J.R. Tucker High School (Henrico, VA)
Classification: Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 5, Region B
This past 2018-19 high school hoops season on the public school side saw plenty of action throughout the Virginia High School League (VHSL) classification. In the eyes of mine and others, some of the best competition emerged out of the Class 5, Region B section, which contains 17 Richmond, VA schools. Players within that region whom I’ve talked to in the past have even taken it a step further to state that nearly every game feels like a rivalry contest; one shouldn’t ever expect any easy nights. For the upcoming winter, however, Region 5B will have a different look due to the significant amount of 2019 prospects who graduated back in the spring, as most of those players were some of the best local standouts last year. Regardless, I still don’t see any cakewalks occurring for competing programs and I’m sure the J.R. Tucker High School Tigers will agree fully. To prepare for upcoming challenges and improve off of their latest go-around, coaches, returners, and potential newcomers have all spent time together figuring out their true capabilities since the second week of September began.
What We Know
- Adam Desgain returns as the second-year commander of his alma mater. Being a 2008 graduate of the Tigers program before spending four years playing for the men’s basketball team at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, VA), it takes little time to see how greatly the 29-year old understands the game’s ins and outs. Along with the knowledge comes a contagious passion and high standards in holding each of his players accountable. With eight seniors from 2018-19 having graduated, Coach Desgain knows time can’t afford to be wasted if the team wants any chance of reaching desired goals. I have high confidence that J.R. Tucker will have no choice but to become better daily underneath his lively guidance.
- One thing I can say for sure, the team still contains a trait of speediness likewise to when I saw them last year. They hold a majority of guards/wings who can get up the court exceptionally fast while pushing the ball and also break past defenses. Watching them work on this strategy (of press breaks) during Wednesday reminded me of how well they performed in that area during the ‘Steward School Summer League’ a few months ago. Speed kills and opponents might find themselves gasping for air if J.R. Tucker uses their asset to advantage for a full 32 minutes. Still, they’ll need to learn not to play TOO fast at times, especially in transition. “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
- Based off of Wednesday, I also felt an additional strong point within the returners and other interested attendees involved how many of them can act as multi-positional. Coach Desgain acknowledged it himself later on as well, viewing the notion as a positive but also another element that will need consideration. Finding out where players fit best and how comfortably they handle their role becomes highly important once a season starts progressing. Regardless of where J.R. Tucker places their guys on the court, I’m expecting them to play hard with an intensity that spreads across the roster. Ball control must get better as a whole to make plays more effectively and not worry about unacceptable turnovers.
- For about 90-minutes, the Tigers definitely got in a productive session of court time with drills and competitive play that all held various areas of focus. Ball-handling, passing through traps, fighting against defensive pressure, and working to get downhill on dribble-drives all took place. Continuing to touch up on skills and determine what they do best can help push J.R. Tucker to greater heights as a guard-oriented team.
Who to Watch
* Obviously, with weeks left until tryouts, the roster remains unofficial. Still, several guys stood out during my visit, whom all I feel can make notable contributions if they fill a roster spot.
Kendrick Thomas ’20 – ‘KT,’ as his peers call him, dominated during my visit for the night’s best individual performance. He easily appeared as the team’s most impressive physical specimen, playing with absolute power to finish near the basket and grab rebounds. Once the 6’1” wing/forward had guys bounce off of him, I liked how well he used angles off of the glass for soft two-pointers. Shooting-wise, ‘KT’ has a bit of a flat release but nonetheless knocked down most of his attempts from distance, including a couple off of the bounce. There’s no slowing him down when he gets a full head of steam pushing towards the rim…whether fouled or not, he simply knows how to complete plays. Working on his ball-handling should happen next for him.
Roosevelt Simpson ’20 – Another veteran and one of the best performing guards during that aforementioned Steward School Summer League, the Tigers will need Simpson to bring leadership-by-example every day. He has the tools to take over a go-to-guy role in the back-court. Finishing in the lane, creating contact, hitting jumpers from all three levels, and being a one-man fast-break all have looked natural in his arsenal up to this point. Simpson probably can slide in at either guard spot but I’m sure J.R. Tucker will prefer having him score the ball. I’ve seen it happen a couple of times this past summer where he can just take over if the time’s calling his name. There’s undeniable talent present…he’ll just need to keep his focus and be a leader whom others can rely on.
Davon Harris-Young ’20 – Harris-Young is probably the biggest example of what I meant earlier by how J.R. Tucker can contain multi-positional guys. He seemed to play everywhere on Wednesday… controlling the ball, off of the ball, setting screens, you name it. His 6’3”/6’4” size and lengthy frame helps to an extent but I, personally, wouldn’t even label the senior as a certain position player right now; I’d just call him a ‘basketball player.’ Harris-Young has a good feel for getting paint touches and completing baskets as a cutter, along with making some second-chance plays. Confidence in his jump shot and proper decision-making seem to still need work, especially if the team chooses to put the ball in his hands often. In terms of versatility though, he shows value coming back to the roster.
Sean Mayo ’21 – At 6’2,” Mayo gives the team another potential piece at the two-guard spot with a decent height/frame and comfort on offense. He made plenty of buckets during 4v4 and full-court scenarios, looking like one of the night’s better shooters. I liked the form on his jumper and how he cut to get open on attempts from usually the corner sides. Aside from scoring, Mayo stood out in the way he rebounded at his position and frequently caused deflections. I felt he showed capabilities to become a top defender on J.R. Tucker’s squad; he has quick hands and long arms to get a hand on the ball quite often. To make himself a bigger two-way threat, however, the junior must continue to sharpen up his handle. I’m sure he doesn’t want to deal with worrying about defenders forcing him to always go horizontally.
Andre Morman ’21 – One of the few true stretch forwards I saw out there, Morman (6’3”) has enough body size and outside ability to play inside and out. With that being said, the team would probably require his physicality to create an inside presence more times than not, as he and Thomas both showed the best strength on Wednesday. I liked the constant rate at which he moved to become open under the rim and score through defenders. If his man lost track, Morman stepped out to make three-pointers from around the wing/lane line areas. In terms of efficiently scoring the rock, he had a great showing and displayed solid promise. I’m curious to see how the upperclassman will be utilized if he makes a roster spot.
Zach Goerger ’21 – My choice for the open gym’s ‘best shooter’ has to go to the junior sniper. After playing on the JV team last year, Goerger demonstrated great maturity in his game to get his looks without ever forcing the issue. He’s not the biggest, at only around 5’7,” but takes on challenges without hesitation and uses IQ to make right decisions. Somehow, the junior always seemed to get open on the perimeter, which led to a number of three-point baskets. The term ‘disciplined’ best describes his all-out approach. One could also note his toughness after seeing how he found ways to sneak in offensive rebounds. If he can keep enhancing his ball skills and put on muscle, it’ll help him advance further as a player.
Where You Can Find Them
- ‘Rebel Invitational,’ hosted by Douglas Freeman High School (Richmond, VA); November 2019
- ‘Henrico Holiday Hoops Invitational,’ hosted by Henrico High School (Henrico, VA); December 26 – 28, 2019
- ‘North-South Challenge’ invitational, hosted by Henrico High School; December 2019
A Word from the Head Honcho
“I think the biggest thing will be continuing to establish the culture here. It includes building off of last year to be the hardest-working team we can; playing hard for 32 minutes and getting guys to buy in to the way they play best.”
– Head coach Adam Desgain (2nd year)
To keep it short, I feel it’ll take a group effort of determination for the Tigers to reach that level of success. No, it won’t happen overnight, and no, it won’t be easy in the demanding Region 5B. Not to mention the fact that a large group of seniors made up over half of J.R. Tucker’s 2018-19 roster. Anybody could use those reasons for excuses but I don’t see Coach Desgain and his guys settling for anything less than progress. They have acceleration, energy, and edge all within the returners, who I’m sure the coaching staff will heavily count on to pave the way. If the newcomers can all fall in line, J.R. Tucker’s potential should increase higher and higher.
Do you hear the Tigers’ roaring yet?