After the successful opening portion of the first-ever ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’ last weekend (6/21 – 6/23), I’ve returned back to the grounds of Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA) for the event’s ‘second half.’ Structure will occur in a similar way, with 18 teams participating throughout the three days and using up three different courts in the school’s athletic facilities. Ten teams return from Session I and I’ll have the chance to get a look at eight new programs in attendance. Also, in a likewise method to the previous weekend, I’m hoping to see each team play at least 1-2 times for a strong evaluation of what’s working (or not working) already in this month of June. I can’t stress enough how beneficial this two-part showcase has been for schools amongst the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. My hat goes off to the efforts made by Blue Ridge varsity head coach Cade Lemcke and his staff. Stay tuned for what Session II has to offer!
The first slate of games on Friday evening (6/28) brought in college coaches from the likes of Cincinnati, Georgetown, Old Dominion, Longwood, and others. I covered a few games and ended up marking down the names of five notable players who performed well during the night.
*Again, the Blue Ridge varsity team split their guys up into two groups: ‘White’ and ‘Blue.’ They’re noted below to not cause confusion.
My Five Standouts of Friday Evening
Michael Gray ’21 – Blue Ridge School-Blue (St. George, VA): Well, if one has yet to hear or see the skillful scorer in action for the Blue Ridge Barons up to this point, it’s about time he/she have. After watching him shine as a sophomore last season, earning recognition as an all-state first teamer, I became convinced that Gray puts the ball in the basket just as well as any other guard in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division II classification. He can get it done from all three levels and does so in a calm/comfortable way. It’s easy to see that racking up points just comes with a naturalness for him. Outside of scoring, however, I also tweeted during Friday that the 6’2” guard’s court vision keeps making leaps. He’s turning himself into more of a playmaker it seems; building up his ability to realize where his teammates like to get open and their tendencies. At his size, if he could become a bona fide combo guard, that would result in a HUGE turning point within his game. Gray playing alongside William Lee ’20 will likely give Blue Ridge a backcourt of guards who work best as scorers before anything else. Nonetheless, I think Gray could step into the role of a playmaker if called upon, based on his capabilities he’s continuing to show. Old Dominion offered two weeks ago and more next-level programs should start hitting his line if he keeps it up.
Marquis Bowden ’20 – Takoma Academy (Takoma Park, MD): Last weekend, Takoma’s standout guard and leading scorer from 2018-19 (17 ppg as a junior), Mike Brown ’20, caught my attention as one of Session I’s best pure scorers. Brown’s natural feel on the floor should keep proving inevitable but his classmate, Bowden, showed on Friday that he can step out to create for his own on the offensive end also. The 6’0” lefty guard has a smooth game and knows how to push his way downhill for difficult finishes. He had some of the most acrobatic layups I saw throughout the evening; weaving his way past Blue Ridge-White’s tall frontcourt. Finishing at the rim appeared as his most comfortable asset but he pulled up for a couple of mid-range jumpers also. That same elevation for hang time in his crafty finishes also stood out when he took shots off of the bounce. Even with defenders fully in his face, Bowden can still knock contested shots down without being bothered. I also noted solid defense played by the guard around the top of the half-court. He does a nice job moving his feet and reacting. Having him and Brown on the floor at the same time could turn out as a deadly setup…especially when they both get into a groove.
Ethan Vest ’20 – Eastern Mennonite HS (Harrisonburg, VA): With Aviwe Mahlong ’20, a 2019 VISAA all-state first team selection, back for a final year, the 6’3” Vest gives Eastern Mennonite another strong scoring addition on the perimeter. I agree with the Flames’ head coach Chad Seibert in how the rising senior already contains a college body; built like a fullback. He has good quickness but doesn’t solely rely on it…I noticed several instances in the team’s matchup against Blue Ridge-Blue where Vest used patient size-ups to make his move into the lane. His strength at the wing position plays one of the biggest reasons for his great finishing ability. Similar to Bowden, I saw some ‘pull-up potential’ in Vest’s game; typically around the free-throw line area. I’m still trying to figure out just how comfortable he is shooting the ball, as his slashing ability may overshadow that skill. Regardless, he definitely has good scoring tools and provides plenty of tough plays for the group in different areas. With excellent shooters around him, Vest’s aggressive mentality just gives the Flames some more heat.
Sasha Glushkov ’20 – Blue Ridge School-Blue (St. George, VA): So, it’s obviously pretty tough to not take note of the Barons’ forward, considering he’s one of, if not, the tallest player competing within this event. Looking past his 6’11” frame, however, Glushkov continues to become more skilled up and assertive down low. He has a very reliable shooting touch as a near seven-footer…one of the best long distance shooters I’ve seen in Virginia at that height. That notion makes him a good pick-and-pop guy but the rising senior’s way of stepping up to produce more inside has satisfied the most, in my eyes. He’s continuing to work on his post go-to moves and looked better crashing the glass on Friday. I remember one stretch where he went on a personal run to gather up paint points against Eastern Mennonite. If Glushkov develops a killer mentality to just completely own the paint and not think too hard about what moves he wants to make, opponents will find themselves in a pickle. Using a face-up game could also work well for the big fella.
Haze Green ’21 – Fairfax Christian Academy (Sterling, VA): His team didn’t have an easy night in the final game of Friday against Life Christian Academy (Chester, VA) but Green worked the hardest to give Fairfax Christian as many second-chance attempts as possible. The 6’6” forward has a big body and quick first jump to constantly fight for rebounds. I remember him snagging at least three offensive boards in one possession alone. His game centers around playing as more of a workhorse currently but I think Green’s frame could help him the most in becoming a force by driving the ball. I don’t think many would be able to keep him away from the basket if he gets low and attacks with a full head of steam; he showed a sneaky, quick burst. Learning how to manage his body control should serve as one of the main focal points for improvement in Green’s style of play. That honestly just emerges from purely playing more, in my opinion. Green will get there as long as he continues to stay hungry…right now, I doubt that anybody can question his effort and heart.
Make sure to stay on the lookout for my Day 2 (6/29) and Day 3 (6/30) standouts of this second session!