FORT MYERS, FL - The City of Palms once again delivered as the top high school tournament in the country. We looked back at our four days of coverage and are happy to roll out our superlatives from our seat from media row.
TOP DOG: Scottie Barnes, University School. When you claim the MVP trophy after winning the tournament as a No. 10 seed, it is hard to argue with him being the top dog. We wrote about him being similar to Ben Simmons and after watching him even more, we stand by that projection. Barnes is still not close to the type of player that we think he can, and will, be. The 6-foot-9 forward is the new wave of skilled big man who can play with the ball in his hands as a playmaker and a tremendous interior defender and rebounder. Barnes put a stamp on his early and budding career during his week in Fort Myers.
BEST SENIOR: Alex Lomax, Memphis East. Every great team has a great glue guy. And when your glue guy is a two time Mr. Basketball, you have an amazing team dynamic. Lomax set the tone on both ends of the floor with his tough guy play, particularly as a rim driver and a challenger on defense. Lomax made big plays in big moments and pushed his team to important wins. He recorded a triple-double in the championship game. Don’t be surprised to see Lomax contend for the American Conference Player of the Year award during his tenure at Wichita State.
BEST JUNIOR: Trendon Watford, Mountain Brook. He was simply awesome all week long in Southwest Florida. He showed off his versatile skill set and dominated every game in a variety of ways. He burned teams inside. He burned them outside. He burned them as a scorer, as a rebounder and as a passer. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton and Alabama were on hand to see him play.
BEST SOPHOMORE: Sharife Cooper, McEachern. Wow. What a week for the Atlanta point guard. Cooper was arguably the most entertaining player in the field. Oftentimes, he was the smallest player on the floor but he seemed to deliver every time out. Cooper scored 42 points, including the game-winner, against Hudson Catholic and helped Georgia’s top team reach the semifinals of the COP.
BEST MATCH UP (sort of): The debate for No. 1 in the 2019 class was a fun one to watch play out at the City of Palms between James Wiseman and Vernon Carey, Jr. Both big men had good weeks of work in Fort Myers and we were fortunate to have them play each other in the championship game. Carey, Jr. finished with the win thanks in large part to his 20 points (7-10 FG, 6-12 FT) and four rebounds. Wiseman ended with 10 points and four rebounds before fouling out. Here’s the skinny: Carey is just to strong to contain. He powers his way to buckets. Wiseman, on the flip side, is just so long and so active, he’s hard to snag rebounds on. Carey won a slight edge in this battle.
BEST PRO PROSPECT: There are several players you could put in this category from this year’s field but I think Moses Brown of Archbishop Molloy can certainly make the case for this spot. For starters, he’s uniquely huge. The 7-foot-2 center has NBA size and we just don’t see that many players with the size that he possesses. Brown runs the floor incredibly well and sets the post better than most players in the class.
BEST RANKINGS RISER: Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon. He’s currently No. 115 on the 247 Sports Composite rankings. That’s way too low. Way. Too. Low. The future Iowa State wing forward played like a guy ready to step into a big role for coach Steve Prohm. Horton-Tucker looked like a future all-conference player, at times, and a guy would could play for a long time after college.
BEST SURPRISE: Kai Jones, Orlando Christian Prep. Well, hello. The 6-foot-10 center was an eye-catcher right out of the gate because of his length and energy inside the paint as a rim protector. Jones has been in the United States for less than a year and, according to his coaches, continues to make big strides in his development. The native of the Bahamas runs the floor with purpose and fluidity. He blocks shots with great timing and uses his length well. Jones is barely scratching the surface.
MOST CLUTCH: Tye Fagan, Upson Lee. The Middle Tennessee State signee did what he does in the clutch - he delivered. Fagan was masterful in the moment for Upson Lee as their 43-game win streak was on the line. He owned the second half and simply took over. You could see his confidence roll as the game pushed forward. There are few players that can challenge the rim quite like Fagan can.
BEST PLAYER WE’RE NOT TALKING ENOUGH ABOUT: Aaron Wiggins, Wesleyan Christian. The 6-foot-6 senior from North Carolina was one of the best shooters here in Fort Myers. Wiggins hit seven of nine three pointers en route to 28 points against a very good Chicago Simeon team. Wiggins should play big minutes right away when he arrives at Maryland. With so many great players in this year’s field guys like Wiggins, a top 40 composite player in the 2018 class, shouldn’t be looked over.
BEST TEAM: Mountain Brook. The Alabama boys were a fan favorite because of the way they play. They lost two games on buzzer beaters but could have otherwise been a contender for the championship. The Spartans broke a tournament record with 20-made three-pointers and guarded end-to-end with the best of them.