By JESSIE BREWER
PADUCAH — The annual McCracken County Mustang Madness starts Thursday and goes through Sunday here. It’s part of The Grind Session that showcases to players in events across the nation.
Again many of the nation’s highly rated players in the next three recruiting classes will take part in the four-day event. Here’s a breakdown on some of the teams competing in the showcase.
Liberty Heights, North Carolina – Liberty Heights is a new program based out of Charlotte, NC that is led in the backcourt by sophomore Davier Dixon, who is considered a top player in North Carolina, and junior Mike Wynn. Wynn is a guard with quick hands and a great ability to get into the paint, especially in transition. He holds offers from Albany, FAU, and Siena, so far. The Cardinals feature a slew of talent in their frontcourt with players like Tavion Atkinson, Tremain Lawrence (a three-star senior), and Heratio Carr (2018). Atkinson, a 6’7” junior, provides a strong presence inside with the ability to block shots on the defensive end and score on the offensive side. Many players on this roster have garnered D-I interest, with three already holding offers.
Tennessee Prep – The Diplomats are a senior laden team with only one junior and one sophomore. They feature 7’3” center Chris Sodom (New Mexico signee), who provides a massive inside presence, despite just returning from an injury. 6’8” senior Will Mangum continues to grow and provides leadership along with a strong inside presence. Directing traffic for TPA is Tyrese Patterson, a guard with tremendous ball handling skills and scoring abilities. Senior guards Juanya Buckhalter, who provides a scoring presence, and Tanner McFarlane, a quick, crafty point guard, help provide depth to this squad. Another to key in on is senior guard Keith Harkless, cousin of Portland Trailblazers’ Moe Harkless, who can get to the basket when he needs to.
Conrad Academy – The Conrad Academy features junior powerhouse Luguentz Dort (No. 47, Rivals), whose offers include Louisville, Florida, and Baylor. Dort has been described as “a kid in a man’s body” due to his built frame and his ability to bully his way into scoring opportunities. Other intriguing players who have garnered D-I interest are Milan Stakic, Mel Esso, Malcolm Farrington, and Malishaw Niang.
22ft Acadmey – 22ft Academy features a great amount of international talent that is led by Mali native, Mamoudou Diarra. Diarra is an athletic hybrid-forward who has signed with the University of Washington. Junior point guard Daniel Sackey likes to use his blurry-fast speed to attack and break down defenses. The Canadian product currently holds four offers, including Evansville and Winthrop.
McCracken County – The Mustangs scoring presence is found in senior Will Sivills and juniors Cameron Cartwright and Nathan Stonecipher. All three can easily get into double figures on any given night, especially Cartwright and Sivills who can light it up from behind the arc. Freshman Jackson Sivills has also quickly proven himself as a great shooter on this team.
Christian County – Christian County is the reigning Region 2 champions and looks to defend their title with senior Jaylen Sebree (Coastal Carolina signee) leading the veteran-heavy team. Senior Taivey Mason and juniors Cory Trice, DeTorrion Ware (offer from SEMO), and JaQuon Long are all impact players for the Colonels.
Callaway (MS) – The Chargers are led by senior Kassim Nicholson and junior Tanarrio Ransburgh, two high scorers. Both have gained interest from Kansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, with Nicholson also catching the attention of MTSU and WKU. Junior Deonte Spencer has also drawn interest from the two Mississippi powers along with Texas.
St. Anthony (Texas) – St. Anthony is led by Charles Bassey (No. 1, Rivals), one of the top ranked sophomores in the country. The 6’10” skilled big man who scores at will has received offers from many top programs like Kansas and Texas A&M and also in-state WKU, and has garnered interest from Kentucky. 6’7” Obi Prosper (2019) and 6’11” Ousmane Ndim (2018) will compliment Bassey in the low post. The Yellowjackets’ backcourt features three talented guards in 5’9” Isiah Saenz (2017), 6’1” Sam Chaput (2018, offer from Memphis), and 6’0” Jordan Persad (2020). Saenz is an ultra-quick guard who can pull up and drain shots even with pressure. Freshman phenom Persad has a high basketball IQ and can absolutely fill up the stat sheet.
Prolific Prep (CA) – The Crew are led by one of the top backcourts in the country with senior guards Gary Trent, Jr. (Duke signee, No. 8, ESPN), Paul Scruggs (Xavier signee, No. 28, ESPN), and Abu Kigab (Oregon signee). Trent Jr. and Scruggs are both well-rounded, high scoring players and have contributed immediately. Kigab is the type of player who will clean up others’ mistakes and can seemingly do it all, but has taken on a higher scoring role this season.
Tech Academy (Canada) – The Tech Academy, features Matur Maker, who is the little brother of the #10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Thon Maker. Matur, who is continually improving his game, has offers from Indiana, Wake Forest, and Arizona State, and is drawing interest from Kansas. He is joined by his 6’11” sophomore cousin Makur Maker (offer from UTEP). Makur is still young but is a very coachable player with a high work ethic. Point guard David Sloan, a Campbellsville, KY native, holds numerous high-major offers, including ones from Tennessee and Vandy and in-state Louisville, Murray State, EKU, and WKU. Senior guard Nico Johnson, whose parents both played at Rutgers, has proven to be good at getting into the paint and finishing.
Hillcrest Prep (AZ) – Hillcrest is led by the nation’s number one player, DeAndre Ayton, who is a dominant force on both ends of the floor and has signed with the Arizona Wildcats. Alongside Ayton in the post will be 6’9” junior Alperen Kurnaz and senior Shamiel Stevenson, a very strong forward who can power his way to the rim and dunk with authority. Stevenson offer list continues to grow and features schools like USC, VCU, and most recently Pittsburgh.
Aspire Academy – The Aspire Academy Wizards feature an extremely tall and powerful frontcourt. 6’10” Makhtar Gueye (UAB signee), 7’0” Assane Ndiaye (2018, offers include DePaul, Old Dominion, Rutgers…), and 6’9” senior Rodrigue Andela from Senegal, are a force to be reckoned with in the post. Also to keep an eye on is sophomore Dane Quest, a player who can easily get to and score in the post. Senior point guard, and one of the most underrated guards in the country, Milton Wordlow III has the ability to use his speed to get inside and draw fouls. The Wizards roster also include sophomore lefty guard Joel Brown, who holds an offer from Rutgers and is gaining interest from Louisville, and Bryce Meadows, who is primed to have a big season after garnering D-I attention this summer.
Wesleyan Christian (NC) – The loaded Wesleyan Christian feature Jaylen Hoard (No. 8, Scout), a junior wing from France. Hoard, whose offers include Arizona and Maryland with interest from Kentucky and Louisville, maneuvers through defenses and makes scoring seem easy. His father, Antwon, played at Murray State, and mother, Katia, at Washington. The Trojans also feature sophomores DeAndre Wilkins and Shawn Walker, Jr, who both hold an offer from Hampton. The Trojans’ squad includes 6’6” junior Aaron Wiggins, a combo guard who can score big and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. His offers include Arizona and Virginia, but has also gained interest from Kentucky. Top returners are senior David Caraher (Houston Baptist signee) and Ian Steere (2018, offers include Charlotte, Hampton…), who attacks the basket with aggression.
Oldsmar Christian – Oldsmar is led by 6’5” junior Elijah Weaver, a scorer who can also rack up on assists. The lefty point guard holds offers from countless top programs with a list that includes Louisville, Notre Dame, and Villanova. Junior guard DJ Mitchell also holds offers from many schools, including Penn State and Rhode Island.
Victory Rock (FL) – The Blue Devils have five players who are returning from last year’s team, including 6’10” big man Mayan Kiir (No. 95, ESPN). Kiir (VCU signee) is a big man who can pull up and shoot, but also has the ability to get to the basket. Brazilian Jonathan Dos Anjos, a forward who gets to the rim at will, is another to keep an eye on.
Poplar Bluff (Mo.) – The Mules are led by top sophomore Marcedus Leech (No. 19, Scout), who has offers from top programs like Kansas, Vandy, and Washington. Leech is a high-flying scorer and has become one of Missouri’s most prolific scorers. Senior Willie Lucas and sophomore Dominique Hardimon, a wing with a high motor, is another to key in on.
Chicago Currie – Curie, always a talented team that fights to the end, is led by senior guard Elijah Joiner, who has signed with Tulsa. The Condors roster also features the Martin brothers, Treavon and Tyree, who are junior forwards, both with offers to Tulsa and UIC. Other key players are found in seniors Allante Pickens, Dennis Handy, and Terry Smith, Jr.
Memphis Catholic – The Chargers are led by senior swingman Chad Foster, who is efficient on both ends of the floor. With aspirations of playing in college, Foster is being recruited by Brown, Central Michigan, and Tennessee State, along with many smaller division schools. They also return key players in senior captains Ontario Houllum and Darius Williams.
Columbus (MS) – The Falcons are the reigning Mississippi 6A champions and are led by top junior prospect Robert Woodard (No. 24, ESPN). With a tremendous jump shot and excellent court vision, Woodard has already drawn offers from many top programs like Baylor, Iowa State, and Mississippi State. Denijay Harris, a long, athletic wing will also be counted on for Columbus this season.