High school basketball concluded a couple of weeks ago and now this becomes the time of year when many All-Star games start taking place. This has always been great in giving players a fun/memorable way of representing their program for a final time. The annual 804 All-Star Game occurred in Henrico County, VA recently on 3/16 and about 3-4 more such games happened in different areas of Virginia during this past weekend. I decided to make the trip again toward the way of Henrico County (specifically, Hermitage High School) for an all-day event of all-star games, hosted by Coach William Carter, CEO of the ‘ASSIST Student-Athletes’ organization. Coach Carter’s held this showcase for eight years now, as five games take place with both men and women players arriving from around the state. As usual, I enjoyed time spending my Saturday in the gym; seeing both familiar and new faces on the hardwood and in the stands. Coaches also made their way into the gym for a final look at the great number of 2019 talent that has made up the region this year. It’s been a joy both getting to know and cover these seniors for the last several months!
The I-95 vs. I-64 game started Saturday off, bringing in players from the 804, 434, and 757 area codes of Virginia. In what was more of a back-and-forth affair, I-64 ultimately ran away with the win, 142 to 128.
Available 2019 Standout Prospects
*College coaches still trying to fill in spots of their 2019 recruiting class should take a look below.
Chris Gregory ’19 – Bluestone HS: The game’s MVP looked unstoppable at getting pieces of the paint, continuing to make his way to the rim any time he got his hands on the ball. Gregory has a good frame as a slasher; about 6’3” with strong shoulders that goes along nicely with his exceptional body control. He’s most consistent in transition, as he gets out to run the floor that easily gives him points. Above all, I’d say his ability to draw fouls stood out the most. He earned more trips to the free-throw line than any other player and completed attempts with a solid shooting touch. A complete focus from him led to a game-high 37 points.
AJ Baker ’19 – Peninsula Catholic HS: It always intrigues me to watch guys like Baker… ones who have that ‘herky-jerky’ style of play in their offensive arsenal. The 6’2” guard’s craftiness with the ball results in him creating notable amounts of space and he can then launch his shot off from range. He completely checks off the box as a playmaker; being able to set up himself and others at will. When off of the ball, his leaping ability also makes him a great rebounder at his position. One could note this as evident by Baker’s season average of over eight boards per night for Peninsula Catholic. He has an excellent feel for the game and serious confidence whenever he steps on the floor.
Adonis Johnson ’19 – Lee-Davis HS: Johnson’s strong inside presence had a big role in Lee-Davis’ successful 2019 season that wrapped up last month. At 6’5,” he plays as a forward who constantly attacks the glass and typically ends up with the ball off of others’ misses. His activity in that aspect stands out right away when watching him play and continues for all of a game’s 32 minutes (or however long he remains out there). Johnson’s build looks impressive already and has serious potential to become quite imposing if he finds his way into a weightlifting program at the next level. When one acknowledges that, in addition to his touch around the rim and nose for the ball, the senior becomes a big interior threat. Adding more go-to moves into his offensive game will help him develop further.
Isaiah Gilliam ’19 – Menchville HS: At 6’4,” Gilliam impressed in his two-way approach, as well as a comfort in playing both inside and out. He can use his stocky build to muscle through opponents for drives in the lane, while also able to spot up and hit jumpers when off-the-ball. His frame also plays a big part in his ball security; others can’t steal the ball from him when he lowers his shoulder for straight-line drives and/or initiating the break himself in transition. In my opinion, I felt Gilliam’s rim protection looked the best on Saturday, which makes me feel he could guard several different positions on the floor. He times up blocks perfectly and makes it tough on defenders when trying to score in the paint. That high energy on both ends should prove valuable to any team looking for a versatile wing.
Jacob Thompson ’19 – Prince George HS: Thompson plays quite similar to Gilliam as a wing who produces in different areas. However, I’d say the Prince George Royal has more of a natural feel in his facilitating skills; he’s another one who can operate as a one-man fast break and find others in the open floor. Thompson’s shooting stroke ranges out to all three levels and especially looks good from corner areas of the floor. Rebounding-wise, he has strong hands to pull down misses. This season, the Royals had a balanced roster of guards who did well scanning the floor and shooting. Also, their forwards asserted themselves on the boards and finished strong inside the paint. The addition of an all-around wing like Thompson clearly gave the group an extra spark. I saw him have big moments in late-game situations, such as his timely one-legged fade-away jumper and completed free throws to give his team a win over Hopewell High School in the ‘Tri-City Classic’ tournament (December 2018).
William Steger, Jr. ’19 – Amelia Academy: Steger Jr.’s a very shifty/quick guard who can use his handle to make his way to various spots on the floor and create his own offense when desired. His style of play gets defenders on their heels and he’s always showed a capability of going off on his own personal runs. As some already know, I refer to these type of players as ‘microwave scorers;’ they can heat up quickly. I saw this in Steger, Jr.’s game back in the preseason during Meadowbrook High School’s hosted fall league and during the regular season as well. His scoring efficiency seems to have gotten better and I really like how he’s started to embrace defense even more. He will continue to learn that, as guy who has the ball in his hands a lot, decision-making will always be key. Last week, the 5’9” combo guard landed a spot on the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III all-state first team.
Be sure to also check out my recaps on both the ‘Girls Regional and All-American Games’ and ‘Boys Regional and All-American Games’ from this past Saturday (3/23)!