On Saturday, January 7, 2017, I had the pleasure of spending 5 hours in my hometown basketball gym to watch some of the best teams in Kentucky compete in the First State Bank’s New Year’s Bash. While I rooted for my Mustangs of Muhlenberg County as they played a very talented Louisville Trinity, I was actually waiting for the last game of the evening. That game would feature the #1 ranked 8th grader in America, Zion Harmon, and his Bowling Green Purples verse the Colonels of Dixie Heights. In order to give a fair and unbiased assessment, I didn’t watch any of the hundreds of his videos posted online and I steered clear of any of the “expert” scouting reports. This game would be my first impression and I’ll be honest, I was impressed.
At 5’10, he is built more like a senior of 18 than a boy of 14. He is athletic and muscular with powerful legs that allow for bursts of quickness and crazy jumping ability. His build and athleticism reminds me of Isaiah Briscoe. Like Zay, he bangs around the rim and is not afraid of contact. In fact, it seemed like he enjoyed playing through contact and finishing with flair. His quickness and unbelievable handles allow him to slash through the paint. I am almost positive that he is capable of going where he wants to when he wants to, and there is little his defender could do to stop him. Zion’s signature move seemed to be a jab step, step back, and shot. This move caught the defender on his heels and it was so lightning quick that there was no time to recover. He had 16 points in the first half with him sitting most of the 2nd quarter due to foul trouble. He ended the game with 25 points.
Zion shows a court awareness and knack for the game that defies his age, but in some ways, he is still an 8th grader. He doesn’t make silly mistakes or errant passes and he does show control over his body and game, but he depends heavily upon his quickness when playing defense and sometimes forgets to play without the ball. At the end of this very close game, he didn’t seek out the ball, take over the floor, and put the team on his shoulders. He was content to let other players take over even though he shoots 93% from the free throw line. Bowling Green would end up winning the game 73-70.
His court maturity doesn’t quite match up with his physical maturity, but he is just 14 years old! In reality, it shouldn’t. When the two finally match up with each other and he plays every possession like he is capable? Watch out! This kid will be UNSTOPPABLE!