The Take Away: Elite 50 Middle School Showcase
In its 2nd year, the annual Elite 50 Middle School Showcase had big shoes to fill in making sure they exceeded the success of the first event. To no surprise MJ Harris, Rod Bridgers and staff did just that. Increasing the number of invitees by 26 players, this years event boasted kids from Wilson, NC and surrounding cities. From start to finish these young players battled it out to test their skills amongst one another. While majority of the players were pretty good, there were a few that stood out and made their presence known.
Once again 8th grade Point Guard, Lawrence Frost made it clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with as he dominated throughout the event. While last year’s Elite 24 MVP is slightly bigger than most guards in middle school, he also has the quickness and coordination to take advantage of the opposition. Frost, a Point Guard on Word of God’s JV team, also has the ability to knock down the 3 pointer. Even though his shooting form is a bit unorthodox – it goes in! He does a great job with change of speed, catching the defense off guard. As he continues to develop he’ll need to widen his strides in transition. Right now he takes small steps limiting his opportunities in fast break scenarios. Once again, Frost managed to play a step above the rest and took home the MVP of the Elite 50 Middle School Showcase for the second year in a row.
Darde Middle School’s Djimon Bailey was arguably one of the best players in the building. The 8th grade point guard displayed a new found demeanor of calmness that wasn’t really present before. Since last year’s event, it’s noticeable that he’s grown a few inches and his limbs have stretched out some. Bailey also added some quickness to his game. What was most impressive was his patience and how he allowed the game to come to him. Bailey is a pass first guard that looks to get his teammates involved immediately. However, he also has a feel for exploiting an opportunity once it’s presented. If the defense gave him too much space, he showed off his smooth jumper. If his man crowded him, he used the dribble to get by him. If the help came, he would dish it to the open man and if it didn’t come, he would finish at the rim. He still has much to learn about the game, however, he’s not even in high school yet so, there’s time. If Bailey continues to progress like he has this past year, he’ll definitely be a household name when it’s said and done! Make sure you keep an eye out for him.
Clayton Middle School’s Zack Matthew was easily one of, if not the, smallest player in the Elite 50 Middle School Showcase. Nonetheless, his size did not stop him from standing out as one of the better players in the event. Matthew’s handle was on point as he made it tough for any one defender to stay in front of him. He is a pass first Point Guard that predominantly looks to get his teammates involved. Everything Matthew does on the court is to make sure he puts his team in the best position to score, so much so that he barely looks for his own shot. Even in situations where he beats his man off the dribble, his initial reaction is to find the open man instead of going to the basket. As Matthew continues to develop, he’ll need to be able to distinguish between the opportunity to dish it or to score it. Having a smaller frame, he needs to find more creative ways to finish around the basket, especially when going up against bigger players. As Matthew continues to develop it is certain that these obstacles will become a distant memory.
East Millbrook Middle School’s Jaden White was one of the more well-rounded players in the event. He handled the ball extremely well, showing the ability to break his man down off the dribble whenever he wanted. White also showed that he can knock down shots. What stood out most was his overall feel and IQ for the game. White never seemed rattled or like the pressure was getting to him. He simply played the game within the confines of his skill-sets. If he saw an opportunity to blow by his defender White did just that. If he was given too much space he would pull-up and drain the shot, which he displayed good form and a nice arch! As it stands, he’s a step above the rest because of his current instincts and abilities. However, as White continues to develop, he has to make sure he doesn’t become complacent and get stagnant in his development. He has very good guard skills at this stage and the goal should be to continue to get better. If White does this, I’m sure this will not be the last time you see his name in writing!
Northern Middle School’s Omarion Jay is already standing about about 6’4 – ‘6’5 (unofficially) as an 8th grader. At this point in his game he does a good job using his length to take advantage of the competition, especially on the defensive end. Jay has a good sense of timing that he uses to block shots and defend the paint. He also does a nice job of eating up space, limiting the options for opponents to drive in the lane. Offensively, Jay knows how to get to spots that benefit him and make it simple to score. He also has a nice touch around the basket, which will help him fill up the stat sheet in the near future. Jay also does well rebounding and keeping the offense from getting second chance opportunities. As he progresses there is a lot that he’ll need to continue to improve – footwork; posting up; positioning; sealing the defender; and ball handling. For Jay, being able to handle the basketball is vital because in the event that he stops growing, being a 6’4 – 6’5 big man in high school will not cut it. As he continues to develop his all-around game and possibly stretch out a few more inches, there is no doubt that he’ll be a problem in the next few years!