Posted On: 09/19/16 11:49 AM
With the evolution of the game over the past twenty years, teams are steering more toward small ball then the traditional way of pounding it inside to your big and opening up shots that way. This is especially true at the high school level, where skilled big men are harder to come by, the three point line is shorter and teams like to press and zone a lot more. With the trend we have seen more teams go to three guard sets to push the pace and stretch the floor, and it’s no different in Virginia than it is anywhere else. With that being said, here’s part one of our Best Backcourt Trio segment, featuring five of the top backcourts in the state.
Oak Hill Academy
2017 Matt Coleman, 2017 Devontae Shuler, 2017 Lindell Wigginton
There’s no surprise here, as Oak Hill not only is one of the best teams in the country, they have the best backcourt in the country with not just three, but four high major prospects if you include Creighton commit Ty-Shon Alexander. However, the three mentioned above, all of whom are nationally ranked and four star commits, features perhaps the most athletic, defensive minded and hardest group of guards to prepare for in not just Virginia, but the whole country.
Coleman, who spent his summer winning a gold medal with the USA U18 team and is highly touted by the best colleges in America, is a strong and quick facilitating guard that keeps everyone involved while constantly putting pressure on the defense. Sheller, who’s top five schools include South Carolina, Miami and Oklahoma State, is a freak athlete who is one of the best on ball defenders in the country. Last but not least is the Canadian Lindell Wigginton, a 6’4” combo guard who came off the bench last season and provided energy and instant offense on the break.
Throw in Alexander for extra scoring off the bench and you have a four headed monster that is always the most talented group on the floor. With their athleticism and depth, there’s no wonder they only lost one game all last season.
2017 Aaron Thompson (Pittsburgh Commit), 2019 Anthony Harris, 2020 Jeremy Roach
They lose arguably the best player in the state in VJ King who committed to Louisville, along with big man Corey Manigault who will head to Pittsburgh, but PVI has a chance to compete for another VISAA Division One title that has eluded them in heartbreaking fashion the last two seasons. Leading the pack in Thompson, another Pittsburgh commit, who’s been a rock for them the last two seasons and been one of the top point guards on the EYBL Circuit as well. He’s a shifty and strong guard that is so hard to stay in front of when he’s attacking downhill, and he has the ability to both finish plays at the basket or hit teammates for easy buckets.
Joining him will be Anthony Harris, a rising sophomore that played big minutes for PVI last year, especially when Thompson had a serious illness that kept him out of the last two games of the playoffs last season. The highly touted sophomore has good size at 6’2”, has unreal feel for his age and can fill it up from all three levels with the best of them. He already holds offers from a number of high major programs including West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
While PVI is loaded with talent at every position, the x-factor could easily be rising freshman Jeremy Roach, who can be seen on YouTube shutting down numerous camps this summer with the best players in the nation there. He’s freakishly athletic, gets where he wants to off the bounce and has an uncanny understanding of how to impact the game in different situations.
There’s no doubt that this trio is immensely talented, but finding the best fit for each three could be an early struggle, and once WCAC play starts they’ll have to find the right rotation that will help them win games.
Blue Ridge School
2017 Josh Colon, 2018 Darius McGhee, 2018 Sardaar Calhoun
A completely different look from the last two seasons, Blue Ridge will be without former VISAA Division 2 Player of the Year Malik Johnson who will be a freshman at Canisius this season. However, in a way that only a true powerhouse could do, they revamped in a big way this offseason.
Their returning starter in the backcourt, 5’9” Josh Colon, will provide the toughness, playmaking ability and experience from the winning program they have built over the past three seasons. Joining him is 5’10” transfer Darius McGhee from North Carolina, an explosive combo guard with deep range that filled it up to the tune of over 30 points per game last season, breaking the North Carolina high school record for points per game in a season.
Their latest transfer, 6’5” Sardaar Calhoun from Essex High School, isn’t so much of a true guard as he is an athletic wing that can run the floor and finish above the rim with ferocity. While he isn’t a true guard, he should fit in perfectly with their two guards who will look to push tempo and find him in transition for easy finishes that will provide energy for his team.
While none of them are the team’s biggest name prospect (take a bow Aamir Simms), but each of their unique abilities should make them a tough backcourt to matchup with.
LC Bird High School
2017 Mario Haskett (Harvard Commit), 2017 Johquin “Pinky” Wiley, 2017 Cam Henry
The same trio that took them to the state championship game is back, however they will need to step up and score in big situations with the loss of 5A State Player of the Year Charles Falden who is prepping at Massanutten this season. All eyes will be on the Harvard commit Mario Haskett, who’s established himself as one of the best on-ball defenders in the state and heads their high pace trapping defense that forces teams to speed up and play at their pace. He’ll need to knock down shots down the stretch in big games, much like he did in their thrilling win over rival Henrico in the 5A South playoffs.
Heading the attack offensively is Johquin “Pinky” Wiley, a savvy 5’11” point guard that sees the floor and makes it easy for his teammates to get good shots. While he’s known more as a facilitator, Wiley is extremely crafty around the basket and has a solid midrange game that keeps defenses honest as he breaks them down and gets in the lane at will.
Henry had a great season last year as a defender and energy guy, but with the departure of Falden he’ll be looked at to be more aggressive on the offensive end. He’s showed the ability to knock down open shots and he moves well without the ball, so if he can be shot ready and read the defenses with Wiley that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Another big addition, especially with their need for shot makers, is senior Jaylen Dillard who transferred from Clover Hill this summer. Dillard is exactly what they need as he can stretch the floor and make shots from all three levels. It will be interesting to see how they maneuver the four of them into the lineup, but Bird has depth, talent and experience in their backcourt as they look to make another run at the state championship this season.
Hampton High School
2017 Marquis Godwin (Richmond Commit), 2017 Jalen Ray, 2017 Mastadi Pitt
After a one year experiment where Pitt and Godwin tried their hands at private school ball, the top backcourt in the 757 is back in full swing, and it should have a number of teams in 5A nervous to play them. With a strong, steady and true point in Pitt leading the way, he’ll bring the toughness and playmaking ability that should make it easy for his two shooters on the wing. Also, with Ray and Godwin’s ability to make shots, it should stretch the floor and create easy driving lanes for Pitt to get the rim and use his strength to finish at the basket.
Ray and Godwin have consistently been two of the best shooters in the state the past two seasons, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. They both can stretch the floor and heat up quickly, and once they get it going the only way to stop them is to deny the catch and not help off the ball. They both have improved off the bounce as well, and that’s only going to make it harder to contain them when they attack closeouts well.
Their downfall may be on the defensive end, where none of these three are known as lockdown defenders on the perimeter, but with their competitiveness, depth and ability they all have to fill it up in bunches, they should be able to outscore anyone they’re matched up with.