ROXBURY, Mass. – The New England Junior Best 40 brought out nearly 120 young basketball players from grades 5 through 9 on a busy Sunday of basketball. The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center played host to the event, and its field house was full of activity for most of the day. The event is a spin-off of last fall’s New England Best 40, which featured exclusively high school players.
Each session began with stretches, then stations to give them some ideas for improving their game. Later, they got a lecture from Bobby Martin, who was a McDonald’s All-American and starred at Pittsburgh from 1987-91. Martin is still one of the top 20 all-time leading scorers in the school’s history and is just outside the top ten all time in rebounds as well, and had a lot to offer to the young players about things that were peripheral to one’s basketball talent. Martin also has a son around their age, and offered them some of the same life lessons he offers his son.
The players were led by an excellent group of coaches, with Emmanuel College assistant coach Ray Porch directing the day’s activity and offering some words of wisdom. The coaches also included Beaver Country Day assistant Kenny Jackson, Tech Boston Academy head coach Johnny Williams and Winthrop High School head coach Dave Brown, who has a 2011 Massachusetts Division 4 title to his credit.
Here is a look at some of those who caught our eye in the afternoon session.
Ernie Chatman (5’8″ PG, Donald McKay Middle School) Penetrating guard was one of the better guards here mainly because of his ability to get to the basket, especially as he successfully went to his left and finished with his left hand since he is naturally right-handed. He showed more scoring than playmaking ability, but the playmaking will come in time. In the fall, he will attend Boston English High School.
Steven Collins (5’9″ Fr. PG, Lynn (MA) English HS) An athletic guard, his body isn’t there yet, but when he develops physically he has a chance to become a very good player. He showed some range on his jumper and was aggressive offensively, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he becomes a factor next season at Lynn English.
Marcos Echavarria (5’8″ Fr. PG, Peabody (MA) St. John’s Prep) Quick point guard was a pass-first floor leader on the day, a rarity in these types of events. Not a baby but not mature physically, he didn’t look to score much and will need to be a scoring threat as time goes along to make him tougher to defend. All told, he was one of the more impressive guards in an event that had several of them.
Randy Glenn (5’10″ Fr. PG, Roxbury (MA) New Mission School) Lefty guard has some quickness and looks to be making some steady progress each time out. Here, he made a nice long pass for a layup one time and hit a couple of jumpers to go with his physical gifts, although his body still has a little ways to go.
Kellen Grady (5’9″ PG, Catholic Memorial) One of the more impressive guards, especially among the eighth graders, he showed some nice scoring tools as he shot the ball well and was able to drive through the defense to get to the basket. As with a number of others, he’s a long way off physically, but that only indicates the potential he has if he keeps working, and that will include becoming a playmaker unless he grows several inches.
Alonzo Jackson (6’4″ SF-PF, Malden (MA)) Give the young man credit: he was nicked up with a hamstring bothering him, but he competed. He’s long and effort is never a question, and while he’s raw offensively he did a nice roll to the basket after a screen and finished, and later he got a stickback. The big area of concern right now at the offensive end is the overall skill package.
Myles McDermott (5’11″ Fr. PG-SG, Milton (MA) High) A fundamentally sound guard, he has grown since the fall and has some length as well. His shot fake at times left a little to be desired during that drill, but generally the fundamentals were good and he made a nice play to cut to the basket and finish when he got the ball.
Aaron McLean (6’6″ Fr. SF-PF, Hudson (MA) St. Mark’s School) The active forward was in his second straight day of showcase play and looked none the worse for wear, as he played with an edge and showed some good things offensively, which is a big development since that’s the area in most need of development.
Bobby Peele (6’0″ Fr. SG, Avon (MA) High) One of the more talented guards here, he’s athletic and looks like he has a lot of potential, especially if he grows more. He showed that he can handle the ball, is quick off his feet and was active on the glass.
Alijah Rue (5’1″ Dedham (MA) Noble & Greenough School) Diminutive point guard impressed with his feel for the game. Very baby-faced, he has a ways to go physically but is quick, showed some range on his jump shot and also moved well without the ball after initiating the offense.
Some players to watch based on their play in the first session:
Dayshon Anderson (Lynn, MA)
Kyle Bennett (Woburn, MA)
Dasonte Bouven (Dorchester, MA)
Shawn Brothers (Dorchester, MA)
Matt Cross (Beverly, MA)
Jalen Echevarria (Peabody, MA)
Jarnell Guzman (Salem, MA)
Jalen Mahabir (Boston, MA)
Gabriel Perrault (Nashua, NH)
Ajahn Rue (Stoughton, MA)
Billy Arsenault (Lynnfield, MA)
Ajkenis Blaun (Salem, MA)
A.J. Abbanat (Winchester, MA)
Nathan Douglas (Attleboro, MA)
James Leeds (Dorchester, MA)
Nick Farina (Middleton, MA)
Jaylen Johnson (Lynn, MA)
Eddie Alcantara (Lowell, MA)
Edwin Ezedomnwen (Dorchester, MA)
Jordan Galloway (Boston, MA) (especially noteworthy because he played up with eighth and ninth graders)
Isaiah Holmes (Lowell, MA)
Calvin Johnson (Lynn, MA)
Craig Preston (Manchester, NH)
Cameron Ray (Lowell, MA)
Michgor Scarlett (Manchester, NH)
Ronnie Silva (Nashua, NH)
Bryson Tully (Mattapan, MA)