Sage Speaks – 1/24/22 (Part One)
CUMMING, GA – Another busy week, as nary an all-day tournament scheduled for the first weekend in a while, but we still got out to 5 sites during the last 7 days and got to see some terrific basketball.
Sage Speaks in 2 parts once again opens with the early week contests.
By: Keith Agran
Decatur at St. Pius (1/18/22)
WHAT HAPPENED: Decatur W 56-54 OT – In a stunning and stirring game, after a slow start that had things looking bleak, Decatur clawed back and hung with the high-powered Golden Lions the rest of the way before Turner Cummings late bucket tied it to send it to OT, and then the Bulldogs did just enough in the extra session to outlast the hosts for the massive road W.
DECATUR STANDOUTS: Certainly an underrated talent coming out of DeKalb this year is junior guard Kenric Lanier. To me he’s known, both off his play last season as well as his summer play, but by playing this sort of hybrid forward/guard role at 6-3 for the undersized Dawgs his tireless work out there comes off looking less like the traditional 2-man he is. But it matters little what his ‘position’ is, Tuesday he was a rebounding machine hitting double digits on the glass to go with his workmanlike and sometimes spectacular 16 points in what was a well-played defensive tussle. He’s worthy of so much more attention in a loaded 2023 class. Lanier was the dynamite, but the kindle most of the night alongside him were 3 more guards in Cummings, battler Henry Willis (19pts) and senior PG Parker Adam, who keeps the Decatur ship righted.
ST. PIUS STANDOUTS: Twice during the night fans seated nearby turned to ask me if I was there to look at 6-9 junior forward Spencer Elliott. While my answer was certainly yes, a player with a D1 future is surely an attraction in any gym, I followed the question both times by saying how much respect I have for the Pius program and the discipline and structure they play with under Coach Aaron Parr. It’s a style I’ll sign up to go watch regardless of the lineup, as he’s clearly built a program that can have sustainable success based almost solely on the system they run. Elliott did put in some nice work against the smaller Dawgs, but the game required some different nuance from Parr. It was junior guard Blake Wilson (16pts) who impressed me most on this night, and he’s a name showing up more and more on evaluators’ social media feeds. He has a natural scoring talent you can’t teach, a mind clearly a step ahead of most, and he combines deadly long-range shooting with a real advanced understanding of how to attack defenses and get the finish. In more of a feature role next year (alongside Elliott again btw) he should really thrive.
KEEP AN EYE ON Cummings >> Interesting, wiry length at around 6-3, yet unlike the more physical Lanier the junior is a bit more slithery and shifty on the attack. There’s just a little something there in the motor and smarts department that intrigues, and having him back next year with Lanier, rising sophomore Quay Wallace and Kenric’s younger brother Kaleb will give the always feisty Dawgs yet another guard grouping to watch.
Lanier at Mountain View (1/19/22)
WHAT HAPPENED: Mountain View W 68-45 – In a rare midweek afternoon tilt, it was clear from the first 2 minutes the Longhorns were sluggish coming off a brutal last-second defeat at home vs Dacula the night before, as the Bears used their pressure D and exciting running ability in front of a raucous group of students just out of school to get out fast and stay there for the win.
MOUNTAIN VIEW STANDOUTS: There’s a lot to be excited about in Bear Country with this group of players, their young ones in particular. Seniors Chance Boothe and Michael Wesig play important roles, Boothe in particular with his ability to guard 4 spots and play above the rim at around 6-3. But it’s the four 2024’s that provide most of the electricity, with the backcourt of Michael White and CJ Johnson being one to watch for sure. Both can handle the ball for you, knock down the deep 3, get out and finish with finesse on the break, get to the rim in the halfcourt with vigor, and guard and come after the ball within the Bears relentless pressure scheme. Forward Richard Rojas provides explosiveness near the basket as he’s a high flier at 6-4 whose overall game shows signs of being really interesting, while Carter Watkins has good size for the wing, is a high IQ scorer who likes to spot up near the arc and knock ’em down, but has a craftiness I like.
LANIER STANDOUTS: It wasn’t Lanier’s day, as they actually had built a little momentum going before the heartbreaking Dacula the night before, having won 6 of 8 heading into that one. Easy to understand the letdown factor coming back the next afternoon on the road, but Coach Brandon Mayweather indicated his own set of 2024 standouts was beginning to find some flow, and you can see it in the play of forward Jayce Nathaniel and guards Tahai “Boogie” Morgan and CJ Hyland. Nathaniel is a tireless worker at both ends and takes a physical pounding even with a frame as impressive as his already is, but he’s got a super bright future. It’s an awfully nice foundation to build on going forward, even in a Region as brutally tough as 6A-Region 8, and this group of Longhorns will not be down for long.
KEEP AN EYE ON White >> Making one of those rapid ascensions up the rankings lists as well as with the eye test, he can flat out score and has a ton of confidence behind it. It’ll be a fun summer watching him develop further in what are generally more wide-open and less structured contests on the circuits.
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 email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.