HARTFORD, Conn. – A trip to Trinity College was in order on Saturday to check out action at the Northeast Hoop Festival, run by Hoop Mountain and the New England Recruiting Report. The tournament brought a number of teams from a lot of the east coast to compete in several age groups. As is often the case, the preference here was for the oldest players, and we got a look at a good number of them on Saturday.
With that, here are some thoughts on notable players in the event.
Malik Abu (6’8″ So. PF, Marblehead (MA) Kimball Union Academy) The big-bodied forward looked more athletic and appears to be in better shape. Those are nice developments considering what he’s shown already, and it also means he’s addressed the most glaring issue he had entering this school year.
Tom Bajda (6’4″ Jr. SG, Stratford (CT) Winchendon School) In going for 16 points in a blowout win for his team, he looked like someone you shouldn’t leave open. He hit several from long range and also made a nice runner while getting fouled, and his jumpers weren’t from just behind the arc.
K.J. Baptiste (6’4″Jr. SF-PF, Wareham (MA) Brimmer & May School) Playing on the loaded BABC team, he went for 18 points largely by moving well without the ball. He finished well near the basket and on short jumpers, blending in well and playing within the team concept.
Jaylen Brantley (5’8″ Jr. PG, Springfield (MA) Wilbraham & Monson Academy) He didn’t seem like himself, but when you looked up after his team’s first game, he had 22 points with five three-pointers. As he always does, he capably ran the team, and he looked like he got better as the day went along.
Schadrac Casimir (5’9″ Jr. PG, Stamford (CT) Trinity Catholic HS) Simply put, he’s a sparkplug floor leader who makes his team go. He turned 16 not too long ago, so he’s young for his grade, and he competed all the way through a good blowout win for his team.
Charles Correa (5’8″ Jr. PG, Pawtucket (RI) St. Raphael’s) In the past, he’s made his mark as a scorer, but he’s now playing the point and had a good showing. While he’s still a scorer, which he showed by driving and spinning one time and some good shooting out to long range, he looked at home running the team from a ball handling and passing standpoint.
Levy Gillespie (6’2″ So. PG, Hartford (CT) Capital Prep) He didn’t play his best in a game where his team got blown out. In that game, he struggled shooting and didn’t run the team as well as he’s capable of, although he made some fine passes. His body isn’t there yet and he’s not the quickest point guard, but for now he gets a slight pass on this one-game performance as we’ve seen him play very well before.
Kris Hargraves (6’1″ Jr. PG, Teaneck (NJ) Westminster School) In one of the last games of the night, this lefty point guard had another nice showing. After some good showings last year, he scored 19 points on some three-pointers and a few good drives, even finishing with his right hand. He has a thin upper body and can still improve as a playmaker.
Matthew Johnson (Sr. PG, North Burlington (NJ) High) This point guard won’t bowl you over with physical gifts, but he has a good frame and a solid feel for the game. He plays at a good pace and passed really well in traffic, and also finished the break en route to 12 points. Last year he missed time from an apparent heart condition, but he has been cleared and playing again for a while. A post-graduate year at the Lawrenceville School is in his future.
Kaleb Joseph (6’2″ So. PG, Nashua (NH) Cushing Academy) He wasn’t at his best in his team’s first game, but he did score 13 points and do a good job of driving and dishing. His body is also maturing and he’s continuing to improve, albeit not in the quantum leap fashion he did some time ago.
Will Joyce (Jr. SF-PF, Piscataway (NJ) Tech) An active forward with a good body, he looks to have the size for the wing but plays inside on his team as one of their tallest players. He rebounded well, something that would be an asset if he’s able to play on the wing.
Joseph Kuo (6’8″ Jr. PF, Byfield (MA) Governor’s Academy) A fundamentally sound post player, he looks awkward in how he moves and isn’t the most polished with his post moves but managed to contribute. He has a little length, which helps him finish well near the basket, and he looks like he can be a better rebounder than he has shown including here.
Davey McMillan (6’6″ Jr. SF-PF, Waterbury (CT) Kaynor Tech) A lanky forward with a little length, he had some good moments in a loss for his team on Saturday night and looks like he can be a nice prospect. His body isn’t there yet, and he doesn’t have the most clearly defined game, but he kept his team in the game with 11 points and some other plays.
Jeremy Miller (6’9″ Fr. PF-C, Milton (MA) New Hampton Prep) Still a baby physically, he has a good frame and some good length but needs to figure the game out. Here, he was often playing on the perimeter, and he struggled with his jumper, a sign that he might have been better off going inside to score a few baskets before trying his hand away from the basket.
Sean Obi (6’9″ Jr. PF-C, Green Farms (CT) Academy) Thick post player has a good frame and isn’t lacking mobility. He had some foul trouble in a blowout loss by his team and was never a factor in the game.
Garland Owens (6’5″ Sr. SF, Rockville (MD) Magruder HS) Well-built athlete showed that he can make plays at both ends using his athleticism. He’s quick off his feet and will go for offensive boards, and while he only scored 10 points in one game he was a bigger factor than that might first lead one to believe.
John Stevens (6’4″ Jr. SG-SF, Winsted (CT) Northwestern Regional HS) A versatile wing, his team asks him to do a lot of things and he did that in a losing effort on Saturday night. The lanky wing rebounded well for the position, scored once a nice runner on the baseline and did his part to keep his team in the game.
Shawn Strickland (5’10″ Jr. PG, Middletown (CT) High) A point guard with a slight frame, he showed some good scoring ability with 18 points in a losing effort. A lot of his points came via jumpers from all ranges, as well as a nice runner on one play, and he also got back on defense one time for a nice block. Next year, he will attend the Taft School.
Noah Vonleh (6’7″ So. SF-PF, Georgetown (MA) New Hampton Prep) In one stretch late in the first half of a game, he took over the game and was, as he should have been, clearly the best player on the floor. He’s always been able to rebound and show hints of his skill package, but at the offensive end he’s never quite put it all together just yet to be a dominant player. He showed some of that potential here, and his body still isn’t there yet.
Chris Walters (6’4″ SG-SF, Stamford (CT) Westhill HS) One of the more impressive wing prospects here, he went for 20 points to lead a blowout of a very good team. Long and athletic, as well as quick off his feet, he drove assertively and finished well, including with his left (off) hand and while being fouled. He also made a few good passes and hit from long range, although the latter doesn’t appear to be his forte, and there’s some good upside still his body has a little ways to go.
Jared Wilson-Frame (6’4″ Fr. SG-SF, Windsor (CT) High) The well-built wing looked to shoot more than drive to score, and while had 15 points in a loss for his team, one had the sense he could have been more effective. One shot he hit was from well behind the arc, and if he gets the jump shot going on a consistent basis, he’ll be that much tougher to guard.
Other players who caught our attention:
Remi Ferrall (6’6″ Jr. PF-C, Woodbridge (CT) Amity Regional HS)
Chris Jenkins (Jr. SG-SF, Hillside (NJ) High)
Jalen Myrie (6’0″ Jr. PG, Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy)
Daquan Sampson (6’7″ Jr. SF-PF, Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy)
Rob Ukawuba (Jr. SF-PF, East Brunswick (NJ) High)
Travis Whitfield (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Manhasset (NY) St. Mary’s HS)