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HoopSeen Tip-Off notes

Meet BJ

BJ Wright - Perry High School
BJ Wright

Walking out of the gym on Sunday afternoon after a fun day at the HoopSeen Tip-Off, something caught my eye on Court 4. That something was 6-foot-7 2021 forward BJ Wright of Perry High School. Playing with the 16U Middle Georgia Ballers, who don plain all-red uniforms, Wright’s strong build caught my eye and when I found out he was only a freshman this season, I knew I had to stay.

It wasn’t the best litmus test, a 29-point blowout win, but the raw tools were too much to ignore. Wright scored 13 points on a bevy of highlight dunks. Wright plays more on the wing with some trips to the block, giving him elite size at his age and position. He had one nice assist on a pick-and-roll slip which provided a glimpse into what his potential might be.

With all young players, college ball is still in the distant future, but that future will come quick. Wright has the god given body and natural skills to become an interesting prospect. He will need to continue to work on his craft and more importantly, everything else away from basketball. If he can put school first with basketball a close second, it will be very fascinating to see what the narrative is surrounding Wright come 2021.

Henry County height

LayPonius Davis
LayPonius Davis

Coming off of an extremely successful 18-11 campaign with a state playoff berth in Year 1 under Coach BJ Thomas, the War Hawks have even more reason for optimism, and that’s not even taking into account that their top two scorers are set to return.  The 2020 class holds two potential breakout candidates on the varsity level in 16U Georgia Impact frontcourt mates 6-foot-6 LayPonius Davis and 6-foot-4 Jeqhuan Carter.

They might not set the world on fire, but they will be usable pieces for Coach Thomas. Davis is a long shot blocker that also posts up well. He will need to get stronger and work on keeping rebounds high, but his size and willingness to run the floor bode well. He had 4 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 3 blocks in a win.

Jeqhuan Carter
Jeqhuan Carter

Carter is the physical garbage man inside. What Davis might lack in bulk, Carter makes up for with his bullish presence in the paint, most notably on the glass. He collected 15 points and 13 rebounds. Though he doesn’t have the elite leaping ability right now, Carter could provide a similar skill set that ‘17 Kovi Tate brought to the table during Henry County’s 2017 Final 4 run.

Super Smash Bro Kirby

Ja'Queze Kirby
Ja’Queze Kirby

2020 6-foot-6 forward Ja’Queze Kirby isn’t pink and isn’t round, but he can float above the rim just like his video game predecessor. The Class AA First Team All-Stater has long been known for his electric athleticism, but this weekend with 16U Upward Stars SE he showed more than just his hops. Kirby piled in his customary 20 points but drilled four three-pointers in the process. Defensively he moved his feet well and came away with two blocks. Kirby is one of the state’s best prospects and the gem of South Georgia. It’s easy to see how he stuffs stat sheets on a nightly basis at Jeff Davis; it’s harder to understand how he hasn’t received a scholarship offer yet – that will change soon.

15U War Eagles Elite

Derek McDonald - Marist
Derek McDonald

Marist’s 2021 group has some talent moving up the pipeline in the form of 5-foot-11 point guard Luke Benson and 6-foot-2 forward Derek McDonald. Benson is a crafty ball handler with poise and a little cool swagger. He gets some nice elevation on his jump shot and can pull-and-pop from the mid-range. McDonald is the workhorse. Already physically strong and to no surprise a football player, McDonald plays a 3/4 role as one of the tallest players on the team. He uses his strength to his advantage to attack the glass and finish drives. He is a high effort player that likes to stick his nose into the action. He has range to the three-point line but will need to solidify the shot as he gets older to make it a true weapon in his arsenal. He scored 16 points in a 45-43 OT loss.

17U SBC Select impresses

Donell Nixon
Donell Nixon

Led by 2019 5-foot-9 point guard Donell Nixon (Buford), SBC Select finished their weekend at the HoopSeen Tip-Off 3-0. Nixon scorched nets all tournament, drilling three after three. He nailed five in a win over the Greater NE GA Warriors, where he finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals. His passing may have gotten a little overshadowed playing with Lipscomb-signee Alex Jones the past two seasons, but make no mistake, the dynamic dynamo can dish it out. Wofford, East Tennessee State and Rutgers have all shown interest.

Teammate Grant Van Beveren will see an uptick in his recruitment heading into his senior year. The 6-foot-6 post from Chattahoochee is a sturdy big man that knows how to use his body. You can pencil him in for 10+ rebounds a night. Offensively, Van Beveren showed he can knock down the straightaway three and even pull up off the dribble.

Elberton’s Elite

AJ James - Elbert County
AJ James

Elbert County pieced together a 23-5 record and a trip to the Sweet 16 in Class AA. All-State Honorable Mention 6-foot-3 2019 forward AJ James played a massive role in the Blue Devils’ 9-win increase. James reminds me of current Piedmont Lion and former ’17 Lakeview Academy Lion, Josh Randolph. James is athletic and physical and plays all over the floor for his teams, usually positions 3-5. James bangs inside for the Blue Devils during the regular season, but his wing prowess was on display this weekend with the Greater NE GA Warriors. James posted 11 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks.

I love how he attacks rebounds. Maybe most impressive, is his fearless post defense. James is used to giving up size on a nightly basis and has had wars with 6-foot-7 North Georgia-signee Dylan Orr of Banks County. He had to tussle with big man Grant Van Beveren this weekend and give him fits with his blend of strength and quickness and ability to not foul when denying deep post position. James is a great glue guy that can help teams win on both sides of the ball at multiple positions.

Impressions from the Georgia Cup Finals

HoopSeen hosted its final installment of the Georgia Cup series this past weekend. As always, present and future standouts of the GHSA were on display. With summer team camps getting under way, players will begin to transition back into their respective school’s system of play but will be bringing with them an invaluable measure of experience from earlier in the offseason.

Two high school teams took to the Georgia Cup Finals as Riverwood (29-2) and Dacula (19-7) both began their 2016-17 journeys without some of their best players in school history. Riverwood, who set a school record in wins last year and made a trip to the Elite Eight, gave us a first look at life after Kohl Roberts (GCSU). Dacula flaunted its new-look lineup without Kevon Tucker (Wofford) and Derek St. Hilaire (Gordon State).

Riverwood went 2-2 this weekend while Dacula finished 5-0, rolling to the championship. The Raiders lost to Dacula 63-45 in the semifinals. Rising seniors Elijah Jenkins, Charnchai Chantha and Amir Smith played well in the backcourt, but they didn’t have enough fire power to contend with Dacula after jumping out to an early lead. Riverwood was among the state’s leaders in points allowed last season, relying on a stingy defense, but the Raiders’ bugaboo has always been can they score enough? When Jenkins and Chantha are hot from deep, they are a tough duo to stop, but if they aren’t hitting, Riverwood is susceptible to offensive lulls. Springy 6-foot-6 senior forward Josh Brown along with the play of rising juniors Christian Sutton, Lamin Williams and 6-foot-6 and still growing Nassir Mohammed will determine how well the Raiders cope with the loss of such an important senior class.

Dacula Falcons Taking Flight

Dacula escapes one of the toughest regions in the state and will be one of only two Gwinnett County schools (Lanier) in Region 8-AAAAAA, avoiding the state’s highest classification as well. With such a young group, growing pains could be an issue early on in the season, but the harmonious syncing of the backcourt could offset the loss of the school’s leading scorer (Kevon Tucker).

Sophomore Mekhail Bethea, junior Arusha Hunter and senior Justin Goodson create a backcourt that compliments each other well. Bethea earned more playing time as the season went on last year and will be inserted into a starting role from Game 1 his sophomore season. Bethea was masterful in Dacula’s 80-63 win over Active Elite for the 17U Georgia Cup Finals championship. He finished with 22 points, three assists and four steals. Bethea will need to get stronger, but he already has great composure with the ball in his hands and can create open shots for teammates when diving the lane.

Hunter poured in 19 points in the second half and netted a game-high 23. He was an X-Factor with his ability to knock down threes (3) and attack the boards (8). Hunter even added three assists from his small forward position.  Goodson didn’t get much burn as a junior, but the streaky three-point shooter looks poised for a breakout senior season along with senior Gary Bishop after a strong summer and a few transfers helping open the way. Goodson banged home four deep balls and scored 21 points in the championship.

Once again, the Falcons won’t have much elite size with their tallest player standing 6-foot-4 last season, but that player, Shayne Buckingham, returns for his junior season. Buckingham has seen varsity playing time since he was a freshman and is continuing to gain confidence in his game and become more and more of a consistent contributor. He scored 24 points in a win over Sports Academy South. If Buckingham can run the floor, rebound well and play with a high-motor, he can improve vastly on his 4.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Other Standouts

Lambert won’t have big men Connor Mannion (Navy) and Ross Morkem (North Georgia), but they should have more than enough to be a team that opponents don’t want to face. Andrew Melms will be running the show again at point guard and will enter the 2016-17 season as one of the state’s most underrated tenacious point guards. Musa Thompson enters his senior year as well. Thompson looked impressive with Melms in the Atlanta Warriors backcourt. Thompson has good length at 6-foot-4 and is a fluid athlete that can stretch defenses. Rising juniors Austin Deckard, Damon Stoudamire and Jordan McIlwain all provide depth along a talented backcourt.

BJ Millard, a recent Dunwoody graduate that averaged 16 points and 7.9 rebounds his senior season, played well for the Atlanta Warriors. The 6-foot-5 forward’s work at Dunwoody might have gone unnoticed by those outside of the region, but he is a good player that works hard in the paint.

Shamar Barrett put up big numbers his senior season at Grovetown (17.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg, 3.1 spg, 2.0 bpg) and is nearing a college decision. Barrett has been a stalwart for Sports Academy South, pitching in 26 points in a loss to Dacula this past weekend.

Keep an eye on Discovery High School. The second-year program returns an interesting cast of talent highlighted by guard DJ Young, 6-foot-5 forward Jaden Stanley and 6-foot-7 forward Kalu Ezikpe, who is only a rising junior. Travis McDaniel also joins the fold as an assistant after coaching at Lanier.

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 HoopSeen.com for expert insight and opinions with college interest and offers noted.