I guess one could say the incoming latter part of this week, heading into the weekend, is going to indeed be a big one for the travel basketball scene. One of the final ‘live periods’ will take place in events scattered all over the country. This opens up major opportunities to show off promise in front of college programs; our own Phenom Hoops team will hold the 2019 edition of the ‘Summer Havoc’ in Fort Mill, SC. Outside of the action happening in the northern town within South Carolina, I’ve taken note of other events holding locations of Alabama, Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, and more. As expected, a large portion of players attending these live period tournaments may feel some pressure of making the most out of their chance to draw next-level attention. While it may sound cliché, I simply advise all the participating hoopers to take a breath and approach it like any other day(s) spent in the gym. The more one focuses on naturally playing the game, not getting caught up in the extra stuff, the greater chance he or she has to please a college coach. My guy, Malachi Poindexter ’20, has shown an understanding of what I mean and he’ll spend tomorrow (7/11) through Sunday (7/14) competing with Virginia Elite 17u in Atlanta, GA for the Under Armour Association (UAA) Session IV/Finals.
So, I’ve obviously met a ton of different high school players ever since starting my work as a scout last fall. Poindexter, however, has actually been one of the few prospects that I first got to know quite a while ago; dating back to his early middle school years. He’s grown to around 6’3” now, but has always held that trait of scoring the ball with solid ease as a shooting guard. That prowess led to him becoming a notable name on the court after enrolling in Louisa County High School (Louisa County, VA) at the beginning of his career, but problems with a knee injury subsequently left Poindexter watching from the sidelines for the majority of the 2017-18 season. Not long after that year had concluded, the guard made the decision to spend a final two years at St. Anne’s Belfield School (Charlottesville, VA), which many commonly refer to as ‘STAB.’ In the case with any new environment, Poindexter acknowledged that the move came with some acclimation but also great reward.
“My first year (at STAB) was a very good experience,” Poindexter stated. “It was different coming from public school and took a while to adjust; the amount of work I had to do was a lot compared to my time at Louisa. But, other than that, everything else went pretty well. They have great social conditions at STAB and the academics are one of a kind. It’s all definitely going to help us out for college because time management is big at our school. We have free time during the day but the staff gives you that option just so you can use that time smartly. It’s easy to get off task and not use your free time in the way you’re supposed to.”
The junior’s first season in the Charlottesville program went relatively well, as he averaged 9.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing. Being a newcomer to the Virginia Prep League (VPL) also provided Poindexter with a strong taste of how private school hoops functions around the state. Going up against several challenging opponents, STAB finished with an overall record of 17-11. Their most impressive moment arguably arrived during postseason play, as the Saints went on to make a VPL championship appearance against Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA). While the win resulted on the opposite side, that exceptional playoff run still gave Poindexter high confidence of what possibly lies ahead for this 2019-20 season set to tip off in a few months.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good in the conference next season. We lost that championship to a good school last year, Trinity; can’t take anything away from them. Still, I feel we’ll be in that same position, or at least really close to it, once the time gets here. I’m probably most excited about the young big men that we have returning. Carter Lang ’23, for example, has gotten a lot better. He’s a player that should help us feed off of his energy and also give the team easy buckets in the post. It may also help spread the offense out.”
Yep, I’ve deemed the 6’6” Lang as one to definitely watch out for in Virginia’s 2023 class; he showed good capabilities as an eighth-grader last season. Other guys coming back into mix, such as team captain Nick Reese ’20 and sharpshooter Justin Taylor ’22, will result in the Saints having some of the most experience of any other conference team once winter arrives. Year in and year out, that aspect always proves conducive to success, regardless of the sport. Outside of purely just the players, STAB also has an important piece making his way back to the sidelines in the form of head varsity coach Damin Altizer. I can recall when I first started taking notice of his business that centers on skills training; titled ‘DR1VEN Training.’ His ongoing gig has clearly garnered nationwide attention for years now, as Altizer and his team members have brought in clients from all sorts of levels. Regardless, coaching appeared right up Altizer’s alley as well this past school year and the first-year head coach went on to collect the VPL Coach of the Year accolade following the team’s conference tournament run.
“The thing that must people don’t know about Coach Altizer is that he does much more than just train. When it comes down to the X’s and O’s, he’s honestly one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had. He knew what plays to run in certain situations, how to get guys open, and how to make us comfortable in our spots. Having him as a coach and trainer all in one made things very competitive in practice. It just led to the entire team becoming better as a whole.”
Back to a focus on Poindexter. When STAB participated in Session I of the ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’ last month, the group already showed comfort in executing team play and their rising senior put on some eye-catching performances. After exploding for an offensive outpouring on the showcase’s opening night, I remember highlighting improved playmaking skills by Poindexter and listed him as a Day 1 Standout. He dictated the pick-and-roll in a more comfortable fashion than I’ve ever seen from him. His shooting from all three levels continues to stand out and he can put it on the floor to muscle his way for drawn contact. After going on a second-half tear in that same contest, Poindexter helped lead STAB over the host team, Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA), 70-67. Continuing that stellar production all weekend led to a prized possession secured by the guard; his first Division I scholarship offer. Manhattan College (The Bronx, NY) extended an offer on June 24th.
“It was definitely a blessing but, the way I look at it, I still need to keep playing as hard as I can even after picking up that offer. Interest-wise, there’s been plenty from the East to the Midwest but two main schools right now for me are Alabama A&M and Vanderbilt. I’m just going to try to get as many looks possible. It doesn’t stop here.”
As I mentioned above, this stop in Atlanta for the rest of the week should suit Poindexter, his Virginia Elite 17u teammates, and any other prospects well, as I’m sure they all share the same goal of attaining more college interest/offers. I’m predicting a great number of next-level coaches to be in attendance for the week’s UAA Session; thus opportunity shouldn’t emerge as an issue in the least bit.
“We’re looking forward to playing in Atlanta; hopefully we’ll have some scouts looking at all of our players on the team. Going down there, I think everyone on the team has the same mindset of trying to pick up more wins. A couple of guys might be a little more nervous or anxious because of the whole situation about getting offers…that’s one of the main things AAU is all about; receiving exposure. Every player wants to get that scholarship, of course, but we’re making sure to not let any of that get in the way of our own game plan. We’re all going to work together as a team.”
Those words alone express a lot about Poindexter’s maturity; not every teenager can recognize how to handle things properly when surrounded by much to earn. The next five days will round out his final week and season of travel ball but one honestly shouldn’t feel surprised to catch him taking an extra step to build upon his game even more for the rest of the summer going into the opening semester of school. Poindexter’s a workaholic…whether it’s doing actual court work or not, he’s always attempting to find some possible way in making daily strides as an athlete.
“I think basketball’s a game in which there’s always room for improvement in pretty much anything. You don’t ever just show 100% perfection in any category. Like, right now, I feel I can shoot and handle the ball pretty well but I’m still working to get those areas stronger. If I’m not playing basketball, I’m usually working out for basketball. I’ll wake up in the morning and run a couple of miles or go to a personal strength/conditioning coach to lift some weights. It’s just a natural, daily thing for me.”
Like the shirt says, “basketball never stops.” With Poindexter’s complete focus and growing comfort as a deadly option for STAB, I personally could see him breaking out as one of the VPL’s top scoring guards as a senior. He and Reese landed VPL All-Tournament Team honors back in February, right after both had strong performances in that championship game versus Trinity Episcopal. Obviously, it’s very early to start pondering about what may all possibly happen in the upcoming high school season, but the Saints’ promise has me completely intrigued. As usual, it always starts with that senior group of leaders.
Oh yeah, by the way, where does Malachi Poindexter see himself in ten years?
“If I could look ten years into the future…well, my main goal is to leave college with a degree in Radiology. I want to have two tracks; the first one involves playing professionally overseas in a country like Europe or something. But, if that doesn’t work out, I’d want to be a radiology technician.”
Good luck to Malachi and anyone else who’ll be on the road traveling soon for the live period!