The first live weekend brought coaches and spectators to places like Atlanta, New Orleans and Hampton, Virginia to watch the players who could make their lives much easier in the years to come.
My travels took me to Atlanta for the Hoop Seen Atlanta Jam at the always impressive Suwannee Sports Academy facility.
We All Can Go (WACG) put together a new family and for their first run in a major event they faired very well finishing 3-1 advancing to the title game of the Orange bracket winner's side falling by 7 to a talented Birmingham Storm squad.
WACG got off to a rousing start with a nice win over Team Heat behind 18 from Yalen Reed (Station Camp). 15 from Kenny Cooper (FRA) and 14 from Thomas Booker (East Nashville).
In the quarter-finals WACG almost let one get away losing an early lead but coming back to win over a tough Charlotte Court squad. Booker hit a tough lay-up to give WACG the lead back and Cooper responded with three consecutive 3's to keep the game in their favor. Reed was solid inside and out while Isaiah Blacksmith (East Nashville) was an absolute monster on the boards the entire event.
Team Power felt the WACG wrath in the semi-finals with timely shot making from Patrick Murphy (Independence) and Case Bouldin (Ravenwood).
Reed was strong in the title game defeat and concluded a very good weekend for the rising junior wing/post. His outside shooting has improved and his overall game is making strides in the right direction. Reed also excelled on the glass along with Blacksmith and Charquise Buchanan (Pearl Cohn).
Staying in the Orange bracket the Tennessee Bobcats had themselves an outstanding event finishing 3-2 and advancing to the title game on the opposite side of the bracket.
The Bobcats lost their opening bracket contest 90-86 to Southeast Elite followed up with a big 81-64 win over the Reach High Kings then defeated a very good Florida Tarheels group to advance to the title game against Speight's Elite.
John Fulkerson (North Carolina) was big the entire weekend. The 6'8 wing/power forward showed a good shooting touch from the outside and a much more aggressive inside demeanor. He was blocking shots, snatching rebounds in traffic and using his added strength and confidence to upgrade his level.
Makale Foreman (Dobyns-Bennett) had a big weekend shooting the cover off the ball and letting everyone know he is still available.
Seth Battle-Lenard (Sweetwater) was consistent all weekend long and Conley Hamilton (Powell) competed hard on the interior despite being vastly undersized.
Over in the Black bracket two Tennessee teams made quarter-final appearances losing to some of the better competition in the event.
The Tennessee Tigers came out growling with a big win over the Wellington Wolves. Kenny Bunton (Walker Valley), Ross Cummings (Creek Wood), Matthew Norl (Kenwood) and Jarrell Reeves (Oakland) played solid for the Tigers.
The Florida Hoyas were the next obstacle for the undersized Tigers. James Boone (Kentucky) and Adam Fleming (Loretto) played well for the Cats in defeat.
The Chattanooga Elite came out of the gate with a nice win over Team SAC with an inspired effort from Brad McCurdy (Bradley Central). Brice Stanley (Cleveland) was large on the interior and Patrick Good (David Crockett) also played well before an injury in the final contest.
The Charlotte Aces brought one of the biggest teams in the event up next and size was the factor as the Elite fell despite some quality play from Dajonte Ross (Brainerd).
Down in the 15 and under division a superb semi-final showdown between two of Tennessee's finest in that age group commenced with Team NLP battling EOTO.
Jessie Walker (Brainerd) was the big dawg scoring 22 points while Patrick Urey (Baylor) added 13 as Team NLP got past EOTO 61-48 before falling in the title game.
Ikcaven "KK" Curry (Cleveland) had a solid event, as he adds strength he will be one to reckon with. Breyuan Hendricks (Baylor) may be Class of 2019 but the youngster has some serious game. Once his shooting catches up to his skill level he will be something to behold.
Caleb Martin (Oak Ridge) took scoring honors for EOTO with double digits.
Walker continued his strong play with a 33 point effort in the title game loss.
On the Radar Hoops (Atlanta Super 16)
The Atlanta Jam was not the only event in town as just up the road On the Radar Hoops hosted the Atlanta Super 16.
The Nashville Celtics 16 and under squad finished 2-1 with some outstanding play from Triston Jarrett (Haywood). The rising junior had a marvelous weekend including a 30 point, 9 rebounds effort against the Louisiana Dynasty.
Inside the Celtics received outstanding play from the duo of David Ivey (Blackman) and Isaiah Crawley (Ripley).
Ivey was consistent averaging around 12 per game for the event while Crawley had several highlight dunks to put on his resume.
Mike Parker (Maplewood) was a welcome addition for the Celtics providing leadership and tempo from the lead guard spot. The active rising junior point guard was the assist leader for the Celtics all weekend.
Coaches were quick to mention the contributions of Omar Lyons (Siegel) who provided key buckets and several defensive plays to help win games.