Insiders Report: John Lucas Enterprises IMSC

by Spencer Pulliam

May 8 2017


HOUSTON, TX - I’m two for two in Houston this year when it comes to the search for new talent. Thanks to John Lucas’ All-Star Weekend Tournament in March and the recent International Middle School Combine (IMSC), the class of 2021 appears to be adding much-needed depth, while the class of 2022 continues to mature with each passing event.

Despite the fact that Texas is often labeled as a ‘football state’, the people of Houston love their hoops, and they’re lucky that John Lucas and staff are able to deliver such quality youth basketball events in their backyard. As the city buzzed with the excitement of the NBA Playoffs, the International Middle School Combine once again proved to be a quality event, and provided a number of headlines that made my trip to H-Town worthwhile…


In case you are curious, the John Lucas Enterprises International Middle School Combine is truly international, serving as a hoops festival of sorts with talent from the United States and abroad. The game began to spread globally in the television era and the evolution of the internet and social media have made its growth explode. Each year, players from across the world come to the United States hoping to compete at the highest level, and that process can begin as early as middle school in today’s game.

Simply put, there was more international flavor at this year’s IMSC than any ever before, as the camp hosted more than a dozen youth prospects born outside of the United States. The influx of foreign talent added an extra level of excitement and competition to the weekend. Follow along throughout the week as I’ll highlight a collection of talent from continents of Africa, Australia, and South America.


If you are already familiar with 6-foot-5 William Jeffress, consider yourself ahead of the game. The talented wing hails from Erie, Pennslyvania and you can bet he’s the best long-term hoops prospect in the northwest corner of The Keystone State. A lean and athletic forward, Jeffress excelled throughout the weekend, stamping himself as one of the best swingman in the Class of 2021, and ensuring that his recruitment will begin early despite his geographic isolation. I’m confident he will find his way onto the extensive list of notable IMSC alums in coming years.


The latest Kansas Jayhawk, Keelon (KJ) Lawson, Jr., first pinged my radar at a small gym in Memphis, Tennessee during the summer of 2010, while playing at the Division II 7th Grade AAU National Championships. The second brother, and likely future NBA Draft Pick Dedric Lawson, was also playing alongside brother KJ Lawson on that team seven summers ago. Next came Chandler Lawson, now a bonafide high-major recruit, who will begin his junior year of high school this fall. And last, but certainly not least, is Jonathan Lawson.

A 6-foot-6 guard, Jonathan Lawson is taking advantage of the biggest possible stages during his last season of middle school basketball, including a stellar performance in front of John Lucas and staff at this weekend’s International Middle School Combine. I realized this weekend, after nearly a decade of watching members of the Lawson family on the youth hoops circuit, they’ll be gone next year. They’ll be missed, but each provided great memories, and collectively they leave a legacy in youth hoops that is not likely to be matched.


Most scouts categorize players using five positions for ranking and evaluating purposes, but the furious pace of instruction and game play at the IMSC reiterated the fact that the traditional center is all but being eliminated from the sport, and the youth level is not an exception. The reality is many high school teams don’t know how to utilize a quality post player, the majority of college teams are dominated by their backcourts, and most NBA teams emphasize pace to the point where bulky big men simply cannot keep up. Today, the “bigs” that compete at the highest level are more athletic, skilled, and versatile than ever before.

The sheer enormity of young prospects doesn’t guarantee success, but all hope is not lost for the bigs, as many are adapting quickly. Names like Christian Bento (CA), Pape Cisse (CA), and Reuben Fatheree (TX) are a few examples of success stories in the Class of 2021. I’ll breakdown their games and provide updates on these frontcourt prospects and more as coverage from the 2017 John Lucas International Middle School Combine is released.


Guards always look the best in camp settings; it’s unavoidable. In station work, some of the bigger players stumble through defensive slides and ball skills while backcourt prospects seem to excel in every aspect. Despite the fact that most young guards tend to over-dribble and over-shoot in camp environments, mistakes aren’t featured in mixtapes, and efficiency isn’t appropriately monitored alongside production.

Here’s the reality: A lot of what happens in camp environments doesn’t translate to a team setting. However, occasionally camp evaluations can prove to be valuable, and several of the guards in attendance at the IMSC certainly made the most of their weekend. Names like Jalen Blackmon (IN), Jackie Johnson (MO), and Daeshun Ruffin (MS) are among the prospects you can expect to read more about as the Class of 2021 enters the high school circuit this fall.


Spencer Pulliam

Spencer Pulliam is the National Scouting & Recruiting Director for The Prep Insiders. Born and raised in North Carolina, he has 12 years of industry experience in youth basketball, and is respected as a nationwide leader in the field. See the 'About Us' page for Spencer's full bio.