Coming off of a weekend spent in Northern Virginia, I returned back to my familiar territory in Richmond, VA for the ongoing summer league hosted by The Steward School. This also happened to be the league’s final week before playoffs begin. Similar to last Wednesday during my arrival, several teams displayed great team play and two-way effort, which led to a couple of blowout wins ultimately. It’s been satisfying to see how seriously most players approach this play in the summer offseason. They could easily take the route of easing up and viewing it all as nothing too important, yet I’ve noticed an opposite approach when considering how hard-nosed these guys keep on competing. There’s no telling how things will unfold once playoff action starts up next week. That’s when it becomes a little more personal. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like bragging rights?
Wednesday Night’s Standouts
Erik Prosise ’21 – Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): I’ve seen the Titan heat up a couple of times in the past but last night showed he can take it to an entirely new level. Prosise EXPLODED for the best scoring performance throughout Wednesday evening that I’ve witnessed. Stats weren’t taken…but he had to end with close to, if not more than, 30 points against James River High School (Midlothian, VA). The shooting guard started the offense for TES early on with some nice takes to the rim and then connected for three-pointers all over the floor during the game’s progression. Finishing with craftiness especially looked improved from the junior, as he spent last season playing mostly as a spot-up shooter. Bringing the ball up the court for his team primarily, I can still sense Prosise functions most comfortably as a scorer but his stock should see a big rise if he adds in more playmaking skills to his game. Accomplishing that and becoming more consistent in his performances could lead to him emerging as one of the Virginia Prep League’s premier guards. There’s still a lot of room for growth but man, did he put on a show last night. The epitome of ‘feeling it.’
CJ Weber ’20 – James River HS (Midlothian, VA): A notable sniper in Region 6B last season as a second-team all-region pick, Weber brought that same shooting prowess to the gym in trying the hardest to lead his team against Lee-Davis High School (Mechanicsville, VA). While the James River Rapids struggled against Lee-Davis’ defense and suffered a 62-49 loss, I still saw some good things out of their 6’0” veteran guard. Aside from how well he shoots the rock, Weber contains an exceptionally strong frame that helps him muscle through opponents if they close out too aggressively in attempting to deny those three-point attempts. He can improve his finishing a bit more but nonetheless gets to the rim without much trouble. His handle also is very sneaky; having a quickness that gives him reliable shot-creating skills. Whenever a shooter has the accessories to get looks on their own, it makes a world of difference. Weber finished off a strong July of travel ball following this past weekend, with Virginia Premier 17u.
Kendrick Robinson ’20 – Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): Talking in terms of productivity, I didn’t see any player stand out in multiple areas likewise to Robinson’s night performance. The athletic 6’4” guard did it all for TES in that aforementioned back-and-forth game versus Monacan. He more than likely had double-digit rebounding numbers, snatched away steals, poured in some assists, and played with some of the most energy for the Titans, especially in the first half. He’s versatile in many ways but seems to do best when having the ball in his hands in the open floor. There, he typically makes unselfish decisions to find the open man or can take it straight to the rim. Robinson’s defense continues to set him apart from the rest, however, as he earned my personal choice as Richmond’s top overall defender last season. The senior takes on any opponent without hesitation and knows how to neutralize them to a great effect. One main thing he must start showing more of is a willingness to shoot from the perimeter. His pass-first mentality gets in the way of that a bit too much at times.
Isaiah Simmons ’21 – The Steward School (Richmond, VA): He had a good sophomore campaign last season, of course, but Simmons looks ready to take over as one of the 804’s noteworthy 2021 names. Playing at the lead guard spot, he holds more of a scoring demeanor and has the ball on a string. Finishing in transition looked like his biggest strength in Steward’s opening game of the evening, an easy 66-42 win over Benedictine College Preparatory School (Richmond, VA). The 5’9” guard completed several difficult layups and also made shots from different levels. Two major improvements I’ve noticed in him are his physical build and lateral quickness. That latter notion appeared evident in how well he cut off Benedictine’s guards’ drives to the rim from the wing and baseline. Those summer workouts have clearly paid off to make him more of an athletic presence. Simmons wrapped up another successful summer playing for the Team Loaded VA 16u squad; a group whose core finished as one of the country’s best within their age division last summer in 2018.
Malcolm Bridges ’20 – Benedictine College Preparatory School (Richmond, VA): I liked how energetically Bridges played the game in Benedictine’s 5:30 p.m. slot versus Steward. Even after the team’s slow shooting start, his confidence never wavered and he started to gain the most momentum offensively as the contest went along. At 6’0,” he has a solid scoring feel, which all starts with his mindset. Running the floor hard to get open got him easy looks; I viewed him as the type of guy who can effectively get his opponents tired by outworking them. It’s a strong trait to have and doesn’t require any pure skill; just effort. Bridges didn’t look fantastic in any particular category but he nevertheless does several things well and has a motor that his peers should look to emulate into their own games. If he keeps building up his frame in the weight room and improves his offensive efficiency, greater opportunities to compete at the next level should come flowing his way.
Johnny Kebede ’20 – The Steward School (Richmond, VA): The 5’10” Kebede has honestly looked impressive throughout the last few weeks I’ve been covering this summer league, as he’s shown a game quite similar to his teammate, Simmons. Last night once again demonstrated how well he can create for his own off of the bounce; arguably the team’s best at doing so. He has good strength as a scoring guard to cause contact and REALLY plays well going downhill. I feel like I never see him go ‘east to west’ with his dribble…it’s always in a straight-line. Benedictine’ perimeter defenders had a tough time in the second half keeping Kebede out of the lane due to his change of pace. Steward turns into a very exciting team to watch when they play at a fast tempo and the senior guard fits into that style completely. He’s a ‘microwave guy’ who can really turn it up and always has a calm expression on his face. I’m still trying to figure out more about his status but, right now, I’m definitely classifying him as one coaches should have on their 2020 radar, based off of his stellar summer league play.
Playoff time will get here next week! I’m hoping to swing by on Wednesday once again.