WESTON, Mass. – The Rivers School was home to Boston’s Best 40, a one-day event for some talented players in grades 6-9 in the Boston area. Players entering the sixth and seventh grades competed in the morning before giving way to those in the eighth and ninth grades in the afternoon.
After the skill sessions and games, the young players got to hear a lecture from former Pittsburgh star Bobby Martin. Martin was a McDonald’s All-American and is still one of the top 20 all-time leading scorers in the schools history, and had a long career in Europe. He talked with the young men about what they will do besides basketball, noting that it will be more important for them to determine who they will be as people.
After Martin spoke, the day concluded with an All-Star game, where we saw some of the better talents on the day. As is often the case at events like these, guards carried the play but some big men were intriguing for the simple fact that they have to work a little harder.
One of the first players to catch our eye was Charles Hannah, who enters the eighth grade at the Fessenden School in Newton. Hannah has a slight frame, but the lefty has some length and is clearly not done growing yet.
Jamari Venter has shown himself to have potential at the point guard spot, and the rising eighth grader has a good body and good quickness. He wasn’t as much of a pass-first point guard here as he’s been before, but he drove often and made several good passes in the All-Star game, showing that he can get teammates going when he has plenty of talent around him. The big question is if he’ll grow physically.
Hans Gabriel, a rising freshman from Somerset, and travel teammate Justin Leip, also a rising ninth grader, were both noteworthy on the day. Gabriel is versatile, while Leip is small like Venter but has a terrific basketball I.Q. as shown by some of the heady plays he made, ranging from stripping a big man who brought the ball down to diving for a loose ball.
Ross Carter, an excellent student who will be a freshman at Rivers, has a big body and not all of it is good weight. Nonetheless, he moves well for that size and went to work inside, so if he improves his conditioning there is some potential for him down the road.
Nick Osarenren, a rising freshman at East Boston, was an enforcer inside all afternoon with blocked shots and rebounds. His offense needs work, but he has some length and a competitive motor that will surely earn him plenty of minutes right away this winter.
DeAndre Leslie, an eighth grader from Brockton, has a good frame and some length but wasn’t quite the factor he looks like he should be. There might not be a more intriguing prospect at the event, but production on the court will matter as well.
Another frontcourt player who didn’t stand out from what he did on the day but may be intriguing is Michael Carangelo, a rising eighth grader from Lynnfield. The younger brother of Steve, who will be a junior at Rivers this year, he has some length and did enough to be worth a future look.
One player who might not pass the “look” test is James Mortimer, a rising freshman at Lincoln-Sudbury High School. There’s nothing physically or athletically that jumps out at you about him, but he was solid and fundamentally sound. With those attributes and his competitive motor, he was effective for much of the afternoon.