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.

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.

Tacko Fall basketball

They say you can’t teach height, so players who are over 7′ tall already come with basketball skills most of us will never have. At 7’5″, Tacko Fall, a 2015 Center playing at Lutheran South Academy in Texas, comes in as the current tallest high school basketball player. With interest from Baylor, Texas Southern and Houston, he’s no doubt got a lot of colleges interested in any player who can touch the rim without leaving the floor.

Naturally, just being tall isn’t enough to make you a superstar, but it’s a really good starting point. As a general rule, big men develop their game later than other positions, so it’s often difficult to tell how good a player will be at Tacko’s size.

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JD Lewis Center Fall League Garner Road 2013

By Marcus Shockley and James Blackburn

Notes from Session II of the J.D. Lewis High School Fall League for 2013:

Austin Burnette (SF, 6’6″, 2015) Burnette’s calling card have long been his fluid length and ability to consistently score from the elbow. He’s also shown an improved handle and runs the floor extremely well. Burnette is a true SF with a versatile skill set. Committed to Rutgers.

Jalen Jones (G/F, 6’4″, 2014) Jones has a solid build and can play multiple positions effectively. Seems he will be best sliding between the 2G and 3G at the collegiate level, but can run the point some as a combo guard and is a good decision maker. Good athleticism and plays through contact, high basketball IQ. Division I prospect.

Kalen Cooper (2016, 6’7”) Cornith Holder HS
Raw player with good length. Excellent rebounder on both ends. Rebounding is his strongest skill set- strong on the boards. Stronger then his frame would suggest. Needs to improve on the defensive end and add weight. Good hands and is in the right spot most of the time for tip-ins. Soft touch around rim. Runs the floor well, especially on offensive end. Needs to be more aggressive. Needs to finish better and stronger- goes up for 1 hand flip shots instead of 2 hands around rim. Has potential and will continue to improve.

Julius Barnes (PG, 5’8″, 2015) Pure PG with good quickness. Sure handed ballhander with good change of speed and ability to beat his man on the perimeter. Tends to fade on his shot a bit. Likes to push the ball but is adept at running the half court set.

Anthony Staton (2016, 6’2”) Harnett Central HS
Good finisher around rim. Decent athlete who has a high motor. Better off the ball help defender then on the ball at this point. Can knock down the corner 3 ball with consistency. Has a low release but was able to get it off.

Ian Hinckley (G/F, 6’3″, 2017) Heritage HS
Good length, active, can shoot from deep and solid passer from the 2 or 3 spot. Good in transition, good athlete, a wing player with upside. Needs to lower dribble but definitely a perimeter player.

Thomas Allen (G, 6′, 2017)
Combo guard who can play on or off of the ball, has an ability to score and is very good in transition. Smooth game and an ability to get to the rim and get himself to the free throw line. Plays solid D in the passing lanes.

Jalen Gaddy (2015, 6’3”, Prominence Academy)
Got better as the day progressed. Athletic with a lot of natural skill but needs to improve consistency. Is a threat to hit the long ball but can be streaky. Settled for too many contested outside shots and often did not look to make the extra pass. Scorer’s mentality. Has the talent but needs to be more consistent.

Grayson Kelley (2015)
High IQ high motor player who does a lot to help you and little to hurt you on the floor. Has a funky shot release in front of his body, but can knock down shots off the catch and off the dribble. Underrated passer who is also solid on the boards. Runs the floor and is strong.

Zach Boggs (SG, 5’10, 2013) – very good defender who is a bit undersized. Has sped up his shot release a bit and shoots a straight ball from the 3 pt line. Plays hard and has a high motor, can handle contact. Always involved.

Adidas Jr Phenom 150 2011

The Adidas Jr Phenom 150 showcase has become an established event in the Fall, this year taking place in Winston-Salem, NC. Here are our notes from the high school games, with several standout players, some of whom we’ve seen in the past and some new faces to keep our eye on as the high school basketball season is about to kick off.

Patrick Rooks (G 6’3” 2013) – Charlotte Christian (NC)
Rooks is an impressive combo guard with good slashing ability and soft hands on the inside. Had a couple of nice dunks off the dribble easily beating his defender with a quick first step. Has good range on his jumpshot and has a quick pullup off the dribble. Showed good ball handling even in traffic and looked for the open man on the fast break. Has a tendency to fade when posting up or on shorter range shots even against smaller defenders. Verbally committed to Clemson.

Chuck Ogbodo (C, 6’11” 2013) – High Point Christian (NC)
Ogbodo has long arms and is an athletic shot blocker with quick feet defensively. Runs the floor well for a big man but sometimes disappears after making a mistake, must learn to play hard and have intensity on a more consistent basis. Offensive game is somewhat raw but showed potential with several quick moves with his back to the basket. Mid-range jumper inconsistent but has a soft touch on the inside. Ogbodo brings the ball down too low on rebounds and during post ups, making it easier for guards to strip the ball.

Quayshad Williams (PF/C, 6’7″, 2012) – Greensboro Day (NC)
It’s hard to believe the roster sheet, which had Quayshad listed at only 6’6″, because he works the lane like a true center, even against other bigs. Other sources have him listed at 6’7″. Great hands, great footwork, and and efficient scorer, Williams is solid and establishes position very well in the paint. Gets position for rebounds and putbacks, but also is a good target for the guards and knows how to score inside. High basketball IQ and an intelligent player.

Jon Elmore (SF, 6’3” 2014) – South Charleston (WV)
Elmore is a hardworking, tenacious player with good understanding of defensive principles. Quick first step, especially when going to his right and seems to enjoy contact at the rim. Good finisher in traffic and on the fastbreak but needs to work on the consistency of his jumper. Has decent vision and will pass to the open man, but needs to improve ball handling.

Logan Jackson (PG/SG, 5’10”, 2013) – Marvin Ridge (NC)
Jackson is a disruptive force on both ends of the floor. He plays defense like a safety, picking off defenders at midcourt and racing back to the rim. Jackson does a lot of things that drive his team; defensively, he has quick hands and is active all over the floor. Offensively, he puts the ball on the floor and gets to the rim repeatedly, leaving defenders out of position as he finishes uncontested. Jackson is effective in transition with look ahead passes that lead to full court transition layups. His top area for improvement is his outside shot.

Andrew White (SG-SF 6’6” 2012) The Miller School (VA)
Athletic wing player that is very quick on fastbreaks and always runs hard in transition. Needs time when shooting from distance but can spot up with a fair amount of consistency. Needs to take better angles when trying to stop defenders and not rely so heavily on his quickness to beat opponents to a spot. Needs to work on ball handling and passing ability but has good potential in both areas; showed good ability to finish over defenders.

Jackson Kent (SF, 6’7″, 2013) – High Point Christian (NC)
A slender player with agility, Kent can run the court and even push the ball on the break. He’s really a natural small forward right now, with above average ballhandling at his position and an ability to score that shows he might be able to make the move to play at the 2 some in the future. He wasn’t an outside threat in the games we scouted but did show an ability to get buckets and impact the game. Will need strength but has potential.

Jaiquan Lynch (SG-SF 6’4” 2012) -North Springs (GA)
Lynch, who goes by Shawn, had several dynamic plays at the Phenom camp including a monstrous tomahawk dunk over a defender on a fast break play. Lynch is a good athlete with decent range on his jumper but sometimes rushes when he has the ball and can be stripped by smaller defenders, must improve his ballhandling. He has a big body and is a strong player who doesn’t mind contact in the post and is a good finisher. Plays more like a power forward although his height would suggest he is better suited for guard or small forward duty.

J.T. Miller (PG/SG, 6’3″, 2012) – Clinton (NC)
Miller is back from a ‘jumper’s knee’ injury that he suffered in the Bob Gibbons TOC last Spring, finally at 100% and showing off his athletic prowess at the Adidas event. Miller is explosive in transition, with an ability to dunk in traffic. Definitely a college level athlete that plays as a combo guard, but looks more natural at the 2 right now. Miller races up and down the court, moving without the ball in transition and working hard on defense, with solid defensive fundamentals. Can hit from the perimeter as well. Doesn’t disappear, impacts the game whenever he’s on the floor and stays active.

Chiagozie Udoh (F 6’7” 2013) – Fayetteville Christian (NC)
Udoh is a good rebounder and decent shot blocker but sometimes tries to block shots that he shouldn’t. Brings the ball down too low when posting up and on rebounds but showed some strong post moves as well as decent range to about 12-14 feet but consistency will have to improve. Gets lost on help defense at times and needs to learn to box out on a more dependable basis. Sometimes gets discouraged after a mistake and was slow to get back.

Jordan Jones (SF, 6’7″, 2013) – Durham Riverside (NC)
Jones is an agile player with length, who is effective in the transition game. He rebounds well and can play above the rim, moves well without the ball and his length causes defensive problems. Although his rebounding and length are effective, he doesn’t look like a pure post player, but more like a true small forward. He would have to add bulk and work on establishing position to play in the paint at the college level. However, the most impressive and possibly overlooked aspect of Jones’ game is his vision and passing from the forward spot. He has phenomenal vision and will throw laser passes to an open man for an assist.

Carlos Thrash (PG 5’7” 2015) – Benedictine (VA)
Thrash showed good poise and leadership at the point guard position, especially to be just a freshman. Although small, Thrash is strong with a great first step and good ballhandling ability. Thrash is not intimidated by taller defenders and is a pure point guard that is very vocal on the court and has great vision for a player so young. Thrash has an inconsistent jumper which he will have to improve since his quickness will make defenders respect his driving ability.

Trey Lofton (SF 6’6” 2012) – Winston-Salem Glen (NC)
Lofton is an athletic player with good transition skills and jumping ability. Quick feet on defense and shows intensity on defense. Inconsistent long range shot but decent shooting ability within 15 feet. Needs to follow his shot better and be a more consistent rebounder.

Tyrek Coger (C-PF 6’8” 2013) Upper Room (NC)
Coger is a big, strong player with a lot of potential. Very quick for his size and runs the floor very well. Showed good stamina for a big post player and showed some good post moves including a nice baby hook shot and has good vision in the lane. Talks a lot on defense and provides good help defense for teammates that get beat off the dribble. Hardworker that seems passionate about the game has a lot of upside but he must improve his jumpshot as well as his finesse around the basket.

Brayden Masten (F 6’8” 2013) R.J. Reynolds (NC)
Masten is a tall, rangy player with a good shooting touch from the outside and can spot up with consistency. Good shot blocker because of his length but is not tremendously athletic and must improve his strength because he got beat by stronger opponents in the post. Has the shooting ability of a guard but needs improvement in other aspects of his game, especially his passing, court vision, and ball handling. Tends to get lost on defense when there is a lot of passing by the offense and can be timid when facing a stronger opponent. Overall has good potential.

Josh Mellette (F, 6’5”, 2012) – Southern Lee
He’s long and tall, very athletic. He gets up to dunk and get rebounds. He gets blocks but he also alters shots because of his length. People are afraid to come in the paint when he’s there, and if they do shoot they are fearful of getting blocked. No one can shoot a normal shot anywhere near him. He finds the loose ball. He’s the cleanup guy on the glass and gets easy put backs because he hustles down the floor.

Diante Baldwin (SG, 5’11”, 2013) – High Point Christian (NC)
Has strength and is an active player. Athleticism allows him to get multiple opportunities but sometimes can get out of control on the break or on slashing moves.

Jeremy Wallace (G, 6’3”, 2013) – Crossroads Charter
He’s long and tall, very athletic. He hustles after the ball. He passes the ball well and looks for the best opportunity for the team to score. He hustled on defense and got steals. He’s a good shooter too. His best quality was his unselfishness with the ball, especially when many try to show off in a showcase.

Jefferie Gibson (SG/SF, 6’4″, 2014) – Gray’s Creek(NC)
To put it bluntly, Gibson is a player who catches your attention. He’s long, he’s active and he’s a showman. Active and using his length, he plays well in transition and can get above the rim easily. He does play out of control at times and will need to learn when to slow down, but he also works hard on defense and got several steals. Gibson also can shoot very well from deep, at one point hitting three 3-pointers in a row. Impacts the game. Needs to work on ballhandling to be more effective as a slasher.

Robert Brown (PF, 6’7″, 2015) – Millbrook (NC)
Brown plays as a big and works in the lane, looks like he might develop into a serious banger in the middle with more bulk. Decent footwork, still somewhat raw overall but athletic and runs the floor well. Good hands, can throw it down and is very active on defense.

Stavian Allen (PF, 6’7″, 2014) – Word of God (NC)
Allen is a big who could develop into a true post. Effective shot blocker and rebounder with length. Needs to work some on establishing position on the block, but runs the floor easily and looks a player who could raise his stock over the next couple of years. Has some definite upside.

Brandon Buchanan (SG-SF 6’3” 2015) -Freedom (VA)
Buchanan is a rangy, athletic player with a good deal of potential. He is raw offensively but showed flashes of talent with slashing moves to the basket and by beating other players down court on fastbreaks. Already 6’3”, it seems likely from his body structure that he may have some growing to do but must work on his jump shot as well as his ball handling. Gets lost on defense at times but showed high energy throughout the game.

Matthew Woods (SG, 6’1″, 2014) – Swannanoa
Excellent shooter with solid, consistent form. Looks most comfortable and effective playing off of the ball right now. Solid passer, although doesn’t look like a true point right now.

Garret McCarty (PG, 5’9”, 2014) – Charleston Catholic
He has great handles and control of both his body and the ball. He’s very quick and crafty. He’s good at splitting the defense and getting to the paint. Then he creates his own shots with some strong moves. He simply makes opportunities for his team.

Derek Barnes (F, 6’5”, 2014) – Hickory High School
He’s a sound, fundamental player who plays defense well. He sees his man and the ball well. He goes hard after rebounds. He can shoot three’s and run the floor well. With his size and skill, he’s a dangerous player and difficult to have to match up against. He’s unselfish with the ball and not afraid to pass if it helps the team. He has a good attitude and hustles. He has good moves and is able to attack the basket.

Caleb Martin (F, 6’7″, 2014) Davie County (NC)
Caleb looks like he could play the PF spot effectively with an active and athletic game. Still a bit raw in some aspects, but runs the floor like a small forward and has excellent hands. Works hard on both ends of the floor but still needs to work on positioning and finishing – sometimes goes for ‘home run’ plays and misses opportunities. Needs to improve ballhandling and shooting range, but plays big, above the rim. Can slash to the basket with a decent first step – just needs to finish consistently.

Gejuan Long (F, 6’5”, 2013) – Mt. Tabor
He has good handles and moves. He is very quick. He gets steals and takes it the length of the floor and creates a shot. He gets up high on defense to get blocks and rebounds. He’s a good all around player who is very talented, especially considering his size.

Justice Cuthbertson (SG, 6’2″, 2014) – High Point Westchester (NC)
Justice continues to show his ability to shoot from outside and has strength. Was effective both on and off the ball today. Has been working on his ball handling in order to be more effective as a combo guard. Will need to continue to improve his ability to play point. Recently played well at Pangos event in Atlanta.

Trey Chapman (SF, 6’6″, 2013) – High Point Wesleyan (NC)
Chapman has good length, agile and runs the floor well. Plays solid defense and is active on both ends of the floor.

Matt Madigan (SG, 6’5″, 2013) – Reagan (NC)
Madigan still plays smart and impacts the game, but looks bigger and stronger than last season. An active player who passes well, can handle the ball and play multiple positions. Looks like he is getting to the rim more easily than the last time we scouted him. Expect him to have a solid season.

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By Harper Compton

On October 2, 2011, Garner Road was in their third week of their J.D. Lewis Youth League. The league features high school basketball players randomly drafted to teams. There are no coaches on the sidelines, just players who play ball. The teams don’t run plays or sets, they just play ball and try to win. In a place that only family and friends seem to know about, there is a load of talent to be seen.

Quinton Ray (PG, 6’0″, 2013)

He was an extremely great passer. Always found the open guy. He can shoot from deep very well too. He can get by you with his moves and attack the basket and finish. But he seems to really enjoy passing just as much, which he is great at. He’s not tall but he can jump up with most anyone. He was a vocal leader on the team, making sure everyone had their man and what they needed to do. But he also leads his team by example. No one on his team was a top scorer in the league and it’s because of the leader. His quick feet also make him a good defender. He is all over the ball. He was also one of the best all-around players.

Quinton Ray Highlights:

Ahmad Abdullah

Being the leading scorer in the first two weeks of the league speaks for his ability to find ways to score. He is good shooter from above the arc. His dribbling skills were evident, but hindered because of a sprained wrist. In the end when his team needed points, he came through and scored to help them win. He seemed to have a little too much confidence and too little competitive nature.

Nick Lenox

He’s not a leading scorer but he is fundamentally sound. He plays hard and is a very dependent player. What he gives you one game, he gives the exact same thing the next, very consistent. He finishes well around the rim but he can also make shots above the arc. When he shoots, he follows his shot. When he doesn’t shoot, he makes a move and gets by you. His handles and moves are good for a guy his size, they are unexpected. He also finds the open guy and has great passing skills. He gets blocks and plays good solid defense down on the other end. He also had a great attitude and loved playing. He was competitive the entire game and never gave up. He was one of the best all-around players.

Khamari Bobbit

He went very hard in the games and was definite about getting to finish. He is tough and he was competitive as well. He wanted to win and score to help his team win. He was very strong with the ball. His attitude was all about the game and about trying to win. He was very focused and tuned into the game.

Pervis Louder

He went hard and was the cleanup crew. He attacked the basket for rebounds and always seemed to find the ball. Because of his aggressiveness he got multiple rebounds and put back combinations. Has a nose for the ball.

Roger Ray

He’s a good shooter and passer. Great ball handling skills and control. He’s not very tall but he’ll jump with anyone. He has a good attitude on the floor, he’s not too cocky. He’s talkative and controls the team as to where to go and what to do. He has quick feet and is a good defender. He’s not afraid to drive and be aggressive against bigger guys. Creates shots for himself and his teammates.

Carlee Clemmons

He has a tremendous vertical, he can get up. He’s also a good shooter. He gets blocks and is solid on defense. He’s always right up on the ball and giving them nowhere to go. He has good handles and moves. He’s a solid player who really helps his team.

William Walker

He’s not flashy, cocky, or got an attitude. He lets his game do his talking. Even watching him you can lose track of how much he contributes. He finds a way to score. He’s a silent killer who can easily score 24 points without you noticing. He doesn’t always look to score; he’s unselfish with the ball and finds the open man. He can drive and split the defense and finish. He was one of the best all-around players.

William Walker Highlights:

Alex Hall

He has great handles and shoots threes well too. He’s aggressive, attacks the basket and is not afraid of contact. He’s similar to a Steve Nash type of play. Solid defense and all around player. He’s not flashy or cocky; he is all about the team. He gives 100%, he’s refreshing to watch, and is simply a good ball player.

Willie Gaskins

Simply put, he’s a floor general. He’s always talking to his team. He’s the coach on the floor. He can drive and finish well up close. He’s a good passer and brings energy to the team. He comprehends and understands the game like a coach and controls his team in that way. He can get up and throw down. He has quick bursts of speed and is solid on defense. He’s efficient.

By Marcus Shockley

The first thing that strikes you about Shawn Lester, a 6’3″ combo guard from the class of  2012, is his length.

Length at any position is valuable, and Lester uses it effectively. He’s also a quick guard with a solid ability to handle the ball, aggressive to the hoop with a consistent mid range floater when driving to the basket.

Shawn Lester

With offers from Virginia Tech, Clemson, and South Carolina, Lester has the ability to bring the ball up while also playing the shooting guard spot effectively. A calm player who is focused on his game.

Will need to scout him much further to see him on defense and in half court situations. One to watch in the class of 2012.

+ Length
+ Combo Guard
+ Quickness
+ Mid Range Floater
+ Ball Handling