Summer Camping in the Phil Nation
Postcard from Rhode Island
Hoop Group Jam Fest
by Phil Kasiecki
As we gaze into the summer sun, the college season is now in the history books and every state has determined their champions in high school basketball. That means it’s time for the AAU season, where teams comprised of the best high school basketball players in the country travel almost non-stop across the country playing against one another and in front of college coaches and talent evaluators, as well as NBA scouts in some cases.
Thisi Camp postcard features the AAU tournament Hoop Group Jam Fest, held at several college locations in Providence, Rhode Island including Providence College and Brown University. It featured players from the ranks of junior high school up to players who will be playing college basketball in just a few months, most from New England and elsewhere in the northeast.
This year’s tournament had a different feel to it, as continuing changes in NCAA regulations regarding AAU tournaments led to Division I college coaches being unable to attend this tournament, although there was no shortage of Division II and III coaches present.
In the ninth grade final, Staten Island Lightning made six free throws in the final minute to ice a 64-57 victory over Connecticut Flame in a well-played game. The Lightning made it there largely on the strength of two players who were injured for the final game, Kyle McAlarney (who played despite the injury) and Frank Messina. Paul Anderson (Poly Prep, Brooklyn, NY) led the Lightning with 23 points and Tom Downing (Curtis HS, Staten Island, NY) added 20 in the title game.
In the tenth grade final, Tim Thomas Playaz capped a strong second half by scoring the game’s final six points to take home the championship with a 74-69 victory over the Westchester Hawks. The first half of the game went quickly, as there were few stoppages of play. Late in the game, each team made several big plays until the Playaz made the plays they needed to in the final minutes.
In the 11th grade final, the New York Ravens jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back en route to a 69-48 victory over the Middlesex Magic. The Magic scored several upsets along the way to reach the final, but the quicker, well-balanced Ravens had no trouble with them as the game was never in doubt.
In the Open Division final, Positive Image held a 34-28 halftime lead, then broke it open late in the second half to win going away, 63-42 over Tim Thomas Playaz. Mike Cook (Friends Select HS, Philadelphia, PA) capped an excellent weekend by leading the victors with 28 points.
Here are some notes on a few of the tournament’s top prospects and performers.
Shagari Allegne (7’2″ Jr. C, Rice HS, New York, NY)
As he usually is, he was the center of attention when he played. He basically did what could be expected this weekend; he still needs to hit the weights, he is still very ineffective if a big man pulls him away from the basket, and his offensive game is limited. One thing that did look different was that he passed out of the post better than he has before. His development seems to finally be picking up based on some recent performances.
Lamar Alston (6’2″ So. PG-SG, St. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City, NJ)
Well-built guard had a good showing. Though he looks to be more of a shooting guard, he showed that he can handle the ball enough to play some point, and shot the ball well.
Karl Anderson (6’8″ Jr. PF, Don Bosco HS, Ramsey, NJ)
This post player was around the ball and made plays for most of the weekend. He’s basically a role player with decent size (he needs to get stronger) and does some dirty work.
Hilton Armstrong (6’9″ Sr. PF-C, Peekskill HS, Peekskill, NY)
He did not get many touches offensively, but Armstrong looked good for the most part. He is a mobile, athletic shot-blocker who plays stronger than he looks and runs the floor. This high-major prospect will team with Emeka Okafor at Connecticut next year to form a nice young front line.
Chris Bernard (5’11” Jr. PG, St. Edmond’s HS, Brooklyn, NY)
Quick point guard had a nice weekend scoring in transition. He capably ran his team and was able to score in the half court as well. He didn’t take too many jump shots, but he hit a few three-pointers along the way.
Art Bowers (6’4″ Jr. SG, St. Benedict’s HS, Newark, NJ)
An excellent scoring wing, he had a couple of games where he did not shoot the ball as well as usual. He is a quick scorer who can also play the point in a pinch, as he handles the ball well and can create. He scores often on a good mid-range jump shot and on drives to the basket, exercising good shot selection and making good decisions with the ball.
Stanley Branch (6’8″ So. SF-PF, St. Benedict’s HS, Newark, NJ)
A great athlete at his size, he is known for great dunks and had a few this weekend. While he is a good transition player and has a decent first step, he often plays power forward for his school due to personnel, and he needs to get stronger regardless of his position at the next level.
Dwight Brewington (6’4″ Jr. PG-SG, Lynn English HS, Lynn, MA)
This excellent combo guard did not play his best ball, but he still showed a knack for penetrating in traffic and using his strength to draw fouls or finish. He is not a jet, but is a very capable playmaker and scorer and can use his size to rebound well for a guard.
Kirk Bunn (6’5″ Jr. SF, Bishop Loughlin HS, Brooklyn, NY)
Described by his AAU coach as being all about winning, this athletic wing has been overshadowed at his school, but he had a nice weekend showing he can do many things offensively and also threw down what was perhaps the best dunk of the tournament. He’s a very good athlete, can handle and pass the ball, has a good mid-range jump shot and can hit from long range, and can rebound.
Maurice Collins (6’5″ Sr. SF, Simon Gratz HS, Philadelphia, PA)
He had a nice showing, playing well on the perimeter. He’s a good athlete who plays stronger than he looks, can go to the basket, and hit out to three-point range though he did not shoot the ball exceedingly well. Mid-major plus prospect will sign with Temple.
Mike Cook (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Friends Central HS, Philadelphia, PA)
This big-time athlete had a terrific weekend, showing how good a scorer he can be off the dribble. He handles the ball well and knows how to get to the basket, and can hit from mid-range. He can rebound with the big guys, using his strength and leaping ability. High-major prospect will sign with Providence.
Eric Davis (6’9″ Sr. PF-C, Milford Academy, Milford, CT)
This post player has never developed over his high school years. He has gotten stronger, but still is not a very effective post scorer or defender, basically serving as a space-eater. He will occasionally make one rethink their analysis of him, whether by taking someone off the dribble to score or making a big defensive play, but such instances are rare. Mid-major plus prospect signed with Seton Hall.
Kelvin Davis (6’3″ Jr. PG-SG, Sacred Heart HS, Waterbury, CT)
This quick combo guard played well most of the weekend, looking at times more like a shooting guard than a point guard in terms of his mentality. He is a good leaper and showed a decent stroke on his jump shot.
Konimba Diarra (6’10” Jr. PF-C, Our Savior New American HS, Centereach, NY)
Long shot-blocker is athletic and can block shots having to come over to help out. He did not get many touches on offense, making that an unknown for this weekend.
Hassan Fofana (6’11” Jr. C, Holy Name HS, Worcester, MA)
This player will be worth keeping an eye on, in part because he looked different at times. He is well-built and strong on the post, can block shots and moves well, but he is a bit mechanical with the ball and at times this weekend he seemed non-existent on the boards.
Jared Gaither (6’8″ So. PF, Oxon Hill HS, Oxon Hill, MD)
This well-built post player did not get many touches at the offensive end, but he has good size, runs the floor well, and uses his strength, and he’s at a program that has had some very good talent developed in recent years, so he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Casey Gibbons (6’3″ Sr. SG, Phillips Academy, Exeter, NH)
Wing guard shot the ball well in helping his team pull off some upsets. He has good range on his jumper, can handle the ball and can finish on drives, though his preference is to shoot the ball. Mid-major prospect signed with Cornell.
Aaron Gray (6’11” Jr. C, Emmaus HS, Emmaus, PA)
This big man played well at times. He can score on the post using his size and strength effectively, but he makes his share of mistakes. He is not a terror at the defensive end, though he rebounds well, and he can be a trash-talker at times.
Daniel Hawkins (6’5″ Jr. SF, Lawrence Woodmere Academy, Woodmere, NY)
This well-built wing is an even better football player who hopes to play both sports at the next level. He showed that he can run the floor well and score in transition, but his overall offense needs more polish.
Herbert Hill (6’9″ Sr. SF-PF, Kinston HS, Kinston, NC)
Athletic combo forward had his moments. He’s long and can play either forward, though he could use more strength if he is to play any power forward in the Big East. High-major prospect will sign with Providence.
London Houston (6’7″ Jr. SF, Friends Central HS, Wynnewood, PA)
Long athlete showed that he can finish on drives and the break, and made plays at both ends of the floor. On his team, he was a role player, but he showed that he’ll be worth keeping an eye on later.
Abdi Lidonde, Jr. (6’1″ Jr. PG-SG, St. Andrew’s HS, Barrington, RI)
Combo guard had a big hand in his team playing well over the weekend. He looked for his own shot a bit more than usual, but he’s a team player with a good jump shot to long range and can play some point.
Pat Martin (6’3″ Jr. PG-SG, Springfield Cathedral HS, Springfield, MA)
Fresh off a good game in the Massachusetts state finals, this combo guard had a good showing. He can play either guard, though his quicks are lacking, shoots the ball well and is a very good passer who drives the baseline well.
Bashir Mason (6’0″ Jr. PG, St. Benedict’s HS, Newark, NJ)
He tended to drift into the background a bit on a very talented team, but he capably ran the show as a pass-first point guard with good quickness. He can get his shot, but will look for his offense based on the talent around him.
James Mathis (6’5″ Sr. SF, St. Benedict’s HS, Newark, NJ)
Active, versatile wing makes plays at both ends of the floor. He is around the ball a lot, plays good defense, and can do several things at the offensive end. He did much of that this weekend to help his team. Mid-major prospect will sign with Niagara.
Tyrie McClymont (6’8″ Sr. PF, Lawrence Woodmere Academy, Woodmere, NY)
This burly post player did not do much at the offensive end until the last day, when he broke out a little. He can score on the post and shoot out to about 12 feet pretty well. He’s a good student and has been accepted to Temple (and likes it), but he’s a mid-major prospect at best and Bucknell is among the schools he is considering.
Donnie McGrath (6’2″ Sr. PG, Kennedy HS, Bronx, NY)
Solid floor leader runs the show in an unspectacular but effective fashion. He has good quickness, can shoot off the dribble and passes well. High-major prospect signed with Providence.
Daon Merritt (5’11” Jr. PG, St. Raymond’s HS, Bronx, NY)
This strong point guard has good quickness, especially for his size, and he used it all weekend to score on the break and driving to the basket, where he can use his strength to finish as well.
Demetrius Nichols (6’7″ Jr. SF, St. Andrew’s HS, Barrington, RI)
This very thin wing had his moments over the weekend. He gets his shots in the flow of the offense, often mid-range jump shots with a three-pointer mixed in. He showed plenty of talent as a freshman two years ago; can he get back to that level?
Obie Nwadike (6’3″ Jr. SG-SF, At. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City, NJ)
This strong wing played well on a balanced team. He is very active and makes plays, getting his share of rebounds at the offensive end from crashing the boards, and scoring on put-backs.
Dan Oglesby (6’2″ Sr. SG, Hamden Hall HS, Hamden, CT)
This high-scoring guard can play the point in a pinch, but is not much of a playmaker. He is a scorer first, second, and third, with a good jump shot out to long range and he can score on the move. Mid-major plus prospect signed with South Florida.
Emery Outland (6’0″ So. PG, St. Andrew’s HS, Barrington, RI)
A talented but erratic point guard, he looks like he is a young player on the court. He is quick and can get to the basket, and can be a lockdown defender at times, but his jump shot did not look good all weekend and he can be foul-prone as well.
Maxwell Perez (6’1″ Jr. PG, Holyoke HS, Holyoke, MA)
He had a good showing running the show for his team, as he took care of the ball and passed it well, and he shot the ball very well from long range. He is not very quick, but effective, the next question being if he can do this against even better competition since his team did not play top-of-the-line competition most of the weekend.
Brian Roberts (6’3″ Jr. SG-SF, Master’s School, West Simsbury, CT)
Explosive athlete made a few dunks that made observers take notice. He likes to slash to the basket and can finish the break well, as he rarely took a jump shot this weekend.
Terrence Roberts (6’8″ Jr. PF, St. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City, NJ)
Athletic post player needs more strength, but had some good moments. He showed that he can operate out of the post, including knocking down a couple of long jump shots, but did not get many touches on the post and was not a world-beater on the boards. With more strength, he may be a good high-major prospect.
Oumar Sylla (6’7″ Jr. SF, Our Savior New American HS, Centereach, NY)
This highly skilled and athletic wing played well. He can handle the ball like a third guard and showed some range on his jump shot. (Committed to Valparaiso.)
Kiril Wachsmann (6’8″ Sr. PF, All Hallows HS, Bronx, NY)
This role-playing post player showed that he can score on the post and also get out and finish a fast break, as he runs the floor well. He has good size and holds his own on the post as a scorer and rebounder. Mid-major plus prospect signed with Iona.
Jamal Warren (6’1″ Jr. PG, Holyoke HS, Holyoke, MA)
He had a decent showing. As he continues to play well with the more talented Playaz team in AAU, it is clear that while he’s quick and can get to the basket, he is a complementary player who needs to have good talent around him. His jump shot looks better from mid-range, but his defense still needs work.
Joe Wray (6’1″ So. PG-SG, Hope HS, Providence, RI)
This aggressive combo guard played well in helping his team pull off some good wins. He plays stronger than he looks, scoring inside against taller players and grabbing rebounds, and he can play the point some though he has a scorer’s mentality. He didn’t take many jump shots, but connected mostly on short-range jumpers.