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Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest Recap

April 17, 2003 Columns No Comments

Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest Recap

by Phil Kasiecki

The 2003 Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest featured some of the top high school talent in the Northeast. While many top talents were at Boo Williams this weekend, some good players were in Rhode Island for the 11th annual event, which featured kids junior high up through high school seniors. As usual, much of the best talent was found in the ranks of current seniors, as this tournament not only allows unsigned seniors to play, but also seniors who have signed with a school.

The high school ranks of the tournament nearly had a Playaz sweep, as Jimmy Salmon’s Tim Thomas Playaz teams nearly won every division they had a team in.

The Open Division championship was a battle between New York-based teams. LPAC jumped out to an early lead over the New York Ravens, lost it, then had a 24-17 edge at halftime. In the second half, LPAC broke the game open, then withstood several challenges by the Ravens in a 60-50 victory. Moses Gonzalez (6’5″ Sr. SF, Bronx (NY) Regional HS) led the victors with 20 points. Ricky Torres (6’3″ So. SG, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS) had 20 points in the defeat to cap a good weekend.

In the 11th Grade American Division, a last-minute three-pointer by the Albany Caps tied the game at 55, and the Long Island Panthers were unable to score before regulation ended. In the short extra session, the Panthers were able to take home the championship with 4 points in a 59-56 win. Rashon Clark (6’6″ Sr. SF, Queens (NY) Beach Channel HS) led the Panthers with a game-high 20 points, while Terrence Coppola (5’11” Fr. PG, Albany (NY) Scotia-Glenville HS) led the Caps with 15 in the defeat.

The 11th Grade National Division championship saw two New Jersey-based teams in action, and the Playaz Gold led from start to finish in a 75-52 win over the Jersey City Boys Club. Sean Singletary (5’11” Jr. PG, Philadelphia (PA) Penn Charter HS) led the Playaz with a game-high 22 points, while J.R. Smith (6’6″ Jr. SF, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s) added 14 and Jamual Warren (6’1″ Jr. PG, Philadelphia (PA) Lutheran Christian Academy) had 13.

In the 10th Grade Division championship, the Playaz Red used a big second half to take the lead and then open up the game, outscoring the Rochester Area Players 33-19 in the half en route to a 66-54 win. Andrew Pusar (6’2″ So. SG, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) and high school teammate Brandon Costner (6’7″ So. PF, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) led the winners with 24 and 18 points, respectively.

In the 9th Grade Division Championship, the Philadelphia-based Metro Players let a 38-28 halftime lead slip away, as the Playaz came back and held a 49-47 lead in the final minute. With 11 seconds left, eighth grader Max Huc (slated to attend Friends Central HS) nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Metro Players a 50-49 lead. A last three-pointer by the Playaz was no good, giving the Metro Players the championship. Curtis Shaw (freshman, in the process of transferring schools) led the winners with a game-high 15 points. Paterson Catholic teammates Kimani Barrett (6’4″ Fr. SF) and Jerrell Williams (6’5″ Fr. SF) led the Playaz with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

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

Class of 2003

This tournament usually has its fair share of current seniors, and this year was no different. This tournament allows signed seniors to compete as well as unsigned seniors, so that adds to the number present.

The biggest name among the seniors present was Virginia-bound Gary Forbes (6’6″ SG-SF, Brooklyn (NY) Benjamin Banneker HS), who scored 29 points in his last game as he led his team to a perfect record in pool play. He had to leave after Saturday, but he showed why he was so coveted among this year’s seniors in scoring on quick slashes to the basket and a good stroke out to three-point range.

Kirk Bunn (6’5″ SF, Brooklyn (NY) Bishop Loughlin HS) has had a tough senior year, and it didn’t get any better when he sprained his ankle in his team’s last game. The versatile wing said many Big East schools were interested in him before a back injury sidelined him during the season, which also hurt his team. He said that he’s not sure just yet what he will do next year, adding that prep school is an option to prove that he can still play at a high level and get teams back on board. Bunn is a high-major minus prospect who plays to win and can help a team in several ways.

New York Elite brought a couple of good ones in Valparaiso-bound Oumar Sylla (6’6″ SF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American) and South Florida-bound Konimba Diarra (6’10” C, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American). Sylla played as expected, like a veteran floor leader and shooting the ball well, while Diarra continues to improve by being more aggressive offensively, more polished, and being more of a factor in the game.

Philadelphia-based Positive Image brought a team full of seniors. East Carolina-bound Mike Cook (6’4″ SG-SF, New Hampton (NH) Prep) had his moments, showing his athleticism and ability to get his points. Temple signee Wayne Marshall (6’9″ PF-C, Philadelphia (PA) Martin Luther King HS) showed some good post scoring ability on limited touches. London Houston (6’6″ PF, Wynnewood (PA) Friends Central) looked a lot better than he did with his school at Slam Dunk to the Beach, looking more aggressive and showing some small forward skills while also showing that he still badly needs to gain strength.

Class of 2004

One team that was particularly nice to watch were the Dajuan Wagner South Jersey Stars, a team that contained several players to watch from the class of 2004. The one with the most upside might be Jason Thompson (6’7″ SF-PF, Medford (NJ) Lenape HS), a good athlete who looks like he might one day be able to play both forward spots. Here, he was active on the glass at both ends and showed good body control. Another one to watch is Charron Fisher (6’4″ SF-PF, Philadelphia (PA) Roman Catholic HS), a football player who can be tough to contain on the low post. He’s a warrior, solidly built and a good athlete, but whether he can play power forward at the next level is a question mark and his small forward skills aren’t quite there. Albert Fisher (6’0″ PG-SG, Pennsauken (NJ) High) was a steady contributor in the backcourt, showing some quickness when he penetrated and shooting the ball well. Kyle Hines (6’6″ PF, Timbercreek HS) and Mike Harry (6’7″ PF, Marlton (NJ) Cherokee HS) may also get some Division I looks.

The aforementioned Sean Singletary was the MVP of last weekend’s Playaz Spring Fling in New Jersey, and he didn’t stop this weekend. He continued to show his quickness, and brought several to their feet with a great dunk despite standing just 5’11”. He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he’s shown that he can. The story is similar with his teammate, J.R. Smith, an exceptional athlete who showcased his leaping ability for dunks and rebounds on several occasions, and he seemed to shoot the ball better this weekend. Smith is a big-time prospect that belongs in the top 25 of this class. Dave McClure (6’6″ SF, Stamford (CT) Trinity Catholic), who is deciding between Duke and Notre Dame, played well in his role; he wasn’t dropping big numbers on the opposition or making highlight-film plays, but he scored on the move, rebounded, and ran the floor well.

The New York Ravens always bring some good talents, and this year’s group is no different. From this class, Brian Laing (6’5″ SF, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS) continues to impress with his strength, toughness (he often plays down low at the defensive end), great athleticism and continued offensive improvement. He took players off the dribble for jump shots a few times in addition to getting to the basket, and will get high-major looks. Big man John Oates (6’9″ PF-C, Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep) has good size and could be a nice role player.

In limited viewing, Lamar Barrett (6’6″ SF, Barrington (RI) St. Andrew’s Prep) looked very good. The mid-range jump shot looked as good as ever, and he continued to rebound and play within the team concept. He’ll get some mid-major looks, perhaps better if his small forward skills continue to develop.

Stanley Branch (6’8″ SF-PF, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s) had some good moments, but still looks like a tweener. He looks stronger, but his jump shot was not falling at all, and he doesn’t handle the ball well (though he thinks he can). He’ll make high-flying dunks on the fast break, but his skills still haven’t caught up to his body overall.

A few current seniors players from the Long Island Panthers will be attending prep school next year, thus moving them to this class. The aforementioned Rashon Clark, a nice athlete who’s active on the glass and scores in close, will likely be at Bridgton (ME) Academy next year. Clark will join Panther teammate and true junior Cameron Tyler (6’1″ PG), a well-built floor leader who isn’t flashy, but is effective handling the ball and can score in transition. Both could get some low Division I looks. Kashif Payne (5’10” PG), a Philadelphia native who will spend a second year at Northfield (MA) Mt. Hermon, is a quick point guard who looked good with his surrounding talent, looking pass-first after at times looking like he has too much of a scorer’s mentality to play the point.

One player who may be a sleeper from this class is Jeff Salovski (6’10” C, Bristol (CT) Central HS). He has a wide body and isn’t overly mobile, but he looked adept at finishing when he got the ball in close, showed good hands and a nice passing ability when facing the basket in the high post. He didn’t look like a big enforcer or as much of a presence on the glass as he could be, which might get better if he can drop a little weight and improve his mobility. He could get some Division I looks.

Two juniors from New York Elite had good showings, Nick Carter (6’1″ PG, Hunting Station (NY) Walt Whitman HS) and D’Andre Brown (6’5″ SF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American). Brown is a nice athlete who got to show what he can do with the ball, and he looks like a scorer more than a shooter, and he’s active at both ends on the glass and picking up an occasional blocked shot. Carter, a quick penetrating guard who scores in flow, quietly did a nice job of running the show for the team. Both look like mid-major prospects.

Keith Grimes (6’2″ PG-SG, Philadelphia (PA) Southern HS) had some good moments, as he’s a deceptively quick slasher who struggled to finish this weekend. He looks to have the tools to be a good defender when he wants to.

Two St. Anthony’s guards headlined the Jersey City Boys Club’s run to the title game in the 11th Grade National Division. Lamar Alston (6’2″ PG) and Marcus Williams (6’2″ SG) both played well, with Alston running the show capably and shooting well, and Williams playing the role of a slashing scorer who showed off his leaping ability a few times.

We didn’t get to see enough of two Connecticut Select players who looked good, John Lucky (6’4″ PG-SG, Vineland (NJ) Sacred Heart HS) and Gerald Carter (6’4″ SG-SF, New Haven (CT) New Leadership School). Lucky looks like a nice combo guard and is regarded as one of the better guards in the class, while Carter showed some athleticism and is worth watching.

Class of 2005

The New York Ravens just keep the talent coming with this class. The aforementioned Ricky Torres had a nice weekend shooting the ball, generally taking good shots and shooting better as the weekend went along. In addition to his three-point shooting, he looked good scoring on mid-range jumpers off the dribble. Also looking good were Devon McBride (6’4″ SF, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS), an aggressive slasher who isn’t afraid to battle inside for rebounds and loose balls, and Richard Jackson (6’1″ SG, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS), a slashing scorer.

New York Elite featured a big body in James Tchana (6’8″ PF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American). He’s strong and mobile in the post, and he got some rebounds in limited minutes, but also made some ill-advised passes and had limited touches at the offensive end.

Not surprisingly, the Tim Thomas Playaz had their share of talented sophomores. The aforementioned Brandon Costner might be the best, as he’s a good size lefty who’s athletic and could one day be a combo forward. High school teammate Andrew Pusar is a very nice role player who simply scores and plays defense. Ryan Ayers (6’5″ So. SF, Fort Washington (PA) Germantown Academy) plays well within the team concept and looks like he can be even better. Frank Tchuisi (6’9″ PF-C, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s) is an active power forward who has some potential down the line.

Class of 2006

The best freshman here was probably Gerald Henderson (6’4″ SG-SF, Philadelphia (PA) Piscopo Prep) of the Playaz. The son of the former NBA player, he showed his athleticism on a couple of great dunks and looks like he can be a nice wing scorer.

The Rochester Area Players made the finals of the 10th Grade Division, and two players who looked good for them are East High School teammates Nate Bromfield (6’4″ SG-SF) and Will Jackson (6’3″ SG). Both showed some athleticism and an ability to get to the basket and finish, and will be worth keeping an eye on as they continue their high school careers.


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