– BY SAM DUREN
The Elite 14 on the first Saturday of November has been the unofficial kick off to Oklahoma’s high school basketball season for years now. This year was one of the more impressive all around performances by Oklahoma squads that headed south of the Red River. As they more than held their own against the hyped talent from Texas. Stay tuned to OKPreps throughout the week, we’ll have video highlights from Saturday’s action in Texas.
Gordon Makes Case for the Top Spot
Lawton Eisenhower has been one of the powerhouses in Class 5A over recent years and that looks set to continue for another winter. Given the production lost from their backcourt, there were and still are question marks surrounding the Eagles. One thing that is for sure regarding Ike; Antonio Gordon is the real deal.
Gordon emerged as one of the top players in the state last winter, and the improvement has continued. In Wichita Falls, the 6 foot 7 senior was a dominant force, showing improved maturity. Both physically and mentally. He was a vocal leader, who’s impact could be felt as he competitively led his younger Eagles.
With his combination of size and skill, he’s one of the most versatile scorers in Oklahoma. Which was on display as he alternated between rim rocking slams, tough drives to the hoop and the occasional jumper. His size allows him to anchor the defense for Eisenhower.
Gordon is the ideal modern stretch four big, which saw his recruitment skyrocket and end in an eventual commitment to Kansas State. For now, his presence elevated an inexperienced Eagle squad on Saturday, and will look to do so all the way to another trip to the Mabee Center.
The debate between Gordon and the Boone Twins (Kalib and Keylan) for top Class of 2019 player in Oklahoma will be hotly contested all winter long. While both Boone twins are capable offensive players, their defensive abilities is what makes them special players. Gordon is a better scorer than both, and gave each of them fits during match ups last year.
Gordon will have chances for bigger point totals, due to the fact that Ike isn’t as deep as Memorial. And if Saturday is any indication, Gordon is starting to erase some of the defensive gap between him and the lanky twins. Add in his improved leadership, and he could have another intangible in his favor to be considered the best player in the state.
The Future is Now at the Hall
As a freshman, Trey Alexander delivered a Class 4A state championship to Heritage Hall. He also already holds offers from Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Needless to say, there’s a bit of a spotlight and pressure on the young sophomore. Matched up against Duncanville, which has a pair of highly recruited upperclassmen (Jahmius Ramsey and Micah Peavy), Alexander struggled out of the gate with his shot.
In the second frame, it was a different story as the 6 foot 4 sophomore guard more than held his own. Alexander’s skilled handle has the versatility to create space for jumpers or to get by defenders and attack the rim. When at the rim, he’s currently not the most explosive player but makes up for that with great body control. The way he controls his body and stays in the air, is reminiscent of 2015 Oklahoma Gatorade player of the year, Shake Milton of Owasso. While a scoring specialist, Alexander is not a complete iso player. When driving, he keeps his head up and is a willing passer.
It’s early in Alexander’s high school career, but he has the look of a complete guard. Given his basketball pedigree and accomplishments already, perhaps his name could end up among basketball royalty in OKC.
Memorial’s Secret Keys
For the past year, the Boone Twins have been the number one topic when it comes Charger basketball. It makes sense as their size, length and defensive impact might as well be a cheat code against fellow Oklahoma teams. But Memorial basketball is much more than their dynamic duo.
Last year, senior guard Shemar Walker was the heart of the team, while senior wing Kori Guest’s icey three point shooting and defensive abilities are what really elevated their squad. This year, senior James Alexandre and junior Kavon Key will be tasked with filling similar roles. Both looked ready to flourish on Saturday against Texas heavyweight Denton Guyer.
Alexandre is only 5 foot 10, but plays much bigger thanks to explosive athleticism and his aggressive style of play. He looked more under control against Denton Guyer, as he harassed future Oklahoma Sooner De’Vion Harmon. The senior may have found the proper balance of energy and control. Alexandre may not be the table setter that Walker was, but his energy and leadership will provide similar intangibles.
Similar to Alexander and Walker, Key isn’t a direct correlation to Guest. Both are outstanding shooters, but Guest had a smoothness to his game and a calm demeanor. While Key is more of a fiery bruiser. The 6 foot 3 junior, looked ready to feast on all the quality shot attempts he will be given.
Long term Key is an interesting prospect because he could potentially be a high level shooter, with ideal height. Both are crucial traits when evaluating how a player translates to the next level. So are quickness and fluidity of movement. Which both are current detractors when evaluating Key. His movements when attacking the rim when players close out of him are robotic. While he’s also a bit heavy footed on defense.
The Boone twins will often be the spotlight as Memorial goes after a third straight Class 5A crown, but players like Alexandre and Key are big reasons why the Memorial program keeps running at a high level.
Classen’s Scrappy Bunch
Last year Northwest Classen made a run to the Class 5A Semifinals, as they featured versatile senior big man Mo Wilson, and a group of athletic players. While the loss of Wilson will be felt, on Saturday they showed they’re still a stingy group of tough minded guards.
Senior C.J. Rice is among the returning standouts, and he’s a bigger, aggressive guard. His handle looked improved with new tricks to attack the rim. But his offensive decision making is still a bit erratic, as he can force it too often.
Around Rice is a group of hungry and quick guards, that hounded the opposition and forced turnovers. It may not always be pretty, but the Knights looked ready to rack up the wins again in pursuit of their third straight state tournament bid.
From the Scout’s Seat
Micah Thomas, 5’10 Guard, Class of 2019, Putnam City North
For the past three years, Thomas has been the quiet floor general that has made PCN run. During that time frame, he’s helped them to three Class 6A State Tournaments and last year’s State Championship.
Now after spending all that time being the consummate point guard, making sure everyone got their touches, and picking his own spots, it’s Thomas’ turn to get buckets. Sure, with the group of athletes around the lead guard, he’ll still be handing out dimes. But now Thomas will be unleashing his full offensive arsenal.
Quietly, Thomas might have the best handle in the state and it was on display Saturday. He has many subtle moves to create space. With that space, he can pull up around the free throw line where he’s nearly automatic. Or slip to the rim and finish creatively. 25 point games could soon become the norm for the quiet guard, as he shepards a new group of Panthers eager to defend their Gold Ball.
Isaiah Williams, 6’4 Guard, Class of 2020, Millwood
Williams is starting to become one of the more exciting prospects in Oklahoma’s junior class. He’s always looked the part with the ideal measurables and athleticism to be a Division One guard. In one viewing on Saturday, he looked ready to cash in on that potential with good production.
The lanky guard was comforting shooting on or off the ball from beyond the arc. While he has a slippery driving style that allows him to glide by defenders when attacking the rim. Add in the potential for being a high level defender, and he could be the complete package. The key, as it so often is for younger players, is performing at this high level at a consistent baser.
With more and more players moving to the suburban high school districts around OKC, it’s becoming common for talent prospects still playing in OKC to be overlooked. But signs are pointing that, Williams looks ready to make a jump and establish himself as a top player.
Jaden Bray, 6’1 Guard, Class of 2021, Norman
The good and bad of Bray was on display during a match up against Colony. First, the good. Bray is an aggressive minded guard, which led to production on both ends. From harassing defenders and jumping passing lanes on defense. To attacking off the bounce on offense, where he was a strong finisher, with a variety of ways to get his shot off against bigger foes.
For the bad, his aggression at times made him bite off more than he could chew. Bray struggled with Colony’s defensive pressure, leading to turnovers. The one jumper he took while watched was also way off the mark.
Right now, Bray seems more fitting off the ball as a slasher on offense than a lead guard. While young and skinny now, he has wide shoulders. Which hints that with added maturity could develop into a strong power guard. Bray’s aggression is a benefit to his long term ceiling as a prospect, as it’s usually better to fine tune an aggressive player than trying to turn on the switch for a player that coasts.