Friday, May 30, 2008

Beware of TCA in 2008-09

If you will recall, back in late January, I posted interviews with four members of the Trenton Catholic (NJ) basketball team, and also wrote an article on the squad. Well, I'm writing another becasue I think the Iron Mikes will be one of the surprise teams in the hoops hotbed of New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania. Led by Head Coach Fred Falchi, TCA finished ranked #23 in the Garden State on with a 23-7 record. The squad will not be losing any players to graduation, and its returning members will have another year of maturity under their belt. The Iron Mikes' class of 2009 includes 6'3 forward Daquan Basnight, a guy who plays well above his height and 6'5 power forward Lafayette Smith, a bruising big man. Along with these is 5'7 guard Reggie Coleman, a solid outside shooter, and two others. The team's class of 2010 is phenomenal: 5'9 guard Dondre Whitmore, 6'5 forward Markese Tucker, and 6'4 gaurd Frantz Massenat. Whitmore is a great floor leader with a nice shot from beyond the arc. If Dondre had three more inches on him, he may well be considered one of the best point guards in the class of 2010. Tucker is another kid who, if he had another few inches--two in his case--would be regarded as one of the premiere players in his class amongst forwards. Right now, Tucker can play the 3 or the 4, and although he is built like a power forward, his height and shot make him more suited for the 3. Markese is the definition of a 'tweener, yet the talent is definitely there for the star forward. As for Massenat, he has a stellar all-around game; Frantz can shoot lights-out, run the point, and has solid hops. Frantz is the type of unbreakable baller that every team needs. TCA's class of 2011 isn't too loaded, but one of its members is a star in the making: Khalid Lewis El. The 6'2 guard can shoot, get to the rack, play D, and he is vocal on the court. "Leader," as he is called by his AAU teammates on Team New Jersey ABC, is one of the best class of 2011 players in the tri-state area. Trenton Catholic has the pieces in place to finish in the top 10 in the state, and a top 15 finish is a near lock. The Iron Mikes will dominate the rest of Mercer County and will breeze through their conference schedule, much as they did in 2007-08, when they finished 9-1 in the Burlco League. The only thing the team truly lacks in a dominant big man who stands 6'7+, but Smith, Tucker, and Basnight should be able to make up for that. The team will be experienced, talented, and ready to play, so the rest of New Jersey had better watch out for the Trenton Catholic Iron Mikes.

Note- information on the team's 2007-08 season is from

Billmeier & Nardi Skills Camp 2008

Grant Billmeier and Mike Nardi were two fine Big East basketball players in the 21st century. Nardi was a part of the Villanova team that made a fantastic run to the Elite Eight of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Billmeier was a two-year captain at Seton Hall. The two attended St. Patrick's (NJ) at the same time and played under one of America's best high school basketball coaches, Kevin Boyle. This summer, Nardi and Billmeier will be coming together after a year of professional ball overseas to run a basketball skills camp in Pennington, New Jersey at Timberlane Middle School. The event will run from July 28 to August 1 and will take place from 9:00am to 3:00pm daily, though campers can be dropped off at 8:00am for no extra charge on top of the $275 camp fee. Grant's brother, Brad Billmeier, a former standout at Hopewell Valley (NJ) who went on to play at Gettysburg College, will also be helping out. The camp will be for boys entering grades four through nine, and food will be provided for those in attendance. There will hopefully be a number of big names that stop by the camp, as guest speakers will be a part of the event. "As of right, it’s [Villanova Head] Coach [Jay] Wright and [Rutgers Head] Fred Hill. They have said that they are going to come down for the camp. . . . I now that [St. Patrick's Head Coach] Kevin Boyle was going to [come as well]. . . . Right now, I’m working on having Randy Foye [who is currently on the Minnesota Timberwolves] come down,” said Nardi of who expects to fill the roles of guest speakers. The ex-Villanova Wildcat did say that “this stuff is not written in stone. . . . College coaches do get busy, and stuff does pop up.” Assuming Hill is able to attend the camp, Nardi expects him to talk about "a couple stories on when he watched Larry Bird work out,” amongst others things. As for Boyle: “I know Kevin will definitely talk about . . . Grant [and I] and what we did in high school.” To sum it up, Nardi told me that “everybody will talk about their experiences with basketball and their knowledge.” Despite the big names that will hopefully be in attendance at Nardi and Billmeier's camp, their goal is not for it to be a huge camp right away said Nardi, who shed some light on the camp's goals for the summer of 2008: “For this first year, we’re just trying to get kids in there, all levels of kids. . . . [There are already camps for] soccer, lacrosse [and other sports]. . . . We’re just trying to get a basketball camp going, . . . and also try to make it fun for them, because nowadays there’s not as many serious basketball players. . . . [We will be] keeping it fun and keeping it structured for the kids. . . . We have to think about the age group. we’re going from fourth to ninth grade. . . Guy that are going to come in, have fun, and also love the game.” That brings up the question of how the duo would deal with a player with little to no experience with basketball, and that is something that I asked Grant about: “We’ll just continue to work with him. Hopefully he’ll just continue to get better. . . . Hopefully by the end of the camp . . . he’ll have gone to a new level.” Grant, who went to The Pennington School (NJ) as a freshman, said that he chose to have the camp located in Pennington because he “ just thought it was a great way to give back," adding, "I know my basketball beginning started in fourth grade at the YMCA. . . . I'm not sure if there’s really a camp in this area that really works on trying to get kids better.” I inquired of Nardi how the mix between scrimmages and drills would work: “It’s going to be a mix of both [scrimmages and drills. On] a regular day we’ll probably start out with stations and drills, . . . just breaking down the game in little parts so they can get a feel for college workouts," and in addition saying, "After that, we’ll have sessions of games, . . . and [in] the afternoon we’ll have games, . . . and the teams that aren’t playing we will probably have [doing] drills, and probably mix in some knockout.” Clearly, the focus is not on having kids running around bouncing basketballs, but rather on them enhancing their skills. In fact, helping players enhance skills is something that Grant Billmeier hopes to do in the future as well: “When I’m doing playing, I definitely want to get into coaching, . . . start at the college level as an assistant and hopefully work my way up to the head coach." Nardi and Billmeier wil likely work well together, as the former said that he "and Grant, we’ve been best friends since high school." As for why the two chose to run a camp together, Nardi said this: "Basically, it’s our first year of being professional [players] and we just wanted to so some basketball stuff.” The pair will definitely involved in the basketball workouts: “[Grant and I] are basically running the camp. We’ll be interacting with the kids, running stations, . . . mainly coaching and doing drills with the kids. . . . We’re not trying to just use our names and then have guys with no experience running drills,” said Mike. Grant mentioned that for drills, the two will "definitely come up with everything [they] do together.” Billmeier, who stands 6'10, realizes that “Most kids we’ll get are generally going to be guards, [so] . . . most things we’ll do are going to be ball handling [and] breaking down a shooter." Although right now the camp is meant as a local event for kids who just want to play basketball and meet some big names along the way, I asked Nardi about whether or not he wants the camp to develop into a big-time event: “Over the years , anything can happen, . . .but for the first year we’re not trying to go out and press people . . . We’re really just focusing on keeping it simple right now. . . . If it does turn into something like that, . . . great.” Grant Billmeier and Mike Nardi, with the help of Brad Billmeier, appear to be heavily invested in this camp and really want to make it work. Thus, it should be a good experience for young ballers who want have some fun and hone their skills along the way. For more information on the Billmeier & Nardi Skills Camp 2008, either call (609)-462-8412, e-mail, or check out

Note- camp and player information is from the camp's brochure

Note- photo on the left side is of Mike Nardi, and is from

Note- photo on the right is of Grant Billmeier, and is from

Thursday, May 29, 2008

James McAdoo- A BWSL Star

James McAdoo is 6'9, and he's only a freshman. That will grab anyone's attention, and it appears colleges are already starting to take notice of the class of 2011 star forward from Norfolk Christian (VA). McAdoo plays for the Boo Williams Summer League (VA) U-15 team, a squad that won the Gold Bracket Championship at the Southern Jam Fest a few weeks ago. On the second day of the event, I spoke with James after his team's big win over the Delaware Sharks.

NB: What does it mean to you to play for the Boo Williams Summer League team, one of the most highly-regarded programs in the country?
JM: It means a lot. . . . It just shows you how hard work can really pay off. If you work for what you can get and you set goals, hopefully if . . . God looks out for you, you’ll get there.

NB: Do you ever feel [that] there’s too much pressure on you, being a freshman and having the national attention that is already on you? Is that ever too much to handle?
JM: No, no, I just go out there and play for myself, just go out there and try to play. God has given me the ability to play ball, so I just go out there and do . . . what He gave me [the ability to do], just go out there and play.

NB: What colleges have been showing interest in you thus far?
JM: Clemson, Duke, . . . Florida, North Carolina, [North Carolina] St., [and] UCLA, that’s it.

NB: Do you have a dream school, someplace that you’ve always wanted to go?
JM: I’ve always wanted to play at North Carolina I’d say.

NB: If they were to eventually offer you [a scholarship] down the road, would that be something that you would just jump at and [accept] on the spot?
JM: It depends the program [is] because the programs are up and down all over the nation, so it depends on . . . how the team’s doing at that point.

NB: Is there an coach . . . that you most admire? Whether . . . it’s [because of] the way that his players play, whether it’s his tenacity, whatever it might be, . . . which coach [at] the NCAA level would you say is the one you most admire?
JM: I would say the head coach for Florida, . . . Billy Donovan. I really like the way he coaches [and] how his relationship with the kids [is].

NB: You said Florida [has] been showing interest in you. When Billy Donovan and his team did show that interest in you, what was that like for you? Was that . . . extra-special for you?
JM: Yeah, that was a big surprise, that he would come and see me after they had just won those two National Championships, but it actually showed my how down-to-earth he was, and how they [are] just ballplayers just like us.

NB: Do you have a timetable for when you plan to commit?
JM: Not really. . . . I haven’t thought about that yet.

NB: What do you consider to be the biggest strength of your game?
JM: Probably my ability to handle the ball and shoot the jumper at my height, being a big man, . . . and being able to run the floor.

NB: [What is] your biggest weakness?
JM: Probably my strength, I got to get stronger [and] be able to go up stronger with the ball.

NB: What do you plan on doing to work on that?
JM: I [have] been lifting weights ever day [and] working on my agility to increase my strength.

I caught up with James last week, and he mentioned four more schools that are showing him interest: Old Dominion, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. He told me that "they all [have] expressed a lot of interest, but [I have] no real offers." In addition, the big man told me that "his leaders are Florida and North Carolina,” which makes sense considering that he is an admirer of UF Head Coach Billy Donovan and lists UNC as his dream school. McAdoo is just a freshman, so you may not have heard of him yet, but he is making some noise on the AAU circuit, and you will be hearing his name a lot in the future.

Update on . . . Dontae Johnson

It appears that I featured 6'3 sophomore forward Dontae Johnson of The Pennington School (NJ) at just the right time. Just two weekends ago, the two-sport star was selected as the defensive back MVP at the Lincoln Park Combine that he attended. Johnson, a wide receiver/safety on the gridiron, attends the same high school that just produced current Maryland Terrapin safety Dominique Herald, a sophomore-to-be. Johnson, who ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash and 4.40 in the shuttle, felt that he could better overall at the combine: “Even though I was named defensive back MVP at the Lincoln Park Combine on May 17th, I still feel as if I can improve. I’m very happy that I won the award, yet I’m looking forward to doing better at the Invite Ultimate 100 Camp.” Part of his reasoning for this thinking is that Johnson says he has run a 4.49 40-yard dash, which means he was .16 seconds slower in his run at the event. Should Dontae run a sub 4.50 40, his recruitment would likely blow up, as he would have a rare blend of height and speed that is uncommon in safeties at any level. Johnson, who "just got invited to the Under Armour Combine in Baltimore on June 3rd, but will unfortunately be unable to attend due to final exams in school,” says that he is "excited for [his] next camp, whenever that may be." Johnson's aggressive nature on the basketball court for both Pennington and his AAU squad, Team New Jersey ABC, is a good illustration of why he is so good at football, as he is fearless and draws lots of contact. The stud athlete says that “since winning the MVP award, more colleges, such as Miami (FL), have showed interest in [him].” Dontae is the type of kid who not only excels in athletics, but also is phenomenal in the classroom, with his GPA consistently staying above the 3.5 mark. Thus, Johnson may end up and not only a prestigious athletic university, but a mighty fine academic institution as well. I will be sure keep you informed on how Dontae Johnson's recruitment is coming along.

Note- 40-yard dash and shuttle times are from

Update on . . . Ryan Pearson

Soon-to-be George Mason Patriot Ryan Pearson was one of the top players in New York this past season. Pearson, a 6'5 senior from Christ the King (NY), has a terrific inside-outside game that will lead him to eventually become one of the best players in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). In my opinion, Pearson is one of the most underrated ballers in the nation. In fact, I asked Ryan how he would respond if someone were to call him America's most underrated player. Pearson said he wasn't sure because he hadn't heard that before, so I asked him what he thought after hearing it for the first time: "I don't feel I am the most underrated. . . . I feel I am underrated to a certain extent." The CTK star is right that he may not be the most underrated baller in the US, bit he's also correct in saying that he is underrated. Ryan Pearson is a kid that will have a major impact for GMU and will make some noise on a national level. I asked Pearson if he had been worried about George Mason Head Coach Jim Larranaga taking the job at Providence: "I was when I first heard about it, but then he kept me posted the whole time [and] told me [that] he wasn't going [anywhere]." Pearson is a player who will thrive at the mid-major level, and he will do well under the tutelage of Larranaga. Although he likely won't bring the Patriots back to the Final Four, a few CAA titles and some NCAA Tournament wins are strong possibilities for Pearson and Co. while he is at George Mason. Remember the name: Ryan Pearson.

Update on . . . Antoine Allen

Last week, I caught up with Antoine Allen of the Cecil Kirk (MD) AAU program. Allen, who plays at the U-17 level, and is a 6'2 junior guard. As of now, Allen says that he is garnering interest from Auburn, Rhode Island, Rutgers, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, and Towson. In addition, Antoine said that there are "some others that like me, but I’m not sure how serious they are." Allen, who says that "most have offered," also told me that he has "no leaders." Thus, the chase for the class of 2009 member seems to be open right now. If you recall, when I posted my feature interview on Allen, he mentioned that he was going to transfer to a prep school for his senior year, yet was not entirely sure what school he would be heading to. Well, now he is sure, and it will be Notre Dame Prep (MA) that will be getting him. I will be sure to keep you updated on how the recruitment of Allen is progressing.

Poll- My Choice

When asked who the best recruiter is of all current NCAA head coaches, the answer is not easy. There are so many coaches who can make the case for that title. In the poll here at Northstar Basketball, I picked eight of the best for you to choose from: Memphis' John Calipri, Florida's Billy Donovan, UCLA's Ben Howland, Michigan St.'s Tom Izzo, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Ohio St.'s Thad Matta, North Carolina's Roy Williams, and Villanova's Jay Wright. There are countless other head coaches that you could make a viable argument for, as well. I'll provide you with my top five right here. Number five- Jim Calhoun: The head man at UConn consistently brings in top-notch recruiting classes. This year, for example, Calhoun will be getting two of America's best ballers in Ater Majok and Kemba Walker. His eight-man class from 2006 was fabulous, and included Hasheem Thabeet, Curtis Kelly, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, and Doug Wiggins. In '04, Calhoun brought--amongst others--AJ Price and Rudy Gay to Storrs, and they were preceeded by players such as Charlie Villanueva, Josh Boone, and Marcus Williams. Coach Calhoun has also found diamonds in the rough, like in 2002 when he brought in Hilton Armstrong and Denham Brown. Other players that Calhoun has gotten include Emeka Okafor and Emeka Okafor. As well, in '05, Calhoun inked Andrew Bynum, but the big man elected to go straight to the NBA. Jim Calhoun has not only gotten quality players to come to UConn, he has gotten a lot of them, and has done so over a long period of time. Number four- John Calipari: To build a national powerhouse in a mid-major conference is quite impressive, and Coach Cal has done just that with Memphis in the C-USA. This year, Angel Garcia, Tyreke Evans, Matt Simpkins, and Wesley Witherspoon will all be taking their game to Memphis. Last year, the Memphis coach brought in Derrick Rose and Jeff Robinson. In addition, he signed Marcus and Markieff Morris, who would eventually choose to go to prep school and then Kansas. In 2005, Calipari got Shawne Williams, Antonio Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Robert Dozier, along with a few others. In '04, Cal brought in Darius Washington, Jr. Kendrick Perkins signed with the Tigers in 2003, but jumped straight to the League, and in 2002, underrecruited Rodney Carney chose the Tigers. The recruiting job that John Calipari has done at Memphis is nothing short of fantastic. Number three- Thad Matta: In ranking Ohio St.'s head coach this high, I am basically taking into consideration just the three most recent classes he has brought to Columbus. In 2006, Matta inked what some people have called the best recruiting class ever, in Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, David Lighty, Othello Hunter, and Mike Conley, Jr. Matta did not let up the next year, when he signed Kosta Koufos, Jon Diebler, Evan Turner, and Dallas Lauderdale, and a few more players as well. This year's class for the Buckeyes is also wonderful, as Matta will be getting BJ Mullens, William Buford, Walter Offutt, Anthony Crater, and a couple more for good measure. Assuming Matta keeps this up for an extended period of time, he may well develop into the NCAA's premiere recruiter. Number two- Ben Howland: UCLA's class this year may well be the best in the land, as Ben Howland has signed Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and one-time LSU-signee J'Mison Morgan. Last year wasn't bad for Howland either, as he got Kevin Love and Chase Stanback to come to Westwood. In 2006, underrecruited Russell Westbrook landed at UCLA, as did James Keefe. Howland's signees in 2005 included Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In 2004, Coach Howland may have gotten his best class of them all, when he signed Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Lorenzo Mata, and Josh Shipp. Although, like Matta, Howland has not been bringing in top-notch classes for that long of a time, he has certainly gotten some of America's best high school basketball players to bring their talent to UCLA. Number one- Roy Williams: Dating back to his days at Kansas, Roy Williams has always been one of the NCAA's finest recruiters. In 2003, while still at KU, Williams signed JR Giddens, David Padgett, and Rodrick Stewart. After heading to Chapel Hill to take over the Tar Heels, Williams' recruiting skills were clear to everyone. In '04, Williams got Marvin Williams, Quentin Thomas, and JR Smith, although the last of the three chose to go right to the pros. UNC's class of 2005 was phenomenal: Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Hansbrough, and Danny Green. In 2006, though, Williams went above and beyond, and inked a class that I think was even better than Matta's group at OSU the same season. That year, Roy Williams brought in Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandan Wright, Alex Stephenson, William Graves, and Deon Thompson. This year, UNC was the only team to sign three McDoanld's All-Americans, in Tyler Zeller, Larry Drew, and Ed Davis. Williams also signed Justin Watts from the class of '08. Roy Williams' recruiting ability is the best of all head coaches right now, and your voting shows that you agree.

Northstar Basketball's Top Five Current NCAA Head Coaches for Recruiting:
1. Roy Williams (North Carolina)
2. Ben Howland (UCLA)
3. Thad Matta (Ohio St.)
4. John Calipari (Memphis)
5. Jim Calhoun (UConn)

Note- recruiting information is from

Poll- My Choice

Who has been the best college basketball program of the 21st century? That's a tough question to answer because there have been so many dominant programs, including UCLA, North Carolina, Michigan St., Florida, and UConn. Those five as well as Duke, Kansas, and Maryland were the options for my poll asking this question. I'll give you my top five and my reasons why right here. Number five- Duke: The Blue Devils have consistently been highly seeded in the NCAA Tournament and have made the Tournament every year this century. The Blue Devils have made two Final Fours (2001, 2004). Mike Krzyzewski's squad was the National Champion in 2001. Although the teams have struggled to get past the Sweet 16 a few times despite having great teams and have had down years the past two years, the Blue Devils are always near the top of the NCAA rankings. Number four- UCLA: The Bruins are an interesting case. The boys from Westwood have not won a National Title this century, but have made three consecutive Final Fours (2006, 2007, 2008) and appeared in the Finals in 2006. The Bruins struggled prior to '06, but their trio of Final Fours is so impressive, that the team has got to be this high up, at least in my view. If UCLA had one Championship, they just might be numero uno. Number three- North Carolina: The Tar Heels have been extremely inconsistent this century, but their play from 2005 on puts them this high on the list. UNC has made three Final Fours (2000, 2005, 2008) and have had loaded rosters almost every season. UNC won the polling based off your votes, and putting them number one would not be too much of a stretch, but the team will have to be more consistent to get that high up in my book. Number two- Michigan St.: Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in America, and his team has made the NCAA Tournament every year this century. The Spartans have made three Final Fours (2000, 2001, 2005) and won the Championship in '00. Michigan St. is almost always in the Sweet 16 and has been extremely consistent, and that's a key factor for me. Number one- Florida: The Gators have not only won back-to-back National Championships (2006, 2007), but also were the National Runner-up in 2000, giving them three Final Four appearances this century. Billy Donovan and Co. are the only repeat Champions this century and the only team since Duke (1991, 1992) to win consecutive National crowns. Although Florida had a bad year in 2008, the Gators' overall accomplishments over the past nine seasons cannot be overlooked. The Florida Gators are, thus far, the team of the century.

Northstar Basketball's Top Five NCAA Programs of the 21st Century:
1. Florida Gators
2. Michigan St. Spartans
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
4. UCLA Bruins
5. Duke Blue Devils

Note- Final Four and Championship information is from

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Markieff Morris- Rasheed Wallace Without the Temper?

Markieff Morris, a 6'10 post-grad forward from APEX Academies, is the taller of the twin brothers who will be heading to Kansas next season. Markieff is a talented player with a solid all-around game, and--like his brother--is one of the premiere post-grads in the nation. Morris' Stan Jones, Inc. AAU squad was at the Providence Jam Fest a few weeks ago. As Markieff and his teammates were waiting around for their game, I took the opportunity to sit down with the big man and discuss basketball, his game, and more.

NB: What has driven you to continue playing AAU basketball? You’ve already signed with a school, . . . you’re set for college, [so] why continue playing?
MarkM: I just [get] bored, really. I work out a lot, and I . . . just wanting to get away, anticipating . . . our rival at school, so I just [am] playing, just to play.

NB: What are some of your interests outside of basketball?
MarkM: Girls, [and] I [am] with my boys all the time. That’s it really.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game?
MarkM: I would say my post play, but I can shoot the three real [well, also]. So, I would say my post play.

NB: What [is] . . . your biggest weakness?
MarkM: Getting up and down the floor all the time.

NB: How are you going to try to work on that at Kansas?
MarkM: I [will] just run, get up in the morning, get up in the morning and run miles [and] run sprints, and do that everyday to get my body in shape so I can be ready.

NB: How do you and Marcus maintain that teammate bond and that brother bond at the same time?
MarkM: Well, we [have] been playing together . . . since we started [playing], so it always was there, so it’s nothing really.

NB: Who would you compare your game to out of all current college or NBA players?
MarkM: Rasheed Wallace.

NB: Why Rasheed [Wallace]?
MarkM: Because he can shoot the three, and he can post-up real [well].

NB: When you’re watching him play, do you try to emulate him [and] watch what he’s doing and try to do that in your game, or do you just think that your [game is] just comparable?
MarkM: I try to imitate him a little bit, but Rasheed [has] got [a] real bad temper, so I try not to lose my temper on the court, but . . . I [have] met him a couple [of] times. He’s a great role model, and that’s who I try to imitate.

NB: What was it like for you to meet him the first time?
MarkM: It was kind of big, but it was kind of [a] good way to meet him, but . . . I was really in school, so I just surprised that he was there, and I liked him.

NB: Give me one word to sum up your game.
MarkM: [Pause] Do-it-all.

Markieff clearly likes Rasheed Wallace, and he is a good player to play like. 'Sheed is one of the top forwards in the NBA, and has helped lead the Pistons to the top of the Eastern Conference in the 21st century. As Morris noted, Wallace does does have a temper problem, though. As long as Markieff Morris keeps his temper in check and keeps playing like Rasheed, he might just follow him to the League.

Note- photo is from

Update on . . . Erving Walker

Erving Walker, a soon-to-be Florida Gator, was kind enough to take some time to talk with me last week and give me an update on how he is doing. Walker is undersized for a basketball player--he stands just 5'8--but the Christ the King (NY) senior makes up for it with his talent on the court. I asked Erving about how he thinks playing for UF Head Coach Billy Donovan, a small guard in his own right when he played, will help him: "I think that it [will] help me a lot . . . [and he will be able to] give me tips." Points guards such as Walker love to have big men to throw the ball to down low, and Walker will certainly have a load of those by his sophomore year in Gainsville. Billy Donovan is putting together a monster recruiting class for the class of 2009 that includes Georgetown transfer and former high school star 6'9 Vernon Macklin, 6'10 Erik Murphy, and 6'9 DeShawn Painter. In addition, Donovan's 2008 haul includes 6'8 Allan Chaney, 6'10 Kenneth Kadji, and 6'10 Eloy Vargas. I asked Walker what he thought about the big man commitments that Donovan has already received from the class of '09 studs: "I think that [is] great, especially [for] me, being a little guy, you can never have too many big men. . . . I already have a relationship with Erik Murphy." Along with these six bigs, the Gators already have sophomore-to-be Alex Tyus on the roster. Florida will not be hurting for height while Walker is there. Walker won't have to worry about carving out some playing time from all the big men, but he will need to try to fit in the guard rotation, and with sophomores-to-be Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes there, playing time may be scarce for Walker as a freshman in 2008-09. "Coach [Donovan] told me [that] the playing is there. I just have to come in and work hard," is what Walker said when I asked him what he thinks his playing time will be like his first year at UF. Some big news about the Gators a few months ago was Billy Donovan's punishment of the squad, which included not allowing them to wear UF gear or use the practice facility. I inquired of Walker what he thought of the steps that his future coach used for his team: "At first, I though thought it was pretty harsh, but I thought, 'Coach, he knows what he [is] doing." So, it appears that Erving will be able to handle whatever Donovan throws his way. Walker will be one of the Player Diary writers here, so you will get to know him a lot better as time progresses.

Note- player information is from

Poll Results:

It appears that many of you are either Duke haters, North Carolina fans, or just honest voters who put aside their loyalties. The UNC Tar Heels won the poll on the best program of the 21st century, while Duke got only one vote, and UNC's Roy Williams was chosen as the best recruiter amongst active head coaches, while Duke's Mike Krzyzewski picked up a single vote. In the best program poll, North Carolina received nine of the 28 votes. Florida and "Other" tied for second place with five votes apiece. UCLA came in fourth with three votes, and UConn finished fifth with a pair of selections. Duke, Kansas, Maryland, and Michigan St. all got just one tally in the balloting. I would think that some of the "Other" votes went to Syracuse, the lone 21st century NCAA National Champion that I left off the ballot. Some of the other choices for "Other" may have been for schools such as Memphis, Kentucky, and Louisville. Please comment and express your opinion. Moving right along to the poll on the best recruiter of NCAA head coaches, North Carolina's head man Roy Williams received 10 of the 32 votes. Memphis' John Calipari was next with six votes, after which was Villanova's Jay Wright with four selections. Thad Matta of Ohio St. and "Other" tied for fourth with three votes each. Tom Izzo, the head honcho at Michigan St., tallied two votes, while Florida's Billy Donovan, UCLA's Ben Howland, and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski all were chosen just once. My thinking on the "Other" choices is that they went to coaches such as Louisville's Rick Pitino, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, UConn's Jim Calhoun, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, and West Virginia's Bob Huggins. Again, please comment on your selection.
In addition, I would like to inform you all that starting with these two polls, I will be writing an article that expresses my opinion on the matter. Check back for my first article on the topic, as it will be up either later tonight or tomorrow.

Marcus Morris- You Can Call Him the "Better" Brother, but He Won't

Marcus Morris, a 6'9 post-grad forward from APEX Academies (NJ), and his twin brother Markieff will both be heading to Kansas next year to play for the NCAA Champions The two originally signed with the Memphis Tigers, but elected to take the prep school route prior to heading off to college. Both of them are fine talents, but Marcus is generally regarded as the better of the two, and here is some evidence that that's the thought: Marcus- #29 in class of '08
Markieff- #50 in class of '08 Marcus- #2 post-grad
Markieff- #7 post-grad Marcus- #3 post-grad
Markieff- #5 post-grad

Those are three well thought of websites, all of whom rank Marcus ahead of Markieff. The "better" brother, though, does not look at it this way. I know this, as I was able to talk with Marcus at the Providence Jam Fest a few weeks ago, where he and his brother were playing with Stan Jones, Inc. in the Open Division.

AS: You’re wearing all your Jordan Classic stuff, what did it mean to you to get selected to play in that game?
MarcM: It was a good game, it was a good honor. Somebody noticed that we [my brother Markieff Morris and I are] . . . good, so we just played in it and [I] got MVP, actually.

NB: What went into the decision for you [and Markieff] . . . to go to APEX, rather than going to Memphis, the school you’d originally signed with?
MarcM: We just thought we needed another year of prep school to get better and stronger, and just [to work on our] all-around game.

NB: What went into you guys eventually choosing to sign with Kansas?
MarcM: The style of play and the atmosphere, . . . and the coaches.

NB: Was Memphis a school that you two just didn’t consider after attending APEX?
MarcM: Yeah, yeah, . . . that’s about right.

NB: Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you weren’t going to go to college with Markieff?
MarcM: No, . . . since we were going to college, we knew we were going together.

NB: Was it, with schools, you guys were telling them ‘it’s a package deal, both or none?’
MarcM: Yeah.

NB: Why is it so important to you to be playing with your brother? . . . Does it . . . elevate your game?
MarcM: Yeah, it makes us better, playing together with each other, so we always know where each other at on the floor, and we just play a lot better with each other.

NB: How do you think that all the exits that Kansas is . . . having this year, with Brandon Rush [and other underclassmen] leaving? . . . How is that going to affect you two coming in as freshman?
MarcM: I think it’s going to affect us [well]. I just think it’s just a great opportunity to step in and play right away, so I just think that’s going to be a great opportunity for us, me and my brother.

NB: Watching Memphis play Kansas in the [NCAA] National Championship, the school the you originally signed with vs. the school you’re going to, what was that experience like for you?
MarcM: That was a great experience. . . . I actually thought about it. . . . It was a coincidence that the two schools I was going to [were] playing each other, and all I thought in my mind was [that whichever one] . . . wins is the school that I’m supposed to be at.

NB: With all the talk of ‘Bill Self [and] Oklahoma St., he’s going to Oklahoma St.,’ what was your thought on all that? Were you worried or was--?
MarcM: Bill actually called me. Coach Self actually called me and told me that he was going to stay and I didn’t have nothing to worry about. So, I thought it was just a great opportunity, and I knew, and I trusted in what he was saying.

NB: Do you ever compare yourself to your brother? Do you ever look at it that way?
MarcM: No, I never [do that]. We never compare ourselves, we just [are] both great players, and great all-around players.

NB: What do you consider to be the forte of your game, your strongest point?
MarcM: I think . . . I have a pull-up jumpshot, a great pull-up jumpshot, and I can . . . get to the hole very easily, and I can play good defense.

NB: What do you think you’re going to have to work on the most . . . in the college game?
MarcM: Playing harder, I think, getting up and down the floor.

NB: What went into your decision to go to APEX? There’s a lot of prep schools out there, [with] APEX [being] one of the lesser known schools. Why APEX?
MarcM: I just trusted in the owners, and I knew that they would get me better, and . . . just left it at that, so I put my career in their hands, and they made it happen.

NB: Do you have any goals for your college career? If so, what are they?
MarcM: I got every goal like everyone else thinks, I want to make it to the NBA, but if it don’t work out, . . . just get a degree, and maybe get a good job, a well-paying job.

NB: Do you plan on going for all four years?
MarcM: I hope not. If I have to I will, but I hope . . . I don’t have to, and if I play hard, I don’t think I will [have to].

NB: Do you have a plan for how many years you’re going to come out after?
MarcM: No, I just say ‘whatever time is good for me to come out, that’s when I [will] come out.’

For the brothers, it clearly isn't about being the better sibling. Rather, it's about being the best possible basketball players they can be. If it was all about being better, would the two be choosing to go to college together rather than making their own names at different schools? Scouting services, websites, fans, and others may think that Marcus is the better one of the Morris twins, but his mentality says otherwise. Marcus doesn't compare himself to his brother. As long as Marcus Morris keeps up this mindset and tries to be as good as he possibly can, he may well have a bright future on the hardwood.

Note- photo is from

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Update on . . . Stevie Taylor

Class of 2011 stud Stevie Taylor is one of the Player Diary writers here at Northstar Basketball, and his first entry can be seen if you check the archive. Last week, I caught up with the 5'8 guard from Ohio. Taylor, a member of the Ohio Basketball Club U-15 team informed me that he is being recruited by Cincinnati, Dayton, Georgetown, Tennessee, Ohio St., Akron, and St. Joseph's. As for scholarship offers, Taylor has one thus far, from the Zips. "Akron offered, but the leaders are Georgetown, Tennessee, [and] Cincinnati," said Stevie. I asked Taylor if Akron has a shot at eventually landing him: "I [don't know] because they offered [another] pg in my class." As for his reasoning on why the Hoyas, Volunteers, and Bearcats are in the lead: "[They are] the leaders because they [are] showing the most interest in me." I will keep you updated on Steve Taylor's recruitment, and hopefully he will as well in his Player Diary entries.

Update on . . . Jayon James

Jayon James, a 6'5 sophomore swingman for Paterson Catholic (NJ), is a member of the high-powered Playaz Basketball Club (NJ) U-16 squad that has been making some noise on the AAU circuit this season. Early last week, I caught up with Jayon, and we discussed his recruitment and his status as a member of the Playaz. James informed me that he is being recruited by "Xavier, Fordham, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, La Salle, [and] Rutgers," adding "that's all of the schools that I know about so far." The highly-regarded class of 2010 baller said that "all of them offered," and stated that he does "not have a leader at the moment." It appears, from that list, that Jayon will likely end up in the Atlantic-10 or the Big East. There had been some rumors circulating that some of the Playaz U-16 ballers were considering switching to other programs, so I inquired of Jayon the validity of these rumors, first asking him if he planned on leaving the Playaz: "I'm not leaving the Playaz any time soon." I then asked if he knew whether anyone else such as Fuquan Edwin was contemplating a switch: "[No], none of us are leaving this year." That comment, with the "this year" on the end, left the door open for future years, and I thus asked James about the possibility of some of his teammates moving around next season: "Not that I know of." Should the Playaz U-16 team stay intact, and it appears they will,the squad will continue to wreak havoc on the grassroots basketball scene.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Update on . . . Derek Elston

If you recall, I recently reported that I got in touch Derek Elston's mother, who informed me that her son was "in recovery from surgery." She also told me that her son, a 6'8 junior, had his surgery on his "meniscus." On Saturday, I got in touch with the Indiana-commit himself. Derek told me that he was "feeling pretty good," but did not "remember a lot from the surgery." He informed me that his injury occurred "last Saturday [5/17/08] at [the tournament run by] Speice." Elston, who said the diagnosis was a "torn meniscus," got hurt "making a spin move [when he] just lost balance." Interestingly, Speice is actually the AAU program that the future-Hoosier plays for. His surgery was "Wednesday [5/21/08] at [about] 5:30," and he will be out of action for three months, meaning that he is "done for the year," on the grassroots circuit. Being the teammate that he is, though, Elston is "still going to go the [tournaments]."
Moving on to other news regarding Elston, I discussed the future of IU hoops with him and his part in that. I started by asking him what he thinking about new Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean bringing in so many new recruits in such a short time, and I specifically mentioned Maurice Creek. Derek had this to say: "Oh man, . . . Creek [and I] are good, we talk on facebook, getting to know each other, so I like him a lot. Plus, he's a real good player." Elston also said this: "I like [the new recruits], and [Tom Crean] has changed the program and put it in the right direction, and I can't wait to get there." Clearly, Elston has no worries about the IU program. I inquired of the class of 2009 stud whether or not he and Crean talk, and if so about what: " Yeah, just to talk and get to know each other, and lately about my knee." Derek informed me that it was he who made first contact with the new head honcho for Hoosier basketball, and not the other way around. "We talk all the time. I went down there to visit him and I call them a lot to talk, but now [since] . . . it was just recent, . . . [that I] just did hurt my knee, [we talk about that]," said Elston. The soon-to-be senior is doing physical therapy, and I will let you know how he is progressing. Derek may even be telling you himself, as he will be one of Northstar Basketball's Play Diary writers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Player Diary: Stevie Taylor '11

Hey whats up? This is a day in my life. Each day I start my day off the same way. First, I wake up figuring out what I’m about to wear to school in the morning. After that I get a ride to school with my brother (Robbie). At school for me its fun because I get to see my friends and get to further my education. Everyday during my lunch period I go in the coach’s office to get a basketball and go in the gym to get some shots up by myself. While I’m there I work on free throws, pull up jumpers from both wings. After that I put my school clothes on and go to class.

My daily basketball schedule has been crazy the last couple of weeks. Normally, after school, I lift weights then Coach Vic picks me up from school and I work out at the local YMCA for a couple of hours with some of the other top guys around Columbus. We work on lots of shooting drills from every spot on the court and then we play one-on-one, three-on-three or some other games. After that, we usually go to an open gym where we get a good run for a couple of hours. After that, my brother and me either work out with Coach PJ, or my dad works us out at the high school. Because my dad has a key to the high school gym, we workout almost every day. We do skills and drills for a couple of hours then I go one-on-one with my brother a little bit. Oh yea, I’m beating my older brother now, but not all the time just yet.

I have been real busy so far this AAU season. I just got back form a tournament in Italy a number of weeks ago. We finished second and I got the tournament MVP. My team, the Ohio Basketball Club, won the Pittsburgh Jam Fest a few weeks ago and I made the all-tournament team. We lost in the elite eight the last two tournaments, then we took a two-week break from tournaments.

Tomorrow [Friday 5/23/08] we are heading down to the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in North Carolina. The competition is going to be crazy and we have some really tough teams in our pool. It looks like we got Rich Soil in our pool with my boy Najee Whitehead who played with me on Team Phenom last summer. They also got D. Grace and Tavon Sledge so you know it’s going to be hot. We get to play at Duke, NC State and maybe North Carolina.

Yesterday [Wednesday 5/21/08] my dad took me and my brother down to an open gym at the University of Dayton and we ran with the team. Those guys did not give me the basketball that much but my shot was falling when I got it. The rest of the summer is real busy. I’m going to team camps with my high school at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State, plus some elite camps at UC, West Virginia and Akron. I may get an invitation to the Reebok Underclassmen Camp in June then I go to the NCAA First Team event in Arizona sometime in August.

Now you know whats up with my crazy schedule but you know I have to do it to make it. Well that's all for now. I will get back at you soon. Keep ballin y'all.

New Feature:

I will be starting a new feature here for Northstar Basketball. Player diaries will now be a part of the site. Basically, I'll be having different kids writing "journal entries" that I will then put on the website. My hope is to get players from all over America, and have them be from numerous classes. As of now, I have five players lined up, one from every class between 2008 and 2012:

2008: Erving Walker, NY, University of Florida
2009: Derek Elston, IN
2010: Steve Rennard, NJ
2011: Stevie Taylor, OH
2012: Justin Anderson, VA

I will also try to get some other kids, and have already been in contact with a few regarding the subject. Most of the players will not be starting until they finish up the school year, although
at least one, Taylor, is starting prior to the end of the school year. In fact, I have already received Stevie's first entry, and it will be posted tonight. Be sure to keep checking back to see Northstar Basketball's new feature and get an inside look at some of the nation's best ballers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Upcoming Updates:

In addition to the updates that I informed you all about on Monday, I caught up with a few more players, and their updates will be going up on the site as well. You have already seen two of them posted: Steve Rennard '10 and Derek Elston '09. In addition to these two are Reggie Bullock '10, Maalik Wayns '09, and Calvin Thompson '08. My interview with Bullock will also come up shortly. As well, I did get in touch with Dontae Johnson '10 and Ryan Pearson '08 like I said I would try to do. Thank you!

Donyell Marshall- NBA Veteran is a Helping Hand to Young Ballers

People don't always think of NBA players as nice guys these days, but the Seattle Superonics' 6'9 forward Donyell Marshall, a 14-year veteran and former second team All-Rookie choice, bucks that trend. The former UConn Husky runs Donyell Marshall Foundation (PA), a quality AAU basketball organization. Donyell's program participated in the Providence Jam Fest, and the NBA baller was there himself. He kindly took a few minutes of his time to chat with me after one of his team's games.

NB: What’s it like for you, coming out here and [being with your] . . . AAU team? There’s a lot of guys in your status who have a team named after them, but don’t actually show up at the games. What inspires you to actually go out and [be with the team]?
DM: Well, . . . I like to just sit back, . . . but I like being here. I think it gives the kids inspiration and they know that I’m not the one . . . just to put my name on it. I actually care about the kids. . . . One day, we always go out to eat. I talk to the kids and just let them know that I’m a normal person. I think it actually . . . inspires them. They hear about us not being good guys, or not being friendly and stuff like that, but for them to be able to just talk to me and see that I’m there cheering them on and giving them advice is always a good thing, knowing I’m not just putting my name on a jersey.

NB: What led you to get involved with AAU basketball?
DM: Well, I never had the chance to play AAU basketball. I didn’t really go to basketball camps when I was younger, either, and I just wanted to get these kids the opportunity to be able to do something that I was never able to do, and I think it really helps them out, especially where I’m from. It gives a lot of kids a chance to get and see different parts of the country that I know that they would never see [otherwise].

NB: What’s been the best moment of your basketball career?
DM: For me, obviously playing in the [NBA] Championship last year [with the Cleveland Cavaliers], but also with a lot of these kids, I have [had] kids on my team that are in the NBA now [such as] Royal Ivey, [who] is one guy to name that played on my team and is in the NBA now. So, . . . some of those things are the most important in my life, . . . the most fun part of my career.

NB: Do you still keep in contact with any of those guys, and if so, what do you talk to them about?
DM: When I see them I just ask them how they [are] doing. I’ve sent a lot of kids to college, and right now it’s just very difficult obviously, with my schedule and their schedule, but [when] I see them, I just ask them how they [are] doing, and keep wishing them well.

It is evident that Donyell Marshall is not in the AAU basketball business for money or publicity. Rather, the number four selection in the 1994 NBA draft is involved with grassroots hoops because he genuinely cares about the kids on his DMF teams. Marshall is a positive influence for the players to look up to, and is someone who can guide them along the right path on the hardwood. Donyell Marshall is truly one of the NBA's good guys.

Note- photo is from

Note- information on Marshall's career is from

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Update on . . . Derek Elston

Here is some interesting news for you all on Derek Elston. I contacted the 6'8 junior, and was informed by his mother that he is currently "in recovery from surgery." I had not heard that the Indiana-commit was to have surgery, so I inquired about what the surgery was on and how he is doing. Elston's mother let me know that he is "doing well." In addition, she informed me that her son's surgery was "on his meniscus." That is all the information that I have as of now on the matter. If I find out anything else on the topic, I will certainly let you know. As of now, all we can do is wish Derek the best.

Update on . . . Steve Rennard

Yesterday, I caught up with another member of Team New Jersey ABC's U-16 team. Steve Rennard, a 6'2 guard from St. Joseph's (NJ), is the team's primary go-to shooter, and for good reason, as the sophomore shoots lights-out from long range. Rennard informed me that he is currently being recruited by UPenn, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, St. Joseph's, Notre Dame, Richmond, Marshall, Xavier, and Bucknell. Four of those schools are in the Ivy League, and that means that half of that conference--the country's most prestigious academically--is recruiting Steve. The reasoning is simple: Rennard is a quality ballplayer, and says that he has an "average GPA [of] 4.0." That will certainly get you some Ivy League looks. Although Rennard says he has "not yet" received a scholarship offer, he has unofficially visited both "UPenn and Princeton." He informed me that he “visited UPenn a while ago and watched them practice.” Steve's visit to Princeton was more recent, and he enjoyed his time on the Tigers' campus. Steve Rennard is the real deal when it comes to student athletes, and he will thus have a wealth of top-notch academic institutions after him as well as some quality basketball programs. A blend of the two would be a great fit for Rennard, and I will keep you informed on how Steve is handling his recruitment.

Keith "Tiny" Gallon Correction

Upon reading on and that Keith "Tiny" Gallon was considering Mississippi St., I inquired of the Oak Hill (VA) 6'9 junior whether that was the case, or if it was indeed just Mississippi. He informed me that it was Mississippi St., so I would like to correct that. Thus, I want you all to know that Gallon is considering the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, and not the Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels, as previously reported. Sorry for the mistake, and thank you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Update on . . . Harold Spears, Wayne Newsom, and Markus Kennedy

Team New Jersey ABC's U-16 squad has been making some noise on the AAU circuit this year, and even was the subject of the feature article on at one point last week. The team reached the Gold bracket quarterfinals at the Pitt Jim Fest, won the Silver bracket at the Providence, and made the Gold bracket semifinals at the Southern Jam Fest. The group has compiled an impressive 14-4 record thus far, and its lengthy list of future DI players is a main reason for the success. Included on that list are 6'4 small forward Harold Spears of Faith Christian Academy (PA), 6'7 power forward Wayne Newsom of Piscataway (NJ), and 6'9 power forward Markus Kennedy of St. Patrick's (NJ), all of whom are sophomores. Spears will be transferring, and will play ball at The Pennington School (NJ) next season. These three players have all been receiving DI interest in varying degrees from different levels of schools. Spears informed me that he is currently drawing interest from Providence, Lafayette, Indiana, Vilanova, St. Joseph's, and Temple. He did mention that he has yet to receive a scholarship offer. The team's head coach, Matt Pauls, informed me that Newsom is being looked at by Rider, Robert Morris, Siena, and Iona. He also told me that Kennedy, who made the 16 & Under All-Tournament team at the Providence and Southern events, is being recruited by programs such as Villanova, Rutgers, Michigan St., Ohio St., and Syracuse. Assuming their NJABC squad continuing to light it up on the grassroots circuit, the number of looks the players are getting will continue to rise, and they will all be getting more and more interest. I will keep you informed on how the recruitment of these three class of 2010 forwards plays out.

Update on . . . Keith "Tiny" Gallon

Keith Gallon, a 6'9 forward, is anything but tiny, though that is his nickname. "Tiny" is a member of the class of 2009 and played with the powerhouse Oak Hill (VA) Warriors last year. There had been some speculation on that Gallon would be leaving the school, but I got in touch with Keith himself, and he cleared the air. “No, I’m staying at Oak Hill,” is what his comment on the topic was. Thus, Head Coach Steve Smith will have his big man in the middle next year, and will not have to worry about replacing him. As for Gallon's college options, he mentioned the following six schools as his possible destinations: Arizona, Baylor, Cal, LSU, Mississippi, and USC. "Tiny" says that all six have offered him a scholarship, and he puts Mississippi, Baylor, and Arizona at the top of his list. It will be interesting to see how the recruitment of Keith "Tiny" Gallon plays out, and I'll be sure to keep you posted on how it's coming along.

Update on . . . Julian Diaz

Here is a quick update on 6'3 senior Julian Diaz for you. If you'll recall, the Notre Dame (NJ) baseball star and Villanova-signee was considering attempting to walk-on to Jay Wright's basketball squad at Villanova. Yesterday I inquired of Diaz what his decision on the matter is. He told me this: “I was thinking about it, but I made my decision to not try and walk on there because it would be too hard to balance two sports and schoolwork.” Thus, don't expect to see Diaz suiting up for the Wildcats when basketball season rolls around.

Poll Results:

The most recent polls were on complete different ends of the spectrum when it comes to final results. One of the polls was a tight race, whereas the other had a runaway winner. The first poll asked which was the best prep school basketball program in America, and the winner was not a shock. Hargrave Military Academy (VA) took in nine of the 34 votes to pick up the top spot. In second was "Other" with eight votes, followed by South Kent (CT) with seven selections. After that was Patterson (NC) with four and Notre Dame Prep (MA) with three. Harmony (OH), Findlay College Prep (NV), and Brewster (NH) were all left without a vote. I would guess that the eight "Other" votes were for schools such as New Hampton (NH), Our Savior New American (NY), Winchendon School (MA), and American Christian Academy (PA). I left off ACA because they are leaving the prep ranks, and according to the school may even be closing. The next poll asked you to choose the best team from a mid-major conference during the 21st century, and the winner here was also not a shocker. The NCAA runner-up from the 2007-2008 season Memphis Tigers took in 17 of the 37 votes. Gonzaga finished a distant second with seven votes, and then came Xavier with six. After the Musketeers were St. Joseph's and Butler, with five and two votes respectively. Nevada, Southern Illinois, and all did not receive any votes. In you opinions, Memphis' recent success of three straight Elite Eight appearances clearly outweighed the long-term success of schools such as Xavier and Gonzaga.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Upcoming Interviews and Updates:

In addition to numerous interviews from the Providence and Southern Jam Fests which I will be getting up over the next few weeks, I will be providing a number of updates on players, as well as featuring a few new ones all of whom I caught up with today. Those players are Wayne Newsom '10, Keith "Tiny" Gallon '09, Jayon James '10, Markus Kennedy '10, Harold Spears '10, Antonie Allen '09, Keith Lumpkin '11, James McAdoo '11, Julian Diaz '08, Ashcraf Yacoubou '11, Stevie Taylor '11, Sam Givens '08, Dee Bost '08, Erving Walker '08, Lance Goulbourne '08, and Chris Fouch '08. Of these players, three have yet to have feature articles on Northstar Basketball: Lumpkin, McAdoo, and Fouch. Interviews with Lumpkin and McAdoo will be up sometime soon, and my conversation with Fouch will be the introduction to him. In addition, I will be talking with Dontae Johnson '10 and Ryan Pearson '08 again soon, and hope to get in tough withe three more people: Dalton Pepper '09, Brandon Triche '09, and Shannon Givens '09. Please keep checking back over the next few weeks, as these updates and interviews will be going up as my time allows. Thank you!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Update on . . . Chris Braswell

Georgetown will have to wait an extra year to get Hargrave Military Academy (VA) forward Chris Braswell. The stud senior big man will post-grad for a year prior to heading to the NCAA. The gentle giant will stay at the same school, and his reasoning for choosing to post-grad is just to "better [himself] for another year." The decision, which was made "about two weeks ago," included input from Chris "mom, [AAU coach] Steve Stevens, and [his] grandmother." Fans of the Hoyas have nothing to worry about, though, as Braswell still plans on playing for John Thompson III for his college ball. In fact, I asked whether other players committing there in the class of 2009, such as recent commit DaShonte Riley, would impact his decision: "I'm going there, period. It don't matter if anybody else [is] going there. . . . Nobody else [is] going to change my mind on what school I want to go to." As for JT III's opinion on Chris' decision, Braswell told me that the coach thought "it would be kind of better for me . . . become more prepared for college, . . . doing another year here wouldn't really hurt me." While at Hargrave, Chris is mainly planning on getting "more moves in . . . [the] low post, stepping out a little bit. . . mid-range [game] . . . work on [his] handling." Hargave won the Prep National Championships this season, and will have a legitimate chance at repeating the feat next year, and another undefeated season may not be out of the question either. Although the squad will lose a few players, including Mississippi St.-bound Dee Bost, Head Coach Kevin Keatts' squad will be bringing in at least a couple of impact transfers: DeShawn Painter and, according to Braswell, recent Indiana-commit "Maurice Creek," will being playing in Chatham next year as well. Next season, Chris wants to "hopefully get another ring." I inquired of Braswell how it would be playing down on the post with Painter, a stud member of the class of 2009, and he told me this: "[I] can't pre-determine it too much, but it'll be a good low post area. . . . We'll make it work, we'll start becoming a family." The team certainly has the capability to repeat as national champs, and Chris Braswell will be a main part of the team's ability to do so. Then, he will try to help the Georgetown Hoyas make a run for a national title. Although Chris Braswell's choice to wait an extra year before going to college, he will only be stronger, bigger, and flat-out better.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Northstar Basketball's Top 15 in the Class of 2008

I would like to take some time and provide you my personal rankings of the 15 best players in the class of 2008. For this, I will be basing it solely on a player's game, and not how I project them to succeed in the NCAA or the NBA. I will not include post-grads and fifth year players such as Devin Ebanks and John Riek. Well, here it is:

Rank. Name, Position, High School (State), College
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy (VA), Arizona
2. Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedict's (NJ), Louisville
3. Greg Monroe, PF, Helen Cox (LA), Georgetown
4. Tyreke Evans, G, American Christian Academy (PA), Memphis
5. Jrue Holiday, G, Campbell Hall (CA), UCLA
6. Demar DeRozan, SG, Compton (CA), USC
7. Willie Warren, G, North Crowley (TX), Oklahoma
8. Scotty Hopson, SG, University Heights (KY), Tennessee
9. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Norcross (GA), Wake Forest
10. BJ Mullens, C, Canal Winchester (OH), Ohio St.
11. Kemba Walker, PG, Rice (NY), UConn
12. Ed Davis, PF, Benedictine School (VA), North Carolina
13. Elliot Williams, SG, St. George's (TN), Duke
14. Jamychal Green, PF, St. Jude (AL), Alabama
15. Delvon Roe, F, St. Edward (OH), Michigan St.

Here is a summary of the players by state and NCAA conference, of those with multiple players:
CA: 2
OH: 2
VA: 2

ACC: 3
Big East: 3
Pac-10: 3
Big 10: 2
SEC: 2

I think Brandon Jennings is far and away the best player in America. Although this class does not have the major star power as the 2006 and 2007 classes, there is a nice group of talent. These 15 players are, in my opinion, the best in the nation. Look for them on a national stage in the years to come, as they have all the skills to succeed.

Note- information on high schools, positions, etc. is from

Note- photo is of Brandon Jennings, and is from

Thursday, May 15, 2008

DeJuan Blair- A Lot Left to Accomplish and a Lot of Time to Do It

DeJuan Blair, a 6'7 power forward for the University of Pittsburgh, was the Big East Freshman of the Year this past season. The stud big man helped lead Pitt to a Big East Tournament Championship as well as a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers had a solid season in 2007-2008, going 27-10 and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament, before being defeated by the Michigan St. Spartans. DeJuan Blair was a key member of Jamie Dixon's squad, despite being a rookie at the NCAA level. At the Pitt Jam Fest, I caught up with the Big East superstar.

NB: So, you guys had a big season this year. What was it like for you to go . . . and win the Big East Tournament?
DB: It was a big step up . . . for us because [of] all our downfalls during the season, and we just came back, we popped back as a team, and everybody came together and we did an excellent job on that.

NB: Did [the team] pay any attention to Bobby Knight picking you to win [the NCAA Tournament], or was that not you were even bothering to think about?
DB: No, it was . . . nice, but obviously we [did not] take it up, but that was nice that he did it, but we just . . . got to come back harder next year.

NB: What do you think the team will be capable of accomplishing next season?
DB: A lot of things, [with] everybody coming back, and plus the recruits we [are] getting in. We [will] just keep working hard. . . . I believe they picked us to be third in the nation, so that’s a big honor for us, so we just got to keep going.

NB: How did you decide on Pittsburgh?
DB: [I] just [wanted] to stay home. . . . Why not play DI at the highest level at home?

NB: Do you have any goals for your college career, things that you want to accomplish personally or team-wise?
DB: Hopefully one day get the Player of the Year in the nation, and the obviously get a National Championship.

NB: Are you planning on staying [in college for] all four years [of your eligibility]?
DB: Hopefully I do, but if anything comes together, that would be great.

NB: What was it like for you guys to go down to Madison Square Garden this year and beat Duke on . . . such a big national stage?
DB: Oh, that was fun. Just doing that, and [having] everybody watching. It was . . . a huge game, and I came up big in that [with] 20 rebounds [and] 15 points. It was good, playing against them, [a] high-major team, that was excellent.

NB: How were you able to perform so well this season as a freshman?
DB: Just coming in and playing my game. That’s just me, I didn’t look at it [as] being . . . a freshman and all that, it was just me.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game? DB: Rebounding. NB: What about your biggest weakness, that you’ll have to work on?
DB: Shooting.

DeJuan Blair is destined for success in his remaining time at Pitt. Assuming he does stay for three more seasons, the big man has a legitimate shot to win National Player of the Year and also lead the Panthers to an NCAA title. Although Blair may never been considered a top-notch NBA prospect due to his height, his pure talent and rebounding ability will likely land him on an NBA squad. In addition, Blair is a genuinely nice guy, and that is something that NBA coaches are going to like about him. The League may be a long way away for DeJuan Blair, though, as he's got three years to accomplish his goals as a Pitt Panther.
Note- photo is from

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dontae Johnson- Football Star's Got Game on the Court Too

Dontae Johnson, a 6'3 sophomore from The Pennington School (NJ), is a stud on the gridiron, and isn't too shabby on the court either. Johnson is a safety and wide receiver in football, and a forward in basketball. During the AAU basketball season, Dontae plays with Team New Jersey ABC, while also getting his name out for football, which is his primary sport. At the Pitt Jam Fest, a tournament in which his NJABC team made the Gold bracket quarterfinals, I caught up with the two-sport star.

NB: What do you see as some of the similarities . . . between playing basketball and [playing] football?
DJ: Well, just being tough all-around. Basketball, even though . . . it’s not a contact sport, you still have to be tough with it and [be] physical. So, . . . it helps me to be tougher on the football field.

NB: What makes you interested in continuing to play basketball [when] you feel your future lies in football? What makes basketball appealing to you?
DJ: Well, I just love the game, just being around people. . . . I just love being around the sport, . . . [it’s] a good environment, and it keeps you in shape for football, so that’s why I do it.

NB: Over the summer, how are you planning on [ balancing football] combines against AAU [basketball] tournaments, and getting both sports in?
DJ: It’s going to be hard, but I’ll plan on just going to basketball [events] when I’m not doing football, but if football comes up, I’m there first, that’s my number one [sport], . . . but otherwise I’m [going to] be here with the team and just having fun.

NB: What are the chances you play both football and basketball in college?
DJ: I don’t know, it probably is going to be [hard], but I don’t know right now, so hopefully it’s just going be football, but if it’s both, I’ll play both.

NB: What are some of the schools that are currently showing you interest?
DJ: For football . . . you have Memphis, . . . Maryland, Michigan St., Ohio St., Florida, and you got Villanova.

NB: What about for basketball?
DJ: For basketball, . . . probably Rutgers [and] Rider, just local [schools, not really nothing big.

NB: Is there a school that you’ve always wanted to go to, that you’ve grown up rooting for and saying ‘I want to . . . play football for them?’
DJ: Yeah, it would be the Virginia Tech Hokies because my family [is] from Virginia, and I like it down there, and then being that . . . I know Marcus and Michael Vick have went through there, I would like to go through the program as well.

NB: If [Virginia Tech Head Coach] Frank Beamer and his team were to start getting involved with [recruiting] you, how would that change your focus on the recruiting? Would that be the type of school that they offer you and you commit, or [would] you still have to be weighing your options?
DJ: I would still weigh my options, but that would just be at the top of the list with . . . all my other offers, so it’s going to . . . be hard to make that decision at the end, but they’re pretty high on my list right now.

NB: What are the things you’re looking for in a school that you want to see in your [future] college?
DJ: Just being able to grow as the years go on, and by my senior year be [part of] a talented young program, and have young recruits come in, and be able to show them that it’s a good program, and also being able to accomplish academics, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.

NB: Who are some of the people that are going to be helping you to make your decision and [will be] helping you along the recruiting process?
DJ: [Team New Jersey ABC Head Coach] Matt [Pauls] for one, he’s like my father in this right now, and then my head [football] coach Jerry Eure from Pennington.

NB: Growing up, . . . was football always your favorite sport? Was it the sport you were always better at? Or is that . . . something that’s changed as you’ve reached the high school level?
DJ: No, football’s always been my number one [sport], just for the fact that [there is] the contact. I love the sport, and then it’s just exciting, you never know what’s going to happen in football, so that’s why I love the sport.

NB: What position are you most likely going to be playing at the . . . college level?
DJ: Either wide receiver or defensive back, so I’m not sure right now.

NB: What do you prefer to play?
DJ: Defensive back, . . . it’s easier for me, . . . and on top of that, it’s fun just to hit people instead of getting hit.

NB: What is your favorite thing about any sport, just about sports in general? If you had to pick one thing that was just your favorite about sports, what would it be?
DJ: Just the intensity, . . . and the vibe that you get from playing the sport, and the passion that you have for it, so I would probably say intensity because it’s just . . . a lot of atmosphere for basketball and football, which makes me want to play harder to prove to other people that your . . . right and your supposed to be playing this game.

NB: If you had to compare your game of football to . . . a current player in either the NCAA or the NFL, who would it be?
DJ: For wide receiver, I would have to go with . . . Reggie Wayne from [the] Indianapolis Colts, . . . And for defensive back, . . . I don’t know who I would go with, but just know that coming out to hit you, hit you hard too.

NB: What about for your basketball game, who would you compare your game to?
DJ: One of those intensity guys, the guys that come off the bench to bring the spark, not a . . . main player, or a go-to player, just basically a role player, just to help to get the team up and going, and . . . a strong defensive player as well.

NB: What are you looking to accomplish next year, both on the football field and the basketball court, at the high school level?
DJ: Actually, just to improve from last year, that’s all basically. That’s all it is, you [are] trying to improve every year, get better and better every year, so that’s all that I’m trying to do.

Johnson clearly knows what he has to do in order to succeed in the athletic world, and that is just keep working on his game. Dontae has a nice support system with Matt Pauls and Jerry "Chief" Eure, one for each sport, and he has the game to go along way. The NJABC wing player is destined for a nice career at the high school and NCAA level (and the NFL?), as the talent is clearly there for him. Johnson has a strong and chiseled frame, athleticism, and physicality. All the remains is some fine tuning, and you will be seeing Dontae Johnson playing football on Saturdays.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Southern Jam Fest Recap

Over the weekend, I went to Charlottesville, Virginia for The Hoop Group's Southern Jam Fest, and was able to watch some of the east coast's best teams in action. The tournament had U-15, U-16, and U-17 age groups. Here is the list of winners and runner-ups:

U-17 Gold Champ: CP3 All-Stars (NC)
U-17 Gold Runner-up: National Christian Academy (MD)
U-17 Silver: Squash All Beefs (DC)
U-17 Silver Runner-up: PA Pride
U-16 Gold Champ: Team Final (PA)
U-16 Gold Runner-up: Boo Williams (VA)
U-16 Silver Champ: BWSL Team Virginia
U-16 Silver Runner-up: NC Raptors Select Blue
U-15 Gold Champ: Boo Williams (VA)
U-15 Gold Runner-up: Team Phenom (PA)
U-15 Silver Champ: Team New Jersey ABC
U-15 Silver Runner-up: Delaware Sharks

I'll and fill you in on the 12 squads that made finals appearances team by team, and I will also give you some other information from the event. I'll begin with the U-17 winners, the CP3 All-Stars, a bunch that features 6'5 Reggie Bullock '10, a North Carolina commit. The standout sophomore lead his squad in scoring against Playaz Gold (NJ) in the quarterfinals, yet managed a measly four points in the title game and grabbed only six rebounds. Meanwhile, 6'5 senior Wendell "CJ" Williams, a North Carolina St.-signee--who for some reason was allowed to play in the event, despite not being recruitable for the 2009 season--had a solid game in the championship, scoring 10 points, to go along with two boards, a steal, an assist, and a block. As for the boys from National Christian Academy, who were defeated byCP3 by a score of 70-50, their big name is Dante Taylor, a 6'9 forward. He had a rough outing in the title game, finishing with six points and five boards. Wilbur O'Neal, a 6'7For those of you that do not know, the Gold division is for teams the finished first in their pools, while the Silver division is for those that came in second place in their pools. It bears mentioning that of the six championship games, Boo Williams had a team in three of them, both U-16 games and the U-15 Gold game. The program from Virginia may well be the best in America, when senior, had a tremendous showing against CP3, shooting 5/7 from the field and 4/5 at the line to total 14 points. In addition, the uncommitted senior had 14 rebounds, two assists, and three steals, though he did pick up five fouls. In the U-17 Silver championship, 6'8 junior Thomas Robinson dropped 19 points on 9/10 shooting from the field, while hitting his only free throw and also had 11 boards for Squash All Beefs. Phillip Wood, a 6'3 junior who plays at basketball powerhouse Montrose Christian (MD), had 10 points and eight rebounds in the title game, as well as two assists and three steal for the DC-based AAU program. As for the PA Pride, who lost 71-58, 6'0 junior Nick Novak had 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Junior Paul Weatherly, who checks in at 6'4, had 14 points, four boards, and two blocks for his team.
Moving right along to the U-16 level, the championship game was one for the ages. Team Final (PA) and Boo Williams (VA) are two of the most highly regarded AAU programs in America, and for good reason. Both are loaded with talent, and the U-16 title game was a fantastic battle. In the semis, Boo defeated the Westchester Hawks (NY) by two points, while Team Final beat Team New Jersey ABC by 13. In the finals, Boo Williams was in control throughout the first half, but in the second 16 minutes, Team Final battled back. The Pennsylvanian group climbed on the back up its superstar, freshman phenom Michael Gilchrist, a 6'7 forward from St. Patrick's (NJ), who would finish the game with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. Gilchrist shot 11/18 from the field, though did not connect on any of his three attempts from beyond the arc. In addition, the class of 2011 stud was 7/13 at the stripe. Gilchrist, despite scoring nine more points, did not shoot as well against Boo Williams, as he did against NJABC in the semis, when he was 7/11 from the floor, 2/2 on three pointers, and 4/6 at the line. American Christian Academy (PA) 6'6 sophomore forward George Harper also had a stellar performance in the finals, scoring 13 points on 5/8 shooting from the field and 3/4 at the line, grabbing 10 boarding, and blocking a shot. The most apparent thing about Harper was his attitude problem, though. The talent is clearly there for the linebacker-esque big man, as he can jump, shoot, score, board, etc., but he is just not at the same level with his attitude. Harper talks a lot of trash, even to people watching the game. In fact, George was jawing with some Boo Williams fans while on the blocks during a free throw. In addition, Harper was called for a technical foul during the game for hanging on the rim after a dunk. The ACA baller has the game to play high major ball, but until he puts it all together mentally and attitude-wise, he may not be much of a success. Trevor Cooney, a 6'4 freshman guard also had a stellar game for Team Final, notching 16 points on 5/9 shooting from the floor, including 1/3 on threes, and went 5/7 at the charity stripe. Cooney, a terrific shooter, also had two boards, an assist, and a steal. DJ Irving, a 5'10 sophomore guard, added 10 points, shooting 3/6 on threes, and not attempting a deuce. Irving also knocked in his only free throw. For Boo Williams, 6'5 sophomore Travis McKie was one of the standouts, dropping 17 points on 7/15 shooting, and also had six rebounds. Dadrian Collins, a 6'5 junior, had 17 points on 7/13 shooting, including 2/3 beyond the arc, though he hit just one of four at the line. Collins also added a half dozen rebounds. Sophomore Brandon Britt, who stands 5'9, had 13 points on 5/9 shooting, with seven of his shots--three of which he made--being from three point land. Britt also had a board, an assist, and a steal. Team Final pulled away in the end, knocking down key free throws, including icers by Cooney, and won the game 76-72. The fans packed the sidelines to watch the game, and it was well worth it, as the contest was phenomenal. In the U-16 Silver title game, BWSL Team Virginia defeated the NC Raptors Select Blue squad 61-46. BWSL, a Boo Williams team, was led by 6'7 sophomore Davante Gardner's 16 points. He shot 8/8 at the line and 4/9 from the floor. Derek Wright, a 6'1 sophomore, scored 12 points, had three assists, and grabbed seven rebounds. Sophomore Jay Copeland, who is 6'6, added 11 points on 5/7 shooting from the floor and 1/2 shooting at the line. He also had four boards and two steals.
Going to the U-15 level now, Boo Williams (VA) knocked off Team Phenom (PA) in the Gold championship. Leading the way for Boo were 6'9 freshman James McAdoo and 6'5 eighth grader Justin Anderson, who had 11 points, and displayed amazing athleticism and hops. For Team Phenom, two freshmen led the way: Aaron Brown had 17 points, Devin Coleman had 17, including three threes. In the U-15 Silver contest, NJABC 6'0 freshman Anthony Gaffney had 24 points on 10/15 shooting from the floor and 4/6 shooting at the stripe. Bruce Brittingham, a 6'0 freshman, added 14 points on 7/10 shooting, and also pulled down five boards and dished out two assists. Freshman Khalid Lewis El, who is 6'2, had 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Chandler Fraser-Pauls, a 5'11 freshman, had 12 points and six assists. For the Delaware Sharks, who fought back from a late 15-point deficit and forced overtime only to lose 83-80, Devon Dorsey had 17 points on 5/10 shooting from the field, 1/2 on threes, and a nice 6/7 on free throws. Dorsey also grabbed 11 boards and had two blocks. Freshman Andrew Merlo, who is 5'10, had 16 points on 6/10 shooting, 3/6 beyond the arc, and 1/3 on free throws. He also had six rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Harold Hayes, a freshman who checks in at 5'7, fouled out with 11 points on on 5/8 shooting from the floor, hitting his lone free throw. He also had an assist and a steal. The Sharks as a team were an impressive 80% from the free line in the game, going 12/15.
An interesting tidbit is that Chris Braswell, a Georgetown commit, played on the Triple Threat (DC) U-17 squad, and appears to be headed to the post-grad route, rather than to John Thompson III's team. Playaz Gold (NJ) was yet again bounced early in a tournament, losing in the the quarterfinals of the Gold bracket to the eventual champion CP3 All-Stars. Team Jersey Elite (NJ) had a less than stellar showing by their standards, not winning their pool, and then being defeated by the PA Pride in the opening round of the Silver bracket. The Petersburg 14U (VA) team made a nice run to the Gold semifinals, before being ousted by Boo Williams. All in all it was a quality tournament that was well run by The Hoop Group.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Poll Results:

Lance Stephenson and Doron Lamb evidently have more in common then both playing in New York. You selected those two as the best players in their respective classes. Stephenson dominated the voting on the class of 2009, picking up 24 of the 53 votes. Dominic Cheek finished a distant second with 10 votes. He was followed up by Kenny Boynton, who picked up six, after whom came John Wall, who grabbed five selections. DeMarcus Cousins and "Other" tied with three votes, and then Derrick Favors and Xavier Henry were knotted up with one vote each. Suprisngly, Renardo Sidney, the number one player on, did not receive any votes. I know that at least one of the "Other" votes was for Maalik Wayns, who is a top-notch point guard. As for the polling on the class of 2010, Doron Lamb's 10 votes barely nudged Tristan Thompson's eight votes, as the two combined for nearly half the choices, totalling 18 of the 37. Kendall Marshall and "Other" tied for third place, grabbing five votes each. Next up were DeShaun Thomas and Brandon Knight with four, followed by KC Ross-Miller with one. Jared Sullinger was not selected, and neither was Jeremy Tyler, who is ranked number one in the class of 2010 by both and Thus, Rivals' number one player in both 2009 and 2010 did not get any votes. Interestingly, the site's recently chosen top player in the class of 2008, BJ Mullens, was shut out in the voting on that class, which took place a number of weeks ago. Is there something you have against Rivals? Whether you do or do not, these polls illustrate the talent in the Big Apple, and support you choice in a previous poll of New York as the state that produces the best talent.

Upcoming Interviews:

This past weekend, I was at the Southern Jam Fest in Virginia. Thus, I was unable to get any posts up. I will, though, be getting up a number of interviews over the next few weeks. In addition to those of Dontae Johnson, DeJuan Blair, Donyell Marshall, Marcus Morris, and Markieff Morris, I conducted 10 more interviews at the tournament this weekend. The players who I spoke with were Justin Anderson '12, Robel Hurui '11, James McAdoo '11, Christian Leach '11, Keith Lumpkin '11, Reggie Bullock '10, Dion Waiters '10, Dante Taylor '09, Karron Johnson '09, and Sherrod Wright '09. Please check back for these interviews, which will be going on the site in the upcoming weeks. Thank you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wayne Newsom- Call Him a Leader

Wayne Newsom, a 6'7 sophomore forward for the Piscataway (NJ) Chiefs, is a player who loves to win. The big man plays for Team New Jersey ABC on the AAU circuit, and has had a stellar season thus far. Newsom's U-16 NJABC squad made it to the quarterfinals of the gold bracket at the Pitt Jam Fest. Early on in the event, I had the chance to chat with Wayne about his future, his love for the game, and more.

NB: So, [with] your season at Piscataway this year, what did you think you . . . accomplished as a team?
WN: As a team about two years back, we were 4-20, so we accomplished a lot, we went . . . 25-3, I mean that’s a big accomplishment, from going from 4-20, a lot of work from Coach [Guy] Genson, our head coach, he put in a lot of hard work for us, and just made us remember [to] stay humble [and] focused.

NB: What did it mean to you, . . . as a team to be able to play at the Prime Time Shootout, and to be playing against an opponent like Oak Hill [Academy in Virginia]?
WN: Well , we played against Oak Hill [and] it was pretty interesting. Everybody [else] was going into the game [saying] ‘you guys . . . are crazy, why are you playing Oak Hill? They’re going to beat you.’ We lost . . . by like 40. We lost by like 40, but it was a good experience because . . . we don’t have any DI players going out this year, [and] we were on the court with about seven or eight Division I players, so it felt good playing against DI players, and just having that experience [was great]. [We played against] a future NBA player [in] Brandon Jennings, [and] just going up against him, . . . playing physical, and just seeing what it takes to be the elite player [and] an elite team [was great].

NB: Was there any sort of awe-factor when [the team] stepped on the court of ‘wow, we’re on the same court as Oak Hill,’ or was it something that you guys didn’t think about?
WN: No, we just really . . . looked at them like ‘it’s a team, we play against teams everyday, . . . they got five players, we got five players. They got five brothers, we got five brothers.’ That was the [mindset that] we wanted to go into that game with. . . . We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we were also going to have fun, as young men, and just take it to another level, but it felt good playing against them.

NB: How does playing against this AAU competition . . . with Team New Jersey [ABC] help you to play against some of the higher-quality [high school] opponents both in New Jersey and out-of-state?
WN: Playing against AAU players, it’s a good experience, it’s a lot of talent out here, a lot of top prospects coming out of the class of 2010. . . . it’s a good . . . situation to see . . . what you [are] going to face [at] the college level, the elite players. [At] Team New Jersey [ABC], we have a lot of elite players coming up this year, we just got to keep working hard, . . . listen to [U-16 Head] Coach Matt [Pauls] and stay focused.

NB: You mentioned college, what are some of the schools that are currently showing interest in you?
WN: Rhode Island, I have a couple . . . of DII schools, . . . Felician, [and] a couple other schools.

NB: What school would you say right now is at the top of your list.
WN: I can’t even tell you, . . . I’m really going to focus on . . . playing basketball [and] just having fun right now. When the time comes, I’ll sit down with my family and Coach Matt and discuss what’s going to be my best decision for college.

NB: Do you have a goal to play high DI [basketball], or do you just want to find the right fit, whether it’s DIII, whether it’s a mid-major, or whether it is a high-major?
WN: I want to play college ball [at a school that is] . . . going to pay for my education, and [where I will be able to study] . . . what I want to study. . . . I would like to play high DI [basketball], high-major, low-major, I would like to do that, but it depends on me, it depends [on] if I keep working hard. . . . So, whatever Coach Matt . . . and my family feel is best for me, that’s what I’ll do.

NB: You mentioned . . . about your field of study, and [that] you want to go someplace that has that. Do you know what you’re interested in doing as of now, or is that something that you’re going to think about later?
WN: I want to be pediatrician, I want to help kids, I like helping kids. My mom always tell me ‘give back to your community . . . once you succeed in life,’ and . . . I think that . . . I’m going to succeed, I’m around positive people, positive people are around me, so I think I want to give back to my community by helping kids out.

NB: Being with Team New Jersey [ABC] and getting the workout that you guys do [get], all the practices. . . . What’s your opinion on all that? . . . A lot of AAU programs don’t do as much work as you do. What makes it appealing to you to play for the program that does do all that?
WN: Well, Coach Matt, he works hard on us. . . . Coach Matt is more than just a coach, he’s like a father figure to everybody. So, . . . when we have practice, that’s what we want to do, we want to get to practice, we want to work hard for not just us, but for Coach Matt too, and our families. Just . . . getting better, getting competitive, the practices that we have [are] competitive. You won’t find that in any other AAU program, [they are] real competitive.

NB: In practice [recently], you really were showing your mentality of wanting to win, and wanting to try hard, and wanting to be in the game, even in practice. . . . Where does that mindset come from, of always wanting to be a part of the action, be a part of that winning team?
WN: It’s just in any boy’s nature, any boy who loves playing basketball, that loves . . . doing anything with sports, football, basketball, soccer, baseball, name it, you just always want to win, no matter where you are, if you’re, [even] if you’re . . . on the bench, you always want to win, you just want to win. It’s just that mean streak about something, like ‘Oh, I got to win.’ . . . The word ‘lose,’ or ‘I lost,’ shouldn’t be in anybody’s vocabulary, it shouldn’t be, that’s just . . . a plain simple fact, it shouldn’t be in [anybody’s] vocabulary. [That’s] because if you don’t . . . want to win, if you don’t want to be the best at what you can be, then why try?

NB: What do you think that Piscataway is going to be able to accomplish over your final two seasons there?
WN: We brought a sectional championship home this year. Next year, it’s step-by-step, brick-by-brick. We . . . have a saying at our school . . . in our locker room, saying ‘brick-by-brick,’ and then when we say ‘brick-by-brick,’ it’s [supposed to mean] keep working. . . . Whatever comes, it goes by how hard we work, if we work hard, we succeed. If we don’t, then we won’t, so we have to keep working hard, and I think that we can be the best . . . in the state of New Jersey. That’s just up to us.

NB: What are some of your goals?
WN: Some of my goals as a teammate [are] to help my teammates get better, and another goal is to be a better leader, off the court and on the court. I would like for some of my teammates to come to me and talk to me. Some of them, they [already do] come to me and talk to me, . . . just about family. I would also . . . get an offer by the end of this season. If not an offer, an offer or two, . . . and I would just like to become a better man in general, and . . . become more focused [on] what I want to do and what my goals are.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game?
WN: No doubt rebounding, rebounding and defense because . . . I like to play the bad guy because when you play the bad guy on defense, it’s just that you have a mean streak to you like, ‘yeah, he’s not doing this.’ . . . I also would like to be the vocal leader, I’m a vocal leader. . . . When I say something, the team usually reacts on it, so I . . . think one of the my strongest [aspects] is [that I am] a vocal leader.

NB: What do you think is your biggest weakness?
WN: I would have to say [Pause] consistency. I have more consistent. . . . I have to have at least good games back-to-back, if not doing something good like scoring, doing something good like rebounding. . . . . I have to be more consistent because if you’re not a consistent player, college coaches [will not like you as much, and] that . . . lowers your stock, and that’s one of things I would like to improve on.

NB: Give me one word to sum up basketball, . . . what the game of basketball means to you.
WN: Love, no doubt.

It is evident from this question and answer session that Wayne Newsom has what it takes to play ball at the college level, at least mentally. The forward loves basketball and he sure knows how to play it. Wayne is the type of "glue guy" that many teams need to succeed. Newsom will need to fine tune his game a bit, but he has two years to do so, and in that time he will wreak havoc at the high school and AAU levels. Wayne is a kid that low-major college teams may want to take a look at due to his mentality and solid game. If Newsom grows two or three more inches, high mid-major or even BCS conference ball may not be out of the picture. One thing is for sure, no matter where he ends up, Newsom will bring his leadership qualities, and people will be drawn to him right away.

Scouting Report on Newsom:

The 6'7 sophomore is a beast on the offense glass, and can do work on the defensive boards as well. Wayne routinely wows his teammates and crowds with highlight reel dunks, displaying his phenomenal ups and athleticism. He could certainly use some more range on his jumper, and that will hopefully come with time. As well, some more post moves would be a welcome addition for Newsom. The leadership abilities that Wayne possesses are evident. He takes charge of his NJABC team, whether he is on the court or on the sidelines. This may well be Wayne's best attribute. Every single team in every sport from pre-teen squads all the way up to the pro ranks need someone who has a presence, and that is something that Newsom certainly has.