Non-Senior Backcourt Duos – Looking Ahead Pt 1
CUMMING, GA – Let’s not take anything away from the Class of 2022 and the backcourt gems we all know and love, but as we get toward Region and State playoff time, let’s take a look at some guard combos (that I’ve seen) who may well have a lot to say about who hangs banners this year, and those who’ll be back next year to either win another or get another shot at one that got away.
As I roll through my season notes, we open this series (in no particular order) with Part 1 of what is sure to be multiple parts:
By: Keith Agran
CJ Brown and Ricky McKenzie | both 2024 | Walker School
Perhaps no twosome has given me more oohs and aahs than Brown and McKenzie (pictured above) did last Saturday in their solid road win over St Francis, and I’m fairly certain neither was at the top of their game. Yet still the two do things and play in such a way that sets them apart from most others their age. There’s plenty of young aggression and emotion, items which naturally get ironed out some as any player matures in his high school years. But there’s also a ton of inherent moxie and maturity in the DNA of both their games, as each has born and bred basketball instincts to go with seemingly next-dimensional athletic skills. It’s not hyperbolic at least to me to suggest these two could both be top 10 players in the state by the time they’re seniors, they’re that good.
Isaac Martin and Jack Thomas | both 2023 | King’s Ridge Christian
This one is more of a projection toward the ’22-23 season, as Thomas currently comes off the bench for the Tigers. But it’s based on Martin’s continued development both as a floor leader and deft scorer and Thomas’ measurables and brilliant summer work carving up defenses with Reach Higher Kings. The two look to me, mostly in my head at the moment, to be a perfect fit together. Martin, the terrific passer and floor general who just keeps getting better and better, and Thomas at 6-4 (and likely growing) the ideal catch and attack wing with a jumper and savvy moves to the hole in his arsenal. The current iteration of Tigers will still have plenty to say about this year’s A-Private bracket, but these two (together with other returnees 2023’s Micah Hoover and Zak Thomas) should make next year’s group even more fun.
Kenric Lanier and Quay Wallace | 2023 and 2024 | Decatur
Let us not forget 2023 Turner Cummings as well for the Bulldogs, but since we’re doing duos, for this segment we’ll focus in on Lanier and his wonderfully physical brand of guard play and Wallace, a smooth and polished sophomore who has the makings of a really good one down ITP. Lanier’s ability to pop it from deep distance combined with a bullish and yet still slick approach to the dribble drive makes him one of the tougher matchups I’ve seen this season. Wallace has a confident stroke for a young guy, not afraid to pull it when available, has a great nose on defense, and just shows a lot of sound basketball instincts that will only get sharper still and augment his physical gifts as a scorer.
CJ Hyland and Tahai Morgan | both 2024 | Lanier
Speed, strength, IQ, defense, passing – these 2 Longhorn sophomores both possess a lot of all of those qualities, and so much more is to come as each will play big-time, high-level summer ball and continue to hone their crafts against the best. What’s tough about matching up these two is that either can slide between guard spots comfortably and be really effective, Hyland is a little more of the prototypical PG and really thrives at the head of the offense. Morgan has a solid scorer’s mind, a real willingness to seek out contact and get into traffic. Both can really get going from distance and when on the floor together that’s a tough ask of the defense, and even though Lanier has had an up and down campaign this year, the future is so bright in Sugar Hill with big man Jayce Nathaniel set to play alongside them the next 2 seasons as well.
Tyler Jewell and Marcus Smith | 2024 and 2025 | Walnut Grove
Perhaps the most diminutive duo of the bunch we’ll look at, but that hasn’t seemed to stop them from impressing and posting numbers particularly of late. Should be really fascinating to see how come 5A playoff time these two skilled ballhandlers and scorers mold in crunch time with the seasoned group of seniors around them. That said, Jewell’s quiet smoothness and deadly stroke from 3-land and Smith’s attack-minded push and drive game should have an effect on the games to come this season, and will certainly be a blast to watch down the road, as the Warriors will welcome back the likes of 2023’s Nick Tyre and John Mark Avitabile next fall as well.
Mansir Williamson and Kennedy Warren | 2023 and 2024 | Centennial
This too is a projection ahead, as Warren plays a role off Coach Matt Barkley’s bench but has a group of vets ahead right now as the Knights get set to make another 6A run. Williamson is the engine though for the whole train, and I’ve gotten to see quite a bit of his development over the last 2 years particularly through his work on the grassroots scene. His maturity and willingness to slow down his game jump out immediately, and that has produced a more refined scoring game to go with his already stellar D and ballhandling. Warren shows signs of becoming a breakout wing, he can shoot it from deep and like all modern guards seems unfazed by getting at the rack as often as possible. Adding strength to his frame before next fall will be key as he takes the next step.
Keith Agran has lived in Georgia since 2011 and joined OTR as a National Evaluator in 2021. He previously scouted for Prep Hoops dating back to 2019 and has both a championship-coaching background on the HS-level and daily newspaper writing experience, both from New Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.
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