After checking out some scrimmages over at The Steward School that morning, I made my way to Old Brook Road for a three-team matchup between John Marshall High School, Trinity Episcopal School, and Phoebus High School. One would've thought a regular-season rivalry game was taking place considering how packed the gym became. I got a chance to see John Marshall and TES in game time action for a second time, after watching both teams compete during the 'Blue Ridge Fall Shootout' last month. I honestly had not come across the Phoebus program up until this point. The afternoon quickly turned into an exciting one, highlighted by tightly-played quarters, ferocious dunks, and a competitive intensity within all three teams. It felt anything but that of a few ordinary scrimmages.


Team Takeaways


  • John Marshall had their home crowd buzzing from the start in their relentlessness to try and take away the will of other teams right after tip-off. While live tweeting during their matchups, I threw it out there how they can REALLY seize momentum at times and become nearly unstoppable. The Justices have that hunger' you can tell immediately once they take over the gym. To consistently play their best ball, they'll need to collectively stay focused throughout the course of a game. This can improve by not letting referee calls get to their head. With 6'10' sophomore standout, Roosevelt Wheeler, currently sidelined with an injury, the group has an active roster entirely filled with guards and wings. Relying on their speed and fortitude will show some of the most importance for John Marshall to make a successful run again in the 804. Flashes of some stifling team defense, along with the players' ability to create their own shot and get to the rim, stood out again; something I noticed when first seeing the program perform last month.
  • TES had a bit of a slow start but started to play more effective once their guys found better spacing on the court and made more simple decisions. The Titans looked best when playing confident team ball. Playing stagnant hurt them some of the most; they look better and more comfortable when the ball's moving. Obviously, with some new players on the roster, it'll take some time before their feel for each other's tendencies becomes unconcerned. They have a nice blend of athleticism, size, and shooting capabilities to make them successful in both transition and half-court offense. Most of the time, they looked to force passes way too much, especially in transition. This is what I mean by they're more effective in making the simple play. If they continue to improve on the aforementioned areas and rebound better, they will have higher chances in reaching their fullest potential.
  • Making the trip from Hampton, VA, Phoebus arrived to the gym with an evident focus as a whole. As an outsider to the area, maybe they came in with the goal of making a name for themselves on the day. Regardless of the reason, I especially liked the composure of the team; the coaches constantly gave instructions that could help put the players in better positions to win and the young ones responded. The Phantoms had some of the most clutch plays of the day as they made big shots during very late stretches in close quarters. They sometimes appeared unsure of what actions to do on offense, if no structured sets took place. With certain lineups, I think they can benefit well from a flex offense at times. Defensively, the intensity lapsed at times but really appeared impactful once all five players made the effort to play their hardest. I see the program making some noise this year down in the 757.



Standouts from the Afternoon


Khyree Temple '19 ' Phoebus HS: I had heard some good things about the bouncy 6'6' wing prior to Saturday and man, did he deliver. Temple arguably did the best at attacking the basket at will; I didn't see anybody step in and stop him from getting a piece of the paint. Scoring-wise, he reminded me of Ben Simmons in a way; a lefty who can really drive right. Once he got in the lane, nothing could stop him from trying to tear the rim down. Without doubt, he'll be counted on as one of Phoebus' top scoring options but must start showing a willingness to shoot jumpers, as opposing teams at the next level won't allow him to make his way toward the rim whenever he wants. Several D1 programs have offered and I see Temple's stock rising even more as this winter goes on. One of the more athletic wings I've seen thus far.


Henry Coleman '20 ' TES: It seems that, no matter where Coleman goes, he'll always stand as a man amongst boys. The 6'8' high-major prospect looks stronger and stronger every time I come across him in the gym and now has seemed to relish taking over as one of the Titans' go-to guys. His versatility and command on the floor makes him a constant, imposing threat. With the ball in his hands, he's started to show more and more comfort since the preseason. When Coleman runs the floor at his best effort, nothing can really stop him from completing plays if his guards dish the ball to him. Defensively, he's also shown more of a readiness to guard multiple positions. I noticed him taking on the role to guard the other team's best scorer, or whoever was on a hot streak, at times. I don't see many who can individually stop him in the Prep League this season. Too skilled and strong.


Levar Allen '19 ' John Marshall HS: The 6'0' lead guard left me impressed after I first saw him on the floor last month and showed the same capabilities this past weekend. Allen has that DOG in him. No matter who he goes up against, one can assure the stocky senior is out to show no mercy. He had a stretch during Saturday that saw him score 11 points in a row. I feel his handle, quick first-step, and finishing with either hand helps him the most in the half-court. However, his three-level shooting also keeps defenders honest and makes his game that much more unpredictable. Allen's ability to attack the rim in either direction led to a handful of blocking fouls called. When he's at the FT line, it's pretty much automatic. Defensively, he has quick hands to gather steals and should look to embrace the role of a vocal leader for the Justices. Definitely worthy of buying a ticket to go watch play.


Adrian Payton '19 ' Phoebus HS: One of the few forwards and overall tallest player for the Phantoms, Payton had a great impact as an inside force. At 6'7,' he looks to crash the glass on every possible attempt and can space out to hit close jumpers. Payton didn't take many outside shots but indeed knocked down a couple; I could see him becoming a steady pick-and-pop forward if he continues to show that same type of shot-making. With a notable wingspan and solid frame, he finished well around the rim and never played in a hurry. Sometimes he tends to play a bit too unselfish and honestly could look to dominate more near the rim; he showed flashes of this at times late in the afternoon. Defensively, I don't question his effort but he can be more vocal on the floor in calling out assignments. A big senior season from him should soon come into play in the Hampton area.


Burke Smith '20 ' TES: The Titans' 6'11' junior forward continues to improve by the day in playing with more assertiveness. His length allows him to change shot attempts pretty much every single time he's on the defensive end and he goes up to secure the ball with both hands before anyone else has a chance. He became an intimidator with his shot-blocking ability early into matchups and made some pretty impressive hustle plays as well. Offensively, his outside shot still looks smooth and Smith has started to make his way into more of an interior presence. When he gets the ball in the paint, especially off of an offensive rebound, he'll put himself in a better situation if he takes his time on put backs; no need to rush those scoring looks. Smith's long strides in running the floor should also play a pretty underrated key to his team's success, as I'm sure he'll come across other slower post players. When him and Coleman decide to completely take over, they become one of the better front court duos in the region.


Elijah Seward '20 ' John Marshall HS: Seward had one of, if not, the best shooting days out of anybody else on his home floor. A lefty, the 6'0' combo guard elevates high on his shot and doesn't need much space to knock it down. His vertical leap also aids in him making contributions on the rebounding end, especially on the offensive side. Seward has that offensive package in his game that causes crowd excitement when acknowledging how he can create for his own looks and won't hesitate to make defenders look silly if the opportunity presents itself. Amongst the Justices' talent-filled roster, I think Seward will become the biggest spark plug in how he's a 'microwave player': when he gets hot, he stays hot. Defensively, Seward's athleticism and instincts can potentially translate into him becoming John Marshall's top defender for the next two seasons. Steady improvement of his off-hand should keep taking place moving forward.






The gym was LIT on Saturday! Just a snippet of these upcoming games'