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Playaz Spring Fling

April 11, 2003 Columns No Comments

Playaz Spring Fling Recap

by Phil Kasiecki

The Final Four was the happening event this past weekend, but northern New Jersey was home to another basketball event that has become a mainstay in the northeast at this time of the year, the Playaz Spring Fling. For several years, this has been one of the top AAU tournaments at the start of the spring AAU season, and this year’s did not disappoint. 48 teams in three age groups went for the top spots, with teams ranging from Connecticut to the nation’s capital making the trip to compete.

Even with the talent from outside the area, the home teams made their mark, as there was one in each bracket’s championship game.

In the 15-and-under bracket, Brooklyn USA jumped out to an early lead and never let up en route to a 61-41 victory over the Playaz White team. Brooklyn USA was led by Anthony Stukes (6’2″ Fr. PG, Brooklyn (NY) Benjamin Banneker HS), who scored 17 points and was named the MVP.

In the 16-and-under bracket, Playaz Red scored 8 of the last 10 points after Brooklyn USA mounted a great comeback to take the lead, taking home the title with a 76-71 victory. Andrew Pusar (6’2″ So. SG, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) was the MVP, leading five players in double figures for the winners with 20 points. He was helped by Ryan Ayers (6’5″ So. SF, Fort Washington (PA) Germantown Academy) with 17 points and high school teammate and fellow All-Tournament selection Brandon Costner (6’7″ So. PF, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep), who had 15 points. Lavance Fields (6’2″ So. SG, New York (NY) Xaverian) led the runners-up with a game-high 21 points, showing a nice shooting touch in the game.

In the 17-and-under bracket, Playaz Gold got off to a fast start and led 38-23 at halftime. Late in the game, the NYC Gauchos made their runs, getting within four on three occasions, but eventually succumbing by a 65-63 margin after a last-second basket. The winners got a balanced effort, as All-Tournament selections Courtney Nelson (6’2″ Jr. PG-SG, Bloomfield (NJ) Technical) and Taj Finger (6’7″ Jr. PF, Westchester (NY) Fox Lane HS) each had 14 points, while MVP Sean Singletary (5’11” Jr. PG, Philadelphia (PA) Penn Charter HS) and Alex Galindo (6’7″ Jr. SF, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s) each had 12. All-Tournament selection Sundiata Gaines (6’1″ Jr. PG-SG, Queens Village (NY) Archbishop Molloy HS) led the Gauchos with a game-high 20 points to cap off a solid weekend.

Now here are some notes on a few players, grouped by class.

Class of 2004 Notes

One of the steady performers for the Playaz Gold team over the weekend was David McClure (6’6″ SF, Stamford (CT) Trinity Catholic). The scoring small forward, who reportedly wants to make a college decision soon, rebounded well and was frequently around the ball, and score on the move and in transition. He may be favoring Duke.

On a team loaded with high-major talents like McClure and J.R. Smith (6’6″ Jr. SF, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s), Sean Singletary certainly earned the MVP honors. The quick point guard ran the show very well, shooting the ball well and getting to the basket. In the championship game, he brought the crowd to its feet with a great dunk to finish a drive as well.

A.J. Price (6’1″ PG-SG, Amityville (NY) High) had a nice weekend before his Riverside Church team was eliminated in the quarterfinals. He scored several quick, slashing hoops, showed a real knack for dribbling out of double teams and traps, and can flat out score. A teammate of his, Keith Benjamin (6’2″ PG-SG, Mt. Vernon (NY) High), played well as the team’s floor leader and shot the ball well from long range. Another teammate, Arturo Dubois (6’7″ PF, Manhattan (NY) Rice HS), had a good showing, as he scored in close with good post moves and ran the floor for a few baskets as well.

A high school teammate of Dubois, Russell Robinson (6’1″ SG, Manhattan (NY) Rice HS) didn’t have his best weekend, but he made some key long jump shots in the championship game. He didn’t a lot of good scoring chances and struggled shooting from long range, which is not his forte. The aforementioned Sundiata Gaines teamed with Robinson in the Gauchos’ backcourt and played very well. He’s an aggressive penetrating scorer, and may be more suited to the shooting guard position since he is not pass-first.

Further down the east coast, Rudy Gay (6’7″ SF-PF, Severn (MD) Archbishop Spalding) had a nice weekend. He’s already a good shot-blocker and rebounder, and he got several blocks on the perimeter, but his offense is starting to really come alive. He’s always had the ability to score on the post, and has shown some range on his jump shot, but the ball skills look to be improving very nicely and that will add to the already high upside he has. Plenty of high-majors will have an eye on him as the AAU circuit gets going.

Jacquin Noah (6’7″ PF, New York (NY) Poly Prep Day School) may be a late bloomer, as he has often had non-descript performances at AAU tournaments but played well here for the Long Island Panthers. The son of former French tennis star Yannick Noah is rail-thin and always has been, but was very active and played stronger, at times being a defensive enforcer in the post.

St. Raymond’s High teammates Gavin Grant (6’6″ SG-SF) and Brian Laing (6’5″ SF) both played well within the team concept as they always do. Grant has a lot of guard skills for his size and may even be too unselfish at times, while Laing plays as hard as anyone and brings a lot of toughness to the table at both ends of the floor. Grant looks like he could have some untapped potential as a result of his unselfishness, but he won’t be faulted for being team-oriented.

Class of 2005 Notes

The Albany City Rocks were a disappointment with a 1-2 record in pool play, but Emmanuel Mayben (6’2″ PG, Troy (NY) High) had a good showing. He’s a nice pass-first point guard, almost to a fault, but he knocked down a couple of three-pointers. If there’s a knock on him, he tends to get a little too fancy with his passes.

One player we didn’t get to see enough of was Mike Davis (6’7″ SF-PF, New York (NY) Xaverian HS), who sustained an ankle injury during the weekend. The lefty is athletic and showed some potential in limited action.

One player who consistently plays well is Shane Clark (6’7″ SF, Philadelphia (PA) Cardinal Dougherty HS), and this weekend was no different. He continues to finish well on drives, and his small forward skills look better and better. He is still rail-thin and needs some work on defense, but the upside is looking better all the time.

Paris Carter (6’5″ SF, Baltimore (MD) Lake Clifton HS), a well-built wing scorer, played very well this weekend, shooting well from long range and scoring off the dribble.

Class of 2006 Notes

One Philadelphia-based analyst at the tournament told me that this is the year for freshmen in Philadelphia, and from what I saw, I’m not inclined to argue. Some notables that we will keep an eye on are Darren Govens (6’1″ PG, Village Charter HS, may transfer), a nice point guard who finished well and is unselfish; Reggie Redding (6’3″ SG-SF, St. Joseph’s Prep), a wing scorer; Norristown High School teammates Jermaine Pierce and Mike Buckley, and Brandon Winters, who might be one of the next stars at Coatesville High School (alma mater of Richard Hamilton and John Allen).

Derrick Caracter (6’8″ PF, Elizabeth (NJ)) looked good with relatively few touches. He showed good mobility on the post for his 270-pound frame, though he lost control a couple of times and was called for offensive fouls. The potential is definitely there for the young man, who according to some reports does not like basketball very much and recently left St. Patrick’s High School.

One of the better young prospects among the 17-and-under teams is Curtis Kelly (6’6″ SF-PF, Manhattan (NY) Rice HS). Kelly didn’t play well in the Gauchos’ first game, but got better later on as he used his long arms to block shots and get offensive rebounds. The lefty is also quick off his feet, but his hands are a question mark and he needs to get stronger.

The Playaz White team featured several Paterson Catholic players, notably twin small forwards Jerrell and Terrell Williams. Both stand 6’5″, but Jerrell certainly had the better weekend in being named All-Tournament. The athletic forward looked aggressive with the ball and rebounded well, posting a double-double in one game. Another teammate, 6’4″ SF Kimmani Barrett, looked good at the Prime Time Shootout in February and acquitted himself well this weekend.

The Playaz Red team not only had good sophomores, but also a good freshman in Gerald Henderson (6’4″ SG-SF, Philadelphia (PA) Piscopo Prep). Henderson is a nice athlete that will be worth keeping a close eye on.


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