BY JESSE SMITHEY
Shoutout to B. Maze Elite and Tennessee Fury for agreeing to play an exhibition on Monday night at B. Maze’s gym.
Two area travel teams getting together to show strength of Knoxville basketball. A crowd of about 250 watched on.
I hope it’s a tradition that we get to see in the future, and I hope that other area travel sports from Knoxville — like baseball — follow suit next summer.
Let’s get to some takeaways and observations from me. Danny Parker’s photos are below.
First off, B. Maze point guard B.J. Edwards didn’t play.
The Class of 2022 star, Tennessee target and 2020 5Star Preps Player of the Year had a boot on a foot/ankle and sat out. His teammate from Catholic, the sharpshooting Presley Patterson (Class of 2022), sat out, as well.
But B. Maze Elite did trot out Class of 2022 national star Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, the 6-foot-8 forward who played for IMG Academy this past season but has announced his transfer to Scotland (Pa.) Campus.
Huntley-Hatfield is a consensus top 10 nationally ranked player and showed it Monday, polishing off plenty of 3s with a deft touch for someone his size. Though that’s the norm in today’s game. Tennessee is after Huntley-Hatfield, but so are Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis, Florida and more.
Handje Tamba, a 7-foot Class of 2022 product from Knoxville Catholic, picked up a Vols offer last week. His maturation as a basketball player continues to impress. He only had about 18 months of basketball experience to his name when he entered high school. His freshman season, he was passive, soft in the paint and rigid in movement. On Monday against the TN Fury, he moved like a basketball player. He brought the ball up the court and drained a 3. He blocked shots. He was assertive and aggressive around the rim.
He still has a ways to go. But, man, it’s incredible to think about his improvement since November 2018, the start of his freshman season.
Speaking of progress, Catholic guard Blue Cain is heading into his sophomore season. He showed off his ever-improving perimeter stroke Monday against the Fury. He popped in two 3s in the first half and then drove baseline for a reverse layup. He entered high school as a social media dunk artist. But his game and physique are evolving, and his recruitment is starting to spike upwards accordingly.
Other takeaways on B. Maze: Maryville guard Charlie Rice was his dependable self, burying 3s and getting some easy baskets at the rim.
Webb is going to be stout again in 2020-21. Brandon Winton (Class of 2024) and Lukas Walls (2023) got plenty of run Monday. They’re explosive and mature beyond their years.
Luke Lentz, from the TN Fury, will join Winton and Walls on the floor at Webb. And Lentz (Class of 2022) can pump it in from 3. He made three 3s in a row during the second quarter Monday against B. Maze.
But perhaps no player on the TN Fury impressed more than West’s Will Biven.
Biven was an All-District 4-AAA performer as a sophomore last season. But he’s even bigger, more explosive and more confident now. He had nine first-half points and then erupted from the perimeter in the second half, helping the Fury keep close on the scoreboard.
He also unleashed a nasty dunk on a drive down the lane. He’s 6-4 and 180 pounds and definitely going to be a Division I steal from the Class of 2022.
He won’t be the lone talent on West’s roster. Area newcomer Gabriel Pastrana, a crafty Class of 2022 guard, will be on the roster for the Rebels. He had nine points in the first half against B. Maze and then dazzled the crowd in the second half with nifty and creativity around the basket against bigger players. He plays with confidence and wasn’t afraid to take on Huntley-Hatfield or anyone else.
Bearden 2022 guard Elijah Bredwood will be another player who garners some serious attention in the 2020-21 season. He’s absolutely blown up this summer as a prospect and talent.
Other observations from TN Fury: Alcoa sophomore Tai Cates, Scott junior Trey Morrow and Farragut junior Dillon Atwell made impacts Monday. Cates was one of the area’s surprise players last fall, and Morrow has already had two amazing prep seasons. Atwell will be a breakout player in the area this coming season.
Last thing: Eiram Cuevas, a Class of 2023 forward, had some flashes of nice play Monday for the Fury. He’ll be on the roster at West with Biven and Pastrana. Keep an eye out for him in the winter.