Bryce Griggs, Bruce Thornton, & Jaylen Bolden Put Up Ridiculous Numbers at John Lucas All-Star Weekend

March 7, 2017

by Clark Francis

If we had any doubts about the fact that 6'0 7th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX is the best player in the nation in the Class of 2022, he eliminated them at this year's John Lucas All-Star Weekend, which was held over the weekend in Houston, TX and featured a number of the top middle school teams and players from around the nation. We're talking about a strong physical athletic combo-guard who knows how to compete, is explosive off the dribble, has deep range on his jump shot, and is capable of putting up prolific numbers. He also handles the ball well against pressure, has a good feel for the game, is not afraid to put a body on you when he attacks the basket, and was the catalyst for his team advancing all the way to the Championship Game of the 7th Grade Division, where NIKE Pro Skills lost to the ATL Cavs, 77-72. Not only did he finish with 32 points in the title game, but he also had 35 points in the semi-finals against the Atlanta Celtics and 5'10 7th Grader Bruce Thornton from Atlanta, GA in what was arguably the best match-up/highlight of the entire weekend.

Thornton had 25 points of his own in that game, plus he tossed in 32 points and 20 points when we saw his team play in their first and second games in pool play. He also has an excellent feel for the game and the ball handling and passing skills necessary to run the point. However, he has such a scorer's mentality and is equally effective when it comes to knocking down the outside shot, getting to his spots, pulling up, and hitting the mid-range jump shot, and using his strength to get to the basket and draw the and-one. He also has excellent speed and quickness, knows how to compete and is an excellent defender, has a great nose for the ball and rebounds the ball extremely well for his and position, and is good enough to be ranked among the top five or 10 players nationally in the Class of 2022. And, as an added bonus, Thornton also won't turn 14-years-old until September, which makes younger than a lot of the other players in his class, which is important when we start talking about upside and potential.

Another guy who falls into the explosive prolific scoring combo guard category is 5'9 8th Grader Jaylen Bolden from Jackson, MS and, although his team lost to the Houston Hoops Blue Chips Felix in the quarterfinals of the 8th Grade Division, he finished with 35 points and made several big 3-pointers to help keep the Jackson Tigers within striking distance down the stretch of that game. However, he's really more of a slasher than an outside shooter, as he made a living using his explosiveness to beat everybody in transition and high flying athleticism to finish at the rim. And, in addition to his unbelievable speed and quickness, he also has good ball handling and passing skills, seems to have a knack for balancing scoring in bunches and getting his teammates involved, and arguably was a good as any player that we saw in the 8th Grade Division.

And that's saying a lot, because we thought 6'0 8th Grader Ricardo Sarimento from Phoenix, AZ was sensational for the West Coast All-Stars against NIKE Team Griffin in their final game in pool play on Saturday. Sarimento is an athletic combo guard who brings an unbelievable amount of energy and intensity to the table, plus he's one those guys who has ice in his veins, as is evident by the fact that he always seems to come up with the clutch steal or make the big shot. He also is capable of playing either guard spot, has a great nose for the ball, can create his own shot, and has a knack for being to use his speed and quickness to get to the rim.

Sarimento also was clearly better than 6'5 8th Grader Jonathan Lawson from Memphis, TN, who is ranked among the top five players nationally in the Class of 2021, but did not quite live up to expectation throughout the entire weekend and the West Coast All-Stars went down in flames against the Kansas Pray & Play Players in the quarterfinals of the 8th Grade Division. If you recall, Jonathan is supposed to be more athletic, a better shooter, and have more of a killer mentality than his three older brother's (Detric and K.J., both of whom are now at the University of Memphis, and Chandler, who is ranked #5 nationally in the sophomore class by the HOOP SCOOP). However, he clearly lacked a takeover mentality, plus maybe he had to play more inside than to his liking (he thinks he's a point guard) and he did nothing to set himself apart from Sarimento and 6'9 8th Grader Chuks Isitua from Nashville, TN, who clearly was the most intriguing big man prospects that we saw all weekend. Isitua is a long athletic shot blocking big man with good hands, excellent footwork, and a great nose for the ball, which allows him to be a very good rebounder at both ends of the court. He does need to continue to work on his offensive repertoire, but he is quick to the basket and it's hard not to like his upside and potential.

In sharp contrast were 6'6 8th Grader Reuben "Deuce" Fatheree from Richmond, TX and 6'0 8th Grader Kamryn Waites from McKinney, TX, who are pair of wide bodies that turned out to be two of the more productive players in the tournament. The former is a force to be reckoned with around the basket with his upper body strength, ability to finish through contacts, and dominance on the boards. He also has deceptive mobility, runs the court pretty well for somebody his size, and does a nice job of getting the ball out in a hurry on the fast break, plus he was perfect complement to 6'3 8th Grader Chris Felix from Fresno, TX, who has all of the ingredients necessary to arguably was the best pure point guard in the tournament, on a team that got knocked off by RM5 Red in the semi-finals of the 8th Grade Division. The latter is often referred to as "Baby Shaq" and he was the one who set the tone early, as his team coasted to an impressive 67-28 win in the Championship Game of the 8th Grade Division. What he does best is take up space, rebound, and score around the basket, but what really gets us excited is the fact that he has a size 20 shoe, is expected to continue to grow (his mother is 6'1), and he has a tremendous amount of upside and potential.

There also were 6'5 8th Grader Jaylon McDaniel from Lee Summit, MO, 6'3 8th Grader Daylon Jones from Wichita, KS, and 5'9 8th Grader Stevie Strong from Kansas City, MO, who provided an excellent one-two-three punch for the Kansas City Pray & Play Players. McDaniel is a long athletic combo forward with a good nose for the ball, excellent quickness, and the ability to score around the basket, plus he handles the ball well for somebody his size and isn't shy when it comes time to grab the defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast. Jones will need to get bigger and stronger physically and improve his outside shooting, but we liked his good ball handling and passing skills, nice size for his position, and the fact that he has good body control and makes a living slashing to the basket. Strong gets mentioned, even though he lacks size and strength and is really an undersized 2-guard, because he knocked down four treys in the game we watched and was one of the better outside shooter's that we saw in the tournament.

And so was 6'2 8th Grader Matthew Stone from Oklahoma City, OK, who not only has deep range on his jump shot, but also is like money in the bank when he gets his feet set, squares up, and gets an open look. Stone also has good size, the skills necessary to play multiple positions, and he was good enough to be ranked among the top 10-players in this age group at this event. Another guy that was one of the better players in this age group was 6'2 8th Grader Brandon Harton from Baton Rouge, LA, who has a good combination of strength and athleticism, the versatility to play both inside and outside, and a soft touch on his jump shot, which he uses to score around the basket and pull the trigger from behind the arc. There also was 6'3 8th Grader Steve "Trey" Alexander from Midwest City (H.S.) OK, who is the nephew of former University of Oklahoma standout DeAngelo Alexander. And, just like his uncle, Alexander has big time athleticism, good size and skills for his position, and, whether it be with his outside shooting or explosiveness to the rim, is capable of putting up impressive numbers.

We also were very impressed with the one-two inside punch that 6'7 8th Grader Duncan Powell from De Soto, TX and 6'6 8th Grader Shannon Lowery from Mansfield, TX brought to the table for B.M.M. Elite. Powell is a long lean fluid athletic power forward who is active around the basket, gets more than his share rebounds, and has the natural talent necessary to be ranked among the top five players in this event. However, he will need to get bigger and stronger physically and/or develop more of an outside shooter's mentality, if he doesn't want to ultimately end up being a guy without a true position. Lowery falls into a similar category, as he has long arms, good hands, and excellent hops and what he does best is use his quickness and athleticism to get more than his share of rebounds, block shots, and score around the basket.

And the Ballers Select featured 5'11 Frosh Darryl Jackson from Los Angeles, CA and 6'5 8th Grader Kijani Wright from Los Angeles, CA. Jackson is the better player right now, thanks to his good ball handing and passing skills, excellent speed and quickness and ability to blow right past would be defender, and knack being able to create for both himself and his teammates. Wright will need to get bigger and stronger physically and develop more of a takeover mentality, but he's very active around the basket and it's hard not to like his length, athleticism, natural talent, and potential.

We also don't want to forget about 6'2 7th Grader Amari Thomas from Wichita, KS, who is extremely athletic, versatile enough to play both inside and outside, and capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He also has a good feel for the game, sets a lot of picks and screens, and is talented enough to be ranked as the third best player in the 7th Grade Division, right behind 6'0 7th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX and 5'10 7th Grader Bruce Thornton from Atlanta, GA.