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Scouting Notes, St James MLK Classic
By Regional Analyst, Tyler McKittrick
During basketball season, weekends in the DMV are dominated by competitive events that often pit nationally renowned programs against schools around the area. The majority of coaches in these fertile hooping grounds are firm believers in the old adage that iron sharpens iron. So when the MLK Classic rolled around this past weekend at The St. James complex in Springfield, VA, it was no surprise to see some of the big dogs roll into town.
Over the course of 4 days, teams competed in this unique event that celebrated the birth, life, and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The uniqueness wasn’t just rooted in the matchups on the court, but also in the activities off of it, such as a personal tour through the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a visit to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Of course, the players were focused on performing inside the lines, and when it was time to take care of business, that’s precisely what they did. There were more than a dozen of them that stood out with their play or potential as prospects, but these, in particular, jumped out for reasons discussed below:
Holloway led his undefeated and 2nd ranked Prolific Prep team to a win against a talented Wasatch Academy (UT) squad in their only game of the event. He scored 28 points on 8-19 shooting while adding 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in the victory. The 6’1” point guard started slowly but began applying heavier pressure on the defense with his threat to score and make plays for others as the game went on. As usual, he was able to mix quick-twitch changes of pace and sharp, shifty changes of direction together with strong bursts to create space and driving lanes off the bounce. Always a tough shot-maker, yet still showing growth in the area, his ability to convert off the dribble from various distances with a versatile set of shot types proved valuable as the game tightened in the 4th quarter. No buckets were more valuable than the late back-to-back 3-pointers he knocked down with the game tied at 60 to go up six. Overall, the Auburn commit went 4-12 from 3 and bolstered his point total by going 8-11 from the free throw line. According to Cerebro Sports’ database, his performance was good enough to land him 4th overall in the event with a 12.4 C-RAM, which is a metric that measures the strength of a player’s performance relative to an average performer in the same event.
Whenever Carlton Carrington comes up in basketball discussions, it’s always important to make note that the ~6’5” shooting guard out of Baltimore is nearly a year young for his class. Rapidly developing, he has impressed on every stage this season with his smooth, sometimes effortless scoring ability. So when St. Frances stepped on the court to face Heritage Christian (CA) in their lone contest of the event, he didn’t disappoint. The future Pitt Panther exploded for an MLK Classic record 42 points on 14-22 FG, including 7-12 3P and a perfect 7-7 FT. He displayed his entire repertoire, from his patented pull-up jumper to a one-handed leaning hammer down the lane off of two feet. He scored off the dribble, in transition, spotting up and off of movement without the ball. He showed his ever-improving self-creation skillset, generating whatever space he needed to get a look, which wasn’t much! In typical fashion, he chose to keep it simple, electing to be efficient with his dribbles and decisive with his shot selection. As striking as his scoring exhibit was, Carrington also impressed with flashes of playmaking, finding teammates off the live dribble several times and tallying 7 assists for the game. With any C-RAM of 10-or-above qualifying as a gold level, superstar performance, Carrington’s output measured in at a whopping 17.4. A notoriously hard worker, it’s reasonable to assume that the future is very bright for the ACC-bound senior.
Flying under the radar and around the court is where you’ll find 6’6”+ wing Jason Rivera of undefeated John Marshall out of Richmond, VA. As one part of a greater team unit, Rivera came into the MLK Classic with an upward-trending stock and a chip on his shoulder. In the team’s first contest versus DC-public powerhouse Jackson-Reed, he only added momentum to that trend, putting together one of the better all-around performances of the event. He scored 32 points on 13 shots to go along with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. Rivera plays with an undying motor on both ends, consistently winning loose balls, causing havoc defensively, and being one of the first to get on the floor. As his shooting continues to develop consistency, he has become one of the more intriguing remaining 2023s, capable of heavily impacting the game on both ends of the court with his combination of length, athleticism, and dribble/shoot/pass skillset. As an evaluator, a unique opportunity to learn about Rivera occurred in the 2 nd game versus a tough Grayson (GA) squad, against whom he was struggling mightily through the first 3 quarters. His effort never wavered, his motor never changed, and he ended up scoring all 11 of his points in the 4th quarter. In his 2 games, he averaged 21.5 ppg, 7.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1.5 blocks with a top-10 C-RAM (adjusted for mins) of 10.2.
In his interview following their 2nd win of the event against Wasatch Academy (UT), 6’10” forward/center Jaden Toombs was asked what allows him to dominate in the paint and on the block. His answer was simple: “I work hard.” Indeed, the work was evident this weekend and showed through his impact and stat line. The young big led his team to two convincing wins while averaging 20 points on 64.3 FG%, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 blocks. He displayed comfort and maturity on the block by giving different looks to defenders with single and combo moves going right and left into finishes that mixed touch and strength. One post move literally left his man stumbling in the opposite direction as he turned to score. He was also patient in the post, appearing to feel the defender’s weight and react accordingly, as well as exhibiting a willingness to kick it back out or find the occasional cutter. He was looking to make the right play, not to just turn and score. While Toombs was able to take advantage of his size and length on the offensive glass, he also showed a propensity to do the little things like running rim-to-rim, flashing to the ball with purpose, and showing a target along the way. With so much time to continue developing, it’s scary to think where he’ll be in a couple of years. For the MLK Classic, he was 9th in C-RAM at 10.2.
Through his quiet confidence, leadership, and taste for big shot-making, Damon “Redd” Thompson, Jr. has become the head of the snake that is 15th ranked John Marshall High School. Thompson, who was the leading scorer and MVP of the loaded Chick-Fil-A Classic a few weeks ago, is quickly making a name for himself as someone you want taking shots coming down the stretch in close games. In their two wins over the weekend, the 6’0” point guard averaged 22.5 ppg on 47 3P%, making 8 3-pointers while adding 3 assists and 2 steals per contest. A score-first lead guard who can get hot quickly and score in bunches put in 36 of his 45 total points in the 2nd halves of each game, including dropping 21 of his 28 against Grayson (GA) in the latter half of their tight contest. Thompson finished with a 9.2 C-RAM for the event.
Tenacious. Fearless. Scorer. Shotmaker. All the calling cards of ~6’2” combo guard Mike Williams were on full display during his time on the court this past weekend. Williams finished 3rd overall for the event with a C-RAM of 13.2, averaging 26.5 ppg on 57 FG% in their 2 games, while also leading the event in steals (11) at 5.5 per game. He could leverage his threat to drive and finish into consistent use and success of his midrange pull-up. Always in attack mode, he created space off the bounce, got to his spots, and converted tough contested shots. Driven by his tenacity, timing, and anticipation, his impact on the defensive end often translated into quality offensive opportunities for himself and his team, who went 1-1 against Real Salt Lake (UT) and Grayson High School (GA). Williams is headed to LSU next fall.
Allmond may have come into the MLK Classic having already proven himself against high-major competition in the paint, but he still had plenty left to prove. The youthful big continued to open eyes with his physically mature frame, vertical pop, and way-too-advanced natural instincts. With outstanding length, near-perfect timing, and excellent positioning, he gave his team elite rim protection, averaging, far-and-away, an event-high 5 blocks across his 2 contests. He is truly an anchor for one of the tougher, high-energy defenses in the country, with an absurd ability as a freshman to meet and deny finishers at the pinnacle of their jump. Offensively, he showed patience and footwork in the post, hit the offensive glass (3 per game), and flashed his development as more than just a post player with conversions from the elbow and 3-point line. Allmond runs the floor, follows up on the play, and has soft, but strong hands, both as a catch-and-finisher and as a rebounder. His 15-point, 9-rebound, 6-block performance versus Grayson (GA) earned him an offer from UVA. Surely, there will be plenty more to come. His upside on both ends is tremendous.
Other notable performers and high-potential prospects:
• Leroy Kelly VI, 6’3” G, Dynamic Prep (TX), Class of 2025: talented two-way guard who missed only 1 attempt out of 13 shots in 2 games, helping his team to a 2-0 record while averaging 16 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, & 4 steals. Finished 6th in the event with an 11.7 C-RAM.
• Franklin Ayissi-Etoh, 6’2” G, Archbishop Carroll (DC), Class of 2023 – skilled guard who led the event in total points (54), averaging 27 per game, along with 5.5 rebounds, 4 assists, & 3 steals. Still available.
• Amir Taylor, 6’8” Power F, Grayson (GA), Class of 2025: big-bodied forward who moves with pace and agility. Averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on 50% shooting in Grayson’s 2 games.
• Jayden Fort, 6’8” F, Jackson-Reed (DC), Class of 2025: developing young prospect with a solid foundational skill set and impressive physical tools. Averaged 13.5 points on 62.5 FG%, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals.
• Jermaine O’Neal, Jr., 6’6” W, Dynamic Prep (TX), Class of 2025: smooth shooting wing with great length and touch. Possesses loads of upside on both ends of the court. Averaged 15 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 steals in their 2 wins. Went 11-11 from the FT line.
• Smurf Millender, 6’0” PG, Legacy School (TX), Class of 2023: a tough, high IQ, and crafty lead guard. Certified thief on defense and consistently touches the paint on offense. Averaged 19 points, 4 assists, 4.5 steals and finished 7th in C-RAM at 10.8. South Alabama commit.
Be sure to follow Tyler McKittrick (Point Guard Eyes) HERE.