Monday, July 29, 2013
Northeast recruits beat buzzer in NYC
By Adam Finkelstein
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- After a month of nothing but basketball, recruits and college coaches alike tend to be exhausted by the time the final weekend of the July evaluation period rolls around. For event operators, that creates a unique challenge where they have to do a little something different to ensure the quality of their event.
For the Hoop Group’s Buzzer Beater Classic, that little something different this past weekend was Basketball City, a state-of-the-art, seven-court facility sitting on Pier 36 on the East River, just off FDR Drive and literally in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The facility, combined with the allure of New York City, created just the type of atmosphere necessary to spark a couple more days of competitive basketball at the end of a long month. Here’s a look at the top storylines that emerged from the Buzzer Beater Classic.
Last call for big men
The final of the U17 division provided one last opportunity for college coaches to look at two of the better true centers in the Northeast: Philly Ballhawk’s Rashaan Armstead-Holloway and East Coast Fusion’s Obi Romeo.
Armstead-Holloway and Romeo are connected by a few factors. They’re both talented big men with bright futures at the right level, but they’ve also both seen a gradual escalation in their recruitment due to the limited Northeast big man market in the Class of 2014.
Temple head coach Fran Dunphy and La Salle head coach John Giannini were both on hand for Armstead-Holloway, while Romeo’s following has grown steadily since he more than held his own in a matchup against the Mass Rivals and Goodluck Okonoboh last week.
Ultimately, both of these guys will have to make good decisions in order to have productive college careers. Armstead-Holloway is a load inside on the offensive end but requires a slower half-court tempo in order to be effective. Romeo is a massive human being who might as well be wearing shoulder pads, but his shot-blocking and defense are far ahead of his still raw offensive game.
Team Philly’s one-two punch
Penn State head coach Pat Chambers was on hand to watch his future big man, 2015 center Mike Watkins, as he led Team Philly to an undefeated weekend en route to the U16 championship.
Watkins and 2015 small forward Sean Lloyd continued to be the one-two punch that made Team Philly’s engine go. While Watkins stands out as the better long-term prospect with his size, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, Lloyd continued to be the team’s primary playmaker on the offensive end.
Lloyd is as hard-nosed and tough a wing as you’ll find, and after already repeating a year at the Haverford School (Pa.), he’s just a man among boys in the U16 division. Heading into this month, conventional wisdom was that Lloyd’s game might not translate all that well to the higher levels of Division I college basketball, but he’s started to change people’s minds this summer -- and this past weekend was just another step in that process.
Back in the first week of the July evaluation period, Lloyd brought the same aggressive driving style to the Reebok Showdown Classic and had no less success, even against older, stronger and more physical competition. With more and more college coaches taking notice since that time, Lloyd has continued to bully opposing defenders throughout the summer while gradually demonstrating enough skill to at least keep defenders honest on the perimeter.
Exactly what level prospect Lloyd will be before it’s all said and done remains to be seen, but there’s no denying he’s played his way into higher-level attention.
Up and comers
The U16 and U15 teams for Sports U were among the biggest attractions as the weekend wound down, ultimately falling in the U16 final to Team Philly but then scoring a championship in the U15 division.
Karl Charles and Markis McDuffie are two highly talented youngsters on the perimeter who will both be tracked by high-major programs in the Class of 2015, while Taureen Thompson and Fatir Fines headline a group of long and athletic big men in the Class of 2016.
Another underclassman who came out of the woodwork this weekend was NJ Got Game’s Isaiah Still, who went for 20-plus points to force overtime with Sports U in the U16 semifinals and was certainly one of the top performers on Sunday.
Expressions Elite 2016 point guard Donovan Love stood out on Saturday with some shades of Brandon Jennings in his game as an explosive southpaw lead guard with a lot of style to his game. He won’t be under the radar for long, though, as he’ll head to the New Hampton School (N.H.) next year to compete in the nation’s toughest prep school league.
What would an event in the Northeast be without one final look at the coaches on hand for ESPN 100 prospects Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell. Assistants from UCLA, Oklahoma State, Providence and Rhode Island were all at their first game on Saturday, while St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin made sure to be front and center for their last game of the summer on Saturday afternoon.