The Take Away: Elite 26 Middle School Showcase

WILSON, NC – This past weekend Charles H. Darden Middle School hosted the 1st annual Middle School Elite 26. A showcase highlighting some of the top middle school ballers in the county . The players were met with high level drills followed by competitive play. With the favorable amount of talent in the gym here are some of the take aways:

 

The Standouts:

Lawrence Frost

As soon as he steps on the court it’s easy to notice that East Cary Middle School’s (Cary, NC) Lawrence Frost is more athletically advanced than his peers. The C/O 2020 guard has crafty handles; making it hard for the defense to stay in front of him. Shifty with the ball, Frost showed that he can easily break his defender down off the dribble or blow past a full-court press. While his shooting form needs work, he does a good job at consistently knocking down the open shot. Frost has good court vision and the ability quickly transition up the floor or get the ball to the open man. He also showed flashes of being a lock down on-the-ball defender. Frost does well anticipating where the ball where be. This allows him to get clean strips, intercept cross-court passes and stop his man from driving to the lane.

Imajae Dodd

Imajae Dodd of Green County Middle School (Snow Hill, NC) was one of the more intriguing kids in the Elite 26. This kid stands at 6’4, but plays like he’s 6’10 – which he could quite possibly grow to since he’s only in the 8th grade. An impressive aspect to Dodd’s game is whenever he gets an opportunity he pounds the air out of the ball on rebounds and entry passes. He flaunts really good footwork and body control in the paint. He’s also light on his feet and very well coordinated. In addition, Dodd does well at establishing position and sealing his man in the low post. While he does well at backing his man down, learning the the best spots on the court to execute backing down will be beneficial to him. As Dodds learns when to turn and face versus back his man down he’s going to be lethal. He also has to find the right touch when finishing around the basket; there were times he used too much strength on his jumphooks. Defensively, he challenges everything – either blocking or altering shots – discouraging the offense from coming into the paint. The only concern is that his aggressiveness on defense could cause him to get into foul trouble. Overall, Dodd is truly impressive as he gives his all on every possession.

 

 

Djimon Bailey

In today’s game it’s rare that you find a pass first point guard, especially in a showcase. However, Darden Middle School’s (Wilson, NC) c/o 2020 Djimon Bailey is the type of player that makes sure the ball is distributed. It’s clear that his primary objective is getting teammates involved, which is a good trait for a player expected to run the show. The wiry guard keeps his head on a swivel allowing him to see the outlet pass, the slasher in the lane, the big man posting up, or the shooter spotted up on the perimeter. His game reminds you of a Kendall Marshall in regards to his efficiency with the ball. Bailey is precise and does not waste any movements. If he decides to go the basket, it’s one move and to the rim. If he decides to draw the defense and find the open man, it’s a drive and dish. Shooting the ball, Bailey has excellent form and rarely takes a bad shot. He could actually stand to shoot a little more but his selflessness prevents him from it. That can be both good and bad. While Bailey possesses a good basketball IQ, he expects a lot of himself – this is undeniably a good thing. As he continues to mature, he will need to learn how to have a “short memory.” This will enable him to push pass mistakes and stay alert for whatever the next possession brings.

Check out some of Djimon Bailey’s highlights from the Elite 26

Derrick “DJ” Roberson Jr.

Derrick Roberson Jr. is a flat out baller. There are many good characteristics that he has attached to his game. What stands out most about him is his tenacity. Roberson Jr., aka DJ, has a high motor and a will to match it. During the Elite 26 his team was down going into half time and as soon as the 3rd quarter started DJ kicked it up a notch. He was doing it all. From making defensive stops and converting them into fast break points to knocking down shot after shot! Offensively, DJ is a radiator (some of you may not know what that is) and can heat up quickly, getting buckets anywhere on the court. He has the quickness to slice through the lane, blowing by his man and makes good decisions on when to shoot.  He’s energetic on defense, putting him in positions to predict when passes will be made then jumping in for the steal. DJ is also immensely skilled in the open court. As of now, it’s difficult for him to finish through contact; an issue easily rectified as he continues to get stronger. It’s often tough to not root for the guy who plays with a ton of heart and emotion. He has a really good upside and it will be fun to see what the future holds for him.
Honorable Mention:
Dashon Horn (Toisnot Middle/Wislon, NC) – This kid gets the basket at will. Horn’s size and speed allows him to weave through the defense and get to rim with ease. He has the ability to drive the ball from end-to-end; blowing pass defenders and finishing strong. One on one, he proves difficult to contain. Along with being quick Horn takes long strides which helps him get to the basket quicker. Once he learns how to dribble with his head up, he will become more effective.
Isaiah Watson (Forrest Hills Middle/Wilson, NC) – Watson can get up the floor in a hurry. He has the quickness and agility that enables him to take over a game. There was a stretch during the showcase where it seemed that Watson was involved in every basket made for his team. As learns how to play at different speeds he will become a major offensive threat.
Kentrell Johnson (Darden Middle/Wilson, NC) – Even though Johnson was one of the smaller players in the Elite 26 he plays with huge confidence. Johnson drives to the basket with purpose and is as tough as nails. As a point guard he’ll need to do a better job of knowing when to shoot and when to pass. He’s a gnat on defense and does a good job of defending on the ball. Overall, he’s a high energy guard that make a huge difference in a game.
Caleb Brayboy (Elm City Middle/Wilson, NC) – Brayboy, aka “The Big Fella”, is truly unassuming when he steps on the court. He has pretty good size on him (taller than most kids his age) but not as fast and nimble as his peers. However, during the Elite 26, Brayboy displayed a vast amount of skill and patience that caught everyone’s attention. What stood out most was the way he used his body to seal his defender, keep them on his shoulder, and then execute with a soft touch around the rim. There was a stretch during the showcase that Brayboy went on a tear, scoring like nobody’s business. Defensively, there was no answer for him as he kept finding ways to score.
Olijuwan Cooper (Elm City Middle/Wilson, NC) – Cooper may not have the look, but he definitely has what the kids today call a “ratty.” He was out there knocking down shots left and right. Cooper did a good job getting to his spot, setting his feet, having his hands ready and letting it fly when the ball got to him.

 

Check out some of the highlights from the Elite 26

 

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