HANOVER, Mass. – This spring is a bit unusual as the travel team schedule goes, as the two live weekends for college coaches have another weekend sandwiched in between. In the northeast, the place to be was the Northeast Hoops Festival, held primarily at the University Sports Complex. Saturday was full of pool play games, while Sunday was the time for playoffs and a couple of round robin sets of games with some premiere teams in the area.
The round robin series featuring Expressions, Mass Rivals, Metro Boston and the New England Playaz grabbed a lot of attention and saw good crowds. The game action lived up to its billing as well. They led the way, but there was more good talent observed on Sunday.
Here are notes on some of the players who caught our attention.
Tamenang Choh (6’4″ So. SF-PF, North Andover (MA) Brooks School) This athletic left-handed forward started out one game with a dunk, then went to work on the post a little more, especially late in the game. He has a slight frame to go with some length, and he finished with his right (off) hand and got several close field goals late, including going to his right hand.
Matt DeWolfe (6’7″ Jr. PF, Barrington (RI) High) His body is maturing, and in tandem he looks to be coming along overall, especially on the glass. Despite his team having to play basically back-to-back games, he battled inside and got his share of rebounds.
Wenyen Gabriel (6’7″ Jr. SF-PF, Manchester (NH) Wilbraham & Monson Academy) Very long and athletic, he didn’t dominate but showed more of how far he’s come in the past year. He’s now a better shot-blocker, though at his size how much that will translate is unknown, and also hit from long range at the other end. At this point, he still has his best basketball well ahead of him.
Kellan Grady (6’3″ Jr. SG, Catholic Memorial HS) It’s been quite a month and a half for the young man. First, he’s a big part of a state title run, then he makes a move to Northfield Mount Hermon and into the class of 2017. On Sunday, he hit the game-winning shot before the buzzer to save a game his team almost let get away, and it came not long after he picked up a technical foul from a few pushes and shoves that were exchanged, which tells you something about how he can overcome adversity.
Chauncey Hawkins (So. PG, Montvale (NJ) St. Joseph’s HS) A small point guard, he was around the ball often and got a lot of loose balls to help his team build a big lead. He played fast and escaped defenders often, including in the press, and while he hit from mid-range off the bounce and made a few good passes, at times he was also a bit passive in going for the ball off a miss or when his team took the ball out. He’s fresh off a good finish to the school season leading into the spring.
Isaac Hippolyte (So. SF-PF, Montvale (NJ) St. Joseph’s HS) An athletic left-handed wing, he has a little length and was a factor in a number of plays for his team on Sunday morning. He needs to gain strength, and his ball skills are a bit shaky to go with a jumper that’s almost a line drive (and will go down on occasion), but there’s a lot to like from a potential standpoint.
Azar Swain (5’8″ So. PG-SG, Stoughton (MA) Rivers School) His slight frame and overall size is what it is, but there’s no way to not love his motor, which was on display here. What’s more telling than his good shooting day or how often he was around the ball is that when he went to the bench for a breather, his team’s play suffered noticeably, and it’s not because there isn’t talent behind him. When he’s on the court, he makes things happen.
Brandon Twitty (6’1″ Jr. SG, Randolph (MA) Catholic Memorial HS) Another from the Massachusetts state champions in Division I, he showed more of the same tools he has before, although one nice sign was driving in the lane and banking a runner home. His scoring ability is established, though more with his shooting, and with more confidence (and added strength), he should be able to go by some defenders and make more plays in the lane. Though speculation abounded to the contrary, he said he plans to return to the school next year and help them try to defend their state title.
Elliott Welmer (6’9″ Sr. PF, Columbus (IN) Bridgton Academy) The St. Louis signee showed a lot of what we’ve seen before, namely good post moves and a touch out to long range, including one from well behind the arc. He’ll help the Billikens nicely next year.