In three seasons of varsity competition, Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy’s Darius Garland firmly established himself as one of the state’s top high school basketball players, claiming both Mr. Basketball and The Tennessean Player of the Year honors for the two-time defending Division II-AA champion Eagles a year ago.
Not unlike the 2½ inches he’s grown since his stellar sophomore campaign, however, the highly coveted junior point guard’s game hadn’t yet reached its peak.
“I would say he’s the most improved player on our team — by far,” Brentwood Academy coach Hubie Smith said. “To me, it’s unbelievable the difference in him this year compared to last year.
“He’s much better at attacking, he handles better, he shoots it better, he understands better, he guards better. He’s just better all around — a better rebounder, better finishing around the goal. He’s just a terrific player and he’s so coachable.”
Garland is considered among the nation’s top-rated point guards in the Class of 2018. So far this season he has averaged a team-leading 24.5 points — nearly six more than last season — and he’s done so against a tough schedule of mostly out-of-state opponents.
247Sports lists Garland as the top point guard for the 2018 class and No. 9 prospect overall. Garland is ranked No. 12 overall by ESPN and is the No. 2 point guard. And Rivals.com lists him at No. 13 overall and the No. 3 point guard in the country for next year.
“In my opinion he’s the best point guard in the country in the junior class,” said Jerry Meyer, Director of Basketball Scouting for 247Sports. “He’s good enough to play anywhere … One thing that kind of separates him as a point guard is that he’s such a great shooter. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense and can also play the shooting guard. He’s a very versatile guard and he’s got upside. He’s still developing physically, he has the genetics, and so he’s kind of what you look for in a prospect.”
Garland, who has offers from Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA and Vanderbilt, among others, says he hasn’t narrowed down a list of finalists, but most analysts believe the Blue Devils to be the front-runner.
“It’s not that typical for Duke to offer that early. Duke is usually one of the late-comers,” Meyer said. “Duke really likes Darius, and I think Duke thinks they can get Darius.”
Garland, the son of eight-year NBA veteran Winston Garland, scored 28 points in last week’s 82-62 win over University Lab (La.) in the Next Level Hoops Fest championship at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“Coach is always telling me to stay aggressive,” Garland said. “When I have my shot, I just take it.”
And while Garland has posted eight 20-point performances while knocking down a team-leading 34 3-pointers this season, he’s much more than just a scorer.
“He’s obviously looking to score for this year because he’s a terrific scorer, but he’s also a great passer,” Smith said.
The 6-foot-1½ junior is also averaging over six assists while leading the Eagles to an 11-1 record. He had a combined 48 assists in seven games during the Next Level Hoops Fest and City of Palms Classic in Ft. Meyers, Fla.
“We have great players around him,” Smith said. “(Jeremiah Oatsvall) is a great player, he was offered by Belmont. Cam Johnson could be a college basketball player if he chose to be. We have some great shooters around him, Garrett Sudekem, Gavin Schoenwald, Tate Pierson.
“He gets other people involved, and that’s what great players do. He makes everyone around him better.”