I obviously wasn’t around this type of business last year, but nevertheless can recall hearing great things stated about the Team Richmond Garner Road (TRGR) AAU program. After watching plenty of their 2019 players perform well throughout this recently-concluded high school season, my interest rose higher to find out more about the organization in this ‘open gym tour.’ It turns out that three 17u teams round out their final age group. After spending my Tuesday evening with the TRGR 17u ‘Choice’ team, led by Varina High School (Henrico County, VA) head coach, Andrew Lacey, I started to understand why others spoke much praise last year about the overall program. It’s still early in only the second week of practice, obviously, but I’m already seeing promise within the players and their coaches’ goal of prepping them not just for this spring, but beyond as well.
Team Richmond Garner Road 17u Choice
Coaches: Andrew Lacey and Arnold Henderson
Thinking a Step Ahead
Man, the setup of TRGR’s practice impressed me during my visit. The coaches ran a two-hour workout that implemented several drills, reminding me of ones I’ve witnessed in a college setting. Competitive play, finishing off of two feet, getting downhill, and inside moves (for post players) all started off the evening on Tuesday. The players should benefit heavily from his type of skill development, of course, but the teaching from the coaches will play the most importance, in my opinion. Coach Lacey and Coach Henderson both do an excellent job of pointing things out immediately and making sure their players understand the purpose behind each detail. Like I touched on earlier, it’s easy to see that they have a vision of preparing their guys for situations they’ll come across at the next-level. For example, learning how to move without the ball and using a two-man game properly both appeared as two of the day’s biggest emphasis. The group of rising seniors may not realize it now, but these two specific areas will go a LONG way if they find themselves stepping into the college scene.
Even after just a couple of practices, Coach Lacey seems highly optimistic about the potential success his squad can create. I’d have to agree, after observing the interchangeable talent within the roster. Six of the team’s ten are guards/wings that look able to play different roles on the court and guard multiple positions as well. I honestly don’t really see anyone who holds one sole position; these guys should prove able to produce in various spots. This always comes with solid length on the perimeter, which I can see giving opposing defenses trouble in many ways. For example, even as they’re still becoming familiar with each other, TRGR already looks pretty good in how they move the ball. This can wear out defenders, making it even more difficult to stop the perimeter players from getting looks near the rim.
Where Can You Find Them?
Tomorrow (3/30), TRGR will open up with their first test in Rocky Mount, NC for the ‘Big Shots Warm-Up Tournament.’ They’ll partake in two events during April: ‘Spring Jam Fest’ (located at the historic ‘Spooky Nook’ sports complex in Manheim, PA) and ‘Pitt Jam Fest’ (Pittsburgh, PA). Several more ‘jam fests’ compose of the team’s schedule thus far: The group plans to head up North to Providence, RI for the ‘Providence Jam Fest’ on May 11-12 and then travel down South for the following weekend to play in the ‘Southern Jam Fest’ at Boo Williams Sportsplex (Hampton, VA.) A couple of busy days in a row looks likely for July. The ‘Atlantic City Jam Fest’ (Atlantic City, NJ) ends the second half of a week (July 10-12), immediately followed by the weekend’s ‘Summer Jam Fest’; again taking place at ‘Spooky Nook.’
Meet the Team
Gary Ampy ’20 – Meadowbrook HS: An energetic and athletic guard, Ampy gives the team a good spark with his shooting ability and stifling defense. With the ball in his hands, he can pull-up from around 15 feet and also stretch out to beyond three-point territory. He’s one of those guys who can go on his own personal run once getting into a good flow. Defensively, Ampy’s a head-hunter who seems to find delight in causing turnovers whenever he sees the chance.
Tysen Brown ’20 – Patrick Henry HS: Brown’s a good example of what I mean by TRGR having several utility guys. He’s a stocky 6’3” player who can produce both inside and out, due to interior strength, a smooth shot from the perimeter, and a solid handle. I don’t see a true position for him yet (which I deem as a good thing), but how well he can defend others will obviously determine where he fits best on the floor.
Sincere Clark ’20 – Meadowbrook HS: The 6’5” bouncy forward brings great paint protection and all-around defense. He showed out in this notion all year for the Meadowbrook Monarchs and continued to display that same prowess during my visit. On the offensive end, Clark’s still figuring out appropriate go-to moves but does excellent in finishing quickly with either hand once his teammates find him near the rim. Scoring off of stick backs is another natural part of his game.
Nigel Green ’20 – St. Christopher’s School: Green has a good feel for the game as a 6’4” wing who can shoot the ball pretty well and run the floor in transition. His IQ of recognizing ways to get open should aid in him playing as a spot-up threat. He has a good vertical also to go after rebounds and contest shots. With his size at that position, I’m sure he’ll run into a few mismatch situations this spring/summer.
Brandon Jenkins ’20 – James River HS: A quick and shifty guard, the 5’8” lefty will most likely have the ball in his hands a considerable amount of the time; a likewise role he took on for his junior campaign at James River. Jenkins likes to push the ball at a good pace and uses court vision well to find open guys while initiating the break. He should give another good two-way presence, as his instincts allow him to collect steals rapidly. Acting as a primary ball-handler means his ball-security must continue to improve daily; something I’m confident will happen with his teammates challenging him.
Elijah Jones ’20 – Lee-Davis HS: One of the more complete scorers I saw this season, TRGR should receive instant offense whenever Jones takes the floor. The 6’2” Mechanicsville product can put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the floor, but he looks at his most unstoppable in attacking the rim. In addition, his knack for causing turnovers proves as another one of his special traits; I remember watching him finish with nine steals in a December win. Expect a big spring season from Jones, whose recruitment is looking to take a jump.
Shaun Kindred ’20 – Matoaca HS: Kindred’s strength and toughness makes him another prospect who can do damage in different positions. He strongly attacks the glass and can put the ball on the floor to bully towards the paint on short drives. During his high school season, he also looked comfortable shooting jumpers from close range. His versatility on defense honestly looks even stronger than what he can bring on offense, as he contains necessary tools to guard both on the perimeter and in the post. Another player who the team can use in various areas.
DeShawn Price ’19 – Henrico HS: Standing at 6’6” with a wide frame, Price has the size of a true post player and should become a handful once he establishes position down low. His patience with the ball looks pretty good, in addition to strong hands that bring down rebounds consistently. The big fella averaged over seven boards a night for his senior season at Henrico and should maintain that focus. An unsigned senior on the squad that coaches should watch out for during the next two months.
Kendrick Robinson ’20 – Trinity Episcopal School: My personal pick as the top defender in Richmond, VA this 2018-19 season, Robinson brings both this special trait and many other abilities to the TRGR roster. He’s a 6’4” guard who uses his gifted athleticism well to rebound and make drives at the rim. His way of making plays for others arguably stands out the most, something that can make a difference for the team’s offense.
CJ Weber ’20 – James River HS: A lethal shooter for the successful James River Rapids, Weber again showed off this range early during the team practice when he knocked down two triples in a row from long distance. He can flat out shoot it but also uses his solid build well in muscling to the basket when he seeks the opportunity. When the group needs a three-point look, I’m sure they’ll turn to the 6’0” guard.
Good luck and safe travels to TRGR in their trip to Rocky Mount, NC tomorrow! Spring basketball has arrived…