On Monday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to the “Big Four” at Ben L. Smith High School, as the Golden Eagles prepared to host Grimsley High School as both squads kick off the start to their respective seasons. There’s an obvious amount of excitement surrounding each team. Smith has a healthy mix of talented veterans and young, up-and-coming talent, in addition to their notable coaching staff led by Derrick Partee. Meanwhile, Coach Corbett and the Whirlies should only continue to get better and better over the coming years. The stage was set for these two evenly matched programs to battle, so let’s see what happened…

After going back and forth for the opening few minutes, the Whirlies asserted themselves and mounted a major run to close the first quarter with a 23-13 lead. Grimsley displayed a balanced overall approach, but Jayden Watlington’s scoring burst was the separating factor. Despite the Golden Eagles improving in the second period, specifically behind Markquan Gilbert, they were largely unable to cut into the deficit and continued to trail 38-28 entering halftime. Following the break, it was more of the same. Smith did a great job of battling and working to mount runs, but the Whirlies just maintained their distance and didn’t allow the Golden Eagles to gain a copious amount of momentum. After a 50-39 score to start the final quarter, Smith actually started to cause some havoc with their defensive pressure. That being said, it was too late, and the Whirlies secured a 63-54 victory over Ben L. Smith. 

Grimsley:

5’10 ’22 Jordan Wall

Despite coming off the bench for this group, Wall ultimately proved to be as valuable as anyone on the roster. He made smart, unselfish decisions while offering a pesky, rugged defensive presence and scoring in a variety of different ways. Wall is arguably at his best when getting downhill, knifing through the paint, and finishing or setting up others. However, he also operated very well without the ball in his hands and hit multiple key jumpers off the catch. Wall skied for multiple rebounds, forced turnovers at a nice rate, and looked to make the right play at every opportunity. Final stats: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

6’0 ’22 Tyler Albright

Although he’s noted for his baseball abilities, Albright is the perfect type of leader for this Grimsley squad. He doesn’t show much interest in individual stats or attention, and legitimately just looks to produce however possible. Albright is a quality athlete with the blend of strength, toughness, and change of direction to control the action as needed. He’s a strong playmaker, reliable penetrator, and instinctual defender, which easily made him one of the most productive players on either team. Final stats: 15 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, and 1 rebound.

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

6’1 ’22 Jayden Watlington- 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals

6’3 ’24 Alex Taylor- 4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists

6’4 ’23 Nick Elliott- 7 points, 4 steals, 2 assists

6’5 ’25 Zacch Wiggins- 3 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

Smith:

6’3 ’23 Markquan Gilbert

The struggles were undeniable for the Golden Eagles, but Gilbert stood out as a definite bright spot. He applied efficient, nonstop scoring pressure (primarily within the paint) and worked extremely hard at all times. Gilbert’s blue-collar mentality leads to natural production. He’s improved as a perimeter shooter, but didn’t necessarily need to showcase it. Gilbert outworks opponents for rebounds, extra possessions, and provides a quality defensive presence. Final stats: 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist.

6’4 ’22 Nayshaun Hale

After being their leading scorer last season, it’s still easy to see the leadership qualities with someone like Hale. He’s long, wiry, and displayed flashes of an inside-out skillset. Hale primarily works inside, where he’s able to utilize his length to finish and rebound over opponents. However, he can also shoot, pass, and effectively handle the ball. Hale didn’t force the action offensively, and did a nice job of making hustle plays. Final stats: 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal.

Other Noteworthy Contributors:

6’7 ’24 Richard Goods- 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal