Man, have I enjoyed covering high school hoops for the last several months. With the 2019 season officially coming to an end this weekend (3/9), I decided to put together a list of superlatives for the Richmond, VA area’s talent. Other members on the Phenom Hoops team plan to release features of their own respective regions as well; we’re titling this series, ‘Phenom’s Picks.’ Hope you enjoy the categories!
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.
Mr. Versatility – Robbie Beran ’19 (Collegiate School): The 6’9” forward produced in plenty of ways for the Cougars during his senior campaign. With his abilities to sweep low for baseline drives, pull up for jumpers, rebound, block shots, and draw fouls consistently, Beran looked like one of the most complete players in the 804. He held the role as a highly important piece on a talented Collegiate team, finishing his way to earn Co-Player of the Year honors in the Virginia Prep League conference. I’m looking forward to see big things happening from him in his upcoming tenure at Northwestern University.
Most Unstoppable – Henry Coleman ’20 (Trinity Episcopal School): Very rarely did the Titan forward miss any attempts near the rim, as opponents couldn’t find a way to match up with his imposing 6’8” frame. No other player had more of a man-child presence than Coleman, who never took any nights off in his dominant presence. He looked most unstoppable during Trinity’s three-game run in the Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament (December 2018), as he put up stat lines of 38 points/21 rebounds, 25 points/15 rebounds, and a career-high 46 points with 14 rebounds. To simply put the four-star prospect in a few words: too big and too strong. He was a walking double-double, literally, averaging over 26 points and 12 rebounds and shared Co-Player of the Year honors with Beran.
Must-See-TV Player – Joe “The Show” Bamisile ’20 (Monacan HS): Whether it was a fast break windmill dunk, crafty finish at the rim, or separation for difficult shot-making, few could make highlight plays at the same level of Bamisile. The 6’4” junior returned to Virginia (after the past season at Montverde Academy in Florida) and went completely off to lead the 804 in scoring with over 29 points a night. He made putting the ball in the basket look so easy and never hesitated to cause excitement in the crowd whenever the chance arrived. Whenever Bamisile gets into the open floor, make sure you have your phones/cameras out. One word to describe him best: ELECTRIFYING. Joe “The Show” has a pretty solid ring to the nickname.
Most Likely to Shut down an Opposing Team’s Best Player – Kendrick Robinson ’20 (Trinity Episcopal School): While Coleman mainly took care of things offensively for the Titans, Robinson had an impact just as great on the defensive side of the ball. At 6’4,” he easily took on the task of guarding top players from around the area and neutralized them every time. I don’t think a player ever got near his season average with Robinson in front of him. Many times occurred when he guarded up to all five different positions on the floor, giving all sorts of trouble to different sizes. His versatility and IQ lands him as my choice for the Defensive MVP of Richmond, VA this winter.
Most Likely to Get 5+ Steals in a Game – Teon Tiller ’19 (Thomas Jefferson HS): Players were never safe if they played loosely with the ball with the senior Viking guard lingering around. His jet-like quickness and instincts resulted in him plucking off turnover after turnover when I saw Thomas Jefferson play in the three-day ‘Tri-City Holiday Classic’ (December 2018). He averaged 20 points for the season also, standing at fifth-best in the area, but his ability to pile up the stat sheet with steals alone stood out more than anything else. He’s the type that could finish with a line of 25 points and ten steals. Seriously.
Best Starting Five – Varina HS: Returning the majority of their roster from last season, the Blue Devils finished as the area’s #1-ranked team in the regular season mainly due to their deadly starting five core. Speedy floor general Jason Nelson ’21 ran the show at the point guard spot, while 5B first team All-Region member A.J. Williams ’21 continued to show audiences why he’s considered one of the top shooters in the state. Kenard Richardson ’20 finished as the team’s third-leading scorer with his excellent ability to attack the rim, and Tyrese Jenkins ’19, Varina’s most versatile player, took home the 5B All-Region Player of the Year accolade for the second year in a row. 6’7” forward, Jordan Hernandez ’19, rounded out the starting bunch, providing reliable defense, rebounding, and strong finishes in the paint. Hernandez is the only one currently committed for college hoops (Virginia State University), while the others hold offers/interest. I feel senior athletic wing Charles Tart ’19, should get some recognition too as arguably the best sixth-man in the area.
Best Motor – Jalen Hargrove ’19 (Matoaca HS): The 6’5” forward first caught my eye back during fall leagues and his energy seemed to never diminish through the lengthy winter. Hargrove brings it 24/7 as a boost who constantly crashes the glass, finds quick ways to score, and runs the floor just as good as anyone in the area. With him on the floor, Matoaca found an easier way to play at their fast offensive tempo. His everlasting competitive mentality and all-around effort made me consider him one of the more valuable veteran prospects in Chesterfield County. He can change the entire course of a game just by showing pure hustle.
Difference Maker – Efton Reid ’21 (The Steward School): The Spartans would’ve been a very good team regardless, but the 7’0” sophomore helped them take the extra step on both ends of the floor. Reid did all asked of him by posting up/finishing strong, setting screens to roll hard, rebounding, rotating on defense, and contesting shots. He used his size to great advantage and contains one of the highest ceilings in all of Virginia. As he continues to get stronger and hone his skills, I see him making a college coach extremely happy in a few years. Steward Head coach Curt Kassab described Reid best, as a “special player and person.”
Team Player – Mack Burgett ’19 (L.C. Bird HS): While he naturally plays as a stretch-4 man, the 6’7” Burgett spent his senior season playing as a post presence for the Skyhawks with little difficulty. His unselfish demeanor and willingness to commit himself to this such role proved a big reason for L.C. Bird’s success as one of the top teams in the area. Burgett has natural skills and versatility, yet I feel his toughness had the most effect during his performances. He especially dominated after the New Year, posting nightly double-doubles throughout the month of January. Having recently committed to Anderson University (Anderson, SC) last month, the Trojans can feel satisfied knowing that a smart player and great teammate will soon arrive on campus.
‘Heart over Height’ – Zarkeil McEachin ’19 (Armstrong HS): Standing around 5’8”/5’9,” the explosive senior guard went on a tear during his final season, leading the Wildcats in scoring (17.3 points per game) and earning a spot on the 3B all-region first team. McEachin’s ability to get paint touches in attacking the rim looked pretty much unstoppable at times, as he refused to settle for passive scoring attempts. Playing as a ‘head hunter’ all season long, one could not deny him as the ‘heart and soul’ of Armstrong; a big reason why the team made it to the semifinals of the ‘Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament.’ Oh, and did I mention his ridiculous vertical leap? He gets UP with the best of them.
Most Likely to Hit 5+ Three-Pointers in a Game – Elvin Edmonds IV ’21 (Hopewell HS) and AJ Williams ’21 (Varina HS): When talking about shooting from distance, I personally feel that these two sophomore guards separate themselves from everybody else in the Richmond area. As far as ‘5+ three-pointers in a game,’ Edmonds IV actually completed this in 12 minutes of an opening half when I saw Hopewell play in the annual ‘Coaches for the Cure Classic’ (February 2019). The 6’2” guard plays as a primary ball-handler and can pull-up from anywhere on the floor. I’ve stated before how he reminds me a bit of Stephen Curry when considering his size and style of play as a guard, creating his own trey ball attempts.
Williams hunts down more of his shots while off of the ball and sets his feet quickly to release one of the best-looking forms I’ve seen all season. Similar to Edmonds IV, he can heat up quickly; an example being when he knocked down three triples in a row during Varina’s regional championship win. Williams’ confidence, range, and focus all makes him one of the area’s biggest threats whenever he steps on the floor. Both guys established a reputation dating back to their first high school seasons last year.
Best Leader – Tyler Henderson ’20 (L.C. Bird HS): One of the most impressive two-way point guards I’ve seen this season, Henderson checks off the majority of boxes that one would ask of a quintessential floor general. He smartly thinks the game and made sure that his other teammates knew where to be at all stretches during games. I consider him the anchor of L.C. Bird’s defensive execution, as he constantly sacrifices his body to make plays and communicates well. With a handful of scorers around him, such as Burgett, Jamon Battle ’19, Corbin Slayton ’19, and Lance Monteiro ’19, Henderson always set his guys up for scoring opportunities, putting them first before his own offensive looks. He can take over to fill up the scoring column if it’s ever required, but the 5’9” guard’s ability to make others better looked as his most valuable asset. L.C. Bird remains in good hands with Henderson running the show.
Best Student Section – Benedictine College Preparatory School and Trinity Episcopal School: I honestly couldn’t choose between the two rival schools. Let me put it this way… when the Benedictine team and their fans arrived to Trinity’s campus for a January evening contest, some stated that the competition between the two student sections entertained just as much, if not, more than the game itself. You can always count on a packed crowd, clever themes, hilarious chants, and endless enthusiasm whenever going to check out a home game of either the Titans or Cadets. I especially recommend checking out a rivalry game between the two. It’s worth the ticket just to see the sections go back-and-forth at each other. They take school spirit to another level.
Game of the Year – L.C. Bird HS vs. John Marshall HS (2/2/19): The night cap of the ‘Coaches for the Cure Classic’ ended as one of the most thrilling nights I’ve witnessed in a while. The L.C. Bird Skyhawks and John Marshall Justices matched up pretty well and played each other tough for all 32 minutes. Up by only 3 with less than 30 seconds left, John Marshall tried to waste some time off of the clock but L.C. Bird scored two quick transition buckets to take the lead. After a missed free throw and put back attempt, John Marshall earned another possession and Jarius Ashlock ’19 hit a clutch pull-up jumper with only two seconds on the clock to give the Justices a 55-54 lead. However, L.C. Bird found success in launching a long pass out of the in-bounds to Corbin Slayton ’19, who spun around to cash in a three-pointer as time expired. The gym went into complete pandemonium, with fans rushing the court, and the Skyhawks took home the W, 57-55. A truly unexpected finish, with clutch shooting from both Ashlock and Slayton, resulted as the best closing moments in a game I saw all season.
Who I Want to Take the Last Shot – Tyrese Jenkins ’19 (Varina HS): This guy’s been making clutch shots dating back to his junior season, when he completed two free-throws to secure Varina’s 2018 Class 5 state championship win. As I mentioned earlier, Jenkins has such great versatility in his game that it makes him able to score from various spots on the floor. If you need a final look in the post, midrange, or three-point territory, he can deliver from all three levels. During his final high school game, a loss to Maury in the Class 5 state semifinals, he erupted late in the game to score a couple of three-pointers, giving the Blue Devils one final run. He appears to have a focus at all times when on the floor, so I definitely trust him to knock down a final chance to win the game. An unsigned senior who already has next-level skills and size; Jenkins had a decorated high school career.
Look out for additional editions of ‘Phenom Picks’ from our team’s contributors!