Well, for the next several Saturdays, basketball audiences in Richmond, VA will have the opportunity to catch some early high school hoops, if yearning for the 2019-20 season to soon get here. The Monarchs of Meadowbrook High School (Chesterfield, VA) are back to host their annual preseason fall league; bringing in multiple public and private school programs from around the 804. This same weekly event actually became one of the first local ones I covered as a newly Phenom Hoops scout last year. So, once coming across the schedule, I knew I had to make it out there for Week 1’s slate of games. The result brought some tightly-played ones and an atmosphere likewise to competitive regular-season contests. That’s honestly one of the main things I like about Richmond’s vibe; the players and spectators have much pride to any type of game-setting, whether it counts toward a season record or not.
Final Scores on Court 1
Game 1 (Boys):
Benedictine College Preparatory School – 35
Highland Springs HS – 20
Game 2 (Boys):
Huguenot HS – 52
Church Hill Academy – 51
Game 3 (Girls):
Midlothian HS – 41
Meadowbrook HS – 38
Game 4 (Girls):
Life Christian Academy – 47
Powhatan HS – 20
Game 5 (Boys):
Life Christian Academy – 62
Meadowbrook HS – 59
Some Game/Team Notes
- Benedictine College Preparatory School (Richmond, VA) started the morning off with a very solid performance of team defense that helped them branch out to a lead early. The Cadets have several guys who maintain their focus on that end and uses good lateral movement to contain drives by other quick opponents. Their Game 1 opponent, Highland Springs High School (Highland Springs, VA) only had nine points at the halftime break. Offensively, Benedictine looked best by being more of a penetrating bunch. Sometimes, however, perimeter players would go a bit too fast and end up turning the ball over from zipping passes in transition. Slowing down a bit will benefit them; something that should come without much issue.
- I liked what Church Hill Academy (Richmond, VA) showed back in June for both sessions of the ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’ and, based on Game 2, the Huguenot Falcons (Richmond, VA) contain great similarity within their roster’s attributes. Both teams have the tools to become dangerous in a full-court press. They’re quick and know how to pester ball-handers by always shading their dominant hand. That strategy being implemented by Church Hill and Huguenot on Saturday proved as one of the main reasons why Game 2 stayed close for most of the time. Perimeter-shooting wise, the two programs could both use more work. All-region 4B first teamer Jordan Parham ’20 from Huguenot appeared as the only main threat from distance out there on the floor.
- Game 3 between the girls’ teams of Midlothian High School (Midlothian, VA) and Meadowbrook went along pretty sloppy but ultimately had a great finish. With the score tied at several points during the first 20 minutes, Meadowbrook succeeded in a strong defensive stretch once the second half began and found themselves holding a seven-point lead with eight minutes of regulation. However, Midlothian stayed in it with better shooting from three-point land and made a clutch attempt from the top of the key to go ahead 41-38 with less than four seconds on the clock. Meadowbrook couldn’t get one to fall on their next possession and the Trojans escaped with the victory. That finish and even matchup had a similar feel to Game 2.
- The boys’ varsity Life Christian Academy (Chester, VA) squad has athleticism all across the board that’ll make them tough to stop in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) once again. Those physical tools came in handy during the Eagles’ state championship run last March and newcomers give them an additional edge. They’re a team ‘full of kangaroos’ in how they constantly crash the boards, especially on offense. Life Christian doesn’t seem to have any true knockdown shooters but never relies on it due to how well they can create for looks in the lane or simply sky high for their own misses. Head coach Richard Mason’s group will also have to make sure they don’t lose their focus after extending a lead, however, as Meadowbrook completed an 11-0 run at one point in Game 5’s second half to cut the deficit to only two points.
Saturday’s Seven Standouts
Ezekiel Edwards ’20 – Meadowbrook HS; Boys (Chesterfield, VA): The 6’5” senior forward looks improved in every sense of the word, both physically and skill-wise. Edwards clearly has dedicated his offseason to the weight room and refined his shot to add on more range. In my recent interview of him last month, I remember being told to watch out for that particular part of his game. After seeing the passionate Monarch pour in 3-4 triples during Game 5, I now know what he meant. Edwards took on a big defensive role last season as a junior but Meadowbrook should be able to use their veteran for increased scoring opportunities now. He still defends and rebounds constantly too, making him more complete at the four-man position. I’m seeing satisfying maturity in his leadership skills and definitely feel he’s on his way to become a bigger recruiting target.
Ikechi Chantilou ’21 – Life Christian Academy; Boys (Chester, VA): Most local folks know all about Chantilou’s finesse around the rim and it stayed on full display for the duration of his first official appearance as a Life Christian member. When it came down to crunch time in Meadowbrook’s comeback, the Eagles kept giving the ball to their 6’4” guard/wing and he constantly delivered. Chantilou’s one of the better Richmond prospects at getting downhill that I’ve scouted over the past year. He’s not otherworldly fast but indeed uses a quick first step and body control to act as a nightmare in transition. The way he gets to the rim and his scoring spots looks completely smooth and effortless. I also really like his ball-handling abilities, which mainly helps in how he slices past defenders whenever they reach. I still need to grasp a good feel for the junior’s shooting ability; his game often doesn’t rely on that skill.
Wendall Tomlin ’22 – Benedictine College Preparatory School; Boys (Richmond, VA): Looking taller and longer each time I see him, the 6’5” Tomlin has become one of the top underclassmen wings in Richmond private school competition. He helped greatly in Benedictine’s strong Game 1 start after scoring nine of the team’s first 14 points. He shot it well from outside of the arc, cut open for layups, and finished on some stick-backs. Whenever he gets fouled, Tomlin also does well in completing those free chances at the charity stripe. I believe he’ll develop into a remarkable ‘3&D’ guy as he furthers into his career. Sharpening up his handle could help his game out more, however, as he has enough height to shoot over smaller defenders but must be able to create if they play him more aggressively.
Alary Bell ’22 – Life Christian Academy; Girls (Chester, VA): Another special 2022 prospect in attendance, Bell proved in 2018-19 that she’s an absolute force in the paint and has continued that trend into this fall. The 6’2” forward also showed higher confidence bringing the ball up at times and separating from the defense for jumpers. Her shot selection in those same looks needs smarter realization but the fearlessness and ‘next-shot’ mentality in Bell’s game plays a large part in why she had such a successful freshmen season. She competes relentlessly and plans to dominate anyone who steps in her way. The sophomore forcefully controls the rebounding end, while also defending solidly. Still, she must stop swiping down for blocks all of the time. Her team definitely won’t want her to end up in foul trouble due to unnecessary attempts at rejecting shots. As long as she keeps on maturing, the talented Bell has a world of potential for next-level programs to enter the picture soon.
Lamondre Gregg ’20 – Meadowbrook HS; Boys (Chesterfield, VA): One of Meadowbrook’s best returning scorers, Gregg’s prowess on that side of the ball hasn’t decreased in the slightest bit. He’s insanely controlled with his finishes and shows some craftiness for layups over taller defenders. I counted quite a few times where he stretched out past the lengthy Life Christian defense for fouls and/or AND-1s. He’s not the biggest guy (5’10”) but his balanced finishing skills would make one think otherwise. I’d also categorize Gregg as not a pure shooter but one who can make shots from different spots of the floor. When he’s hot, he’s hot; evident by how he produced some of the most during Meadowbrook’s second half run in Game 5. Like Edwards, he’s another returning Monarch to feel optimistic about and looks ready for a bigger role this winter.
Dream Mohammed ’20 – Life Christian Academy; Girls (Chester, VA): The Eagles turned defense into offense well during their Game 4 blowout win and Mohammed had much to with that particular notion. Being one of the primary ball-handlers, she defends her position easily, on-ball, and stripped away steals on many occasions. That effort led to many open floor layups and drawn fouls. On the offensive side, Mohammed handles the ball well to explode quickly into the lane past her defender. Once there, she can either hit the floater, dish to an open teammate, or attack hard. Outside of Saturday’s fall league, I’ve watched the guard play twice over the past few weekends in showcases and have yet to see anyone who can prevent her from using a boost for paint touches. That shot is still in the works but there’s plenty to like about how the two-way player handles her position.
David Jackson ’21 – Church Hill Academy; Boys (Richmond, VA): When it comes to second-chance plays, Jackson arguably had a better day than anyone else after showing out in Game 2 for the Phantoms. He’s a springy guy with excellent timing for put-backs; cleaning up the mess of missed shots at will. His unteachable activity translates to defense as well, where he asserts himself for rebounds and blocked shots. Jackson plays pretty undersized as a 6’4” forward but nonetheless has gifted athleticism that typically helps him get away with it. I think he could play on the wing too but just needs to hone his ball skills and shooting more. Proving himself as a threat along the perimeter should lead to the junior attracting an increase of attention. He already has the status of a near double-double threat due to his energy alone. As the game goes on, it becomes exhausting to keep him away from the ball.
Week 1’s in the books, on to the next one!