LOWELL, Mass. – The seventh annual New England Elite 75 was held on Friday at UMass-Lowell. The event had been held during a live recruiting period for Division I coaches during the month of July for three years, but is now back outside that period. While the talent present was good, even with some significant absences, the product on the floor didn’t match it.
Several top prospects were missing in action. Noah Vonleh (6’8″ So. SF-PF, Georgetown (MA) New Hampton Prep) was present but sat out due to a bum ankle and teammate Jeremy Miller (Fr. PF-C, Milton (MA) New Hampton Prep) recently suffered a concussion and is likely out of any basketball action for another couple of weeks. He was there as a spectator for a while.
But the focus doesn’t need to be on those who didn’t play, and not just because there was other good talent in the gym. While this has often been a showcase for the best talents, the players didn’t show why they were invited to the event on Friday. Game play lacked defense – even more than usual in events like this – and players were trying for the highlight reels instead of making basketball plays more than usual. They looked like a group of players who thought they had already arrived, instead of a group hungry to show just how good they are. They didn’t look like they wanted to be measured against some of the best.
It’s unfortunate, because event director Adam Finkelstein puts a lot of work into the event to try to make it a success. He got unprecedented media coverage, which helps since the event is not during a Division I live period as had been the case for three years. But what they all saw on Friday was not good basketball by any stretch. Events like this are notoriously difficult for getting any kind of a read on players, and when the quality of play is what it was on Friday it’s even harder.
The lack of quality play made evaluating here harder than it usually is, but a few players still managed to stand out on the day.
Abdul-Malik Abu (6’8″ So. PF, Dorchester (MA) Kimball Union Academy) continued to show that he has come a long way over the last year or so. He showed a nice long outlet pass off a rebound and some range on his jumper, and did that after ably guarding Jarred Reuter in a one-on-one drill. On the down side, he tried to make like a point forward a couple of times and showed why he’s not one of them.
Djery Baptiste (6’10″ Fr. C, Port au Prince (Haiti) Wilbraham & Monson Academy) didn’t entirely stand out here, but he battled for position and showed that he doesn’t lack scoring ability inside. He has a ways to go offensively, but that’s not a bad start, and his body is developing, especially his upper body.
Jordan Butler (6’7″ Jr. PF, Glastonbury (CT) High) was one player who broke out from under the radar here. Possessing a good post body, he battled inside, especially at the defensive end. He also ran the floor and made himself a factor.
Paschal Chukwu (7’1″ So. C, Fairfield (CT) Prep) is very much a “potential” player right now. Big men have a hard time standing out at these events, and that was true for him here, but he showed some of the potential he showed over the course of the spring.
Sam Donahue (6’0″ Jr. PG-SG, Stonington (CT) Northfield Mount Hermon) showed off his shooting stroke on the afternoon, constantly knocking down shots from long range. He also showed off a pull-up jumper on the go.
Kaleb Joseph (6’3″ So. PG-SG, Nashua (NH) Cushing Academy) might have been the best player on the floor on this day. He got in the lane all day, although that’s not saying much since there wasn’t much defense, and when he did he scored and found teammates. His playmaking looks better and he looks quicker, and at times was one of the few players giving much effort defensively.
Quincy McKnight (6’3″ So. PG-SG, Bridgeport (CT) St. Joseph’s HS) has some length and looks like he can play both guard spots a little. He brought the ball up at times and had a couple of nice passes to go with a touch from long range.
Colin Richey (Jr. PG, Whitinsville (MA) Christian School) did a nice job of running the show for his team, feeding the post and finding teammates moving without the ball for layups a couple of times.
Maurice Taylor, Jr. (6’6″ Jr. SF, Cambridge (MA) Beaver Country Day School) made himself a factor by being active and using fakes and his left hand to be effective.
Jared Terrell (6’3″ So. SG, Weymouth (MA) New Hampton Prep) shot the ball well from long range and had a powerful finish one time, but he also got stripped one time by Joseph, and that shouldn’t happen given the relative differences in physical maturity and strength between the two.