John Lucas All-Star Weekend
March 7, 2017
By: Nick Milosevich (Top 100 Talent)
John Lucas All-Star Weekend is one of the premier middle school tournaments in the country, and the 2017 edition, which featured over 160 teams, must be considered the best in the history of the event. Each year, All-Star Weekend seems to attract a deeper pool of talent, and bracket play on Sunday featured several of the most competitive matchups I have ever seen at the 6th-8th grade level. Below are recaps for the teams who had the most success over a busy two days at the MI3 Center.
Houston Hoops Blue Chips 2023 - The core of this group has been together for some time, and that showed in crucial moments throughout the event as the team rallied from deficits in both the quarters and semis before dispatching North Coast Blue Chips 53-40 in the final. Wesley Yates is a fantastic shooter who always seems to knock down big buckets. Corey Kelley is a force inside, and made the game-winner at the buzzer in their 56-54 victory against Tennessee Dream Chasers in the semis. Ja’Kobe Walter and Christopher Lockett are promising wing prospects who make plays on both ends of the floor.
North Coast Blue Chips 2023 - The presence of LeBron James Jr. brought big crowds and plenty of cameras to their games during the event, but there are other talented players on the roster as well, led by long, lanky post player Amire Robinson. The big man led the team in scoring, and the Blue Chips also received contributions from guards Gabe Cupps and Rodney Gallagher. As for LeBron Jr., he once again was one of the best passers in the gym, and his perimeter jumper has improved considerably since I saw him last. The team easily defeated New Heights 50-40 in the semifinals before meeting their match against the more talented Houston Hoops Blue Chips in the final.
ATL Cavs 2022 - This team was never seriously challenged until the semis, when they snuck past a tired Indiana Gametime Elite 59-52 behind a big effort from Quinn Clark. In the final, they appeared beaten by Nike Pro Skills, but went on a 16-0 run late and prevailed 77-72 to win the title. Five players scored in double figures in the championship game, and the team was buoyed by the shooting of Tyler Hawkins and Trey Thomas and the post play of Delexcrius Morton, who made several key plays down the stretch. Having a deep bench filled with quality players definitely helped this squad on a long Sunday.
Nike Pro Skills 2022 - This was one of the most talented rosters at the event. Bryce Griggs, regarded by many as the top 2022 player in the nation, was sensational over the two days and clearly the MVP of the tournament. Griggs was unstoppable offensively, and continues to improve his all-around game each time I see him. Tre’ White looks like an outstanding wing prospect, and turned a lot of heads with a series of solid performances. Keyonte George and Noah Shelby add deep-shooting threats to the team, and Mark Mitchell gives them a post presence who can step out and hit midrange jumpers. After holding an 11-point lead in the 2nd half of the final, the team went cold at the end of a long day and fell narrowly to ATL Cavs.
Indiana Gametime Elite 2022 - This group played fantastic team basketball over the two days, and their quarterfinal victory over RM5 was perhaps the most hard-fought contest at the MI3 Center on Sunday. The star of the team was Reggie Bass, a polished guard who can score from all over the court. He dropped 27 points against RM5 and had several other big outputs at the event. After expending a ton of energy against RM5, the team fell just short in the semis, losing to eventual champion ATL Cavs. I look forward to seeing this team again in the future.
Texas Hardwork 2022 - This crew featured some familiar faces and a couple of new ones as well. Cam Amboree and Austin Nunez form a terrific backcourt, and both are capable of catching fire from the perimeter. Kevin Garcia once again proved to be a dominant force around the basket. Colin Smith is a raw wing prospect who needs work on his overall skill set but possesses the physical tools to be a star in the future. Xaivier Lane had a breakout performance in the semifinals, scoring at will from the high post. He nearly carried Hardwork to victory over Nike Pro Skills, with the team losing a close contest 66-58.
RM5 2021 - This was the most dominant team at the event, and while some may point to their overall size as the main reason for their success, this is a well-coached group who played excellent team basketball as they cruised to the title. Kamryn Waites and Devin Martin form a potent 1-2 punch on the interior. Juan Reyna and Gavin Perryman provide perimeter shooting. Harrison Ingram is a big guard with a bright future. Arthur Kaluma is a glue guy with a high motor who is going to become a dynamite wing prospect. RM5 erased a double-digit first half deficit against the Houston Hoops in the semis, pulling clear to win 72-60, before easily defeating an exhausted Kansas Pray & Play 67-29 in the finals. This is a fantastic squad who collectively possess a ton of upside and will be tough to beat this summer and potentially for years to come.
Kansas Pray & Play 2021 - I had not seen them before this weekend, and they made a terrific first impression on me during their run to the final. Jaylon McDaniel has a special blend of size and athleticism, and will surely become a household name over the next few years as he develops further. Daylon Jones and Stevie Strong provide serious ammo on the perimeter, and Eli Fahnestock and Jack Johnson round out a starting 5 that was as good as any at the event. This bunch scored at will in the second half of their quarterfinal victory over West Coast All-Stars before pulling out a tight 65-61 win over in-state rivals KC Blackout in the semis.
Houston Hoops Blue Chips 2021 - These guys made a huge comeback against Jackson Tigers in the quarterfinals, and that effort took its toll as RM5 raced past them in the second half of their semifinal matchup. PJ Neal and Christian Jackson both had strong two-way showings from their guard positions. Chris Felix continues to score from everywhere offensively and is very active on the glass on both ends of the floor. Griffin Datcher is a raw wing prospect who flashes potential. Big man Rueben Fatheree had another solid showing and possesses rare footwork for someone his age and stature.
Team KC Blackout 2021 - Another balanced roster, this team picked up a hard-fought 54-47 victory over a scrappy Missouri Falcons squad in the quarterfinals before succumbing to in-state rival Kansas Pray & Play in the semis. Wing CJ Thomas was one of the most gifted all-around players at the camp, and has the look of someone with unlimited long-term potential. Guards Tamar Bates and Isaiah Mayo also caught my eye while knocking in several long jumpers apiece, which nearly carried them all the way to the finals.
West Coast All-Stars 2021 - This team was led by the fantastic guard combination of Ricardo Sarmiento and Ty Washington, both of whom fit at either backcourt position and always seem to be making a positive impact. Sharpshooter Jaylen Brown showed a prolific touch from behind the arc over the two days. Big man Chuks Lucky has made vast improvements in his game in recent months, including becoming much more proficient at catching tough passes and finishing at the rim. Swingman Johnathan Lawson flashed a versatile offensive game and proved especially lethal in transition, and must be considered among the best handful of prospects at the event. Many expected this squad to make the final, but they fell to Kansas Pray & Play 65-61 in the quarterfinals in what was the highest-quality game I saw all weekend.
I also want to mention three 8th-graders who stood out individually. Rodrique Ruffin of Jackson Tigers and Jackie Johnson III of OZ Elite are small, strong guards who were absolutely phenomenal over the weekend. Both can score from anywhere on the court, and each went for 25+ points on multiple occasions. They also possess the type of toughness and attitude that I love to see in lead guards. Duncan Powell of BMM Elite once again proved he is among the top wing prospects in his class. He excels in transition, possesses a great motor, and has become more explosive around the rim. Ruffin, Johnson III, and Powell were among the very best talents at John Lucas All-Star Weekend, which once again showcased an elite brand of middle school hoops.