An event I had been anticipating all month finally tipped off this past weekend: The first ever ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout.’ Held on the beautiful campus of Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA), around 18 teams from both in and out of the state constituted the three days full of hoops. Being a break from travel ball, I saw the first session of this two-part showing as a great opportunity for the players to both receive exposure and build up a collective feel amongst their high school guys. This working of camaraderie doesn’t typically always emerge in the summer time; a mere couple of months after the (very) lengthy winter season concluded. I deemed Session I as a big success, as other spectators around the gym agreed that the competition, schedule, and attendance of coaches all impressed. Once again, the Blue Ridge staff has proven themselves as a bunch more than capable of hosting an excellent showcase.
Likewise to most closing days of weekend events, Sunday held a lesser amount of games compared to the action-packed Saturday. Nonetheless, the morning/early afternoon still featured strong performances from various players who had enough legs to finish out strong; fatigue definitely appeared evident by the last two rounds of games. I’m not exactly certain of how the two Blue Ridge teams’ (split up by ‘Blue’ and ‘White’ rosters) finished record-wise but can confidently say the Barons performed well in protecting their home floor. One shouldn’t expect anything less, honestly.
My Five Standouts of Day 3
William Lee ’20 – Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA): The 6’0” lead guard showed last year as a junior that he could put up points but now appears even more aggressive and skilled with the ball in his hands. I saw an advanced shot-creating ability put on by Lee, who had opponents on their heels trying to guard his quick handles and release from range. The ‘White’ group of Blue Ridge players mainly relied on him to conduct the offense and he more than delivered to edge the team past Middleburg Academy (Middleburg, VA), 58-55, on Sunday morning. When the senior got hot, he stayed hot and confidently so. The 2019 State Player of the Year in VISAA Division II, Chris Rogers ’19, has now moved on to play college ball at Trevecca Nazarene University (Nashville, TN) and I’m looking at Lee as the answer to fill that void in the backcourt. After averaging nearly 10 points a game last season, a duo of him and Michael Gray ’21 (VISAA all-state first teamer in 2018-19) could become a very scary sight.
Terique Brown ’21 – Middleburg Academy (Middleburg, VA): Brown fits into the Dragons’ lineup nicely as a necessary piece who brings shooting and athleticism to the court. At 6’3,” he’s an agile guy and moves around the floor with a smoothness, knowing how to lose his defender when off of the ball. He had some great shooting performances throughout the weekend and again showed his deadly clip on Sunday morning from different levels. Everything he does with the ball just looked easy for him…his fluid play and style works well at either guard spot. In talking with his coaches, the next step for Brown is becoming more vocal and aggressive in attacking the basket. Both of those areas mainly just start as a mindset, especially the latter. I have no doubt that the hard-working guard will keep making strides by staying in the gym. His interest from other college programs saw an increase this past weekend.
Nicholas Booker-Nelson ’22 – Church Hill Academy (Richmond, VA): A young, fearless point guard, Booker-Nelson made all sorts of plays to get his Church Hill Phantoms past Roanoke Catholic School (Roanoke, VA) in a thrilling 66-62 overtime win on Sunday morning. He was one of the quickest guards I saw all weekend; mainly using that as an advantage to draw fouls and pick up chances at the free-throw line. Those attempts at the charity stripe continued late in both regulation and overtime during the Roanoke Catholic game, where he sealed the deal. Standing at 5’8,” Booker-Nelson always plays low near the ground to cross over past defenders and get into the lane. At his size, however, finishing against taller competition seemed to have some difficulty at times. That notion should cause Booker-Nelson to keep working on his outside shot, as it’ll make scoring a lot easier. One aspect of his game that I respect some of the most pertains to his consistent hard-nosed defense. That same trait of quickness showed in his lateral movement to cause turnovers and get other ball-handlers stuck. My advice to the rising sophomore: don’t lose that value of defense. Two-way guards always have a strong chance of standing out.
Isaiah ‘Zay’ Folkes ’21 – Middleburg Academy (Middleburg, VA): Man, Middleburg sure has brought in an athletic specimen in Folkes, who ended the weekend as one of Session I’s biggest breakouts. I remember tweeting about the 6’2” guard’s impressive physical tools; he has it all in terms of power, explosiveness, vertical leap, and body control. At one point on Sunday, I recall myself and others in attendance seeing a resemblance in his game to New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr., who first gained notoriety as the nation’s top high school point guard years ago. As one of the main ball-handlers, Folkes sets the pace for Middleburg greatly by his ability to get downhill. He’s an excellent slasher who can both take contact and hang in the air for finishes with either hand. Right now, he seems to prefer paint points before settling for outside shots but will improve as a scoring threat when he gets a better understanding of how to incorporate both and knowing the necessary time to do so. In terms of providing exciting highlights, I feel the newcomer will result as one of the best in all of the VISAA this winter. Stetson University and Old Dominion University extended offers to Folkes and back-court mate, Jaden House ’21, on Saturday.
Andy Nwaoko ’20 – Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA): The 6’5” interior presence acted as one of the biggest ‘bruisers’ all weekend but especially took his physicality to another level in the Barons’ wins over Middleburg and Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA). He has grown-man strength and a next-level frame already to bully his way in the paint for close finishes and constant activity on the glass. Even with multiple guys trying to keep him from getting second-chance possessions for Blue Ridge, Nwaoko’s individual efforts still proved as too much. I considered him as the biggest force and best offensive rebounder I saw in Sunday’s games. Showing the same type of approach last season, and playing a big part in the team’s 2019 state tournament run, he seems to embrace that role greatly and not worry much about personal recognition. Every team needs a workhorse likewise to the rising senior.
Don’t forget to also look out for my standouts from Day 1 and Day 2 of Session I!