With the 2019 high school season in Virginia ending, I must say that I’ve observed some serious talent around the Richmond area in my first year as a scout/journalist. A bunch of players can undoubtedly get a bucket on their own, as well as filling up the stat sheet in several different ways. While scoring typically always catches most of the attention, I decided to construct a list of whom I considered the top defenders in the 804 this winter. I’ve seen all of these guys play multiple times. Some may not always finish with eye-popping stats but nonetheless helped make a big impact on their team by guarding either (or both) on and off the ball.
NOTE: These selections are solely based off of my own observations this season. If a player feels cheated from being left out, please do not take it personally. I’m just going off of what I’ve seen.
1st Team 804 All-Defense:
Tyler Henderson ’20 – L.C. Bird High School (Chesterfield, VA): The Skyhawks’ lead guard always gave other ball-handlers trouble, especially when he took on the task of guarding them for the full length of the court. He never let opponents get comfortable operating in half-court sets and showed his defensive IQ even more when in help side. His way of determining when to take charges helped to arguably play the biggest role in initiating L.C. Bird’s solid defensive execution all season long. Aside from his court vision, I definitely consider Henderson’s defense as his strongest trait.
Teon Tiller ’19 – Thomas Jefferson High School (Richmond, VA): Yes, he finished the regular season in top 5 for scoring in the area (listed at fifth with over 20 points per game). Still, I honestly felt Tiller stood out on both sides of the ball fairly equally in the four games I saw Thomas Jefferson compete in. In my eyes, he picks off steals just as good as anyone on this list and in the 804. I wouldn’t call him one who ‘gambles’ a lot, but he has a strategy of pestering his opponents to a point where they lose the ball. This allowed him to quickly swoop in and take it coast-to-coast to the other end for easy finishes. I’m not sure if he ever did this, but I could see him racking up double-digit numbers for steals in one or more games. He’s that good at it.
Kendrick Robinson ’20 – Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): A new face for the Titans this season, the junior arrived and took over the role of guarding other teams’ best players with little difficulty. Standing as a 6’4”guard, Robinson can defend pretty much any position and combines his physical traits well to neutralize anyone who stumbles across his path. It seemed like he held every opposing top player to below his season average during the season. He has a solid wingspan, great lateral movement, IQ, and instincts that all makes him a pure lock-down guy who can really frustrate the competition. In my opinion, I consider him the most valuable and versatile defender within Richmond; his defense proved highly important to Trinity Episcopal winning several of their games.
Logan Washington ’20 – Life Christian Academy (Chester, VA): Probably the best shot-blocker on this list, Washington simply swats shots away better than your typical forward. He has a 6’7” frame and some of the best timing around the paint that creates an intimidating presence. I wrote during my coverage of the VISAA Division III state tournament that Washington has a feel for nearly always contesting shots, regardless of the opponent’s size. When Life Christian went up against high competition in the ‘Grind Sessions’ showcases, the junior continued his shot-blocking prowess against other players just as tall, if not, taller than him. Don’t be surprised to see him put up a triple-double of points, rebounds, and blocks next season; he has that Mutombo-esque style.
Izeah Parker ’19 – Hopewell High School (Hopewell, VA): Another guy with a knack for sending shots across the gym, the Coppin State signee had a forceful impact around the interior for his final season in Hopewell, VA. With some strong scorers on the floor, the Blue Devils relied on Parker to make an early statement in games showing that he would give the other team a long night if they tried to score close near the rim. Parker looked at his best causing opponents trouble in the ‘Lawson Classic’ (January 2019) and during Hopewell’s appearance in Team Loaded AAU’s ‘Coaches for the Cure’ showcase (February 2019). Similar to Washington, he can contest shots at a high rate and also used his quick feet to contain players on the perimeter. When he really started to feel it, he didn’t allow ANYTHING in the paint for good stretches. The Eagles of Coppin State have a player with good upside arriving to the Baltimore campus this upcoming fall.
2nd Team 804 All-Defense:
Mohammed Mahadi ’20 – Thomas Jefferson High School (Richmond, VA): Acting as the back court mate of Tiller this season, Mahadi played in a vastly similar style, using his speed/aggressiveness to cause turnovers and convert defense into offense. Using his great athleticism, the 5’10” junior could also leap up to contest shots at the rim, mainly in transition. I remember him ending up with one of the best blocks of the ‘Lawson Classic’ when he timed one perfectly on the break, getting his head up at the backboard. His defensive feel for the game suited nicely with Tiller’s, which resulted in the duo having my pick as the area’s best on that side of the ball. The Vikings will once again rely on Mahadi’s impact next season, possibly even more, as a senior veteran. I have no doubt that he’ll continue to deliver.
Michael Lomax ’19 – Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA): A major competitor, Lomax gave others a handful of grief with his relentless style of play, a bit likewise to Patrick Beverly’s of the Los Angeles Clippers. Trinity’s senior two-guard showed no sympathy in using any advantage he could to take away an opposing team’s possession. He was another one who could collect steals frequently; I remember him totaling five of his own in a January conference win over St. Christopher’s School (Richmond, VA). I really liked his ‘dog’ mentality; something that coaches can’t really teach. Lomax had that trait in him since day one and took pride in it for the entirety of his career. He struggled with unnecessary fouling at times but everything else about Lomax’s defensive spark proved valuable in the Titans’ third consecutive run to the Prep League title.
Johnny Soto ’20 – Prince George High School (Prince George, VA): As Price George’s lead guard, Soto spent time between orchestrating the offense and usually matching up against a team’s other top option in the back court. He thinks the game smartly on both ends of the floor and seemed to know his opponents’ tendencies as soon as games tipped off. Acknowledging him as a student of the game, it wouldn’t surprise me if he studied these such tendencies on film. Soto did well off the ball, usually one or so pass away, in denying passes and jumping penetration gaps to stop drives. He played his matchups tightly and communicated well as the anchor of his team’s defensive attack. The Royals should have great confidence in him returning to the roster next winter.
James Wallace III ’20 – Lee-Davis High School (Mechanicsville, VA): The bouncy 6’2” scoring guard had a breakout season for Lee-Davis, using his athleticism to make plays on both sides of the ball. Wallace III used his first-step exceptionally well in pass perception, eyeing when to pick off steals or deflections. Whenever a 50-50 ball occurred, one could pretty much always count on the junior to end up winning the outcome. He has a great feel for all areas on the floor and, similar to Robinson, uses his physical gifts to make a lasting impact on the defensive end. He can decrease the gambling a little bit, but one cannot deny his ability to affect another team’s confidence by singlehandedly racking up their total turnovers. He and classmate Elijah Jones ’20 create another noteworthy defensive duo in the area.
Efton Reid ’21 – The Steward School (Richmond, VA): Well, obviously the 7’0” big fella creates his impression on defense as soon as he enters the gym. One knows it’ll never be easy scoring against a guy in the paint with that size. Nevertheless, Reid has a solid motor and activity with his rim protection. He contests shots, sometimes with both hands, and does very well moving in help side to cut off baseline drives. His defensive rebounding looked just as good as any other big man in the area, as he rarely ever allowed opponents to gain second-chance opportunities. The stronger Reid grows into his body, the more and more I see him developing into a highly valuable two-way threat. He already has a disciplined focus and natural feel for protecting the rim.
Great job all season long, fellas. I expect the returners on this list to keep up the work going into next season. Also, be on the lookout for my other postseason piece, ‘Phenom’s Picks: 804 Edition,’ releasing soon!