Saturday, July 16, 2011

Basketbull HOFNI Final Report - Mass Mutual Center

Sonny Hill, Bob Gibbons, Howard Garfinkel, Sonny Vacaro, and......Colin Tabb.

Basketbull HOFNI Final Report
When you think about rising stars of American Grassroots Basketball, one of the first names that comes to mind is Colin Tabb, the General Manager and a Managing Partner of Basketbull LLC.  After spending four days out in Springfield at the HOFNI, the Spaceship came away very impressed not only with the Event, but also with the Basketbull Operations in general.  With the hundreds of college coaches in attendance, the facilities, the competition, and the service, there is no question that the Basketbull HOFNI is the premier Grassroots Basketball Event in New England.  

Here's what impressed us...

- Springfield Jazz Fest - The first two days of the Basketbull HOFNI coincide with the Springfield Jazz Fest, which is held in the "Plaza" right outside the Mass Mutual Center (MMC).  The Festival features a continuing flow of jazz acts on a stage surrounded by a flea market of sorts.  On one side there is a food court, with a main street-type set-up with tents on both sides facing each-other.  There are delicous choices from cultures all the world, from Thai Food, to Mexican, to Creole, to Greek, etec.  On the other side of the plaza is another main street set-up with tents showcasing and selling a variety of items...from clothes, to jewelery, to art, etc.  For the Spaceship, it doesn't get much better than spending a gorgeous summer day going back and forth between the excitement of the hoops action inside the MMC and the provocative sights, sounds, and smells outside at the Jazz Fest.  Throughout the weekend, players would finish up a high-octane game and then unwind outside at the Jazzfest and grub down hard in the fresh air with good tunes overhead.
- As a Live July Event Facility, Springfield's Mass Mutual Center is thoroughly immaculate. 
- Set-Up:  The set-up of  four basketball courts laid out on the Convention Center Floor is exciting to the eye of the basketball junkie, while at the same time, the ample space between and surrounding the courts allows for a relaxed atmosphere where everyone has plenty of "personal space" to enjoy, something which can be a problem at many events.  
- Central AC:  Another big positive with the Mass Mutual Center is the Las Vegas-style air-conditioning they got going in there.  Throughout the Event, the crisp AC of the MMC had fans and coaches going back to their cars for long-sleeve shirts.  This cool temperature is a huge plus because playing five or six game in a 2-3 day stretch is grueling enough, but if you have a hot gym, then playing that many games is really a heck of a chore if not counterproductive.  
- Bathrooms - 3 spacious bathrooms for each sex available at the ready...Professionally cleaned overnight to reclaim original freshness on the morning of each day of the event.
- The man running the show out at the MMC was Colin Tabb, who operates the floor of the MMC Convention Center like Ace Rothstein at the Flamingo in the early 70's before all the trouble started.  Tabb is a smooth operator who is cool, calm, and collective at all times, handling each situation at the same decibel level regardless the volume of the problem or issue.  From college coaches, to AAU coaches, to players, to parents, to Basketbull employees, Tabb talks to everyone with the same sincerity so that everyone walks away from a conversation with Tabb feeling as if they just had a genuine and trustworthy interaction.  When you combine these traits with Tabb's knowledge of the game and his knowledge of and connections within the Grassroots Basketball Industry, it is no bold prediction to say that Tabb's star and his business will continue to rise rapidly.

Player Standouts - Final Report
- In addition players previously profiled from the Basketbull HOFNI, the players below had impressive showing on the main courts at the Mass Mutual Center, the epicenter of college coaches for this event.  At a event as large as this, it is unfortunately not possible for a single-spaceship to keep track of every team and player, so there is no doubt that there were other players who performed to high reviews from the Coaching Pit.

Basketbull HOFNI Chart Climbers
- Joey Glynn - Midlesex Magic: This kid was very impressive all weekend.  He could be an 1000 point-type scorer in the NE 10 or would do just fine in the Patriot or Ivy.  Right now, he is a 6'5 combo forward with a great feel for the game and legitimate athletic explosion which surprises, but Glynn definitely has the tools to extend his range and sharpen his handle enough to mature into more of a true 3-man.  This kid should impress a lot coaches down in Orlando and he is gonna be an absolute monster at Cardinal Spellman next winter.

Ethan O'Day- Colonel in the middle for CBC under General Andre Drummond showed his deceptive athleticism and his willingness to mix it up in the paint.  Good defensive rebounder, runs the floor, will sneak up there and finish with two hands on your head if you sleep.

Timajh Parker Rivera - CBC - If O'Day is the Colonel, then TPR is Drummond's Sargent at Arms.  Throughout the tournament, TPR showed that he is more than capable of playing an athletic Charles Oakley to Drummond's Patrick Ewing.  I promise you this...if TPR had been out in Indy at the Adidas Invitational, CBC would not have gone 0-4...He crosses all the T's and dots all the I's for CBC, and when those finishing touching aren't performed, CBC can suffer from grammatical errors like anyone else.

Kahlil Dukes - CBC: Whenever I hear people talk about Kahlil Dukes, I always hear about how he plays at a very small high school, and that the numbers he has put up his first two years should be taken with a grain of salt.  Well, after seeing him play alongside Kris Dunn at the Basketbull HOFNI, my opinion is that you can throw any small high school theory out the window.  This kid is good.  He plays with a swagger and supreme confidence and I see him as a player who could thrive in a conference like the A-10.

The Arrival of 2014 guards Dustin Cole and Makai Mason - Huge fan of young guards playing up at the 17u age division.  Best way to get better.  Two players who thrived in this situation and got their names out to big time college coaches out in Springfield were Dustin Cole of Maine Nation and Makai Mason of the NE Playaz.  Both these youngsters handle the basketball like they were born with it and they each have basketball IQs that are off the charts.
- Cole is combo-guard for Maine Nation who looks like he could be in 8th grade...but don't let that fool you.  He is a tough son-of-a-gun who isn't afraid mix it up with the older guys.  Cole is lethal from beyond the arc and can absolutely go off.  He knows how to move without the ball to space the floor and get open looks.  He will fire one up in a any situation.  In terms of his potential as a player, it is simply a matter of how much he grows.  If he gets big and strong enough, he could play collegiately anywhere.
- The Playaz only played one game at the Basketbull HOFNI, a showcase-game against Terry Porter Elite out of Wisconsin, and for the Spaceship, this was the first opportunity to watch Makai Mason compete.  Playing in front of a huge crowd (and college coaches such as John Calipari, Sean Miller, and Bob Huggins)against a bee-hive of guards on the #9 ranked team in America, Mason put his name on the map.  He's a true PG who runs a artistically and efficiently like a fighter-pilot.  His body-movement is reminiscent of Jason Williams.  Right now, he looks to be about 6'0 ft or so.  The Spaceship will be paying close attention to how this kid's explosiveness and foot-speed progress, because if they do, and they should because he is still young, watch out.

Jamie Holder - Rivals - Lead guard from Milford HS in NH who will be doing a post-grad year at Notre Dame Academy next year.  In the Rival's Championship run, Holder was electric in attacking the basket with the dribble and ripping off consecutive baskets time after time throughout the tournament. Holder has a tight handle and is very fast with the basketball.  He is very athletic and is dynamic in contorting his body in the air to get through a tiny crease in the defense.  When he has his game going, he is a very interesting prospect.  He certainly has the speed and ability to play D1 basketball.

Dimitri Floras - Rivals -  Throughout the tournament, opposing guards got up in Floras's grill and challenged him to handle the rock under pressure. Floras more than answered the bell, attacking the ball-pressure and wing denial with the dribble to create good scoring opportunities for his team.  Floras also showed the ability to create his own shot, attacking with his change of pace dribble to get into his sweet mid-range pull up game,  where D-Flo has the rare ability to leave his feet and square his body to the rim while in mid-air.  Transferring to Kimball Union where he'll reclassify in the Class of 2014, Floras will be one of the top New England guards in the Class of 2014.

Jesse Chuku - Metro Boston - Big-time body and athlete who is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.  He has a high major body and athleticism and we'll see how his game progresses.

The blue-collar combination of Kyle Reardon and Connor Mahoney - Both of these guys have really improved as players and both of these guys plays their tails off.  Reardon has really developed into a true SF who shoots the stuffing out of it with range.  Mahoney is a physical-Brian Cardinal-type who is a warrior, has a terrific basketball IQ, shoots the ball at a high percentage from 3, will do all the dirty work on both ends of the floor, and always surprises his defender with a few blow-bys and easy scores before the defender properly gauges his athleticism.  This kid is an important part of any team.

Steve Haladyna and Ryan Hartung -  Between Vonleh/Cedric down low and the Holder/Floras backcourt were Hartung and Haladyna on the wings, and these guys were instrumental in helping guide the Rivals to the Chip.  Haladyna shots the ball well off the penetration and kick-outs of Floras and Vonleh and he finished consistently on the break.  The NE 10 is all over this kid and things could potentially heat up.  Hartung was streaky all through the event but came up big in the Rivals wins over Expression and the Middlesex Magic in the quarters and semis.  He has good size on the wing and when he has it going, Hartung can fill it up with the best of them.  When he's shooting the ball well and playing with a lot of energy, his game translates to the Ivy or Patriot or the NESCAC, which is a high level of basketball comparable to D1 Academic Conferences.

Michael Thorpe and Cooper Ainge - Middlesex Magic - Ainge and Thorpe really proved themselves as players and competitors out in Springfield.  Ainge was outstanding during pool play in running the show for MM before he rolled an ankle against TP Elite, at which point Michael Thorpe stepped up as Mike Crotty's primarily ball-handler and confidently led his club to three upsets in a row over TP Elite, Raising Champions, and Grassroots Canada.  Thorpe's handle was tight throughout the event and his decision-making with the basketball was tip-top.  Heading into the second half of Live-July, Thorpe's stock is definitely back on the rise.

Alex Furness - Big, 6'5 lefty guard really has a nice feel for the game.  Furness uses his size to see over the defense and break pressure by advancing the basketball up the floor with the pass like a QB.  When it's there, after a make or miss, Furness will look to push the basketball down the floor and attack the basket on the other end.

Tevin Falzon - Metro Boston - Falzon is an interesting prospect for a number of reasons.  He is 6'7 with a 6'10 wingspan, and is very skilled for a player his size.  His body has gone through major changes in the last year and a half and he is currently in the best shape of his life, which has resulted in a drastic improvement in his explosiveness and athleticism.  He was all over the place for Metro Boston out in Springfield, handling the pill and distributing, spotting up for trey balls, crashing the boards, challenging shots, and finishing at the rim (he had a nice follow-up jam against Maine Nation).  T-Falzon's best years on the court are in front of him, and by the time he is 20-21 years old, he is going to be a load to deal with between the lines.  After graduating from Newton North in June, Falzon will do a post-grad year at WInchendon next year.  Before it's all said and done, he'll get a mid-major scholarship.

Oscar Assie - Expressions - This kid looks a prototypical Big 12 Defensive End.  He is about 6'5, with Olympian shoulders and a chiseled frame with muscles poppin out of everywhere.  As a ballplayer, Assie impressed with athleticism, motor, and also his skills.  He rebounded the ball hard on both ends, finished with two-handed flushes on numerous occasions, and also showed the ability to knock down the 3-ball.

Robinson Vilmont - Expressions - With Ricky Ledo leaving for Peach Jam after Sunday's pool-play games, Vilmont did a nice job of running the ball-club and guiding his squad to two wins in bracket play before dropping a heartbreaker to the Rivals in the Quarters.  Vilmont also was able to score the ball at a nice pace.

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