Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Davontay Grace- Big Guard's Got Game

Davontay Grace is a well-known player in the New York area. The freshman at Jefferson (NY) is not only highly-regarded, but highly-skilled. Although it may seem that these two would always go hand in hand, that's just not the case, as many kids get the hype, but don't play up to that level. Grace is 6'2, but has a body frame that makes him look bigger. His size allows him to get to the hoop. Davontay is a skilled combo guard on the AAU level with Rich Soil from New York. I caught up with the linebacker-esque guard after his team was defeated by Team New Jersey ABC at the Providence Jam Fest.

NB: What do you consider to be the forte of your game?
DG: I think I improved my jump-shot, and my ability to make my teammates better, and my playmaking ability.

NB: What do you think is your biggest weakness?
DG: I got to get in better shape and work on defense more.

NB: What player [that is currently] in either the NBA or the NCAA . . . would you compare your game to?
DG: I think, . . . probably if I was two more inches taller, . . . I think I play like Baron Davis a bit.

NB: Have you been receiving any college interest at this point?
DG: Yeah, I [have received] from Seton Hall, Marquette, Rutgers, Tennessee, [and] I think Cincinnati too.

NB: Have any of the schools offered you yet?
DG: Not that I know of.

NB: Do you have a school that growing up you’ve always rooted for that you’ve always wanted to go to?
DG: Yeah, I like North Carolina and . . . Georgetown.

NB: Why [those two]?
DG: Just the tradition that they have and the NBA players that they breed.

NB: [Has] there ever been a coach that you’ve always wanted to play for?
DG: Not really. . . . I just like basketball, and wherever I go, I just want to be taught basketball and get better [by] whatever coach I play for.

NB: What do you like most about playing AAU basketball?
DG: The competition and the traveling.

NB: What’s your least favorite part?
DG: The early morning games.

Grace has a balanced game on offense. He drives to the rack, but also pulls up for jumpers. The frosh's range extends to beyond the three-point arc. Although Davontay had an off-day shooting that ball when I saw him play, his talent was evident. You may not know who Grace is yet, but the New York guard will be big in the hoops scene as his years in high school move along.

Note- photo is from Generation Next Basketball, at

Ashcraf Yacoubou- He's For Real

American Christian Academy (PA) is losing its best player, senior Tyreke Evans, but replacing him will be a talented freshman. If you recall, in an earlier article on Northstar Basketball, I reported ACA Head Coach Tony Bergeron's high praise for the class of 2011 star: "The only thing that held him back [this season] was that Tyreke Evans played the same position." I had the opportunity to see Ashcraf, a 6'4 guard, in action this past weekend at the Providence Jam Fest. Although his U-16 Rich Soil AAU squad was throttled by Team New Jersey ABC in the silver bracket quarterfinals, Yacoubou stood out amongst the talent on the Rich Soil team. I spoke with Ashcraf after the game.

NB: What was it like for you playing behind Tyreke Evans [this] year?
AY: It was good, it was good, I learned a lot.

NB: How do you think it’s going to help you prepare for next season when you’re stepping into more of an . . . [important] role at American Christian?
AY: I really don’t know. . . . This year, . . . I played some games [and] some days I didn’t, but the game I didn’t play [in], I learned. [It was a] learning experience.

NB: What was it like for you having to sit out some of those games? Did you ever consider heading to another school where you could play more, or were you always just focused on ‘I’m learning and I’m getting better’?
AY: Yeah, I always focused on ‘I’m learning, I’m getting better, and I’m a freshman, so I got to wait my turn.’

NB: What do you think the team’s going to be able to accomplish next season? . . . I know you . . . are moving out of the prep level, what are you going to be able to do at the high school level?
AY: I think we [will] do alright.

NB: What do you consider to be the forte of your game?
AY: How I can shoot the jump-shot.

NB: What do you think you need to work on the most?
AY: My defense and my stamina.

NB: Have you been getting any college interest as of now?
AY: Yeah.

NB: What schools have been showing interest in you early [on]?
AY: Memphis, Oklahoma St., Villanova, and some more.

NB: Has anyone offered you [a scholarship] thus far?
AY: Memphis.

NB: What was it like for you when that first offer came in?
AY: I was just happy, I was relieved. I just, I felt like committing my freshman year, but it’s too early.

NB: Where do you think you want to go?
AY: I don’t know yet.

NB: Is there . . . either a team or a conference, anyplace you’ve always dreamed of playing [for]?
AY: No, not really. Let me see, I think [the] Big East [or the] ACC. That’s it, that’s about it.

The Rich Soil team features four of the top 30 freshman, as ranked by The Hoop Scoop Online (, in 5'10 guard Tavon Sledge of St. Benedict's (NJ), 6'2 guard Najee Whitehead of Mt. Vernon (NY), 6'2 guard Davontay Grace of Jefferson (NY), and Yacoubou. Thus, it's impressive that Ashcraf was easily the best of the bunch against NJABC. Although he did not score that many points, Yacoubou was solid at the point, had a stellar shot, got to the rack, has good height, and is nice playmaker. Yacoubou might not be able to fill Tyreke Evans' shoes next year, but he is certainly mightily talented and will cause a stir as his recruitment heats up over the next three years.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Providence Jam Fest- New York & New Jersey Dominate

The Hoop Group's Providence Jam Fest took place this weekend, and it was all about teams from New York and New Jersey. In both the U-17 and U-16 age groups, the Silver and Gold bracket winners came from one of the two states. At the U-17 level, it was the squads from the Big Apple that put on a show, as the Juice All-Stars (NY) were the overall champs, taking home the title in the Gold bracket. New Heights 2010 picked up the Silver title, despite playing up a year. Meanwhile, at the U-16 level, the Jersey teams were the ones that took the crowns. Playaz Red (NJ) won the event title, winning the Gold bracket, while Team New Jersey ABC was the Silver winner. The Juice team features three top-notch ballers from Lincoln (NY) in 6'1 senior Vince Council, 5'11 sophomore Devon McMillan, and 6'8 junior James Padgett. The New Heights group featured 6'7 sophomore Devon Collier from St. Anthony's (NJ), 6'10 freshman Joe DeLaRosa from St. Raymond's (NY), 6'8 sophomore Ashton Pankey from St. Anthony's (NJ), and 6'6 sophomore Jayvuahgn Pinkston from Bishop Loughlin (NY). Those names from New Heights will be ones to watch over the next few years, as they are all sure to put up some numbers at their schools and get heavy college looks. The Playaz team is absolutely stacked from top to bottom and includes the following players: 6'2 sophomore Cameron Ayers from Germantown Academy (PA), 5'11 junior Michael Celestin from Lenape (NJ), and 6'2 sophomore Isaiah Epps from Plainfield (NJ). As well, the team has five sophomores from Paterson Catholic (NJ) in 6'6 TJ Clemmings, 6'5 Fuquan Edwin, 6'5 Jayon James, 6'3 Jermaine Peart, and 6'5 Shaquille Thomas. The NJABC team included 6'9 sophomore Markus Kennedy from St. Patrick's (NJ), 6'2 sophomore Steve Rennard from St. Joseph's (NJ), 6'3 Aaron Gowans from Bloomfield Tech (NJ), 6'7 sophomore Wayne Newsom from Piscataway (NJ), 6'4 sophomore Harold Spears from Faith Christian Academy (PA), and 6'3 sophomore Dontae Johnson from The Pennington School (NJ). The team also has three sophomores from Trenton Catholic (NJ): 6'4 Frantz Massenat, 6'5 Markese Tucker, 5'9 Dondre Whitmore, in addition to TCA junior 5'7 Reggie Coleman. All four of these teams will continue to make noise on the AAU circuit for the rest of the season, and should continue to do so next year, assuming the teams stay together. Mostly every player mentioned will eventually be playing DI basketball, with a few DII and DIII players thrown in the mix. The three U-16 teams mentioned are in the upper echelon of teams at that age level in the Northeast, and possibly even in the nation. Be sure to check out these 2010 stars on their path to the NCAA.

Note- the photos on the top left and in the middle on the right are of James Padgett and Ashton Pankey, respectively, and both are from

Note- the photo in the middle on the left is of Isaiah Epps and is from

Note- the photo on the bottom right is of Frantz Massenat and is from

Note- and were used for information

Monday, April 28, 2008

Justin Crosgile- Soon to be St. Joe's Hawk?

Justin Crosgile, a 6'0 junior guard for DePaul (NJ), burst onto the scene earlier this school year with a fantastic showing at the Eddie Griffin Challenge. Justin, a member of Team New Jersey ABC for the AAU circuit, is now getting looks from some of America's top programs. Yesterday, I spoke with Justin about his recruitment and his game. As of now, Crosgile says he has offers from three Big East schools: St. John's, Rutgers, and Seton Hall. In addition, he has offers from Houston and St. Joseph's, two of the top mid-major teams in the nation. Other schools that have shown Justin interest--in varying degrees--are Miami (FL), Davidson, Lehigh, Penn St., Michigan, Ohio St., Stanford, UCLA, Penn St., Notre Dame, Xavier, and Michigan St. As well, Tom Crean, the new head coach at Indiana, sent Crosgile a letter while he was still at Marquette. Justin said that of all the schools yet to offer him, Miami is showing him the most interest. Who is Crosgile's number one school? That would be the St. Joseph's Hawks. "I met with all the staff, I like the staff. . . . I like the school [because it's] not too big, not too small. . . . I think it would be a good fit for me, I like it a lot," said Justin. The Hawks were, in fact, the first school to offer him a scholarship, while Notre Dame was the first to show interest. "As a child I always liked NC St. for some reason," Justin told me. Although he grew up rooting for the North Carolina St. Wolfpack, the school has yet to get involved in Justin's recruitment. What if the school did eventually give Crosgile an offer? "I would consider it, . . . [but] I wouldn't just jump into it," said Crosgile. As of now, his top five schools are as follows: 1) St. Joseph's, 2) Miami, 3) Ohio St., 4) Notre Dame, 5) Michigan. The three at the top are right now the prime candidates to land Justin, though he told me that he isn't 100% positive that his final choice will come out of that trio. DePaul's soon-to-be standout senior said that "right now," he plans to officially visit "Miami, Ohio St., and probably Michigan St." He is not planning on taking an official visit to St. Joe's because he has already unofficially visited the school. The Eddie Griffin Challenge certainly helped Crosgile, as "most of [the schools] started to get involved after the game [because] . . . it . . . boosted [his] stock a bit." Justin did mention that he was getting interest prior to his game at the EGC. "My biggest strength [is that] . . . I'm good off the dribble. . . . When I drive I get a shot for myself . . . or I dish it off to one of my teammates," said Justin. Here is what he said about his biggest weaknesses: "Sometimes I stand around too much and watch. . . . [Also,] for a guard, I like to go in and rebound [a lot], . . . so big guards, they leak out," adding, "I like to crash [the boards] a lot, . . . [but] everybody [is telling] me [that] when I go to college, I can't really do that because there [are] seven-footers." Regardless of whether or not Crosgile will crash the glass in the NCAA, you've got to love that a 6'0 guard loves get around the hoop and rebound. As of now it seems that Justin Crosgile is favoring the St. Joseph's Hawks, and should he end up there, I'm sure Phil Martelli will be ecstatic to have him.

Note- photo is from

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Update on . . . Marc Miller

Marc Miller, a 6'6 senior center from North Salem (NY) has made his college choice. Miler, a third team all-class B selection in New York according to, will be heading to Georgia to play for Emory. "I am going to Emory University because of its strong undergraduate business school, its very active campus, and the strong outlook of the basketball program. I formed great relationships with the coaching staff and players and there is no doubt in my mind that this is where I want to be," said Miller. The big man will get a quality education at Emory, while also having the opportunity to play college basketball. Marc Miller is destined for success, whether it be on of off the hardwood.

Upcoming Interviews:

This weekend at the Providence Jam Fest, I spoke with freshmen Ashcraf Yacoubou and Davontay Grace, post-grads Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, as well as Donyell Marshall of the NBA. Along with these five interviews, I will also be posting some interviews from the Pitt Jam Fest that I have not have a chance to put up thus far. Those interviews would be of sophomores Wayne Newsom and Dontae Johnson, junior Antoine Allen, and college freshman DeJuan Blair of Pitt. Thank you!


I will be putting up interviews and some other articles starting on Monday. I have been very busy with the Providence Jam Fest, and thus have not had much time to post articles. I've got to say, there are some really great teams and players in this event, and colleges must agree, as they are packing Rhode Island to get a glimpse of some of America's best basketball players. There have been coaches at the event from Penn St., Babson College, Keene St., Villanova, St. John's, and Quinnipiac, to name a few. Again, stay tuned for upcoming interviews and articles. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Derek Elston- Future Hoosier

Spiece is a program that has a lot of teams at numerous age levels, and recently it has produced players such as Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. One of the Indiana-based AAU organization's biggest names this year is 6'8 junior forward Derek Elston. He is regarded as one of the top players in the class of 2009, and committed to Indiana prior to the recruiting scandal at the university, and before former Head Coach Kelvin Sampson left the school. One may wonder, now that Tom Crean is in at IU, where Elston stands with his commitment to the Hoosiers. That's one of the topics that I discussed with Derek after his team suffered a tough loss in pool play at the Pitt Jam Fest.

NB: So, with the recent coaching changes at [the school you have committed to,] Indiana, what’s your . . . view on . . . that?
DE: Oh, I love it. I love [new Indiana Head Coach] Coach [Tom] Crean, the way he’s been playing the last couple years. . . . If anybody’s going to be a coach, why not Coach Crean? I like . . . the fact that he’s going to be there now.

NB: When Kelvin Sampson left, was there any doubt in your mind [about] you [being] . . . a [future] Hoosier, or was it always “that’s where you’re going”?
DE: Yeah, there was a little doubt that I didn’t want to go there because I got to know him so well, but since Coach Crean [got the job, I’m happy]. . . . He’s one of the coaches on my list of the top five I’d like to [play] for, so it kept me there.

NB: What were some of the other coaches on that list?
DE: Roy Williams, I’d love to play for hi. The coach at Tennessee, Bruce Pearl, I’d love to [play] for him. So, that’s . . . the top four right there, [Sampson, Crean, Williams, and Pearl].

NB: What made Indiana stand out to you? What made it the most appealing school for you to go to?
DE: Just because it’s right there, it’s right there by my house. . . . It’s home to me, practically, . . . and just, Coach Sampson really was a big part of that, too.

NB: Have your grown up as a Hoosiers fan?
DE: No, to be honest, no, I’ve always been a North Carolina fan, so IU and Purdue, . . . [they] never occurred to me [as teams to root for].

NB: Was North Carolina a school that you were considering?
DE: Yeah, but . . . my dad kind of didn’t want me to go there just because . . . his name was out there, so he just told me to stay close.

NB: You still got a senior season left. What are you looking to accomplish during that final year of high school basketball?
DE: What anybody’s trying to accomplish, a state championship, and we got the team to do it, so it should be easy, . . . not easy, but it should be something that everybody should looking forward to.

NB: Do you have any goals for your college career?
DE: Just take it . . . game by game, and see what comes to me, really.

So, there you have it, Elston still plans on attending Indiana. Tom Crean has got to be happy about that, as Derek is a quality baller, and should be a solid contributor at IU. Hoosier fans, you have no need to fear, Derek Elston will be suiting up in Bloomington just two years from now. Although next season may be rough, the 2009-2010 season should be one to look forward to, and Derek Elston will be there to take part in it.

Note- photo is from

Indiana Elite- The Best in the Land

I have been saying for a little while now, that the Indiana Elite-One U-17 squad is the best AAU team there is, bar none. This was before they won the Pitt Jam Fest, as reported by, and also before said the same thing. It takes just one look at their roster to know that they are easily at the top of the line when it comes to grassroots ball clubs. The squad features 6'10 Mason Plumlee (Duke), 6'9 Bobby Capobianco (Indiana), 6'7.5 Jordan Prosser (uncommitted), 6'5 DJ Byrd (Purdue), and 6'9 Stephan Van Treese (uncommitted). That right there is five future high-DI starters. That group can compete with any AAU team in America, I guarantee it. Not only is the team extremely talented, but it is big and deep. Every member of the 10-man group is 6'0 or bigger, with the other players being 6'0 Jordan Hulls, 6'3 Ray McCallum, 6'4 Colt Ryan, 6'2 Reginald King, and 6'1 David Blackwell. This team defeated another one of America's best teams, the U-17 squad from D-1 Sports, which has 6'4 John Wall (uncommitted) and 6'7 Noel Johnson (uncommitted). There are certainly some other U-17 teams that can run with Indiana Elite, but not many. Those that can include The Family, Team Philly, Team Melo, Team Final, Playaz Gold, Metro Hawks, Grassroots Canada Pump and Run, and DC Assault. A few of these teams might even be able to defeat Indiana Elite, yet I highly doubt that any could beat them in a five or seven game series. I'd love to see Indiana Elite take on Team Final or Playaz Gold, the squads that could probably give them the best run for their money. If you have an opinion on the matter, comment on this article and express your viewpoint.

Note- all photos are from; the top left photo is of Stephan Van Treese, the bottom left photo is of Bobby Capobianco, and the photo on the right is of Jordan Prosser

Poll Results:

The latest polls closed last night, and apparently the thinking is that the east coast is where the best ball is played. In the poll asking which state produced the best talent, New York finished first, picking up 20 votes, while New Jersey ended up in second, collecting 14 selections. Those 34 votes combined for over half of the total votes, 62. The option of "Other" finished in third place, with 12 votes. My hunch is that many of those votes would have gone to Pennsylvania, had it been an option. If that is the case, it means that the Northeast, is hands-down the best area for high school hoops in the nation. California finished in a far-away fourth place, with 6 votes. Apparently the Cali duo of Jrue Holiday and Demar DeRozan didn't help the Golden State to earn respect, in comparison to New York and New Jersey. Indiana came in fifth place with four votes, and those in the Hoosier State probably aren't too happy with the weak finish. Just behind Indiana was Ohio, which grabbed three votes, and then came Georgia with a pair of selections. After the Peach State was Illinois with one vote, and then Florida which did not receive any choices. Please comment on this article to explain your vote. If you are one of the 12 people who chose "Other," then a comment from you would be fantastic.
As for the other poll, asking what attribute was the most important in a high school player/recruit, Basketball IQ was the run-away winner, receiving 14 of the 32 votes. Overall Athleticism was a distant second with seven votes, followed by Handle, which was chosen four times. Next up were Size and Defensive Ability, which both had two votes. Shot grabbed one vote to finish in seventh, and then Passing Ability finished in last place, getting shut out, as was "Other." It appears that smarts aren't only needed in the classroom.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Terrell Johnson- A Rising Star?

Terrell Johnson is a 5'9 guard for the Hunting Park Warriors (PA) AAU program. Johnson, a freshman, is part of the U-15 squad. Although the team had a rough showing at the Pitt Jam Fest this past weekend, it was clear that they have a solid nucleus of players, including Johnson and 6'7 Eric Copes. The Warriors had a tough loss to Team New Jersey ABC, blowing a big lead late in the game. The defeat, though, couldn't stop Terrell Johnson from shining for Hunting Park. I caught up with him after the game.

NB: That was a tough loss out there, but you played . . . well. What went into your performance personally?
TJ: [I] played [well], but at the end it really didn’t mean nothing because we lost. With the bad call at the end, we didn’t get the call.

NB: What do you think happened down the [stretch], . . . other than that? . . . The team . . . had an 11 point lead with two minutes to go. What went wrong?
TJ: The trap came on, and I guess . . . our team wasn’t ready for it.

NB: What high school do you attend?
TJ: Imotep Charter High School in Philadelphia.

NB: Have you been receiving any college interest at this point?
TJ: No.

NB: Are you interested in playing college ball in the future?
TJ: Yes.

NB: Is there a college that you’ve always been dreaming of going to, that growing up you’ve . . . rooted for?
TJ: North Carolina or Memphis.

NB: What makes those two stand out to you?
TJ: [They stand out] because Memphis plays fast, and I like to play fast.

NB: Playing AAU basketball compared to [playing] high school basketball, what do you see as some of the differences and similarities?
TJ: The intensity [is] always high, and you [have] always . . . got to be physical.

NB: How do you think it helps you to be able to work on your game throughout the entire spring and summer, after the [high school] basketball season is over? What do you think is the main [thing that] it does for you? Is it conditioning, is it your shot, what’s the primary way?
TJ: Conditioning.

NB: What do you think is the [biggest] strength of your game? If you had to pick one things that you think stands out and . . . puts you above others, what would it be?
TJ: My leadership.

NB: What about your biggest weakness?
TJ: Probably [my] . . . physical attributes.

NB: Why do you think . . . that’s something that bring you down a notch?
TJ: Because I’m little, and sometimes bigger guards try to push me around, but it don’t work because I know how to handle it.

NB: Do you think there’s any ways that being a smaller guard can help you?
TJ: Yes, because I can dip through [traffic], and my jumping ability helps me.

Terrell Johnson might not be a hot commodity right now, but he may well be next summer. He has nice moves, good quickness, and scoring ability. Johnson had over 15 points against NJABC, and he showed a solid overall game. Terrell Johnson is the real deal, and although this may be the first you are hearing of him, it won't be the last.

Stevie Taylor- Playing for His Pop

Freshmen do not always garner national spotlight, but Stevie Taylor is not your average ninth grader. The 5'8 guard from Ohio Basketball Club is regarded as one of the top players in the class of 2011 in America. Despite Taylor's height, he can flat-out play basketball. Ohio Basketball Club, which is led by Taylor and 6'10 Zach Price, took the U-15 title at the Pitt Jam Fest. After Taylor's team throttled Indiana Elite in pool play, I took a few minutes to catch up with the star freshman.

NB: Playing AAU basketball in front of all those [college] coaches out there, what’s that like for you?
ST: Well, it’s really an adrenaline rush because you [would] never think that all these college coaches [would] come out to watch you, so you always want to put on your best [game], so you got to bring it, every game you come out and play.

NB: What does it mean to you to have so many big names out there? You got a coach from Ohio St. [and one from] Michigan St. looking at you. What does it feel like to be playing and know that they are there watching you?
ST: Well, it makes [me] feel like I got to bring my A game, and hopefully . . . when I leave the gym . . . I feel like I played my best ball.

NB: Do you think you played your best ball today?
ST: Yes sir.

NB: It looked like you were limping a little bit out there. Do you . . . have an ankle injury?
ST: Yeah because when I was over in Italy, I hurt my leg, and that’s why it’s been hurting, and then I got kneed on that last play, so it kind of hurt a little bit, but I fought through it.

NB: For your team with Ohio Basketball Club, you’re playing for your father [Rob Taylor], and what’s the like for you? What’s the experience like of playing for your father?
ST: Well, I’ve been playing for my father ever since I was a little kid, so I’m kind of used to it now. He yells at me, but I take it all in and use it . . . the best I can.

NB: Do you think it works better to be able to live with you coach as well as play for him, and not just see him twice a week?
ST: Yeah, it’s much easier because we work out everyday, so he’s yelling at me constantly.

NB: Do you have any offers at this current point?
ST: Yeah, I have [an offer from] Akron.

NB: And what other schools are currently showing interest in you?
ST: Tennessee, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Ohio St., and that’s it.

NB: Is there a dream school that you’ve always wanted to go to?
ST: Louisville, Louisville.

NB: Why Louisville?
ST: Well, because my family’s from there, I know everybody from there, and I like their style of play.

NB: So, if they were to offer you, would that be something that you would just take on that spot?
ST: Yes, . . . I’d commit like that.

Taylor's routine of playing basketball for his dad certainly seems to be working. Stevie is a high-caliber player, with nice moves, and solid floor-leading ability. Although he may be a bit too fancy at times, Taylor can certainly hoop it up. Stevie and Rob Taylor, along with the rest of the current U-15 OBC squad, have a bright future, as the father and son will work to keep the team in spotlight. With Stevie's talents, they might not have to work all that hard.

Note- photo is from

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Maalik Wayns- It's All About PA

Roman Catholic (PA) superstar Maalik Wayns has already picked his future school, but hasn't stopped the 6'1 junior guard from playing AAU ball. Wayns, a future Villanova Wildcat, is one of America's premiere juniors, and is a member of Team Philly's U-17 squad. Wayns and Co. took part in the Playaz Spring Fling, where the team won its pool. After his team narrowly defeated Team New Jersey ABC, I spoke with Maalik.

NB: What went into your decision to commit to Villanova?
MW: I [have been] watching them play since I grew up, and [it is] . . . like my dream school, so when . . . the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.

NB: What were some of the other schools that were offering you and were looking at you?
MW: Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, . . . [and] North Carolina St.

NB: When the offers first started rolling in, and the interest first started rolling in, were you . . . planning on making your decision before your senior year, or was it just something that, the time felt right?
MW: The time felt right. . . . It’s a great school, great tradition, and I just, when I visited it, I liked it a lot, and I [have been] around the program a lot, so it just felt right.

NB: What about attending Roman Catholic for high school? . . . With all the private schools . . . around Pennsylvania, what made that school the most appealing to you?
MW: The tradition. A lot of great players [have] went there, Eddie Griffin, Rasual Butler, players like that went there before me, so I just wanted to follow the tradition.

NB: How do you plan on keeping your focus . . . for your senior year? You’ve already committed to college, you already know you are set. What are you going to do to maintain that focus that you’ve needed thus far?
MW: Just keep working hard, get in the gym, hit the books, and be ready for two years from now.

NB: Why are you choosing to continue playing AAU ball, just for the fun? Because once you’ve already verbaled, you don’t necessarily need to be playing AAU. What . . . made that decision for you to continue playing this [spring and] summer?
MW: Oh, it’s just fun. [I get to] have fun with all my friends. . . . I like traveling a lot with my AAU teammates and my AAU team, so it’s fun.

NB: What do you enjoy more, AAU [basketball] or high school [basketball]?
MW: Both, but AAU [because we get to do] more traveling.

NB: What [is the team] looking to accomplish the rest of the way in this tournament?
MW: Try to win it.

NB: What about over the summer as a whole?
MW: Try to win every tournament we play in.

NB: What do you consider to be the forte of your game?
MW: Penetrating, dishing off to my teammates, and . . . being a winner most importantly.

Wayns clearly loves Pennsylvania. Not only does the stud point guard attend high school in the Keystone State, but his AAU program is based out of Pennsylvania. In addition, Maalik won't have to go all that far in two years when he heads to Villanova, Pennsylvania's foremost college for hoops. Maalik will thrive at 'Nova, one of the best schools in the 21st century, producing players such as Mike Nardi, Allan Ray, Randy Foye, and Kyle Lowry. In addition, the squad currently has Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher. Wayns will be next in line at point guard for the Wildcats, and the in-state phenom has all the tools to succeed.

Note- photo is from

Monday, April 21, 2008

Doron Lamb- Heading to the Big East?

At the Playaz Spring Fling, I had the opportunity to chat with Doron Lamb once again. The Bishop Loughlin (NY) star and I primarily discussed his college choices and AAU basketball. Lamb, a 6'4 sophomore guard for the New York Guachos' U-17 squad, had a solid, but not spectacular showing at the event. Doron and I spoke after his team squeaked by the Lloyd Daniels Rebels in pool play, and here is how our talk went.

NB: What colleges do you currently hold an offer from?
DL: I got an offer from Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Louisville, St. John’s, Seton Hall, that’s it.

NB: [Which] schools [would you say] . . . are seriously recruiting you?
DL: Louisville, [that’s] the main one. Louisville and Rutgers, that’s the main ones.

NB: Are there any other ones that have not offered that are also heavily interested?
DL: Syracuse and Duke.

NB: Do you have any schools at the top of your list right now?
DL: The school I want to go to is Syracuse, Louisville, or Georgetown.

NB: What puts those three at the top?
DL: I like the Big East, the Big East [is] the best conference.

NB: What would it mean to you to play in the Big East?
DL: [That would be] my dream come true. . . . It’s just my dream.

NB: How has it helped you to see guys . . . go through the recruiting process before you, guys like [your high school teammate] Kevin Phillip?
DL: Well, we had . . . [the] number one [AAU] team in the nation last year [with] guys like Kemba [Walker and] Chris [Fouch] and all them, so we just got to live up to the [standard that they set] . . . So, we just got to play hard every night, and just keep on playing.

NB: What is it like for you playing AAU basketball compared to high school basketball?
DL: I think [AAU is] better because you play more games, and you travel, and you have more free time, and you get to hang out with your teammates. I think it’s the best.

NB: What’s your overall favorite part of AAU basketball?
DL: Just traveling, . . . just staying in hotels and hanging out with [my] friends.

NB: If someone put a Letter of Intent in front of you right now and said you had to sign now, who would you sign with?
DL: I think I would go with Louisville.

NB: Why Louisville?
DL: Because I got my friends over there, Edgar [Sosa] and Derrick Caracter. I’m cool with them, . . . and I like [Head Coach] Rick Pitino, and I like [the] staff. So, I think I would go there.

Well, it appears that Doron Lamb appears to be looking primarily at Big East schools, though Duke, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech are also involved. It will be interesting to see if the announcement, according to, that Caracter is turning pro will affect Lamb's perception of the Cardinals. I will to my best to get in contact with Doron and find out what he thinks of the sitaution. Whether it be Louisville or someone else, it certainly seems that the sophomore phenom has his sights set on the Big East. If that's the case, there will be 15 schools that will not be very happy to have to deal with Doron Lamb each season.

Note- photo is from

The Pitt Jam Fest

The Pitt Jam Fest was fantastic. The talent on display at all age groups was phenomenal, and the games were terrific. Players such as Michael Gilchrist (Team Final), Myck Kabongo (Grassroots Canada), Tristan Thompson (Grassroots Canada), Mason Plumlee (Indiana Elite), Markus Kennedy (Team New Jersey ABC), John Wall (D1-Sports), and Dominic Cheek (Playaz Gold) were in attendance. Some of the most highly regarded AAU programs in North America had teams involved in the action, including the D1 Greyhounds, Ohio Basketball Club, and Team Kobe. The number of college coaches at the event was far too many to count. There were representatives from schools such as Xavier, Villanova, Duke, Ohio St., Bowling Green, Michigan St., Syracuse, UMBC, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Stanford, Cornell, and Tennessee. Once the cream of the crop had risen to the top on Sunday, the coaches were in full display, packing the Peterson Events Center to check out some of the best teams and players in North America. Coaches such as John Thompson III, Mike Krzyzewski, "Bruiser" Flint, and Jay Wright made there way to Pittsburgh, and they were not let down, as players of all ages--freshman through post-grads--put forth their best stuff. The Hoop Group will be at it again next weekend, when it hosts the Providence Jam Fest, which will have games played at Providence College, the new home of Keno Davis. Are you ready?

Note- photo on the left is of Mason Plumlee and is from

Note- photo on the right is of Mike Gilchrist and is from

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Upcoming Interviews:

Along with the Maalik Wayns and Doron Lamb interviews which I have not had a chance to post yet, there will a number of others on the site shortly. At the Pitt Jam Fest this weekend, I spoke with freshmen Stevie Taylor and Terrell Johnson, sophomores Dontae Johnson and Wayne Newsom, and juniors Antonie Allen and Derek Elston. In addition, I caught up with University of Pittsburgh center DeJuan Blair. I will try to get these all up this week, as I will be attending the Providence Jam Fest next week, and plan to do more interviews. Thank you!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Durand Scott- It's All About Heart

Durand Scott, a 6'5 junior forward from Rice High School (NY) is one of the premiere members of the U-17 New York Gauchos team. Scott, despite injury, had an impressive performance at the Playaz Spring Fling in the games that I saw his squad play. He was a terrific complement to the team's foremost star, sophomore Doron Lamb. Durand has a quality all-around game, and will be play a major role in how the Gauchos do this spring and summer. I caught up with him after his team knocked off the Lloyd Daniels Rebels at the Playaz Spring Fling.

NB: That was a close game. Do you think you guys underestimated them, or did they just have a great game?
DS: Well, Lloyd Daniels [is] a tricky team, and they always come . . . to play us hard no matter what other game they played. Just always . . . when they [are] playing the Gauchos, they come out and play hard, so we knew it was going to a . . . little [bit of a] tough, but we just got to come out and just be smart and try to play hard. I don’t think we recognized that they all can shoot, and I think a few recognized it, but we didn’t recognize it as a team and that’s why we [were] falling short and that’s why they had such a great game against us.

NB: What does it mean to you to be a part of the New York Gauchos, such a prestigious AAU program, . . . such a highly regarded team?
DS: It feels great because I [have] been playing since I was nine, and it [doesn’t] matter how [much] worse the team could get, I’m still going to be here because this program is like a family to me, it did a lot for me, so I live and die with this program. I believe it’s the best.

NB: Again, talking about great programs, you also play for Rice [High School in New York]. What does that mean to you to [play] . . . for another prestigious program that has produced so many good players, [such as] Kemba Walker, Curtis Kelly, all those guys?
DS: Well, see with Rice, . . . with our coach [Mo Hicks], . . . he just makes the program, . . . Rice, so much better, because when we bring it over to the Gauchos, we use the same . . . statistics, and same defense, and same everything that he . . . gave us within Rice. That’s why I think we’ve been so successful, because most of our . . . players from Rice play with the Gauchos, and that’s why I think we were so successful last year, being [the] number one team.

NB: What [is the team] going to do to counteract losing guys like Chris Fouch and Kemba Walker [to graduation]?
DS: Well, losing those guys, it was hard because . . . they did a tremendous job for us, and they did a lot for us, and they [were] a big part of our team, and also not just as ballplayers, also [as] a family, but just losing them, we just had to get some other guys to step up, and that’s what we [are] trying to get now. It’s only our third game of AAU basketball [this season], we just created the team, . . . so I can’t complain, . . . I think we . . . [are] doing [well] so far.

NB: What about for [the] high school [team]?
DS: For high school, I think . . . this year, we [are] going to . . . do well this year, . . . because at Rice, it doesn’t matter what players [are] there, Mo Hicks [will] always make us play hard, so . . . every player that steps up is going to play hard, and I think we successful . . . every year, we just got to come out with the heart, and intensity, and pride, and you never, we might be [coming] up on top as number one.

NB: What are you personally going to do to step up?
DS: Personally, people say I should score to step up, but I don’t believe in [the theory that] scoring makes a . . . person step up, I think a leader does. I don’t have to score 20 points for us to win, . . . I just [have to] get my team ready for the . . . season and [have] everybody trust in me, making me a player that everybody wants to play with, that’s the type of player that I want to be. . . . I’m not shooting for camps, shooting for goals, and stuff like that, I’m just shooting . . . to be a player that everybody wants to play with.

NB: When you were in middle school and starting out your high school career, there was a lot of hype surrounding you. . . . Did any of that ever get to you? Was it ever too much to handle, or do you just . . . not think about any of that?
DS: It’s never too much to handle, I just go out there and play basketball. The news, . . . that’s for fans and the other people to read, that’s not my . . . style, I just go out there and play, and if they find [that] I’m a great player, then hey, then I just thank them for putting me in the newspapers, . . . just [for] making me so big, I just thank God for making me [able] to be where I’m at because this is a life opportunity.

NB: What colleges are you currently thinking about going to?
DS: Currently, I really wide-open, I’m not really thinking about going to a specific college, I’m not leaning anywhere, but as of now, I got . . . a lot of schools on my hands, and it’s very wide-open, and I couldn’t even tell you what I like and what I don’t like because everybody’s alike.

NB: What are some of the schools that have offered you?
DS: Offered, I got . . . UConn, Villanova, . . . Georgetown, West Virginia, Miami, Duke, Memphis, the list just goes on and on.

NB: What are you looking for in a school?
DS: Well, [what I’m] looking for in a school, I just want . . . to go somewhere [that is] . . . just like Gauchos and Rice, I want to look for somewhere where there’s a family, not just ballplayers, I want to be a family with a team because I believe [that] once there’s a family with a team, everything will come together on the courts, everybody’s going to play together, everybody’s going to play hard once we got a family. . . . If you just go to a school where you’re just one individual, and you’re just looking . . . for a one-and-done, then what’s the point of going to college, because you’re not making anybody better, and you’re . . . just being kind of selfish if you think about it, but me, I’m not really looking [at] somebody [specific], just wherever I go, I just want to do the best I can, be the best I can be.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game, and what do you think you need to work on the most as well?
DS: Well, the strongest part of my game is just playing with heart. I don’t really call that game, but that’s the main part of my game. It doesn’t matter if I’m taking a shot [or] playing defense, but every move I’m taking, every step I’m doing with heart, I’m doing with hard work, and I see my weakness probably . . . I’m going to go with what everybody says. Everybody says I need to get stronger, but I don’t believe so, I believe once you got heart and inside strength, . . . anything can happen, just all you got to do is believe in yourself, but I’m not saying I don’t need to work out, but I’m saying you do need to obviously, just work with heart, hard work, and pride, that’s it.

NB: What happened in the earlier game [today] with your hand injury?
DS: Well, [in] the first game, I ran into somebody and jammed my hand, and it’s kind of [swollen] up, but it’s hard for me to use my left hand right now, that’s why . . . basically I’m mainly going right, it’s kind of hard for me to even shoot because I can’t even keep the ball straight in my hands, but . . . I got to [tough it] out for my team because at this point, my team needs me and I don’t want to let them down, so I’m going to continue for the rest of this . . . tournament. After this tournament I hope to get better.

NB: Do you have a diagnosis, . . . or it just hurts?
DS: It just hurts as of now. I haven’t checked it out, so I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but as of now it’s just . . . in pain.

NB: Are you a lefty?
DS: No, . . . I’m actually right-handed.

NB: Do you guys have a goal for this tournament?
DS: A goal for this tournament is obviously to win, not even to win, just to win our last game. . . . I don’t want to go out [of] this tournament losing. . . . Even if we lose, we might have another game, but want to . . . [be] leaving this tournament winning, . . . so we [can] go forth to our next tournament, which is on the circuit and so we can do well. . . . This tournament [is] . . . kind of like preparation for the circuit. You know you got to take every game seriously, but this is just preparation to get our team together and make. . . us more of one unit and not five, so . . . that’s what we [are] trying to get with this tournament, that’s pretty much our goal.

Scott certainly has the heart to succeed. The talent . . . well, that's there too. Although Durand may not choose to take a leadership role through scoring, he certainly can. The Rice star is without a doubt one of the best New Yorkers in the class of 2009. Definitely watch out for Scott next year. Remember, even if he's not filling up the stats sheet, he is giving it his all one the court, and that's what a leader does.

Note- photo is from

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poll Results:

Apparently you can not only tell the future, but have a basketball mind similar to that of Tyreke Evans'. You, the readers of Northstar Basketball, selected Memphis as the American Christian Academy (PA) star's college destination, giving it 38 of the 53 votes, for a whopping 70%. Villanova picked up 13 selections, Seton Hall got two, Texas received one, and UConn was left with none. Meanwhile, in the poll on what school would be best for Tyreke, you also selected Memphis, as the school picked up 26 of the 46 selections, good for 56%. Villanova was somewhat close in second place with the Wildcats getting picked 17 times. UConn, which was shut out in the other poll, picked up a pair of votes in this one, while Seton Hall grabbed one choice, and Texas none. You went two-for-two, even picking Evans' second choice school correctly. Congratulations to all of you who correctly chose Tyreke Evans' future school.

Mike Rosario- The New Face of Rutgers Basketball

Mike Rosario, a 6'3 senior guard from St. Anthony's (NJ), will take his game to Rutgers next year. As soon as the McDonald's All-American steps foot on the RU campus, he will be a celebrity. That's part of the territory when you go to a school as one of its most highly touted recruits ever. Rosario is well equipped to handle the pressure, having played his high school ball in the Garden State, and competing for state and national titles with Bob Hurley's powerhouse program. In fact, the Friars were seemingly the unanimous choice as national champion and number one overall ranked team this past season, finishing the year with an unblemished record. I spoke with the superstar at the Playaz Spring Fling, which was not only run by his former AAU program, but took place at the RAC, Rosario's future stage to showcase his skills.

NB: What was it like for you to get selected to [play in] the McDonald’s All-American Game?
MR: It was great because it was like a dream come true. . . . It was something that I wanted to accomplish. . . . [When I was young and I was] looking at that on TV, . . . [I] was just trying to picture myself there, but I couldn’t because there [were] so many other great players in the country, so I thought I didn’t have [any] shot at making it, but once . . . I found out, it was great, it was . . . like a dream come true, and it just was great.

NB: What was it like to get the win and to play so well?
MR: It was great because . . . I knew I was going to come out and play well because my family was there, and it just was like the adrenaline was pumping through my body. When I knew I was selected, I wanted to go there and play against the best, and I had chance to do that, so I knew that I was going to have a great game, but what it felt like after that, it felt good because now all the people in the nation saw how good I am and how [well] I [can] play . . . with the rest that’s up there, so that was the experience.

NB: What went into your decision to commit to Rutgers and sign there?
MR: What made me come to Rutgers was just because I’m a loyal person to New Jersey and just because my mom [is] here, . . . and I want her to come see me play, [as well as] . . . the people that have been in my corner in New Jersey forever, . . . and they [are] going to have the opportunity to come see me too, so that why I really chose Rutgers.

NB: Why Rutgers over Seton Hall or some other schools in [New] Jersey?
MR: I just felt more comfortable at Rutgers. I felt like Rutgers was the school for me, that’s why I chose this school over Seton Hall.

NB: What’s it like being here now seeing all this AAU action going on in your . . . future school?
MR: It’s great to see all this talent in here right now, to see my young boys from the Playaz, especially Dominic Cheek, Lance Brown, and all those guys, [Tamir] “Pop” Jackson, just [to] see all those guys play [and] know that I can just come and watch them now and support them, because I can’t play no more, I’m about to get ready for college.

NB: With the season that St. Anthony’s had this year, what was your favorite part?
MR: My favorite part about the season was just to win the TOC [Tournament of Champions] this year and just be a part of St. Anthony’s history. That was basically it, and just, we just accomplished out goal our last year there, so that was a great experience.

NB: For the team, what do you think was the main role that you played on the squad this year?
MR: [My] main role was just [to] come out with a lot of energy every game, get my teammates going and just do whatever I could do to get my team to win. That was about it, that was my role really, just to come off . . . the game from the beginning with a lot of energy, get my teammates pumped up and just get them going.

NB: Coming into the season, did [the team] think there was a chance that you’d be going undefeated and being number one in the country?
MR: Yeah, yeah, we actually knew that, we actually knew that it could be a possibility of just happening . . . along as we kept or focus and kept our composure and [had] everybody on the same page, that was just basically the only thing we had to worry about, and that’s what we did. We had all our seniors step up and be leaders, and then . . . the juniors . . . on the team [had] to come out and be the same.

NB: How do you think the team is going to replace all you guys that are graduating?
MR: They [are] not going to have the same exact talent as us because we had so much talent on our team, but they still [are] going to replace us just by playing defense, . . . and just working hard everyday in practice, but as [for] talent-wise and athletic-wise and everything like that, I don’t know.

NB: What was the best moment of your high school career?
MR: The best moment of my high school was, actually, playing here in the RAC, playing here in the RAC and having the opportunity to score 30 [points] and get MVP, and just help my team win that game that I had here and just experience those games that I had here in the RAC as well, that was good too.

NB: Was that at the Prime Time Shootout? Is that what you were talking about?
MR: Yeah, the Prime Time Shootout.

NB: This year?
MR: Yeah.

NB: What do you think [is] the main way you can contribute to Rutgers next season?
MR: [The] main thing I can contribute to Rutgers is hard work, dedication, just [giving] my best at every time in the game, and just bring excitement to the team, and . . . try to get everybody going everyday.

NB: Do you have any goals for your college career?
MR: Just try to break a lot of records . . . and try to beat the scoring record . . . and try to take them to the NCAA . . . Tournament, try to take them to the NIT, whatever one.

NB: Do you feel there’s any extra pressure on you [considering that you are] coming from New Jersey and being the [caliber of a] player that you are and attending Rutgers?
MR: Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on me because I’m selected as a McDonald’s All-American and now there’s a lot on my shoulders, and now I have a lot of people talking about me coming here and being . . . part of this in here [at the RAC], so it’s going to be a lot, it’s going to be a lot on my shoulders next year. I’m just going to have to ride out with it and show people that I can do it.

NB: What do you think [is] the biggest thing the team has the capability of accomplishing in your four years there?
MR: Of course we [are] going to get better, because I’m going to make them better, and plus, we [are] going to have a lot of kids that [are] coming to Rutgers that’s going to make it better, so basically we [are] going to improve by just getting better as a team, and we [are] going to start winning game a lot, so that’s the main thing that’s going to happen.

NB: Did you have any impact on [Greg] Echenique committing to Rutgers, or were you not even talking to him about that?
MR: Oh yeah, I was . . . talking to him . . . like two days a week . . . to try to get him to come [to Rutgers] with me, and he finally made the decision, so I got me a big guy coming with me, so it’s great.

NB: Who do you see as the next great player coming out from New Jersey?
MR: Dominic Cheek. [He is] 6’6, [he can] do everything, he’s going to be a McDonald’s All-American, he’s top 10 in the country, he’s . . . a big shooting guard, and he’s long [and] athletic, so that’s who I see as the best player in New Jersey coming out next year.

NB: Finally, what current player in the NBA or college do you think your game is very similar to?
MR: Ray Allen, Ray Allen. That’s one person that I compare my game to a lot, and just because I just got to get my release faster and that one-dribble-pull-up, and that’s about it.

Mike Rosario will enter Rutgers with the whole program leaning on his back, hoping he is the savior the school has been trying to find for quite some time now. Although he may have some growing pains, Rosario should have a big impact on the Scarlet Knights his freshman season. Fred Hill and his staff did a great job of getting Rosario to stay in-state, and now it's up to him to fulfil his potential. If he does, the Big East had better watch out, because come 2009-2010, Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique, and Austin Johnson--three in-sate players--will be a lot to handle. This is going to be Rosario's world in Piscataway the next four years, and everybody else will just be living in. After, he is the face of Rutgers basketball . . . and the hope for a bright future.

Note- photo is of Mike Rosario at the RAC with his MVP trophy from the 2008 Prime Time Shootout, and is from

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tyreke Evans- Keeping Memphis At the Top

Well, it's official, Tyreke Evans is going to be a Memphis Tiger next year. At Evans' press conference today, he picked Memphis, according to, a site that also lists Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts as undecided as to whether or not he will enter the NBA Draft. Assuming CDR sticks around for one last hurrah, Tyreke Evans will have the opportunity to be Coach John Calipari's new Derrick Rose. Both players are listed as point guards, and have the ability to score, shoot, and make plays. Tyreke is similar player to Rose, Memphis' one-and-done stud this past season. Evans, a 6'6 senior from American Christian Academy (PA), also can play off the ball, as he is more of a combo guard. The Tigers also will bring in Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins, as well as possibly Wesley Witherspoon and Devin Ebanks. Regardless of whether or not those two end up playing for Coach Cal, and even if CDR leaves school for the pros, Memphis will again be a national powerhouse. With Tyreke Evans running the point, or even if he ends up playing the two, the squad is poised to trash the rest of the C-USA on the way to a one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament, with an Elite Eight appearance--and possibly a trip to the Final Four--a strong possibility. This may seem too far in advance to be projecting how the team will fair in 2008-2009, but consider this: Memphis is losing Derrick Rose, Aundre Allen, Joey Dorsey, and possibly Chris Douglas-Roberts, yet will return Robert Dozier, Shawn Taggert, Doneal Mack, Pierre Niles, Willie Kemp, and Jeff Robinson, with the aforementioned soon-to-be freshman entering the mold. That means Memphis will be anywhere from nine to twelve deep. John Calipari is a quality coach who will keep his players focused and ready to take on the big dogs once again. If Douglas-Roberts does stay, the Tigers may well be the pre-season favorites to take home the title. Either way, Tyreke Evans will do extremely well filling Derrick Rose's shoes, and the squad should barely miss a beat on offense. The rest of the NCAA had better beware of the Tigers . . . again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poll Results:

The results of last week's polls were quite interesting. The winners in the voting for the biggest McDonald's All-American Game snub were West Virginia-bound Kevin Jones and future Ohio St. Buckeye Terrelle Pryor, both finishing with eight of the 32 votes. Behind those two were soon-to-be Memphis Tiger Angel Garcia and Florida-signee Eloy Vargas, each of whom had five votes. Behind those two was the option of "Other," which received three selections. Ty Walker (Wake Forest), J'Mison Morgan (LSU), and Kenny Kadji (Florida) all got one vote apiece. DeAndre Liggins, who will play for the Kentucky Wildcats next year, was shut out in the voting. Pryor and Jones were intriguing selections, as it shows that people believe in the hype about the two. Jones was one of the best unsigned players heading into the early signing period, and his selection of Bob Higgins' squad made a lot of noise. Also, playing in New York can't really hurt a player when it comes to getting publicity. Terrelle Pryor was widely regarded as the best football player in America, and was the consensus number one quarterback. In addition to that, Pryor's hoops game is absolutely phenomenal, and he actually committed to Pitt a few years, before his football stock blew up. He was also a hot commodity at the signing period, though it was football's signing period for this superstar. The road leading up to Pryor's selection of Ohio St. was heavily publicized and the quarterback/forward got a tremendous amount of national attention from both the basketball and football worlds. Again, the voting for the biggest McDonald's Game snub ended with Kevin Jones and Terrelle Pryor finishing in a tie.
The other poll was specifically about Terrelle Pryor, asking what sports you felt he should play in college. Only two of you felt that he should just play hoops at OSU, while nine said Pryor should stick to football, while 11 people selected the option of Pryor being a dual-sport athlete, playing both basketball and football for the Buckeyes. It appears that Terrelle will give up basketball to focus on the gridiron, so although 13 of the 22 votes were for him playing either both sports or just b-ball, Pryor will likely just toss around the pigskin. It's unfortunate that we probably won't see this star don a basketball uniform in college, but all you NCAA football fans should get ready for the next great Big 10 quarterback.

Note- photo of Terrelle Pryor playing football is from
Note- photo of Terrelle Pryor playing basketball is from

Dominic Cheek- Best in New Jersey?

St. Anthony's (NJ) always seems to be reeling out top-notch talent, and this year was no different, as you need two hands to count the so-to-be DI players from this year's class of Friars. Next year's superstar may well be better than all of them, though. Dominic Cheek, a 6'6 junior guard, is one of the most sought after juniors in America. Although he may be a bit too slim for college ball right now--adding 15 or 20 pounds would be a big help for him at the next level--there is no denying that Dom Cheek is one of the best players in the class of 2009, and he still has over a year to put on the necessary weight. I spoke with Cheek at the Playaz Spring Fling.

NB: What AAU team are you playing for?
DC: The Playaz Basketball Club.

NB: Are you playing today, or are you just here watching?
DC: We [are] supposed to play at four o’clock, but the [other] team’s not going to show up, so we [are] going to play at eight o’clock [in a] playoff [game].

NB: With the season [the team] had this year at St. Anthony’s, what was the best part about it? Was it going undefeated, was it winning the Tournament of Champions, beating St. Patrick’s, what was the best part?
DC: The best part about it was winning every game and winning a national championship.

NB: What did it mean [to the team] . . . to be the national champion?
DC: Well, it means a lot because we had a lot of seniors on the team, [and] we didn’t want them to go out with a loss, we wanted them to go out with a ‘chip under their belt.

NB: How [is the team] . . . going to replace all those guys [that are] graduating, like Alberto [Eastwick], and Traven [Woodall], and Michael [Rosario]?
DC: Well no, we had a couple of juniors [and] sophomores on the team, and we got . . . two new players from New York coming in, so we [are] good.

NB: What players?
DC: We have Devon [Collier] from New York, and this dude named Ashton Pankey coming in, and Jamee Jackson [who was on the team this year].

NB: With your recruitment, . . . what colleges are you currently considering that are at the top of your list?
DC: I don’t really have [a] top school now, but I have a lot of colleges coming after me right now.

NB: What are some of the schools?
DC: Villanova, Texas, Wake Forest, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Florida, Marquette, Kansas, it’s just . . . a lot of colleges.

NB: What are you looking for in a school?
DC: Great academics and a great coach that can get me to the next level.

NB: Is there a school that growing up you’ve always wanted to play for, that you always dreamed of playing for?
DC: Oh yeah, it was North Carolina, [that was] my school really, [while] growing up.

NB: Have they been looking at you?
DC: Oh yeah, yeah, they offered me a scholarship.

NB: Who do you actually currently hold an offer from?
DC: Every school that I just named.

NB: For next year, what do you think you need to do to help St. Anthony’s, other than obviously play your game? What do you need to do [along the lines of] . . . picking up a leadership role and things of that nature?
DC: Yeah, yeah, I have to be a leader, get everybody to work hard, and work hard in practice and everything.

NB: How has it helped you to see so many guys on your team go through the recruiting process before you? With all the seniors [on the team] this year, what has it done for you to be able to understand the process better?
DC: Oh, it helped me a lot because I learned from them and they [were] helping me out with the recruitment and everything.

NB: What has it been like for you to see [your high school teammate] Tyshawn Taylor going through what he’s going through right now [with the coaching change] at Marquette? . . . Are you going to wait for a while to make your decision [because something like that could happen]? . . . How is that impacting you?
DC: Oh yeah, that helped me out a lot because you got to get to know your coach and everything and I don’t think it [works as well] to commit at . . . [an] early age because you see what happened to Tyshawn, . . . so I’m just going to wait it out now.

NB: What do you have more fun playing, AAU or high school [basketball]?
DC: That’s a tough one right there. I don’t know about that one right there.

NB: If you had to pick a school to sign with right now, who would it be?
DC: I don’t even know, . . . I don’t know about that one right now.

Cheek might be the best player in the Garden State, though he will have to earn that title over the summer and during his senior year, as St. Patrick's (NJ) 6'3 guard Dexter Strickland, a North Carolina-commit, is hot on his trail. Cheek, though, is without a doubt one of the best players in the US, regardless of whether or not he is tops in New Jersey or how many pounds he needs to put on. Next season, Dominic will have the opportunity to cement his spot near the top of the class rankings and keep hold of his label as the premiere player in the state. The St. Anthony's star may well have been the best guard regardless of class in Jersey this year, though his teammate, McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario might have something to say about that. In 2008-2009, Dominic will have the opportunity to be the unquestioned star of the Friars' team, and it will be interesting to see how he handles that role. Put Cheek wherever you want to in the rankings, because no matter where he is, he is one heck of a basketball player.

Note- photo is fomr

Monday, April 14, 2008

Karl Towns, Sr.- Former Star and Father of a Star

Karl Towns, Sr. is an integral part of Team New Jersey ABC. Towns not only helps coach within the program, but is one of the club's founders. As well, his son, Karl Towns, Jr. is a member of Team NJ-ABC, and he is one of America's top rising middle schoolers. Senior is a former college basketball player with a great knowledge of the game. I spoke with Mr. Towns at the Playaz Spring Fling about his basketball career and that of his son.

NB: What do you think is the biggest way you can help your son [Karl Towns, Jr.] on the road for him to attend college and then . . . possibly after that?
KT: Well, my biggest thing is I got to keep him focused on the sport. He’s in love with baseball, but he’s just as good in baseball, maybe better, but I got to keep him focused on the fact that . . . everyday you got to learn something more. You never are at a point where you just can be content, so that’s what I keep him focused on, that’s why I have coach Lamont Halsey and [coach] Matt Pauls behind him, because that’s why I let them coach because everyday he needs to stay focused on the fact that there’s other people out there about to get him. You got to learn everyday, when you [are] at . . . the top of . . . the map, people want to take you down, so everyday, we got to teach him more and more.

NB: What similarities and differences do you see between your game when you were at his age and in high school, and the way he plays right now?
KT: He’s way better than I was when I was his age. I wasn’t as good a shooter, because he can hit the three. His handle’s better, I was just a great rebounder at Monmouth [University], I led the nation, I was third in the nation . . . my senior year at Monmouth. He just has more aspects [of his game], . . . playing in all these tournaments, practicing with Dexter Strickland and Kasim Drummond, and DeSean Butler, seeing all these great people and having [the opportunity] to play against them just helped elevate his game. I didn’t have all those luxuries, playing against great players, I had to play with kids in the park, but he’s only played with the best players, so he’s only had the best teaching, so that’s why his game is so much above [what] mine [was at his age].

NB: Do you ever notice him struggling . . . to keep up with all the attention that’s being put on him at such a young age?
KT: I think that some of the attention bothers him a lot. I think that the pressure for him [may be something he struggles with], he just turned 12, and I think that he sees that he has to always play at a high level. I think sometimes it affects him, but like we told him, ‘you’re kid, be a kid, don’t let it get to you, you have many more years of basketball to go, just . . . have fun.’ . . . I think that they [have] grounded him, . . . when you’re the number one player in the country [at the] 12 and under [level], it’s hard, and I think he takes that to heart sometimes, that he has to always win, and we’re not going to always win, we’re not, it’s just not going to happen.

NB: Are you worried about him turning out like some of the other young . . . stars?
KT: I always worry about the fact that he may, but . . . he’s a good student, straight A student, and he’s in Catholic school, and everybody around him keeps him grounded, doing the little things, we don’t let him get caught up in nothing, and I keep trying to tell you, coach Lamont and coach Matt make sure that he enjoys the good things in life. . . . They know his talent, I know his talent, we all know his talent, but we want him to have fun.

NB: Where do you see him attending high school?
KT: [Laughs] Everybody’s giving [interest], he has St. [Patrick’s], he loves [head coach] Kevin [Boyle]. . . . [He] loves St. Anthony’s, Pennington is a nice school, I really haven’t thought that far [ahead], Lawrenceville wants him. It’s a lot of prep schools that are out there [that are showing interest], [and] Matt [Pauls] has pushed him everywhere, so it’s like he can go a lot of places, but we don’t never get caught up in that because right now he’s only in sixth grade, I just want him to worry about passing and going to seventh grade.

NB: Going back to your high school days, . . . take us down the road of how you ended up at Monmouth.
KT: I had a great senior year at Piscataway, [which is] where I’m from. I went to Mercer County [Community College], we had a good team, and the following year I ended up at Monmouth from a scholarship from Ron Kornegay, and I had a good career, graduated, got my degree, I wasn’t the great player, but I was a great rebounder, so I got offers to go overseas and unfortunately, I got hurt in the park, and that was that.
NB: Where you planning on accepting any of those offers to play overseas, or were just going to try to go another direction?
KT: I was going to and try [playing] overseas [for] maybe two years, just to get some experience with the pros so I could always have that, but I don’t regret it, and I’m not living through my son, I’m just happy that my son is getting more opportunities than I was, and that’s more important to me, seeing that he prospers as a player.

NB: What was the best thing for you about your time playing basketball?
KT: College life. I loved the fact that the competition and the levels [were so high], [and] that I got a chance to be [on] one of the first teams to play Division I at Monmouth, it was our first year, I got a chance to play against Ed Pinckney, Dominique Wilkins, you name it. I played against . . . Rutgers here [at the RAC] against [John] Battle, I played against all the top players in the country. We didn’t win [any] games, but it was a good experience.

NB: Being at such a high level and playing in DI and getting out to all those people, what did it mean to you on a more personal level?
KT: Well, it just good to see people that eventually ended up on TV. . . . Patrick Ewing I played against, Michael Graham, it was just a good experience for me, it was just [an] all around [good experience]. . . . To see that I was able to play against people who I [can] talk to today, talk to them, and they remember when the played against me, and that’s a good thing. Just to see people, I can say . . . I played against so and so, when [I] see them, they say ‘hi,’ Darryl Dawkins, who practiced with me, and Bernard King, so many players that played at Monmouth when I was there, because the Knicks practiced at Monmouth University when I was down there.

NB: Do you keep in touch with a lot of those guys still today?
KT: I keep in touch all the time with Darryl Dawkins [also known as] “Chocolate Thunder.” I see people, but I don’t keep in touch with them because [although] it was a good time, I’m small-time, they’re big-time, so it’s a lot different for me.

NB: If you had to pick the best moment . . . from your basketball career, what would it be?
KT: [It would be] getting a scholarship to college, and not having to have my parents have to pay for me to go, and being the first person in my family to go to school for four years for free.

Towns, Sr. had a highly successful basketball career, and he is hoping that his son has even more opportunities than he did. This may certainly be the case if Mr. Towns keeps Junior focused on the game, and keeps him working hard. Senior is a quality coach and was a wonderful basketball player. It's no wonder his son might just be the same way.

Note- photo is from

Karl Towns, Jr.- He's a Star, and He's Only 12

Karl Towns, Jr. is regarded as one of the best sixth grade ballers in America. Scouting services and college coaches are starting to look at players much younger nowadays, with kids committing to schools before they even reach high school, so it's not as if Towns, Jr. has no competition. Karl's father, Karl Towns, Sr., was a high-caliber basketball player back in his day, playing college ball at Monmouth as one of the nation's best rebounders. Thus, Junior clearly has some basketball in his blood. I spoke to the 5'11 12-year old at the Playaz Spring Fling.

NB: Being in middle school and getting all the national attention that you’ve been getting, is that ever too much for you to handle at such a young age?
KT: A little bit, . . . sometimes I get stressed out, sometimes I just want to pop, sometimes I get pressured a lot by my coaches, but I know [that] they [are] just trying to help me out.

NB: What do you feel is the strongest point of your game?
KT: Probably just . . . my offensive [game]. I’m trying to work on defense, because you always got to try to defend your man as well as you can.

NB: Being so tall at such a young age, how do you think that’s affected you as a basketball player, both positively and negatively?
KT: Well, . . . it hasn’t bothered me as [for] playing basketball, because when my dad [saw] me . . . as a tall kid, . . . after working on big men [skills], I just worked a lot on guard skills, so . . . it was a positive actually.

NB: With you still being in middle school, have you begun thinking about which high school you want to attend, or are you planning [ going to high school] . . . in the public school system? What are you thinking about that?
KT: The high schools I really like are St. Anthony’s [in New Jersey] and . . . St. Patrick’s [in New Jersey]. My good friend [is] Dexter Strickland, so I’m probably going to follow in his footsteps [at St. Patrick’s].

NB: What makes those schools stand out to you, other than Dexter [being at St. Patrick’s]? Is [there] something specific [such as] the coaching, anything that makes St. Anthony’s and St. Pat’s stand out over other schools in the state like St. Benedict’s and Paterson Catholic?
KT: Well, I think St. Pat’s is probably . . . my favorite to go to, because their coaching [is] just really, very good. Kevin Boyle, he’s my [AAU] coach actually, he does a great job with every kid, and he makes every kid feel like he’s getting individual instruction.

NB: What camps do you attend to get your name out publicly?
KT: I attend Hoop Group camps, [and] I attend the adidias . . . Phenom Camp. . . . Really just that’s it.

NB: With your [U-12] AAU team disbanding, where are you playing now?
KT: Well, I play for Team New Jersey ABC still.

NB: You’re playing at an older age group now?
KT: Yeah, I’m playing on [the] 14’s.

NB: What’s it like playing with the older kids?
KT: You got to work harder, the pace is . . . faster, and there’s no breaks out there.

NB: Is there a college [that] growing up you’ve always been rooting for, someplace that has been your dream school?
KT: Well, . . . the college I’ve been really rooting for was Rutgers and Michigan State, and they’ve been really good.

NB: So those are your favorite schools?
KT: Mostly, yeah.

NB: How has it helped you, with your father having played college basketball and being so big in [the] New Jersey hoops scene with Team New Jersey [ABC], . . . for you to understand the processes that are going to be involved for you down the road?
KT: Well, my father, since he’s been playing basketball his whole life, he [is] just a big help for me, he teaches me everything I need to know to get to college and nowadays, . . . college scholarships are just [worth] so much money, you want to make it to college at least.

NB: Is there a player at the college ranks or the NBA games who you try to emulate your game after, who you feel is a good role model for you basketball-wise?
KT: Well, my favorite player in college was--he just got drafted--. . . Kevin Durant. I like how he had an outside game, the inside game.

NB: What position do you currently play?
KT: Well, currently, right now, I play like a small forward.

NB: What do you want to end up playing, or are you comfortable with [wherever] the coaches want to play you?
KT: I really want to play . . . power forward or center. I just want to be able to, . . . if I can, do like Kevin Durant did, and show my outside game at some points.

The class of 2014 stud is primed for success in his basketball career, and he certainly has a lot of time left in it, as he is a mere 12 years of age. Karl Towns, Jr. is a name that will be on the basketball map for years to come. If you want to get a look at Junior in action, check out Team New Jersey ABC's U-14 team in action. The squad is scheduled to be in the Providence Jam Fest from April 25-27, the NJAAU state tournament from May 2-4 and 9-11, Basketball Spotlight Memorial Day Classic on May 23-25, as well as the Sports Academy Fathers Day Festival on June 14. Remember the name Karl Towns, Jr., the kid's for real and he's here to stay.

Note-photo and tournament information are from

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tyreke Evans- Where Will He Go?

Three days from now, the basketball world will know where American Christian Academy (PA) superstar Tyreke Evans will take his game. The finalists to land the phenomenal guard are Memphis, Seton Hall, Texas, UConn, and Villanova. Sources have told me that Evans will not end up playing ball for Jim Calhoun in Storrs. Seton Hall seems iffy, as when I spoke to Tyreke just a few weeks ago, he did not even mention the Pirates as one of his finalists. Thus, it appears to me, that signs are pointing towards Evans' decision coming down to the Memphis Tigers, Texas Longhorns, and Villanova Wildcats. That's three school from three different conferences in three different parts of the country. So, Tyreke Evans will likely either play ball in the southeast for John Calipari in the C-USA, for Rick Barnes in the southwest in the Big 12, or in the Big East for Jay Wright in the northeast. Villanova's main advantage--and it's a big one--is that they are in Evans' home state. Meanwhile, Memphis' major selling point for the playmaker is likely the opportunity to step in for Derrick Rose and play a similar role. Texas is seemingly the wild card, though Evans could do some of the things that DJ Augustin did for Barnes' team. Something that makes this story even more intriguing is that, according to, both Augustin and Rose have yet to declare for the NBA Draft. Could this bump up Villanova? The Wildcats, though, have a young point guard in sophomore-to-be Corey Fisher from St. Patrick's (NJ). Thus, it appears that all three schools are at about a level playing field. My hunch is that Tyreke Evans will go to Memphis, with Villanova finishing a close second behind the Tigers. There are numerous reasons for Evans to head to the southeast, and I just think that Evans won't be able to pass up the opportunity to play there. The team's run to the NCAA Tournament Championship Game certainly can't hurt. So, there you have my opinion. What is yours? I'll be posting a poll to get your perspective on America's best unsigned high school baller. Feel free to comment on this article to express the reasoning for your choice.

Note- photo of Tyreke Evans is from

Update on . . . TJ Clemmings

A few days ago I caught up with TJ Clemmings of Paterson Catholic (NJ) and the U-16 Playaz Red squad. Clemmings' status as a Paterson Catholic ballplayer is up in the air, but not because of anything he did. Adam Zagoria of recently reported that TJ's school was going through financial problems and was facing the possibility of having to shut down. I asked TJ about this, and he said "I really don't know much about it. We're waiting . . . to [be told] if we will be open next year." I inquired of Clemmings about what the Paterson Catholic squad would do, should the school close: "If the school closes, we were going to try to stay together as a team and go to another school, maybe not one of those big schools like St. Anthony's, St. Patrick's, or St. Benedict's." He told me that the players do not have a specific school in mind. Hopefully Paterson Catholic does continue to stay open. If it does, the Cougars' basketball team will be extremely competitive on a national level next year, with TJ Clemmings, Jermaine Peart, Jayon James, Fuquan Edwin, and Shaquille Thomas entering their junior year, along with soon-to-be sophomore Myles Mack, incoming freshman Kyle Anderson, and next year's lone senior Lance Brown. "In the states [tournament], we're definitely going to go farther than we did this year, . . . we're going to be older and more mature," said Clemmings of the Cougars' chances next season. I questioned TJ about how the team will compete with New Jersey's "Big Three" schools: "I think we'll be able to win those games, . . . [we] weren't really blown out [by them this year, we] . . . lost to St. Benedict's by five and St. Anthony's by 13," adding, "next year we'll know how to play against those guys." Regarding TJ's recruitment, he informed me that Seton Hall and Rutgers are both showing interest, saying "they both did" extend a scholarship offer. Along with these two New Jersey schools, Clemmings said "I think there's some [more] schools . . . [that] my coach mentioned," specifically saying "Texas" was one of them. Although TJ said he did "not really" have a dream school, he has "always been a big fan of Duke," also saying "when [he] was younger, that was where [he] wanted to play." I asked the big man if the Blue Devils would shoot to the top of his list if they were to eventually offer him a scholarship, to which he said "I don't think that's where I will go." In addition, TJ mentioned that "the more schools looking at [him]," adding, "I know I'm going to get better." For those of you who want to check out TJ's Playaz squad, he told me that the team will be involved in the "iS8 . . . in New York, . . . should be going to Pittsburgh in a week or two, . . . [and] . . . Las Vegas." Clemmings' team is absolutely loaded, with at least six DI players, and maybe some more. In fact the group is so good that, according to, the team won the U-17 age group at the Playaz Spring Fling, despite playing up a year. "It means a lot, it shows that we can actually compete with older teams . . . and win championships in older tournaments," said TJ of the championship win. In addition, he said "it also shows we're growing as a team and getting used to each [other]." I asked the super sophomore how the AAU team is able to be unselfish and share the ball with so much talent on the floor, and he told me that the group are "very good friends, [and there is] . . . nothing to fight about. . . . [They all] listen to the coach, [and] . . . know who can score, . . . know where [they all] stand and it's not really a big issue, fighting about the ball." It certainly seems that TJ and his teammates are primed for a tremendous spring and summer. The Playaz Red team will definitely wreak havoc throughout the AAU circuit.

Big Upcoming Weekend-

This weekend, the AAU season officially kicked off with the Boo Williams event in Virginia. Next weekend, though, may be just as huge, if not bigger. April 18-20 will be a feast of talent with players from all over the nation. The Hoop Group's Pitt Jam Fest will be taking place, with some games being played at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, the Jordan Brand Classic will take place at Madison Square Garden. The Jordan game will feature 22 of America's best (uncommitted), and Tony Woods (Wake Forest). Ballers, including 17 members of the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game. The five guys who did not have the opportunity to showcase their abilities in Milwaukee but will be able to do so in New York are Devin Ebanks (uncommitted), Drew Gordon (UCLA), Delvon Roe (Michigan St.), Wesley Witherspoon. Ebanks and Roe are two of the premiere players in the nation, yet were ineligible for the McD's game. As well, the Jordan Classic has a Regional game with some of the best hoopsters in New York and New Jersey, two states full of talent. This game will include West Virginia-bound Darryl "Truck" Bryant, Drexel-commit Chris Fouch, Vanderbilt-signee Lance Goulbourne, future George Mason Patriot Ryan Pearson, and Florida-bound Erving Walker on the City Team. Meanwhile, the Suburban Team is absolutely loaded, with a roster that features future West Virginia Mountaineer Kevin Jones, Syracue-commit Mookie Jones, Marcus and Markieff Morris as well as Quintrell Thomas, three players who will be headed to the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, Seton Hall-signee Jordan Theodore, Stanford-committ Jarrett Mann, and soon-to-be Pitt Panther Travon Woodall. This game is absolutely stacked with talent, and may well be just as exciting as the All-American game.
(NJ), NY Gauchos, Boo Williams (VA), Team The Pitt Jam Fest has numerous top-notch AAU teams making the trip to Pennsylvania for the major event. Included in the U-17 field will be DC Assault, Playaz (NJ), Team Final (PA), DC Blue Devils, Metro Hawks (NY), and numerous others. The U-16 level teams will include Playaz, Team NJ-ABC, Grassroots Canada and so many more. Squads playing at the U-15 level will be Team NJ-ABC, DC Assault, RBK All Stars (PA), and a bunch more. The talent on display at all three age levels will be absolutely phenomenal. Players such as Wally Judge (Kansas St.), Tamir Jackson (UAB), Doron Lamb (uncommitted), and Tristan Thompson (Texas) will showcase their abilities. The tournament should be awesome!
People, get ready for a great weekend of basketball.

Note- photo on the top right is of Delvon Roe and is from
Note- photo on the left is of Quintrell Thomas and is from
Note- photo on the bottom right is of Tristan Thompson and is from

Note- Information is from, and