Monday, December 1, 2014

National Select Makes History for the Holidays - Greatness Doesn't Take Any Days Off

8th Grade Turkey Day Takeover Champions (4-0)

With the end of 2014 quickly approaching there have many professionally ran, elite level tournaments, camps, leagues, and events.  All of which share the common theme of showcasing top players in their respective classes throughout the country.  At the end of the day the talent on the floor is what defines the level of the event – when a competitive heavy weight battle breaks out in addition to the game and event achieves a legendary status.

Amongst the thousands of games played in 2014 anywhere we have a contender for national game of the year consideration.  In the history of the middle school basketball in the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia area we have a runaway winner for most talented collection of players on one court for one game in 2014 and possibly ever.

Two of Baltimore's leading programs Baltimore Finest & Team Melo both of whom were competing in the same tournament as well as the nationally acclaimed showcase program USA National Select this past weekend; tournament directors decided to throw caution to the wind, forgo tournament rules, and create something more than a championship game – they created a basketball showcase.

The event was run and lead by one of the areas leading youth Coaches, Donnell “Mookie” Dobbins a name known by all in the area – “Mookie” has built a tremendous reputation as a coach and mentor by working with some of the top players in the Baltimore and surrounding areas.   Even with two major powers operating in their region, both looking to secure relationships with top players, basketball utopia is always putting the best of the best together to compete against the best.  After a hard fought back and forth battle in the tournament Semi-Final between Baltimore Finest (UA) and Team Melo (NIKE), Finest was victorious and advanced to the championship.

Afterwards Donnell decided to extend the offer to combine resources between the two powerhouses (Finest & Melo) to create a SUPER BMORE Squad; the roster? It included nationally ranked 6’6 Marvin Price (#11), 6’1 James Bishop (#40), 6’0 Gerard Mungo (#46), 6’4 Che Evans (#57), and up and coming Logan Curtis 6’2 shooting guard who is making a name for himself each time he steps on the court.

With four top 100 players in the country on one team, you likely wonder who could compete with that.  There is only one answer in the country and that is USA National Select, the same program who competed in “The Game of the Millennium” and has produced an all-time record of 131 – 10.  

USA National Select who also competed in the tournament had a loaded roster of their own pulling this time from a tri-state/Mid-Atlantic area.  A blowout victory on Friday night was followed by a 60-52 victory over Baltimore Finest in pool play.  In bracket play National Select opened with a dominating performance over the DC Playmakers winning 61-29 which included a series of dunks and alley-oop plays reminiscent of an All-Star game moving them into the championship game against the aforementioned nationally ranked players and super squad.

In front of a capacity standing room only crowd National Select opened on an early run led by Gill who had his best performance of the tournament in the championship and Hairston who handled the PG duties keeping all the hungry mouths fed – opened with an 8-0 run before James Bishop, the bigtime lead guard and all world Marvin Price began cooking.  With a margin as much as 14 points in the first half behind strong performances of Sharif Kenney, Mahkel Mitchell, Jordan Toles, Isaiah Todd, and Zion Harmon  National Select looked to blow the game wide open.  Mungo and Evan fought hard after cutting the lead to 8 at half.  Ryan Conway & Caleb Bowers made major contributions coming off the bench stepping up for the injured Mahki Mitchel, Cameron Byers, & Christian Depollar and the absent Jamel Melvin.

Still up 10 with 6 minutes to go on attacks by Sharif Kenney, Jordan Toles, finishes by Mitchell, and some bigtime jump shooting by Harmon - the Baltimore group cut the lead to 4 before briefly taking the lead by 1 with under a minute left on foul shots by Bishop. Makhel hit one of two free throws to take a one point lead for National Select and Kenney hit two more down the stretch to put National Select up 49-48 with under 10 seconds remaining.   The Bmore group got two more looks at the basket but were under duress on both before National Select secured the rebound and the one point victory.  

With multiple future D1 players on the floor and star-studded national ranked rosters this has to go down as one of the most talent laden and most competitive games is the history of middle school basketball in the DMV area.

Let’s meet the champions!

Sharif Kenney, SF, 6’6 (#5) 2019 – One of the most unstoppable forces in the country, five position, five category contributor – not much this kid can't do on the floor on either end.  Can operate as a point forward/lead guard type, jump shot has improved and must be honored - continues to make the right basketball play when challenged.  Far from selfish and great court vision.  Without argument the area’s best player and one of the best doing it in the country; he remains a flat out problem for any and all stepping on the court with him as there is truly no answer or counter.  He is so talented yet so unselfish so if you stop him he is equally as effective in setting up a teammate.  Honestly Kenney could play and contribute at the college level now the kid is that special.  Mean streak and killer instinct round out this complete package.

Makhel Mitchell, PF, 6’7 (#23) 2019 – Footwork, ball-handling, soft shooting touch and major defensive presence define the existence of the versatile front court prospect.  Tough as nails and an excellent unselfish passer he produces on both ends doing whatever is needed.  Able to run as a point forward displaying one of the best front court handles in the country.  Has been clearly coached and drilled on an elite level.  His hunger and desire to win and be the best is an intangible that drives him and will lead to him achieving an extremely high level of success. Softest hands you'll find.

Jordan Toles, SG, 6’1, (#4) 2020 – An embarrassment of riches of talent and size allowed Toles to operate exclusively on the perimeter.  Of course he couldn’t be kept out the paint but impressed as a lead guard and by spacing the court with knock down jump shots.  With this added aspect to his game he becomes virtually unstoppable and clearly looked high school ready even as a 2020 player. Lock down defender is becoming a phase that is synonymous with Toles and good is getting better, and his better best as it relates to guards in his class.

Zion Harmon, PG, 5’5, (#1) 2021 – Playing up TWO years against some of the most elite competition did nothing to the status of Harmon except enhance it.  Able to adjust to the speed, size, and length with no problem – something we have long known is that his scoring and ball-handling translates up several age groups; he ran the show found his spots (some of them good from 30 feet from the basket) and set up teammates with some phenomenal oops and dimes.  No one does it better than Harmon who even impressed his own teammates with his prodigy like ability.

Isaiah Todd, F, 6’7 (#26) 2020 – Dare we label Todd as the best prospect in the DMV area regardless of grade or class?  Yes we must, just a baby, he has the handle of a guard, the size of the big, the natural stoke and jump shot mechanics of an elite level SG and hasn’t even begun to realize his potential.  The sky is the limit and in this case it may be beyond, players like this aren’t made they are sent from above.  He runs the floor, guards perimeter players, and shows flashes that have on lookers at times sitting with their mouths-wide open.  One of the most humble and respectful kids you will meet, if he isn’t on every coaches list in the country (and we are talking college – let alone high school) they need to be fired.  No need to pressure the player with the “Next Coming of…..” its good enough to just know he’s coming.

Jordan Hairston, CG, 5’8 (#76) 2019 – Volunteered to be the transition player for the weekend wanting to compete at a new position for him PG. Summer of multiple top player rankings at every camp he attended, player had forethought & desire to expand his game & skill set & that he did; this weekend produced some solid stat-lines that proved he will be able to make the conversion at the next level.  Those that don’t know the game may think what happened to his scoring? Elite level professionals will all tell you Hairston just made a major step in solidifying his basketball future.

Jamel Melvin, C, 6’9 (NR) 2019 – File this name in the back of your mental rolodex and remember you heard it here first.  You can’t coach height and with two 6’10 brothers you already know what to expect and he is bigger than both at same juncture.  Has a nice touch out to 12- feet and simply needs seasoning and game experience.  Doesn’t yet know what to do with or how to use the array of vast tools he has been blessed with.  Simply a split second behind on movements but he is in the right place.  Makes the right moves just needs confidence in himself to finish – understanding how when and where with and without the ball.  Skill set & tools getting closer and closer to clicking each time we see him - on a squad of this magnitude seeing it and playing with it Melvin is able to concentrates on defense and rebounding but trust and believe the rest will soon be following.

Caleb Bowers, 5’8”, SG (NR) 2020 – Our local sources have confirmed that Bowers will be moving to the 2020 class & boy  does that change things for the scoring guard.  Showed ability to knock down the 3 ball and perimeter jumper this weekend, played the game tough and with emotion.  With an extra year to work on ball handling and to add strength we like the upside and individual star power of Bowers.  He clearly fit in with this elite group taking advantage of his opportunities. Rex Chapman STYLE of play was big time and has opportunity to expand as a penetrator/lead guard.

Ryan Conway, 5’11, SG (#60) 2020 – One of the best shooters we have seen in some time at this level.  Nimari Burnett is the only one in this class in his class – so that makes him one of the best.  Like the size, strength, and effort – like the upside and potential, possible changes are in his future that too will push him to nation’s best status.  Not many finish as well as he does and being elite in this area while honing the rest of skills still keep him listed as a top national talent.

Anwar Gill, 6’2, WG, (NR) 2019 – A smaller version of Stacy Augmon, must respect the mid-range, must close out on the 3 – does a lot of things well; waiting for that elite attribute to establish itself.  Able to guard multiple positions, able to attack and finish, but also displays exceptional court vision; tools to be a lock down defender when he wants to; affects the game in many different ways including on both glasses.  Gill can be as good as he wants to be and he clearly likes the big lights and big stages; falling in love with the empty gym and dominating lesser comp takes him to the next level as well as having a "go to" attribute.  With so many great qualities he has many to choose from which is excellent news for Anwar.


Cameron Byers, 6’6, F, (#13) 2020 – Was injured in the first part of the first game while dominating the glass he came down on an ankle.  Looked great for the moments we saw him, didn’t return to the court for the tournament as he nursed injury.  A tough skilled forward who we have seen before - a minor setback for Byers who has looked dominant of late in other big time events.

Christian Depollar, 6’5, SF, (#37) 2019 – Came down with illness and was unable to suit up – we anticipated this to be a big stage and opportunity to see DePollar’s continued improvement.  Great ball-handler for this size and versatile skill set that America will soon see without question in the coming months.

Makhi Mitchell, 6’7, CF, (#13) 2019 – Nursing an injury to his toe Mitchell sat out and served as the player/coach offering great insight and displaying a wonderful knowledge of the game.  Talent wise he is without a doubt a total package with lots to love.  Handle, size, tough, length, skill…need we saw more? And he never event suited up - what would we tell you if stepped on the floor, scary!

Many special players made this a very special weekend and they all deserve commendation for not only making it a wonderful experience for each other – they deserve to be exactly where they are and that's being considered as possibly the greatest collection of players to compete in a actual event in the basketball hotbed of the DMV.  Their accolades are impressive and well deserved without question.

Make sure to register for the Invitational Tournament 
Jan. 31st & Feb. 1st 2015

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