You’ve waited long enough, so here is the 2nd wave of the talent that was out and on display at the Down By The River Tourney in Memphis, TN, hosted by Curtis Givens.
Payton Jones / 5’6 / Point Guard / Houston Hoops Blue Chip 2027 / Silsbee Middle School (Silsbee TX)
When I have the opportunity to coach, I always stress the amount of points a team can steal a game if the post player rim runs extremely hard and if the PG hits the rim runner. I look for this often when I am watching teams, and it is not often that you see a PG hitting a post running hard rim to rim. Well, thank you, Mr. Payton Jones, you did it. Now don’t get me wrong, hitting the rim runner is not the only thing that got me watching PJ because he was dropping dimes throughout the DBTR tourney. He had some exciting no looks in those dimes that he dropped.
PJ is an accurate passer with excellent court vision.
He controls the tempo of the game and is the stabilizing force for his squad. Currently facilitating is the strength of his game. Opportunities for Growth: Defensive development is next for PJ. His impact on the defensive end needs to match his impact on the offensive end.
Deontray Mustin / 5’1 / Point Guard / Trae Young Elite 2027 / Del City Middle School (Oklahoma City, OK)
Deontray had his handles on display at DBTR. He is crafty and clever with the ball in his hands. He is small in size but showed that he has a good foundation to build upon. He got teammates involved with his ability to break down defenders off the bounce and force help. With what D has in the toolbox, he can impact the game in more ways than he did. Opportunities for Growth:
I would like to see Deontray be more assertive and aggressive on both ends of the court.
He has to continue to work on being more consistent, which is something most kids at this age are working towards. Didn’t see much when it comes to his perimeter J, but I will have time over the next few years to watch D more and see what type of production he gives with his outside shot.
Darian Shy / 5’2 / Combo Guard / Indy Premiere Fam First 2027 / Westport Middle School (Louisville, KY)
If there was one player that was fun to watch and had major swag, it was Darian. He brought it on both ends of the court and had a monster tournament. He doesn’t shy away from making the tough plays for his squad. He has a full scoring package at his disposal that he uses extremely well. Whether he is knocking down shots from behind the arc, utilizing the floater, or getting all the way to the rim, he is a big-time threat on the offensive end of the court. There was not a game that Darian did not come out ready to play. I loved his effort on the defensive end. His on-ball defense was smothering, and with his quick hands and forcing turnovers, he turned his defense into a lot of easy baskets. I do not see many good defensive rotations at this age, but Darian could have put on a clinic on what defensive rotation should look like. You can credit his rotation on his movement in connection with the airtime of the ball, which is often very difficult to get young players to understand and execute.
As I mentioned, it was an absolute joy to watch Darian play.
Opportunities for Growth: D has a lot of tools in his toolbox. When you think about a player of his caliber, you don’t ponder what separates him from the pack because that has already happened, but you begin to focus on ways to turn his strengths into weapons. How can he take what he has now and make it even better? A lot of things that Darian does on the court are going to get better by default of his growth spurt, but right now, D needs to continue working on his tools in the context of creating space and separation and shooting over bigger and longer guards.
Devin Hutcherson / 6’2 / Small Forward / AOT 2026 / Autrey Mill Middle School (Johns Creek, GA)
Devin’s Instagram account name tells you everything you need to know about what I am about to write because ‘Devin Is That Dude.’ The keyword for Dev is versatility. He has versatility on O and D. He brings a lot to the game and is an emerging prospect. He has a long-term upside if he keeps working in the lab. I am excited about his development because he has an arsenal of ways to cause problems for defenses. His ball-handling displayed straight-line speed, change of pace, and change of direction. He is athletic, has a quick first step, and can get into the paint off the bounce and rise over defenders and convert.
At times, I could literally see Dev developing into a player that could be the best player on the court every time he steps on the court.
He impacts the game in various ways and not just on the offensive end. He works hard on the glass, and his athleticism often gave him the advantage. Opportunities for Growth: I want to see Devin play to the level of the tools in his toolbox. He is a skilled athletic scoring guard but needs to be more assertive. There were times that Devin seems to be in neutral, he is too good of a player to ever be on the court, and his gear is not in drive.
Ethan Gatewood / 6’5 / Power Forward & Center / Dreamchasers 2026 / RiverDale Middle School (Germantown TN)
Ethan was a physical back to the basket post player. He has good size and uses his body well on the low block. He has nice touch around the rim and impacted winning by asserting himself in the paint and at the rim on both ends of the court. He is a good passing post, has some fundamental footwork, and has developing post moves. He was efficient from the floor and productive on the glass. Opportunities for Growth:
Ethan has the size to be more dominant.
Now granted, he is on a team with a lot of talent, but he can be more impactful. I want to see Ethan play with a more aggressive edge to his game.
Nigel Chatman / 6’4 / Power Forward & Center / Campbell Elite 2026 / N/A (N/A)
Nigel was one of the most active players at DBTR. He was tough in transition as he ran the floor hard, which is all about effort, and he played with a lot of it. Whether it was in transition or on the boards, Nigel’s presence was felt. There is a saying that the ball finds energy, and if that is true, then Nigel appeared to be in the right place at the right time often as the ball always found him. He got a lot of easy buckets because he was just more active than the defender guarding him.
He has some intangibles that if he continues to develop, he will grow into a player worth keeping your eye on.
Opportunities for Growth: Nigel needs to continue to develop his post-game but expand his game to the perimeter. Improving his handles and being consistent with his jumper will only take his game to another level. Being a threat from inside and out should be a goal that Nigel is working towards.
Loghan Johnson/ 5’5 / Point Guard / 662 Showstoppers Elite 2026 / Horn Lake Middle School (Horn Lake MS)
Loghan has a balanced and brilliant floor game. He put pressure on defenses throughout the entire tourney. He was a tough guard and frustrated many defenders. His crafty ball-handling and his change of speed with the ball in his hand kept defenders off-balance. His catch and shoot opportunities showed how quick his release is, which is vital for his size. He is a playmaker and creates for his teammates but can score the rock when opportunities present themselves. Loghan doesn’t depend on scoring to separate himself when on the court, as he has so many ways that he helps his team win.
Looking forward to seeing Loghan in about another year and seeing how his game has matured.
Opportunities for Growth: With his size, Loghan needs to work on creating space and separation off the bounce and when getting his shot off. Must continue to get more aggressive on the defensive end, especially being an undersized guard.