On Saturday, Phenom Hoops traveled to Clayton, NC to watch the Johnston County Elite Youth Basketball League All Star Game. League Director, Brandon Sanders, has done an incredible job of providing a platform for the youth in Johnston County and the surrounding areas to play the game they love. In just it’s first year, the league was an incredible success.
Typically when watching an all-star game, players will go through the motions, play little defense, and try to make the flashy play to wow the crowd. But not here. The beauty of this game was the kids were out there competing like it’s the NBA Finals. The only thing on their mind was having fun and winning the game. It brought back memories to when things were all more simple as a child playing the most amazing game in the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from the middle school divisions:
Curtis Morris Jr. 2025 (Norwayne Middle School)
Morris stood out during the 14-under all-star game. He was long, active, and athletic. He played with a high motor and competed on both ends of the floor. On the defensive end, he blocked several shots. He also moved his feet well and forced opponents to shoot over his length, forcing tough contested shots. On the offensive end, he excelled getting out in transition and finishing at the rim. In addition, he also showcased his range with the ability to knock down the catch and shoot three-point shot.
Garrett Lane 2025 (Princeton Middle School)
Although one of the smaller guys on the court, Lane made an impression with his ability to shoot the basketball. Before the game, Brandon Sanders told me he had multiple games during the regular season in which Lane knocked down eight to nine three-pointers in a single game. And to start this all-star game, Lane didn’t hesitate to make his presence felt. He drilled four threes in the first five minutes. He finished with seven made three-pointers for the ball game. Lane does a good job of utilizing his quickness to create separation to get his shot off over longer defenders. Plus, he has range to shoot it from deep.
Camden Tyler 2026 (Princeton Middle School)
Camden Tyler did a great job of facilitating at the point guard position. Traditionally speaking, in all-star games, players have the tendency to want to go “get theirs.” But Tyler helped get everyone involved and set the tone with his passing ability. He had really good vision and played with his head up. In addition, on the defensive end, he was a tough defender who worked hard to stay in front of his man.
Amayah Barnes 2027 (Selma Middle School)
Amayah Barnes was spectacular! She is skilled beyond her years. Not only that, she is tough. On the defensive end, she is extremely active. When guarding the ball, she pressures the ball handlers and makes it difficult for them to initiate the offense. Off of the ball in the gaps, she is active and anticipates the passing lanes well for steals. On the offensive end, she showcases her skill level and ability to make plays for herself and for others. Her footwork is something that you often times don’t see from players her age. She has a nice jab step that sets up her drives. She has a quick first step and is able to beat defenders and get into the lane. Once she gets into the lane, she has a knack for drawing fouls and getting to the foul line where she knocked them down at a high rate. With the ball in her hands, Barnes changes pace well. In addition, she look comfortable shooting from three and getting to the midrange. She is definitely one to keep an eye on for years to come!
Geren Holmes 2026 (Cleveland Middle School)
Geren Holmes showcased his ability to score the ball and finish in a variety of ways. For a young player, he had effortless range. He was able to knock down three-pointers with deep range and consistency. In addition, he had a good handle in tight space. There were times when he would get into the paint, and seem to be trapped or pressured, but he was able to put the ball behind his back in order to avoid the defense. At the end of drives, he would finish strong through the contact. In addition to his scoring ability, he was a willing passer and found teammates at the end of drives in drive and kick situations.
Jayden Gray 2026 (Riverwood Middle School)
If there was a Mr. Hustle Award to be given out, Jayden Gray would have without doubt been the winner. He played so hard. His competitiveness and unselfishness made a huge impression. On the defensive end, he was everywhere. He pressured the ball. He came up with steals. He blocked countless shots. One of which, the opposing team seemed to have an easy transition layup, but Gray hustled back for the chase-down block. On the offensive end, he did a really good job of getting into the paint and finishing in a variety of ways, whether it was floaters, reverse layups, or finishing strong through contact. In addition, he was the ultimate team-first guy. He looked up the court and found the open teammate. He communicated and encouraged others. He is the type of kid coaches want on their team.
Trey Atkinson 2026 (Swift Creek Middle School)
Trey Atkinson made an impression with his ability to pass the ball. He did a great job of getting his teammates involved very early in the game. His most impressive play of the game was a pocket pass he threw to the screener out of the pick and roll for the layup. He read the defense perfectly and hit his teammate in stride for the layup. In addition to his passing ability, he has a smooth shooting stroke with range. He knocked down multiple shots from long range.