Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just a Minute with Justin Young

The first week of basketball is in the books and the season is looking as wide open as ever. Norcross loses to Dunwoody in a scrimmage, who in turn barely beats Milton in overtime. Riverdale beats Columbia in a scrimmage and then loses to Mill Creek.

The lesson learned from the first week of basketball? Anything is possible.

Expect a long, and fun, year on the high school scene. Parity has struck the Georgia prep scene and from the outside looking in, that is what makes this state such a fun place to watch high school hoops. What will happen this year? Buckle up and here we go.

After watching Chris Allen play, I have to wonder, is he the best player in the state? Getting to the line 24 times against a team like Whitefield Academy is impressive. That is a pro quality to his game.

Let’s see what Gani Lawal and J.J. Hickson have to offer this year.

I bumped into Howard Thompkins at the Jump Ball Jam Classic at Georgia Tech. He looked great and looks to be back in 100 percent shape. He has Dec. 7 circled on his calendar, much like the rest of us, as his Oak Hill team comes to Georgia Tech to take on the defending 5A state champions. He’ll line up against his former Wesleyan teammate Al-Farouq Aminu, Georgia Hoops’s No. 1 player in the class of 2008. Thompkins was the No. 2 ranked player in the state’s 2008 before he left for Oak Hill. Needless to say, it is a match-up certainly worth watching.

Whitefield Academy always has talented young players on the roster and this year is no different. I’m a huge Brandon Reed fan. And quickly became a huge Cameron Baskerville fan. He was the best post player that I saw last week. Did I mention he is only 6-6? If he grows to 6-8 (or taller), he’ll be one of the top big men in his class (and maybe even nationally).

Speaking of size, I didn’t recognize Whitefield senior Kelvin McConnell. My goodness, I need to get on that weight program. The sharpshooter dropped over 40 pounds and looks great. He’ll be counted on for the Wolfpack’s run to the Class A title this year.

Cherokee High School ’s staff - Roger Kvam and Bob VanAlstyne - must be commended on a great Jump Ball Jam Classic at Georgia Tech. They put a lot of time and work into the event and the games could not have been more exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing more events like that in the future.

Kudos to the University of Georgia ’s coaching staff. Dennis Felton and assistant coach Desmond Oliver did something that a lot of coaches don’t do. They brought their families out to the event. A lot of coaching staffs preach family atmosphere. Georgia is proving that they live that. FYI…all of the staffs in Georgia are very good family people. We are really blessed with great coaching staffs in this state.

Here’s a commitment that slipped under our nose: Westlake ’s Bryson Barnes is headed to Furman. Good get for the Paladins. He along with Milton ’s Connor Nolte will make for a good duo on the wing. Nolte was outstanding against Dunwoody over the weekend.

I’m off to the Harrison at McEachern game tonight. It should be a good one. McEachern freshman Trae Golden is off to a hot start. The 6-2 rookie is averaging over 20 points a game. The Indians have a good looking team and a new coach that is getting it done in Nick Chaykowski.

The trip marks my first trip to McEachern since Morris Almond and Josh Smith played there. Thinking of that, there fewer players that I respect more in basketball than Almond. I was a huge Almond fan when he suited up for the Indians in 2002-2003. I wrote:

“Morris Almond would be a great addition to any program. He understands the game of basketball. If you need interior rebounding, he'll do it. If you need a big three, he'll hit it. And the beautiful thing about his game, is his demeanor. He isn't a showboater. He just does the job. I love that.

Off of the court, he's about as good of a prospect as you'd want. He's great in the classroom. He comes from a good family. That shows in his character.”

As a freshman at Rice, a school he picked over the likes of Indiana and Notre Dame, Almond played sparingly. As a sophomore, he came off the bench to average 7.2 points per game. As a junior, he earned a starting spot and became a first team All-Conference selection in the Conference USA and led the league in scoring with 21.9 points a game. Now he is a top target for NBA teams.

Almond put in the work, didn’t worry about meaningless things like rankings and is now putting himself in a position to play in the NBA all the while earning a degree from one of the best universities in the nation. There is something to be said about that.

Since I ran my camp, I’ve had a lot of parents asking me what they can do to help their sons in the recruiting process.

My answer is always this: 1. Worry about the education aspect because basketball will take care of itself if you respect the game. 2. Listen to coaching. Colleges want to recruit guys that are coachable, whether or not you or your son thinks the coach knows what he is doing. 3. Stay grounded. Don’t look for an answer at another school or taking an un-needed prep year. 4. Don’t worry about rankings. They have and they never will pay for an education. By the way, Florida was ranked 71 in last year’s preseason poll. They were the National Champions.

I say all of this because Almond was a guy (as was his family) that did things the right way. They worked hard at finding the right fit for a college. Almond remained patient and worked hard for his playing time. He could have transferred to an easier school or a more primetime program. But in the end, it is all about accountability.

So what can you do to help support your son or player? Simple, do just that. Support them. And most of all, enjoy this year.