The Jared Cook Tip-Off Classic had a ton of exciting moments as some of the areas best competed over a three day period. I took a look at some of the players that stood out as well as some quick notes for many of the teams in attendance.
Donovan Hairston, G, Milton, 2019: I'm sure there were questions from those that were unfamiliar with Milton as Christian Wright's departure had many wondering who would step in. The obvious answer to those that watched his junior campaign was high scoring guard Donovan Hairston. Despite missing the spring and summer with a shoulder injury, Hairston has not lost a step as he routinely scored from all three levels. He's a dynamic scorer that plays with confidence despite being behind the curve of most of his peers. He will pour in a ton of points for Milton this season as programs like Navy watch his progression of the next few months. Others would be wise to do the same as Hairston has the makings of a quality next level guard.
Eric Gaines, G, Lithonia, 2020: Georgia's 2020 class is filled with guys that constantly put pressure on a teams transition defense. K.D Johnson, Dwon Odom and Jermonte Hill are just some of the ones that come to mind. Lithonia guard Eric Gaines is in that same school of guards that just constantly cause defenses to engage him from the moment he gets an outlet pass. His finishes are as acrobatic as any as contorts his body well enough to evade most help defenders. Get in his way and his athleticism takes over to finish one of his many either hand layups above the rim. He's an exciting player to watch as you know he can give the crowd a highlight play at a moments notice. With one offer currently from Georgia State, he will be a player that could have a handful by the start of April's live period.
Justin Myles, F, Lithonia, 2019:After watching him closely for two afternoons, I can't wait to see the senior year of Justin Myles going forward. No, not this senior year, but in college where he will eventually go as a programs long-term piece to the puzzle. Give him some weight, and experience, and watch as this deer-like runner sinks hook shot after hook shot over his left shoulder. His length will give him the advantage during most nights but it's his overall effort and mentality that keeps him involved on the glass. There's a lot to like in Myles as the right program could bring out the most in this talented 6'7 forward.
Mitch Ganote, G, Lambert, 2019: Have I missed as a coach before? Sure. We've all seen a player that we didn't like go on to another school and thrive for three or four years. Enough good games will have you questioning where did you go wrong in your evaluation of that programs crown jewel. It's something that can almost haunt you. It looks like a trend every year. There is one guy who's going to win a ton of games, do everything right, and the powers that be will skip over him in search of something flashier. Last year it was Tre Gomillion, who by the way is averaging 12 points, and 6 rebounds for a 4-2 Gordon state team. Mitch Ganote wins games. It's not always pretty. But who cares. Small college programs that have passed on him so far will hate looking his name up in a few years.
Collin Granger, F, Lambert, 2020: A couple of text messages were exchanged throughout the game as people constantly asked, " how many points does the big kid have?". I'm never one to track points throughout a game so I responded mainly with " a ton" or " I don't know, but they can't stop him". A 41 point performance had me looking closely into the upside of Lambert forward Collin Granger as a next level forward. There wasn't a place on the floor that Granger didn't produce from. Inside, outside, from 15 feet, or the free throw line he chipped in points. As Mitch Ganote sat due to foul trouble is was often Grangers play that kept Lamber right on Peachtree Ridge's doorstep. His play at the Jared Cook Tip-Off Classic was one that makes me think about our top 30 rankings in Georgia's 2020 class.
N'Kyzie Hawkin's value for Lithonia could go understated all season long. He doesn't have Gaines athleticism or the size of Myles but if you pay attention he's constantly involved in the action.
I love the way Connor McCormick flies around for North Gwinnett. Regardless of the situation, his size, athleticism, and skill will keep him on the court. Some of the plays he made defensively were done off of sheer will.
I haven't seen a player embrace a junkyard role for a team as well as Jammonie Watkins-Causey has for quite some time. The Meadowcreek faithful has to love what he brings to their team. I'm not saying he's Amari Kelly or Cory Hightower but he does ease the blow of losing them quite a bit.
I walked away really impressed with Peachtree Ridge senior Brian Knight. His athleticism was on full display all spring and summer but now I'm seeing more production as a shooter. Upped his value alot in my book.
Kam Oyola is fearless. There will be a lot of circling of two's and three's in the Peachtree Ridge scorebook this season. A go-ahead layup to give them the win over Grayson last night was fitting for him. Two solid nights for the senior against other quality college level guards.
One of these days we could look back at a player like 6'8 Amari Davis and wonder how the team he's on landed him. The right school that puts in the time and energy could reap a ton of benefits later.
There's a lot to like about the toughness that junior W/F Quincy Canty brings to Cedar Shoals. Even with his eventual transition from the paint to a full-time wing his rebounding production and efforts should remain the same.
Last night was the most aggressive I've seen Dacula guard Mekhail Bethea play offensively. One of Georgia's top available guards is more than capable of producing at the level.18 points against a tough Meadowcreek defense.
I said it last night but Grayson forward Ian Schieffelin is growing on me more and more as a prospect. He will be their man in the middle all season long and he's embracing the role. Making his one and only three-point attempt was not a tool I thought 6'6 forward had in his bag. I know now.
Grayson junior guard Deivon Smith affects the game in a ton of ways. Rebounding, defending, and passing. Especially passing. That's one of the more underrated parts of his game. Expect some triple-doubles throughout the season.
If you see North Gwinnett guard Chandler Johnston standing out behind the arc then you have to run him off the line. Six made three's at one point made him the most dangerous shooter at the event.
When Mitch Ganote was out with foul trouble, Braxton Beaty ran the Lambert show very well. As a combo guard, he excelled in whatever role he was needed in at the time. A tough cover from slow-footed and inattentive defenders.
Mt. Bethel forward Jordan Meka continues to impress. We all know his reputation as a shot blocker but it's his developing skill set that makes him more intriguing.
Meadowcreek is the best team I've seen so far this year (and yes I've seen McEachern twice). I'll spend some time talking about their suffocating defense soon.