more frustrating to a player than having his man sealed off underneath the basket but instead seeing a 25-foot three launched. Big men can do more than just rebound and block shots. They can score as well if they take the time to polish their game.


Unsigned Seniors Shine at HoopSeen Senior Showcase

Suwanee Sports Academy was the scene for some of the state’s top unsigned seniors to make a name for themselves one last time before deciding on where to further their educations and careers at.

A few quick takeaways from the camp include the Grayson Rams having a strong showing with Alphonso Willis, Austin Dukes and Hafeez Anifowoshe all playing well. Willis was one of the brightest stars at camp with his explosion to the hoop and ability to levitate and finish over defenders.

Chris Curlett of Norcross was one of the better athletes at the camp. His jump shot is a true jump shot, getting great elevation before knocking down perimeter looks.  Kiyani Anderson of Lovejoy turned a couple heads with his vicious dunks and erasing blocks.

Aidan Saunders from Miller Grove looked free, smooth and loose on the court, getting to the bucket or pulling up on a dime for a mid-range J.  Jordan Gaines out of Tri-Cities showed mobility while working the low block and has nice length for the next level.

For more in-depth coverage of the event with full player analysis, check back later this week on for expert insight and opinions with college interest and offers noted.

Top 10 girls performances in Macon

1. Tatyana Davis, Morgan County, Jr.

32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 steals

2. Khayla Pointer, Holy Innocents’, Jr.

33 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

3. Erica Gibbons, Jackson-Atlanta, Sr.

26 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steals

4. Maya Dodson, St. Francis, Jr.

22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals

5. A’tyanna Golden, Americus-Sumter, Sr.

16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals

6. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Winder-Barrow, So.

13 points, 19 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

7. Mylashia Yancey, Turner County, Sr.

21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists

8. Jala Jordan, St. Francis, So.

14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 steals

9. Que Morrison, McEachern, Sr.

14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal

10. Chioma Nnamani, Greenforest, So.

17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

Top Five Performances In Macon

1. Wendell Carter Jr., Pace Academy, Jr.

30 points (10-11 FG), 20 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal

Domination. One word that has been synonymous with Wendell Carter Jr. throughout his career. Against a smaller yet physical frontline of Manchester, the five-star junior center wrecked the Blue Devils and led the Knights to their first ever title. He even went 3-for-3 from deep, proving he can do it all on the floor. Carter was named Class AA Player of the Year along with numerous superlatives and was named Sandy’s Spiel Mr. Basketball.

2. Jailyn Ingram, Morgan County, Sr.

28 points (8-11 FT), 9 rebounds, 1 assist

Florida Atlantic is getting a big time player in Jailyn Ingram, who has successfully stepped out of the shadows cast by Tookie Brown last year. The 6-foot-7 forward used his quickness and size inside to get the best of a smaller Jenkins team while capturing his second state championship and getting revenge after a 62-60 loss to the Warriors in the title game a year ago. Ingram used nifty footwork while facing up on the low block to spin to the cup and finish with authority. He is a Class AAA First-Team All-State selection.

3. John Ogwuche, Greenforest, Sr.

27 points (14-23 FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals

The New Hampshire signee went out on top as Greenforest knocked off St. Francis, ending the Knights’ two-year run and getting payback from last year’s 96-81 loss in the state championship. John Ogwuche was relentless on his attack of the rim, living at the line while punishing the Knights’ guards trying to check him. He also helped hold Kobi Simmons (8-25 FG) in check to preserve the victory. Coach Larry Thompson praised Ogwuche for his efforts after the game saying he “willed us to victory.” The grizzled veteran was selected to the 1A-Private All-State Second-Team.

4. Jamie Lewis, Westlake, So.

21 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal

Only a sophomore, the sky is the limit for Jamie Lewis. With Westlake on the ropes in the third quarter down 11 to Pebblebrook, Lewis took over and scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the period to claw the Lions back into the game. Lewis was battle-tested all year long coming out of Region 3 and taking the toughest road to the final by having to beat Norcross, Shiloh and Newton just to get to Macon. On the biggest stage, he shined the brightest whether he was tossing alley-oops or getting buckets. Lewis’ performance will not be forgotten in a wild Class AAAAAA final. He is an All-State Honorable Mention selection.

5. Richard LeCounte, Liberty County, Jr.

20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals

Sometimes you take the good with the bad. LeCounte missed his first three shots in wild and ugly fashion but eventually settled in. He had a whopping 10 turnovers, but his fearless style of play consisting of flying all over the floor and smacking bodies with opponents for loose balls was the difference in helping Liberty County to its first-ever state championship while avenging last year’s 71-43 season ending loss to Jonesboro and snapping the Cardinals’ attempt at a three-peat. The five-star UGA football commit showed off his uber-athleticism from the opening tip, stealing the jump ball in impressive fashion. LeCounte was aggressive all night long and wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. He drilled three big threes in the Panthers’ 58-52 Class AAAA championship victory. LeCounte was named Second-Team All-State.