Tuesday, August 22, 2017

More Standouts and more Highlights from Will Avery's Review



For a follow up to Monday's post about the standouts from Will Avery's ReviewRoy Peake and Will Avery answered a few questions I gave him. Of course Peake and Avery organized the Review and invited the players. I used their feedback to make the video above, which shows six players Peake thinks may have deserved mention in my "Terrific Ten," a list I posted yesterday.

Chad: Which players do you think should have been included in the Terrific Ten who weren't? Which players do you think should have been listed higher? What or whom impressed you most about Sunday's Review? Is there anything else about Sunday's Review you want to include?
Roy: Two players that come to mind right away that could have been in the top 10 are Ashlee Austin (Northview, GA, 2019) and Unique Drake (Westwood, SC, 2019). Symphony Jackson (Dudley, SC, 2019) had a shot at it. Grace Knutsen (Alpharetta, GA, 2019) is a wing with good size and can hit the 3. 
What I found most impressive about the Review was how hard they competed. Also how versatile the taller girls are becoming. It wasn't that long ago it was like seeing a unicorn if you saw a six foot girl putting the ball on the floor and making combo moves, and there was some of that this weekend. Destiny Thomas (Tri-Cities, GA, 2019) and Jamiah Lane (Thomson, GA, 2019) also played well. Overall the talent was really good, great atmosphere, the coaches were really engaged and encouraging.

Will: There were so many good players that took part in Sunday's event. Ashlee Austin, who I got to coach twice, showed she could do a lot of things from shooting the 3 to grabbing it off the glass and pushing the ball up the floor. I really liked her physical style of play as she drove the ball very strong and got to the line a lot. McKenzie Gadson (Jesse Carson, NC, 2019) was another player I liked. Very athletic and seemed to always make the right play. She has good size and brought a lot of energy on Sunday. Those would be 2 that could have been in the top 10. 
There were two players that in my opinion have the biggest upside and they were Armani Hamilton and D'mya Tucker (both featured in yesterday's post). I was impressed with those two the most. Tucker has a chance to be special with her length and size (6'1"), and she's an explosive athlete. If she improves her outside shot, look for her to really take off!!! Armani Hamilton as an 8th grader (6'0")was very impressive. She has great hands, runs the floor, and is not afraid to mix it up. 
I even saw her push the ball up a few times. I was very pleased with the event and I love that the kids really wanted to win. I don't remember being at many showcases were I heard defensive chants from the bench...lol
Some of the clips in the video above were taken from Elevated Exposure's full game highlight reel, which can be found at its YouTube and Twitter pages.

Here are all the highlight videos in one playlist. Click through it to find any game you want:




And here is a playlist with video footage from the first 7 games from AugBball:


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Player Spotlights: Fourteen Standouts from Will Avery's Review

Spring Valley's Ashley Williamson stood out Sunday at Will Avery's Review.


Will Avery's Review, played Saturday at the old Columbia Middle School, featured 48 juniors, sophomores, and freshmen from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama. The players split into six teams and each played three times. Avery, who starred at Duke before playing three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, handpicked the players based on his experience coaching on the AAU circuit. He and Roy Peake, who coach together for the Georgia Sting and run the most extensive basketball operation within driving distance, believe all the players selected have the potential to play college basketball.

I watched the first seven games of the day, and I chose 14 players to feature in the first of two reports from the event. The first list is the "Terrific Ten," which features the ten players who impressed me the most. I also identified three "Local Standouts," who are players from our area who I thought played well. Finally I featured a "Rising Star," an eighth grader with a lot of potential.

***By Tuesday morning, I will post a second report, which will include game highlights from the first seven games, feedback from event organizers Roy Peake and Will Avery about players I missed on my "Terrific Ten" list, and more.***


Terrific Ten - Will Avery's Review

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Local Standouts - Will Avery's Review


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Rising Star - Will Avery's Review



Friday, August 18, 2017

Thomson Kicks Off 2017 Season with a Commanding Win at Laney

Marcus Cade signals a Thomson first down after a catch in the second quarter.

The 2017 high school sports season kicked off Friday when Thomson, last season's class AAAA state playoff runner up, ran through Laney 50-0 on the road, putting to rest any doubts that the Bulldogs are ready to make another strong run this year. Bubba Murray ran for two touchdowns on the first two possessions as he and Tyrek Braswell, who reached the end zone soon after Murray, carried the ball on nearly every play until deep into the second quarter.



Then the heralded defensive back Christian Tutt asserted himself, taking a hand off on a reverse and scoring on a 30 yard run after breaking multiple tackles to give Thomson a 28-0 second quarter lead. After another Thomson touchdown and safety made it 37-0, Tutt then set up another Bulldog score by returning a kick from near mid field to inside of Laney's five yard line. Tutt is the highest profile athlete in the area, having received scholarship offers from Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, and Nebraska, to name a few.

Tutt ran for a 30 yard touchdown and returned a kick inside the 5 on his two touches Friday.


It wasn't easy to learn the names of all the Bulldogs who made big plays, so forgive me if I make mistakes! Adding to the three named already, you'll also see in the highlight video (above) JaCorey Crawford, who made a bone crushing hit in the first quarter and an interception in the second. I was told Crawford has offers from Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Liberty, and Samford. And Marcus Cade caught two deep passes from quarterback Mills Ridings in the second quarter.

JaCorey Crawford grabbed an interception in the second quarter of Friday's win.


I hope I can make the time to follow high school football this season like I do basketball. I know I started in the right place tonight by seeing the area's best player and probably its best team.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Players from Four States will Attend Sunday's Showcase for Select High School Girls

Will Avery and Roy Peake, who both coach Georgia Sting AAU teams as part of their extensive basketball work in our community, invited 48 girls they believe have the potential to play college basketball for a special showcase this Sunday at the old Columbia Middle School. ESPN's Dan Olson, a well known talent evaluator, will be on hand to watch the prospects, who will come from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama to join a promising group of players from our immediate area.

Laney's Jaiden Hamilton will play in Sunday's showcase.


Many players participating in the event have already made a splash on the local hoops scene. Junior Jaiden Hamilton (pictured above) helped Laney win a state championship last season. Hamilton sports a 3.75 grade point average to go along with her sweet jump shot. Fellow junior Jakiyah Parker of Richmond Academy also will play. The last time I saw her, she provided the heroics in Richmond's dramatic first round state playoff win. Here's a flashback to that night from AugBball's Facebook timeline:


One of the youngest and most promising participants will be Jordyn Dorsey, a freshman at Cross Creek who led Pine Hill Middle School to three consecutive county championships. After watching her score 31 points in 24 minutes in a game last December, I became a big fan. I look forward to seeing her play Sunday against some of the best high schoolers in the surrounding states.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Highlights and Details from the Georgia Soul's Comeback Win in the WBCBL National Championship Game




The Georgia Soul overcame a 13 point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the defending WBCBL champion St. Louis Surge 64-63 Sunday in the league's national championship game. The win was the Soul's third of the weekend in an eight team tournament which featured Women's Blue Chip Basketball League region champions from California, Missouri, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Louisiana. The championship game, played on the Surge's home court, kept the capacity crowd on its feet and the Soul's faithful fans in Augusta glued to the live web stream.

Khadijiah Cave, the former Baylor University and Laney High star, garnered tournament MVP honors after scoring 14 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in the championship game. The rookie center who will soon head to Switzerland to further her professional career calmly sank two free throws with 1:16 remaining that put the Soul ahead for good at 64-63. Lacoya Terry, a first team WBCBL All Star last season, led the Soul with 18 points, including 9 in the fourth quarter. Terry, who excelled at East Carolina and before that Hephzibah High, let out a huge yell when her three point play tied the game at 60 with 2:31 remaining after she stole the ball near half court and teammate Morgan Jennings found her for the score.

But it was former Francis Marion and Laney High star Eboni Fields, another returning All Star, who ignited the comeback. Every time the Soul's prospects seemed hopeless, Fields gave the team life. When Georgia trailed 50-37 with just over 9 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, she nailed a three from the left corner, making it 50-40. One minute later she dribbled over a high screen and drained another bomb from the top of the key, cutting the deficit to 50-45. And what turned out to be her biggest shot came with 2:42 remaining when her three from the left wing cut the Surge's 60-54 lead to 3 points just seconds before Terry's steal and three point play made the score even for the first time since 0-0.

Fields scored 12 points, making 4 three pointers, all in the second half. She explained Monday how she was able to maintain her confidence after failing to make a field goal in the first half:

I was being very hard on myself the 1st half because my shots were not falling. At halftime my teammates and coaches kept telling me keep shooting. We believe in you they will fall. Don't think about it; just shoot. After I saw the 1st shot go down it helped pick my confidence up to just shoot how I know how. My teammates found me and I was grateful they fell when it was needed.

In an interview with another outlet, Terry also talked about the way the players stuck together through the adversity of trailing throughout the first three quarters. Their resilience paid off and made for a satisfying finish to the organization's second season in which the Soul finished 15-3 and capture the attention and excitement of a large portion of Augusta's basketball fans, who followed along on the webcast (see here) and celebrated on social media for many hours afterward.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Will Avery's Middle School Developmental League Registration is Saturday and I highly recommend it

Following Sunday's hour long clinic with 6-10 year old beginners at the old Columbia Middle School, Will Avery asked the players what they learned. Hands shot up and the youngsters answered that they had practiced dribbling with both hands, pivoting with the ball, aiming for the top of the square when shooting layups, and keeping the ball low on a cross over dribble. Avery's "Bantam Baller" clinics, held at 1:00 P.M every Sunday in August, is only one of the ways the former Duke University and NBA star is teaching youngsters how to play basketball this time of the year.

Will Avery demonstrates the proper technique for shooting a layup.


In addition to special training sessions for players of all ages and skill levels, Avery is preparing for the second season of the CSRA Middle School Player Developmental League. According to a recent post on the league's Facebook group page, the league "is for those kids that need a little more work, or beginners in grades 6-8." Advanced 5th graders are also included. Avery aims to serve 80 boys and girls in the coed league in which the emphasis is learning to play the game from the ground up.

Will explained the process after Sunday's clinic: "We start in the practice sessions playing 2 on 0, teaching players things like give-and-go and pick-and-roll. Then we build up to 3 on 0 and add awareness about spacing and driving and kicking. And soon they are ready for 5 on 5 games."




Practice sessions will be held on certain weekdays during the month of August. And games, which will be played on Saturdays, will begin the week after Labor Day. Practices and games are all played at the old Columbia Middle School on Columbia Road. According to Avery, the league "will only cost you your time."

Avery and his extremely capable staff are looking forward to the second season of D-League play after a fulfilling first go around last year. Features from last season that will return include an all star game and a championship tournament. And Avery is planning to make it mandatory that all teams play man-to-man defense so players can develop the feel for help defense, spacing and cutting on offense, and other key fundamental principles before adding more complex aspects of the game.

But most of the anticipation about this season hasn't had as much to do with the X's and O's. Roy Peake, Will's indispensable partner in all things coaching basketball, put it this way in a recent comment about the league:

"I've been coaching a long time and I can't think of a time when basketball was more fun or rewarding than last season in this league. It wasn't always the basketball portion. It's a true reward to watch these kids grow as people and basketball players."

Peake spent many years as an assistant coach at Evans High School. He and Remwick Lee, coach of last season's Richmond County middle school champion Langford and another of Will's invaluable D-League coaching partners, currently head coach a trio Georgia Sting AAU teams along with Avery during the spring and summer.

Speaking of coaches, more are needed. I will join Will, Roy, and Remwick in helping to conduct the voluntary practice sessions during the week and the games on Saturdays. Become a member of the league's Facebook group and send Will a message if you would like to lend your assistance to this worthy endeavor.

Like coach Peake explained, it is very rewarding to help players learn how to play the game and become more capable and confident people. There is no place where they will learn as much as they will from Avery and his staff. And like Will said, the only cost is your time.



***Learn more about Will Avery's basketball camps, training sessions, leagues, clinics, and other activities at his website: www.willaverybasketballcamps.com/***