Saturday, July 27, 2013
Jones caps huge summer in Atlantic City
By Adam Finkelstein
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- For the second consecutive year, the “Live in the A.C.” event offered AAU and grassroots teams an East Coast alternative to the Las Vegas tournaments that have historically served as one of the pillars of the summer evaluation period.
When the balls stopped bouncing on Friday after three days of action, We-R-1 had captured the U17 championship with a win over Expressions Elite, while Team Final Blue held off CIA Bounce in the U16 final.
ESPN 60 SF Derrick Jones capped a breakout summer with a big performance in Atlantic City.
Derrick Jones (Philadelphia/Archbishop Carroll)
2015, SF, 6-7, 185
Travel Team: We-R-1
Offers: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Villanova, Maryland and Temple, among others
The 2013 grassroots season will go down as the official breakout for Jones, and so it was only appropriate that he wrapped up the season in style while doing double duty with both the U16 and U17 squads. What’s most encouraging about Jones is the fact that he keeps getting better. While he’s already well known for his incredible leaping ability, what was notable this week was his developing strength and body control to hang through contact and still be able to convert tough finishes around the rim. The ball skills are slowing but surely coming along, especially in the midrange area, where he is starting to show major potential. Combine that with his size and length and you have one of the best wing prospects in the 2015 class.
Best Frontcourt Performance
Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrew’s)
2014, PF, 6-8, 225
Travel Team: We-R-1
Offers: Georgetown, Miami, Rutgers, Providence, St. Joseph’s and Temple, among others
After spending the last five months trying to prove his skill set from the perimeter, Bentil finally got back to doing what he does best and the result was a championship for his We-R-1 squad. He returned to his roots, playing the game inside out and operating from the low to mid-post, where he was able to both overpower defenders and even facilitate for his guards with his passing ability. He mixed in a couple pick-and-pops and long-range jumpers to keep defenders guessing, but more often than not his plan was to get a piece of the paint. In short, this was the Ben Bentil we’ve been waiting for and there was a direct correlation between his efficiency and his team’s success.
Top Backcourt Performance
Jared Terrell (Weymouth, Mass./Brewster Academy)
2014, SG, 6-3, 215
Travel Team: Expressions Elite
Considering: UConn, Florida, Miami, St. John’s, UCLA, Providence, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Rhode Island and Xavier
Terrell can flat-out score. He goes to the rim like a bull running downhill in the open floor, has developed his pull-up into a true weapon, and has made himself into a consistent threat at the 3-point line. The progression of his shot, and his skill set as a whole, is representative of his willingness to get into the gym and improve different elements of his game. He’s developed his jumper, cut up his powerful frame, added a step of quickness and become a much better perimeter defender all in the span of the last two years. This week, he put it all together, beginning with a game-winner on Wednesday night and riding through Expressions’ run to the finals on Friday.
Top Performance in the U16 Division
Levan Alston (Haverford, Pa./Haverford School)
2015, SG, 6-4, 180
Travel Team: Team Final Blue
Offers: Penn State, LaSalle, Rhode Island and Temple
He might not have been the biggest name in the U16 division -- or even on his own team for that matter -- but there wasn’t a more productive player. Alston was absolutely instrumental to Team Final’s run to the title, and it began with a tremendous showing in Thursday night’s quarterfinals in which he got hot from long range and almost single-handedly led his team to a win over Playaz Red. It was a similar story in Friday morning’s come-from-behind win over Expressions Elite in the semifinals, only this time Alston was doing it off the dribble and with the floater. By the time Team Final pulled out an overtime victory over CIA Bounce in the final, he’d shown why he’s such a versatile scorer and playmaker.
ESPN 60 SG Isaiah Briscoe's solid frame helps him finish through contact.
Best of the Rest
Rising junior guard Isaiah Briscoe (Union, N.J./School TBD) was back at the helm of the New Jersey Playaz this week and was essentially able to create scoring opportunities on demand for both himself and his teammates. He seems to be in better shape and a step quicker than he was for most of the spring. Meanwhile, his unorthodox attacking style and unique ability to make tough shots made him virtually unguardable for stretches at a time.
We-R-1’s Austin Tilghman (Wilmington, Del./St. Andrew’s) and Expression Elite’s Dimitri Floras (Merrimack, N.H./MacDuffie) were two rising senior lead guards who helped themselves this week. Tilghman brings a powerful build and steady hand to direct traffic and run the show, while Floras is another gritty guard with a special ability to make tough shots, including a game-winning 3-pointer in the semifinals against Mid-Atlantic Select.
Speaking of Mid-Atlantic Select, forward Zach Thomas (Ijamsville, Md./Oakdale) continued to push his stock to new levels this week. The skilled perimeter forward walked away with recent offers from Siena, Holy Cross, Brown, Hartford, New Hampshire and Navy, and that may be just the tip of the iceberg gauging from the long line of coaches he had following him by week’s end.
CIA Bounce was one possession away from earning the championship in the U16 division, and its forward tandem was a big reason why. Jelani Mofford (Brampton, Ontario/St. Roch) and Dillon Brooks (Mississauga, Ontario/Henry Carr) form as versatile a duo as there is at the 3 and 4 spots. With complementary length and power and similar versatility in terms of their ability to score from both inside and out depending on their matchups, they offer tremendous versatility on the offensive end.
The U16 division also had the top shooter in the entire field in New Jersey Playaz sniper Myles Powell (Willingboro, N.J./Trenton Catholic), who combines incredible range with the ability to make tough, contested 3s coming off screens. He put on a show for one stretch during Thursday’s quarterfinals that was almost enough to stop Team Final’s run before it even got going.
Abu and Terrell cut lists
Package deals are a hot topic around the country these days, and this weekend we saw the potential for one more. Rumors of Terrell and fellow ESPN 100 prospect Abdul-Malik Abu (Marblehead, Mass./Kimball Union Academy) have been circulating for two years now, but when the Expressions Elite tandem both released their final 10 schools on Thursday night, the fact that there were six in common only added fuel to that fire.
Connecticut, Florida, Miami, St. John’s, UCLA and Providence remain in the hunt for both prospects. Abu is also considering Iowa State, Kansas State, Kentucky and NC State, while Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Rhode Island and Xavier remain in the mix for Terrell.
Coaches in the stands
Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie is making no secret of his top remaining target in the Class of 2014. He continued to follow Abu throughout Wednesday and Thursday, just as he did all of the previous week. The same can be said of the way in which Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley has pursued Terrell. The tandem was also followed by assistants from Florida, St. John’s, and Providence.
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan and Temple head coach Fran Dunphy were both on hand for Bentil on Wednesday night, while St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli was there Friday. Assistant coaches from Miami and Providence also followed Bentil this week.
Dominique Uhl (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J./Point Pleasant Beach) had a notable following of head coaches on Wednesday night, following his breakout performance last week at the Hoop Group Summer Classic East. Temple’s Dunphy, Boston College’s Steve Donahue, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Rhode Island’s Hurley led the way.
St. John’s became the latest school to offer Derrick Jones on Wednesday night. Jones was also tailed by UConn’s Ollie, Penn State’s Pat Chambers and assistants from Villanova, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Providence.
Seton Hall assistant coach Fred Hill was front and center watching the Pirates’ latest local New Jersey pledge, Ishmael Sanogo (Newark, N.J./Eastside), who the Pirates offered just prior to the opening of the evaluation period and ultimately landed last week.
This week’s Atlantic City event was a breeding ground for top local mid-major talent and brought out a slew of Division I head coaches from the Northeast as a result, including skippers from Bucknell, Lafayette, Siena, Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Wagner, Sacred Heart, St. Francis, Farleigh Dickinson, Vermont, Hartford, New Hampshire, St. Bonaventure, George Mason, James Madison, Drexel, Northeastern, Hofstra, Delaware and Brown.