Garrett Tucker’s #Gibbons Friday Notebook
The historic Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions tipped off on Friday night in north Atlanta, and, per usual, the crop of talent did not disappoint. As I have done many times in the past, I began the event watching underclassmen at off-site locations.
Here are the biggest 16U storylines from Garrett Tucker’s perspective…
TEAM HUNCHO HAS PLAYERS
I didn’t get a chance to see the Team Huncho 16U squad back at Tip-Off, so I made it a priority to see them on opening night. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint against Team Scoot TJ.
Anchored by 6-foot-9 big man Mekhi Ragland, Huncho has a versatile group of players that will play college basketball. Ragland came out of the gates strong and did a nice job of using his sheer size as a mismatch. The sophomore has a decent skill-level and converted several finishes with his back to the basket while also dominating on the boards. The Berkmar (GA) product will be a name to know as the summer months get going.
Another Team Huncho name to know is 2025 point guard Micah Tucker. The 6-foot-2 point guard was the ideal floor general for his team, as he played with a tight skill-set and stayed under control. But don’t be fooled — Tucker can get a bucket when he needs to.
The Mount Pisgah (GA) guard did most of his scoring from inside the paint with his crafty moves, but he kept defenses honest with his shooting ability, too. In fact, with the game on the line, Huncho chose to keep the ball in Tucker’s hands to finish off the win.
Ragland and Tucker were two of my favorites from Team Huncho on Friday, but they have a handful of other recruitable players that I will be keeping my eye on going forward.
ATLANTA XPRESS ROLLS ON OPENING NIGHT
The Atlanta Xpress 16U group had no problem getting things going on Friday, as they rolled to a 20-point win over STAT E1T1. The Under Armour-based team used a total team effort to bring home the victory.
2025 forward Davin Neal wasted no time getting in on the action, as he caused havoc on both ends of the floor with his activity and motor. The 6-foot-6 forward was a nightmare on defense with his length and versatility, as he deflected passes and made things difficult at the rim for the opposing squad.
Neal is the type of player that really sets the tone for a team and he did just that for the Xpress. It’s evident he’s the leader of his squad and they will go as he goes this weekend.
Over the past few months I’ve mentioned Alabama’s talented 2025 class. From top to bottom, it looks like one of the better classes I’ve seen in the past decade. With that being said, I haven’t discussed 2025 Huntsville (AL) Westminster Christian wing Kaden Rickard enough.
The 6-foot-5 wing checks a lot of different boxes: he’s skilled, he can make shots, he defends, and he does the little things that translate to wins. All of that and more was on display on Friday evening.
Rickard did everything from acting as the Xpress’ primary ball-handler to defending multiple positions throughout the night. He made the correct play with the ball in his hands and scored 16 points, too. Going forward, I think he’s going to hear from a handful of Division I programs and he’ll be in the top ten of our initial 2025 Alabama rankings.
LENGHT & SIZE HEADLINE THE UPWARD STARS
Man, it’s hard not to miss the Upward Stars 16U group when they’re out and about. The South Carolina-based program is littered with length and size across the board.
2025 Wilson (SC) wing Tristan Thompson impressed in a win over Florida Pro with 25 points. The 6-foot-5 wing scored those points in a variety of ways, whether it was from tough finishes at the rim, off one dribble pull-ups in the mid-range, or knocking down a couple of three-pointers. You name it, Thompson scored it like that on Friday night.
Thompson has a lot of translatable skills that will benefit him going forward. He’s the epitome of toughness on the perimeter. He had no issues finishing through defenders throughout the game, giving himself multiple and-1 opportunities. Thompson could be a defensive stopper, too. With his length, blue-collar mentality, and ability to put the ball in the basket, he’s one to watch going forward.
SOME OTHER PLAYERS I LIKED…
Brian Sumpter, Upward Stars: Looking at the scoresheet, Sumpter doesn’t necessarily pop out. However, on the floor, he’s a guy you can gush over. The 6-foot-7 forward oozes with his length, size, and fluidity. He played the top on the Upward Stars’ press and was all over the place. It wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps growing, too. I’m buying a lot of stock in Sumter going forward.
Jordan Watford, Upward Stars: Watford was another guy from the Upward Stars that did a little bit of everything. The 6-foot-5 guard checks all the physical boxes: size, athleticism, etc. He showed some scoring flashes, but I was more impressed with his ability to pass and keep the ball moving.
Devin Barksdale, We Play Basketball Club: Another event, another day of watching Barksdale run the show. The floor general excelled in ball screens and facilitating while also making shots. I would love to play on this guy’s team.
Rashad Bryant, We Play Basketball Club: Bryant raised some eyebrows at Bama Jam with SP Elite and he did it again with We Play. The 6-foot-7 forward runs like a deer and plays on a pogo stick. He was all over the rims on the opening night of Gibbons.
Jaylen Richardson, Team Scoot TJ: We’ve been accustomed to seeing Richardson score the basketball here at HoopSeen. Friday night was no different, as he shot the ball well from behind the arc.
Jeremiah Ruffin, Team Scoot TJ: Ruffin looks the part of a 3&D type guard/wing. He made some tough shots in the mid-range off the dribble and also was a pain for opposing offenses. He did a nice job keeping defenders in front of him.