Colleges in Attendance: Davis & Elkins College and Bridgewater College

 

 

While St. George, VA tends to have a calm, hushed vibe surrounding its community for the majority of its days, one can expect to see activity pick up whenever the Blue Ridge School men’s varsity basketball program hosts an event. Having covered their showcases on three different occasions in the last year, I’ve steadily been impressed with how the coaching staff has brought in opposing teams and next-level schools from both in and out of state. Around this same time last year, I had the privilege to first meet Blue Ridge’s crew when they hosted the inaugural ‘Fall Shootout’; a one-day outing that allows Virginia public and private schools to compete in games before tryouts take place a couple of weeks later. That Saturday in October 2018 helped give me an initial glance at certain teams and I knew it’d be more than worth the trip to again cover the ‘Fall Shootout’ in its second year during this past weekend. While rosters obviously haven’t been finalized yet, several guys proved what they could have in store for this 2019-20 season.

 

 

Some Team/Game Notes

  • Even with the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division II classification shaping up to become of the toughest in the state this season, Blue Ridge still showed they’re back as a fully loaded group. They looked every bit like the reigning state champions; dominating the opposition to average over 33-point wins in three games. The overall collection of size, scoring, defense, IQ, confidence, and (especially) bench depth makes it difficult to discern what the Barons don’t have amongst their roster. I remember tweeting out that every team member brought his ‘A game’ on Saturday; from the five starters to the last group of young reserves. They hands down appeared as the most complete team and should again emerge as another state title contender. That might sound like old news to some by now, however, considering two of the last three championship banners hang in Blue Ridge’s gym rafters.
  • One of the participants that strongly held my curiosity in scouting for the first time, Miller School (Charlottesville, VA) proved they also should arrive back to again handle business in VISAA Division II. The Mavericks operated as another standout two-way team, as they seemed to rack up steal after steal to initiate fast breaks. A prime example of this happened during a momentous stretch in Miller’s first game of the day against Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, VA). They garnered three caused turnovers in a row, all off of steals, to go on a 9-0 run in a matter of seconds. Aside from turning defense into offense, I’d say shot-creation amongst pretty much all of Miller’s perimeter guys stood out also. Greater focus in half-court defense and not quickly firing off ill-advised attempts will make them even better as they move forward into the winter.
  • By now, after watching them play close to double-digit games since this past June, I’m convinced Church Hill Academy is up to something near the Henrico County of Virginia’s Greater Richmond Region. One could nitpick that it’s a new-look program this year with youth and a lack of height (their tallest prospect stands at 6’4”) but the Phantoms have something that simply can’t be taught: a BIG, collective heart in their players. I see the guard-oriented group using their willpower to often defeat foes. Others will also likely have issue containing their speedy tempo and quick ball reversals in the half-court. Church Hill has a number of guards who can make jumpers and excel on rim drives, as they did a great job of unselfishly moving the ball during Saturday. Oh, and when they apply the defensive pressure with their full-court press, I’ve yet to see a team who can easily break through it without any problems.
  • Covering them in both the first hour of games and one of the last, I respected Western Albemarle High School’s (Albemarle Co., VA) disciplined team half-court offense. They played at their own speed and never worried about rushing looks in the least bit. Some tactics in the Warriors’ offense may be viewed as underappreciated but indeed resulted as conducive to success of either winning or staying close within each game played. Pace, patience, cuts to get open, properly set screens, and selflessness all describe Western Albemarle’s offense best. I’m sure various coaches would appreciate their strategy and deem it as no surprise why the program made a state championship appearance not long ago at the 2018 Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 3 playoffs.
  • The Black Knights of Charlottesville High School (Charlottesville, VA) put on the best morning team performance I saw in a first half, in terms of scoring efficiency. It literally felt like they couldn’t miss in an opening matchup against The Carmel School (Ruther Glen, VA). The squad participated as only a seven-man roster but everyone connected on all cylinders to total baskets. They first achieved easy points off of converted layups from steals and then went on a scoring spree from perimeter shooting. I liked the ‘pop’ in their players’ games, as all seven guys could score on the perimeter. It was a dynamic showing on the offensive end, to say the least, but I also feel the team’s defense set the tone from the very start. Charlottesville didn’t have much size to work with so it may become important for them to rely on quickness and separation to get what they want, offensively.

 

Saturday’s Seven Standouts 

Clarence Rupert ’21 – Miller School (Charlottesville, VA): Tabbed as the 2019 VHSL Class 5 State Player of the Year last season at Maury High School (Norfolk, VA), the 6’7” Rupert brings an extremely valuable presence as a newcomer to Miller. He stood tallest in the Mavericks’ lineup on Saturday and used power to make a lasting impact on both ends. I deemed the junior’s rebounding to be the best out of anybody I saw throughout the day; it he constantly kept the ball alive on offensive possessions due to his high motor around the rim. Rupert appeared best when finishing in the paint but also displayed an ability to step out and shoot from distance. His agility at that size especially stands out when one can see how well the forward intercepts steals and recovers from one area to another. I think the big fella is in for a huge remaining last two years…improvement on his ball skills could take him further in his recruitment. Old Dominion University offered last month.

 

William Lee ’20 – Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA): Ok, so the 6’0” senior guard showed last year, as a new face to the Barons’ program, that he could clearly shoot the rock without hesitation. Now, however, Lee’s confidence has skyrocketed to an entirely new level. Ever since June, in the last several times I’ve watched him perform, he’s shot the ball from three-point land at an electric clip. The same story continued this past weekend, as he poured in jumpers better than anyone else present. By the time Blue Ridge reached halftime of their first game, Lee already had at least 19 points and multiple triples. He worked mainly as a spot-up threat during this particular event but I’ve seen strong shot-creating from him also in the past. His handle and quick moves off of crossovers helps him get enough space for attempts, as he doesn’t need much of it. Of course, being a New York native, Lee’s ball-handling skills shouldn’t have us surprised or anything. If he keeps it up, he could very well become of VISAA Division II’s top scorers to round out his high school career.

 

Tommy Mangrum ’20 – Western Albemarle HS (Albemarle Co., VA): My fourth overall time having seen the veteran play, this showcase again reminded me why there’s so much to like about Mangrum’s game. It’s a simple method that doesn’t require many dribbles to prove effective. I feel he’s grown an inch or so, now at about 6’5,” and still handles the forward position with absolute control. His perimeter shooting looked more deadly by a large measure; something which likely came from his opportunity to play more on the wing this summer for Team Loaded 434-Hawes 17u. In the post, Mangrum showcased his usual toughness and skill to collect paint points and rebounds. He’s very smart in recognizing quick holes to attack with either hand. His footwork jumps out immediately and it’s hard to keep him off of the offensive glass. All of those qualities make the senior a valuable asset to any next-level program… he does plenty of things one cannot teach.

 

Dion Tuell, Jr. ’21 – Church Hill Academy (Richmond, VA): A key piece of Church Hill’s offense, Tuell, Jr.’s improved play had me leaving Saturday feeling satisfied. The 5’11” lefty guard got his points with greater efficiency compared to some past viewings I’ve seen in which he appeared more high-volume. He shot the ball well from different corner spots and used craftiness for finishes once in the lane. Tuell, Jr. is uber athletic and can pretty much get a shot off at any time. He’s another one of those two-way sparks who gives the Phantoms momentum with his energetic defense. When he decides to go full-coast with the ball, expect him to try and rise over whoever’s protecting the rim. If the junior can keep learning the appropriate time and place to take those same shots, his game should keep seeing progression by the day.

 

Elijah Roye ’20 – The Carmel School (Ruther Glen, VA): One thing to be said about Roye’s game: he’s becoming more and more assertive on the block as each outing passes by. His taller height at 6’7” and stronger frame also both helps in this area considerably. I liked how well he succeeded on post moves during the Wildcats’ game; going over either shoulder and using pivots well. On the opposite end, Roye maintained his position as the team’s defensive anchor. Opponents never have an easy day when trying to score around the forward’s shot-blocking instincts, along with hoping to fight through his defensive rebounding on missed attempts. Being the important second ½ of Carmel’s senior duo, along with returning leading scorer and rebounder Josh Campbell ’20, this is some of the best I’ve seen out of Roye in the last year; both physically and skill-wise. The Citadel and VMI both stopped by team workouts to pay him a visit in the previous week.

 

Tyshun Bryant ’21 – Miller School (Charlottesville, VA): At 6’2,” Bryant gives Miller great athleticism in their back-court and a motor that never seems to run out of fuel. His quickness with the ball would cause a headache for anyone trying to contain, as he slices past defenders with swift moves at an elite speed. Once in the air, the guard had serious hang time for finishes and drawn fouls; the latter occurred for him mainly during his three Saturday games. Defensively, the majority of Miller’s guards can all collect steals but Bryant had success on that end more than anybody in attendance, from what I saw. I remember tweeting that he ‘ripped the ball away from opponents at will,’ which typically ended with him making a play at the rim. Bryant also showed a good deal of court vision and, offensively, did everything fast but rarely ever out of control. One thing I didn’t see much from him was a jump shot. Honestly, he didn’t have to rely on that skill much at all but it should take his game to greater heights if he can show comfort.

 

Maliq Brown ’22 – Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA): A big piece of Blue Ridge’s interior, Brown has shown from Day 1 that he can operate as the ultimate ‘clean up guy.’ He has one of the best feels for achieving hustle points that I’ve seen from younger Virginia prospects. Stick-backs on offense happen from the 6’8” forward naturally; I’d argue 6’9” teammate/classmate Houston Emory ’22 is the only other roster member who compares in that category. On the defensive side, Brown has become even more versatile to guard several different positions. His wingspan and quick feet neutralizes perimeter opponents and timing in the paint results to powerfully blocked shots. He makes it all look very easy out there, that’s for sure. Next, I think it’ll become imperative for the sophomore to demonstrate more skill versus just playing with pure hustle. Anybody would appreciate his style up to this point, of course, but his ceiling will stretch higher the more we see him expand his scoring arsenal. Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, and James Madison all extended offers already.

 

 

 

Again, a big thanks to Blue Ridge for their hospitality. The Barons sure know how to run things the right way!