Acknowledged as one of Richmond, VA’s renowned AAU grassroots organizations, it’s safe to say most know plenty about Team Loaded when it comes to talks about travel ball. The program features many different teams of age divisions and produces next-level talent on a yearly basis. On Tuesday night, I made an evening drive down to the U-Turn Sports Performance Academy facility (Henrico County, VA) for continuation of my ‘AAU open gym tour.’ The Team Loaded 804 17u group had a session taking place and I’ve actually already seen the team play twice in the past month (‘Zero Gravity Southern Showdown’ and ‘Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest’ tournaments). Head coach Will Travis has done well in gathering a talented group together that has a chance to attract more attention during these upcoming events. Like most coaches, however, he acknowledges that they can’t settle on complacency and must stick together to reach future success. It looks like the players’ minds are in the right place, considering how competitively they approached Tuesday’s practice.
Head Coach: Will Travis
Assistant Coaches: Rex Atkinson, Lamar Brooks, Jelani Lawrence
Trying to Maximize
During a conversation, I can recall Coach Travis emphasizing the coaches’ aim of helping each one of their guys reach his full potential. They personally feel more can be squeezed out of the players to perform at an ultimate level. As usual, this starts in practice, as it seems the coaching staff wants everyone to develop a reliable offensive package. Obviously, it always makes a player more deadly when he or she can go get a bucket on their own at any point. When an entire team contains this trait in each member, one can expect a plethora of buckets. Drills of ball-handling into finishes and shooting off of the bounce mainly took up the first 1/3 of the 90-minute team practice. Afterwards, competition filled up the rest of the time, with 2v2 and 3v3 play. To close out practice, the group scrimmaged against one of Team Loaded’s 16u teams for another thirty minutes. Along with offensive development, I also could notice how greatly the coaches value a competitive edge instilled within the first player to the last. That honestly shouldn’t become an issue to even worry about, in my eyes. The guys know how to go at it.
A Necessary Balance
As I analyze the makeup of Loaded 804, they look solid in holding enough players to fill up various spots on the floor. Some of these guys also can take on other positions, which always comes in handy. With 11 total guys currently on the roster, there’s about four point guards, four shooting guards, and three forwards total. I wouldn’t label any of the players as true bigs, which allows them to space out the floor and mainly compete at a fast pace 24/7. This type of play occurred last weekend during the team’s first contest against JB Hoops – Maddock 17u. Loaded 804 walked off with an eight-point victory mainly by first speeding up their opponent with pestering defense and then pushing the break on offense to physically wear out JB Hoops. They have good tools and solid roster depth, but Coach Travis noted the steady build-up of chemistry amongst all of his players will determine how successful they can truly become. It’s a common acknowledgement I’ve heard in talks with other coaches at recent tournaments/practices.
Where Else Will They Be for the Spring/Summer?
After competing in the annual ‘Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest’ last weekend (4/26 – 4/28), Loaded 804 won’t have to travel past their backyard for the next tournament: ‘Big Shots Loaded’ (5/4 – 5/5). From my understanding, the majority of Team Loaded’s teams will partake in the weekend’s showing; held at three different locations. Lee-Davis High School (Mechanicsville, VA), Hermitage High School (Henrico, VA), and the Virginia Sports Complex (Ruther Glen, VA). 16u and 17u divisions will face off at Lee-Davis. I plan on covering the action and look forward to seeing what teams bring to the gym. The rest of Loaded 804’s planned-out tournament schedule is as follows:
- May 10 – 12: ‘Zero Gravity Mother’s Day Mania’ in Richmond, VA
- May 17 – 19: ‘Hoop Group Southern Slam’ at the Boo Williams Sportsplex (Hampton, VA)
- July 6 – 7: TBD
- July 13 – 14: ‘Hoop Group Summer Fest’ at the Spooky Nook sports complex in Lancaster County, PA
Meet the Team
Jabari Atkinson ’20 – The Steward School: Coach Travis and his staff are undoubtedly relying on the 6’0” guard to take over a role as a go-to shooter whenever on the floor; something Atkinson definitely looks capable of. He has a smooth three-point shot and handles well enough to separate from other defenders for paint touches. I feel his playmaking has taken a good step forward and will be the biggest determining factor in how he separates himself from a spot-up shooter to one who can create off of the bounce. He’s still a bit too unselfish at times, but nevertheless brings great value to this team; I like everything about his calm demeanor.
Lorenz Boykin ’20 – Benedictine College Preparatory School: The 6’0” Benedictine Cadet simply knows how to put the ball in the rim with his easy way of either attacking the rim or knocking down jumpers from different areas on the court. Boykin has solid control with the ball and does well attacking for straight-line drives. His quick initial step mainly gets him past defenses and he can finish at the rim with some craftiness. Shooting-wise, he can score it by spotting up or pulling from three-point territory off of his own dribble. As Boykin continues to work on his off-hand, and possibly show facilitating skills, he should see a rise on the recruiting radar.
Dominique Finney ’19 – Life Christian Academy: One of the top unsigned seniors available in the 804, Finney continues to show his worth as a 6’6” athletic presence who can produce inside and out. His natural position’s on the wing, but I noticed the junior sacrificed to both play and guard more in post during Loaded 804’s play this past weekend. In the Saturday games I saw, Finney clearly had the best performance on the rebounding end; no one could stop him in that area. In the Tuesday practice, he showed some of that same prowess and communicates defensively at all times. His strength, knowledge of the game, versatility, and motor all make him arguably the team’s most interchangeable prospect.
Corey Harden ’20 – Varina HS: Harden has very good body length and athleticism that he seems to still be figuring out. I, along with the coaches, honestly don’t think he realizes yet how athletic he can play. I see defensive potential in the 6’2” wing, who has a wingspan and timing that can make him a frequent threat to contest shots. He had some good blocks and steals on Tuesday as well. Offensively, Harden can shoot it a bit and will continue to become more confident on the scoring end if he keeps sharpening up his handle. Getting stronger in the weight room can make him even more of an athletic presence.
Xavien Hunter ’20 – Louisa County HS: Having some shiftiness with the ball in his hands, it’s hard to contain the 5’11” Hunter, especially in a 1v1 scenario. Right now, I see him as one of the team’s most dangerous combo guards; he can create his own offense and for others at pretty much any given time. Hunter does well in getting into the lane, where he often finds the open man, stops on the dime for a midrange pull-up, or goes right at defenders for contact finishes. Once Hunter starts to heat up, demonstrated last weekend, he can go off on an offensive tear. Using the two-man game should work in his favor greatly for these upcoming matchups. Keep his name in mind for your list of 2020 guards.
Dennard Hutchinson ’20 – Hopewell HS: I guess one could say that Hutchinson’s a bit undersized at his forward position, only at 6’4,” but his physical frame and absolute toughness make up for it all. The Hopewell Blue Devil plays with some power and has looked as one of Loaded 804’s best finishers in pick-and-roll actions. Once he spots any shed of light around the paint, one can expect him to finish strongly; sometimes through two defenders at once. Hutchinson’s shot also looks smooth from the outside… making me feel he can use the two-man game not only as a roll-man, but also as a pick-and-pop guy in certain moments. Developing more comfort in his handle will make that jump from a forward to a scoring wing. I’m excited to see how he progresses this summer into his senior season at Hopewell High School (Hopewell, VA).
Christian McLeod ’20 – Life Christian Academy: In my recap of the 2019 ‘Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest’ the other day (4/30), I listed McLeod as a tournament standout and one of the most underrated guards I’ve seen in Richmond, VA this year. He’s a high school state championship winner, has a good 6’3” frame, can shoot it, plays poised, and looks more like a playmaker now. All of those traits should have an increase of members in the basketball community who recognize what he can do on the hardwood. If McLeod can completely transition into a combo guard, or even possibly a primarily lead guard, more next-level coaches should soon start taking notice of his worth. They won’t want to miss out on him, trust me.
Jaylon Travis ’20 – Varina HS: Two things I like about Travis’ game: his crafty way of getting past defenders and how he plays as a ‘head-hunter.’ The 5’11” guard has a clear chip on his shoulder and looks like the most likely player to cut out all foolishness if it starts to emerge within the team at the wrong time. He’s more of a slasher offensively, who can size up his opponents to aggressively make his way into the lane for drawn fouls and/or strong finishes. I also like his approach on the defensive side, which traces back to his competitive edge. Right now, Travis’ shooting can use some work in its consistency. He can definitely make shots, but more practice reps will lead to him developing into a greater weapon from the outside.
*Mark Carter ’19 (Louisa County HS), Rontavious Sallywhite ’20 (Archbishop Carroll HS) and Christian Teasley ’20 (Glen Allen HS) all could not make Tuesday’s practice. The 6’7” Carter brings size and a knack for securing big rebounding numbers as an athletic forward. I’m still trying to figure out the playing styles of Sallywhite and Teasley. Both should continue to contribute as 6’0” guards.
Remember, you can catch Team Loaded 804 in the ‘Big Shots Loaded’ event this weekend!