That is News to Me


Posted On: 06/4/18 5:22 PM

Writing about an entire state of basketball players is extremely enjoyable.  This is the job I worked years to acquire, but it also gets to be chaotic.  Every day I learn a new handful of players, hear about a new AAU program, talk with a player skyrocketing in a new recruiting stratosphere.

With college recruiting the thing you just read for the first time on Twitter is already old news.  And it can be difficult to get all of the information out to the reader without the quality of work suffering.

For this reason this article will unveil some of the revelations I have experienced in the last week.  This might be tiny thoughts, game film reactions, recruiting gossip, roster changes…anything.

In a perfect world all of these could be expanded in to a story.  This is not a perfect world, so today you get them in a loosely organized jumble…much like the way my brain works.


News to Me #1

Eric Rivers is the real deal.  Former McCallie Head Coach John Shulman alerted me to Eric Rivers’ game, sharing that Rivers would be a household name in the state were it not for a crowded backcourt in 2017-2018 (Junior Clay, Shannon Walker, Jay Gibson, Mac Hunt, Trip Butler, Tanner Shulman).

I watched game film on Eric and he is not wrong.  With exceptional quickness and blisteringly fast change of direction, Rivers will be thrust into a prominent, possibly starting role with McCallie next fall.

I am very high on Rivers early in his high school career.  Right now Rivers runs with Atlanta Celtics Black 15u.

Eric Rivers will be a top 40 player in 2021 when the rankings emerge mid-June.


News to Me #2

Football is stealing our players.

Unlike most parents I don’t subscribe to the notion of sport specialization.  Everyone with any athleticism in my mid-sized Illinois high school played 2 sports.  At smaller high schools guys would often play three.

In Illinois an athlete typically favor one sport, and basketball is really, really big.  Think Indiana with tall buildings.  In Tennessee, it has become exceedingly clear that any player who likes football and basketball both routinely gets steered into football.

If that is the chosen route of the player, good for him.  Sadly, this might just be young players selecting what the society around them prefers.  I fear that could be the case for excellent dual-sport athletes in our state.

Recent dual-sport athletes that could have played DI basketball include: Dillon Brooks, Eric Gray

These are dual-sport athletes that could have/could play DI basketball, but probably will not.

Cameron Johnson (Vandy football) didn’t develop his shooting touch like he should have, likely because football is his #1 passion.  And Cam will certainly love his college career.  But selfishly, I wish Cam would have pursued basketball just as hard.

There was a time Cam and Darius were equals (14u-ish) on the floor.  Cam had a toughness Darius didn’t.  Cam was quicker early and Darius still hadn’t grown into the physically imposing young man he is today.

Ensworth junior-to-be Keshawn Lawrence is a top 20 player in the 2020 class in my view.  He is playing W.A.C.G. 16u AAU basketball currently, but the football offers he holds are astronomical.  It would be stunning if Keshawn elected to play basketball beyond high school when powerhouse SEC football programs already offered.

We will see.

Of course there are nice high school basketball players that simply don’t project well at the next level.  You know them.  They tend to be 6-foot-4 centers who dominate smaller, more frail bigs in high school.  That just won’t fly for most college basketball programs.  Height matters.

And everyone must choose their own path.

It just seems like football and basketball are not given equal looks by prospects from Tennessee.

News to Me #3

Bigs have a tough time developing in our state.

If you look at the talent statewide, and the amount of gifted, tall athletes we should be producing more big men.   The problem I am starting to notice is that taller players are typically getting scooped up by out-of-state prep schools (a problem for many states) or they aren’t getting the proper training to succeed as a big man.

This goes back several years.  When Kevin Durant and players a little earlier than him starting shooting shots from deep young players stopped caring about learning to play the post.

Not everybody can be a post player.  Sure.  But, how many 6-foot-7 players do you see shooting poorly from the outside that can’t rebound a lick.

I see many.  Work on shooting. Fine. But, don’t neglect the physical tools you already have.  Don’t remove the possibility that you could ever play a position that isn’t point guard?

If you watch almost any AAU program you will see entire games without a post feed.

It takes an astronomical big man like James Wiseman to even get coaches to draw up plays for them.

Another aspect to this problem is the selfishness of guards.  Too often young guards think of their big men like oafs who will get the ball back for them.  Phrases I always heard coaches say growing up were, “If your big man runs the floor reward him.”

Or “get a post touch.”

As the game ventured more to everybody-out offenses young players completely neglected the bankable skills of rebounding, blocking out, flashing to the block, showing for the ball.

It might change.  But in the now dozens of potential bigs are squandering their size and strength aimlessly trying to be once-in-a-decade talent Kevin Durant.

New to Me #4

Damion Baugh is set for greatness.

This is a revelation that came quickly to me and his Team Thad 17u coaches.  In the last year Damion Baugh barely made a blip on the recruiting radar, but he improved drastically.

Team Thad 17u Head Coach Norton Hurd IV knew what Baugh could do.  And he helps him in Memphis, now that Baugh has transferred to Tennessee Prep.  When AAU season started Baugh began discussing the chance of reclassing to 2019.  Remember Damion Baugh spent the fall semester at Lincoln Prep Academy in Georgia where he frankly became invisible through no fault of his own.

Running with Team Thad 17u in April began the rapid recruiting uptick in earnest.  It still continues in to this week as Florida offered Damion Baugh.

Damion’s hand quickness is remarkable.  His height is very good for the position.  That he invests on defense makes him a key player in any defensive system.  Baugh’s dunks are amazing, but it is the hard work he did beneath the basket that helped him get the recognition he now sees.