Monday, January 28, 2008

Trenton Catholic - A Team to Watch

Hello, my name is Alex Schwartz, and I am a new writer for Northstar Basketball, LLC. I’m a high school junior and a big high-school hoops fan. On January 26, 2008, Rancocas Valley High School hosted the Jeff Coney Classic, and I was in attendance for a game between Trenton Catholic and Lenape. TCA was the team with the most talent of all those playing that day. The Iron Mikes are lead by a wealth of underclassmen, and a solid quartet of juniors. Despite not having an seniors of the team, Trenton Catholic is a top-notch squad, with a number of players who are legitimate Division I talents.
Lafayette Smith is a 6’5” junior for TCA, and he is a beast on the boards. He racked up 11 points and a boatload of rebounds against Lenape. Junior Daquan Basnight is 6’3” and a vital part of Trenton Catholic’s success. Daquan had 9 points along with countless boards, as helped he team to victory. Basnight was eleventh place in the area with 16.3 points per game as of 1/22/08. Dondre Whitmore is a well-renowned sophomore guard for the Iron Mikes, and he was putting up 14.3 ppg as of the 22nd, and had hit 26 three-pointers, putting him at ninth in the area. Frantz Massenat is a talented member of the TCA team, and he was averaging 10.0 points per contest through January 22nd. Despite being a freshman, Khalid Lewis El has lots of talent and can play either guard position or small forward. Reggie Coleman is a junior guard for the Iron Mikes. The 5’7” Coleman has a sweet stroke from long range, and he dropped 9 points on Lenape, all of which came on threes. Sophomore big man Markese Tucker is an integral member of the TCA team, but was unable to play against Lenape due to a wrist injury. Junior Lorenzo Santos also didn’t play on the 26th, but the 5’9” guard has lots of talent.
Trenton Catholic played a solid game against Lenape, but was in a struggle until the fourth quarter. The Iron Mikes entered the last quarter of play up 40-39 after giving up a buzzer-beating lay-up. TCA took over the game in the last eight minutes of play, on the backs of Daquan Basnight and Khalid Lewis El. The Iron Mikes’ free throw shooting was key in the team’s victory, as they went 27 for 39 from the charity stripe on the day, at just under 70%. Lewis and Whitmore combined to shoot 12 of 12 on free throws, while Basnight and Massenat were both 7 of 10 at the line. They wound up with a hard-fought nine-point win, 71-62.
The team displayed toughness and a well-rounded attack on both offense and defense. The squad was able to hit threes, drive to the hoop, and get it to the big men for buckets in the paint. On D, TCA was tenacious, and went they went to an all-out full-court press in the fourth quarter, they seemed to take over the game. All said, this team is immensely talented, and was able to win on a day where they had just seven players at the start of the game, only six of whom played. If you want to see some top-notch high school basketball players, check out the Trenton Catholic Iron Mikes.

Frantz Massenat - Star In the Making

Frantz Massenat is arguably the most highly regarded player on this great team that Trenton Catholic has put together, and for good reason. Frantz is 6’2”, but looks taller due to his long arms. The sophomore is an extremely versatile player, who can play point, but is also able to work down low. Massenat is a top-notch talent who will only improve with seasoning. Frantz and I talked after the team’s big win over Lenape, during which Massenat took two charges.

NB: What went into that performance for your guys? It was a hard fought battle. You had 11 points. Talk about . . . what you had to do to help the team out during the game.
FM: Well me, I basically had to step my game up. . . . I had to hit the open man, because they slacked off on my teammates, so I was being unselfish a lot.

NB: Down the stretch, you missed a couple free throws. How’d you rebound from that to keep up your game?
FM: I shoot . . . free throws [well] in practice, so I just thought about it [being] practice, and then got to the line and shot them.

NB: You’re only a sophomore, but college is on the verge here down the road. Are there any schools you have been thinking about, or any schools that have been sending you letters?
FM: Yeah, I’ve been getting letters from Rider all the time because they gave me a scholarship [offer]. I’ve been getting letters from Indiana, Florida, . . . a few schools.

NB: Do you have a first choice at thus point, or are you just weighing your options?
FM: Not yet.

NB: What was it like getting your first scholarship offer, from Rider? How did it feel to know that you are definitely going to have the chance to play ball in college?
FM: It felt good. It felt great. To me, Rider’s a good school, it’s Division I. Now that they gave me a scholarship [offer], I just have to get better to see where else I can go.

NB: Do you have a goal to . . . play in one of the big conferences?
FM: Yeah.

NB: So you want to [go] as high as you possibly can?
FM: Exactly.

Frantz Massenat is clearly an ambitious kid with his eyes set on continuing to play ball for years to come. He is certainly talented enough to do so. As he continues to grow and put on weight, Massenat’s skills will become more polished, and his ideal position should become more clear. For now though, Frantz is a high-caliber high schooler with a versatile game, and has the potential to become a big-time college basketball player.

Khalid Lewis El - Freshman Phenom

If I had to pick out the most impressive player on the court for either squad in Trenton Catholic/Lenape match-up, I’d have to go with Khalid Lewis El, a freshman for TCA. Lewis didn’t do much in the first half, but was dominant in the second half of play. He was the primary point guard in the fourth quarter, and that’s the spot where he seemed to excel. At one point in the fourth quarter, Khalid setup back-to-back threes that helped ice the game for the Iron Mikes. In addition, Lewis was solid on defense, and his height is key. Khalid is already 6’, and is only a freshman. By the time his grows to his full height, Lewis will be flat-out awesome. Khalid took some time to chat with me after his impressive performance against Lenape.

NB: You had 16 points today, led the team in scoring. That is pretty impressive, especially for a freshman. What went into that? What was your focus on the game? What were you looking to do to help out the team?
KL: Just Win.

NB: You seem to have a versatile game. . . . What’s your favorite spot to play on the court?
KL: The 1, the 2, and the 3.

NB: You’re only a freshman, but have you started looking at colleges yet? Have you ever had a dream of where you want to play?
KL: My favorite college is Duke.

NB: Have you started hearing from any schools yet?
KL: Rutgers sent me some mail.

NB: What’s your outlook for the rest of the season? What are you guys looking to accomplish the rest of the way?
KL: Go all the way.

As you can tell by the interview, the first thing on Khalid’s mind is winning. Who doesn’t love that? Anyone like Khalid with a team-first mentality, is a player destined to succeed. Lewis is a great player, a first-class kid, and a future star.

Dondre Whitmore - Great Things Come in Small Packages

Don’t let Dondre Whitmore’s height affect your opinions of him. The sophomore might only be 5’8”, but he can flat-out play basketball. Whitmore can jump out of the gym, run like the wind, and he plays intense defense. Dondre has a high-quality shot, a reliable handle, and is a great floor leader at the point. Whitmore is a well-rounded player, able to score and pass, rebound and play D, as well as drive and also hit a pull-up jumper. I caught up with Dondre after the Lenape game.

NB: You played a pretty good game today, 15 points, 7 for 7 from the line, what went into that?

DW: I was really focused on the game, because we have to win five games before the cutoff to get a good spot in the playoffs.

NB: What’s your outlook for the MCT’s [Mercer County Tournament]?
DW: We are looking to win all that. We are looking to play Trenton [Central] High [School].

NB: That should be a pretty good game. Have you guys played them yet this season?
DW: No, that’s the only way we can play them, if we play them in that tournament.

NB: So you’re only a sophomore, but have you started thinking about colleges yet?
DW: No.

NB: Growing up, did you ever have a college you always wanted to play for, or just whoever shows you interest?
DW: I want to play for Florida.

Dondre is a kid with a great game, but its his defense that really stands out. Whitmore had the tough task of guarding the ball in Trenton Catholic’s one-on-one full-court press on the ball. Most of the time, the ball was in the hands of Lenape’s lightening-fast senior point guard Mike Celestin. Whitmore’s most impressive attribute on D was his ability to turn his hips with the ball so he was never facing the wrong way. Sometimes Whitmore would get beat off the dribble and Celestin would get to the hoop, but Dondre did hold him to just 4 points. Dondre’s name begins with the same letter of defense, so it should be easy to remember his forte. When you think Dondre Whitmore, think defense. Whitmore has a complete game that should transfer well to the college game due to his broad range of skills. Coaches should not let Whitmore’s height shouldn’t scare them away, because he is one heck of a talent.

Markese Tucker - A True Team Player

Sophomore Markese Tucker is not only the tallest player on the Trenton Catholic Iron Mikes at 6’5, he is also a vital part of the team. Markese, a member of the NJABC AAU program, has been out for almost a week with a sprained wrist. He has a thick Ace Bandage on the wrist, but despite his injury, Markese attends games and sits on the bench with his team. Tucker is a true team player, and watching him shoot one-handed in warm-ups was pretty impressive. I spoke with Markese after Trenton Catholic’s game against Lenape in the Jeff Coney Classic on January 26, 2008.

NB: What was it like watching the team struggle out there and not be able to play?
MT: Well you know, it was hard because I’m a big part of the team, and it’s hard, because I’m used to being out there and contributing to the team, but I have a sprained wrist. I’ll be back, though.

NB: When did you sprain that, and do you know when you’ll be able to play?
MT: I sprained it at the Pemberton game [on 1/22/08]. I’ll be back next week.

NB: You’re a sophomore . . . but have you been thinking about college? . . . What colleges are looking at you? Where are you considering?
MT: Rider, Rutgers, and Temple.

NB: Do you have a top choice now at this point, or are you just weighing your options?
MT: I’m just weighing them out really. That’s all I want to do. . . . Right now I’m just enjoying high school.

NB: What’s your record so far this season?
MT: 13-2.

I’m sure Markese is anxious to not only get back on the court, but also to help his team keep up their winning ways. With the way Trenton Catholic played against a solid Lenape team, I can’t imagine just how frightening they are with a healthy Tucker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Steve Rennard - a 2010 playmaker!

I love to watch and coach playmakers, and Steve Rennard is one!!! Whether it be deflecting a pass leading to a steal and a fast break, or breaking someone down off the dribble, drawing two defenders and kicking to the open man I LOVE TO WATCH AND COACH PLAYMAKERS!! Steve is a sophomore point guard who can slide over to the shooting guard spot interchangeably. While at St. Joe's Metuchen he runs the one, getting everyone involved while putting up 15 points per game. In the summer he runs with Team NJABC and plays both the lead and shooting guard positions . . . and is effective in both. For example, in the quarterfinals of the Main Event last year in Las Vegas, he buried 4 three pointers in about 90 seconds against Houston Hoops. It was pretty spectacular. The week before that at Eastern Invitational he was selected as an all-star at the point guard position because he was driving and dishing while also burying the open jumper. Quite frankly, this kid is just a flat out great guard. Oh yeah . . . he is a lock down defender AND he has a 4.0 GPA. WOW!

I had the chance to catch up with Steve for a few minutes to find out, at mid-season, how things were going:

NB: What is your record right now at St. Joes?
SR: "We are 12-3, and we should be 14-1 . . . we really should only have one loss."

NB: What are the strengths of your high school team?
SR: "We play great defense holding opponents to 41 ppg, and we push the ball in a transition game. That is our main offensive focus."

NB: What areas does your high school team need to improve in?
SR: "Executing our offense . . . not just going through the motions. We get lazy sometimes and need to be sharper with our screens and cuts."

NB: What colleges have you heard from thus far?
SR: "St. Joes, Bucknell, Florida, Rutgers, American, William & Mary, Brown, and Penn."

NB: What level of division one do you see yourself playing someday?
SR: "I want to go as high as I can in D1. I must continue to work hard, getting bigger and stronger, and I must get better with my handle and my speed to be a high major D1 player and I am committed to getting that done - definitely!"

NB: What are plans for the summer?
SR: "A lot of big tournies with Team NJABC, attending individual and team camps such as Eastern with the Hoop Group, and a lot of time in the gym just getting better."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Harold Spears - a class of 2010 unknown???

Harold Spears is a 6'5" wing player for Faith Christian Academy in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. As of January 19, 2008, they are 14-3 and causing some havoc in Eastern PA basketball circles. Harold is all over the stat sheet at the end of the game - nailing 3s, getting double digit rebounds, dunking the ball, running the point. This kid is for real, and the time is now to get involved.

I took a minute to chat with Harold Spears, who runs with Team NJABC U16s in the summer.

NB: Your high school team is having a great year - what are the keys to success?

Harold Spears: "We are playing as a team . . . there are no egos, and we are very cohesive. When it comes to crunch time in the 4th quarter, we just find a way to win, whether it is lock down defense, or coming back from being down, we just find a way to get it done."

NB: You are only a sophomore, but I am sure you are thinking about college. What level and where you would like to play in college?

Harold Spears: "Right now I am not concerned about where and what level, but the most important thing is to get a free education. That is my number one priority."

NB: What are some areas of development of your game?

Harold Spears: "I need to improve my ballhandling and my shooting - be more consistent. I also need to work on improving my ability to create my own shot."

NB: What are some areas of strength of your game?

Harold Spears: "I feel like I can guard anyone regardless of size or position - I love to defend. I also am strong at attacking the rim, and I like to play a physical/contact game."

Harold Spears is definitely a D1 college basketball player. There should be more clarity by the end of the summer on what level he will play, but I must say, D1 schools should get involved with him ASAP. Oh yeah . . . he has a 3.7 GPA. I love it!!!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tamir "Pop" Jackson - I told you so!!

In late October I wrote an article on Tamir "Pop" Jackson from St. Benedict's High School and The Playaz organization. I suggested that he was the most under recruited and underrated player in the NJ/NY/Philly area class of 2009. He then went out on national television in early December and led St. Benedict's High School to a great win over the mighty Oak Hill Academy, scoring 29 points.

Since that game, Arizona, Ohio State, Indiana and many other schools have finally taken notice of Pop. I have said it time and again - if you want a winner, someone who gets it done on the court and in the classroom, and someone that will work harder than everyone else, recruit Pop! Better get in now because he is no longer a secret!!

The New Jersey Hoops Triangle

Well, we are off and running here in New Jersey in the world of high school basketball. It is an exciting time for nationally ranked teams from New Jersey, like St. Pats, St. Benedict and St. Anthony playing all over the country; St. Pats was just in Houston, St. Benedicts in Florida, and St. Anthony's in New Mexico.

From a college recruiting perspective, the "New Jersey Hoops Triangle" is a logistically efficient opportunity to recruit top players. Let's walk through what a high major program from, for example, the PAC-10, could get accomplished in one day. First, the coach can fly into Newark airport either the night before or the morning of the recruiting trip. Depending on their recruiting priorities, they can stop into one of the "New Jersey Hoops Triangle" schools (such as St. Benedict) and speak with the Coach Danny Hurley and maybe time that meeting around the beginning of practice to see their number one priority recruit workout - maybe top juniors Gregory Echenique or Tamir Jackson. After a short visit at St. Benedict, they can jump in the car and make the short drive from St. Benedict in Newark to St. Pats in Elizabeth to watch the end of their workout, have a chat with Coach Boyle and Coach Rae, and observe one of the top juniors in the country, Dexter Strickland, or an up and coming sophomore point guard, Kevin Boyle. Maybe the recruiter will get the chance to see one of the top freshman in the land, Michael Gilchrist, get some work in. At the end of the St. Pats workout, schedule permitting, the recruiter may be able to get to watch St. Anthony play a game in Jersey City. What a great chance to watch Dominic Cheek, the phenom junior wing, light up the score board and get the chance to learn a few things from the legendary Coach Hurley.

The bottom line is that these three schools are LOADED with talent, from the class of 2008 through the class of 2011, and if you are looking for great players to recruit, logistical and cost efficiency, and excellent coaches to work with, the "New Jersey Hoops Triangle" is the place to be!!!