Andre Whitehead's Team Thad Combine Standouts
This past weekend I attended the 2022 Team Thad Elite Combine in Memphis. The event was loaded with young talent from all over the Southeast. With my focus on Tennessee, I have chosen 9 players that seriously caught my eye. Here they are listed alphabetically:
Thin athlete was a bucket waiting to happen. Runs the floor on every possession, always looks to score and can on every level. His outside shot is soft and barely moves the net. He can explode off the bounce and despite his narrow frame he goes hard to the cup and finishes with a flourish. He is a gambler on defense but makes the transition from defense to offense in a flash. He will need to work on his shot selection as he moves up the grade ladder and becoming more involved within a scheme will also be on his agenda. His effort and love for the game are undeniable.
The second event I have laid on this Nashville product and I am more impressed each and every time. At first glimpse, the size is evident, with strong shoulders and lower body. He uses that strength to get places on the floor, he bullies smaller guards in the paint and has the handles to get into the lane or score with his back to the bucket. He is playing with a very high level of confidence after this run. He explodes to the bucket when he turns the corner and his mid-range is coming along nicely. He is aggressive on both sides of the ball and uses his strength to move his defender into spots he doesn't wish to go. His handles are tight but he will need to work on his off-hand, especially on the finish. He is right on the verge of exploding, mark it down.
It's fun to see the light come on. Was it the high level of competition or is it just time? Either way, Mr. Harris made this event his own. His motor was on the entire event, yes Saturday and Sunday. He was sprinting the floor, he was blocking jump shots, deflecting passes and snatching boards, giving it up and running the floor only to finish with crafty lay-ins, easy jumpers and rim-rattling dunks. His outside shot does need to be sped up a bit, but his confidence was high and the shots were falling. He didn't try to do things that he couldn't do and his body language was the best by far I have ever seen it, thank you. You could see in his face the effort he was giving was to his liking. If he keeps this up his stock is rising on an epic upward trend.
Coming off an injury that had sidelined him for a while, were we expecting this type of effort and this high level of production? I cannot express how much I enjoyed watching Heard on Saturday. He was playing with a high level of confidence, I think the level of competition made everyone step up or get stepped on. He was knocking down picture-perfect deep shots of the dribble and on the catch. he showed the ability to put it on the deck and score in the paint. He has excellent length and size and can be an asset at several spots on the floor. He played with an urgency I had not seen before and am oh so excited to see again. Unfortunately, he was not able to go on Sunday but his effort on the first day made him more than worthy of mention in this post.
As I made notes on this burgeoning prospect, I was careful to realize this kid was more than holding his own against high-level players and he has yet to even play in a high school basketball game. Jackson has excellent size and has a smoothness to his game that allows him to play multiple spots on the floor. He has an even temperament which is key at this age as the rigors of high school basketball will test him daily. He has adequate handles but will need to work on keeping his head up and not having the ball so far from his body. He needs to show more aggression as well and keep that motor constant, everyone is watching you now young man. The future is bright for this kid as long as he continues to make the upward mobility that his game appears to be headed.
This kid draws eyes upon him everywhere and every time he is on the court. He has length, he has up-and-coming strength, he defends with passion and has a small chip on his shoulder when someone scores on him, I love that. He absolutely attacks the bucket, he goes after every rebound and he has improved his footwork. He shoots the mid-range with success, keeping his release high and his follow through perfect. Defensively he shines bright, he moves his feet and uses his strength to keep his opponent from advancing forward, he challenges every shot and he rebounds, outlets and runs the floor for easy scoring chances. The next step in his evolution is becoming more confident with the outside shot, and coming off the screen. Watch his stock rise up and up.
If there was a commotion on the other court, every time I looked over Jones was scoring in some way. This kid is the Webster's definition of a bucket. He changes speeds, he can stop and start, he uses both hands and finishes everything around the rim. He is not big but has some length to him. He takes everything to the cup and has an ability to score with contact. His shot selection and decision-making can be in question at times. His ability to score overshadows some of the improvements he will need to make in his overall game. At his size incorporating some lead guard skills into the fold will be vital for his continued development.
How can you not love Tenner? The inevitable comparisons to Tyler Harris are understandable, the size and even the same school, but that daring shot-making ability that defined Harris seems to have made its way into the DNA of Tenner as well. He is a small guard with a scoring mentality, some of this is the necessity to score for his prep team and his ability to reign shots from deep at the flick of a wrist. He can burst to the bucket, but when that smile is bright and the shots are falling watch out and hope your phone has battery life. He is not afraid to defend, he is slight but not weak. His ability to become an overall lead guard will determine the level of his post high school journey.
The motor catches your eye from the jump. Even in the drill work, he is able to change directions and explode into the paint or fill a lane and dive to the bucket. He is very active on defense, he blocks shots at a high level, he rebounds in traffic despite a slight build and he wants to compete. I was very impressed with his never quit mantra and he displays excellent body language. He is unselfish and has some guard in his game, especially off the bounce as long as we don't over-dribble. He has amazing length and can finish with the flush or the crafty lay in. The next step for him as well as for many is adding some perimeter to his game. He is at his best when the tempo is high but he seems a bit unsure when things come to a half-court mode. This kid is a worker and I have no doubt he will be working on the areas that he needs to improve.