SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – After three days in Philadelphia, a trip back into New England was in order for the final day of the Hall of Fame National Invitational. The primary site was the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, with four courts set up adjacent to each other making for easy watching of games.
The 17-Under Championship Bracket saw two teams come out of their side, and unfortunately unable to play each other due to NCAA regulations limiting teams to five games in two days. We had a true champion in the 16-Under division.
The 16-Under final was also the least competitive of the three, as Team Scan built up a big lead in the second half and rolled to a 64-44 win over the Rhode Island Hawks behind 21 points from Chris McCullough (6’8″ Jr. SF-PF, Bronx (NY) Salisbury School) and the usual well-balanced support cast.
One 17-Under final was not exactly a barn-burner as MB Nation held the ball for several minutes in the first half with no resistance from Middlesex Magic, and MB Nation would hold a 9-7 lead at the break. Down the stretch in the second half, Middlsex Magic played like the more experienced team (MB Nation has just one player from the Class of 2013 on its squad, as most of the team plays up) and pulled out a 34-33 victory made closer by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by MB Nation. Chris Braley (6’4″ Sr. SG, Newport (ME) Philips Exeter Academy) led Middlsex Magic with 16 points.
The other 17-Under final had plenty of drama late, with Bay State Flash and MABC battling right to the end and needing overtime. MABC rode the hot play of Jaleel Bell (6’2″ Sr. SG, Dorchester (MA) Wayland HS), who scored a game-high 29 points, and David Stewart (6’5″ Sr. SF-PF, Dorchester (MA) Madison Park HS), who added 16. But it was the balanced Bay State Flash squad that pulled out a 59-57 win on a buzzer-beating basket in the extra session.
Now, here are some notes on a few players who stood out.
Isaiah Bess (6’4″ Jr. SG-SF, Lagrange (ME) Penquis Valley HS) This may turn out to be his coming-out party, as he’s athletic with a good frame and has some length. He also showed some ball skills and a little range on his jumper, and a 22-point effort against a very good Westchester Hawks team in the semifinals probably opened some eyes as well. Right now, he’s a “potential” kid to be sure, but here he showed a little of what that potential may look like.
Schadrac Casimir (5’10″ Sr. PG, Stamford (CT) Trinity Catholic) His talent has been established in prior viewing, and he showed it again here with his scoring ability. What stood out is how he came up big in overtime for his team, scoring several key baskets en route to finishing with 22 points. Although they ultimately lost the game, he ensured that his team didn’t go quietly.
Fredens Deneus (6’7″ Jr. SF-PF, Cambridge (MA) Rindge & Latin School) It was a big weekend for this developing forward, who has grown a couple of inches in the past year. He put up big numbers all weekend, including 32 points and 19 boards in one game according to his coach. While he doesn’t have a clearly defined game yet, he has the physical gifts and has demonstrated he can score and rebound.
William Desilien-Gonzalez (6’3″ Sr. SG, Montreal (Que.) Alma Academy) A plus athlete with a good frame and thin upper body, he put up 26 points in a tough loss for his team. Though he looks to be more of a scorer, he did knock down shots from long range along the way.
Cheick Diallo (6’9″ So. PF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American School) Long post player has a very thin upper body and is very much a “potential” player at the moment. However, he is a live body inside, so besides the physical gifts he also has the motor to be a good post player.
Samuel Dingba (6’6″ Sr. PF, Salisbury (CT) School) Already known for his ability to play bigger inside, he looks more athletic and here looked like someone who could one day at least be a combo if not play on the wing. On one play, he split the defense for a layup as evidence of his offensive development.
Joshua Kosin (6’6″ Sr. PF, Olyphant (PA) Holy Cross HS) Although he’s undersized, he makes up for it by being aggressive and competing at both ends of the floor. He does have a good frame and a mature body, and he also showed the ability to finish with his left (off) hand en route to 21 points in an overtime win for his team.
Terry Larrier (6’7″ Jr. SF, Bronx (NY) Our Savior Lutheran) Although Chris McCullough gets a lot of attention on his team, this athletic wing is invaluable as he can do a lot. Versatility is his big selling point, as he can do several things to help the team and is still a baby physically.
J.C. Show (6’2″ Jr. SG, Clark Summit (PA) Abington Heights HS) Well-built guard had a big game in an overtime win for his team in the latter part of the day. In going for 32 points, he did things like finish with the left hand as he got fouled, knock down mid-range jumpers and battle inside against taller players.
Manny Suarez (6’10″ Sr. PF, Cliffside (NJ) Marist Prep) The lefty has a good frame and a body that’s not yet mature, but unfortunately he tended to settle for jump shots a bit much instead of parking himself inside to do damage first. He did show range out to the three-point line, but one surely comes away thinking he can be more effective if he starts inside.
Sabri Thompson (6’3″ Sr. SG, Newark (DE) Sanford School) A wing with a good body, he had a nice day shooting the ball from mid-range and long range. He hit three from deep in one game and didn’t stop there later on.
Chris Walters (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Stamford (CT) Westhill HS) His body has a ways to go, but he’s athletic and talented. In going for 26 points in a tough loss, he had an excellent game shooting the ball from long range, and if he keeps that up he’ll be more dangerous since he already has some of the in-between game.
Justin Zukowski (6’1″ Jr. SG, Portland (ME) High) Although he’s a bit undersized, he shot the ball very well from long range, hitting four en route to 19 points in his team’s semifinal win over the Westchester Hawks, then hitting more in the final.
Other players who caught our attention
Garet Beal (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Jonesport (ME) Jonesport-Beals HS)
Shikei Blake (6’6″ Sr. SF, Malvern (PA) Phelps School)
Conrad Chambers (6’1″ Jr. PG-SG, Chester (PA) Friends Central School)
Jonathan Lukusa-Mukendi (6’4″ Sr. SG, Montreal (Que.) Alma Academy)
Shadell Millinghaus (6’3″ Sr. SG, Troy (NY) Evelyn Mack HS)
Chris McCullough (6’8″ Jr. SF-PF, Bronx (NY) Salisbury School)
Kevin Mirindi (6’6″ Sr. SF, Repentigny (Que.) Alma Academy)
Matt Mobley (6’3″ Sr. SG, Worcester (MA) Academy)
Rasheed Moore (6’5″ Sr. SF-PF, Wilkes Barre (PA) Meyers HS)
Chinoso Obokoh (6’9″ Sr. PF, Rochester (NY) Bishop Kearney HS)
Kamall Richards (6’6″ Sr. SF, Henryville (PA) St. Benedict’s)
Kameron Rooks (7’0″ Sr. C, Escondido (CA) Mission Hills HS)