ATTENTION! Just making sure whoever is reading this doesn’t miss this part. 8th grade is too soon to project a player for the college level, at least for the most part. Unless they are extraordinary, it probably isn’t ideal to make a projection. I understand that. With that being said again, don’t expect a projection in this player intro. However, don’t be shocked to hear plenty about this kid in middle school this year and in high school every year until he graduates in 2021.

Cole Gilbert is a 13 year old 6’7” (for now) 8th grader that attends Ocracoke Middle School in Ocracoke, NC. It’s a relatively small island on the coast. It’s typically known as a great vacation and tourist spot. However, it isn’t often that a kid with such immense size, work ethic and potential comes along in such a small area as such. Gilbert will be one to track in Ocracoke over the years to come.

On the court, as the case is with most young big men, Cole is raw. However, his knowledge of the game is there, his mentality to strive to be great is there and his work ethic is impeccable. Coach DeAngelo Spruill of Garner Road likes what he has seen from Gilbert during competition. “Cole is a big boy! He’s a willing worker, has decent footwork and he doesn’t quit. Has a work ethic.” said Spruill when asked his thoughts of Cole.

Ocracoke isn’t known as a hoops hotbed. However, over the past couple of years current high school Coach Dave Allewalt and a slew of others have been doing a wonderful job building up the sports programs on the island starting with the youth. Cole is one of those kids who has come up in the program and has been working extremely hard on his game and adjusting to his body. He could certainly in time make his mark and bring more attention to a growing Ocracoke basketball program.

He’s currently sporting a size 16.5 shoe, just 13 years young and rapidly growing. Size, youth and a great work ethic typically make for an excellent post prospect in due time. It’s going to be fun watching the development of Cole over these next few years. Remember the name.

You read it here first.


This is the 2nd of what will be 5 installments of the “A Way Too Early Intro” series. Stay tuned.

Yes. 8th grade is too soon to project a player. I hear you and I understand clearly. Making projections of kids in middle school is out of bounds and too soon. I get it. Now, with that being said, don’t expect a projection in this introduction. However, you can expect to hear plenty about this kid in middle school this year and in high school every year until he graduates in 2021.

Dontrez Styles attends Woodington Middle School in Kinston, NC. He is currently standing at 6’4” inches tall, with plenty of room to continue growing. He has good size for the wing, good length, budding athleticism and plenty of skill to compliment his size on the wing. Potential is there to develop into a productive player early on once he makes it to high school.

During the AAU season with Kinston Heat, he played up at several tourneys and showed the ability to create off the dribble, knock down shots, rebound the ball, get to the rim and used his length defensively to bother shooters. He did quite a bit of growing over the summer as well, so it will be interesting to see how his body has adjusted when the middle school season comes around.

His main strength right now would be his shooting ability. However, it’s apparent he’s had good coaching, because he doesn’t fall in love with his jump-shot as most young players tend to do at his size. Styles makes it an issue to attack the basket, mixes it up off the dribble and he gets after it on the glass. Some key things to improve on would be his ability to read defenses aimed to frustrate him and of course continuing to improve his rapidly growing body frame over the next few years.

Remember the name for future references. All of the tools are there for him to become a high level prospect over the next 5 years. If he continues to work hard, improve and produce, the sky is the limit. It’s going to be fun to watch how he progresses.

You read it here first.

This is the first of what will be 5 installments of the “A Way Too Early Intro” series. Stay tuned.

All photo credits belong to Buds Photography.

Rest assured, the Class of 2019 in NC has the potential to be an excellent class from top to bottom in terms of college level prospects. From point guards to post players, this class is loaded with potential high level players and there will undoubtedly be some sleepers as well. I’ve listed (in no particular order) a few players that caught my eye as freshmen competing for their respective high school teams and in AAU competition. Lock these names into the back of your minds.

(Name, High School, Height, Weight, Position)

Note: This list is not compiled in any specific order.

Tarik Adams, KIPP Pride, 6’2” 165, PG/SG

As a freshman competing on the junior varsity for KIPP Pride HS, Adams showed some serious game. He dominated the competition, averaging over 27 points per game and displaying strong court vision as well. Over the summer, Adams really begin developing his body and was developing his athleticism before an injury shut him down for the remainder of the AAU season. However, he’s expected to make a full recovery and should undoubtedly put college coaches on notice in the next few seasons.

Dominique Morse, Spring Creek, 6’0” 160, PG

Morse is an extremely athletic sophomore guard. He’s a multi-sport athlete and it shows on the court with his toughness and will. In his freshman season competing on the varsity team, Morse had several 20 point 10 rebound games despite playing the guard position. He was one of a few freshmen that saw big minutes for his high school team and should only continue to improve each season. Intrigue is there. He displays fundamentals, soft shooting touch and an overall solid feel for the game. Definitely worth tracking.

Imajae Dodd, Greene Central, 6’7” 200, PF

Imajae has all the makings of a big-time prospect despite being such a young sophomore. As a freshman he showed flashes of a young agile post that can play well above the rim and create off the dribble in spurts. He also displayed a surprisingly soft touch on his jump-shot. Defensively, he gets physical and has solid timing when it comes to blocking shots and rebounding. He possesses uncommon athleticism for a player with his combination of size and youth. Colleges have already taken notice of his talent in route to him earning several D1 offers over the summer. Should gain more as the season rolls along.

Dericko Williams, Kinston, 6’7” 185, PF

Dericko is the definition of an elite run and jump athlete. Arguably one of the most athletic players in the state. Williams was able to show off his athleticism with Kinston High School in the ECI tourney held in Jacksonville, NC this summer. He was all over the court showing tons of energy on both ends. Crashes the glass, protects the rim and gets out in transition for electric slam dunk finishes. Despite being relatively raw, his athleticism alone should allow him to have an impact as a sophomore. Has shown to have a solid work ethic, so he could very well develop into a high level prospect.

Shyquan Jones, Pope John Paul, 6’4” 170 SG

Pope John Paul HS in Greenville, NC has a hidden gem in Shyquan Jones. He was able to quietly average over 24 points per game despite being double and triple teamed consistently. Jones possesses great natural basketball instincts, a tightening handle, a great frame for a wing and wiry strength. Should college coaches begin making their way down to Greenville, NC to see for themselves, don’t be shocked to see Shyquan earn several Division 1 offers before his junior season. Should have another dominate season at Pope John Paul HS.

Darryl McCaster, James Kenan, 6’0” 160 PG

After a highly successful stint on the junior varsity team as a freshman, McCaster was moved up to the varsity where he would then lead his James Kenan HS varsity team in scoring as a freshman. He showed a natural ability to create for himself and others and proved to be a clutch performer knocking down several last second shots as a frosh. In a prime position to help guide his team to the top of their conference this season, providing scoring, defense and an uncanny ability to make shots.

Marcotis Hall, Kestrel Heights, 6’4” 165 SF

Marcotis plays the game of basketball with a great confidence and displays a high IQ. In the mid-range area is where he’s most dangerous. Hall is able to elevate over most defenders and shows a quick release on his jumper coupled with some crafty moves from the triple-threat position. In the post, when guarded by taller and longer players, he uses a variety of pump fakes, spin moves and some solid footwork to create space for himself to get a good shot. Being that he is the 2nd leading returning scorer, he’s primed to have a jump in his production and could really make some noise this season with Kestrel Heights in a bigger role.

Damian Dunn. Kinston, 6’5” 185 SG/PG

Damian Dunn (along with Imajae Dodd) really made a name for himself this summer on the AAU circuit playing with Stackhouse Elite as well as with his Kinston HS team as a frosh. He already showed flashes of a versatile player capable of playing multiple positions and scoring at each spot during his freshman season. His game is rounding out, displaying an array of hesitation moves, good shooting form and patience. He doesn’t force the issue. Should he continue growing, getting stronger and scoring at every level, he could become a high level recruit in absolutely no time at all. Holds several Division 1 offers with growing interest.

Donte Johnson, Greene Central, 6’5” 190, SF

Donte is loaded with potential. A lefty, Donte showed many flashes as a freshman that he could in time become a long, athletic and savvy do it all wing. Naturally, Donte crashes the glass strong and runs the floor hard to get easy transition scores. In the half-court setting, he gets good post position, digging into his defender and showing a target. Once he has the ball in the post or on the perimeter, he’s adept at making quick moves to the basket once he receives the ball. Also has a very quick second leap on rebounding attempts. Should have a much larger role this season as a sophomore due to the graduation of six seniors.

Marcus Harrison, Southern Vance, 5’10” 150, SG

Marcus is an athletic natural-born scorer. Despite being undersized for the position, he’s extremely hard to stop due to his natural ability to find the right spots on and off the ball coupled with his ability to make all types of shots from all over the court. This kid flat out knows how to play and how to score. He’s one of the leading returning scorers for sophomores in the state after averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds as a freshman for his Southern Vance Raiders. Don’t be surprised to see his name among scoring leaders in NC this season and in years to follow.

Over the course of the past few months, I had the opportunity to keep tabs on a few rising juniors on the eastern side of NC. Several of these players showed much improvement over the course of this year and have undoubtedly worked their way into bigger roles for the up and coming season. I also received tips on a few of these players and they have proven to be diamonds in the rough. Each player listed below has the skill, worth ethic and potential to become a productive student-athlete at the college level. Special thanks to Rod Bridgers and Tre Cordon for making sure I was aware of several of these outstanding kids.


(Name, High School, Height, Weight, Position)

(2015-2016 Season Statistics)

Note: This list is not compiled in any specific order.


Jadakis Bonds, Riverside (Martin) HS, 6’4” 175 SG/SF

(11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block)

Not many players improved over the summer as much as Bonds. He has shown a much improved jump-shot, handle, passing ability, defensive mechanics and physique. Colleges will without a doubt be keeping tabs on him this season. Could break out as the leader of what has the makings of a very strong team this season. Standing at 6’4”, he possesses good height, athleticism, length, a high basketball IQ and tons of confidence at the shooting guard position. Still relatively unknown, he should undoubtedly attract some serious college attention this up and coming season and lead his Riverside HS deep into the playoffs.

Rakilen Butler, Southern Wayne HS, 6’3” 160 PG/SG

(14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.4 steals)

Rakilen is a quick, shifty point guard capable that can shoot the ball extremely well. He had multiple games in his sophomore season knocking down at least 5 triples. Butler also has sneaky leaping ability enabling him to get past long defenders and grab long rebounds out of position. In the up-coming season, expect to see an increase in his productivity all around the board. If he continues to shoot the ball extremely well, distribute the ball and get stronger, Butler should become a well-known name to many colleges at every level on the east coast.

Kris Wooten, Parrott Academy, 6’2” 170 SG

(16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 40% 3pt shooting)

Wooten is arguably one of the best pure shooters in all of NC. Has an effortless jump-shot from mid-range and from the three point line. Is comfortable shooting off the dribble and off the catch. Shows a surprisingly slick handle that enables him to consistently get into the paint where his innate ability to finish around the rim wreaks havoc on defenses. Will not be shocked to see a 20+ per game season with solid all around statistics to follow. Has also shown a revamped body while providing glimpses of rapidly improving athleticism. Will be fun to track as the season goes on.

Tyzhaun Claude, Cox Mill HS, 6’7” 190 PF/C

(10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks)

Tyzhaun is a young and solid wide-bodied post. He doesn’t venture too far away from the basket, for good reason. He has a soft touch in the mid-range capacity and creates ample space in the paint using minimal dribbles, drop-steps and finishing strong around rim. Very fundamental post player that doesn’t try overdo anything. Sets good screens, hustles and doesn’t back down from anyone. Makes the smart and simple plays on both ends. (Competed for Goldsboro HS in 2015-2016 Season)

Freddie Taylor, New Hanover HS, 5’8” 150 PG

(11 points, 8 assists, 4 steals,  4:1 ast/to ratio}

One of the best floor generals in the NC 2018 class. Freddie has one of the best pure handles in the state. Very shifty and crafty ball-handler that commands a team offense and makes defenders think twice about trying to get physical with him. Underrated jump-shooter. Knocks shots down from the perimeter off the dribble and coming off screens. Defensively, gets a ton of steals with his pressure defense. Can really frustrate ball-handlers and make them second guess themselves. Colleges that are more concerned about skill and production rather than size will love Freddie.

Jareem Lovette, James Kenan HS, 6’6” 185 SF/PF

(6.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks)

Jareem has loads of potential. As a sophomore he had his ups and downs, but showed many flashes of potential to become a solid wing/post player. He gets out in transition and finishes well above the rim. When he operates on the wing he is capable of beating his man with two or three dribbles using either hand and can finish with either hand as well. Entering into his junior season, if Jareem shows more of a willingness to attack the basket and utilizes his size more, he could present a unique matchup problem for his opposition night in and night out.

Nico Barnes, Tarboro HS, 6’7” 180 PF/SF

(17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Barnes is a post player that coaches would be wise to keep tabs on. Standing close to 6’8” he hustles, does the dirty work, runs the floor well and can knock down three-pointers at a solid clip. Defensively he’s much of the same, staying active and using his length to disrupt shots. He has all of the tools to be a dynamic all-around player. He’s still young as well, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him grow a few more inches. It may be just a matter of time before colleges start sneaking their way to his games this season to see what he’s all about.

Janari Hill, Jones Senior HS, 5’9” 150 PG

(16 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2.4 steals)

Hill is a great example of a confident and savvy player. Despite his size, he was able to lead his Jones Senior team to a 19-9 record as a sophomore and looks to continue building on that success in the up and coming season. Janari is an extremely quick and crafty lead guard that loves to attack and finish in the paint. He has a streaky outside shot, but keeps defenses honest. Uses fakes well to get defenders in the air and dishes the ball to open shooters.

Trevon Spencer, Columbia HS, 6’3” 165 SG

(13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 38% 3 point shooting)

Expect to hear a ton about this kid this season. Spencer is an ELITE athlete that will undoubtedly provide several highlight reel dunks this season. Using his quick first step, long arms and shifty handle, he gets to the rim very often and finishes strong. Defensively, he’s quick on his feet and plays passing lanes really well. He’s also an underrated shooter, very capable of getting hot and going on big scoring runs. With the graduation of 8 seniors (including their top 3 leading scorers), Spencer will be counted on to carry the bulk of the load for his Columbia HS team. (Averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists during his stint on the junior varsity)

Andreas Wilson, Louisburg HS, 6’0” 170 SG/PG

(20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.3 steals)

Expect to see this name amongst the top scoring leaders this upcoming season in NC. With the graduation of three key seniors, he will definitely be counted on to take on a bigger scoring load and become more of a ball-handler. This kid flat out knows how to score the ball, rebounds exceptionally well for a guard and makes shots from all over. Has a very creative ability to finish as well as very solid leaping ability. East coast colleges should take personal notes and begin their evaluations on him as soon as possible before others take notice.

Clifford Shaw, Northeastern HS, 6’0” 150 PG

(6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 37% 3 point shooting)

Shaw is an interesting point guard prospect. As a sophomore, he played his role very well as a secondary ball handler and as a scorer. He had several strong double digit scoring games for what was a very deep Northeastern High School team that was a game away from a state title birth. Fast forwarding to now, Shaw was able to put up some impressive scoring and shooting numbers in a few summer games while knocking down a high percentage of shots from downtown. Already a proven ball-handler and distributor, should he continue to knock down shots at such a high rate the sky is the limit for this kid and Northeastern HS.

Romeo Jordan, St. Pauls HS, 6’5” 170 SG/SF

(5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 37% 3 point shooting)

Romeo is a long and crafty wing with loads of potential. While he didn’t put up staggering numbers in the 2015-2016 season, his skill level still was able to shine through, despite splitting minutes with several key upperclassmen that have now graduated. He shows a nice feel for the game and a soft touch from three-point range. His mid-range fade-away jumper looks very comfortable and he’s shown a nice mix of crossover moves. It will be interesting to see if he will put all the pieces of his game together and produce a strong junior season.

Taji Moore, Kinston HS, 6’0” 165 PG

(5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 36% 3 point shooting)

Taji has shown to be a leader. As a sophomore, he struggled to find consistency while splitting minutes for a Kinston HS team that featured 10 seniors. However, he still had multiple games where he caught fire and went on scoring tears knocking down multiple 3’s and getting out in transition. Over the course of this summer, he showed improvement while providing great leadership. Showed good patience while running his team. He communicates very well offensively and defensively, scores the ball and knocks down shots at a high rate. Could be a breakout season coming up.

Ta’Quan White, Plymouth HS, 5’11” 155 PG

(11.5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals)

White is a crafty and natural born scorer. He uses floaters, step-back dribbles, fade-away jumpers, hesitations and a nice mix of spin moves to create space for his own shot and others. Must note, he has a deadly right to left crossover dribble and also moves very well off the ball. Defensively he has quick hands and good anticipation. Unquestionably should lead his high school team in several categories this up and coming season. Very deep shooting range and must be guarded well past the high school 3 point line. Will drain multiple deep jumpers in a row and takes deep shots without hesitation.

Younes Robidoux, South Central HS, 6’6” 180 PF

(2.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1 block)

Robidoux is a young and long prospect with great upside. Has a good motor, plenty of athleticism and a good skill level for his size. He still will need more time before he begins putting together good games consistently, but he is in a basketball program at South Central HS that typically brings out the best in their young players. Robidoux appears to be very attentive and coachable as well. Keep track of this kid as time goes along.

Liam Caswell, Ocracoke HS, 6’3” 160 PG

(13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.4 steals)

Liam is the younger brother of DIII power Susquehanna University signee, Evin Caswell. Liam is a long and intriguing point guard prospect from Ocracoke Island. Despite coming from a school that had a total of just over 50+ students, he was able to help lead his high school team to their most wins in a season the past 5 years. Liam is a heady ball-handler that does a solid job protecting the ball, getting in the paint and controlling tempo. As a sophomore, he averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a secondary role. Since March, he’s hit a growth spurt rising to around 6’3” and retaining the skills he had as a 5’10” sophomore. Liam could possibly reach triple double territory a few times this year. Place him in your players to watch list.

Dontrell Watford, Gates County HS, 6’1” 215 F/G

(15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block)

Watford is an undersized but efficient post/wing that has quietly been racking up double-doubles two years in a row now at Gates County HS. He’s very strong and uses his body well in the paint to carve out space. Rarely surrenders his position on the block. Dunks the ball with relative ease despite his girth. Bulls his way to the basket in transition while being under control. Should his handle and jump-shot continue to improve, he could become a huge matchup problem, proving to be too quick for bigger defenders and too strong for the typical guard to contain.

Octavius Lacey, Greenfield HS, 6’5” 165 SG/SF

(10 points, 8 rebounds, 1.5 steals)

Long, wiry and bouncy. Lacey is an intriguing wing prospect that could develop into a very strong two way player. He uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and gets out on the fast-break, filling the lanes and throwing down some vicious dunks. Most of his success early on has come from being extremely active on both ends. As a sophomore at Beddingfield he showed several glimpses of a wing capable of affecting the game in a ton of ways even without scoring or having plays ran for him. Has all the intangibles you want from a wing player. Could be primed to breakout at any time next season.

HoopState Sleeper Report Volume 1: Class of 2017

Every year in North Carolina, there are exceptional high school basketball players that slip through the cracks of college recruiting. For example recently in 2012, Chris Flemmings of Cary HS went virtually un-recruited, yet became a star early in his career at Division 2 power Barton College. He would then transfer to UNCW as a walk-on and lead them in scoring in route to an NCAA tournament berth in the 2015-2016 season. Also in 2015, 5’9” freshman point guard Chris Clemons of Millbrook (Raleigh) took Division 1 Big South Conference by storm, leading Campbell University in scoring as a freshman while earning “Freshman of the Year” honors.

Hassan Whiteside from Gastonia, NC burst on the scene at Marshall leading the NCAA in blocked shots as a freshman before re-inventing himself as a double-double machine with the Miami Heat in the NBA. Stephen Curry who went virtually un-recruited out of Charlotte Christian in 2006 dazzled basketball fans around the world during his stint at Davidson, later becoming a lottery pick and the current 2 time NBA Most Valuable Player for the Golden State Warriors. Kent Bazemore, a 2007 sleeper prospect from Bertie HS in NC starred for four years at Old Dominion, and has since developed into a highly productive do-it-all wing for the Atlanta Hawks.

As mentioned before, every year at every level collegiately, there are a few players that slip through the cracks from the state of North Carolina and many of them go on to become highly productive college players. Some of them go even further. If you are a college coach and you love a sleeper prospect, listed below are a few players you may not be too familiar with, but these student-athletes all have the potential and skill to be a diamond in the rough for your program. Be on the lookout for them all this up and coming season.

Name, High School, Height, Weight, Position(s) (Projected Level of Play)

Stats are from 2015-2015 season.

Note: Projected level of play is subjective.

Jaquan Miles, Northampton County HS, 6’6” 190 SG/SF (MM-HM)

31.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 3.1 steals, 1.3 blocks

Jaquan “J.J.’ Miles has generated quite a buzz since January. He “quietly” averaged over 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists last season, garnering 2015-2016 Player of the Year honors in the Two-Rivers 1A Conference. Miles is a 6’6” rangy athlete that can get hot from downtown and has a solid mid-range game as well. He is surprisingly unselfish for such a bigtime scorer, showing a solid passing ability as well. Defensively, when active he’s shown to be a solid defender and an underrated rebounder. He picked up several Division 1 offers this summer and it’s a matter of time before bigger schools start inquiring about him. Expect staggering overall numbers across the board yet again this season and don’t hesitate to take a trip to small Conway, NC and see this kid for yourself.

John Bowen, West Bladen HS, 6’6” 180 SF (LM-D2) *4.3 GPA

12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 steals

Bowen is a long and deceptive athlete that does many things well. After enjoying a solid junior campaign and a solid summer with Flight 22 (AAU), don’t be surprised if he has a breakout senior season, landing a few offers. Bowen can put the ball on the floor, shoot over smaller defenders and drive by taller and bigger defenders. Defensively he can contest many shots on the wing and in the post. He has an opportunity as a senior to become the leader and be a matchup nightmare night in and night out for his West Bladen HS due to his versatile skillset and size. Potential is everything with this kid and if he plays up to it this season, colleges will be all over him.

Don Pigford, Greene Central, 6’4″ 175 SG/SF (D2-NAIA)

10.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.3 blocks

Pigford is a freakishly long and athletic wing. Possesses extraordinary leaping ability and uses his length well to crash the glass for put-backs and defensive boards. Doesn’t need to have many plays ran for him in order to be an effective player. Never really stops moving and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on both sides of the ball. We could see him stepping into more of a leadership role in his senior season and solidifying himself as a do it all wing, capable of impacting the game in multiple ways. With an improved jump-shot and more evidence of his slashing ability to the basket, Pigford could really grab the attention of several colleges this upcoming season.

Tyree Wiggins, Ayden-Grifton, 6’3” 170 SG/SF (D3-NAIA)

13.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals

Wiggins is a solid knock down shooter, hailing from Ayden-Grifton HS. He is rangy, lengthy and a solid slasher that could be poised to score a bunch of points for his HS team this season. During his junior season, at times he showed that he can really get hot from beyond the arc and pile on points in a hurry. Tyree possesses solid length and has enough quickness and athleticism to be a pesky defender when motivated on the defensive end. If he puts his mind to it, he could have much success in his senior season and attract several college looks before his final high school season concludes.

Devonte Pettaway, North Pitt HS, 6’0” 160 PG (LM-D2) *3.4 GPA

16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals

This lead guard from North Pitt flew under the radar last season. Pettaway is a quick, fast, aggressive and confident point guard. He loves getting in the paint for mid-range pull-up jumpers and finishes well around the rim with both his strong hand and his off hand. He has an underrated court vision and a slick handle that keeps defenders off balance. He’s very good student in the classroom and college coaches should be making quite a few trips to check this kid out this season. With him at the lead guard position, North Pitt has the all pieces necessary to make a deep run in the state playoffs this year. He brings the toughness, grit and IQ to his team that all coaches love from their point guard.

Markell Freeman, Riverside (Martin) HS, 6’6” 185 SF/PF (D2-LM)

13.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 1.6 blocks

Do not be surprised if Riverside makes a deep run in the state playoffs this up and coming season. Markell Freeman will be a huge reason if they go far. Listed at 6’6”, he brings versatility on both ends, above average athleticism and a strong basketball IQ to his Riverside (Martin) HS team. Defensively, he plays passing lanes well, blocks weak-side shots, moves his feet well along the perimeter and draws a bevy of charges. Offensively, he’s sneaky in the post. He has a quick first step and finishes well at or around the rim. With his size, athleticism and versatility, Markell has a chance to become an excellent player at the next level.

Zion Jackson, KIPP Pride, 6’3” 170 SG/PG (D2-LM)

11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals

Don’t let the numbers fool you. Zion is a very capable and productive wing who played through a shortened junior season at KIPP Pride on the 2015-2016 season. As a sophomore, Jackson was a solid 18 point game scorer that contributed evenly across the board. Expect him to return to his previous form in his senior season and play his way into serious college considerations. KIPP isn’t known much for their athletics programs, but if you are a college coach that loves finding diamonds in the rough, here is the perfect opportunity to do so. Zion is a solid athlete with good length and a ton of potential to become a jack of all trades player at the next level offensively and defensively.

Tyler Maye, Farmville Central HS, 6’1” 170 PG (MM-LM)

24.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.1 steals

If anyone didn’t know who Tyler Maye was coming into last season, they should definitely know who he is by now. Maye took NC by storm, leading his Farmville Central HS to an undefeated season, securing the 2A State Championship and State Title MVP honors as. Maye possesses one of the best jump-shots in NC.  He was deadly beyond the arc, from mid-range and finishing at the rim all least season in tune to 24 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists per game last season. Defensively he hounded opposing teams point guards and created a ton of easy scoring opportunities off of steals as well. Expect more of the same and more from the savvy lead guard entering into his senior season. Don’t be surprised to see his recruitment soar.

Tyjarek Simmons, Roanoke-Rapids, 5’8” 150 PG/SG (D3-NAIA) *3.2 GPA

15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.7 steals

Despite being small in stature, make no mistake about the game this kid possesses. He plays much bigger than his size and makes life miserable for his opponents on a nightly basis. Tyjarek possesses extreme quickness, a smooth stroke and a slick handle. In transition, his ability to create typically leaves defenders in retreat mode allowing him to pull up and knock down mid-range jumpers and use hesitations that lead to uncontested layups. He is very much capable of huge scoring outbursts and willing his team to victories. Defensively, he’s very active and hounds opposing ball handlers in tune to snatching away nearly 3 steals per game. He will be under the radar in his senior season due to his size and playing in a small 1A conference, but this kid has game.

Zach Robeson, Camden, 5’11” 155 PG/SG (D2-D3) *4.1 GPA

18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals

When it’s all said and done, Zach Robeson will probably be in the NC top 10 scoring leaders by the end of this up and coming season. Robeson has improved his scoring average every season since arriving at Camden in Eastern, NC. Expect another leap in his scoring production. He is a lights out shooter with an improving ability to create his shot off the dribble. Moves extremely well off the ball too. With every shot attempt, you feel he is going to make it. During summer competition, he showed off his improved handle and an improved lateral quickness defensively. His size may hinder him from garnering bigger looks from some schools, but his shooting ability and high basketball IQ should solidify him a few college offers regardless. Elite shooter.

L’Shawn Davis, North Lenoir, 5’11” 155 PG (LM-D2)

17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 4.1 steals

Davis is arguably the fastest guard in Eastern, NC with the ball. Labeling him as a blur would be an understatement. All he needs is the slightest creep of space and he will blow by even elite defenders with ease. Very shifty and electric point guard that gets to the rim at will and finishes well with either hand. Defensively, he’s very aggressive (although at times too aggressive) and gets tons of deflections and steals leading to uncontested layups on the offensive end. Has shown an improved jump-shot and an improved ability to find teammates in a half-court setting as well. Davis has already attracted the attention of several college program and looks to continue building on the success of his junior season and the experience he gained playing with Stackhouse Elite on the summer circuit.

James Moore, South Creek HS, 6’7” 190 PF/C (LM-D2)

15.1 points, 15.7 rebounds, 10.6 blocks, 2.1 steals

Only a handful of high school ballplayers can say that they averaged a triple double. James Moore, an explosive and long armed agile post player is one of them. He was able to consistently put up these monster numbers in his junior season while leading his South Creek HS team to the Eastern NC 1A Regionals before falling to the eventual state champion Voyager Academy. Moore has excellent timing and spacing when it comes to blocking shots and he makes life miserable for offensive players that aim to attack the rim. Offensively, he’s very raw but has good enough spring to dunk the ball off of drop steps in traffic and to gather several put-back slams every game around the rim.

Rick Lewis Phenom 150

NC Top 80 2015

To say that North Carolina is a hotbed of grassroots basketball is an understatement, and one of the most pivotal and influential people involved in the AAU and high school scene is Rick Lewis, a nationally know basketball scout whose company, Phenom Hoop Report, organizes and runs dozens of events throughout the year. Rick and his partner Jamie Shaw cover the region thoroughly and people who have known me for some time or follow me on various social media know that I have long been a supporter of Rick’s events and his approach to the sport.

One of my favorite business books is ‘Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive‘ by Harvey McKay and that title certainly describes what it feels like to try and run a reputable, upstanding business (or even non-profit) in the world of grassroots basketball, and Rick has managed to do just that.

As a person who has organized my own Southeast Summer Showcase for the past 5 years, Rick is also one of the few people I can talk with about the issues that come up when running events. He and I have talked about our events over the years and he, like myself, is dedicated to constantly figuring out what his company can do better and improve it.

One of his more brilliant ideas was introduced last year, and I’d like to see it implemented in a lot more events. I call it ‘The Rick Lewis Rule‘ or even the ‘Rick Lewis Three Dribble Rule‘…I know Rick well enough that he doesn’t care about getting credit, but I feel it’s important to note the strategy, why he implemented it, and why I think more individual showcases should implement it. And if I’m going to ‘borrow’ (steal) Rick’s idea and use it, I feel I should at least give credit where it is due. I hope more high school coaches will use it in practices, too.

As a high school basketball scout, I need to see halfcourt offense, for multiple reasons. The primary reason is that once players get to the college level, they are going to have to play against half court sets all of the time – in fact, most of the time. In high school and AAU players who are extremely athletic can look very good because they get breakaway dunks and can finish in transition over smaller, more slow-footed defenders. However, when those same players are faced with an equally athletic defender in a halfcourt set, suddenly they can look pretty average.

The second reason is I need to see if a player can actually create their own shot, if they understand spacing, if they can shoot consistently against a close out, all of the things they will need to do as an individual to play better team ball – and one of the biggest part of being a valuable part of a winning team is being able to pass the ball. I love watching teams that understand ball movement. I get more excited watching a team whip the ball around the perimeter to the weak side for an open look than I do a transition dunk. And you know what? Players that know how to move the ball around are far more rare than athletic dunkers. Don’t believe me? Consider that Lebron is a good dunker but a Hall of Fame passer and you’ll understand. Lebron James is the best passing forward in NBA history – he won’t make the Hall of Fame because of his dunks (no one does) but he will in large part because of his passing ability.

Over the years I’ve watched thousands of guards play at the high school and AAU level and one thing is abundantly clear – players aren’t great at passing in general and there is an epidemic of guards who don’t understand how -or why- to throw an entry pass to the post. If you are a wing player, throwing and entry pass should be more common than a behind-the-back dribble, but teams will run multiple sets, several times up and down the floor, with the guards and wings never even looking at the post to throw a pass. The highest percentage offense a basketball team can have, and most players on the perimeter don’t use it. When running an individual showcase, it’s extremely common for the games to turn into track meets – the fastest wing players shoot the gaps, get steals and transition shots (often poorly chosen shots) while the post players are left to trail behind, never getting into the offense or even rebounding position. It’s a struggle to organize the games in such a way to facilitate real offense against real defense, which helps the players improve but also shows attending college coaches what the players can actually do.

Of course, there’s also the problem of players overdribbling, trying too much one-on-one, overlooking teammates…it all stems from the ragged style of play where there is no real team work or movement.

Here’s where Rick’s ‘3 dribble rule’ comes in. In recent events, Rick introduced a basic rule that players are only allowed 3 dribbles in the frontcourt or it would result in an offensive turnover. That one change dramatically alters how players can run an offense, and it’s for the better. Players are forced to move, pass and work as a unit to try and create an open shot. However, this did not eliminate enough of the transition ‘open court, no defense’ play that happens, so in a recent event, he added some additional rules as the games continued. In the players’ second game of the day he instituted a rule of ‘maximum of 3 dribbles in the frontcourt with a 2 pass minimum’ before a shot could be taken. This eliminates a lot of the transition game and forces players to wait on teammates. Finally, Rick wanted to address the overlooking of the post entry pass, and the last game of the day he added another wrinkle – players still had to make 2 passes but one of the passes before a shot could be taken had to be an entry pass to the post. It didn’t matter if the post had to pass back out, it just means that the pass has to go into the post at least once during the halfcourt set.

So, here’s what I observed as a scout after these rules were implemented. Suddenly very few players seemed to know what to do. They would dribble, pass around the perimeter, and dribble again, aimlessly. Meanwhile I watched as the center had already sealed his man on the blocks, only to watch his teammates overlook him and pass the ball back around and he had to slide across the lane and work to establish position on the other side. I saw players who had looked amazing during the morning games suddenly look like they’d never actually played organized basketball before. And I saw one player who completely understood what was happening and started yelling instructions to his teammates: “set a pick!” or “hit the post!”.

This is why I love the experiment and Rick’s rules: the player who understood exactly how to move the ball under the new rules suddenly helped his team start scoring; they built a quick lead. The center started getting touches and either scoring or passing out to an open teammate. It’s real offense. When coaches talk about playing ‘the right way’, this is the kind of thing they mean: doing consistent things as a unit that will improve your chances of winning, not just relying on luck or athleticism.

So as of now, I’m dubbing this ‘3 dribbles’ rule as the ‘Rick Lewis Rule‘. If you merchandise T-shirts with this rule on it, please send the royalties to Rick.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of, the Southeast Summer Showcase and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

Jalen Harris, Team Wall (NC), 6’2, 2016, Point Guard- Jalen is the type of point guard that adjust his game to whatever his team needs him to be on that night and that was clearly evident throughout this tournament. Although he much rather get teammates involved first, he has no probably scoring the ball when his squad needed him to, which was shown by numerous games in the event where he scored 20+ points. His perimeter and midrange jumper have become very consistent and he’s added quite a bit of athleticism over the past year. However when his teammates got it going, he went into distributor mode racking up 19 Assist in a single game. Jalen has very good vision and puts his passes right on target so that his teammates can finish easily; he has some flair to his game that makes him fun to watch but is not a high turnover player. At this point he has numerous MM offers but he definitely is a HM Point Guard prospect, once he becomes a tad bit more vocal on the floor then I believe that will take him to an even higher level as a prospect.

 Zach Reeves, Juice All-Stars (NC), 6’5, 2016, Wing- Zach was impressive throughout the tournament, he showed very good ball handling skills and nice athleticism that he uses on both ends of the floor. Zach seems to have a very good feel for the game and although he was aggressive to make plays, he was not selfish at all. Instead he looked to make the right play at the right time for his team, He has good height for a wing at the next level and shot the ball from outside well, is definitely one to keep an eye on throughout the summer. 

Robert Colon, Juice All-Stars (NC), 6’0, 2016, Guard- Playing with Juice All-Stars this spring has finally given Robert the opportunity to show the college coaches the full package of his game. We all know that he is a deadly three point shooter, and he has a very quick first step that he uses to blow by defenders but he is also a gifted passer that gets teammates the ball in the right spots. On the defensive end he brought intensity, showed good lateral quickness and communicated well with teammates, he clearly showed that he can get it done on both sides of the floor. A question mark has been his midrange game, and I must as of late he has shown that he can knock down the midrange shot with consistency which makes him even more dangerous in transition. D1 schools have finally begun to take notice in his ability and I’m expecting to see him pull in some offers before the summer is done.

 Matt Elmore, Team Wall (NC), 6’8, 2016, Forward- Matt made his first appearance with Team Wall in this tournament, although he clearly was still feeling his way out with the squad and attempting to build chemistry, he had a very solid performance on Saturday. Matt displayed his ability to finish plays inside the paint, rebounding the ball and even knocking down the outside trey ball. His final stats from the game that I watched him play were 13 Points and 12 Rebounds , he’s a type of player that you don’t have to run plays for and that does all the dirty work for his squad. He has a very solid frame so he battles inside with opposition very well and does a good job of creating a nice target for his guards to throw an entry pass when he’s posting up. Matt is one to keep an eye on closely this summer, once he gets more comfortable with his squad, I expect him to put together some outstanding performances. 

Malik Johnson, Team Wall (NC), 2018, 6’, Guard– Malik has been on our radar for about two years now, he is a very athletic player that loves to play the game at an up-tempo pace. He has outstanding ball handling skills and court vision that is advance way beyond his years. His quickness caused issues for opponents as usual; he got to the basket on a regular basis and finished plays above the rim on numerous occasions. At a young age he already has many of the traits that you love to see in a H.S Point Guard, he communicates with teammates and coaches easily so that everybody is on the same page. Although he uses his athleticism to throw down dunks and finish plays offensively he also uses his athleticism on the defensive end to get into the passing lanes for steals deflections and blocks. Malik plays the game with a lot of intensity and he hates to lose, no matter who he’s matched up with he’s going to compete and give it all he has. He is one to watch closely as he definitely has the potential to be a HM and nationally ranked prospect at the PG spot before it all said and done.

Kyle Rawls, MD’s Finest (MD), 2015, Guard- Kyle really got after it on the defensive end, he clearly takes pride in playing defense and knows how to use his very strong frame to make things difficult for opponents. He is one of those specialty players that a coach loves to have on his team that he can send out to guard an opponent that has caught fire.

Jermaine Matthews, River City Reign (VA), 2016, 6’8, Post- This Young man brings all the intangibles that you could want from a post player, he runs the floor very well and displayed a high motor throughout the event. When his guards broke down the defense and gave him passes in the post, he made sure to finish plays without making things to complex. Jermaine can finish plays using different face up moves, or playing with his back to the basket, which makes him a very difficult player to defend. On the defensive end he challenged shots at every position and protected the paint throughout the tournament, he also is a prospect to keep a very close eye on.


Kyran Bowman, Team Wall (NC), 2016, 6’2, Guard- Kyran recently made news by letting everyone know that he had to decided to de-commit from UNC football to focus solely on basketball now. Many people asked why but after this weekend we could see that he has the potential to be a good basketball prospect. He has outstanding athleticism and a very quick first step that is a nightmare for defenders to try and slow down; I lost count of how many dunks he threw down in traffic against opponents throughout the event. He has good ball handling skills and keeps defenders guessing and uses his outstanding athleticism to get his shot of quickly and over opponents. Defensively he blocked shots, came up with steals, deflections and did a solid job of containing his man; you can see that his time to focus solely on basketball is taking his game to another level. Kyran was impressive through the tournament and will be one to watch closely throughout the summer and even into next school year.

 Luke Romeo, USA United (NC), 2016, Guard- Luke can flat out shoot it!! During their game against River City Reign he started the game knocking down three treys in the first few minutes. He has a fairly quick release on his shot and is very efficient when he’s catching and shooting, also showed a nice shot fake that he uses when defenders are attempting to block his shot from the perimeter. Also has a nice midrange game and comes off screens effectively, Luke is not just a player that is going to stand in the corner so he can catch and shoot. He moves without the ball and reads the defense well to make sure he’s taking a high percentage shot.

Alexander Schachne, Hoop Heaven (NJ), 2018, 5’9, Point Guard- At each event I go to I always try and watch closely for an under the radar prospect, at this event there were quite a few but one of the young prospect was Alexander. Matched up against Team Wall 16u we really got a chance to see what he was made of, he cased headaches for Team Wall defenders with his combination off outstanding ball handling skills and knock down three point shooting. It got to the point where he would end up being face guarded full court the entire 2nd half so that his impact on the game could be minimized. Alex has a very good natural feel for the game and makes good reads and passes to teammates, one thing I really liked about him is that he can make on point passes with his off hand just as well as he does with his dominant hand. He does not get frustrated with teammates and always seems to have a very calm demeanor on the floor. Alex is a player that you shouldn’t be surprised to see making a lot of noise over the next few years up in New Jersey.


Big Shots AAU scouting

Due to some last minuted scheduling conflicts (hey, life happens) I was only able to attend the final day of the Big Shots Winston-Salem AAU basketball tournament. Fortunately, as many of you who follow AAU know, the last day is Championship Day! So I still had a chance to catch several players in action, some of whom I’d seen previously and others I was watching for the first time.

On the day, I was impressed with FCF Ballers, who took the 17U title, as they showed excellent ball movement and a lot of athleticism on the wings. They defeated NC Spartans East in the semifinal and then Jeremy Harris and TTC Elite in the title game. I would suggest that college coaches looking for some athletic wings take a look at FCF.

Although my notes are far more limited than I’d hoped, here’s what I was able to jot down:

Joey Baker (G/F, 6’6″, 2019) Trinity Christian/Team Felton – has great size for the wing and squares up well for his shot, great high release and a really solid looking prospect all around. Makes good decisions in transition, passing and shot selection. Excellent free throw shooter. Definitely a Divison I prospect and has early interest from Ohio State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame. Won the MVP of his team’s age bracket as they took home the title. I don’t say this lightly, Baker has a very high ceiling.

Skyler Mgee (G/F, 6’4, ’15) Ledford HS/NC Spartans East – great square up on shot, strong bodied wing. Holds offer from Pfeiffer, others. Has good awareness and strength and I really like his overall poise.

Montreal Jackson (F, 6’5, ’16) Nova Elite – Athletic wing, solid in transition, unselfish, plays hard, nice 3 strong, high IQ player.

Dondrea Tillman (SF, 6’5, ’16) Nova Elite- can shoot the 3, change directions with dribble, good rebounder, tough player quick with excellent second bounce.

Greg Gantt (F, 6’5, ’19) Team Felton – good length and slashing ability as true wing with collegiate size already. Good passer as well.

Savonte Chappell (PF, 6’4, ’16) Prince George HS (VA)/FCF Ballers great hands, strength in post. Undersized in the post but makes an impact with sound play. Interest from Va State, Va Wesleyan, others.

Kameron Wall (WF, 6’3, ’16) NC Spartans West Terrific catch and shoot from 3 player, high motor, good rebounder, defender

Jerick Haynes(G, ’15) Crest HS/Cherokee Flight bucket producer, strong guard who has physical approach that will translate to college game. Broke David Thompson’s scoring record in high school and stays with his game even under pressure.

Jaquan McCauley (F, 6’5, ’15) New Hope/TTC Elite – power face-the-basket finisher in the lane and always has been. Poured in 34 points in an OT win today against Cherokee Elite. McCauley is a guy I’ve mentioned before and I think colleges may be concerned about his size as a post player; however, he’s strong, plays through contact, and is one of those guys who seems to get stronger as the game progresses. Definitely the kind of player that colleges should be actively looking at because he adds depth at two spots – small forward and power forward. He’s more effective at the small forward spot but his strength and ability to face the basket make him a tougher matchup at the power forward spot.

Bryan Lennox (G, ’15) Cosby HS/FCF Ballers – showed a deep shot today and active length defender on perimeter. Unsigned senior.

Deonte Jones (SG, ’16) Hopewell HS/FCF Ballers – slashing scoring wing with quick defensive hands. Buckets in transition a given.

Corey Hill (PG, ’16) FCF Ballers – quick point guard – deadly going to his right, slashes, scores, kicks to teammates. Before you dismiss my ‘going to his right’ comment, I want to elaborate on why I mention that. Although he will need to continue to work on his off hand, he is extremely strong going to his dominant hand- not just with the dribble, but with the jab step, crossover, in and out, and dribble drive. He’s already a very quick, very effective guard; as he continues to add abilities with his off hand, he will be an extremely effective guard at the college level.