By Trent Markwith (@TMarkwith14)
I was able to see the Gainesville squad at both Georgia State early on Friday and then at Georgia Tech on Saturday and Sunday. Although they were without KJ Buffen, the team was still impressive and showed why they were an Elite 8 team this past season. I loved the game of Xavier Bledson, a big guard with terrific passing ability. Bledson also absorbs contact easily when he drives inside, displayed confidence shooting from the outside this weekend, and plays with an edge about him.
To go along with Bledson, the Rosser twins (Jarred and Jarrel) really used their length and athleticism well on defense, in transition, and on the offensive glass. Bailey Minor is another key player for the Red Elephants. Minor provides toughness and a nice inside-out game for the team at the forward spot with good touch around the basket and a smooth shot from deep. When all 4 of these guys get going and fulfill their roles, Gainesville is a tough team to stop. Expect Gainesville to be a contender for a state championship once again with their surplus of versatile weapons.
The Warriors only had 7 players available for most of Saturday but that did not stop them from being one of the most active and energetic teams at the camp. North Atlanta has gained a big-time addition in Messiah Thompson, who went to NAHS his freshmen year before transferring to Pebblebrook for his sophomore season. Thompson is a shifty guard with quick handles and solid overall scoring ability for his size. He also plays feisty defense and gets out in transition whenever possible; his pace set the tone for the North Atlanta team and the others followed suit.
The Warriors were missing one of their leading scorers from last season, Dominic Ham, but 2019’s Josh Johnson and Andrew Robinson stepped up in his absence. Johnson and Robinson have similar games on the wing for North Atlanta. They both have good athleticism and strength that they use to attack the basket and rebound for this under-sized Warriors team. Johnson may have an edge in scoring between the two right now, but they will both give nice boosts to this team because of their activity and toughness. It would help if a few other players emerge for the Warriors as most teams will try to key in on Thompson, who will be the go-to guy. It will be interesting to see how this team develops before the winter.
Holy Spirit Prep
The reigning GISA state champion came to GT without 3 main players and faced some of the bigger GHSA teams in attendance. Although it’s just summer league, HSP proved that they can hold their own against these teams, which some have doubted. The Cougars got a huge pickup with Anthony Edwards, a 2020 guard who is one of the leading scorers on the 16U UAA circuit. Edwards has good size at 6’5” and everything looks effortless for him on offense where he dominates opponents with an impressive combination of athleticism, power, and touch.
The Cougars have another stud in 2018 Kamani Johnson, a 6’8” forward who has been on the rise since coming to Georgia. Johnson displays a lot of versatility for his size; he can post-up effectively, slash from the wing, and push the ball himself in transition. If Johnson continues to develop as an outside shooter, it will be scary.
2019 guard Kye Jeremiah will also be a key contributor for HSP this year. Holy Spirit is trying to mold Jeremiah into a PG, which could be a good spot for him with his size and strength. If you combine Jeremiah’s attacking ability with more experience and instincts at the point position, he could be a very nice prospect. Pairing these 3 with George Maslennikov and Miles Wallace (both out this weekend) will form a core group that will spell trouble for any GISA team.
Leading returning scorer Arusha Hunter was dominant for the Falcons throughout the weekend, as expected. Hunter had a full offensive skill-set on display at Tech, highlighted by his ability to draw contact on drives and get to the free-throw line at will. With one of their main guys in Mekhail Bethea being hampered by injury, other players also stepped up for the Falcons.
I was intrigued most by Quincy Ademokoya and Reggie Horton for Dacula. Ademokoya created some buzz by moving in from Illinois and showed he will be a nice piece on the team. After a rough game against North Atlanta on Saturday, Ademokoya responded with a strong game on Sunday. At 6’6”, he hit multiple corner 3’s and used his length to rebound and slash from the wing for finishes at the basket. Horton may lack size but the guard was not afraid to go inside amongst bigger players. Horton exhibited some very impressive athleticism when he attacked by elevating, hanging, and adjusting for difficult layups multiple times. Dacula has firepower on the perimeter that will be a problem for opponents this upcoming season.
The Bulldogs have 3 players with excellent scoring ability in Damarcus Johnson, Eli Lawrence, and Jonathan Young. Johnson runs the point for TC and while he is lethal from outside, he also knows when to mix it up inside to create for himself and his teammates. Lawrence has good size on the wing for the Bulldogs and is efficient with his scoring opportunities. The smooth lefty has a quick release off the catch and also utilizes mid-range shots off the bounce where he elevates for easy looks.
Young is a new member of the team and caught the attention of many during the weekend with his play. Young comes in to form a dangerous backcourt duo alongside Johnson, he has good shooting ability and showed that he can put it on the floor and penetrate as well.
Zach Morgan is another player to keep an eye on for the Bulldogs team. Morgan is a forward with a strong, athletic frame that provides toughness and rebounding for TC. He also was not afraid to put the ball on the deck himself and if he can become another viable scoring option for the team, that would be huge. With their current weapons, Tri-Cities will not have any problem putting up points this season.