The Southern Spring Invitational was back after a year hiatus due to COVID-19. Being one of the premier tournaments in the southeast portion of the US, teams traveled from all bordering states to come and compete and the event that…
The Southern Spring Invitational was back after a year hiatus due to COVID-19. Being one of the premier tournaments in the southeast portion of the US, teams traveled from all bordering states to come and compete and the event that rivals them all. Here are some of the standouts regardless of class that I saw.
Salim London / 6’2 / Shooting Guard / Alabama Fusion 2025 / Bumpus Middle School (Birmingham AL)
Salim has been sidelined a couple weeks with an injury, but he was back on the court at the #SSI2021. You could tell that he was not 100%, but this kid is so good that his 80% if he was that, was still better than a lot of others 100% that he competed against. His shot-making ability was on full display throughout the tourney, and the tools in the toolbox continue to expand. As I have said before, he has a brilliant floor game, is a crunch-time performer, and his ceiling continues to rise.
He will be on his way to the CP3 camp in Atlanta in a couple weeks.
Hopefully, he will be closer to 100% than he was at this tourney because it will be interesting to see how he stacks up against some of the top middle school talent from around the country. I spoke with his dad, and they will probably shut him down after CP3 to heal up fully, but when he gets back in the lab, a focus has to be the development of those PG skills as being able to switch from off-ball to on-ball will be essential at the next level.
Kedrick Simmons / 6’5 / Wing / Team Parsons 2025 / Booneville Middle School (Booneville MS)
During warm-ups, when watching Kedrick get ready, in your mind, you think he is about to cause some problems on the low block. When the tip came, what a pleasant surprise as the ball was in his hands as he facilitated the offense. His handles are still developing; as early on, the smaller size of the guards at the tourney created some problems. However, when he got adjusted, his length started creating problems for defenders. His ability to shoot over smaller defenders at this age was evident. Still, as I watched, I saw several opportunities to expand his game by using his length to see over and shoot over the smaller defenders. I am sure this ability will come as he continues to put in work. It was no surprise that he is the Alpha male on his team, and the team goes as he goes.
On the defensive end, he locked down the paint, contesting and altering shots in the paint.
It is obvious what Kedrick’s development must be this summer, and that is work on his body in the weight room. On the court, in my mind, I saw so many ways that he can be productive and take advantage of his skill set and length. I know he is still young, which is why IF all the pieces start coming together, his projections are going to leap tremendously.
Tylan Pace / 4’10 / PG / Team SAC 2028 / Sparkman Middle School (Harvest AL)
Tylan is the ultimate floor general. I know we don’t use that term much anymore, but when you think about the characteristics of what we use to look for when putting that label on a player, Tylan has it. Whether it is the talking on defense and making sure his teammates are locked in on the possession, or if it is the ability to lead a team that is loaded with young talent, or if it is the ability to switch gears from facilitating to getting his on, he is a big-time player in a small frame. He knows how to get places on the court with his dribble, and off the bounce, he knows how to make plays.
He has a flair for creativity on the offensive end.
He is an unselfish player that gets it done with the jumper or off the attack to the rim. He is active on both ends of the court, and his activity is contagious. Did I mention his ability to shoot it from deep? We have time to continue to monitor his growth and development, but he is one to check back on next year.
Cameron Pritchett / 5’10 / Guard & Forward / Alabama Fusion 2027 / Mobile Christian School (Mobile AL)
On Cam’s profile, he listed that he plays the 1-5, and from watching him, he can maneuver between all 5 spots. However, we know the game is often considered positionless nowadays, so with that understanding, I would say that Cam is the most productive when he can get paint touches and when he is attacking off the bounce. He is a big-time scorer as he dropped 20 against Team 5th Quarter.
He is strong for his age, has good footwork, and when you combine the two, he is difficult to contain around the rim.
His opportunity for growth is his handles, which need to be tightened up, and he needs to have a faster ball speed when handling the rock.
Ja’Kari Andrews/ 5’11 / Power Forward / HCBC 2026 / Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle (Tuscaloosa AL)
In a day that we do not have a lot of back-to-the-basket players to emulate, players at the grassroots level are still put down in the paint to play the post simply because of their size. Ja’Kari is a stout forward and has a solid frame for his age, and is a young player who knows how to get it done on the low-block with his back to the basket. With his size and being a lefty, he puts you in the mindset of a young current NBA superstar. It will not shock me if this NBA superstar isn’t one of J’s favorite players. J and his crew found themselves playing for the championship in the Gold Division. J came ready to play, and his physical attributes played a significant role in the flow of the game for his team. He established himself early and often scoring on the low block. He is a lefty that likes going over the right shoulder, and he was giving defenders major problems. He got the opposing team’s big man and go-to player in early foul trouble.
He was absolutely dominant in the championship game, finishing with 20 points.
He was aggressive on the boards, and he was stronger than a lot of the players that were sent in to defend him, and he made quick work of them. Now Ja’Kari, like all players at this age, has some opportunities for growth. Currently, standing at 5’11, you wonder just how much more growing. J has left to do. With that being stated, J’s perimeter skills must be developed. Playing on the wing and showing a consistent jumper are focal points that J could adopt in his summer workout plans.
Kaden Ragland-Morris/ 5’7 / Wing / Team SAC 2027 / Whitesburg Christian Academy (Tuscaloosa AL)
Kaden was stunning in the contest I was able to watch. There is no denying that he is the alpha on this team as he sets the tone. He had some electric moments as he was at times unguardable off the bounce. He was one of the best scorers in his age group during the tourney. Against Team CP25AL, he finished the game with 17-pts putting on a performance showing his quickness with the ball in his hand, as well as a floater game that kept defenders guessing how to guard him.
He is a young player that is developing as an iso scorer.
His scoring package is being stocked up and will only make him tough to deal with as he gets older. His PG IQ is a next step in his growth. He can score the rock, and adding the ability to facilitate raises his trajectory in the coming years.
Jared Smith/ 6’6 / Power Forward / Alabama Fusion 2025 / Spain Park High School (Hoover AL)
I have seen Jared several times this spring, and he has been impressive every time I have seen him. At times against some competition, he has been way too much to handle as he was just physically imposing and way too strong for opponents. Then at times, when there was an equal in regard to size, he just worked harder than his opponent. He is a relentless competitor that impacts the game on both ends of the court. Defensively he is a shot-blocking presence, and I have seen him have some monster games protecting the rim. There are times that he is virtually unstoppable in the paint, at the rim, and on the glass on offense. The scary thing about Jared is that I do not think he is done growing physically, and with the AAU program he is in and the high school coach he is under, he is definitely going to grow more in regard to his skills.
He has been consistent in his production throughout the spring, and there is no reason to think that it will not continue throughout the summer.
I would love to see J expand his skill set to include playing on the perimeter, showcasing a consistent jumper and handles that can help him create opportunities off the bounce. I am not saying that he does not already have this ability, but as more eyes are laid on him, those are qualities they will see if he has, which only adds value to his game.
There is more coming from the Southern Spring Invitational, but before I end, I want to pay tribute to the founder of the Southern Spring Invitational, Ty Quarles, whom the basketball community lost in December. It was a joy to see that the baton that Ty carried has been picked up, and the basketball community will continue to feel the impact of a giant in our game.