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Size & Prolific Scoring Combo Guards Were Abundant at John Lucas International Middle School Combine

May 9, 2017

by Clark Francis

Count them (6'9 8th Grader Jonathan Izemel from Jacksonville, FL, 6'8 8th Grader Bretner Mutombo from Jacksonville, FL, 6'9 8th Grader Cisse Pape from Anaheim, CA, 6'10 8th Grader Trey James from Shelton Clark, KY, 6'9 7th Grader Ngom Mouhamed from San Antonio, TX, 6'8 8th Grader Reuben Fatheree from Richmond, TX, 6'10 8th Grader Samuel Onu from San Antonio, TX, 6'8 8th Grader Riley Mahlman from Lakeville, MN, 6'11 8th Grader Christian Bento from Temecula, CA, and 6'8 7th Grader Adam Stewart from Houston, TX), there were 10 players that are 6'8 or taller at the John Lucas International Middle School Combine, which was held this past weekend at the Legends Sports Complex in The Woodlands, TX. However, none of the above mentioned players was good enough to edge out guys like 6'6 8th Grader Jonathan Lawson from Memphis, TN, 5'8 8th Grader Jackie Johnson from Wichita, KS, 6'0 8th Grader Ryan Conway from Lutherville, MD, 6'0 7th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX, and 6'2 7th Grader Trey Cheatham from Plano, TX when we start talking about the top players in camp.

And, in the final analysis, nobody really separated himself and clearly established himself as the top player in camp. So we gave the nod to Lawson based on the fact that good things usually happened when the ball is in his hands and he has the skills necessary to play anywhere from the one-to-the-four spot. He also tremendous natural talent and is a better athlete, shoots the ball better, and plays harder than his three older brothers and, as a result, is projected to be the best player in the family, which is quite a statement when one remembers that Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson both will be waiting in the wings next year at the University of Kansas and Chandler Lawson is one of the top players nationally in the loaded Class of 2019. As for the youngest Lawson, he still has a tendency to float at times and he often is too unselfish for his own good. On the other hand, he has tremendous length, handles and passes extremely well for somebody his size, and he would be the top player on our list if we could only take one player out of the entire camp. And, to make things even more interesting, both Jonathan and his father confirm that he plans to join Chandler Lawson at Memphis (East) TN on what promises to be one of the best high school teams in the nation next year.

When we start talking about the four guys right behind Lawson in our Exclusive Ranking of the Top Players at the John Lucas International Middle School Combine, which can be found below, they all are similar in that they were the dominant ball handler on their team and they all like to pull the trigger and have a scorer's mentality. We give the edge to Johnson based on the fact that he has a great combination of strength and athleticism, does a nice job of penetrating, dishing, and attacking the basket, knows how to get his shot and beat you with his outside shooting, and also is a good defender. And so is Conway, who made things tough for 6'1 8th Grader Carter Whitt from Raleigh, NC, who is another one of the top guards in camp, but didn't get a lot of open looks and had to work for everything that he did get when he was matched up against this 6'0 combo guard who possesses a lot of speed and quickness and makes a living coming up with more than his share of steals and baskets off transition. Conway also has good ball handling and passing skills, is very effective from mid-range, can knock down the outside shot, and is capable of putting up prolific numbers. Griggs was clearly the best 7th Grader in camp and he did a good job of striking the right balance in terms of both getting his teammates involved, scoring off transition, and knocking down the outside shot. He also has great ball handing and passing skills, a high basketball IQ, and he too is capable of putting up prolific numbers. And so can Cheatham, although at times he did so at the expense of his teammates and has much more of a scorer's than a facilitator's mentally. On the other hand, he is quick with the ball, has good moves to the basket, and does have a soft touch on his shot, which he is not afraid to knock down from downtown.

It also was not so easy when it came time to separate6'9 8th Grader Jonathan Izemel from Jacksonville, FL, 6'8 8th Grader Bretner Mutombo from Jacksonville, FL, and 6'9 8th Grader Cisse Pape from Anaheim, CA. And, believe it or not, Izmel and Mutombo both attend Potters House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, FF and, although they both will need to get bigger and stronger physically, we're talking about two long athletic shot blocking big men who play with a lot of energy and are extremely quick around the basket. All three of these guys have quick hands and feet, run the court extremely well, and are very active on the boards. However, Izemel gets the nod over Mutombo and Page, because he finishes better and does a better job of setting picks and screens. And rounding out our list of top 10 players in camp are 6'4 8th Grader Turner Rayven from Vancouver, WA and 6'5 8th Grader Jaden Jones from Dallas, TX. The former also was one of the most athletic guys in camp and he makes a living attacking the basket and getting his shot off the dribble. The latter has the size, versatility and athleticism necessary to play anywhere from the one to the four spot, plus he has good ball handling and passing skills, a good nose for the ball, and can score in a variety of ways.

The outside shot was not going down for 6'1 8th Grader Carter Whitt from Raleigh, but it was still hard not like his high basketball IQ, feel for the game, ability to make those around him better, and knack for being able to score in a variety of ways. We also liked the blue collar work ethic and take no prisoners approach that 6'10 8th Grader Trey James from Shelton Clark, KY that brought to the table as this 6'10 white kid banged in the post and was a tough match-up with his ability to rebound, block shots, and score around the basket. Next on our list is 5'10 8th Grader Mason Manning from Jackson, MS and, although he didn't score a single point, we likedthe way he got his teammates involved, rank the show and was a good defender. His defense is way ahead of his offensive right now, but 6'9 7th Grader Ngom Mouhamed from San Antonio, TX is another big man with excellent length and athleticism, the ability to run the court, rebound, block shots, and be an intimidating presence in the post. And, of course, there was 6'1 8th Gader Jalen Blackmon from Ft. Wayne, IN, who is a chip off the old block (his father and oldest brother were both runner-up for Indiana's prestigious Mr. Basketball and best known for their ability to just flat out score) with his silky smooth demeanor, athleticism, and ability to light up a scoreboard.

It also was difficult to separate 6'6 8th Grader Ungu Nganeu from Arlington, TX and 6'6 8th Grader David Dixon from Memphis, TN, both of whom were on the same team and complemented one another with their skills, athleticism, and ability to score, rebound, and pass in the post. However, we give the nod to Nganeu based on the fact that he has a 50-pound weight advantage and, as a result, tends to get a little bit more done around the basket. It also was difficult not to be enamored with 6'1 8th Grader Juan Reyna from San Antonio, TX. He lacks strength, but has excellent ball handling and passing skills, a great nose for the ball, and the ability to make things happen in an up tempo setting. This next guy looks like more like an offensive lineman than a dominating post player, but 6'8 8th Grader Reuben Fatheree from Richmond, TX was a force to be reckoned with around the basket with his deceptive mobility, excellent hands, and ability to garner more than his share of rebounds and score around the basket. And rounding out our to 20-ranked players in camp is 6'5 8th Grader William Jeffress from Erie, PA, who combines good length and athleticism with excellent skills, nice footwork, and a well-rounded game.

And, when we dig a little deeper, we find that guys like 6'4 8th Grader Legends Geeter from Detroit, MI, 6'0 8th Grader Amare Marshall from Monclair, NJ, 6'3 8th Grade Love Langston from San Antonio, TX, 6'10 8th Grader Samuel Onu from San Antonio, TX, 5'10 8th Grader Preston Murphy from Omaha, NE, 6'1 8th Grader Manny Obaseski from Allen, TX, 5'10 8th Grader Jaylen Simon from Philadelphia, PA, 6'2 7th Grader Brendon Mwamba from Pearland, TX, 6'3 7th Grader Omari Abor from De Soto, TX, and 6'4 8th Grader Pierre Brooks from Detroit, MI are good enough to be ranked in the 21-30 range in camp. Geeter has the versatility, athleticism, and skills necessary to play both inside and outside and he would be ranked even higher if he hadn't spent so much time bringing the ball up the court and attempting to be a point guard. Marshall is an athletic 2-guard and high volume scorer who he promises to be the next in a long line of great players to play for the NJ. Playaz. Langston not only has the versatility and athleticism necessary to play both inside and outside, but he also is very effective on the boards and he showed that he can knock down the outside shot. Onu intrigues you with his size, athleticism, and potential, but he lacks a motor, doesn't run the court, tends to be injury prone, and has a hard time scoring around the basket, unless he has an easy dunk. Murphy is a 5'10 point guard with a quick first step and good the ball handling and passing skills, a high basketball IQ, and the ability to get his teammates involved that one might expect from a coach's son (his father is an assistant coach at Creighton). Obaseski is a 6'1 2-guard with world-class athleticism and he is equally effective when it comes time to get to the basket and create his own shot off the dribble. Simon is versatile enough to play either guard spot and, with his ability to both get to the basket and knock down the outside shot, is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Mwamb is more of a slasher than a shooter, but it's hard not to like the fact that he's versatile enough to play both inside and outside and he's very good at attacking the basket. Abor doesn't have a true position and we question his outside shooting, but he does finish through contract, can score from mid-range and in, and does have a lot of natural talent. Brooks is another guy without a true position, but is like a jack-of-all-trades with his energy, athleticism, and ability to play both inside and outside.

The camp also had plenty of depth, as we don't want to forget about guys like 5'7 8th Grder Keon Henderson from Detroit, MI, 6'2 7th Grader Jalen Knox from Baton Rouge, LA, 5'8 7th Grader Ben Shtolzberg from Northridge, CA, 6'4 8th Grader Dallas Turner from Davie, FL 6'0 8th Grader Harrison Kelly from Memphis, TN, 5'10 7th Grader Barrington Hargress from Inglewood, CA, 6'6 7th Grader Nathan Rawlins-Kibonge from Eugene, OR, 6'8 8th Grader Riley Mahlman from Lakeville, MN, 6'11 8th Grader Christian Bento from Temecula, CA, and 6'8 7th Grader Adam Stewart from Houston, TX. Henderson plays with a lot of energy and uses his explosive first step and moves to the basket to make a living finishing at the rim, plus he has a soft tough on his jump shot and can more than just keep you honest with his outside shooting. Knox is more of a four than a three, but does have a good nose for the ball and the versatility athleticism necessary to play both inside and outside. Shtolzberg impressed with his good ball handling and passing skills, high basketball IQ, and willingness to make his teammates better, plus he has a competitive edge and he wasn't afraid to attack the basket and challenge the trees inside. Turner has a good nose for the ball, and a soft touch on his shot, plus he can both get to the basket and knock down the outside shot. Kelly is an athletic white kid with good skills, a high basketball, and the ability to score in a variety of ways. Hargress is an athletic 2-guard who makes a living going coast-to-coast, knocking down the three, and attacking the basket. At 6'5, 235-pounds, Rawling-Kibonge is a force to be reckoned with around the basket and garners more than his share of rebounds. Mahlman makes up for his lack of toughness and athleticism with his skills and will ability to score and rebound in the low post, plus he has a nice frame and should continue to grow. Bento is really soft and not very skilled, but, like they say, you can't teach somebody to be 7-feet and he's already pretty darn close. Stewart is another guy who is lacks strength and is more of a project than a finished product. However, he does have plenty of upside and potential and, as a result, is the perfect guy for the bottom of this list.

The HOOP SCOOP's Exclusive Ranking of the Top Players at the John Lucas International Middle School Combine

1) 6'6 8th Grader Jonathan Lawson from Memphis, TN

2) 5'8 8th Grader Jackie Johnson from Wichita, KS

3) 6'0 8th Grader Ryan Conway from Lutherville, MD

4) 6'0 7th Grader Bryce Griggs from Lake Jackson, TX

5) 6'2 7th Grader Trey Cheatham from Plano, TX

6) 6'9 8th Grader Jonathan Izemel from Jacksonville, FL

7) 6'8 8th Grader Bretner Mutombo from Jacksonville, FL

8) 6'9 8th Grader Cisse Pape from Anaheim, CA

9) 6'4 8th Grader Turner Rayven from Vancouver, WA

10) 6'5 8th Grader Jaden Jones from Dallas, TX

11) 6'1 8th Grader Carter Whitt from Raleigh, NC

12) 6'10 8th Grader Trey James from Shelton Clark, KY

13) 5'10 8th Grader Mason Manning from Jackson, MS

14) 6'9 7th Grader Ngom Mouhamed from San Antonio, TX

15) 6'1 8th Gader Jalen Blackmon from Ft. Wayne, IN

16) 6'6 8th Grader Ungu Nganeu from Arlington, TX

17) 6'6 8th Grader David Dixon from Memphis, TN

18) 6'8 8th Grader Reuben Fatheree from Richmond, TX

19) 6'1 8th Grader Juan Reyna from San Antonio, TX

20) 6'4 8th Grader Legends Geeter from Detroit, MI

21) 6'0 8th Grader Amare Marshall from Monclair, NJ

22) 6'5 8th Grader William Jeffress from Erie, PA

23) 6'3 8th Grade Love Langston from San Antonio, TX

24) 6'10 8th Grader Samuel Onu from San Antonio, TX

25) 5'10 8th Grader Preston Murphy from Omaha, NE

26) 6'1 8th Grader Manny Obaseski from Allen, TX

27) 5'10 8th Grader Jaylen Simon from Philadelphia, PA

28) 6'2 7th Grader Brendon Mwamba from Pearland, TX

29) 6'3 7th Grader Omari Abor from De Soto, TX

30) 6'4 8th Grader Pierre Brooks from Detroit, MI

31) 5'7 8th Grder Keon Henderson from Detroit, MI

32) 6'2 7th Grader Jalen Knox from Baton Rouge, LA

33) 5'8 7th Grader Ben Shtolzberg from Northridge, CA

34) 6'4 8th Grader Dallas Turner from Davie, FL

35) 6'0 8th Grader Harrison Kelly from Memphis, TN

36) 5'10 7th Grader Barrington Hargress from Inglewood, CA

37) 6'6 7th Grader Nathan Rawlins-Kibonge from Eugene, OR

38) 6'8 8th Grader Riley Mahlman from Lakeville, MN

39) 6'11 8th Grader Christian Bento from Temecula, CA

40) 6'8 7th Grader Adam Stewart from Houston, TX