The Bluff City Legends (TN) changed their name back to the program's original name after the 'Team Penny' moniker was forced into retirement by Hardaway accepting the coaching job at Memphis. Regardless of the name, the Memphis-based EYBL affiliate has never missed the modern-day Peach Jam. They flip over an almost entirely new lineup in 2019, and they will roster a league-high 14 players entering the Atlanta session. The coaching staff will have plenty of pieces to work with, and on paper, the Legends look primed to be an elite defensive squad.
The star duties will be split between sophomore Johnathan Lawson and junior Jermontae Hill. Jonathan (ESPN No. 17) is the last in a long line of Lawson brothers, following in the footsteps of fellow program alumni KJ, Dedric and Chandler. The youngest Lawson has proven to be just as talented as his elders, and he's a proven winner, helping lead Wooddale so the TSSAA AA Championship while playing under his father Keelon Lawson. Listed at 6-foot-7 with length for days, Lawson excelled playing under his father during their first season at Wooddale. The versatile forward had per-game averages 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 blocks. The best part of his statistical line? He only averaged one turnover a game. As a developing point-forward, Lawson will have the ball in his hands frequently, and his numbers indicate that he can be trusted to lead and make good decisions.
Hill (247 Composite No. 121) is the highest-ranked junior on the roster. Hailing from Tucker (GA) high school, the out-of-state recruit adds length, athleticism, and a ton of potential. The 6-foot-6 wing can get to the rack with ease, and he should benefit greatly from the implementation of the 24-second shot clock. Hill is starting to become a hot commodity on the recruiting trail, recently receiving offers from Xavier and Florida among others. Hill is at his best when he's running on the break and his active motor makes him a difference-maker on the offensive boards. Expect Hill to make a huge impact in this rotation, and don't be surprised if he becomes their go-to guy in the halfcourt.
Ashton Smith is the lone returner to Bluff City, and he leads a group of five guards. The 5-foot-9 Smith is a vocal on-court leader, and he is a knock-down shooter from the perimeter. Juniors Jonathan Duncan (6-foot-1) and Alvin Miles (6-foot) both start alongside Lawson at Wooddale, with the latter transferring in mid-season. Duncan averaged 11.4 points and 2.1 rebounds during the 2018-19 season for Wooddale, while Miles chipped in averages of 10.3 points and 2.0 assists in 13 games. Miles was named to the Class AA All-Tournament team, and his high-energy defensive-first mindset will be infectious to the entire backcourt. Point guard Javonte Platt will see minutes and is coming off averages of 16.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals in 32 games for The Webb School in 2018-19.
Bluff City junior guard Ashton Smith
Like most Bluff City 17U teams, this year's version is loaded with wings, wings, and more wings. Lawson won't often leave the floor and should be a contender for All-Underclassmen honors in the EYBL, while Hill will certainly see time at the shooting guard position when Bluff City goes big.
6-foot-6, 230-pound sophomore Alden Applewhite is strong, physical swingman with guard skills. Applewhite missed most of the 2018-19 high school season at Lausanne Collegiate (TN), but now that he's healthy, he'll provide the Legends with sharp-shooter from the perimeter. Juniors Ankerion Cross (6-foot-7), Terrence Edwards jr (6-foot-6), and Duane Posey (6-foot-6) will battle for minutes on the wing, and there is plenty of length and athleticism between the trio. The frontcourt rotation is rounded out by three true big men, highlighted by the tallest player on the circuit, 7-foot-4, 275-pound Jordan Wilmore. Wilmore will operate primarily as a paint-protector and rebounder, but the Whitehaven (TN) junior proved to be a capable finisher around the basket. Wilmore averaged 8.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks during the 2018-19 high school season, and if he can keep up with the speed and quickness of the EYBL, he may put up comparable numbers this spring. Juniors Quincy Ballard (6-foot-11) rounds out the lengthy list of frontcourt players for Bluff City. Ballard has Division I talent and will be called upon as a high-energy glue-guy that plays solid defense.
Bluff City junior Jordan Wilmore (photo credit: Commercial Appeal)
The Legends have found consistent success in the EYBL, and the common denominator will be their defense. Director and head coach DuJuan Taylor is well-aware of this fact, and he formed his roster around this mentality. Bluff City always brings a formidable rotation to the floor, and they have no plans of missing their first Peach Jam in 10 years.
"This team is very deep with a lot of different pieces," Taylor said. "Pressure defense will be our specialty."