The Take Away: Big Shots w/ Garner Road
Big Shots has been on a tear since the start of the AAU season. Throwing high caliber tournaments in major cities along the east coast is kind of their thing, and it would be an understatement to say that they’re pretty good at it. This comes as no surprise as they have been running top notch events for the last 9 years. This past weekend they hosted 3 major cities: Atlanta, Georgia; Washington, D.C.; and Raleigh, North Carolina. While you can imagine that these were all amazing events, it is without a doubt that the place to be was in Raleigh, N.C. (insert bias because I’m based out of Raleigh). Big Shots partnered with Garner Road for what turned out to be an amazing tournament. Of course, the gym was packed with talented players, below are the ones that stood out above the rest:
“Battled tested” is the best phrase to use when considering the 6’6 Joey Baker. Only in the 8th grade (C/O 2019), he’s a starter at Trinity Christian High School (Fayetteville, N.C.) – which should explain a lot.
Baker plays with the confidence of a seasoned veteran and uses this to dominate his opponents. With his size and ability to put the ball on the floor, he gives himself a remarkable advantage. He easily sees over the defense and makes sound passes to the open man. Baker is also an exceptional, high quality shooter who can stretch the court. When the defender attempts to close out he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Baker is a solid finisher at the basket, either laying it soft of the glass or throwing down vicious dunks. As he continues to develop, he’ll need to be stronger when attacking the basket. Occasionally, when he draws contact he loses the ball, missing out on 3 point plays. Regardless, with his size and ability to get into the lane, he’s going to draw a lot of fouls. Adding strength to his regime will net him more “And 1’s.” Overall, Baker is a stud and already getting some attention from high major schools. Expect to hear a lot more from him throughout the course of the summer with Team Felton (14U).
Team Felton’s (14U) C/O 2019, Tynias Peace is a gritty type player and one of the peskiest defenders you’ll ever see. The 5’10 Point Guard out of Carniage Middle School has extremely quick feet and hands that he uses to his advantage. Peace does a good job breaking the press and getting the ball up the court with ease. In a half court setting it doesn’t take much for him to get by his man and to the rim. He does really well finding the open man when he draws in the help defense. Though he gets to the basket at will, Peace will need to get better at finishing once he’s there. As a result of him being so quick, when he gets to the paint he puts up hasty shots. Once Peace learns how to gather himself and take his time when he gets to the paint, he’ll unlock the ability to score more consistently. Another thing that Peace will have to work on is body language. There were times that he made good passes to his teammate and they, for whatever reason, were unable to convert the pass. This would lead to a visibly disgusted Peace. As he continues to grow and mature, he’ll have to learn to develop into a leader on the court. Uplifting, guiding, encouraging and motivating his team will fall on his shoulders and there’s no doubt that he’ll be able to accept the challenge and take on this responsibility. Peace has so much potential in his possession and once he taps into he’s going to be special.
Garner Road’s (15U) Jarren McAllister has the “IT” factor. Everything about this kids’ game says unlimited potential. The C/O 2018 Point Guard does all of the little things that coaches want out of their players. Then he gives you more! The 6’1 Point Guard/Shooting Guard out of Heritage High School (Wake Forest, NC) does really well transitioning from defense to offense. As a defender he’s active with quick feet, helping him stay in front of his man and apply pressure. He also keeps his hands moving which allows him to disrupt the dribble and deflect passes.
McAllister’s defense quickly turns into offense as he gets out on a break as soon as there’s a deflection or a steal. In the open court this kid can get off the floor. One play, after a defensive stop, he got the ball on a fast-break and punched down a thunderous dunk with conviction! McAllister has good handle and even though he has the ability to get fancy, he’s highly efficient and only does what he needs. One to two dribbles and he’s passing by his man, heading to the basket. McAllister has a strong body, which grants him the capacity to absorb contact and finish. The only thing missing from his game is an effective jumper. While he can hit shots, his jumper is not to the point where everything he puts up looks like it’s going in. Rumor is that McAllister is a gym rat and loves to work on his game (another trait coaches will love). With that being said, it won’t be long before he’s knocking down shots at a high volume, with accuracy. Be sure to keep this kid on your radar, he definitely has high major potential.
In today’s high school basketball era, you don’t find many traditional big men. To elaborate, the big men of today try to add so many dimensions to their game, such as, guard and shooting skills to stretch the floor. While it’s definitely beneficial to have a player between 6’8 and 7’1 be able to do that, it doesn’t necessarily work for every big man. So you can imagine how refreshing it is to witness Garner Road’s (16U) C/O 2017, Josh Carlton.
Related: The Hoops Column – Josh Carlton
The 6’10 big, out of South Central High School (Winterville, NC), is a skilled player who does an excellent job within the parameters of his game. Offensively, he’s able to clear out space and get to the low post when his number is called. Once in position, he knows how to use his body to keep the defender on his hip to allow the entry pass. When he gets the ball, he uses his frame to back his man down and turns for the easy layup, or just turns immediately for the lay-in depending on where he is in the paint. Carlton puts himself in position to crash the offensive boards, usually resulting in a rebound and put-back. Defensively, he does well guarding the middle, challenging all drives and interior shots. Carlton also snatches every rebound and keeps the ball high, away from quick handed guards. As of now, he’s physically ready for the next level. However, there are minors things he’ll need to work on. Specifically, Carlton will need to increase his overall quickness, especially from a lateral perspective. Also, he’ll have to improve his explosiveness. While he’s able to take advantage of his height now, as he transitions to the next level he will face opponents of the same stature. Without the capability to explode off the floor Carlton will lose some of his effectiveness. What’s scary is Carlton still has two more years remaining in high school, which is ample time for him to work on these minor deficiencies. When it’s all said and done he’ll go down as one of the states dominant big men!
Garner High School’s, Thomas Allen is hands down one of the smoothest players in the state for the C/O 2017. Standing at 6’1, his height deems him as a Point Guard, but his style of play fits more into the Shooting Guard category. Allen has all of the skills of a floor general – he can bring the ball up, command his team, run plays and hit teammates with crisp passes.
However, he is most effective in transition both on and off the ball. On the break, Allen can get down the court in a hurry and stop on a dime for the pull-up jumper. It’s a lost art among guards as you usually see everyone try to plow their way to the rim. It takes a high level of precision and concentration to execute a “Stop & Pop.” Which makes it that much more evident that Allen has put in the hours to perfect his craft. He’s also a consistent shooter from behind the arch, making him even more dangerous on the offensive end. Defensively, Allen is active and does a good job staying in front of his man. He doesn’t slack off or allow easy drives to the lane. As a defender, he gives his all and makes it difficult for anyone he’s guarding. Overall, Allen is cooler than the other side of the pillow. He’s already off to a good start this AAU season, as he helped lead Garner Road to a 3-1 record in the highly competitive Adidas Gauntlet tournament in Dallas, TX. It’s not farfetched to believe he’s going to be collecting a lot of mail from colleges this summer.
To say Garner Road’s (16U) Michael Okauru is quick would be an understatement. The 6’4, C/O 2017 Shooting Guard out of Ravenscroft is like watching ‘The Flash’ as he speeds up and down the court. What makes it so intriguing is how effortless Okauru makes it look. When he gets out in the open court, good luck trying to get stop him or even slow him down for that matter. Even in a half court setting, it is no problem for Okauru to use his first step to blow by his initial defender, swerve around the help defender and get to the basket. When he gets to the rim, he’s a solid finisher and has the ability to play above the rim. Equally impressive, Okauru is even more tenacious on the defensive end of the floor. It’s not common that you find young players who play just as hard, if not harder, on defense than they do on offense. Okauru can guard his man full court and be up under him the entire way down the floor. He’s a pesky defender with active hands and is constantly disrupting the offense. Okauru does exceptionally well off the ball, as he uses his speed and anticipation to jump into the passing lane and create steals (highly effective in a full-court press). Even though his speed is his greatest quality, it’s also his achilles heel. There are moments in the game where Okauru has to slow it down, just a little bit. Although he doesn’t seem to burn himself out, playing at the same speed makes him predictable as a player. One other minor drawback is the slight hitch he has in his jumper. While Okauru gets good elevation and has proper form, it seems that he releases the ball on the way down. Once he learns to slow down and play at “different speeds” along with smoothing out his jumper he’ll transform himself into a lethal, elite player. Okauru is already getting looks from high major schools and it’s only going to increase throughout the summer.