– BY SAM DUREN & ORLANDO WILLIAMS
For part one of our Elite 14 recap that was published on Tuesday, go here.
Today, we take a detailed look at how two Class 6A State Championship contenders. With a couple more scouting reports on guards that Oklahoma basketball fans should know.
This IS it, Chieftains
1999 is the last time the Sapulpa Chieftains made the Class 6A State Tournament. Last season they were on track to potentially change that. Then a late in the season knee injury to Julian Smith derailed those plans.
Now Smith and a hungry Sapulpa squad are back and find themselves in a different position than year’s past. With a transitional period for many big school east side programs, Sapulpa looks to be one of the favorites to make state.
This past Saturday they looked the part, with Smith as the ringleader of a talented and hungry group of guards. They also have a new running partner for the senior point guard, fellow senior guard Camryn Dennis. The long, bouncy 6 foot 2 guard was one of the best players for not only Sapulpa, but among all the Oklahoma players in attendance.
Dennis was a different player this past weekend. Some of that could be attributed to the high level of competition. The best example of that came against Class of 2020 super recruit R.J. Hampton of Little Elm, TX. This is the second time a game vs Hampton has brought out the best in the new Chieftain. In April, when playing AAU basketball for Oklahoma Run PWP, Dennis was key in slowing down the NBA hopeful with hard nosed defense. Saturday, Dennis outplayed Hampton on both ends of the court, as he led the Chieftains to two wins.
With Dennis, he’s the best one on one player in the state. Beating players off the dribble has never been the athletic guard’s problem. What he excelled in on Saturday was playing with a consistent motor. Dennis also played with a better feel for the game, with less ball dominating tendencies. Some of this could be credited to fitting in better with Sapulpa’s uptempo, free flowing style. Other of it could hint that he’s finding himself and could make a jump to make his potential as a senior.
The Hornets Are Still Stinging
Speaking of Class 6A contenders, after one year down in Class 5A, Booker T is back among the 6A giants. They’re also new members of the Frontier Conference. Their first conference match-up is against Sapulpa, on December 4th. Which is a “circle the calendar” type game between possibly the two best backcourts in the state.
The Hornet’s backcourt was a bit short handed with highly recruited junior Bryce Thompson still recovering from a hand injury. While any team would feel the loss of such a talented player, Booker T is blessed to have a similar elite player. Enter Thompson’s backcourt mate, 6 foot 1 junior Trey Phipps.
On Saturday, Phipps showed why the Tulsa Hurricanes have gotten an absolute steal. Always a sharpshooter, the dead eye guard displayed a mid-range game this weekend. In the first session against Duncanville, Phipps scored at will. He also showed new toughness defensively by harassing on the ball. While also getting on the ground for loose balls.
An underrated leader on the floor, Phipps incorporated other players offensively by drawing defenders and creating offensive opportunities for his teammates. This weekend the junior standout established himself as one the elite players in Oklahoma.
Joining Phipps among Booker T’s standouts was a new face, 6 foot 8 junior forward Jalen Breath. Looking at Breath relative to some of the prospect from Texas, there was a noticeable difference. Texas products were more developed physically with stronger frames and more muscle. Even with that difference, the gangly move in from southwest OKC held his own and then some.
Breath was noticeably more aggressive than in the past. The wirey big man found open spots to catch the ball and finish around the basket. Developing a nice chemistry with Phipps, Breath was able to find him and vice versa for offensive opportunities.
Defensive rebounding is probably Breath’s greatest current attribute as he’s able to track down the ball at a high rate. It’s only a matter of time until the upstart junior’s body matures. When it does, his play will reach another level. Regional Division One coaches should start taking interest now.
From the Scout’s Seat
Rondel Walker, 6 foot 3 Guard, Class of 2020, Putnam City West
Walker was really, really good this past weekend. Some of that was due to playing teams that didn’t take care of the ball, which is a death sentence when playing against West. Make no mistake about it though, Walker has made a big jump from sophomore to junior year.
He’s not only taller at 6 foot 3 plus, he’s added upper body muscle. The added muscle helped Walker absorb contact, something he struggled at last year. The long and lanky guard looked comfortable at the wing position, where he effectively shot the ball and made plays for others off the ball.
With Walker it’s not about levels in regards of recruiting. His playing style is uptempo, getting into passing lanes and getting to his spot in transition. A program with that style appears to be the ideal spot for the standout OKC product.
Tyler Pinder, 6 foot 1 Guard, Class of 2021, Redemption Life Prep (Tulsa)
Pinder, a transfer from Broken Arrow, was the primary scorer for RLP. With a roster full of size, length, but still developing raw talent, the smooth guard provided much of the scoring and ball handling.
Against San Antonio Wagner, the slick guard caught fire from distance. Knocking down shots in a catch and shoot situation from the wing. Pinder has to get better getting to the lane against good competition. That will all come in time. That being said, he played at a high level this past Saturday.