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PREP BASKETBALL: As hoops season tips off, keep and eye on these players and teams

As the calendar changes from November to December, prep sports fans also shift from football season to basketball season.

Terry Davis

It was just a year ago that all eyes were on then-East high star James Wiseman, the top prospect in the nation. And with Matthew Murrell now at IMG Academy in Florida, there aren’t as many big names on high school hardwood this season.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of sought-after talent. Jonathan Lawson (Wooddale), Chandler Kennedy (Briarcrest) and Moussa Cisse (Lausanne) are among the best players in the city.  They all are playing on teams that have a chance to win a state championship. All three are in the Class of 2021.

Johnathan Lawson, Wooddale High School

Player to watch: Johnathan Lawson
Wooddale High School

Lawson is now in this junior season with the Cardinals. As the  youngest of the Lawson brothers – prep stars K.J., Dedric and Chandler Lawson are his siblings – Johnathan Lawson plays in the shadow of Chandler, who helped Wooddale win a championship last season. To fill those shoes, he has to score and rebound more. And he has to do it while playing for his dad, Keilon, who is head coach at Wooddale.

But there’s backup. Former Trezevant high player Jalen Brown is now at Wooddale and will be an added weapon. And the squad is playing well in the young season, recently defeating Olive Branch 93-87.

Jonathan Lawson is a 4-star who played for Penny Hardaway at East High School. He is considered a very dynamic basketball player who can make everyone on the team better. He can be a leader on both offense and defense.

Kennedy Chandler, Briarcrest High School

Player to watch: Kennedy Chandler
Briarcrest High School

Kennedy Chandler has risen to be one of the most coveted recruits by “blue blood” programs, including North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, who has been seen in Memphis multiple times to recruit Chandler. A 5-star prospect, the 6-foot-1 point guard is considered a transformational player.

Chandler has offers from many programs and has visited Ole Miss, Florida State and Syracuse – and a ton more unofficial visits and coach visits. Currently, he’s rated as the 14th best player in the Class of 2021. And hopes to lead Braircrest to back-to-back championships.

Moussa Cisse, Lausanne Collegiate School

Player to watch: Moussa Cisse
Lausanne Collegiate School

Moussa Cisse’s college choice could come down to another Memphis vs Kentucky scenario. Cisse is a slim but athletic “stretch four” type of player.  He dominated a recent MLK tournament game, going off for a ridiculous 31 points, 22 rebounds and 21 blocks in a win over Douglass.

“I am adjusting to Memphis very well,” said Cisse, who played last season in New York. “The chemistry with my team has been good.  We have been adjusting to each other. We are learning how to play together.”

It’s no fluke that the 5-star prospect has offers from 12 colleges. He’s currently ranked ninth nationally and is considered the top prospect in Tennessee. At 6-foot-9, the 200-pound forward has been recruited by the coach Tigers fans love to hate, Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“We are just going to try to get better each practice,” said Lausanne coach Marvis Davis. “Moussa is a great kid and he fits well in our system.”

Others to watch

Though not loaded with nationally ranked talent, local powerhouses like East High, Cordova, Booker T. Washington and White Station will all be in the mix for hoop supremacy in Shelby County.

But also keep an eye on Whitehaven. After decades coaching at Booker T. Washington, coaching legend Fred Horton came out of retirement to lead the Tigers. Though the team has lost a five-star player to a prep academy, Horton can still mold talent.

This season should be another banner year for high school hoops.  Typically, girls’ games start at 6 p.m. with boys games starting afterwards, aroung 7:30 p.m. Admission to TSSAA games is $8; check your local schedule for opponents and dates!

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