We are a few weeks into the middle school season in the state of AL, and even though I haven’t caught a lot of games, I have seen a few teams with high-level talent, and I wanted to take a moment and discuss some of the talent that is putting in work.
Ethan Johnson (6’1/G|F/2027)
School: WJ Christian
Ethan showed a lot of promise with his length, size, and skillset. He is extremely versatile and makes his presence felt on both ends of the floor in all aspects of the game. He logged heavy minutes and was hands down the best player on the floor in the match-up against Smith. Offensively, at this level, he played the 1-5, but as he continues on his journey, he will have to settle into a more specific role at the G|F spot, but for now, he is Mr. Do-it-All for WJ Christian. He thrived in the open court both when leading the break and getting out and running lanes. He attacked off the bounce and showed he can finish at the cup. He has to continue to work on his perimeter shooting as he prepares for life at the next level. Defensively, he showed his versatility as he could defend on the perimeter and in the interior. He was active on the glass and had his hands in mostly all the plays for the Chargers. Ethan finished with 10pts in the win against Smith but had a 32pt performance earlier in the season.
He thrived in the open court both when leading the break and getting out and running lanes.Terry J. Drake
Zion Christopher Arnold (5’10/F/2027)
School: WJ Christian
Zion is a stout forward that was coming off an illness and was limited in action, but when he was on the floor was a dominant force in the paint on both ends. He has the pedigree as his dad was a ‘balla’ back in the day. He was highly active on the glass and rebounded at a high rate. Offensively, he is a dependable and efficient play-finisher, which bodes well for WJ as he often receives a drop-off pass from one of the penetrating guards on his squad. He has a soft touch around the rim and finishes thru contact. Defensively, he clogs up the paint and allows very little room for ball handlers to find a path to the rim. After the game, I spoke with his coach, and he said Zion has a lot more in the toolbox than what he showed, as he was not 100% that night. I look forward to getting another look at Zion in action.
He has the pedigree as his dad was a ‘balla’ back in the day.Terry J. Drake
Caiden Scott (5’9/G|F/2027)
School: WJ Christian
Caiden is a player that makes an impact on both ends of the floor. He has good size and is a physically tough player. He is a presence in the paint as he is strong on the glass and a player that WJ likes to run their offense through. When he is not maneuvering in the paint, finding holes in the defense’s zone, he is on the perimeter looking for driving lanes to the cup. He is dominant left and will have to develop his right hand if he is going to continue to be an impact player. He finds himself at the line often as his game draws fouls. He plays with a high motor, runs the floor hard in transition, and plays with high energy and effort.
He is dominant left and will have to develop his right hand if he is going to continue to be an impact player.Terry J. Drake
Antonio Wesley (5’4/CG/2028)
School: WJ Christian
Antonio is a combo guard and could easily be considered one of the rising athletes in the 2028 class in Alabama. He showed off a lot of the tools that are in the toolbox as he scored in a variety of ways at multiple levels. He has handles, is a shifty ball-handler, and is quick off the bounce. With his burst and blow-by speed Antonio finds himself living in the paint and collapsing the defense, leaving them at his mercy while making good decisions with the rock in those moments. He functions as a triple-threat player that can contribute as a shooter, passer, and driver. He is a gifted scorer and passer with a basketball IQ that is impressive for his grade. The only thing that I questioned after watching him play was his ability to defend in the open court. He has to get better on that end of the floor if he desires to be everything that he has the potential to become.
Antonio is a combo guard and could easily be considered one of the rising athletes in the 2028 class in Alabama.Terry J. Drake
Marquis Zeigler (5’2/G|F/2027)
School: Smith Middle School
Marquis is a very talented athlete that is playing off his talent right now. He is still learning the game, and his game is still developing. He showed his raw ability to score the rock, and WJ Christian found out that he is difficult to contain off the bounce. He is quick with the ball in his hands and has another gear when getting downhill. Right now, he is at his best when in transition or in the half-court and slashing to the rim to score. When he begins to learn how to really be a floor general and polish his skillset, he has an opportunity to be a guard that can emerge into a prospect to keep our eyes on. I hope I will be able to see progression in his game the next time I put eyes on him because he definitely has potential.
He is quick with the ball in his hands and has another gear when getting downhill.Terry J. Drake
School: Irondale Middle
Deonte has been must-see action early on this season. He is hands down one of, if not the best, 2028 player in the state. He is highly versatile and, at this level, can play the 1-5. He is a player that teams are seeking to find answers to be able to stop him, and unfortunately, no one has found the answer as of yet. Deonte is one of the best middle school scorers in the state as he has the size to shoot over smaller defenders, handles to get to his spots on the floor, and even a developing post-up game that allows him to be productive with his back to the basket. He is a player whose name you will continue to hear as long as you are connected to grassroots basketball in the state.
He is highly versatile and, at this level, can play the 1-5.Terry J. Drake
Desmond Tippett (5’7/CG/’27)
School: Bush Hills STEAM Academy
Desmond is a player whose name has been circulating around the grassroots community and is getting some traction. I have put ink on him before, but he has definitely improved since the last time I saw him. His game has matured, and he is a lot more confident at the lead guard position. He is still finding his way in being able to balance facilitating and scoring but mastering that will come as he continues his basketball journey. He is a talented young player with a lot of potential and could be a prospect demanding a lot of attention over the next few years. He still has some pieces to his game that need sharpening, but if he can stay in the lab and hone those skills, he can put himself in a position to become what all the talk says he has the potential to be. We will keep our eyes on Desmond and see how far he can lead Bush Hills in the playoffs.
His game has matured, and he is a lot more confident at the lead guard position.Terry J. Drake