Friday, February 27, 2015

News, Notes, Thoughts, & Opinions from John Lucas All-Star Weekend

By: CONNOR CLARK Editor & Chief 

Lebron James Jr. whose performance at the event was featured on ESPN is proving to be more than a celebrity baller.  “Broonie” as he is called has a viable skill set and his game has true substance to it.  Just like his father LBJ Jr. led his Gulf Coast Blue Chip squad on a championship run in the 4th grade.  Playing as a loaner piece James will take is talents to his father’s King James All-Star AAU program this spring and summer.  In another chapter to the sage James is currently and actively at the age of 10 being recruited by colleges – the Senior James is not happy with this course of action but again the debate begins as to the importance of Middle School Basketball.  For now enjoy the 10-year olds work on the court below.

Team Texas is back!  After a tough injury plagued season last year the super talented team from the Lone Star State walked into the NO with a huge chip on the shoulder and enough confidence to guarantee a tournament victory.  When healthy and with a few talented additions Team Texas is arguable one of the best 2019 groups in the country.  They legitimized their status by backing up their guarantee by defeating the Louisiana Red Storm 79-58.  Look for this group to compete in some of the highest level events on the circuit including a schedule that will include its share of ball on the high school circuit.

After a Top 10 finish in the country last season and a strong showing in the NYBL the Worldwide Wildcats out of the ATL still flew into the John Lucas All-Star Weekend under the radar.  By Sunday this all changed with an All-Star group of their own in (PG) Khalil Brantley and (F) Chase Ellis led their team over the custom made built to win 2020 group put on the floor by Florida’s Nightrydas.  The final was closer than the score board indicated 71-62.  

Again in the 6th grade division the tournament had a favorite; the Nightrydas who have stepped into the challenging world of super team basketball – but player analysis and acquisition is paramount in that world.  What has clearly been established on paper for two years and in the on the court for the past 15-months is the fact that the combination of Jaden Springer and Zion Harmon do not lose at the this level.  It doesn’t matter the combination in this case 1+1=5; the Nightrydas in this instance lost in the semi-final 62-48.  Making them look like the rest of the teams the Oakland Soliders faced (wins 62-18, 55-31,65-14) on their way to winning the Championship of Takeover out of the DC area 60-30.  Not only do Harmon & Springer win they flat out dominate the competition.  

Top rated Byrce Griggs has impressed for some time now at the 2022 age but at the John Lucas All-Star weekend the gauntlet of talent he went through as a member of the Houston Hoops Championship team was more than impressive.  Knocking out the national aau runner-ups, defeating another one of the Nightrydas super teams.  Griggs stole the shows and played much more than big boy bully ball – his shot, ball-handling, and court vison are all high-level as is his passion to win he has another gear and another level of play that all the great ones have.  He is one of those players you look at and say “yeah he’s really good – but you can see him getting better each time he steps on the court”.  This is how greatness is established.  Have a glimpse of his greatness in the video below.

Shemar Morrow is still dominate – even though he didn’t take home the chip; Morrow remains silky smooth and on another level as he maintains his position as the nation’s #1 player in the class.  Shemar when he is going 80% can still produce at an all-star level and turns it on whenever he likes.  Clearly he is at his best when he challenged but many are not yet ready for that level especially in the 2020 class.  We haven’t yet seen him many times on the circuit since his national championship shot but you can see the expansion of his game and his ease with how he operates.  Finishing?  Wow! Everything is at the rim and is either completed with an impressive and unique set of finishing moves or a dunk.  At the end of the day even in a loss Morrow clearly remains at problem.

Another 2020 class member is also growing by leaps and bounds and the diversification of his skill set is extremely impressive.  His ability to work in the lost art of basketball – the mid-range was tremendous.  His improvement in space creation and breakdown ability combined with his physical growth ie. size and length is making Leblanc a very tough cover.  The increased confidence in his overall game is very apparent and he took over games for his team for long stretches.  He was THAT guy who got the team a bucket when it was needed but he wasn’t a shot hunter as he found the open man and displayed great court vison and passing ability.  Isaiah has always been in the conversation as a top player in the class but he via the work in the gym is clearly ready to take the next step into the conversation as a BEST OF….CLICK PHOTO BELOW TO see his work below with God First AAU.

After a long frustrating weekend the Nightrydas finally won a chip at the 3rd grade level; the irony?  This squad is made up of the programs primary players EXCEPT for Christian Jones who is clearly a major addition for an already championship caliber team – actually they are one of the nation’s best.  The competition was great as AOR was game and showed big time talent in the back and front court but NRE prevailed going through an array of tough teams which included in addition to AOR was Bmore’s Finest & Miami City Ballers.

Nightrydas who entered the challenging world of Super Team Basketball; following in the footsteps of stud programs such as USA National Select, WACG, and to an extent the Oakland Soldiers found out very quickly that there is more to it than bringing in talent and giving them a uniform.  The good news?  Their rosters permeated with talent the 5th grade teams had two of the top 5 players in the country, the 6th grade boasted even more than that with Seth Wilson, Kennedy Chandler, Donnell Harris, & Johnathan Lawson.  We can’t forget about 2020 where Donavan Billings, Shemar Morrow, & Jason Harris to name a few took the court.  The bad news?  Not understanding the complexity of the diverse skill sets and how to integrate them quickly (in a single weekend) into a system is a recipe for disaster.  One that was learned first-hand as the worst case scenario happened, not a single one of the super teams claimed a chip.  
The danger in all of this is there are reputations on the line and players of this caliber already have so much pressure just walking into the gym – being on this type of national stage situation and losing likely won’t be condoned in such masses in the future until this concept is addressed and understood.  The beauty remains the opportunity for the nation’s best to collaborate together on the court and the ability for the populist to see and enjoy it at a singular event; at the end of the day for that the Nightrydas must be commended for their more than valiant attempt.  They now know the challenges and what it takes which could mean trouble for the rest of the country…stay tuned and much respect to NRE for the opportunity given to the kids!

In summation the John Lucas All-Star Weekend event was a big success allowing us to see into the future with new and existing talent.  Seeing the growth of the known stars and the introduction of the new is always an enjoyable privilege for all youth basketball fans everywhere.  Up next the NYBL the biggest and brightest stage in the country!

1 comment:

  1. The Nightrydas beat the Houston hoops in over time at the john Lucas in the fifth grade division and won there pool sending Bryce Griggs and the Houston hoops to a easier ride to the championship game correct your article and print facts and it wasn't a super team same team from nationals last year with two added kids