2016 John Lucas All-Star Weekend - Day 1

March 5, 2016

Written by: Nick Milosevich (Top 100 Talent)

John Lucas All-Star Weekend always brings together some of the nation’s finest young basketball talent, and the 2016 event got started on Saturday with pool play action. The oldest three divsions were held at the MI3 Center, and many of the games were well-played, tight contests that were decided on a few crucial plays.

The morning session was highlighted by the spectacular play of the God First 14u squad, who were led by the nation’s top 2020 player Kyree Walker. The overall court vision and passing ability of Walker cannot be overstated, and his presence on the floor led to a spree of easy baskets for an already loaded God First team. They won their two contests by 35 and 37 points, setting a benchmark for the other 14u squads later in the day. Adam Kanafani also stood out for God First, displaying a versatile offensive game that led to scores from a variety of spots on the court.

Among the other pool winners in the 14u division were Nike D1 Premier, Team Blackout, and Team Thad. D1 Premier was dominant in their two wins, and were led by the post play of 6’7’’ Greg Brown, who displayed terrific ball skills for a player of his size. Team Blackout had to work much harder for their victories, but showed tenacity and toughness and were lead by athletic wing Eric Butler, who flashed an array of skills and a terrific motor. Team Thad used the size of Chris Moore, Rodney Mason, and Markeston Douglas in two punishing wins where the trio dominated the offensive glass.

The game of the day featured the 14u teams of Play Hard Play Smart and Team Texas Shooters. Jabri Abdur-Rahim was sensational for PHPS, attacking the basket, hitting jumpers from the perimeter, and crashing the boards on both ends of the floor. At 6’5’’, Abdur-Rahim is athletic with a long wingspan, and must be considered among the most exciting prospects of the 2020 class. Jay Wilson did his best to answer Abdur-Rahim offensively and got buckets for Team Texas throughout a close contest. Ultimately, Team Texas prevailed in a thrilling double overtime game.

The last team to take the court in the 14u division was perhaps the most dominant squad of the day. In a pool with the talented PHPS and Team Texas squads, Select One dominated both with ease behind the size of Cameron Byers, Caleb Dorsey, and Justin Lewis and the guard play of Zion Harmon and Jordan Toles. After hammering PHPS by more than 30, they defeated Team Texas by double digits in the nightcap. Select One seems to be on a collision course with God First in the 14u final tomorrow, but there certainly will be other squads who have plans on upsetting that matchup.

In the 13u division, one of the most impressive performances of the day came from Jai Smith of the Carolina Wolves in their win over the West Coast Stars. The 6’5’’ post played excellent defense, showed several nice post moves and was especially impressive as a transiton threat. The Wolves went on to win their second game of the day versus SPSA to finish atop their pool. The Orlando Jayhawks also scored two easy wins in the 13u division on Saturday and were led by the tandem of Camden Easley and Ra’heim Sanders. Easley is 6’6’’ and was dominant in the post, while Sanders continually got to the rim from his guard position.

In the evening portion of the 13u division, Team Teague treated the crowd to two blowout wins, led by the phenomenal point guard play of Jalen Blackmon, including 32 points and several memorable assists in their second game. With his outside shot falling, Blackmon was able to penetrate at will and either finish at the rim or find his teammates for easy baskets. Team Teague also has a solid post player in Caleb Furst, who showed excellent energy and nice footwork for a big man in this age division.

The 12u division got off to a dramatic start as leading 2022 prospect Bryce Griggs scored nearly 40 points in consecutive outings to lead the Houston Hoops to narrow wins over Seattle Stars and Pray and Play Players. Much like Kyree Walker in the 14u division, Griggs is simply operating at a different level than his counterparts. In the first game, Griggs showed the ability to shake his defender with a behind-the-back dribble before attacking the rim and finishing with a lefty layin, and used a similar move on the next possession before pulling up and hitting a jumper from the top of the key. Griggs is an outstanding talent but must keep playing at a high level for his Hoops team to advance in the knockout round tomorrow.

In other 12u action, 60 Elite, Utah Elite, and Nightrydas Elite all were undefeated pool play winners. 60 Elite was particularly impressive, coasting to easy victories behind the excellent play of Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski, and Jayden Lemond. Utah Elite, an undersized squad led by forward Jaxon Kohler, scored an easy first win before a one-point victory over TJ Ford Stars. Nightrydas Elite likewise had one close call and can be a threat moving forward, in large part due to the fantastic post duo of Gregg Glenn and Eric Gurrier.

On Sunday, the teams will compete in the knockout stage of the tournament, and surely this great collection of talent will produce deserving champions at every division of John Lucas All-Star Weekend.

- @NickMilosevich