Tec's Thoughts from Saturday at Gibbons
SUWANEE—Bracket play is underway here at Gibbons. This is when it gets serious. While cliche, it’s all about surviving and advancing at this point. Just win because championships and future momentum are on the line when Sunday begins.
The bracket is unfolding and presenting interesting Sunday matchups and possibilities. There’s no doubt that it will be a must-see day of basketball inside Suwanee Sports Academy. I’d say it’ll be cinematic, even.
Before we get to that point, let’s take a look at some of what I saw on Saturday.
Use Your Size
As a vertically challenged man, I want nothing more than to see bigger guys utilize their size to their advantage. Be big. Do it for guys like me.
I was happy to spend some time on Saturday morning watching just that.
In the first game, Team Huncho’s 2024 squad ran out two forwards that made their killings inside the arc. Kevin Alabi and Braedan Lue are both skilled enough to be perimeter threats, and they use that to their advantage, but both guys used their big, physical frames to dominate from within 15 feet. I’ve been high on Lue for a while because of his motor, physicality and length. This was my first chance getting to see Alabi, and he quickly became a name that I won’t soon be forgetting. If you let him catch the ball around the free-throw line, go ahead and assume that two points will be going on the board.
In the 9:10 slot of games, I was treated to EAB’s bigs. Somto Cyril is a dominant force around the basket, and he knows it. He won’t let you get anything that resembles a clean look in the paint, he’s a bully on the glass, and he tries to rip rims off of their hinges every time he’s within arm’s reach of the basket. I also love to watch Jarred Hall operate at the four spot. He’s got enough skill to operate from the perimeter, but he’s absolutely dominant as a post player. When he’s on the floor with Cyril, you’re not getting a rebound. Sorry to break it to ya. They’re gobbling them all up like it’s Hungry, Hungry Hippos or something.
If You Want Bounce….
You can find it on the Florida Rebels team. It’s pretty remarkable to see a team combine size and athleticism the way they do.
From across the gym, their layup line is like a magnet that pulls you in. They make it impossible to not gravitate toward their court to see what show they might put on. I know from firsthand experience.
After you’ve seen this team challenge each other to their own pregame dunk contest, you’ll stick around and see tantalizing upside across the board. Jason Jackson—the big, hyper-athletic guard—quickly became a favorite among the HoopSeen staff. Duke commit Sean Stewart showed why he garnered such a coveted offer. You’ve seen me write about guys who have used Gibbons as a springboard for bigger things to come, and Jordan Burks is certainly a candidate to be that guy this year.
Upsets can happen at any time, but I have to forecast this group as a team to make a deep run into Sunday afternoon.
Something is in the water down there in the sunshine state. They have a different breed of hooper, and it makes my job easier and more fun.
It Takes Toughness
In a grinder like this tournament, not every game is going to be pretty, so it’s the ones that can win gritty that will be playing late into the weekend.
On Saturday, two Georgia teams showed plenty of that grit.
First, the Southern Kings reminded everyone what Augusta basketball is all about. Every year, teams from the Augusta area make deep runs in the state tournament because they’re tough and they outwork their opponents. The Southern Kings did that in a win against Upward Stars. Via tough rebounding, crucial defensive stops, and hustle plays, the Kings advanced with a hard-earned 4-point win.
Khalon Hudson continued to show that he’s a star in the Georgia basketball landscape with 25 points.
Shortly after, Norcross Heat pulled off a similar win. We’ve seen this team put together some gutsy wins this season, and they did it again against the Tallahassee Thunder. Guys like Dayton Richardson and Eddie Hendricks help do the dirty work for the Heat while Keishawn Hampton does a great job running the show in crunch time. Every game, this team has someone different step up, and Eddie Hendricks was the guy on Saturday afternoon with a team-high 18 points.
Some Can’t-Miss Guards
I’ve fielded a lot of questions about guards from college coaches at varying levels, so I wanted to throw out five names that caught my attention on Saturday.
We’ve gotten to see Dawson excel on our platform for quite some time, and his performance on Saturday afternoon was among the best we’ve ever seen out of him. The 6-foot-4 guard poured in 28 points to lead TNBA. Barr’s a 2023 guard that should be on more radars. He has the hallmarks of a solid D1 guard. Barr’s smart, scores it from multiple levels, and shares the ball exceedingly well.
Blaine’s recruitment has seen an uptick over recent weeks, which is great to see. The 2022 guard has all of the tools to be an immediate impact. He’s got the positional size at 6-foot-5, he scores the ball well, and he’s going to be the guy that locks up the other team’s best player. Blaine is a switchable defender that’ll be able to guard anyone on the perimeter.
On this little list, I have to give the best passer superlative to Tyre. I’ve seen this guy make some outstanding reads during the high school season and on Saturday with the Atlanta Timberwolves. When I found out that he was also a quarterback, it all made sense. He sees the floor so well and delivers passes perfectly. Tyre can also shoot the cover off the ball when he gets going.
I absolutely loved Martin throughout the high school season when he helped lead King’s Ridge to a state tournament title appearance. He’s steady and poised. Martin uses his high IQ and a change of speeds well to make up for any potential deficiencies in terms of athleticism. He’s also an exceptional shooter. He capped his Saturday by boasting a 24-point game, which included four 3-pointers. I don’t know where he’ll end up in college, but I know he’ll be great when he gets there.
Roberts is a no-brainer for a list like this. He’s succeeded against high-level competition since I’ve been watching him. He’s as true of a point guard as there is. Roberts provides a steadying presence on the floor, and he makes his team better no matter who’s around him. My favorite players are the ones who make a noticeable impact on the game. Roberts does that. When he’s not on the floor, the team isn’t quite as good. One underrated thing about him is his defensive instinct. Watch him closely. He knows what to do and where to be.