With NBA All-Star Weekend in Atlanta, what better way to kick off the AAU season then with a tournament for many of the top rising freshman in the south. Given that many states in the south allow eighth graders to play varsity basketball, a number of the elite programs were missing some of their top prospects. Damon Harge, EJ Montgomery, and 7-footer Connor Vanover were all set to play in NOLA, but deep playoff runs by their high school teams relegated them home for the weekend. Still, there was enough talent there to give us a viable leap on the class of 2018.
Here are a few of the incoming freshman who caught our eye:
Javonte Smart, 6’4, SG/PG, ATR (LA) With a strong buzz surrounding his name, it was a necessity to check out the player crowned by most as Louisiana’s top rising freshman. Dubbed as a shooting guard, he ran point the whole tournament and it was easy to see him developing into a lead guard full time at the next level. Smart showed off outstanding court vision, was able to break down the defense at will, and drilled numerous (albeit inconsistent) three pointers from NBA range. Defensively, he used his size and quick hands to put immense pressure on the ball and created countless turnovers. While Javonte struggled in the championship game against We All Can Go, he left no doubt in our mind that he is one of the ten best players in the nation for the class of 2018.
Marvin Bagley, 6’9, PF, We All Can Go (TN), 2018- The top player in the class of 2018 led WACG to the 14-U crown in breathe-taking fashion. He used his freakish athleticism to play above the rim, both with his dunks and blocked shots. In fact, Bagley punched a 360 to ice the championship against ATR. The lefty showed off a great turnaround jumper out of the post, displayed great vision when double teamed, and was unstoppable going towards his right shoulder. While Marvin hung out beyond the arc a bit too much, he still showed that he was the clear cut top prospect in 2018.
Michael Barber, 6’6, SF, MBA Hoops (MS), 2018- Perhaps the longest player the event had to offer, Barber is yet another product of the outstanding player development of Omhar Carter. The swingman showed off a deadly pull-up from mid-range, moved exceptionally well for a young guy with that size, and was a game changer on the defensive end. He is still expanding his range to be a consistent threat from beyond the three point arc, but will still find himself right amongst the top of Mississippi’s 2018 class.
Ladarius Marshall, 6’5, PF/SF, MBA Hoops (MS), 2018- The best athlete in the 2018 class had an up and down tournament, but saved the best for last. Against Marvin Bagley and WACG in the semi-finals, he showed why many have him ranked in the top-10 for the class. Ladarius had a smooth spin move to a dunk, drilled a number of three pointers (including one from NBA range), and used his athleticism to be an absolute force on the glass. Marshall will need to drastically improve his perimeter game if he hopes to transition to the wing or grow if he continues to play the post, but that won’t stop him from being a game changing athlete at the high school level.
TJ Moss, 6’4, SG/SF, We All Can Go (TN), 2018- Upon taking a glimpse at Moss, it was easy to see the potential that lies ahead. Already standing around 6’3 with a great wingspan, he has the physical profile that you’d love to see out of a young swingman. During WACG’s championship run, he got the rim at will, was patient picking his spots on the floor, and used his length to create a ton of deflections. Moss’ numbers weren’t huge due to the crazy amount of talent on his team, yet still showed how interesting of a prospect he can be down the road.
Camron Johnson, 6’2, SG, We All Can Go (TN), 2018- While Bagley and Moss get more highlights, it very well may have been Camron Johnson who led WACG in the scoring column throughout the weekend. This fearless competitor was all over the court taking charges, going to the rack to finish with contact, and utilizing mismatches to put points on the board. Attending Brandan Wright’s alma mater of Brentwood Academy, he’s exactly the type of player that you need to be a successful AAU team.