Plethora of Great Young Talent Highlights John Lucas All-Star Weekend

March 9, 2016

Written by: Clark Francis (The Hoop Scoop)

Who do you like better - 6'6 8th Grader Jabari Abdul-Rahim from Granite Bay, CA or 6'7 8th Grader Greg Brown from Carthage, TX? That was the big question we kept asking at the John Lucas All-Star Weekend, which was held over the weekend at the MI-3 Center and Legends Sports Complex in Houston, TX And, in the final analysis, we give Abdul-Rahim the nod after watching him knock down four 3-pointers, finish with 24 points, and make a number of big shots and help his team erase most of an 18-point deficit down stretch in the round of 16 against God First 2020. Abdul-Rahim is a big time athlete with long arms, quick hands and feet, a competitive edge, and the ability to play both inside or outside, thanks to his quickness to the basket, aggressiveness on the boards, good ball handling and passing skills for somebody his size, and ability to knock down the outside shot. He also appears to be a chip off the old block, as is evident by the fact that we're talking the son of Shareef Abdul-Rahim, and it looks like he may be getting ready to flow even more in his father's footsteps with a move in the near future to the Atlanta, GA. Brown' is another one of those guys with a great combination of length, size, and athleticism, but he is really more of a 2/3 than a 3/4 due to the fact that he has such good ball handling and passing skills for somebody his size, has the foot speed and quickness necessary to guard smaller guys out on the perimeter, and he is capable of getting his shot and scoring in a variety of ways.

We also thought it was an extremely close call between 6'8 8th Grader Somfochuckwu Ezedinma from Brashear, TX and 6'5 8th Grader Jay Wilson from Denton, TX for the #3-ranking in this age group. However, the former gets the nod over the latter after watching Ezedinma score 18 points, totally dominate on the boards, and lead his team to a hard fought 62-60 win over NIKE DI Premier in the quarterfinals. He also has a great combination of strength, athleticism, and maturity, is very active around the basket, and is extremely quick to the rim, which makes him a tough match-up for would be defenders. Wilson is more of a slasher than a shooter, but he is extremely athletic, makes a living slashing to the basket and drawing the and-one, and he teamed up with 6'4 8th Grader Donovan Payne from Dallas, TX, who checks in a #6 on our list of the top 8th Graders in this event, to form one of the best one-two punches on a team that advanced all the way into the semi-finals of the tournament. And rounding out our top five-ranked players in the tournament is 6'1 8th Grader Eric Butler from Lakewood, WA. We talking about somebody with big time athleticism, quick hands and feet, great body control, terrific moves to the basket, a knack for always being around the ball, a competitive edge, and a willingness to take the charge and be an excellent defender.

Getting back to Payne, his forte is rebounding, blocking shots, and finishing through contract. But he also has the skills, versatility, and athleticism necessary to out on the perimeter and he even surprised us with his ability to knock down several 3-pointerst. Next on our list is 6'6 8th Grader Cade Cunningham from Arlington, TX, who was the best player on an extremely talented Texas Titans team, and, although he has the versatility to play both inside and outside, he does his best work using his length and athleticism, to score, rebound, and be an intimidating presence around the basket. Ditto that with regard to 6'4 8th Grader Caleb London from Memphis, TN being the best player on Team Thad, which lost to Select One in the quarterfinals, but clearly was the most talented team from top-to-bottom in the tournament. And, although London needs strength and is capable of playing out on the perimeter, he's more of a 4-man right now due to his quickness around the basket, ability to get more than his share of rebounds and knack for being able to score in the post. We also liked 6'6 8th Grader Michah Peavy from San Antonio, TX, who is another multi-dimensional athletic combo forward who needs strength, but impressed us with his ability to run the court, handle and pass, and get after it and block out on the boards. And rounding out the top 10-ranked players in this age group is 6'3 8th Grader Ernie Sanders from Beecher, MI, who makes a living playing above the rim and has a flare for the spectacular with his acrobatic and explosiveneess to the basket. He also has good court vision, is an excellent defender, and can knock down the open 3-point shot.

We also were not as enthralled as a lot of people seemed to be with regard to 6'6 8th Grader Kyree Walker from Oakland, CA. He does have good strength and athleticism and can be a match-up problem when he gets into the paint, battles for rebounds, and scores around the basket. However, he thinks he's a point guard, doesn't shoot it well enough to even keep you honest from out on the perimeter and is older than most of the players in his class, which makes us question his upside and potential. On the other hand, we think 6'3 8th Grader Isaiah LaBlanc from Houston, TX, who is ranked one spot ahead of Walker at #11 on this list, is just oozing with upside and potential. And LeBlanc is pretty good right now, as is evident by the fact that he is extremely athletic, has the ball handling and passing skills necessary to play out on the perimeter, and he knocked down five treys and scored 25 points when we watched his team play against God's First 2020. Next on our list is 6'1 8th Grader Katrell Ramsey from Kansas City, KS and what we liked best about this high energy athletic 2-guard is the fact that he is always around the ball and is great at attacking the basket. And his teammate - 6'4 8th Grader Jaden Moore from Kansas City, MO - was pretty good too. He will need to get bigger and stronger physically, but he is extremely quick and very mobile around the basket and has a knack for finding a way to score and getting it done on the boards. This also is a good place to mention 6'7 8th Grader Kylon Owens from Dallas, TX, who is a long athletic big man runs the court, rebounds and passes out of the post, sets more than his share of picks and screens, and has plenty of upside and room to grow. And the fact that he's young for his class is just an added bonus.

And when we dig a little deeper we find that guys like 5'9 8th Grader Chris Edgehill from Franklin, MA, 6'8 8th Grader Cameron Byers from Baltimore, MD, 6'0 8th Grader Jaylin Lee from Ft. Worth, TX, 6'6 8th Grader Chris Moore from West Memphis, AR, 5'8 8th Grader Robert Soto from Orlando, FL 6'0 8th Grader Tayson Parker from Collierville, TN, 6'6 8th Grader T.J. Finley from Hammond, LA, 5'11 8th Grader D'Andre Davis from Indianapolis, IN, 6'3 8th Grader Karson Stastny from Celina, TX, 6'2 8th Grader Dominique Ellison from Tacoma, WA, and 6'4 8th Grader Keon Edwards from Houston, TX.were all good enough to be ranked among the top 25 players in this age group. Edgehill was one of the best 3-point shooters that we saw all weekend (he had seven treys and 27 points in the Championship Game and he wsa the heart-and-sole of an overachieving New Playaz team that advance all of the way to the Championship Game before finally looking against 67-48 loss against Select One in the title game. Byers is a good old-fashioned big man with good footwork, excellent upper body strength, and the ability to finish through contact and get it done on the boards. Lee is versatile enough to play either guard spot, but what he does best is use his speed and quickness to slash to basket. Soto has excellent ball handling and passing skills and he knows who to us his speed and quickness to make things happen in transition. Parker is more of a slasher than a shooter, but he has big time athleticism and makes a living attacking the basket. What Finley does best is knock down the outside shot. Davis is a skinny athletic 2-guard who likes to stop and pop from mid-range. Stastny is one of of those guys who is like money in the bank when we gets his feet set and we saw him knock down five 3-pointers in the quarterfinals versus Team KC. Ellison has a good combination of upper body strength and athleticism, plus he has great hands, which allows him to be a force to reckoned with on the boards. Edwards offensively is very raw right now, but it's hard not to like his length, athleticism, ability to get done on the boards, and what he likely will evolve into the future.

The HOOP SCOOP's Ranking of the Top 26 8th Graders at the John Lucas All-Star Weekend

1) 6'6 8th Grader Jabari Abdul-Rahim from Granite Bay, CA (Play Hard Play Smart)

2) 6'7 8th Grader Greg Brown from Carthage, TX (NIKE DI Premier)

3) 6'8 8th Grader Somfochuckwu Ezedinma from Brashear, TX (Supreme Court)

4) 6'5 8th Grader Jay Wilson from Denton, TX (Team Texas Shooters)

5) 6'1 8th Grader Eric Butler from Lakewood, WA (Team Blackout)

6) 6'4 8th Grader Donovan Payne from Dallas, TX (Team Texas Shooters)

7) 6'6 8th Grader Cade Cunningham from Arlington, TX (Texas Titans)

8) 6'4 8th Grader Caleb London from Memphis, TN (Team Thad)

9) 6'6 8th Grader Michah Peavy from San Antonio, TX (BMM Elite 2020)

10) 6'3 8th Grader Ernie Sanders from Beecher, MI (Flint's Finest)

11) 6'3 8th Grader Isaiah LaBlanc from Houston, TX (God First 2020)

12) 6'6 8th Grader Kyree Walker from Oakland, CA (God First 2020)

13) 6'1 8th Grader Katrell Ramsey from Kansas Cit, KS (Team KC)

14) 6'4 8th Grader Jaden Moore from Kansas City, MO (Team KC)

15) 6'7 8th Grader Kylon Owens from Dallas, TX (Texas Titans)

16) 5'9 8th Grader Chris Edgehiill from Franklin, MA (New England Playaz)

17) 6'8 8th Grader Cameron Byers from Baltimore, MD (Select One)

18) 6'0 8th Grader Jaylin Lee from Ft. Worth, TX (Supreme Court MWA)

19) 6'6 8th Grader Chris Moore from West Memphis, AR (Team Thad)

20) 5'8 8th Grader Robert Soto from Orlando, FL (Orlando Captains)

21) 6'0 8th Grader Tayson Parker from Collierville, TN (Team Thad)

22) 6'6 8th Grader T.J. Finley from Hammond, LA (Nola-23)

23) 5'11 8th Grader D'Andre Davis from Indianapolis, IN (Indiana Elite)

24) 6'3 8th Grader Karson Stastny from Celina, TX (Texas Titans)

25) 6'2 8th Grader Dominique Ellison from Tacoma, WA (Team Blackout)

26) 6'4 8th Grader Keon Edwards from Houston, TX (Select One)

There also was plenty of talent in the 7th Grade Division at the John Lucas All-Star Weekend and right at the top of the list was 6'0 7th Grader Christopher Hilton from Zachary, LA. We're talking about an athletic 2-guard who is extremely quick in the open court, has a great nose for the ball, and makes a living coming up with more than his share of steals and slashing to the basket. And right behind Hilton is 6'6 7th Grader Jai Smith from Morrisville, NC, who scored 10 points in the championship game and, along with 5'9 7th Grader Taylor Bell from Raleigh, NC and 5'4 7th Grader Terquavion Smith from Greenville, NC, led the Carolina Wolves to a hard fought 59-56 triple overtime win over the West Coast All-Stars in the title game. Smith is listed at 6'4, but he looks closer to 6'6 and this long athletic power forward runs the court extremely well, is very active on the boards, and can be an intimidating presence in the paint. He also totally outplayed 6'10 7th Grader Chucks Lucky from Nashville, TN, who is extremely raw offensively, but runs the court, rebounds, blocks shots, and has the upside and potential necessary to check in at #6 on our List of the Top 7th Graders in this event, when they went head-to-head in the Championship Game. As for Bell and Smith, the former is a prolific scoring 2-guard who knocked down a pair of threes in the championship game and the latter is quick little point guard with good ball handling and passing skills and a knack for being able to penetrate and dish.

There also was 6'6 7th Grader Camden Easley from Orlando, FL, who finished #3 on our list of the top 7th Graders in this event and impressed us with his length, athleticism, and ability to block shots. He will need to get bigger and stronger physically, but he also like the way he ran the court, always keeps his head up, has a good court presence, and is oozing with upside and potential. And, of course, there was 5'11 7th Grader Brandon Perez from Velencia, CA, who picked up where he left off when we last saw him a year ago at the John Lucas Resources Future of the Game-West Camp, where he clearly was the best player, by leading the West Coast All-Stars all the way to the title game. Perez has good combination of skills and athleticism, is a tremendous competitor, and he turned in one of the top individual performances of the entire weekend when he had 28 points in the semi-finals versus Team Teague. Speaking of Team Teague, their best player was 6'5 7th Grader Caleb Thirst from Indianapolis, IN. And what he lacks in terms of quickness and strength, he more than makes up for with his skills and being active around the basket, plus he runs the court extremely well, has excellent post moves, and can face-up and hit the mid-range shot.

There also was 5'10 7th Grader Ricardo Sarmiento from Phoenix, AZ, who competes, defends, and knocked down some big threes against the Carolina Wolves in the Championship Game. We also thought 5'9 7th Grader Jalen Blackmon from Ft. Wayne, IN, who is the younger brother of James Blackmon and Vijay Blackmon, was not as good as the hype until we looked at the scorebook and saw that he had 21 points and four 3-pointers in his team's 79-77 loss in the semi-finals against the Carolina Wolves. He will have to get stronger physically and he might be too smooth for his own good, but it's hard not to like his pedigree and ability to flat out score. And what a difference a couple of weeks has made for 63 7th Grader Jorge Oshea from Los Angles, CA, who was very fluid, mobile, and active around the basket and much more confident than when we saw him just a couple of weeks ago.. We also don't want to forget about 6'1 7th Grader Michael James from Orlando, FL, who is an athletic wing forward with good ball handling and passing skills in the open court and thrives in an up tempo setting.

The HOOP SCOOP's Ranking of the Top 12 7th Graders at the John Lucas All-Star Weekend

1) 6'0 7th Grader Christopher Hilton from Zachary, LA (Louisiana Future)

2) 6'6 7th Grader Jai Smith from Morrisville, NC (Carolina Wolves)

3) 6'6 7th Grader Camden Easley from Orlando, FL (Orlando Team Jayhawks)

4) 5'11 7th Grader Brandon Perez from Velencia, CA (West Coast All-Stars)

5) 6'5 7th Grader Caleb Thirst from Indianapolis, IN (Team Teague)

6) 6'10 7th Grader Chucks Lucky from Nashville, TN (West Coast All-Stars)

7) 5'9 7th Grader Taylor Bell from Raleigh, NC (Carolina Wolves)

8) 5'10 7th Grader Ricardo Sarmiento from Phoenix, AZ (West Coast All-Stars)

9) 5'9 7th Grader Jalen Blackmon from Ft. Wayne, IN (Team Teague)

10) 6'3 7th Grader Jorge Oshea from Los Angles, CA (West Coast All-Stars)

11) 5'4 7th Grader Terquavion Smith from Greenville, NC (Carolina Wolves)

12) 6'1 7th Grader Michael James from Orlando, FL (Orlando Team Jayhawks)

The best individual performance that we saw all weekend was turned in by 5'6 6th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX on Saturday afternoon when this prolific scoring athletic combo guard scored 32 points, four 3-pointers, and scored the game winning basket in a game in pool play. On the other hand, this does not come as much of surprise when one remembers that Griggs is the #1-ranked player nationally in the Class of 2022 and he appears to be following in the footsteps of his older brother, D.J. Griggs, who also was one of the top middle school players in the nation back in his day. Amd, of course, there was 5'4 6th Grader Sean "T.J." Haggerty from Houston, TX, who scored 26 of his team's 45 points in a 46-45 loss to Utah Elite in another game in pool play on Saturday morning. We talking about an athletic 2-guard with a good build, which allows him to go strong to the basket, and scorer's mentality, although right now he is more of a slasher than a shooter. Ditto being able to go coast-to-coast with regard to 5'4 6th Grader Sean "T.J." Haggerty from Houston, TX. However, this 5'11 athletic 2-guard also can beat you with his outside shooting and he also impressed us with his ball handling and passing skills and the fact that he is equally adept at either guard spot. Another guy who put up big numbers in this age group was 5'4 6th Grader Keishawn Pulley from Richmond, VA. We're talking about somebody with a great nose for the ball, an excellent understanding of the game, and the ability to flat out shoot the basketball, as is evident by the fact that he had 19 points and five treys when we watched him play. And rounding out our list of top five players in this age group is 6'2 6th Grader Gregg Glenn from Miami, FL, who is a long athletic big man with a soft touch around the basket, a willingness to get after it on the boards, and is active in the post.

We also want to mention some other guys like 6'3 6th Grader Amari Thomas from Wichita, KS, 5'11 6th Grader Dariq Whitehead from Livingston, NJ, 6'3 6th Grader Harrison Alexander from Charlotte, NC, 5'0 6th Grader Freddie Dillione from Fayetteville, NC, 6'6 6th Grader David Clark from Sacramento, CA, 6'3 6th Grader Kevin Garcia from Laredo, TX, and 5'8 6th Grader Brandon Errity from Ridgewood, NJ. Thomas is very athletic, runs the court, and handles the ball pretty well for somebody his size out on the perimeter. However, he also knows what he is, which ia 6'3 power forward whose forte is rebounding, blocking shots, and scoring around the basket. Whitehead also falls into a similar category, as this skinny athletic 4-man has a soft touch on his jump and is capable of playing both inside and outside. But what he does best is use his quickness and athleticism to score around the basket and own the boards. Alexander also is more of a four than a three, thanks to his knack for getting it done on the boards and ability to score around the basket, and out to mid-range. Dillione is more of a slasher than shooter, but we also liked his ball handling and passing skills, nose for the ball, willingness to compete, and the fact that he is a good defender. Clark and Garcia were like Batman and Robin for the Gulf Coast Blue Chip, which knocked off 60 Elite, 62'59 in overtime in the Championship Game of the 6th Grade Division. Clark is an athletic combo forward who isn't afraid to mix up and score inside, but also has s soft touch on his shot when he steps out onto the perimeter. Garcia's game is more finesse than power, but he is quick to the ball, very active around the basket, and he has knack for being able to find ways to score. Errity is like a jack-of-all-trades with a great nose for the ball, a competitive nature, and they ability to ways seem to be able to find a way to score.

The HOOP SCOOP's Ranking of the Top 12 6th Graders at the John Lucas All-Star Weekend

1) 5'6 6th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX (Houston Hoops)

2) 5'4 6th Grader Sean "T.J." Haggerty from Houston, TX (T.J. Ford Stars)

3) 5'11 6th Grader Jaden Bradley from Concord, NC (EA GC Ballers)

4) 5'4 6th Grader Keishawn Pulley from Richmond, VA (Team Loaded 2022)

5) 6'2 6th Grader Gregg Glenn from Miami, FL (Nightrydas Elite)

6) 6'3 6th Grader Amari Thomas from Wichita, KS (Kansas Pray & Play Players)

7) 5'11 6th Grader Dariq Whitehead from Livingston, NJ (60 Elite)

8) 6'3 6th Grader Harrison Alexander from Charlotte, NC (EA GC Ballers)

9) 5'0 6th Grader Freddie Dillione from Fayetteville, NC (Carolina Elite)

10) 6'6 6th Grader David Clark from Sacramento, CA (Gulf Coast Blue Chip)

11) 6'3 6th Grader Kevin Garcia from Laredo, TX (Gulf Coast Blue Chip)

12) 5'8 6th Grader Brandon Errity from Ridgewood, NJ (60 Elite)