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Defensive Stoppers
by Andrew Force, Future150 (12:51 AM CT, Tue September 22, 2015)
Gilmore growing into a great player
Gilmore growing into a great player
Andrew Force
Andrew Force:

Future150 National Analyst. Covering High and Middle School basketball.

Atlanta, GA (Future150) -- Zachary Lyon and Ani Umana contributed to this report.

Great coaches will always tell you defense wins championships.  Most practices revolve around defensive principles and unity.  And yet the evaluation industry routinely overlooks this critical aspect.

Playing defense takes more than skills. It takes gumption.  It takes heart.  When you witness a young, talented defender you must acknowledge they, the very least, are a devoted competitor.  

Extrapolating tangible success from the intangible investment on that 'other end' is easy.  This list takes a look at players who play defense at an elite level.

2017 SF Devin Gilmore (Madison, Mississippi)
2018 PG Tre Baumgardner (Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
2016 WG Wali Parks (Iowa City, Iowa)
2016 PG Justice Kithcart (Durham, North Carolina)
2016 PG Michael Seals (High Point, North Carolina)
2018 WG Jules Bernard (Los Angeles, California)
2016 PF Garrison Brooks (Auburn, Alabama)
2016 PG Zep Jasper (Augusta, Georgia)
2017 PG Chris Hawkins (Las Vegas, Nevada)
2016 F DeSean Enzor (Tallahassee, Florida)
2016 G Herman Williams (Marianna, Florida)
2017 G Jamari Wheeler (Live Oak, Florida)
2019 PG Cole Anthony (Brooklyn, New York)
2016 PG Josh Sharkey (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
2017 PG P.J. Pipes (Lemont, Illinois)
2016 PF Bruno Fernando (Montverde, Florida)
2019 PG Chris Harris Jr. (Dallas, Texas)
2020 PG Kade Anderson (Dallas, Texas)

The last two seasons Jasper played under Lucy L. Laney Head Coach Buck Harris.  Perhaps this is where he learned his craft, but now the relentless hounding is embedded in his DNA.

Much like Zep, Jules Bernard's defensive stylings are based in energy.  Bernard is blessed with more length and size than Jasper though.  He probably could feasibly guard a college small forward tomorrow.  He definitely projects as a Jalen Rose-type offensive player, but unlike the wonderful commentator Bernard actually cares about defense. 

Hawkins competed with Las Vegas Knicks.  Drastically undersized Hawkins needed a way to earn his playing time.

"He makes you afraid to dribble," said Knicks Head Coach Lamar Bigby.

They always tell bigs to keep the ball high, but when your defender is 6+ inches shorter than you dribbling becomes an arduous task.  Hawkins is a true stopper.  His presence can affect entire possessions.  

Many of the guys on this list are point guards and that might be because the ball is most often in the hands of their mark.  Seals (Team Winston) and Kithcart (Team Loaded) both defend the perimeter.  Even though other players on those squads deservedly aroused interest for their remarkable offensive exploits, Seals and Kithcart (not an 80's band) helped win games.  

"Kithcart and Seals are probably two of my favorite defensive players in the 2016 class," said Future150 Regional Analyst Zachary Lyon.

Elite Tweener

Devin Gilmore could be a pro.  His ceiling creeps higher by the month because he oozes athleticism and gradually gains mobility and skills. 

The cousin of Morris Peterson (Mo Pete), Gilmore loves to play defense on the blocks.  For Madison Ridgeland Academy he is everybody's favorite help defender.  When the guards get beat here comes a foreboding 6-foot-6 bird of prey swatting from the sky.  Forget the floater.  Try that and you will have to watch your offering be retrieved from the bleachers.

Gilmore is still working to defend the arc, but his lateral mobility is much better than just six months ago. 

If nothing else, Gilmore projects as a Branden Dawson (Michigan State graduate).  Like Gilmore, Dawson was kind of a power forward for his high school squad.  They are both exceptional rebounders and heart is not a worry for either.

Prideful Cover

The best way to inspire a great defensive performance is to tell a young man how great an opponent is.  

Wali Parks heard plenty about Justin Pierce from his Iowa Barnstormers 17u coaches mid-July.  Pierce is good, D1 good.  In fact, At this point Pierce has 15 commitable offers.  He will likely wind up Ivy League or mid-major in the Midwest.  

This game was in the middle of a 10-day stretch during which Pierce picked up nine D1 offers.  He was on fire, gliding around screens, and pumping in bucket after bucket. 

Though he was accustomed to big games, Pierce was held to just 4 points at halftime.  Two of those points came from the free throw line.  

Parks bit on Pierce showing out on the wing.  Then JP cut backdoor, drew foul, and hit his freebies.  

Seconds later Parks blocked Justin's jumper, collected his own deflection, and scored on the other end.

"I'm killing you," shouted Parks to the air.  Pierce missed his first seven field goals and finally scored from the field in the final minute of the first half. 

What makes a player like Wali so special is that he doesn't need his own shots to feel good.  He can score a couple garbage buckets off misses and shutdown his mark, then go home feeling like a million bucks.  

These kind of teammates are enormously valuable.  

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