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June 26, 2003 Columns No Comments

2003 AND 1 High School Basketball Championship: East Regional I

by Phil Kasiecki

For the second year in a row, the Hoop Group is running the AND1 High School Basketball Championship. The past two weekends saw regional action, with the championship rounds being held at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia next weekend.

The East I Region had 64 teams that gathered at Seton Hall this weekend. Many were from New Jersey, a state packed with powerhouse programs and especially this past year as it had one of its best years in a long time. Throughout the tournament, the strength of the state was shown: 11 of the final 16 teams and five of the eight quarterfinal teams came from New Jersey.

Day one had plenty of great action, with highlights including:

• Defending champion Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s was knocked off before the day ended, suffering a 66-30 thrashing in the third round at the hands of Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep.

• In the second round, traditional national power New York (NY) Rice HS trailed for most of the game, then made a furious comeback before succumbing to Philadelphia (PA) Roman Catholic, 73-71.

• In the second round, Neptune (NJ) High had an upset in mind against Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS, starting the game with a 10-5 lead and forcing St. Raymond’s to call a time out. But the Ravens responded with a 33-2 run to take over the game

• The Cardiac Kids were unquestionably the young men from Bloomfield (NJ) Tech. In the second round, they pulled out a close one against Windsor (CT) High that went back and forth. Then in the third round, Philadelphia (PA) Cardinal Dougherty ran off 16 straight points in the final minutes to take a 77-69 lead in the final two minutes. Then star guard Courtney Nelson made several clutch shots before an off-balance three-pointer with less than a second remaining, as they pulled out an 81-79 decision behind Nelson’s 34 points.

On Sunday, the great action continued, with more surprises along the way.

• Niagara Falls (NY) High made it to the semifinals without a single junior by pulling off an upset of St. Raymond’s.

• Roman Catholic pulled off another surprise in the quarterfinals as well, blowing out Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s.

• Bloomfield (NJ) Tech almost pulled off another last-minute comeback in the quarterfinals, but this time Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s had answers in the final minute to hold off the pesky Spartans.

In the championship game, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s and Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep faced off. Seton Hall Prep missed some early shots in close en route to shooting under 38% from the field in the first half, while St. Anthony’s shot nearly 61% and scored the last 6 points of the first half to take a 40-29 halftime lead.

The Pirates ran off nine unanswered points to come within 53-51, and they would get within two again later on. But the Friars had answers late, as they scored the game’s last nine points in a 66-55 victory. With the win, the Friars will play for the championship next weekend at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

Junior guard Derrick Mercer had eight of the final nine points to finish a solid 18-point, 3-steal outing, while fellow junior guard Otis Campbell led the way with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. Sophomore guard Andrew Pusar led Seton Hall Prep with a game-high 23 points on 9-14 shooting.

Here is a look at some of the top prospects in the tournament.

Barney Anderson (6’6″ So. PF, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS) Active post player is a competitor who has some good potential when he adds a few things to his game. He’s tough inside and plays stronger than he looks, and is around the ball often, but he needs more strength and his footwork and ball skills need some improvement as well.

Chris Andrews (5’8″ So. PG, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) Very quick point guard isn’t really a sparkplug floor leader, but had a good showing. He has a mid-range scoring touch and can hit from long range, he sees the floor well and made a few very nice passes, and he has some strength, which helps him get to the basket when he drives. He can finish with either hand, and he competes as long as he’s on the floor.

Bilal Benn (6’4″ Jr. SG, Philadelphia (PA) Cardinal Dougherty) He continued his solid spring this weekend, as he played well at both ends of the floor. He plays a controlled game, handles the ball well enough to play the point in a pinch, is a capable scorer who generally takes good shots, and he makes his presence known defensively with good plays. High-major minus/mid-major plus prospect is on the rise.

Tyrell Biggs (6’7″ So. PF, Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep) A load in the post, Biggs isn’t just a space-eater by a long shot. He runs the floor very well and has good ball skills for a power forward, which complement his post skills very well. He can pass the ball and knocked down some mid-range jumpers.

James Bryant (5’10” Fr. PG, Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep) This quick point guard effectively ran the show for his team as they made it to the quarterfinals. He passed the ball very well and got his own offense in flow, including some good three-point shooting.

Otis Campbell (6’2″ Jr. SG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS) He is starting to assert himself as the top prospect on a well-balanced team. He’s an athletic scoring guard who knocked down some jump shots as well, has a good frame and finishes well in traffic, and didn’t try to do too much. High-major prospect.

Tyrone Cook (6’0″ So. PG, Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s HS) A good floor leader with some quickness, he isn’t afraid to go inside and rebound as well as bring the ball up. He’s well-built and can get to the basket, but he struggled shooting the ball.

Brandon Costner (6’7″ So. PF, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) Thin lefty post player tended to hang on the perimeter a little too much, and he was in foul trouble in the championship game. He can knock down an occasional three-pointer, but that certainly isn’t his forte. He rebounded and blocked shots at the defensive end, and with more strength he will be a better post player at both ends.

Casiem Drummond (6’8″ Fr. PF, Bloomfield (NJ) Tech) Post player has a frame that’s well-developed for his age, but he doesn’t seem to play hard all the time and looks to be in slow motion at times. He’s not very fluid on his post moves and not laterally quick, is very right-handed and his hands don’t seem to be very good. He will get some baskets off loose balls, and will rebound, but isn’t as much of a factor as he should be.

Arturo Dubois (6’7″ Jr. PF, New York (NY) Rice HS) Normally a good post scorer, he looks stronger now but looked sluggish and seemed to lack desire at times. He’s very right-handed, and uncharacteristically missed his share of shots inside. High-major minus prospect has had better showings.

Da’Shawn Dwight (6’1″ Jr. SG, Bloomfield (NJ) Tech) He simply knows how to score and did it often this weekend, though he had a couple of stretches where his jumper wasn’t falling. Still, he’s a good transition finisher with a good jump shot out to long range and he scored some tough baskets as well. He handles a little better than average for a shooting guard, but he won’t be running a team. Mid-major prospect.

Charron Fisher (6’4″ Jr. SF-PF, Philadelphia (PA) Roman Catholic HS) A top football prospect, he’s a great athlete and very strong, and he uses both very well to make his presence known. He’s an undersized post player whose perimeter game is coming along, but still has a lot of room for improvement as he takes set shots (which he sometimes makes out to long range) and doesn’t handle the ball exceedingly well. He defends and rebounds well, but can he do it at the next level at his height? Also a very good student, he’s a mid-major/mid-major plus prospect.

Gavin Grant (6’5″ Jr. SG-SF, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS) Versatile perimeter player is capable of playing all three perimeter positions, though he’s not as quick as other point guards. He can drive and score, and is capable of shooting it, but he also seems to coast at times on the court, which keeps him from playing as well as he’s capable of. He was also benched for the first half of their opening game. High-major prospect.

Stanley Harris (6’7″ Fr. PF, Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s HS) Well-built inside player is athletic and quick off his feet. He rebounded well and scored some good inside baskets.

Curtis Kelly (6’8″ Fr. PF-C, New York (NY) Rice HS) This long and athletic post player certainly caught the attention of many observers as he continued a spring where he’s shown a lot of promise. He had a few plays that showed the great upside he has, which will come when his hands get better and he gets stronger. He uses his long arms well to rebound and block shots.

Brian Laing (6’5″ Jr. SF, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS) One of the most fun players to watch in the class of 2004, he comes to play. He’s very athletic and a tough player who didn’t seem to have his usual energy at first, but he had it later and showcased his burgeoning in-between game. With more polish on his jump shot, he’ll be a nice pickup for someone. High-major minus prospect.

Sean McCardy (6’1″ So. SG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS) He’s another hard-nosed competitor for Bob Hurley, Sr., and the way he plays is a large reason he’s as good as he is. He’s not afraid to go inside and rebound, will hit the floor for loose balls, plays defense as hard as anyone, and is deceptively athletic and around the ball often. He struggled shooting the ball from long range, instead doing most of his scoring off loose balls or getting the ball after moving without it. He never gives less than 100%.

Derrick Mercer (5’8″ So. PG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS) Sparkplug point guard is a terrific competitor. He’s very quick and was able to drive and dish, is a capable shooter from long range who exhibits good shot selection, and plays good defense on the ball against opposing point guards. He’s well-coached and reportedly a very good student.

Devon Moffatt (6’2″ Jr. SG, Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s HS) In the first game of the tournament, this lefty shot the lights out from downtown. When he got an open look, he usually drained it. That said, he didn’t do much else; he’s not a bad athlete, but his offensive game is limited aside from his open shooting. Mid-major prospect recently transferred from Clifton (NJ) High.

Courtney Nelson (6’1″ Jr. PG, Bloomfield (NJ) Tech) This quick floor leader isn’t the smoothest player, as he sometimes looks like he’s out of control even though he isn’t. He generally makes very good decisions with the ball, which can hide the fact that he doesn’t do any one thing exceedingly well. He’s quick, but not a jet; a good, not great, shooter; a very good, but not great, passer. He has good hands and made some clutch shots when his team needed it, but also struggled at times when he had to score and against the pressure defense of St. Anthony’s. His very slight frame might also be a concern. High-major minus prospect.

John Oates (6’10” Jr. PF-C, Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep) Big man has good size and showed a good touch away from the basket, though his shots came mostly on post-up chances. He’s a finesse post scorer who can hit the turnaround jumper, while he rebounds well by boxing out and using his long arms. On the down side, he almost always jogs up the floor, doesn’t seem very physical and needs to work on ball toughness since he can easily get the ball slapped out of his hands. High-major minus prospect.

Andrew Pusar (6’1″ So. SG, Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep) He’s a perfect fit for the structured game at his school, though he has had some good success in the less structured AAU scene this spring. He’s not very quick or athletic, but he knows how to score and has good ball skills. He showed a good touch on mid-range jump shots off the dribble this weekend, and also scored a few fast break baskets.

Russell Robinson (6’1″ Jr. SG, New York (NY) Rice HS) He shot the ball well again and did about all he could to get his team further in the tournament, including a barrage of late three-pointers that almost got them a win in the second round. He handled the ball more than usual and did fine, but he’s clearly a shooting guard. High-major prospect.

Christopher Rose (6’5″ Jr. SF, Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep) Role player is well-built and shot the ball well from long range. He’s active and makes plays, being around the ball often, and could be a nice pickup for a low-major team.

Desmond Sanders (5’11” Jr. PG, Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick’s HS) Quick point guard loves to penetrate and is even more evasive than he is quick. He’ll get inside more by avoiding defenders, though he doesn’t mind contact and will get to the foul line by going up strong to finish. He is much improved from last season, and could get some mid-major looks.

Jason Thompson (6’6″ Jr. SF-PF, Medford (NJ) Lenape HS) He’s not easy to notice because he doesn’t do a lot of things usually seen from a forward in a half court offense. Instead, he’s athletic and very active, and he just makes plays. He has very good hands and body control, rarely being called for offensive or loose ball fouls, gets offensive rebounds and put-backs, generally scores garbage points inside, and he will get to the line and make his free throws. He’s shown some good potential over the course of the spring. Mid-major prospect.

DeSean White (6’7″ Jr. PF, Philadelphia (PA) Cardinal Dougherty) Lots of talent, but lots of questions. He’s a solidly built and athletic post player who’s quick off his feet and has very good offensive skills that can leave one in anticipation. One minute he scores by backing his man down; the next he knocks down a short baby hook; then he makes a mid-range face-up jumper, or a driving reverse layup. But then he starts lollygagging, not rebounding, not running back on defense, and talking. Then he also takes a few tough shots that should have been easy ones. Reportedly, he’s not a very good student. High-major minus prospect.

Marcus Williams (6’2″ Jr. SG, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS) Well-built scoring guard plays well within the team concept. He handles adequately for the position while rebounding and passing capably, and scoring in close on drives and getting the ball close to the basket. He didn’t shoot well from outside, and while he can drive, he often leads with his hand and may get called for some offensive fouls. Mid-major plus prospect.

Jason Wilson (6’2″ Jr. SG, Bloomfield (NJ) Tech) Not many players had a better weekend in terms of improving their stock. Wilson comes to play at both ends of the floor, especially at the defensive end where he makes his mark. He can guard a point guard or shooting guard, playing well off the ball as well as on the ball. Offensively, he has a nice stroke and shot the ball well this weekend, and later on he was able to score on drives. He’s also an underrated athlete and seems content being a complementary player. Good mid-major prospect.


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