Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Westminster gets the 6th spot in my preseason top 10 (preseason post 7 of 30)

Two transfer guards will make enormous impacts on their respective schools' performance this season. One is Jelani Watson-Gayle, a junior from London, England, who will join the Westminster Wildcats and catapult coach Mark Tebbs's team into the GISA state championship race. The point guard, who may be a newcomer to Augusta but is a veteran of international competition, has a combination of ball handling and shooting skills that is surpassed by no other area player.

Junior transfer Jelani Watson-Gayle makes Westminster and instant threat in the GISA race.

The Wildcats missed the state tournament last season after reaching the final four the prior year. But seniors Nygel Eaddy (10 ppg) and Steven Lambert (11 ppg), and sophomore Michael Dukes (10 ppg) have gained valuable experience. The addition of Watson-Gayle makes Westminster a top ten area team and an early favorite in the GISA's region and postseason race.

Westminster senior Steven Lambert scored 11ppg last season. 

So if you have followed the first seven of my preseason posts, you'll notice I've placed the first six teams in the following order (note I am only considering Georgia teams right now):

  1. Laney
  2. Josey
  3. Richmond
  4. Thomson
  5. Alleluia
  6. Westminster

Westminster sophomore Michael Dukes scored 10ppg last season. 

It is unusual to place two independent school teams so close to the top of the area race.  And because they don't compete with Georgia's public schools, it will be difficult to ever know where Alleluia and Westminster truly stand.  But my eyes tell me they are among the area's best.  So I'm calling it like I see it.

I'll see you in the gym!

Monday, September 28, 2015

AugBball Fall League Report: Laney tops Alleluia

AugBball Fall League Report Video Outline

Laney tops Alleluia in a very entertaining game

Last week I revealed the top 4 area teams in my preseason top 10. If you’re keeping score at home, this is where things stood entering the weekend:

Laney's Tahj Tanksley defends in a 2015 state playoff game.
  1. Laney
  2. Josey
  3. Richmond
  4. Thomson
I planned to place Alleluia in the 5th position. Saturday’s Laney-Alleluia fall league matchup was a great chance to see two of the area’s best compete.

Laney’s seniors didn’t play. But junior Tahj Tanksley and sophomore Donald Henley led the Wildcats to a close win. Both guys compete and defend fiercely. Both have looked great since the summer in their new roles on a team that is not as deep as last season’s. And both continue to show they can put the ball in the basket.
Alleluia's Ben Dresser and Mac McBride helping
and recovering in a Spring AAU game

I feel confident about putting Alleluia into the 5th slot in my area rankings.

In the video above I talk about the difficulty in comparing Alleluia to the area’s best because they don’t play them during the regular season. Most importantly, Alleluia’s coach Dennis McBride continues to remind me my, or anybody’s, preseason predictions are meaningless because teams earn what they get on the court. Amen.


Catching up: Two weeks ago I watched Evans beat a solid Butler team in Fall League play and got my first look at transfers Joel Grant and Chris Stone with their new team.

I’ve known Grant is a player. Stone looks like a pure shooter. And I appreciate 6’6” senior center Michael Steflik’s ability. But I was most interested in learning more about sophomore Serron Spann, who tallied five assists in the first half of this fall league game alone. Coach Kevin Kenny appears to have a strong core of players. I think I’ll soon be placing the Knights into my preseason top 10.

Aquinas has a solid, young backcourt. 

Sophomores Tre Gomillion and Gerald Merriweather were impressive in a narrow loss to Brown’s Suns (mostly players from Richmond Academy) in the league’s first week. I end the video above with a look at the Fighting Irish’s likely leaders come November.

Friday, September 25, 2015

AugBball's 10 things: Sept 25, 2015

A good number of interesting things happened during the past few weeks leading into the Fall and towards hoops season.  I counted 10 things that inspired me to try something new at the blog and the YouTube channel.  So here are "10 things" in the first edition of AugBball News.

Here is the outline for the show:

1)  This is old news. But because it's the first episode I want to include the news that Buck Harris, head coach of Augusta's best team last season, the 29-2 Laney Wildcats, is now the head coach at Baldwin County.

2)  This news is a a little old too (getting the older stuff out of the way first in the first episode), but it is exciting.  Zep Jasper, Laney's senior point guard, committed to the College of Charleston at the end of the summer.  Who is Charleston's head coach?  Earl Grant.  Then an assistant, he recruited Rod Hall to Clemson 5 years ago when Rod was a Laney star.

3)  Ricky Moore (1995 state champ at Westside, 1999 NCAA champ as a UConn starter, and 2014 NCAA champ as a UConn assistant coach) was praised highly in a Hartford Courant article.  ESPN's Paul Biancardi called Ricky a "star recruiter," among other nice things.  Rick is a wonderful representative of our area and beloved in many places.

4)  Four preseason posts are live at  These posts feature what I believe are the four best teams and maybe 5 of the 7 or 8 best players in the area.

5)  San Antonio Brinson, who has starred at Aquinas the past two seasons, decided to return home to Thomson High School after a brief stay at a school in South Carolina.

6)  Christian Keeling announced his commitment to attend college and play basketball at Charleston Southern University.  He announced it Tuesday, on his mother's birthday.  I am very impressed with the players I encounter who play high school basketball.  Christian is one of my absolute favorites.

7)  More preseason posts are coming next week.  I will feature the teams in the 5 through 10 slots in my coming preseason area standings.  I'll also be featuring the local college teams and players I'll be following this season.

8)  I was at the Fall League two weeks ago.  I'll be back this weekend (I'm actually coaching Alleluia).  During the first week, I was impressed by some players I wasn't very familiar before, including Tre Gomillion and Gerald Merriweather (Aquinas), Serron Spann and Chris Stone (Evans), Kyler Haynes (Butler), and Moses Jones (Richmond).

9)  I show clips of Isaiah Kelly in a "Court Cred" produced video from an "On the Radar Hoops" event.  Isaiah looks like he is improving quickly!  Best of luck to him at powerhouse Pace Academy.

10)  I share quick thoughts on a blog post (titled "The truth about your hoop dreams") I published Friday morning.  I may follow up with this topic as I get feedback.  I've already gotten a great response from some of the best hoops minds we'll be seeing in any gym.  Hopefully I can share some of that with you soon...

I'll see you in the gym!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The truth about your hoop dreams

The Washington Post recently reported about a study that showed 26% of parents of high school athletes hope their kids "go pro."  The article's author calls this 26% of parents "delusional" and explains the odds, which he nails as "microscopic."

Speaking of microscopic odds, on an ESPN radio episode of "Jalen and Jacoby," Jalen Rose attempted to explain the chances of sustaining an NBA career to his co-host by saying it's more likely a high school student will become a brain surgeon or even be struck by lightning!

It's sometimes difficult for me to point out these things.  Parents should be applauded for supporting their children's attempts to be excellent.  But knowledge is power.  So youngsters who know the difficulty of the road they travel are more likely to plan accordingly in the event that the desired destination is not reached.  Pointing out these obstacles is not "crushing dreams."  It can be empowering and helpful.

The road to the NBA is not the only long shot facing young hoopers.  I recently listened to Gordon Gibbons, a long time collegiate coach at all levels, break down the chances of a high school kid earning a scholarship to a four year college.  Basically, he made the case that if you line up the single best player on each of a random group of ten high school teams, either 1 or none of these ten players will earn a scholarship.  Remember all of these guys are the best players on their teams.  They all score 15-25 points per game.  They all expect to earn scholarships, they all probably have 3-5 teammates (each) who think they deserve scholarships too!

The facts about players in our town are right in line with those found in the study featured in the Washington Post and in coach Gibbons's talk.  In the graduating classes of 2014 and 2015, only 5 combined players earned scholarships to four year colleges.  Four players in this year's graduating class currently have such offers.  Even if all four take advantage of these opportunities and do the necessary things to be walking on a campus next Fall, we will still have an average of 3 players per year earning scholarships during the past three years.  There are many more than 30 high school teams in our area.  So Gibbons's "less than one in ten" math holds up here.

Some may respond that our area would produce many more scholarship athletes if we had "better opportunities for exposure," more video footage on the internet, or other such things.  I disagree.  The math is the math.  According to the study highlighted in the Washington Post, there are over 540,000 high school players and only 15,000 play in college.  (Don't even get me started on how few of those play in the NBA.)  The players and parents and AAU coaches in all the other towns and states are pursuing the same "exposure opportunities."  But the math only allows a "microscopic" few to advance.  The exposure doesn't make the numerator (the number of scholarship spots) bigger.

By themselves, these facts mean nothing.  So what if the chances of reaching these goals are small if it is the journey, not the destination, that truly matters?  The trouble comes when the more practical matters of life are neglected.  Even for those lucky enough to earn a spot on an NBA roster (I count 6 guys from our area who played ANY games in the NBA during the past 40 years, and most of them were not there for an extended time), the ball eventually stops bouncing.  And EVERYBODY is best off if he is prepared to make his way in the world before this day comes.

This seems obvious.  But I am 40 years old and I have been involved with these kinds of situations all my life.  These odds were explained to me before I became a teenager.  I'm glad.

But coach Gibbons explained that he would motivate his college players with the idea that they can become professionals one day only to be real (my words, not his) with them shortly before they finished their eligibility.  So the college coach isn't necessarily going to look out for the player's best interests.  How about the sponsors of the high school travel circuit, Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas? Their interests (building the value of their brands and selling shoes and clothes) are not aided by players investing in their whole selves.

In a well meaning attempt to not crush dreams, many adults pass the buck on telling the truth to young basketball players.  Let's be the adults who speak honestly with the goal of doing right by the hoop dreamers we follow and support.  We should give them the best possible chance to achieve success whether or not the ball continues to bounce.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Welcome home, Mr. Brinson! (Preseason post #3 of 30)

You'll be able to tell watching the video above I am very happy San Antonio is back home!                 

Twenty-four hours after releasing my post about the transfer who I believe will make the biggest impact in our area, Madison Williams, I learned San Antonio Brinson will return home to attend Thomson High School for his final year.  Brinson, a 6'8" senior, decided to leave Aquinas after his junior year.  After playing on Thomson's summer league team, he moved to Greenville, South Carolina, for his final year.  But he recently changed his mind and will join a group with more potential than Thomson coach Michael Thomas has had in a long time.

Last season I frequently called San Antonio the area player with the "highest ceiling" as a college basketball prospect.  6'8" wings who are agile and can shoot and handle the ball don't grow on trees. He now has experience leading a team after playing a season at Aquinas without Ahmed Hill.  I predict he will have a great final season back home in Thomson.

Coach Thomas is especially excited about mixing Brinson with a promising group of returning players.  Radaren Johnson led the team as a sophomore, and fellow junior Darius Turman has shown promise since returning from an injury last January.  Add 6'4" senior James Lowe and it's easy to see why the Bulldogs can advance deep into the post season in region 3 of class AAAA.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seasoned veterans: Laney's Keeling and Jasper (Preseason post 1 of 30)

See why I believe this duo will make Laney the area's best team. Again.               

At a recent coaching clinic, Division 2 coaching legend Gordon Gibbons made a persuasive case for how difficult it is to earn a college basketball scholarship. Simply put, there are 50 scholarships available to graduating high school seniors every year in Georgia. There are over 500 players each season who are their teams' best players, recognized as all state performers, or otherwise considered, surely by their parents and themselves, as worthy of free educations by way of playing hoops. But the math dictates that only one of every ten guys will actually earn a scholarship. Not because the other nine can't play. There just aren't enough spots at the colleges.

Senior Zep Jasper (Laney) will play at the College of Charleston after he attempts to lead the Wildcats to another Final 4.

If you don't like the math, just look at our area and find that three players earned scholarships to four year schools last season and only three in this year's senior class currently have such offers on the table. Which brings me to my first pre-season post, highlighting two of the area's "seasoned veterans" who will make a huge impact this season: Laney's senior guards Zep Jasper and Christian Keeling. Jasper has committed to the College of Charleston and Keeling has scholarship offers from several division 1 schools. Laney's recent tradition of area dominance and the return of these two dynamos place the Wildcats in firm position to defend their place at the top of the area hill.

Senior Christian Keeling joins teammate Jasper as first team All Region 3-AAA performers

These two will certainly receive the best shots area teams and players have to give. But performing against the area's best is something this duo has done consistently ever since arriving on Laney's campus as freshmen. No players have logged as many big minutes and big games, and made the type of impact Jasper and Keeling have made these past several years. Now they will assume the leadership roles for what could remain the area's premiere powerhouse. I can't wait to enjoy their final season in Augusta.

Madison Williams makes ARC instant contender (Preseason post 2 of 30)

See why I think Madison Williams makes Richmond an instant contender.            

"He plays hard. He's tough. He has a basketball IQ.  He's skilled. He's a great teammate." These are the phrases college coaches use to describe some of their favorite qualities in high school hoops prospects. But in my experience, raw athleticism is one attribute that is distinct, and maybe more valuable than all the rest in the eyes of a collegiate coach. The ability to create space off the dribble and score above the rim is cherished at the "next level." So it's no surprise that Richmond Academy, the new home of senior Augusta Christian transfer Madison Williams, has been busy with visits from division 1 coaches. Williams is one of three area players with scholarship offers already this fall.

Senior transfer Madison Williams makes Richmond Academy an instant favorite.

Williams' athleticism and solid shooting stroke will help enable Richmond Academy to compete for a spot on top of the local hoops leaderboard, both in region play and in the unofficial race for bragging rights as the area's best team.  Coach Steve Nobles's Musketeers return solid inside play, including center Nick Roberts (6'7" senior).  Williams would instantly make almost any area team a contender. But Roberts and others give Madison a head start at his new home.

Josey has experience and talent (Preseason post 4 of 30)

 In the video above, I explain why Josey should be one of the area's best teams.                    

Josey returns five of last year's top six players.  And as I explained in a late season post last February, players like Donald Jordan (6'3" senior) gained valuable experience on one of last year's most competitive teams.  Jordan's path to becoming one of the area's best players is a sort of throwback to the '80s and '90s when players hadn't played 7-8 years of travel basketball around the calendar before playing for their varsity teams.

Senior Donald Jordan (Josey) burst on the scene last season.  Look for him to help lead Josey this season.

Jordan burst on the scene last season with huge games against Butler and Laney, the area's top teams.  I was surprised that I was unfamiliar with a player with his size, shooting ability, toughness, and knack for playing well in big games.  (Jordan started Josey's region quarterfinal win over Glenn Hills, which gave the Eagles a state playoff spot, with a barrage of long range bombs.)  This summer I asked Donald where he's been playing all these years and how he slipped through my radar.  He said he first played organized basketball for his school as a sophomore at Josey and before that he played no AAU basketball.

Josey's returning group is as deep and talented as any in the area.

The game was once filled with late bloomers who played a season or two of organized ball and were among the best in the area.  Hats off to Donald for reminding me of those days.  And expect his seasoned teammates and him to lead Josey through the area and region race this season.