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.