|Justin Jackson: Class of 2016|
Written by: Prospect-Central
The new year is upon us and with that brings another year of middle school ballers tightening up their games before they take their talents to the high school level. With more and more middle school basketball players playing high school ball before they even enter high school, (6th grader Damon Harge & 8th grader V.J. King for example), there is no question that the basketball community is starting to pay much more attention to these talented young men. While the popularity of youth basketball has increased tremendously, (8th grader Thon Maker being featured on Yahoo), there are some negative effects that can come from adolescent ballers receiving too much exposure too soon. I've touched on some of my concerns in past articles, so I won't go into detail here, but there are definitely some issues that need to be addressed before grassroots basketball can fully be respected by the entire basketball community. Hopefully these problems can be dealt with sooner rather than later.
In September Prospect-Central featured "Ten 8th Grade Ballers on the Rise" and all of the players mentioned have been playing quite well over these past four months. It's now the beginning of 2012 and once again Prospect-Central is featuring another ten players from the class of 2016 to possibly keep in mind for the future. There are obviously more than just ten players deserving of the recognition, but these ballers have been playing very well as of late and are worth mentioning. These ten 8th graders are by no means a mystery to anyone that follows grassroots basketball. Most of them have been written about on other sites and all of them are deserving of the notoriety. While there is no denying that these 8th graders have some serious talent, they are still just 8th grade basketball players, no more, no less. There's a long road ahead for these ten players and they are NOT basketball icons by any stretch of the imagination. With that being said, they do have some game and at the moment are..."Ten Tantalizing 8th Grade Ballers!!!"
JUSTIN JACKSON sf / 6'7'' 190 / Toronto, Ont., CAN
The days of Canada only producing elite hockey players are over. Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of exceptional basketball players to emerge from our friendly neighbor to the North. A quick glimpse of some of these future Canadian stars: Tristan Thompson, the 4th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Corey Joseph, the 29th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Myck Kabango, the outstanding freshman point guard for the Texas Longhorns. Kevin Pangos, the sensational sharp shooting freshman for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Anthony Bennett, the #5 ranked player in the class of 2012. And of course, Andrew Wiggins, the #1 ranked player in the class of 2014 and possibly the "Wayne Gretzky" of Canadian basketball. There are many others as well, but I am here to talk about Justin Jackson, the 6-foot 7-inch eighth grader who is the latest baller to emerge from the arctic climates of Canada. There were talks that Jackson might actually join the high school class of 2015 and become a freshman this year, but as of right now he is an 8th grade baller currently enrolled at Charles Gordon Middle School in Scarborough, Ontario., Canada. Jackson has excellent size and athleticism for a fourteen year old as well as nice court savvy and vision. He has the handles and quickness of a guard and the size and strength of a forward...a true match up nightmare!!! Justin Jackson is a well known name in the world of grassroots basketball as well. In May he was named MVP of the inaugural YAAACE Provincial 14U All-Star game, in June he was invited to tryout for the 16U Canadian national team (as a 14 year old) and in July he impressed a number of scouts by putting up a solid performance for his YAAACE squad at the 2011 Junior Nationals. All in all it appears Justin Jackson is another talented Canadian baller who is trying to dispel the myth that Canadians are only known for hockey.
SAM GREEN sf/pf / 6'6'' 180 / Bowie, MD
Sam Green may have a simple name, but there is nothing simple about this 6-foot 6-inch eighth graders game. Green is force to be reckoned with at the middle school level and is well known throughout the East Coast AAU circuit. He is from an excellent basketball state in Maryland, which has produced a number of talented ballers over the years. Ironically the Boston Celtics Jeff Green (who is an unrestricted free agent this summer) is from Maryland and while he may not be related to Sam, he has proven you don't need a flashy name to play basketball. In his early stages of development, Sam Green seems very comfortable playing with his large frame. He has shown nice foot work, soft hands, a gentle touch and the ability to rebound in traffic. On the defensive side of the ball, his timing for blocking shots is pretty impressive as well. As of right now, Green is predominately a post presence, but he has shown the ability to possibly play on the wing in the future. Sam goes to school at Holy Trinity Episcopal in Bowie, MD and he plays his AAU basketball for the talented D.C. Assault. In November, he helped lead D.C. Assault to a championship victory at the Joe Wooten Fall Classic and in December his D.C. Assault squad fell just short in the championship game of the 14U Tip Off Classic sponsored by Basketball Spotlight. Despite the loss, Green had an impressive performance with 20 points and a number of blocks. Sam Green obviously has the size to be a good basketball player, but if he continues to work hard and develop his overall game, he can great. There is no shame for anyone reading this to be "Green" with envy over Sam Green's game.
TEMPLE GIBBS, JR pg / 6'0'' 160 / Scotch Plain, NJ
If the last name Gibbs sounds familiar, it should. Temple Gibbs is the younger brother of Texas Longhorns freshman point guard Sterling Gibbs and Pittsburgh Panthers senior sensation Ashton Gibbs. With blood lines like this it's easy to speculate Temple could be headed down the same path of success. The 8th grader can't rely on his last name alone of course, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have two older brothers that play college basketball. Temple is well aware of the notoriety his last name brings. His father Temple Gibbs Sr. says that despite his older brothers success, Temple doesn't feel the pressure to follow in their footsteps. Even if Temple does feel some pressure, he seems like a smart young man that will be able to handle it like an adult. As far as his game is concerned, there is no question he is pretty skilled for a fourteen year old. Temple is a solid combo guard because of his ability to score the rock or create for his teammates. He also seems to have a good work ethic and nice leadership skills. Last year at the prestigious Grand Finale Basketball Tournament sponsored by Basketball Spotlight, Temple helped his AAU team at the time KYDA to a Final Four appearance while taking home All-Tournament Honors in the process. This year Temple is playing for the talented Team Scan and last month he led them to a championship victory over D.C. Assault at the 14U Tip Off Classic. He scored 27 points in the Finals and was named MVP of the entire tournament. While we have all seen the movie...."Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom"....there now might be a basketball version of the classic for 2012...."Indiana Jones & the Temple of Gibbs!!!"
There are a tremendous amount of talented young basketball players coming out of the state of Louisiana and you can certainly add Malik Crowfield to the list. Crowfield has been a well known name on the AAU circuit for quite sometime and his game definitely backs it up. Two years ago Malik made his AAU debut with the Ascension Jaguars out of Ascension, Louisiana and he hasn't looked back since. He helped the Jaguars to a decent showing at the 12U AAU Nationals with his ability to score the rock in a number of ways. Malik now plays his AAU ball for the talented LA Select and over this past summer he helped lead them to a 13U National Championship. In the championship game Malik had one of his better performances of the tournament, finishing with 14 points, 4 assists & 4 steals. Of course he wasn't alone in helping LA Select to the victory. The #1 player in the class of 2016 Khalea Turner is undoubtedly the leader of the team and the talented Adrian Moore certainly makes for a dangerous back court combination. On a side note, the #2 player in the class of 2016 Thon Maker is suppose to start playing for the LA Select in the spring...GOOD GRIEF!!! Anyways, as far as Malik's game is concerned, the 8th grader has a pretty well rounded skill set for his age. He does a good job of using his size and length to his advantage and has shown excellent range on his jumper as well. Even though he's an 8th grader, Malik is actually playing high school basketball this year for the nationally ranked Riverside Academy. The Rebels are led by senior Ricardo Gathers, who is ranked in the top 40 in his class and just might be the strongest baller in high school. Two other 8th graders on the team are the previously mentioned Khalea Turner as well as a nice looking guard in Herbert McGee. Hopefully Malik can continue to develop his skills and not take his early success for granted. If he's able to stay focused and not buy into his own hype, Malik Crowfield has a chance to be a very good basketball player.
TYUS BATTLE pg/sg / 6'3'' 160 / Edison, NJ
We all heard of the original "Black Mamba"...Kobe Bryant. There's also the up-and-coming "Black Mamba" De'Anthony Thomas, who just had a record breaking performance at the Rose Bowl and is certainly deserving of the nickname as well. Some of you may even heard of or seen a few "White Mambas" from time to time. Now...there is Tyus Battle...The "Kid Mamba!!!" For those of you that follow grassroots basketball, Tyus Battle should be a name that you are quite familiar with. Even though he's only in the 8th grade, Tyus has been a dominating force on the AAU circuit for quite some time. He's already won a number of awards and accolades over the years and he doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. This past summer Tyus played for two different AAU programs, the 13U-16U Team Final squads and the 17U New Jersey Demons. To say Tyus Battle has been playing well would be an understatement. He had a very nice showing at the 2011 Basketball Spotlight Super Showcase and in September he played in the 17U-Open Division at the Hoop Group Fall Jam Fest. The 8th grader played very well in that event and more than held his own against the high school competition. He blew up for 25 points, 9 rebounds & 4 assists in one game and it even prompted ESPN to take notice by mentioning Tyus in an article as a player to watch for the future. Tyus Battle currently attends Holy Savior Academy in South Plainfield, New Jersey and has been putting up some gaudy numbers for his middle school team. While Tyus is a very skilled basketball player with excellent length and a great overall feel for the game, his work ethic might actually be his greatest attribute. His father Gary Battle was a Division II All-American at the University of New Haven and has been an instrumental role in Tyus's development not only as a basketball player, but as a person. From following Tyus Battle's journals, one can clearly see this young man is headed on a path for success. It's only a matter of time when the "Kid Mamba" becomes the "Man Mamba" and starts to devour his prey in the hardwood jungle of high school basketball.
JOE HAMPTON sf/pf / 6'4'' 180 / Bowie, MD
Another young baller coming out of the great state of Maryland, Joe Hampton appears to be a serious talent on the horizon. This 6-foot 4-inch powerhouse is not just a large 8th grader either, he's a very skilled basketball player. He's also a another name that is well known on the AAU circuit. Last year Joe Hampton played his AAU basketball with Force One and he helped them finish #3 in the country at the 12U Nationals. Hampton also led Force One to the Basketball Spotlight 13U Grand Finale Championship with a dominating 32 point performance in the finals. At the prestigious Basketball Spotlight AC Showcase this past March, Joe once again showed his basketball dominance. Against some of the best middle school ballers on the East Coast, Joe averaged over 20 points a contest and posted a double double each game. Over the summer Joe switched AAU teams and joined the talented D.C. Assault. The D.C. Assault are led by previously mentioned Sam Green as well as another nice looking prospect in Reggie Gardner. At the 14U Adidas 64 tournament in July Joe helped D.C Assault to a 1st place finish while taking home MVP honors in the process. In September he helped lead D.C. Assault to another championship victory at the 15U Philadelphia Classic and in October D.C assault won the Joe Wooten Fall Classic. Last month D.C. Assault had a 2nd place finish at the 14U Tip Off Classic, but there is certainly no shame in that. Joe has a nice combination of size, athleticism and skill that if coupled with a solid work ethic, could take him very far in the game of basketball. If you watch Joe Hampton play ball...one thing is clear for sure...this is NOT you average, ordinary, everyday JOE!!!
DEVONTE GREEN sg / 6'2'' 170 / North Babylon, NY
There are a number of things that contribute to the development of an athlete. Genes are certainly part of the equation. Devonte Green is another player who has big time ballers in his family. He is the younger brother of Danny Green, the former UNC Tar Heel and current San Antonio Spur and he's cousins with Gerald Green, the 2005 first round pick of the Boston Celtics and former NBA Slam Dunk Champion. If you watch Devonte play ball, you can see the 8th grader is already starting to emulate his high flying relatives. In October he was invited to participate at the 2011 Pangos All-East Frosh/Soph Camp and the 8th grader more than held his own against the high school competition. Devonte, along with NyRhique Smith, were the only 8th graders to play in the Top 60 All-Star game. A pretty impressive accomplishment considering it's a high school event. Devonte plays his AAU ball for the talented Team Scan and in November he helped lead them to a championship victory at the Hudson Catholic Basketball Tournament. Then in December Devonte and Team Scan won the 14U Tip Off Classic sponsored by Basketball Spotlight. The 8th grader had a very nice showing at the event, averaging close to 18 points a game and making the All-Tournament Team. If that wasn't enough, Team Scan won the Funsport Jr. Pro Championship in December as well. Devonte Green is yet another young baller who is playing high school basketball despite still being in the 8th grade. He will play varsity ball this year for Our Savior New American and judging by his past success, should perform quite well. Since his older brother plays in the NBA and his cousin was a Slam Dunk Champion, Devonte Green obviously has some big shoes to fill. Hopefully the 8th grader can drown out all the distractions that his last name brings and just enjoy the game of basketball.
DEVEARL RAMSEY pg/sg / 6'1'' 170 / Chatsworth, CA
Another talented young baller coming out of the West Coast, Devearl Ramsey has been a well established name in grassroots basketball for quite sometime. While Devearl is already a well known 8th grader, he really came onto the national scene back in February at the 2011 14U Clash for the Cup tournament sponsored by Basketball Spotlight. During that event, Devearl was actually in the 7th grade playing for the talented 8th grade Cali Styles AAU team. Despite the age discrepancy, Devearl played quite well, helping Cali Styles win the championship. Obviously Devearl was not alone in securing the victory for Cali Styles. Some of the other talented players that made up that squad are three outstanding freshmen in Tyler Dorsey, Stephen Zimmerman & Marcus Lovett Jr. The dominating 7th grader, 6-foot 7-inch Cody Riley (who was in 6th grade at the time) also played an instrumental role for the team. Then in August, Devearl was invited to the prestigious Junior All-American Camp and showed everyone in attendance why he's such a sought after prospect. He was one of the more impressive players at the camp and took home "Most Outstanding Player" honors in the 8th grade division. Devearl then took his talents to the John Lucas Midwest Invitational in October and not only played with some of the best 8th graders in the country, but some of the best high school players as well. Devearl Ramsey recently just played in the 2012 Winter Jam Basketball Tournament and once again his Cali Styles squad took home the tittle. Devearl had some help of course in the likes of two outstanding 8th graders in Derryck Thornton Jr & Trevor Stanback as well as 7th grader Adam Seiko. Devearl currently plays his 8th grade ball for Sierra Canyon Middle School out of Chatsworth, CA (along with 7th grader Cody Riley) and he has continued to play at a very high level. Devearl Ramsey is a strong, assertive play maker with excellent athleticism and a tremendous feel for the game. If he continues on his current path of development, Devearl Ramsey could be one of the better players from the class of 2016.
UNIQUE McLEAN pg/sg / 6'0'' 160 / New York, NY
While there might be some debate as to who the best basketball players are from the class of 2016, there should be little to no debate as to who has the most "unique" name in the 8th grade. That honor has to go to Unique McLean of course!!! McLean's game is just as unique as his first name and the 8th grader has been displaying his skills on the AAU circuit for well over a year now. Unique plays his AAU ball for Team Scan and he's helped them to a Top 3 ranking for AAU teams in the class of 2016. In October of 2010 Unique helped Team Scan win the 13U Hoop Group Columbus Weekend Showdown by hitting a last second lay-up to secure the 44-42 victory over the AAU club F.A.C.E.S. He had an impressive performance in that event, throwing down a number of dunks and capturing MVP honors in the process. This past March Unique played in the 13U AC Showcase which features some of the best middle school ballers on the east coast. While Team Scan failed to win the tittle, Unique was name to the All-Tournament Team. In November Team Scan won the Hudson Catholic Basketball Tournament & in December they won the 14U Tip Off Classic. Once again Unique was named to the All-Tournament Team for those events. Team Scan also won the Funsport Jr. Pro Championship in December and Unique was named MVP of the tournament. With all of these championship victories for Team Scan, you can see why they are one of the better 14U AAU teams in the nation. Unique McLean has excellent athleticism for his age, already able to throw down jams with ease, but recently he's been starting to develop an all-around game. His jumpshot is slowly becoming more consistent and he's starting to show a nice basketball IQ as well. If he's able to continue this steady progress, it might become harder to guard Unique McLean than it is to say "Unique New York" ten times fast!!!
When you are a 6-foot 8-inch eighth grader and your father played fourteen solid seasons in the NBA, it's easy to assume you are headed down the same path of success. While nothing is set in stone of course, the future of Michael Cage Jr. appears to be very bright. Michael Cage Jr. is obviously the son of Michael Cage Sr., the retired fourteen year NBA veteran who was selected 14th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in possibly the greatest NBA draft ever...The draft of 1984!!! While Michael Cage Sr. had an illustrious fourteen year NBA career, perhaps his greatest accomplishment is having a son with the future potential that Michael Cage Jr. possesses. In his short basketball career, Michael is already beginning to step out of the shadow of his famous father. The 6-foot 8-inch eighth grader is slowly starting to make a name for himself by using his size, skill & athleticism to dominate the competition. Michael started playing AAU basketball for FBC Elite out of Northern California and now he plays on the talented Dream Vision squad. Dream Vision is ranked in the TOP 10 for AAU teams in the class of 2016 and in October they won their 2nd HAX JV Basketball Tournament in less than a year. Besides Michael Cage Jr., Dream Vision has a number of talented young ballers to keep an eye on for the future. Two such players are Ryan Murphy & Shaquille Dawkins. Both these players, along with Michael have made Dream Vision a formidable force on the AAU circuit. Michael Cage Jr. is currently enrolled at Corona Del Mar middle school in Newport Beach, California and he is weighing his options as to what high school to attend come the fall. As of right now the 8th grader is deciding between two basketball powerhouses in Orange Lutheran and Mater Dei. Since Michael Cage Sr. played fourteen seasons in the NBA, he obviously knows a thing or two about what it takes to become a successful basketball player. He has been grooming his son for basketball supremacy since the day he was born and it appears the hard work is starting to pay dividends. By all indications Michael Cage Jr. is about to "Tear the Roof off like Two Dogs CAGED!!!"