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Length and star power headline 37th Arby’s Classic

Tanner Cook • Dec 25, 2019 at 10:03 PM

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for local high school basketball fans as the 37th Arby’s Classic gears up for another edition at Viking Hall in Bristol.

This season boasts a loaded field of out-of-town teams from five different states, the District of Columbia and the Bahamas.

The local teams competing in the event include: Hampton, Elizabethton, Dobyns-Bennett, Tennessee High and Wise Central.

The following is a team-by-team look at each squad and notable players to watch during the tournament. The slam dunk contest will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday and the 3-point contest will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Bartlett Panthers

Coming off a sectional loss to Whitehaven last season, the Panthers enter the Arby’s with an 8-3 record and big road wins at Memphis White Station and Germantown-Houston.

Player to watch: Senior Rodney Mason III, a 6-foot-6 wing player, is developing at his new position after Bartlett had to replace leading scorer Antavion Collum, who signed with Ole Miss.

Concord First Assembly (N.C.) Eagles

The private school from outside Charlotte boasts size in the post and is coming off a 27-6 season. The Eagles are currently 13-1 and are ranked No. 1 in the most recent NCISAA private school rankings.

Players to watch: The Eagles have two Division 1 signees on the roster — 6-9 forward Garrett Hien, who has signed with Furman, and 6-8 forward Cheick Traore, who has signed with Youngstown State.

Dobyns-Bennett Indians

After nearly knocking off defending Arby’s and TSSAA Class AAA champion Bearden in last season’s sectional round, the Indians have been in rebuild mode the early part of this season. Dobyns-Bennett enters the tournament 6-4 and still has a lot to prove in the Big 7 Conference.

Players to watch: Senior Abiah Releford is the only returning starter from last year’s team, and Zane Whitson has been trending upward in the early part of the season.

Elizabethton Cyclones

The Cyclones might finally be off the high of a football state championship and it’s just in time. Elizabethton enters the tournament with a 2-6 record, but most of those games were played without a full roster. They get no break though as they play The Webb School in their first game.

Players to watch: Nico Ashley and Parker Hughes will spearhead the attack for the Cyclones.

Fayetteville (Ark.) Bulldogs

Coming off a Class 6A state semifinals appearance, the Bulldogs bring a big and loaded roster across the Mississippi River with 18 players and a potent amount of scoring. Fayetteville comes into the contest with a 6-3 record and won a pair of games at the John Stanton Conway Classic earlier in December.

Player to watch: Junior center Tamaury Releford has been a force down low and is currently averaging more than 15 points per game.

Greeneville Greene Devils

Brad Woolsey’s team always brings good competition to the Arby’s and this year might be one of his best teams. The Greene Devils have a 6-1 record with the only loss coming against Murfreesboro Oakland — a much larger Class AAA team — by six points.

Players to watch: Reid Satterfield can shoot the lights out of the gym when he wants, and so can some of the other players. This is a dangerous team, but they have a tough first-round matchup with Mentor.

Hampton Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are a favorite in the Watauga Valley Conference this season and Ned Smith has one of his deepest teams since the 2015-16 team reached the Class A semifinals. Hampton has six seniors and nearly all of them contribute. Hampton played tough against Science Hill, Sullivan Central and South Greene this season and enters with a 8-3 record.

Players to watch: Rocky Croy, Caleb Oaks and Jordan Bentley all bring an element of size and length to the floor for the Bulldogs.

Maret School (D.C.) Frogs

Former The Citadel coach Chuck Driesell leads his squad into the Arby’s with a 5-4 record, but has played a tough prep schedule against some of the best schools in Virginia and Maryland. The Frogs do not have a senior on the roster.

Player to watch: Junior 6-7 forward Quincy Allen has received more than 10 Division 1 offers including Florida, Pitt and Seton Hall.

Mentor (Ohio) Cardinals

A fan-favorite and the 2011 and 2012 runner-up, the Cardinals are known for shooting the 3-pointer at a high rate. Head coach Robert Krizancic has more than 600 wins and Mentor is a perennial power in Ohio.

Player to watch: Luke Floriea signed earlier this year to play football at Kent State and plays a key role on the basketball team. However, leading the 1-1 Cardinals will be Luke Chicone and Chad Rogers, who both scored more than 30 points in the last outing.

Mountain Brook (Ala.) Spartans

The Spartans won the largest classification (7A) in Alabama last season and return a whole lot of length and athleticism. Mountain Brook won the prestigious Under Armour Kreul Classic in Coral Springs, Florida, last weekend.

Player to watch: Senior 6-5 guard Colby Jones is committed to Xavier and averaged 31 points in three games at the Kreul Classic.

North Mecklenburg (N.C.) Vikings

North Mecklenburg brings back a loaded and experienced team in search of a third Arby’s title this decade. The Vikings won the event in 2014 and 2017. So far this season, they’re 9-0 and are looking to improve upon their sectional finals appearance in last year’s NCHSAA Class 4A playoffs.

Player to watch: Tristan Maxwell, the 2017 Arby’s MVP, is now a senior and will be looked to as the headliner for the event. The son of former NBA All-Star Vernon Maxwell has averaged more than 30 points this season.

Sevier County Smoky Bears

The squad from Sevierville is coming off a historic season, making it to the TSSAA state tournament last year for the first time since 1991. The Smoky Bears have a tall task in the first game, going up against North Mecklenburg.

Players to watch: Camden McElhaney and Wes Maples ate up Dobyns-Bennett in last year’s regional finals and the 6-5 forward/guard combo is back for another go-around for head coach Ken Wright’s team.

Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) Panthers

The Panthers are coming off a Georgia AAAAA semifinals appearance and have one of the top returning players, Eugene Brown III, back for his senior year. Southwest DeKalb has a lot of size on the roster as only one its 16 players is listed under 6-foot.

Player to watch: Brown, a 6-6 shooting guard, has signed to play for Ohio State. He is dynamic on both ends of the floor, known for creating his own shot and his stellar poise on defense. Brown may end up being one of the top players in the tournament.

Tabernacle Baptist (Bahamas) Falcons

Kevin Clarke always brings an athletic team up to Bristol and the show will continue this year. This tournament, however, will serve as a special one for the Falcons as it is the first one since Hurricane Dorian bashed Freeport earlier this year.

Players to watch: Tabernacle always comes in with an element of surprise, but a couple of the players from last year’s team, Darius Cooper and Raymond Clarke, are good shooters for the Falcons.

Tennessee High Vikings

The host squad lost Christian Webb from last year’s team and gave Buford (Ga.) all it wanted in the opening round of last year’s tournament. This is one of coach Roby Witcher’s best squads as far as size and length, but the first-round matchup this year against Mountain Brook will be a challenge.

Players to watch: When talking about the Vikings, the senior post duo of Nolan Wishon and Blake Fauver have to be at the forefront. The two, along with sharpshooter Cole McBrayer, could present some problems for the athletic Spartans on the second day.

The Webb School Feet

The squad from the small, middle Tennessee town of Bell Buckle brings in five-star recruit Keon Johnson, the top player in the Volunteer state. Johnson signed with Tennessee, but he tore his meniscus earlier in the month and will not play in the Arby’s. The Feet still boast a 6-0 record though and are the favorites in Division II-A to get back to the title game.

Player to watch: J.J. Platt is the best player on the team without Johnson and has stepped it up in his absence, averaging more than 20 points.

Knox Webb Spartans

Ricky Norris’ squad came to the Arby’s in 2017 and put on a defensive clinic behind the spectacular play of Myles Rasnick, Chase Ridenour and Emory Lanier and got fourth place. However, after winning the school’s first-ever Division II-A title over The Webb School last year, all three are gone and the Spartans are in a rebuild mode as well.

Player to watch: Knox Webb (6-2) has only two seniors on the roster, but the star of the show may be junior sharpshooter David Sanger. The motto of the Spartans’ basketball team has been “spread the wealth,” so there really isn’t one standout player and it really is a team effort on defense.

Wise Central Warriors

Central is off to a good start this season thanks to the return of sharpshooter Isaiah McAmis and defensive stalwart Elijah Hayes. T.J. McAmis’ squad knows how to win and this may be the season they challenge Gate City in the Mountain 7 District. Coming off a bracket title in the KSA Tournament in Orlando, the Warriors look to build more momentum in the Arby’s Classic.

Players to watch: McAmis may wind up being the best shooter in the tournament after missing his junior season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He’s hungry to prove he’s the one of the best players in the state. Hayes is the returning district defensive player of the year and is a potent scorer himself on the offensive end.