- The Hoop Group Fall Jamfest took place this weekend at the Hoop Group Headquarters in Neptune, New Jersey and a number of New England squads made the trip down. Let us take a look.
RI Hawks 17s - The Hawks came away with the team-performance of the weekend. On Saturday, they cruised through two pool-play games to advance to Sunday's gold bracket, where they made a serious statement with a 20 point drubbing of the NJ Playaz in the quarterfinals and another double-digit victory in the semi-finals over a run n' gun Maryland Riders team which had given teams fits all weekend. Throughout the event, Jay Elliot's squad put on a snarling display of hard-nosed, fundamental team basketball, wearing down opponents with their disciplined and physical style of play. With a long trip back to New England and a roster full of prep school guys who had Sunday curfews to make, the Hawks hit the road after their semi-final win as co-champions of the 17u division with a 4-0 record.
Mass Rivals 17s - The Rivals rolled down to Jersey with 5 sophomores (Noah Vonleh, Kaleb Joseph, Dimitry Floras, Mike Auger, Matt Cimino) and 2 frosh (Ben Judson, Sultan Oleskun) and competed up in the 17u division. They were outstanding in coasting through their two pool games on Saturday to advance to the gold bracket, where they went up against the NJ Roadrunners in a contest which featured the player match-up of the weekend in Noah Vonleh against Tyler Roberson. The biggest crowd of the weekend gathered for this one and the match-up did not disappoint, as both players were very impressive...as Adam Finkelstein noted in game via-Twitter, "Roberson owning mid-range, Vonleh controlling paint." In terms of the game, the Rivals kept it close in the first half, but in the 2nd, the Roadrunners pulled away with their combination of a stud forward in Roberson and a loaded-stable of experienced, strong, athletic, tenacious guards.
NE Playaz 16s - The Playaz 16s began the weekend with a six man roster of Jeff Spellman, Kahari Beaufort, Jacquil Taylor, Colin McManus, Djery Baptiste, and Malcolm Martin; however, with Martin hobbled by a bad heel, they played with only five for basically the entire weekend. Despite this hindrance, the Playaz reeled off four straight wins in impressive fashion to advance to the 16u final, where they dropped a tough one to DC Assault. The fellas were definitely worn out by game #5, and the Spaceship feels safe in saying that they'd have defeated DC Assault in this one with a few extra bodies.
Skylar White - Highly skilled 6'7 wide-body from NMH who mixes it up with an attitude in the paint. Gorgeous shooting stroke with range out near the NBA three point line. Gets out and fills the lane hard on the break...finished with several thunderous two hand crushes over the course of the weekend. Handles the ball well and showed the ability to bust out with a rebound and lead the break, where he can create or take it down the teeth of the of th court and pull up over a retreating defense for a foul line kiss. White's post-game is old school...he'll look to power up and get defenders on his hip before transitioning to his ambidextrous jump hook game in the lane. Then he'll counter with a Dirk Nowitzki-style fade-away off one foot. Defensively, White eats up space in the paint challenges shot attempts above the rim. With his blue collar style in the lane, White got into scuffles all weekend, frustrating opponents into losing their composure and then calmly standing his ground as they threw tantrums. White never lost his cool...these are the the type of scuffles that coaches like to see. As a long as a player keeps his head, there's nothing wrong with pursuing a little confrontation out on the floor. Pencil in Skylar White as a typical Ivy League plus prospect for NMH.
Anthony Dallier - RI Hawks - Versatile turn-back-the-clock, high IQ big-guard from Pittsburgh & NMH whose game is more production than flash. At 6'6, Dallier can play the 1,2 or 3 at a high level. He handles the ball in a slight crouch. ready to explode, with his hips at a slight angle away from the hips of the defender so that his body is between the ball and the defender. In terms of his game, Dallier shoots the 3, attacks with the dribble, finishes above the rim, and really sees the floor.
Peter Weston - Strong combo-guard from Choate Academy who plays physically and does a little bit of everything. Had a big second half for the Hawks in their semifinal win over the MD Riders, scoring the ball in transition and breaking down the defense with hard slashes to the cup.
|KJ and Vonleh pre-gamin'|
Player Updates- It was an interesting weekend for Noah Vonleh. Although he did ooze his usual slime in unleashing his one-of-a-kind combination of skill, length, strength, and IQ, on this weekend, what stood out to the kinkos-eye is the way he defended and rebounded. Noah challenged and clipped shots in high volume all weekend and with his 7'4 wingspan, he is quickly becoming one of the best shot-blockers in the country not named Nerlens. Although he's long had the ability to challenge a shot high above the rim, Noah has really undergone an Enlightenment in terms of understanding where to position himself off the ball to maximize his shot-blocking opportunities. Also enlightened is his footwork in defensively rotating to challenge shots. This footwork has also helped Noah as a rebounder. Again, he has long had the ability to contend for high-level rebounds, but in the past, he mainly was content to contend for rebounds in his own area. Noah is now using improved footwork, a maturing motor, and a developing attitude to invade the personal area of other players and contend for rebounds in a much larger vicinity. And here's the thing, out all of his crazy traits as a player, the least mentioned one is how strong he is from the forearms down. He displays this strength with his follow-through handle in which he follows through with his wrist like a shooter after each dribble, and this weekend, Noah also showed this strength in securing a very high percentage of the balls he got his hands on. Stay tuned. Note - Vonleh got offered by Gonzaga yesterday.
Sam Donahue - Scored the ball in bunches throughout the weekend and also combined with NMH teammate Anthony Dallier to facilitate the scoring attack of the Hawks. Deadly shooting stroke from all over the floor and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Scrappy to the core, makes minimal mistakes, nice handle.
Jarred Reuter - After standing out as the best player at the Hoop Mountain Fall Classic on Friday night, the freshman power forward was probably best player on the floor for the New England Playaz 17s this weekend too. Where Reuter really stands out right now is as a rebounder and passer. His ability to start the fast-break is special...he rebounds the ball, turns his head, and instantly becomes a quarterback, uncoiling accurate left-handed crazy-angled passes all over the floor to streaking guards breaking out. Also, at any pre-college level, if you don't have the appropriate length to bother J.R. in the post, then good luck to you. He really knows how us his big body to get his soft touch great looks at the hoop from the block.
Two very impressive 2014 New England back-courts this weekend were Jeff Spellman/Kahari Beaufort for the Playaz and Dimitri Floras/Kaleb Joseph for the Rivals..All four appear to be progressing nicely in their basketball development and appear on track in their pursuit of enviable opportunities.
With his strong 6'5 frame and his explosive athleticism, Mike Auger could end up being a beast of a niche small forward as he learns to attack space with more violence in terms of his filling of the lanes, his off-ball cuts to the basket, and his slashes and charges to the offensive glass. Auger's going to get meaner, and he'll learn to get his hands up and ready like a fighter as he pursues rebounds and loose ball so that they are ready to attack when the instant comes to make a bid for the rock. Auger rebounded and finished around the basket all weekend and pleased the crowd with a handful of loud bang jobs.
Djery Baptiste - Improving quickly, specifically in his ability to challenge shots and rebound. Basketball body deluxe. Works his tail off, great attitude, still very raw. As he continues to develop and learns to how to utilize his athleticism and length, Baptise will find his niche.
Jacquil Taylor - Continues to look more fluid athletically and is learning how to tailor his game to his specific ability, which has made him an increasingly efficient player in recent months. He is a guy who gets better as his teammates get better. High level piece-player.