Jatrious “JJ” Smith was named MVP of the NC Holiday Classic

By Charles Clark

The Fayetteville, NC Holiday Classic was held December 27-29th at Seventy First H.S with Championship games being played on Saturday at the Crown Arena. This year’s Tournament was full of upsets with numerous Higher seeded school’s losing early in the tournament, I had the privilege of scouting the Semi-Final and Championship games both which were competitive and had numerous players that displayed the talent to possibly play on the next level, these are the players that played outstanding basketball and truly stood out as potential college basketball prospects:

Championship Game: EE Smith 72 Terry Sanford 62

Jatrious “JJ” Smith (6’4″, G/F, 2017) EE Smith HS – finished with 28 Points, Tourney MVP; This young man was outstanding as soon as he stepped on the floor, for some reason he was not in the starting lineup but was quickly inserted into the game once Terry Sanford opened the game on a 8-0 run. The game changed as soon as he checked in, Jatrious loves the corner three-pointer and knocked down two in the 1st Quarter, he was also very aggressive getting to the basket from the wing and was able to penetrate whenever he wanted to. In the 2nd Quarter Jatrious really took over for his team, going into the post and scoring on the smaller defender that was attempting to guard him as well as knocking down midrange shots. On the defensive end he was very outspoken to his teammates, constantly telling them what to watch for; this young man understands the game and has an IQ on both ends that exceeds his grade level. Once the 2nd Half began EE Smith turned on the defensive pressure and Jatrious was a huge part of forcing turnovers to create transition baskets, which truly gave him the opportunity to show his athletic ability to every one. Jatrious had two fast break dunks as well as catching an alley-oop that made the crowd go wild. In the 4th Quarter Terry Sanford adjusted their defense which allowed Jatrious to show his ability to play the Point Guard position and create opportunities for his teammates. It was very impressive to see how unselfish this young man is; he enjoyed making plays for others, instead of trying to force shots and make plays for himself. At times he did settle for the jumper more than I would like to see and had moments where he was almost too unselfish, passing up some open looks but that shows how much of an unselfish player he truly is. Jatrious Smith Absolutely dominated the game and is a big time player that HM schools should be keeping an eye on; he already has received an offer from Western Carolina University and is getting interest from numerous HM schools.

Eric Murphy (6’1″, CG, 2015) – EE Smith HS – finished with 15 Points, was named to the Holiday Classic All-Tourney Team; Eric is a guard that can score the ball in bunches, very good three point shooter but has a nice midrange game to go with it. He Really stepped up in the 2nd half scoring the majority of his points during that time, Eric’s game has matured since the first time I saw him play earlier this season, he is handling the ball much better and is doing a lot better with his shot selection. Also has a very nice floater that he uses once he gets in the lane over taller defenders.

Mark Gilbert (6’2″, SG, 2016) Terry Sanford HS – finished with 24 Points, was named to All-Tournament Team; Mark is a strong, left handed guard with a smooth shooting stroke, Has a very solid frame and looks as if he already has somewhat of a college body. In the first half of the game he was outstanding offensively showing his full ability to score the ball; Mark is a Very solid ball handler but at times tried to make difficult moves that ended up being turnovers. He was very effective finishing after contact when he drove to the lane; and is a very good shooter that excels at catching and shooting. Overall has the potential to be a very good player at the next level, but must improve his on ball defense.

Joseph Riddle (6’2″, F, 2015) Terry Sanford HS – finished with 21 Point, was named to All-Tournament Team; Joseph is one of those type of players that coaches loves to have on their squad, A very strong and high energy player that doesn’t give up on plays. Joseph is somewhat undersized at his position but he does not allow that to hinder him in any way shape or form, Joseph was constantly scoring inside, using numerous post moves and at times simply outhustling his opponents to be a very effective player. Joseph really knows how to use the backboard properly in the post and understands the game; I truly loved how he competed on both nights and battled every single possession. Joseph brings the intangibles to the game that you simply can’t teach, on the defensive end he doesn’t give up ground to bigger opponents at all. Some improvement’s from him I would love to see are to add more range to his shot and get a little more comfortable handling the ball. Has alot of potential to be good a very good player, and play on the next level somewhere without a doubt

Some Standouts from the Semi Finals:

Justin King (5’10″, PG, 2016) Terry Sanford HS – finished with 9 Points in Semi-Finals win vs. Jack Britt; Justin was one of my favorite players from the tournament, He is a very IQ guard that makes the simple plays instead of trying to make the highlight plays. Is a very good ballhander that knows how to get the job done with a minimum amount of dribbling, Justin also did a great job of making the extra pass to get great shots instead of getting good shots. When Jack Britt H.S made a run in the 2nd half and put on their full court press it was Justin who was making the correct reads and crisps passes to break the press and get the team into their sets. Justin has a very smooth shooting stroke and shot a high percentage, did not take a lot of shots but knocked down the shots he took. Overall he is a very talented young player with a lot of potential that I have feeling will be one of the top Point Guards in The area before he graduates.

Telligence Johnson (6’2″, F, 2017) Terry Sanford HS – finished with 11 Points in Semi-Finals win against Seventy-First H.S; An outstanding young player that has the potential to be one of the top players in the state in his class before its all said and done. Intelligence jumps out of the gym and knows how to use his athletic ability on both ends of the floor, attacked the basket like a grown man and did a great job rebounding and blocking shots on the defensive ends as well as applying great on the ball defense. Has all the tools to be a very very good player but will need to improve consistency on his jumpshot and decision making as well.

Tre Hales (6’2″, Wing, 2015) – Jack Britt HS – finished with 32 Points in Semi-Finals Loss to Terry Sanford; Tre was one of the bright spots on a young Jack Britt team through the first three quarters of the game. Tre knocked down numerous three-point shots in various ways, whether it was coming off a screen or catching and shooting. Tre also showed his ability to attack the basket, has a nice shot fake that he uses to get defends off their feet. Provided a much needed boost for his team, to continue to improve his overall game, Tre will need to continue improve his ballhandling skills.

Chris Thomas (5’10″, PG, 2015) – Seventy First HS – finished with 12 Points in Semi-Finals Loss to EE Smith; Chris is a Point Guard that can get up and down the court in a blink of an eye, Seventy First tried to keep there offense as up-tempo as possible and he did a great job doing that, especially when it came to pushing the ball after missed shots. At times seemed to be a little bit out of control and will need to learn he will need to play at somewhat of a slower pace at certain moments of games. Very good on the ball defender, has quick feet and quick hands, Chris made life difficult for ever player that he was guarding. Very interested in seeing him become more of a consistent shooter, as of right now he’s an OK shooter, knocked down two three pointers but missed quite a few open looks.

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