Tryouts won’t take place for another few months but Virginia high school basketball events nonetheless will continue to happen throughout the closing weeks of this summer heading into the fall. ‘Back-to-school’ showcases, fall leagues, and camps are a few of the main activities to watch out for, as different parts of the state vary in when and where these showings will take place. Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA) headlined this past weekend with an annual occurrence: their men’s basketball program’s hosted team camp. Up to 30 different programs, mainly local ones, arrived to the campus… Bertie High School (Bertie County, NC) showed up as the only out-of-state school. Me being more of the Richmond, VA guy for Phenom Hoop Report, I had the chance to swing by on Saturday and enjoyed catching up with the legendary Frank Bennett (aka Coach Frank); a co-worker who’s covered the Tidewater area within Virginia for years. Coach Frank knows all about the 757 scene and I gained a first impression that the region does indeed hold talented prospects with next-level potential. As expected in the summertime, teams aren’t anywhere near their true form and more work will obviously still need to persist up until the winter. With that being said, guys definitely played hard during the day and I left the gym with a couple of names in mind whom audiences should look out for once November hits.
Saturday’s Six Standouts
Bryson Horsford ’21 – Wakefield HS (Arlington, VA): Playing in one of Saturday’s opening morning games, the young Horsford stood out as a highly important piece for the Wakefield Warriors in a few areas. The combo guard has great shooting range and can fill up the scoring column at a high rate once he starts feeling it. I deemed him as a threat from different levels of the floor but especially beyond the three-point line; Coach Frank explained how Horsford totaled seven triples in an AAU game at one point this past spring for Team Pro Look 16u. His shooting prowess indeed proves inevitable but he plays with an unselfish type of approach also. Balanced decision making is what truly makes me feel Horsford can produce at either guard spot. He showed knowledge of how to quickly get his other guys involved when the opportunities happen. The talent and IQ rests firmly; the next focus for Horsford should be staying dedicated to the weight room. It’ll make his presence that much tougher for defenders to contain.
Jordan Battle ’20 – Norfolk Collegiate School (Norfolk, VA): A recognizable face in the area on Saturday, the 6’1” Battle just might have the most gifted talent on this list. He’s entering his senior campaign after posting one of the more noteworthy individual seasons in the 757 last year, as he led South Hampton Roads, both public and private schools, in scoring (29.7 points) as a junior. He’s become even stronger since then and simply can bulldoze his way through anybody who dares to try and stop him. Battle’s combination of power, finesse, and touch all makes him a deadly force with the rock. The guard draws fouls consistently and completes plays even while off balance at times. Outside of just scoring and putting up other numbers (9.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 2018-19), one should know that Battle draws attention by taking pride in the little things. It’s not all that common to see a star player dive on the floor for loose balls, take charges, and act as the most vocal prospect on the court. Those intangibles separate the leader from the rest of the pack, in my opinion. He’s must-see TV, without question.
AJ Williams ’21 – Varina HS (Henrico, VA): Returning as potentially the sole starter from last year’s varsity group, I’m sure that now even more eyes will center on the junior Blue Devil. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep reiterating it until proven otherwise: Williams can shoot it just as well as any guard in the 804. He’s always functioned nicely as a spot-up guy but now looks more deadly in creating it off of the bounce. It’s easy to see progress made in his ball-handling, footwork, and quickness. Williams lives in the gym daily, however, so, I guess it’s not too much of a surprise. He’ll more than likely draw attention from opponents by being such a good scorer, which leads to his playmaking ability playing a bigger importance now. When defenses focused on him, I saw the guard attempting the right play in dishing to his open teammates. Sometimes miscommunication led to turnovers at different times but Williams clearly has a capability to emerge as Varina’s best with the ball. He’ll have a young core around him that will require veteran leadership.
Kuron Coleman ’21 – Woodside HS (Newport News, VA): Coleman’s another one who appeared as though he’s been working to make strides in his arsenal throughout this summer. Mainly known as a shooting threat for the Woodside Wolverines in the past, I watched him play more aggressively as a slasher towards the rim during Saturday’s morning contest against King’s Fork High School (Suffolk, VA). He gained a good deal of paint touches, probably more than any of his teammates. This led to a few attempts at the charity stripe as a result. Still, Coleman’s three-point shooting ability hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s more satisfying to now watch him compete with greater versatility on offense. That lengthy wingspan of his helps to a notable extent; Coleman has the tools to develop into a very solid two-way threat quite soon. The more he keeps enhancing his ball-handling and shot-creating skills, the higher chance he has of improving his stock. I’m sure Woodside’s expecting even bigger things out of him as an upperclassman now.
Ihsan Duncan ’22 – Hampton HS (Hampton, VA): Duncan’s game has some similarity to Battle’s in how the sophomore uses his physicality to its greatest advantage. He has strong shoulders and a hard-nosed competitive mentality once stepping out onto the floor. I could see him become hungrier to win in Hampton’s first Saturday morning matchup against Wakefield. The Crabbers would end up falling just a bit short in their comeback effort but Duncan caught my eyes in how well he performed down the stretch. The 6’2” wing completed play after play down on the scoring end while showing his physical tools makes him a worthy defender as well. If ball-handlers expose the rock with Duncan standing right in front of them, he can use his strong hands to forcefully snatch it away and be off to the races towards the other end. He works nicely in transition for finishes, whether the ball’s in his hands to start or not. Duncan can make shots right now but, if he begins to display more reliable shooting, it should help him become an even bigger target in the 757’s 2022 class.
Alphonzo Billups ’22 – Varina HS (Henrico, VA): Another 2022 prospect, I personally feel Billups may emerge as ‘the next one’ in Henrico County. He can do a LOT on the court already at a young age: shoot, finish above the rim, rebound, facilitate, and definitely block shots. The latter stood out arguably the best during his play on Saturday. I didn’t see any other wing player swat away shots both on the perimeter and near the basket like Billups. His 6’4” height and long arms prove a big reason for that particular success. After showing good promise last season as a freshman on Varina’s veteran-heavy roster, Billups has one of the best chances to break out on the scene within Region 5B this winter. He brings value and versatility for the Blue Devils; one of those guys who doesn’t perform excellently at just one specific skill but indeed does many things well. It’s typically always beneficial to have those such players on a roster. Oh, not to mention the fact that Billups can play up to 3-4 different positions too.
Thank you again to the Old Dominion program for their hospitality this weekend! The summer is wrapping up quite nicely…