- National Teams
Midnight Madness, pretty much the U.K.’s premier summer basketball event just came to a close. With it being the Summer basketball event everyone is talking about, BDB has decided to take a look back across the all u18s qualifying events and give our own opinion on the Top 20 Under 18’s at Midnight Madness Qualifiers 2009. So in no particular order…
*Disclaimer-This is based solely on what I saw at Midnight Madness and not on any other performances elsewhere, it is my own opinion and does not reflect those of Midnight Madness Ltd.
**Unfortunately I could not attend Midnight Madness Glasgow so if there was anyone I missed out that should have been in here, my bad.
1) Leon Bennett Harris: 5’10, 160lbs, PG/SG, 25/08/92 (Portsmouth)
Where to start with this kid. At only 16 years old (!) it makes his game all that more ridiculous. Qualifying for U18s on his first attempt at Portsmouth, and then the U23s at Leyton, his nickname unsurprisingly is “The Future”. A product of Nhamo Shire’s Westminister Warriors programme (where he average 39 ppg per game last season..yes THIRTY NINE A GAME!), the boy has it all. He regularly takes seemingly inconceivable shots, hitting them with a consistency beyond that of any other u18 player. A pure scorer with great athleticism, Leon “The Future” Bennet Harris has a bright future ahead of him.
2) Eliandro Inacio: 6’5, 245lbs, PF, 20/03/92 (Milton Keynes/Liverpool)
The only way to describe Eliandro is beast. Affectionately known as “Illi”, his game is nothing but. At a solid 6’5, 245lbs, there was no-one at either under 18 level or under 23 level that could stop him. A bruiser in the post, with nice footwork he pretty much had his way with opponents at every run he played at. A product of the Hackney White Heat program, Illi will only continue to get bigger and better as he gets older-watch out!
3) Mark Rangeley: 6’4, 182lbs, SF, 03/12/90 (Liverpool/Leeds)
Mark Rangeley was probably the surprise of all the events for me. Generally, it was always pretty easy to tell from Show & Prove who was going to be killin’ on the Elite Court. I didn’t even notice this guy in Show & Prove, but on the Elite Court he made you notice no-one but him. Dunking, slashing, bangin’ 3’s all night (I don’t think he missed one) and breaking this dude’s ankles TWICE, Mark Rangeley did nothing wrong and to think he has never played National League ball before, makes him all the more impressive.
4) Helio Sampaio: 5’8, 146lbs, PG, 06/07/92 (Newcastle/Leyton)
Helio “Killah H” Sampaio dominated Newcastle full stop. Dimunitive in stature, his game is BIG. For a PG, what he lacks for in height, he makes up for in skill and knowledge of the game. After dominating the Newcastle u18 run, he went on to qualify for u23s at Leyton. One of the most entertaining players to watch at Midnight Madness 2009, he is a scoring PG in the mould of a Baron Davis. Mix in his vision, with range extending to the 3 point line, lock up defence and an ability to get his shot off in the lane over taller players and you get a player who’s going places.
5) Brendan Okoronkwo: 6’0, 168lbs, PG, 04/07/91 (Milton Keynes)
Brendan Okoronkwo is a silent killer. The reserved character (think Tim Duncan) can flat out ball. Doing a little bit of everything, Milton Keynes U18s was all about him and Kieran (see below). Despite not having the best team, Brendan took advantage of his time to shine, dragging them with him to wins. With range extending to the 3 point line on offense, and the hustle and heart to lock up his man on defense, Brendan killed Milton Keynes. Qualified at SF despite naturally being a PG, a testament to his versatility.
6) Amon Brown: 6’1, 180lbs, SG, 17/03/92 (Portsmouth)
Despite looking the best part of 25 and owning a game that is well beyond his years, Amon Brown is still only 17. Surprisingly his natural position is SG. He has the body (a solid 6’1 180lbs) and game to play PG with the men. Not only does he have great vision but perhaps one of the best mid range shooters at the u18 level. He seemed to be struggling with ankle injuries at every run I saw him play at, but that didn’t stop him being one of the most effective players on the court.
7) Luke McClean: 6’4, 175lbs, 25/10/91 (Bristol)
For me, Bristol was perhaps the most disappointing run for talent at the u18 level. One man however, Luke McClean, another Hackney White Heat product shone bright. Another one of those kids you look at and think “is he reeeeally under 18?!” with a face and game beyond his years. A strong SG/SF with an ability to mix it up both inside and out with a back to the basket game and range extending to the 3 point line. One of things I liked most about him was he had a nose for the ball-hustling hard and going after rebounds.
8) Raheem May-Thompson: 6’6, 200lbs, SF/PF, 06/02/91 (Liverpool/Brixton)
Of all the players in this list, Raheem may be the one who is most prepared to play at the next level. With the size, skills and athleticism, Raheem “The Dream” Thompson has a bright future ahead of him. The grandson of legendary Brixton Topcats coach Jimmy Rodgers, Raheem has been honing his game in the States over the past coupla years (committed to Quinnipiac University of the NEC for next season) and as a result, is not very well known on this side of the Atlantic; trust me it won’t be that way for long! He has a smooth game, not only being able to mix it up on offence with range out to 20ft but a nose for the ball on defense, allowing him to dominate around the basket with his shot blocking ability-he had 6 blocks on one posession in Liverpool! (Keep track of Raheem this season with his Player Diary)
9) Ryan Martin: 6’7, 203lbs, SF, 17/09/90 (Nottingham)
Big and athletic, Ryan Martin is already in the England set-up, teaming up with future superstar Ryan Richards in the frontcourt of England under 18s. If he continues at this rate, there is no reason why he won’t reach Ryan Richards’ level. Is a dominant force on offence, not afraid of commanding the ball and being “the man”. Gets a lot of his buckets in transition, and is all too eager to finish with style putting down more than a few dunks. Has range that extends to around 18 feet and loves to shoot that mid range J. Is also a force on defence, blocking a lot of shots. Still raw, he has all the potential to be the next good big man out of the U.K. Will be very exciting watching him develop.
10) Robert Gilchrist: 6’8, 208lbs, SF/PF, 14/10/90 (Brixton)
Robert Gilchrist is athletic as hell. Having seen the Barking Abbey prospect play previously, I was eagerly awaiting him to show up at a Midnight Madness run; boy did the kid make me wait, finally showing his face in Brixton (the last qualifying event of the Summer). After straight up dominating Show & Prove, unfortunately on the Elite Court he didn’t have the strongest of teams. An inability to get him the ball didn’t stop Gilchrist from showing his talent. He has an ability to block shots that is unrivalled by any other player I saw at Midnight Madness 2009 at not only the u18 level but u23’s too. Add his shot blocking ability to his attempts to dunk on someone every time he gets the ball on offence and you have a walking, talking highlight reel. Arguably the best player to watch at Midnight Madness 2009. Will be playing at Worcester Academy, Masachusetts next year.
11) Henry Wilkins: 6’4, 175lbs, SG, 8/10/90, (Nottingham)
Almost stereotypical of a white guard, Henry Wilkins has the purest jumpshot form of any under 18 players at Midnight Madness 2009 with a release Ray Allen would be jealous of. What is not so stereotypical of Henry’s game is his athleticism to go with it. He’s quick, strong and can get up, nailing more than one dunk in his qualifying run. He has range beyond the 3 point line, and is great a penetrating into the lane and finishing; using his hang time to avoid the defence. A solid SG that was an asset to every team he played on.
12) Teddy Okereafor: 6’2, 166lbs, 08/11/92 (Leyton)
Teddy Okereafor has a smooth game that is a joy to watch. An offensive and defensive force with a head for the game, great slashing ability and shooting range. He has a spin move that is unstoppable which he uses a lot to get into the lane and finish. He pretty much dominated the Leyton u18 run and made people take notice-was no surprise to see him in the Midnight Madness finals.
13) Abdul Ahmed: 6’10, 200lbs, PF/C (Portsmouth)
Abdul Ahmed was one of the few true big men at the u18 level. He has the height and length to be able to dunk on someone, yet a soft touch rarely seen in big men that allows him to lead the fast break and finish with a finger roll (that he did on more than one occasion). Can play with his back to the basket, with a solid go-to jump hook, as well as stroke it on a consistent basis from 20ft, even stretching out to 3 point range on occasions. Rare to find a big man of such athletic ability, will be a fix on the British basketball scene deep into the future.
14) Tom Pereira: 6’2, 180lbs, SG, 06/02/91 (Nottingham)
Tom Pereira is a gun. The 6’2 England shooting guard is a flat out shooter, dominating the Nottingham qualifier with a range that extends way beyond the 3 point line. Working most effectively off catch and shoot plays, he got on a decent team that would provide him with the offences he needed to curl off screens and literally gun on everyone, arguably putting on the best shooting display seen at Midnight Madness 2009. Putting his shooting ability to one side, he also has a head for the game and plays smart, leaking out and getting easy layups on a regular basis. With a game like that, Tom Pereira will be on the scene for years to come.
15) Moe Giffari: 5’8, 165lbs, PG, 18/07/92 (Nottingham)
Moe Giffari is a pure point guard. One of them old school, dying breed, pass first point guards. With a vision unrivalled by any PG in the u18 class at Midnight Madness 2009 the kid is a ballller! Surprisingly, he didn’t get his Golden Ticket until the final last chance Show & Prove before the finals night (where he qualified easily for Boot Camp). It was a regular occurence that teammates weren’t ready to receive passes they couldn’t conceive being possible; behind the backs, over the heads, no looks-the list goes on. Reminiscent of J-will in his White Chocolate days, you’d see balls bouncing off teammates heads, or just going straight through their hands. Bottom line-the guy can play, and is a PG for the future.
16) Kieran Luke: 5’8, 158lbs, PG, 23/07/92 (Milton Keynes/Leyton)
Kieran Luke dominated the Milton Keynes U18 run. The lefty PG has hustle matched by no-one other than Arnold Tek-Kwo (mentioned below). The fiery player, has a solid handle as well as a great ability to get his shot off against bigger players, finishing with floaters and high arching layups off the board. Mix that in with tenacious defense resulting in lots of steals and the vision that every great PG has and you got yourself a baller.
17) Kenroy Wood: 6’3, 210lbs, PF, 9/10/90 (Portsmouth)
Kenroy Woods is built like a bull. A player that stood out at almost every run he played at, he’s one to watch. He uses his strong frame to get into the lane and is able to finish with contact. Can mix it up both inside and out, having nice range to the 3 point line. Surprisingly athletic, coming extremely close to dunking on people on more than one occasion-there’s actually a video of him on Youtube windmilling. His strength makes him seemingly unstoppable, had his way with most defenders.
18) David Wakanena: 5’10, 140lbs, PG/SG, 25/06/91 (Newcastle)
David has basketball in his blood. The younger brother of Plymouth guard Jean Wakanena, you can see similarities in their game. Wakka as he is known, has mastered the ‘tear drop’, his high arcing floaters were unstoppable at every run he played at. He has solid handle to run the point, and range to the 3 point line, not to mention decent vision allowing him to run the point with great sufficiency. Wakanena is a gym rat in the truest sense of the word, attending the majority of Midnight Madness runs for the love of the game!
19) Chris Hughes: 6’2, 190lbs, 25/03/91 (Newcastle)
Chris Hughes put on quite the display at Newcastle and if it wasn’t for Helio Sampaio slightly outshining him (see above) he would have been the talk of the town. His display was nothing short of dominating, showing his vast array of offensive skills, hitting 3’s, knocking down mid-range jumpers and driving to the hole and finishing strong. Somehow (it is still beyond my belief and I remember Nhamo saying the same thing when announcing qualifiers), he didn’t actually qualify in Newcastle or Liverpool.
20) Arnold Tek-Kwo: 5’8, 140lbs, PG, 20/07/92 (Portsmouth).
Of all players at the Midnight Madness qualifiers 2009, this guy is THE Mr Hustle. Qualifying at Portsmouth, I swear he spends half his time on the floor diving for loose balls or chasing steals down. Whatever Arnold lacks in his game, he more than makes up for it with his hustle. The kid just does not stop and earns himself a deserved place in here.
Honourable Mention: A few guys that missed out by inches; Damoy Robertson (Portsmouth), Jevon Ford (Bristol), Scott Addison (Milton Keynes/Newcastle), Luke Meakin (Newcastle), Warren Francis (Portsmouth/Milton Keynes), Rema Lascelles (Nottingham), Ishanti Bilson-Graham (Portsmouth), Dan Marton(?) (Portsmouth)
What do you think?
With these guys leading the front, the future looks bright for British basketball. What do you think of the top 15? Have I missed anyone out? Did you see any of these guys play? Drop a comment and let us know your thoughts.