In the city of Memphis, Tennessee, basketball is king. It’s home to NBA legend, Penny Hardaway, who coaches one of the country’s top high school basketball programs at Memphis East High School. If you haven’t heard of Penny Hardaway, Memphis East, or James Wiseman, their top player and the number one prospect in the junior class according to 247sports.com, you’ve likely been living under a rock.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Tennessee Prep, a prep school in Memphis that is home to some of the top junior guards in the country, it’s because they don’t get the credit they deserve. Some of the star players on the roster are junior guard Antavion “Dude” Collum, a transfer from Memphis East, as well as another junior guard in Brandon Nicholas, who is known for his long-range shooting ability. On top of those two players, Coach Harold Rayford recently added two more stars to the team in four-star Buckhorn (AL) transfer Denver Jones, as well as Putnam Science Academy (CT) forward Anthony Thomas.
Jones, a guy who plays mainly at the shooting guard position for Tennessee Prep, recently reclassified to the 2020 class, making him and Thomas both sophomores. He scored 1,000 points at Buckhorn High School in New Market, Alabama before transferring to Tennessee Prep, proving his ability to flat out go get a bucket. Spending just around a month with the team, he’s adjusted to his role on the star-studded roster, and has been a solid scoring option for the team. In his first week with the team, he put up 13 points and 6 rebounds against Oldsmar Christian (FL) and recently had a 12-point scoring output against Mountain Mission (VA).
Tennessee Prep is a member of The Grind Session, a league created for prep schools to battle it out against each other throughout the season, and Jones says that played a part in him joining the Diplomat Lions. “I knew the competition would be good coming to Tennessee Prep,” said Jones, “I knew I’d be playing against Division 1 players every night and that’s the type of atmosphere I want to play in.” He went on to elaborate on that decision with one word when asked about what he wants to accomplish at TPA, which was “exposure.”
As far as adjusting to not being the top scoring option, Jones understands his role with the team and has been able to contribute off the bench. “It’s a huge transition coming from a team where I’m the leading scorer to a team where everybody can score the ball,” he said, “But I’ve just been letting the game come to me and playing my role.”
With Jones and Thomas being the two newest additions to the team, they’ve become roommates during their time at Tennessee Prep, which will surely help them grow the bond and chemistry needed to succeed on The Grind Session. When asked about their relationship, Thomas said, “When I first came in that was the first person I met. Coach Rayford told me Denver was my roommate, so I knew I had to get cool with him, plus we graduate at the same time.”
Thomas, a four-star forward according to 247sports.com, feels he and Jones can accomplish a lot of success together while at Tennessee Prep, saying “We can accomplish a lot of success with the help of our teammates. I think we can compete for the World Championships and fight for wins.”
While Thomas has spent less time with the team than Jones, he started for the team in his first appearance at The Grind Session’s Hoopin on the Hill in Bowling Green, Kentucky over the weekend. In those games, Thomas recorded 6 points and 4 rebounds against Believe Prep (TN), as well as 8 points and 4 rebounds against Bella Vista Prep (AZ). While those numbers may seem small for a four-star player, understand that the level of competition on The Grind Session is far and above what any high school player will see at traditional high schools.
Thomas spoke on the adjustment to playing with other big name prospects, saying, “At Putnam I wasn’t getting much playing time, so now that I’m on the floor I’ve just got to play hard. With so many scorers on this team, it’s frustrating at times when everyone is trying to get a bucket, but we just have to take our time and it’s something I’ll be able to adjust to.”
Neither player has been a stranger to success before joining the team at Tennessee Prep, and many schools haven taken notice of both players. Jones, a shooting guard that is just a natural born scorer and can find a way to get his team points when they need them has been in contact with schools such as West Virginia, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Samford, and Middle Tennessee State. On top of that, in his first week at Tennesee Prep, Jones added an offer from Western Kentucky University after a strong showing at The Grind Session’s Mustang Madness in Paducah, Kentucky. Thomas, a slashing forward that can get to the basket and knock down open shots has also drawn interest from big name schools such as Rhode Island, Rutgers, Kansas State, Xavier, Virginia Tech, and Kentucky.
Both will have the opportunity to build on their early accomplishments while playing at Tennessee Prep and are in prime position to put anybody sleeping on them on notice. Denver Jones, Anthony Thomas, and the entire Tennessee Prep squad recently locked up a spot in The Grind Session’s World Championships in March and will look to build chemistry before competing for that championship later this season. Look for the duo, along with the other talented players on the team, to make some noise over the next couple months.