Director Rene Pulley & Head Coach Luv Harris with Pulley alumn Tre Jones
Howard Pulley missed out on Peach Jam by one game in 2018, finishing the season with an underwhelming 7-9 record. The Panthers enter 2019 once again led by longtime head coach Antwan ‘Luv’ Harris, and he’ll have a crop of talent at his disposal that should get them back to North Augusta in July. The Panthers only feature one ranked recruit on their 12-man roster, but don’t let that fool you. Harris has a nice blend of veteran leadership and young talent, and they will continue to run offensive sets better than the vast majority grassroots basketball teams. They have a difficult pool to navigate, and they’ll need to get off to a strong start in order to make a push for Peach Jam.
The aforementioned ranked recruit is 6-foot-9, 260-pound big man Dain Dainja. A junior from Park Center (MN), Dainja (247 No. 65) averaged 15.2 points per game, operating as the dominant big man on a 30-2 Pirates squad while earning AAAA All-Tournament team. Dainja recently picked up an offer from Syracuse and should continue to see his offer count pile up with a strong spring and summer. Dainja will be a force in the middle and will need to stay out of foul trouble in order to be as productive as Harris needs him to be.
Junior guard Blaise Beauchamp has a chance to turn into a star for the Panthers, and the 6-foot-2 sharpshooter is capable of catching fire. Beauchamp averaged 14.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for Pulley as a sophomore, shooting 38.6 percent from the perimeter on 132 attempts. Aside from having a thin frame, Beauchamp has all of the tools to turn into the featured scorer for Pulley. Beauchamp spent his junior season at prep powerhouse Findlay Prep (NV), and he should reap the benefits from the experienced he gained by playing a national schedule.
Pulley junior Blaise Beauchamp
Freshman guard Tre Holloman will start at point guard for the Panthers, and the 6-foot-1 floor general enters the 17U circuit with some hype behind him. Starting at point guard for Cretin-Derham Hall (MN) during the 2018-19 high school season, Holloman earned SEC All-Conference honors after leading the state with 9.5 assists per game. Holloman also put up 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game, proving his ability to impact a game in multiple fashions. Holloman is super flashy and loves to get his teammates involved, and his ability to efficiently distribute the ball will likely determine whether or not Pulley finds success this season.
Junior guard Lu’Cye Patterson returns from the 2018 squad and figures to play big minutes. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound bowling ball point guard averaged 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 15 EYBL games in 2018. Patterson averaged 21.2 points, 7.1 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals for Minnesota Prep this past high school season, earning All-Grind Session honors. Jax Madson, also a 6-foot-2 junior, offers Pulley another lights-out shooter and a terrific system player, while 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior Detavius Frierson will provide a versatile high-motor defender and impact player in transition. Freshman guard Tamin Lipsey joins the fray and will be a great complement to Tre Holloman. The 6-foot-2 guard is a member of the USA Basketball team and is coming off a terrific freshman season at Ames (IA) in which he averaged 17.0 points, 52.3 FG%, 4.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.2 steals. 5-foot-10 Henry Abraham will operate as a spark off the bench. The junior owns the Cambridge-Isanti (MN) school scoring record as a junior and scored over 20 points in 18 games this season.
Dainja should be a force down low, but Pulley will be limited size-wise compared to the EYBL standard. 6-foot-6 junior J’Vonne Hadley is a guard by trade, but will definitely be utilized by Harris at the small forward and power forward position. Highly skilled and super active on both ends of the floor, Hadley earned Class 3A State All-Tournament honors after averaging a Twin Cities metro-leading 28.8 points per game for Mahtomedi (MN). Hadley’s versatility should come in handy in Pulley’s rotation, and his passing ability should catch the eye of national scouts and college coaches alike.
6-foot-6 juniors Ariel Bland (Eden Prairie [MN]) and Amari Carter (Cretin-Derham Hall) are both super athletic options on the wing, and both will be expected to guard players with more size. Bland is a high-energy rebounder, efficient around the basket and a natural shot-blocker. He’s coming in hot, scoring in double-figures in 11 of the final 13 games for section champion Eden Prairie. Carter, starring with Holloman at Cretin, earned SEC All-Conference honors after a strong junior season that saw him averaged 12.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 36.1 percent from distance (22-for-61). 6-foot-7, 275-pound junior Jalen Travis rounds out the rotation. The younger brother of Stanford and Kentucky standout Reid Travis, Jalen is down in weight and his production saw a massive increase. Travis averaged 10.5 points and 8 rebounds in 31 games for the 3A State Champion DeLaSalle Islanders (MN) and the Division 1 football recruit is only getting better. Travis will play valuable minutes and will need to be productive in order for Pulley to be successful.
The Panthers will go 12 deep, but will likely take some time to figure out who plays in their optimal rotation. Beauchamp, Madson, and Hadley give the Panthers a trio of shooters from the perimeter, while Holloman, Patterson, and Lipsey will handle getting their teammates set up. There is a lot to like about this squad on paper, but as mentioned above, it will be imperative that they get off to a good start if they want to earn a bid out of Division D. The Panthers have enough talent to remain competitive in every game and if they defend at a high level, there’s no reason to think they won’t earn a bid to Peach Jam.