Ben Miller has cemented his All-Stars program as one of the best in Georgia from year to year and the story is no different this season. Alex Jones is the unquestioned leader for this team; he is a proven winner and floor general who controls the game with great poise. Jones can take over a game with either his passing or scoring, it is not hard to see why he has become such a hot recruit this year.
Adam Flagler and Arusha Hunter are pure scorers for the All-Stars, coming into each game with an aggressive approach and understanding how to score in a variety of ways.
David Viti and Austin Deckard are excellent shooters on the outside for the team, connecting on 3’s consistently when Jones found them. It seems like Viti made a good choice to come over to the Allstars from Southern Stampede for July; he had a big weekend and should be getting calls from coaches.
Cole Guenther is another solid shooter for this team and has great height and length to go with his shooting ability. When you pair him with Adrian Cohen and Christian Koneman, you have 3 versatile forwards who can go inside or outside and give good boosts to the team.
Last but not least is Gabe Bryant, an explosive forward who puts his imprint on games with physical play and thunderous dunks in traffic. The All-Stars have taken home championships in both live periods so far, look for them to end with a bang in Orlando this week.
I watched this Bulls team a good amount during the first live period and I was impressed with them once again this week. They have a lot of solid prospects who aren’t always talked about much but who will be good additions to a college team.
The Bulls are led by Ryan Jolly, a calm, smooth PG who can dominate with his scoring ability. Jolly is also a very good passer and has a nice understanding of when to distribute or get his own shot. Also in the backcourt with Jolly are Michael Dukes and 2019 Kalen Williams.
Williams is an ultra-quick guard who can really fill it up and plays with a lot of confidence and energy. Dukes has a strong build for a wing player and used that strength and his athleticism for some eye-popping dunks this week. He is also skilled on the perimeter, hitting 3’s and getting by guys for tough layups.
Austin Canaday and Cameron Armstrong are two other productive perimeter players for the Bulls; both of them are good shooters and have a solid feel for scoring the ball.
The only true big man for the Bulls is 6’8” Brady Spence, a 2019 player. I had heard some good things about Spence when he was with Team Forrest in the spring and he has now made the jump to 17U with the Bulls. Spence has had some good moments so far with his new team; he moves well and is seen blocking shots and running the floor in transition frequently. Spence also has good touch inside and from the mid-range area, he is a prospect with a lot of upside in Georgia’s 2019 class.
The Timberwolves had a very good weekend going 5-1 and are another team with some nice prospects who are overlooked. Controlling the team at point guard is a player I loved in June: 2019 Matt Gonzalo. Gonzalo is exactly what you would call a pass first PG, always keeping his head up and finding guys at the right time and in the right place. He uses his speed to blaze past people and create things on offense with regularity, whether that’s for himself or others.
Dylin Hardeman was great this week for the Timberwolves, giving defenses fits with his scoring prowess. Hardeman is a knock-down shooter from the outside and showed a lot of craftiness on his drives to the basket. It seemed liked every few possessions Hardeman showed me something new in his offensive repertoire.
Along with Hardeman on the wing is Will Bracknell. Bracknell had some excellent play with his Chattahoochee team and kept it up this week. Bracknell is just one of those guys who knows how to put the ball in the basket. He never seems to be in a rush, using his strength and ball-handling ability to get to his spots with ease. Bracknell can score from all 3 levels and takes whatever the defense gives him.
Ryan Jenei also impressed me with his play this week. Jenei has a good body that he can use to get inside from the wing but what stood out to me this week was what looks like an improved outside shot; he was confident and effective from deep, which is a huge boost for the Timberwolves.
This team comes out of the Southeast Basketball Academy (SEBA), and although they may not have players who are garnering Division 1 interest, they carry a handful of guys who should have the attention of lower level coaches.
Joshua Strong takes a lot of ball-handling responsibilities for FCI and pushes the pace whenever possible. Strong can score from anywhere on the court, whether that be draining 3’s, hitting tough floaters, or shifting past defenders to reach the rim.
On the wing for FCI are Christian Kelly and Micah McCuen. Kelly and McCuen have different offensive games but both can be effective. McCuen excels in transition, where he takes the ball down the court himself and uses his length to finish and draw fouls. Kelly is more of a half-court player, he is very patient in looking for opportunities to score and had some good moments off the dribble but also has an effective outside shot.
Jackson Baylark is basically a hybrid for this team, doing whatever the team might need depending on the game. He is really athletic, plays extremely hard and uses his athleticism to the best of his ability; you’ll see him flying in for blocks, rebounds, and dunks with regularity.
Down low for FCI is Kyler Ingram. Ingram has a big, wide body and is an enforcer inside both offensively and defensively. Nothing gets past him in the paint, swatting shots like nobody’s business and securing big rebounds. On offense, Ingram moves defenders wherever he wants and puts himself in easy positions to score around the basket, where he finishes through contact consistently.
The HoopSeen travel ball circuit has come to a close. It was an exciting few months with plenty of storylines and valuable information that will help shape the 2016-17 GHSA basketball season. The Best of the South put a capper on the season, going out with a bang as some of Georgia’s top blue-chippers and sleepers alike battled at the best live period event in the southeast.
16U: Georgia Bulls 63, Georgia Stars EYBL 53
The little engine that could, the Georgia Bulls, dominated the Georgia Stars and led wire to wire for one of their most impressive wins of the season beating the shoe circuit team. Deon Berrien (Lakeside-Augusta) got the Bulls off to a hot start against the bigger and more athletic Stars. Berrien, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 14.8 points and 13 rebounds as a junior, knocked down jumper after jumper to give the Bulls an early lead. He finished with 16 points and three steals, scoring 12 of his points in the first half.
Berrien along with Mike Dukes (Westminster-Augusta) battled against 6-foot-9, 260-pound Mohammed Abdulsalem (Greenforest) in the paint. Dukes, one of the fiercest competitors I’ve seen this summer, didn’t back down from the challenge. The 6-foot-3 forward with a bulldog mentality came away with six points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Dukes’ non-stop motor and quick leaping ability gave the Stars fits. He is a tough-nosed player that brings a burning desire to win to the table. He’s a guy that you definitely want on your team.
The Stars trailed 29-9 in the first half before closing on a 9-0 run to enter the break down 29-18. Peachtree Ridge’s Caleb Holifield got hot, knocking down two of his four threes. Holifield finished with a team-high 12 points all coming beyond the arc. Four-star 6-foot-5 guard Diante Woods out of Sacred Heart, AL was held to three points in the first half while 6-foot-6 rising junior Rashun Williams (Calhoun County) couldn’t crack the score column.
In the second half, the Bulls continued to maintain their distance. Brad Hilley (Lakeside-Augusta) knocked down a pair of threes and finished with nine points and three assists in the game. The floor spacer hit timely threes when left open and is a valuable asset at the high school level.
Sophomore Kalen Williams scored seven of his 10 points in the second half after playing the role of facilitator in the opening 16 minutes. The 6-foot guard tallied five assists. He led Lakeside-Augusta in scoring as a freshman with 13.7 points and has improved his game as a passer and finisher at the rim.
Berrien picked up his fourth foul with 8:02 left and the Bulls leading 42-29. The Stars began to make their move and close the gap. The lengthy frontcourt started to wear on the smaller bulls as Abdulsalem, Jamari Smith (Jonesboro) and Williams pounded away at the glass. Abdulsalem posted 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Smith played above the rim, soaring for putbacks and collected a 9-point, 9-rebound performance. Williams scored all seven of his points in the second half and added eight boards. Woods slashed to the lane and got to the line. He finished tied for a team-high with 12 points.
The Stars’ athleticism and full court press sped up the usually unflappable Bulls guards and closed the gap to 47-41 with 3:39 remaining. With all the momentum in the Stars’ corner, Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) announced his presence. The 6-foot-1 rising junior who is the straw that stirs the drink for the Georgia Bulls took over. After a quiet first half saw him sink four free throws, the All-State GISA performer dissected the Stars. He finished through contact for an And-1 layup to stem the tide with 3:10 left and brought the Bulls’ lead to seven points. He followed it up the next possession with a dagger three to push the lead back to 10.
When all was said and done, Jolly poured in a game-high 18 points – 14 coming in the final three minutes and some change. Ice water courses through Jolly’s veins as the best closer I’ve seen in the 16U Division this summer. He hit seven free throws down the stretch and went 11-for-11 over the course of the game. Jolly needs to receive interest from LM-MM coaches before it’s too late. Playing in the GISA, Jolly doesn’t get the exposure he deserves. The pass-first playmaker has seized the opportunity on the big stage at Suwanee Sports Academy and has cashed in in a big way, earning the No. 16 ranking in HoopSeen’s Georgia Class of 2018 rankings.
17U: Atlanta All-Stars 64, GA Stunners 53
The ultimate showdown of LM-MM sleepers in the state of Georgia took place at 11AM on Court 5 at Suwanee Sports Academy. This game was littered with guys I deemed as Under the Radar seniors such as Evan Cole (South Forsyth), Damion Rosser (Henry County) and Kane Williams (South Paulding). The trio did not disappoint.
The Atlanta All-Stars outside the Stunners at nearly every position, the All-Stars pulling kids from all over the metro Atlanta area while the Stunners stayed primarily in Paulding County, the lineup close to 90% filled with the South Paulding program.
The All-Stars led the whole way with Cole leading the early charge from the low block. The 6-foot-8 post went to work, scoring eight of his 10 points in the first half. His first three buckets all came with the left hand, ultra-impressive for a right-handed player. He showed a soft touch with a baby hook off the glass and even displayed nifty foot work going with a face up and spin off a defender. He pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots as well.
Henry County guards Javon Greene and Damion Rosser attacked the basket. Rosser netted a team-high 13 points while going 6-of-10 from the line and adding three rebounds and four assists. Greene went 5-of-8 from the stripe en route to 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a block. The duo is dynamic together with Rosser galloping to the hoop and Greene providing a deft stroke from three.
South Paulding’s Kane Williams and JaCori Wilson kept the Stunners in it. Both lefties, Williams finished with 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal before injuring his ankle with a minute left in regulation. Wilson, a long 6-foot-7 scorer, poured in a game-high 15 points but saw his night end early fouling out halfway through the second half on a questionable call.
At the half the All-Stars led 34-24. The closest the Stunners got was 41-39 with 10:32 left after Wilson sank three free throws. Colby Leifson (North Gwinnett) drilled a big three to regain separation and the Stunners were never able to regain one-possession striking distance. Leifson knocked down two threes and finished with eight points.
Chris Freeman (McEachern) and Jandan Duggan (Greenforest) provided nice sparks for the Stunners throughout the game while the All-Stars honed in on Williams, using the length of Rosser and the quickness of Greene to try and slow him down. Freeman, a lanky 6-foot-2 guard, scored 13 points and got to the line taking seven free throws and hitting six in the second half. Duggan followed suite, scoring eight points and attempting eight free throws all in the final 16 minutes. DJ Jackson (South Paulding) is a nice leader for the Stunners. Pushing 5-foot-6, Jackson still managed to come away with five rebounds and three assists and did a nice job of staying in front of the All-Stars’ taller guards.
Without question, the All-Stars’ X-Factor in the second half was 6-foot-5 post Kovi Tate (Henry County). Tate brought great energy in the paint and scored nine of his 10 points in the second half. He flirted with a double-double as he ripped down a game-high nine boards. When he has the chance, Tate is a powerful finisher and the rim and a guy opponents must seek out to put a body on when he attacks the glass.
LM-MM coaches filled the seats for this one, most notably Georgia State was three-deep checking out a few guys they offered this weekend.
17U: Southern Stampede EYBL 70, Atlanta All-Stars 57
Blue-chippers vs. Blue-collared guys. That was the narrative surrounding the 17U Best of the South Championship. In the end, the Stampede overwhelmed the All-Stars with their firepower and proved why they are some of the best of the best in the state of Georgia even without superstar Collin Sexton.
The Stampede raced out to an 8-2 lead and never looked back, holding a double digit lead for the entirety of the first half. Jay Estime (Berkmar) banged home consecutive threes to set the tone. From there, Indiana-commit Al Durham started to sizzle, hitting everything he tossed up including banked-in jumpers and contested floaters off the glass. His night finished with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.
The stage wasn’t too big for Javon Greene. He scored eight of his 13 points in the first half to keep the All-Stars from getting blown out down 36-22 at the half. Greene filled the stat sheet with six boards and five steals against the Stampede’s ballyhooed backcourt.
Consecutive buckets and stops were hard to come by for the All-Stars. The Stampede’s balanced attack was headed by Rheaquone Taylor in the second half. The electric 6-foot-7 small forward out of Barringer High School in New York was on a mission to get to the rim. He took seven free throws and finished with a game-high 14 points, six rebounds and two steals. Joining him on that mission was Central Gwinnett’s Jalen Hillery. The aggressive 6-foot-5 guard scored all 12 of his points in the second half and went 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Evan Cole and Kovi Tate fought valiantly with the longer (TJ Massenburg) and stronger (Chris Agbo) inside. Cole went for 10 points, eight rebounds and a block while Tate, who earned a start, chipped in seven points and four rebounds. Massenburg (Shiloh), who was named Co-MVP with Zach Cooks (Berkmar), finished with five points, two steals and three blocks. Agbo (Covenant Christian), who gives the best bodybuilders a run for their money, pitched in six points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Colby Leifson netted eight points and Will Crumly (North Cobb Christian) added seven in the loss. Kendrick Summerour (Milton) was a nice spark with five points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals off the bench. The Southern Stampede received six points and three rebounds from Kenton Eskridge (Columbia).
Established Stock Risers
Did anyone help their stock more than the Atlanta All-Stars’ Evan Cole and Javon Greene? Just in the past few weeks Cole has landed offers from the likes of Georgia State, Jacksonville, Youngstown State, UNC-Wilmington, Troy, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Western Carolina, firmly putting him ON the radar, not under.
Greene cashed in with Georgia State, Lipscomb, Western Carolina, George Mason and Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers being his first offer on July 10.
Damion Rosser might not have landed all the offers his backcourt mate Greene did, but he certainly caught coaches’ attention and has gotten the ball rolling on his recruitment. The downhill attacking 6-foot-4 guard will have D-I offers coming his way.
Colby Leifson heated up his recruitment by stroking nine threes in a single half this weekend. He won’t be available right away as he is taking a mission trip, but Gardner-Webb and BYU are now in on the sharpshooter. He still needs to round out his game an become more than just a specialist, but D-I programs have definitely taken notice of his elite floor stretching ability.
GA Stunners guard Kane Williams had a monster weekend, sniffing the 30-point barrier in multiple games. He poured in buckets from all over the floor by showing off an improved distance jumper, knocking down a handful of threes in each game. Georgia State, Stetson and Northern Arizona all extended offers to the playmaking combo guard.
Do you notice a trend here? Georgia State has taken full advantage of putting out offers to GHSA standouts. Assistant Coach Sharman White can be seen at nearly every game alongside Head Coach Ron Hunter. The addition of White to the coaching staff is already starting to pay its dividends as a major boon for the Georgia State program. With knowledge of the Georgia landscape and his years of unparalleled success, White and the Panthers are in mighty fine shape moving forward as they pound the pavement trying to land some of Georgia’s hidden gems.
Southern Stampede point guard Zach Cooks got buckets this weekend and was named Co-MVP of the 17U Division. For his standout play, the 5-foot-8 leader earned a scholarship offer from NJIT.
Though he didn’t earn any offers, Kovi Tate impressed me with his hard work. He busted his butt in the paint and gave Atlanta All-Stars’ coach Ben Miller excellent minutes. Tate’s stock trended upward. He is somewhat of an unknown due to the fact he didn’t play high school ball last season after transferring from Woodland-Stockbridge to Henry County and not receiving eligibility. He is an undersized 6-foot-5 rim rocking post that will bring toughness to the Henry County frontline.
Lastly, Ryan Jolly is finally starting to get his due. Middle Tennessee State has inquired on the Augusta guard from the Georgia Bulls. As he continues to get stronger and stronger, the high-IQ guard will see his stock soar. I give props to MTSU for doing their due diligence on the talented sleeper.
Talent from across the southeast arrived in Fulton and Gwinnett County to showcase their skills, but of course I had my eyes on current and future GHSA standouts. I tried to stay cognizant of all the Georgia talent in the tournament while still doing my duty of covering the entire event. I managed to takeaway a few things from this weekend’s Atlanta Jam.
Metro Atlanta is in Good Hands
The 17U Atlanta All-Stars won the 17U Black Division Championship and has a talented roster led by head coach Ben Miller. Miller stays on his guys and puts them in the best position to succeed. Last year’s roster featured the likes of Cameron Cox (Navy), Connor Mannion (Navy), Patrick Zeck (Gardner-Webb), Zack Kaminsky (Penn), Ross Morkem (North Georgia), Devon Brewer (Alcorn State) and Kerney Lane, who is expected to make a college decision soon.
This year’s team is loaded with familiar names: Evan Cole (South Forsyth), Chapin Rierson (Calhoun), Javon Greene (Henry County), Damion Rosser (Henry County), William Tate (Henry County), Charlie O’Briant (GAC), Colby Leifson (North Gwinnett), Will Crumly (North Cobb Christian) and Seth Brown (Henry County).
The quartet of Henry County players has a chance to make some major noise in Region 4-AAAA next season. Coach Vincent Rosser is sitting on a goldmine. After a 15-11 season in a brutal region that was terrorized by Jonesboro, the Cardinals are now in AAAAAA. Key guards Javon Greene and Damion Rosser return as an electrifying duo, but two transfers from a year ago that were ruled ineligible finally have the green light for their senior season with the GHSA no longer able to interfere. William “Kovi” Tate, a 6-5 forward, was at school this season along with the ultra-athletic 6-2 Seth Brown. Add these two to the mix and Coach Rosser has a versatile and explosive core.
Tate is a strong athlete inside that showed up big time at the HoopSeen Spring Preview. When his motor is running, he is a terror inside. Brown let loose with a big time slam this weekend and showed what he can add in the open court to an already potent backcourt.
Evan Cole might have been the most impressive player I saw for the All-Stars. The 6-8 forward has a chance to blow his recruitment up with his sneaky athleticism and defensive prowess. Cole lost out to Atlanta All-Stars alum Connor Mannion for Forsyth County Player of the Year, but the award seems to be all but his this upcoming season after averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks as a junior. Plays like this are what solidify him as a quickly rising D-I prospect.
Shooting and toughness are always coveted in the college ranks and the All-Stars have both in Colby Leifson and Chapin Rierson. Leifson, the lone senior on the roster, is a knock down shooter at 6-4. He averaged 16.8 points per game his final season as a Bulldog. When he got his feet set this weekend, it was usually nothing but net. And what about Rierson? At Calhoun all he has done is win, going 75-8 over his first three seasons. The gritty forward played with a busted mouth, literally. He nearly had his front teeth knocked out and had to glue them in to play this weekend.