–Story & Photo contributed by Joe Chapman (@Joe_Chapman3)
The Mecca of high school basketball every summer that features the best talent in the country is located at the Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, South Carolina. An event that is on most every basketball fan’s bucket list and is the highlight of the summer for high school basketball “junkies”, the Nike EYBL Peach Jam is the grand finale of what most everyone can agree is the best summer basketball circuit in the country. While the highlight of this event is the 17U division, the under-the-radar 16U division produces some of the best competition in the country. And while no Georgia teams are competing in the 17U division, two teams from the Peach State, the Southern Stampede and the Georgia Stars, are holding their own in the 16U division. I made sure to catch a game from each team while I took a trip down to the Peach Jam and what follows are my thoughts from each game and what Georgia high school basketball fans have to look forward to during the 2016-17 season.
Southern Stampede 81, St. Louis Eagles 74
Facing a team with a big-time name in the St. Louis Eagles, the Stampede quickly found themselves down 7-0 and looked as if they would be no match in the game. They then clawed their way back in the game and took the lead at halftime 42-36. The Eagles cut the lead to as close as 1 early in the second half but ended up falling as the Stampede grinded out a tough 7-point win. Leading the way for the Stampede was uber-athletic rising junior wing from Allatoona, Trey Doomes. Doomes was in control of the game all night as he finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-9 shooting. He was doing it all for the Stampede as he was the go-to player knocking down mid-range jumpers, attacking the rim with both hands, and drawing fouls as he went to the line 10 times. Look for Doomes to have a breakout campaign for Allatoona this year, who comes off of a heartbreaking 50-48 state championship loss to powerhouse Miller Grove.
Not to be outdone, Travis Anderson poured 17 points off of the bench in the tightly contested affair. While he didn’t start, Anderson played 25 of the game’s 32 minutes and controlled the offense while on the floor. As the Eagles kept chipping away at the lead throughout the game, Anderson was a calming presence when pressed and hit clutch shots to halt any run made against them. He added 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the game and knocked down four consecutive free throws to seal the win for the Stampede. After a solid sophomore campaign, Anderson looks to be on the move again and wherever he ends up will be getting a very solid point guard.
The final Peach State prospect that really impressed me from the Stampede was Lorenzo McGhee. The 6-foot-4 McGhee finished with 14 points on an efficient 5-7 shooting and was a high-energy spark plug off of the bench. He was attacking the rim while also stepping out and knocking down the long ball. The rising junior at Columbia High School played 28 minutes off of the bench and like Doomes, is one that expects to have a breakout junior campaign.
Georgia Stars 64, PSA Cardinals, 44
The Georgia Stars have had good fortunes in North Augusta as the 17U team in 2015, led by Jared Harper and Wendell Carter Jr., took home the title. This weekend, the good fortunes continued as the 16U Stars earned a blowout win over the PSA Cardinals from New York City. An ugly turnover-filled first half in which neither team shot the ball well ended with the Stars ahead 21-19. In the second half, Liberty County product Will Richardson put the Stars on his back and carried them to victory. With about 9 minutes left in the second half, the Stars found themselves up three and unable to pull away from the Cardinals. Then, Richardson scored 10 straight points for the Stars to put the lead at double-digits and they never looked back. In the span, he hit two 3’s, a mid-range jumper, and a strong layup as he had all of the college coaches in the gym nodding their heads in approval. The 10 straight turned into 15 of the 17 points for his team late in the half as Richardson finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-10 shooting (3-4 3PT). Richardson played a huge role for Liberty County this year, providing a much needed third scoring option behind Davion Mitchell and Richard LeCounte as the Panthers from Hinesville captured their first ever state championship, denying Jonesboro and MJ Walker a three-peat.
A pleasant surprise for me in this game was the performance of one of the many big men at Greenforest, Mohammed Abdulsalem. Coming off of the bench, “Big Mo” played 27 minutes for the Stars en route to 12 points and a game-high 9 rebounds on the afternoon. While he is not necessarily a shot blocker, he still managed to alter shots frustrating the Cardinals. One thing he did very well was start multiple fast breaks by handling the ball and in the beginning of the second half, went coast-to-coast and finished a layup with the foul in Charles Barkley fashion. Abdulsalem’s unexpected versatility with the ball in his hands was stock up moment. He fouled out in the game I watched, but if he can stay out of foul trouble, he can play a very important and valuable role for a Greenforest team that looks to repeat as state champions this upcoming season.
The final standout to me for the Stars was obviously Khavon Moore. Other than Richardson’s breakout in the second half, Moore was the Stars’ go-to-player. He didn’t have the greatest of shooting performances (4-12 FG) but the rising junior stuffed the stat sheet with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Moore is a very long point-forward that can block shots, attack the rim, and hit mid-range contested shots. If he continues to grow and put on some muscle, the sky is the limit for Moore and the offers will keep piling up. Moore will once again star for his Westside-Macon squad this year after they bowed out of the Sweet 16 of the state playoffs last year to Calhoun.