I could feel the buzz and anticipation in Henrico County, VA yesterday evening immediately upon arriving to the area. It was for good reason too, as spectators would get a final look at the enormously talented 2019 class in the annual ‘804 All-Star Game.’ In its 16th year, Stephen Lewis (assistant coach at St. Christopher’s School) did an excellent job with the organization of this event last night; the vibe truly gave a likewise feel to the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Hosted at Henrico High School this year, fans made sure to purchase their tickets early throughout the week and word spread around town to make sure a large crowd showed up in support of the area’s top players. When I arrived to the gym nearly forty minutes before things got started, a line had already formed outside of the entrance. This being my first time checking out/covering the postseason contest, I’m sure that this type of audience wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary. Still, I personally feel the reason for many indicating last night as a ‘must-see’ outing pertained to this 2019 class containing some of the most collective talent Richmond has seen in years. I’ve been singing their praises all season long, as other scouts/fans have done the same. I’m confident in saying that everyone had a great time last night watching the young fellas don a jersey for one last time, representing the 804.
L.C. Bird High School’s Lance Monteiro ’19 had the best early start, with a total of 10 points in the opening round. However, it wasn’t long before sharpshooter Loginn Norton ’19 (James River High School) tied with Monteiro in his first attempt around the perimeter. Collin Harding ’19, a two-sport star from Manchester High School, opened up the semifinal round with 12 points, as he and Corbin Slayton ’19 (also from L.C. Bird) advanced into the final. After the two tied with nine points in the first try of the final round, Slayton took home the title in a second go-around after narrowly edging out Harding, 11 to 10. A big congrats to Corbin Slayton ‘19, the L.C. Bird Skyhawk, who can shoot it from all three levels.
I actually had been asked to act as a judge for the dunk contest; a first for me. I had great enjoyment in doing so… still, a part of me wished I could’ve had my phone out to record some of those electrifying highlights. Varina High School’s Charles Tart ’19 started it off with a two-handed windmill, followed by a baseline 360 windmill-slam by Jamon Battle ’19 (L.C. Bird High School). De’Marr McRae ’19 out of John Marshall High School then had fans jump on the court after he pulled off a self-alley oop off of the bounce, finishing right over 5’8” Teon Tiller ’19 (Thomas Jefferson High School). That dunk undoubtedly caused the most excitement, earning the 6’2” guard a perfect score of 50. Afterwards, one could tell that the players started to suffer from some tired legs in their next few missed attempts. Still, some nice windmills and tomahawks were thrown down, including an attempt from Tart after jumping a foot inside of the free-throw line. In my opinion, Zarkeil McEachin ’19 (Armstrong High School) looked as one of the most impressive participants. I had seen the 5’8” guard compete as a slashing threat a couple of times during the regular season, but had no idea he contained hops like that. His vertical has to easily surpass 40 inches. Ultimately, Charles Tart ’19 ended up taking home the trophy; finishing his last round with a nice windmill. The 6’3” guard made great highlight plays for the Blue Devils this winter and has a lot of tricks in his bag once he gets up in the air.
Saturday’s Night Standouts
De’Marr McRae ’19 – John Marshall HS: Boy, did McRae have the crowd jumping last night. I think everyone knew they were in for a show after he pulled off a backflip while being announced in the starting lineup. Obviously, one can only take away so much from an All-Star game, but the senior guard looked unstoppable last night on the floor. From start to finish, he had great energy in taking it down the lane for dunks/hanging finishes, while also shooting it well from the outside (3-6 3PM). I’ve always loved that ‘dog mentality’ within McRae and how he can just completely take over to put on a show if the urge becomes present. His strong build, body control, ball control, and comfort with both hands makes him one of the best finishers you’ll find in the 804. He proved my predictions correct, as he garnered MVP honors following a 34-point performance, with nine rebounds and three assists.
Jamon Battle ’19 – L.C. Bird HS: Another high-flyer and great finisher, the 6’5” wing had the earliest impact on the South team after he quickly scored 8 points to give them a three-point lead in the first four minutes. Battle’s efficiency played a great reason for the Skyhawks’ scoring success during these last few months and again stood out last night. Once he makes his way into the lane, it’s a rarity that he won’t complete plays at the basket. His hang-time definitely helps in this aspect; it almost feels like he’s floating through the air at times. Earlier this month, on March 5th, he cut his list of school options down to a top 5: James Madison University, Murray State, Hofstra, Hampton University, and Norfolk State. I bet most in the area share the same curiosity of which program he’ll choose. Rest assured, the chosen program will receive a hard-working athletic player. He had 22 points on 10-13 shooting from the field.
Tyrese Jenkins ’19 – Varina HS: Jenkins had a performance similar to Battle’s last night, in terms of efficiency once getting a paint touch. The 2019 Region 5B Player of the Year has some unpredictable moves with the ball, as his patience, footwork, and hesitation can all cause defenders to slip up. At 6’7,” his versatility as a wing consistently makes him a threat inside and out. If you put a bigger opponent on him, he can take him out to the perimeter and operate from there. If he spots a smaller defender, it quickly becomes a mismatch. Those two notions right there showed his value within the Varina roster these past few seasons. One of my favorite moments of the game involved a sequence of Jenkins throwing it off the backboard to himself in the open floor and then finishing a two-hand putback dunk on the next trip down. The skilled senior finished second in scoring for the North team with 22 points (10-12 FGM, 2-4 3PM); also grabbing six rebounds.
Mack Burgett ’19 – L.C. Bird HS: With three of his high school teammates on the roster with him, I could tell Burgett felt really comfortable out there playing with some good chemistry. I noted a few times during the regular season that the 6’7” forward had to play more as a post presence due to being the tallest player within L.C. Bird’s lineup. Most acknowledge Burgett as a stretch-4 player, however; something he had on full display yesterday. His shooting from the outside looked nice (3-5 3PM) and he put the ball on the floor quite a few times for strong finishes at the rim, going either baseline or down the middle. His way of moving without the ball to get open, along with a soft shooting touch, makes me feel he can develop as a useful pick-and-pop guy once he arrives to Anderson University’s (Anderson, SC) program this fall. Above all, Burgett’s winning demeanor should give him some of the most success at the next level; he always looks confident and focused whenever taking the floor. The Skyhawk led his South squad with 23 points and eight rebounds in only 17 minutes of play as a reserve.
Jahdon Robinson ’19 – Thomas Dale HS: I finally had the chance to get a first look at the Coppin State signee, who showed great potential as an impact-player in the MEAC. Robinson has solid physical tools, starting with a good frame for a guard/wing at 6’5.” In addition, his confidence with the ball in his hands gave the impression that he’s a smooth scorer who doesn’t get in a rush. He checked onto the floor for the South team and gave them a big spark late in the second half by keeping the score close. His first step can allow him to stretch by defenses in straight-line drives and he finishes pretty easily in all sorts of different directions. He also had a good-looking form on his jumper, which looked comfortable from all three levels. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the 804 package deal of Robinson and 6’7” forward Izeah Parker ’19 (Hopewell High School) during their first year at Coppin State next winter. Robinson finished with 15 points and four rebounds, all in 15 minutes.
Levar Allen ’19 – John Marshall HS: A clear crowd-favorite, you never know what move(s) Allen will make when bringing the ball up the court. His toughness and approach to the game (in a vastly similar way to Justice back-court mate, McRae) may always stand out first, but the 6’0” guard displayed last night that he has some serious creativity in his court vision and athleticism. Allen’s facilitating as a primary ball-handler proved important for John Marshall’s success throughout these past few years, as I doubt most ever questioned that aspect of his game. Nonetheless, Allen showed he has eyes in the back of his head by throwing some sweet no-look dishes to his teammates. The stocky point guard can get his own bucket when he wants to, but his way of racking up assists stands in an even manner. In addition, his quickness looked even better last night. I’ve always seen a good first-step in his arsenal, but he seems to have been consistently putting in work to improve his overall athleticism. If he keeps that up to compliment his already-established skillset, his ceiling at the next-level will only continue to rise. Allen put up 15 points, three rebounds, and a game-high five assists last night. I’m especially curious to see what college decision he ends up making soon.
Charles Tart ’19 – Varina HS: In all, Tart had an excellent Saturday. He started the morning off by putting on a show at the ‘ASSIST Unsigned Senior Showcase,’ held at Meadowbrook High School from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I covered that event also and kept tweeting how impressive the gifted senior looked. Later on, he won the Dunk Contest, as noted above, and then finished a solid showing in the All-Star game itself. Tart’s athleticism and wingspan will most likely always earn the first look, but coaches should know how well he can defend and shoot the ball also. His highlight dunks typically emerge from activity on-ball, pestering guys and plucking away steals for open room on the other end. As a spot-up guy, he can move around to various spots of the floor and get off his shot with ease. His shooting appeared confident all day long, as he knocked down several from range in the showcase and went 3-5 from three-point territory in the night game. Tart was undoubtedly one of the most underrated prospects in the area this year, acting as the sixth-man for Richmond’s #1 ranked Blue Devils. Regardless, many know of his worth and how well this can translate to the collegiate level. One of many unsigned seniors in the 804.
It’ll feel different not seeing these guys around next season! Congrats to this special group of players and much success in this next upcoming chapter of post-high school. Keep the focus.