Monday, July 7, 2008

Northstar Basketball Milestone & Thank You

July 4th is always a big day for Americas, and this year it was a huge day for Northstar Basketball as well. On Friday, Northstar Basketball got over 2,000 hits in one day for the first time ever. I'd like to thank all of the readers of Northstar Basketball for helping to make it a successful site. Without all of you, the information is useless. Thank you all very much!

Hoop Group Elite Camp Day Two Overview- July 6, 2008

Day two at The Hoop Group Elite Camp involved a nice blend of playing five-on-five games, drill work and instruction, and listening to a renowned guest speaker. Rain yet again altered the setup of the day, but that was not nearly enough to keep away throngs of college coaches from schools such as Pitt, Rutgers, St. Joe’s, Temple, UMass and Providence. These six were amongst the THREE HUNDRED or so universities represented today at the camp. Here are the players that I saw who thrived under the spotlight and had nice showings:

Ishmael Kalilou ‘10, Windsor (CT)
LeBrent Walker ‘12, Lincoln (NY)
Prince Okoroh ‘11, Eleanor Roosevelt (NY)
Jimmy Louissaint ‘09, Robeson (NY)
Trevor Cooney ‘11, Sanford (DE)
Mario Monroe ‘10, North Cambridge Catholic (MA)
Kelvin Amayo ‘10, Hillside (NJ)
Rico Winston ‘09, Jericho Christian Academy (MD)
Aaron Brown ‘10, St. Benedict’s (NJ)
Zackary O’Brien ‘09, Watchung Hills (NJ)
Jay Bowie ‘10, Tampa Prep (FL)
Naufall Folahan ‘10, Massanutten (VA)
Given Kalipinde ‘09, Episcopal Academy (VA)
Derrick Wilson ‘11, Hotchkiss School (CT)
Markus Kennedy ‘10, St. Patrick’s (NJ)
Ed DiRugeris ‘09, Pennsbury (PA)
Diyaaldin Kelley ‘09 PG, Mariana Bracetti School (PA)
Ryan Hill ‘10, Steelton Highsprire (PA)
Dalton Pepper ‘09, Pennsbury (PA)
Kyle Anderson ‘12, Paterson Catholic (NJ)
Dondre Whitmore ‘10, Trenton Catholic (NJ)
Kamil Parzch ‘10, Lindenhurst (NY)
Josiah Woodruff ‘09, Jericho Christian Academy (MD)
Blake Bozeman ‘10, Paul VI (VA)
Justin Crosgile ‘09, DePaul Catholic (NJ)
Theo Boyomo ‘10, The Kent School (CT)
Omi Ogolo ‘09, James Madison (VA)
Marcus Hebron ‘09, Laurel (MD)
Stephen Spinella ‘09 PG, The Nia School (NJ)
Nick Goff ‘09, St. Francis DeSales (OH)
Kellen Cade ‘09, Hotchkiss School (CT)
Cameron Baker ‘09, Columbus Academy (OH)

The single most impressive one-game performance I saw today was easily that of 6′0 Justin Crosgile in his team’s win during the after set of games. Although official stats aren’t kept, Justin probably dropped around 20 or 25 points in a come-from-behind victory. The Saint Joseph’s commit almost single-handedly brought his team back into the game, against a quality squad featuring Trevor Cooney. Crosgile got it done on both sides of the ball, getting steals and boards on defense, while hitting jumpers, getting to the hole, rebounding, and getting his teammates involved. Crosgile is one of the best point guards in the class of 2009, and games like he had this afternoon are proof of just that.

Some of the young guns went to work today - giving everyone a preview of the talent in the classes of 2011 and 2012. LeBrent Walker, a 6′1 rising freshman had a solid showing in his squad’s final game of the day. Walker got to the basket with ease and had some tough finishes around the rim. LeBrent’s teammate, 6′3 rising sophomore Prince Okoroh also performed well in the team’s last game on day two. Prince showed off a nice all-around game and a knack for getting to the rack. Another youngster who had a solid showing was 6′0 Derrick Wilson, a rising sophomore from out of The Hotchkiss School (CT). Despite not playing up to his potential for much of his team’s first game, Wilson came through when it mattered most. With his squad down one and only eight seconds to go, Derrick drove the length of the court for a layup to put his team out front 53-52, and it would stay that way after 6′4 Aaron Brown of St. Benedict’s missed a shot from about 14 feet out at the buzzer. Last but not least of the underclassmen who had impressive showings on Sunday was Kyle Anderson of Paterson Catholic (NJ), a 6′5 rising freshman. Anderson is one of the most highly-touted players in the class of 2012 nationally, and although he was not outstanding, Kyle more than held his own on the court. The Playaz (NJ) AAU program member showed nice court vision and stellar passing skills - his biggest asset is his fantastic basketball IQ. If these five kids are any indication, the talent level at The Hoop Group Elite Camp will not be falling off any time soon, as there are some gems in younger classes.

Derrick Wilson: Xavier, Texas, Arizona, Duke, and Stanford
Offers: Xavier
Favorites: Texas, Arizona, and Duke; those are his top three
Note- Xavier, Texas, Arizona, and Duke are “highly interested” and “are the main schools” recruiting him

Zackary O’Brien: Central Florida, Stanford, Fordham, Penn St., Niagara, Rider, Auburn, Missouri, James Madison, and St. Joseph’s
Offers: Stanford, Fordham, Niagara, James Madison, and St. Joseph’s
Favorites: Central Florida, Stanford, Niagara, and St. Joseph’s
Note- he says that Rider is “going to offer in [around] two weeks.”

Dalton Pepper: West Virginia, Villanova, Temple, Wake Forest, and Miami
Offers: All five
Favorites: None, “I’m not sure yet.”

Myles Mack ‘11, Paterson Catholic (NJ): Florida and Georgetown
Offers: Georgetown
Favorite: Florida
Note- “That’s all I know right now,” he said of the schools recruiting him, indicating that there are likely more schools involved

Russ Smith ‘10, Archbishop Malloy (NY): Jacksonville, Arkansas, Louisville, George Mason, Ohio, Rutgers, Iona, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Wright St., Miami, St. John’s, Minnesota, Virginia, and South Carolina
Offers: Iona and Rhode Island
Favorites: n/a
Note- he said that “it looks like [Virginia and South Carolina] will offer” him a scholarship

Mike McFadden ‘09, Technology (NJ): Utah, Maryland, Providence, Penn St., LSU, and George Mason
Offers: Utah
Favorites: None, “not really”

Dondre Whitmore: Rider, Iona, Fordham, Robert Morris, St. John’s, and Kent St.
Offers: Rider, Iona, Fordham, and Robert Morris
Favorites: None, “I really don’t have any.”

DeOliver Davis ‘10, Hun (NJ): Dartmouth and Yale
Offers: None
Favorites: n/a
Notes- he is being recruited by “a lot of Ivy [League schools],” has a GPA of “about 3.6,” and said, “I like American, I like Lafayette, . . . I like the Patriot League.”

Trevor Cooney: Delaware, St. Joseph’s, Villanova, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest
Offers: Delaware, St. Joseph’s, and Rutgers
Favorites: Delaware, St. Joseph’s, Rutgers, West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest
Notes- on his top three, he said they are “probably the ones that have offered me [a scholarship], . . . [and] probably Notre Dame is up there too.” If signing day were tomorrow, he would sign with “Notre Dame maybe,” but of the schools that have offered, he would pick “probably Delaware.”

LeBrent Walker: Arizona, Tennessee, Baylor, Fordham, and St. John’s
Offers: None
Favorites: Kansas St., North Carolina, and UCLA
Note- his favorite of the schools that he has interest from is St. John’s

Prince Okoroh: UMBC, Hood College, and he visited a “small church school” in North Carolina
Offers: None
Favorite: UMBC, “I’d like to go to UMBC out of those ones.”

Sunday was a great day at The Hoop Group Elite Camp, and Monday should bring more of the same, so make sure you check back later for more information.

For more info on Hoop Group Elite Camp, including how to register for camp, please visit:

For more info and updates on both this event and others from the world of high school and AAU basketball check out

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hoop Group Elite Camp Day One Overview- July 5, 2008

The Hoop Group Elite Camp kicked off today with numerous high-DI prospects, as well as many other DI, DII, and DIII players in attendance. With slightly over 700 kids, this four day camp is the biggest that The Hoop Group has ever had. I was fortunate enough to be able to see quite a few of the top players in action, and a number of ballers were kind enough to chat with me. Without further ado, here’s the overview of the first day of the The Hoop Group Elite Camp.
First off, here is a short sampling of the well-known and/or highly-regarded prospects at the event:

Tyreak Johnson ‘09, St. Raymond’s (NY)
Justin Crosgile ‘09, DePaul Catholic (NJ)
Aaron Brown ‘10, Roman Catholic (PA)
George Harper ‘10, Academy of the New Church (PA)
Rakeem Christmas ‘11, North Catholic (PA)
CJ Aiken ‘10, Abington (PA)
Tyreek Duran ‘10, Neumnn-Goretti (PA)
Adrian Satchell ‘09, Windsor (CT)
Shannon Givens ‘09, Academy of the New Church (PA)
Markus Kennedy ‘10, St. Patrick’s (NJ)
Khalif Wyatt ‘09, Norristown Area (PA)
Kyrie Irving ‘10, St. Patrick’s (NJ)
Egheosa Edomwonyi ‘09, Hun (NJ)
Andre Gillette ‘09, Neumann-Goretti (PA)
Trevor Cooney ‘11, Sanford School (DE)
Rakeem Brookins ‘10, Roman Catholic (PA)
Jayon James ‘10, Paterson Catholic (NJ)

In addition, there will be a few high-quality players who will be coming tomorrow, such as Dalton Pepper ‘09 of Pennsbury (PA) and Mike McFadden ‘09 of Technology (NJ). Despite the U-18 tryouts going on in Virginia and the Rbk U camp taking place in Pennsylvania, The Hoop Group Elite Camp is not lacking talent at all.

As I walked around The College of New Jersey today surveying the games, I took the time to watch some particular players. Along the way, a handful of other kids caught my eye. Some of the top players that I saw on Saturday were the aforementioned Aaron Brown, Rakeem Christmas, Shannon Givens, Markus Kennedy, Khalif Wyatt, Rakeem Brookins, and Jayon
James. The following guys also stood out to me:

Julian Watson ‘09 PG, Arundel (MD)
Kellen Cade ‘09, Hotchkiss School (CT)
Karon Abraham ‘09, Paterson Eastside (NJ)
Azfar Kahn ‘09, East Meadow (NY)
DeOliver Davis ‘10, Hun (NJ)
Lasan Kromah ‘09, Eleanor Roosevelt (MD)
Hayden Palozej ‘09, Stafford (CT)
Reginald Lewis ‘09, Beford (OH)
Jevoy White ‘09, North Plainfield (NJ)
Paris Grant ‘09, Imhotep Charter (PA)
Chase Plummer ‘10, St. Patrick’s (NJ)
Bilal Kelly ‘09, Mariana Bracetti School (PA)
William Harrison ‘09 PG, Wadleigh (NY)
Kevin McGaughey ‘10, Broad Run (VA)
Rico Winston ‘09, Jericho Christian Academy (MD)
Aaron Brown ‘10, St. Benedict’s (NJ)
Keith Brown ‘09, Malboro (MA)
Devon Saddler ‘09, Aberdeen (MD)


William Harrison: George Mason, Binghamton, Marist, St. Joseph’s, and Stony Brook
Offers: None
Favorite: George Mason

Shannon Givens: Seton Hall, Drexel, Harvard, Stanford, Quinnipiac, LaSalle, and Rutgers
Offers: Drexel, LaSalle, Rutgers
Favorite: None

Bilal Kelly: Princeton, Rider, and UConn
Offers: None
Favorite: Rider
Note- Kelly is considering transferring to “either ANC [Academy of the New Church] or Solesbury,” both of which are in Pennsylvania

Rakeem Christmas: Memphis, Kansas, and Virginia
Offers: None
Favorite: Memphis

Rico Winston: Rutgers, St. John’s, and Clemson
Offers: None
Favorite: None
Note- Winston said that he gets “a lot of letters from Clemson.”

Khalif Wyatt: Temple, St. Joseph’s, Delaware, James Madison, New Hampshire, Siena, Niagara, and Rider
Offers: Delaware
Favorite: None, “I can’t say right now.”

Rayner Moquette ‘09, Our Savior New American: Davidson, Virginia Commonwealth, Princeton, Holy Cross, Manhattan, NJIT, and Bucknell
Offers: None, but said that Davidson and VCU contacting him the most and are “about to” offer him a scholarship
Favorites: Virginia Commonwealth and Davidson
Note- has a “3.5″ GPA

Reginald Lewis: Oregon St., Northwestern, Indiana, and Cleveland St.
Offers: None, “no one right now.”
Favorite: Oregon St.

Devon Saddler: TCU, Quinnipiac, Towson, and Drexel
Offers: TCU
Favorite: TCU

Rakeem Brookins: Georgetown, Texas, Virginia, Providence, Delaware, UPenn, Penn St., Clemson, St. Joseph’s, Temple, George Mason, George Washington, Princeton, Brown, and Buffalo
Offers: Delaware and UPenn
Favorites: Georgetown, Texas, Providence, and St. Joseph’s
Note- has a “3.5″ GPA

Keith Brown: Yale, Bucknell, Lehigh, Brown, Army, Navy, Holy Cross, and Quinnipiac Offers: None, “no one right now.”
Favorites: Navy and Quinnipiac, ”probably Navy or Quinnipiac.”

Dominique Raney ‘11, Putnam City (OK): Wichita St. and a DII school in Oklahoma
Offers: None
Favorites: n/a

The best part of the day came in the last set of games. Inclimate weather forced the NCAA (class of 2011 kids) into the main gym, where basically everyone was at that time. During one of the games, there was a roar from the far court . . . then another . . . and another . . . and so on. I made my way over to the court just in time to see Dominique Raney make a crossover, get to the hole, sky and jam. Apparently, Raney had been putting on a show. There was a massive crowd around all four sides of the court, and people were literally on that court as well as the one next to it. Raney’s display of athleticism and hops summed up the quality of this event.

The NBA East Draft was a great event. The draft took about five hours total, and despite the length was an enjoyable part of the camp for those involved. Things began with the selection of centers. The top choice at this position was a kid playing up, Rakeem Christmas, a 6′9 rising sophomore from North Catholic (PA). Massanutten (MA) 6′10 rising senior Mouphtaou Yarou went second, and was followed up by 6′8 Daryl McCoy, a rising senior from Hartford (CT). After the centers came the point guards. Another Rakeem went first in this cateogry: 5′10 rising junior Rakeem Brookins of Roman Catholic (PA). After Brookins was Notre Dame Prep (MA) rising senior, 6′1 Antoine Allen. Shannon Givens, a 5′11 rising senior from Academy of the New Church (PA) went third. After the floor generals came the small forwards, and the top choice was never in doubt, as arguably the camp’s best player is a 3. Dalton Pepper, a 6′5 rising senior from Pennsbury (PA) was selected first. Bishop O’Connell (VA) 6′5 rising senior Kevin Jones was chosen after Pepper. Rounding out the top three at the 3 was 6′6 soon-to-be post-grad Mike Burwell from South Kent (CT). The power forwards were slated to go next, and 6′6 rising senior Mike McFadden of Technology (NJ) led the way. Jordan Allen, a 6′5 rising sophomore from Bay Shore (NY) was picked in the two spot. Jamee Jackson, a 6′7 rising senior at St. Anthony’s was chosen third amongst power forwards. Last but not least were the shooting guards. The two-guard is one of the most stacked positions at the event, and 6′2 rising senior Devon Saddler of Aberdeen (MD) was the first 2 picked. Shane Southewell, a 6′5 rising junior from Rice (NY) went second, and 6′2 rising junior Jermaine Pert of Paterson Catholic (NJ) went third. The NBA East Draft may have taken a while, but it turned out well.

Stay tuned for more from The Hoop Group Elite Camp!

For more info and updates on both this event and others from the world of high school and AAU basketball, check out


Throughout the month of July I will be quite busy, including working at many of The Hoop Group's camps. My work for The Hoop Group began yesterday, July 5th, at the Hoop Group Elite Camp. I will be doing their daily blogging of events, and I'll also be posting information here on Northstar Basketball. The Hoop Group's website is I would like to say, though, that I may need some patience regarding article posts, as I will be covering basketball almost non-stop. I'll definitely do my best to get up articles, but please bear with me. Thanks!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Update on . . . Austin Rivers

It seems that I got to Austin Rivers at just the right time. The rising sophomore from Winter Park (FL) pulled the trigger on his recruitment recently. The 6'3.5 guard, the son of the Boston Celtics' Head Coach Doc Rivers, has committed to Florida. I spoke with Austin today to discuss his decision. "I felt real comfortable with the coaches [and it's a] . . . beautiful campus," said the up-and-coming class of 2011 stud. Rivers is one of the few committed players in his class, with superstar Aaron Ross (Arkansas) being another. I inquired of the young Rivers whether he was always planning on committing so early, and he told me this: "I really didn't know at first. . . . I knew I should look at some other schools, . . . [but there is] no way a college could be any better." Picking a school at such an early age will make it so that Rivers won't be able to fully enjoy the recruiting process. I asked if if he wishes that he would have had the opportunity to do so, and he told me this: "No, I . . . think it'll be a lot easier doing what I'm doing. . . . [It feels like a] weight has been lifted from my shoulders." I found it interesting that Austin committed to UF, as he had told me that he planned on visiting Memphis, as well as some other prestigious basketball schools. I asked Rivers what he story was on this, and he told me that he "ended up not doing it' because "when it comes down to it, it's going to be the same," adding that he "didn't need to look at the other places in [his] mind." To give you an idea of how great it felt for the young guard to commit, he informed me that "it was more exciting" than when his dad won the NBA Championship with the Celtics. His reasoning was that his "dad won," and not him, whereas he was the one who committed. Austin Rivers is a player to watch down the road, and I'll make sure you can keep track of him right here on Northstar Basketball.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Update on . . . Lance Stephenson

If you recall, I recently posted an interview with the father of 6'6 swingman Lance Stephenson '09. In the talk, Mr. Stehenson mentioned Memphis, Kansas, St. John's, UCLA, and USC as his son's finalists. The Lincoln (NY) star apparently has another school on his mind, though. Adam Zagoria of has an article on his site, in which he reports that the younger Lance said that Kansas, Memphis, and Tennessee are his favorites. Making it in more interesting is that Mr. Stephenson informed me that UCLA is his current favorite, yet the Bruins are not in Lance's top three. Stephenson is a player to keep in an eye on, and I'll do just this for you.

Note- This is the link to the article on with Stephenson's school list:

Update on . . . DeAndre Liggins and Michael Peck

I spoke to Findlay College Prep (NV) Head Coach Michael Peck within the hour and received some good information regarding the up-and-coming prep power as a whole, and one of its top outgoing players. Coach Peck told me that he is looking into a player from Puerto Rico who thinks "may be a good fit for the program," but that the transfer is not finalized. The graduating player that I discussed with Coach Peck is 6'6 guard DeAndre Liggins '08, a Kentucky-signee. Liggins' eligibility for next year is up in the air, so I inquired of Coach Peck whether or not his star senior had qualified, to which he told me: "We're still waiting to hear." Findlay's head man does not know when he will find out about the outcome of DeAndre's situation. The top-notch guard did receive his test scores and all the information is in the hands of the NCAA. I will keep you updated on Liggins' status.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chase Plummer- Filling the Holes

The St. Patrick's Celtics (NJ) are one of the best high school teams in America ever year. At the Hoop Group Showcase, Kevin Boyle's squad was missing a number of its star players. Jermel Jenkins and Quintrell Thomas are gone to graduation. Dexter Strickland '09 was in Africa for adidas Nations, Michael Gilchrist '11 and Paris Bennett '09 were at the NBA Top 100 camp. Rising sophomores Shaq Stokes and Derrick Gordon also missed the event. This left the opportunity for a number of Celtics to step up and many of them rose to the challenge. One of these players was 6'5 junior-to-be forward Chase Plummer. I caught up him after the team narrowly beat New Rochelle (NY) by a score of 75-72.

NB: What happened out there for [the team]? You had a big, 30-point lead at the half, [and it] slipped away. What went wrong?
CP: The refs were killing us out there, . . . calling no fouls. I got my head taken off under the rim. It was wild, wild out there.

NB: What did you guys do [as a team] to let that game slip away?
CP: We didn’t finish. The second half I wasn’t rebounding, we [were] missing shots, just couldn’t complete . . . down the stretch.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game?
CP: I don’t know. My game in general? . . . I rebound, I score. I can score, finish. That’s my big thing when comes to my game.

NB: What’s the weakest point of your game?
CP: Passing, passing really. I got to become a better passer.

NB: What schools are you considering?
CP: I got looks from LaSalle [and] St. Joe’s. That’s really about it right now.

Unfortunately I did not have much time to speak with Plummer, as Coach Boyle wanted to speak with his players. Chase is a talented ball player with a bright future. It is impressive that he was able to step in and be a key contributor at the event, despite not seeing all that much varsity playing time in the past. This is definitely a kid to keep an eye on, as Plummer might be a kid who makes some major strides as a senior, much as departing senior Quintrell Thomas did at St. Pat's.

Scouting Report on Plummer's game vs. New Rochelle:

Chase had an impressive showing against the squad from the Empire State. The 6'5 class of 2010 forward was one of the two best players on the court for the Celtics, along with rising junior 6'1 guard Kyrie Irving. Plummer was impressive in his ability to draw fouls down low and get to the line. The problem, though, is that Chase was not as good when it came to hitting his shots from the stripe. One thing that really stood out about Plummer was his rebounding prowess, especially on the offensive glass. In fact, at one point in the game against New Rochelle, Plummer snatched an offensive board, and then Jeff Borzello of and I both said "oh wow." Chase is big, and seems a bit bigger than his listed height of 6'5. He has long arms, and not surprisingly is a good shot blocker. Plummer will either need to get bigger so that he can really be a 4, or extend his range and his overall game farther from the hole. Right now, Chase is a 'tweener, but a talented one.

Aaron Brown- A Key Part of the Gray Bees' Future

Aaron Brown plays on a high school team full of superstars at St. Benedict's (NY), which features Lamar Patterson '09, Tamir Jackson '09, Tristan Thompson '10, and Myck Kabongo '11 as its prime stars. Other well-known players include Mike Poole '10, Tavon Sledge '11, and Myles Davis '11. The first four of those players did not participate in the Hoop Group Showcase due to the NBA Top 100 camp in Virginia. Thus, Brown and the Gray Bees' other youngsters had a chance to shine. Aaron, a 6'4 forward in the class of 2010, was easily the best player the squad had at the event. I spoke with him after after his squad eked out a win over PCTI (NJ).

NB: You hit the winning shot. How’d it feel?
AB: It felt good. I think we should have still won by about 20 points. We let them come back into the game, and it felt good though, [to] hit the winning shot.

NB: How’d that happen? How’d you guys let that lead slip away?
AB: It came in with the subs. When [the coach] brought in some subs, . . . a couple kids from JV. They [are] not used to varsity basketball. So, they [are] just getting a feel for it for their first time, so [they] probably were a little nervous.

NB: What’s your outlook for [the] season next year at St. Benedict’s? You guys are . . . unexpectedly losing Greg [Echenique]. You guys are losing Samardo [Samuels]. How are you going to rebound from that?
AB: We got a couple big-time guards coming in, and I think we got one big man [too]. So this year, like last year, our goal is to get number one in the country, so I think we can do it this year.

NB: What are some of your other goals?
AB: By the end of the year, for me to commit to a school. Other goals, . . . have a good record like we did last year and the reputation going for the school.

NB: What schools are currently recruiting you?
AB: Providence, Michigan, Kentucky, Marist, Virginia Tech. I got some other schools, but I don’t remember [them] off the top of my head.

NB: Have all those schools offered you a scholarship?
AB: Providence did, Marist did, Kentucky did, I got Harvard did. I got a couple Ivy League schools, they all offered me. . . . I’m keeping my mind open, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.

NB: What’s your Grade Point Average [GPA]?
AB: 3.6.

NB: Do you have a favorite right now, [a] top school?
AB: No, I don’t have a favorite right now. I’m looking at everybody.

NB: Do you have a dream school?
AB: Dream school? Florida.

NB: If Florida offered, would you commit on the spot?
AB: I think so, yeah.

NB: What makes Florida standout to you?
AB: I [have] always liked them. Even before they won the National Championship, since I was little.

NB: What do you consider to be the strongest point of your game?
AB: Going to the hole.

NB: What [is] . . . the weakest [point of your game]?
AB: Weakest? Probably shooting off the dribble.

NB: What are you doing to work on that?
AB: I’m in the gym everyday with one of the coaches, working on my game, so [I’m] working on the jump-shot, going to the hole, trying to polish up my game.

NB: What AAU team to you play with?
AB: [The] Metro Hawks 16 and Under [team].

NB: What’s it like for you to put on that St. Benedict’s jersey? [It’s] such a prestigious [basketball] school.
AB: It feels good, we’re respected all around the country, so every time we put it on, you got to come to play.

Aaron Brown is a superstar in the making. He will likely always be overshadowed by Tristan Thompson, arguably the best player in the country in the class of 2010, but that doesn't mean Brown can't make a name for himself. In fact, it's likely that Aaron will indeed become a commonly known player in the high school basketball world, as he has a great deal of talent. Tell your friends about the rising star now, and in a few years when Brown is starring for Danny Hurley, you'll look like a genius for seeing it in advance.

Scouting Report on Brown:

Brown is just 6'4, but he looks a bit bigger. He can bang down low and player either forward position, though he'll need more height to be a full-time 4. Right now has a nice game, but needs to develop a better shot and extend his range. Aaron is a player with whom what you see is what you get, and might not have a vast amount of potential, though a major growth spurt would change that. Brown plays well in big games and in major moments, evidenced by the fact that he hit the game-winner against PCTI (NJ) and led his team in points against both PCTI and St. Patrick's (NJ), one of the Gray Bees' major rivals. Overall, Brown is a gifted player, who just needs to refine his game as a whole.

Note- photo is from

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Update on . . . Lance Stephenson- A Father's Perspective

Lance Stephenson has been the talk of America in the high school basketball world for quite some time. The class of 2009 6'6 superstar swingman at Lincoln (NY) has been talked about in New York City for much longer though. Yet even before the NYC circle began to discuss Stephenson, his father saw something in him. Lance Stephenson, Sr. has seen his son progress from a youngster all the way to one of the best players in America. I spoke with Mr. Stephenson at the Steve Nash Skills Academy, where he was taking in the action.

NB: What schools [are] Lance really considering?
LS: UCLA, Kansas, USC, and St. John’s . . . [and] Memphis.

NB: What do you think Lance needs to work on the most?
LS: A little bit of everything. He has an all-around game, . . . so he’s got to keep brushing up on everything, all his tools. . . . It’s not that one thing that I can say he needs to work on, just everything, just keep getting better.

NB: What do you see as the strongest point in his game?
LS: His strength, his agility, he’s real quick, he [has] got good lateral movement, he’s explosive, he’s got the complete package right now.

NB: What do you think helped him get to where he is right now? Other than just having the natural ability.
LS: Just working out, [a] lot of push-ups. . . . It’s a little bit of a mix of everything, natural ability, a lot of hard work, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, . . . a whole lot of advice, information, so he [has] known how to make the right plays from an early age.

NB: When Lance was young, did you see him having the potential to be such a talented player?
LS: Yes, yeah, from day one, I knew that he was going to be a real talented player, just like my other son.

NB: Other than you two, who’s going to be involved in the decision process for college?
LS: My wife, that’s about it. . . . His high school coach [Dwayne “Tiny” Morton of Lincoln (NY)] has a little bit on influence as well.

NB: Is Lance going to eventually make the final decision, or is it just going to be a group choice?
LS: I would say he [is] going to make the final decision. We [are] just going to give him all the information and let him decide what he wants to do.

NB: Is there a school . . . that you favor, that you think Lance should go to right now?
LS: Right now my favorite school is UCLA.

NB: What makes the Bruins standout to you?
LS: Well, the tradition, the conference, the style of play, they let the guards play pretty free.

NB: If not for the NBA age limit, would Lance be going pro next year?
LS: I think if you asked me that question . . . when that times [I would have a better idea], but an educated guess, I would say ‘yeah,’ he’s definitely got all the skills, and after looking at [Thursday’s NBA] Draft, all of those kids, all of the freshman that went, he’s playing against or with before, so we pretty much know some of the good players.

NB: You mentioned all the freshmen. Do you think Lance is a lock to be a one-and-done [player in college]?
LS: No, nothing is a lock, . . . he got to play the games. I wouldn’t say he’s a lock, he still has a lot of work to do.

NB: With all the attention that he’s been receiving since eighth grade, do you ever see it getting to him, kind of . . . bringing him down a little bit, having all that focus on him?
LS: No, nothing [is] bringing him down, he’s still rising. Heading into his senior year he has a lot . . . of accomplishments that he’s already done, wining three [New York] City [championships], two state [championships]. He’s still rising, next year I think will be the icing on the cake.

NB: What are you most proud of Lance for?
LS: Just staying with it, and really not folding, he’s kept the same . . . demeanor all the way through . . . high school. He’s kept the same demeanor, he hasn’t let the media change his game, he still has his attitude, he still has his . . . aggressiveness, and that’s really what I’m most proud of him [for]. He designed his game, and he’s sticking with it.

NB: What [are you most proud of him for] . . . outside of basketball?
LS: What am I most proud of him . . . [for] outside of basketball? I’m proud that he’s my son. I’m proud that he’s healthy. I’m proud that he’s [a] pretty good student in school.

NB: What are Lance’s plans for July during the evaluation period?
LS: He’ll be trying out for the USA . . . 18 and Under team.

The younger Lance Stephenson was by far the most impressive player at the Steve Nash Skills Academy. His play in the five-on-five scrimmage to end the event was fantastic. Lance's father certainly knows of the talent and potential that his son possesses. He definitely is proud of Lance's game, and he should be, as Lance is one of the best player in the United States. I'll make sure that I keep you updated on how things are moving along for the younger Lance Stephenson.

Scouting Report on Stephenson:

Lance Stephenson may well be the best player in America. He has a fantastic all-around game. The Lincoln (NY) stud is even talented enough that his teammates deferred to him at the Steve Nash Skills Academy to run the point in the scrimmage, despite being the only non-point guard on his team. Stephenson '09, a 6'6 swingman, can shoot the rock, with range that extends out to the three-point line. Lance can also get to the hole and has a solid handle. He is a spectacular athlete with great hops, and well-chiseled frame. The NYC phenom seems to have a good work ethic, as he chose to shoot around during the water break in the scrimmage at the Nash Academy. At times, Stephenson can be a bit too flashy. As well, his attitude is something that he needs to work on. He gets frustrated with lesser teammates when they make mistakes and is a bit cocky. Yet, that may well be from being "the man" in the Big Apple for so long. A change of scenery for college may be quite helpful for the gifted ballplayer. Attitude aside, Lance might have the most complete game of anyone in America, including graduating seniors from the class of 2008. Lance Stephenson is the real deal.

Note- photo is from

MAJOR BREAKING NEWS!!! Update on . . . Isaiah Armwood

A source close to the Villanova program has informed me that 6'8 forward Isaiah Armwood of Montrose Christian (MD) has committed to the Wildcats. Northstar Basketball is the FIRST site to report this commitment. Again, Isaiah Armwood has committed to Villanova. He will pair with Maalik Wayns of Roman Catholic (PA) in what is looking like an amazing recruiting class. It will be interesting to see if the top-notch Big East programs can keep the commitments rolling in. I just got off the phone with Armwood. He told me that he officially committed "yesterday," and that “the past week . . . [he] wanted to get it done.” The Montrose Christian star told me this regarding the commitment: “Basically it’s one of the biggest decisions I’m ever going to make.” I asked Isaiah why he chose the Wildcats, to which he responded by saying that he reached his decision by “looking at how it was going to affect [him] in the long run and set [him] up for the future.” Armwood and Wayns already have a close relationship, so the two may well have great chemistry at the college level . "[We are] kind of like brothers. . . . [We] talk to each other all the time. We really have a good relationship because we talk so much,” is what Isaiah said about his relationship with Wayns. “Yeah, it’s possible, I don’t see why not. . . . I’m going to try to talk to them and see if I can have an impact on . . . [their] decision,” was what Armwood told me regarding whether he would try to convince players such as Montrose teammates Tristan Spurlock '09 and Terrell Vinson '09 to commit to Villanova. It seems that Vinson might be a good option for Armwood, as he told “I know Terrell a lot, we’ve played together all our lives,” though he did say, "I don’t think I can totally convince nobody." Regarding the timing of the commitment, I inquired of the stud forward whether he was always planning on committing the summer after his junior year, or if the timing just felt right this week: “I always told myself I was going to commit sometime during the summer, . . . [but I] didn’t know it would be this early.” Isaiah Armwood is a fine talent, and Jay Wright and Co. must be quite happy to have him headed their way.

Steve Nash- Not Your Average NBA Star

The Steve Nash Skills Academy was a fantastic Nike-run event. A big part of the success of the 2008 event was the man for whom the camp is named, Steve Nash. The Phoenix Suns point guard, a two-time NBA MVP, did not just put his name on the event and then not participate in the workouts. Rather, Nash was active in coaching the campers, both the college and high school players. The superstar, was kind enough to talk to the reporters at the event on Friday, and we had the opportunity to ask him some questions.

CSN: You see a guy like Stephen Curry, he comes here, a guy who has a major profile already, but what does that mean that he wants to take the time and have the opportunity to come and work out with you?
SN: Well, it’s great that he’s so humble and hard-working. I think, obviously, that’s why he is where he is, and that’s why he has such a high profile. So, those are the tools that I try to impress on these guys, that it’s your attitude, your effort, your commitment, and how good a teammate you are that are just as important as how fast you are or how well you can shoot, so they’ve demonstrated a great propensity to work and to listen, and I think that’s going to take them a long way.

CSN: This camp’s in two parts, there’s high kids and college kids. What is the biggest difference between the two?
SN: Well, I think and strength and experience. The college kids are a little stronger, they’ve been lifting weights with their programs, and also just been growing as men, become men, rather than boys. So, there is a physical difference, and then I think also mentally. The play in difficult environments, and the play with more pressure, and against better players, has given them a lot of experience.

CSN: There’s a kid here, a high school kid, Maalik Wayns, [who is] already going to go to [Villanova]. . . . You get to know these kids through the week. . . . Somebody like him, what specifically do you see in a guy like that?
SN: It’s so exciting to see the talent these kids have, and the spark they have for the game. So, . . . it’s exciting to see them at this stage, to be able to follow him at Villanova, and watch how he’s able to take the lessons and the competition he has at a camp like this, and allow that to propel him into succeeding at the next level, and I just love seeing the talent, and the excitement, and them listening, these coaches being assembled here. That makes me feel good because then I feel like the kids got a chance.

PS: Is there a big ‘wow’ factor for you seeing some of these kids, and just saying you can’t believe how good they are at such a young age?
SN: Of course. Some of them are so young and so talented already, you feel like you have to check their birth certificates, they’re clever, and it’s great to see. It’s a beautiful thing to see that the game is still strong, and that kids are still excited and passionate about it.

CSN: People have trashed basketball in North America, in saying the European skill levels and their development programs are so much better. Is this the kind of thing that . . . North American basketball, Canadian and US, is using to combat that?
SN: I think so. You know, . . . it’s true, the world has caught up in some areas. I think to come here and to really put players in a camp just for their positions, just for the skills it really takes to succeed at that position is a way to give these kids an opportunity to make steps that maybe they wouldn’t make if they didn’t have this opportunity. So, maybe it is a response to the . . . growth the game has seen around the world, and I think with camps like this, the rebuttal will be strong.

AZ: A couple of the high school kids, Lance Stephenson and Dexter [Strickland] are going to try out for Under-18 USA team, competing against college kids. Do you think some of these kids could play on a U-18 team of college kids, and do you think there’s renewed pride to try to play for USA since the Americans have suffered a little bit?
SN: I don’t know about the renewed pride. . . . They may not be as good, or not all of them will be as good right now, but they’re capable of playing with them, and I think a few of them will fit right in.

CSN: X’s and O’s-wise what are the most important things you try to teach to these kids in this kind of setting?
SN: Well, I think the biggest thing that we’re trying to teach the at the Point Guard Academy is [the] pick-and-roll. . . . Pick-and-roll’s such a huge part of basketball, . . . and it’s also one of the most difficult things for a young player to learn, and it takes years and years, and you always are getting better at it, and I think we only give them the tools so they give themselves a chance to get better at it every year, because I think it’s something that I think I’m still improving at, and hopefully if we can give them the tools and the insight, that they can continue to improve and make rapid gains.

KA: With the high school guys especially, change of speed and using speed to your advantage, not always going 100 miles an hour, is that something you notice with some of these guys, that they’re trying to get some things done too quickly?
SN: Yeah, I think it’s a trait of a lot of young players is that they rush a little bit, they’re in a hurry. You want to allow them to slow down a little bit, use their speed to their advantage, and I think that once you got at full speed all the time, you’ve just given away all the time, the defense can key in on you, but if you change pace, change speeds, change directions, you give yourself a chance to really allow your speed to be an advantage.

CSN: [The] NBA Draft [was on Thursday]. Since you’re here, talk about what you guys did and what you saw in the draft in general.
SN: All I heard is that we got Robin Lopez [from Stanford]. So, I’m excited about that, it’s nice to have some size and athleticism. . . . I think he’s an intelligent kid, so it’ll be a great addition to our team, but I didn’t see what happened after that, so, sorry.

NB: Are there any kids in specific here that have stood out to you as some of the top players?
SN: Not really. It’s really hard in this setting to acknowledge that because it’s not five-on-five. So, I couldn’t really.

PS: Talk about how Steve Nash at the same age might have fared, in high school, at this camp.
SN: Well, I think I would have done okay because I was a hard worker, I had good skills, and I was creative, but I think physically, I think . . . these were ahead of me, and when I went to Santa Clara [for college], it took me a little while to catch up to the level and the speed of the game. . . . I think these kids, physically, are ahead of me [from] when I was there age, it took a little time to catch up.

CSN: Excuse me for not knowing, but are you playing in the Olympics this summer?
SN: No.

AZ: Talk [about new New York Knicks Head Coach Mike] . . . D’Antoni. What can he bring to the Knicks?
SN: I think Mike’s going to be great for them, for the Knicks, and the city, it’s kind of the center of basketball in many ways, this is such a great basketball city, and the struggles the Knicks have had have been painful for the fans. I think Mike’s going to be fantastic, they’re going to play a little bit different style than they’re used to here in New York. It’s probably been a few years since they got up-and-down [the floor] the way he’ll want him to, but he’s such a talented and intelligent coach. I think he can’t help but have a great impact on the team.

CSN: How is that going to change what you guys do out there too? You have to now . . . adapt to a new coach, and a new style, and a new system.
SN: Well, we’re lucky to have a great coach. We’re sad to lose Mike, but to be able to replace him with Terry Porter, someone we all respect and admire, is going to be a lot of fun, and hopefully we can win some games, tweak some things, and be a better team.

CSN: Is it disappointing the way this year ended? I know when you got Shaq [O’Neal], you had, certainly, major expectations.
SN: [It was] very disappointing. We wanted to win a championship. To lose in the first round hurt a lot.

PS: Speaking of New York, in the past you’ve played soccer in the summers, you’ve made it your home in the summer. Are you playing this summer?
SN: Yeah, . . . same as always.

PS: Which team are you playing with?
SN: I play on an Italian team and I play on a team sponsored by Phoebe’s.

NB: What drew you to this camp to be a part of it, and [led you] run your own point guard camp?
SN: Well, Nike just asked me if I’d be interested, and I thought it was a great opportunity for these youngsters, and if I could help, I’d be happy to.

NB: What types of players will thrive in Coach D’Antoni’s system? . . . Do you think [he will be able to] . . . co-exist with Stephon Marbury?
SN: Of course he can. I think Steph’s an extremely talented player, and if he and Mike enjoy working together, he’ll flourish. There’s no doubt in my mind.

CSN: Will you miss [D‘Antoni]?
SN: Yeah, . . . we’ll miss Mike. It’s really sad to see him go. . . . We had a lot of success together, and everyone enjoyed playing for him, so it’s sad to see him.

KA: In terms of footwork, and just like you said, pick-and-roll being one of the biggest things, what can you teach them in this short time about using footwork?
SN: I just wanted them to . . . dictate what they wanted to do and not let the defender dictate it, for them to get to the places on the floor [where] they can operate, and stay away from places on the floor where it [is] . . . difficult for them, and setting their man up, getting their man on his heels when they come off pick-and-rolls so they can create space for themselves. It opens up passing lanes and shot opportunities.

It's clear that Steve Nash really does care about helping young basketball players. He is able to not only focus on his game, the Suns, the NBA as a whole, but also on being a good role model and teacher for some of the premiere high school school and college guards in America. It seems that being a two-time MVP has not gotten to Nash's head, as he is still a down-to-earth person. Next time you see Steve Nash lighting it up on TV, don't forget all the good he is doing for players who will one day be in his shoes, especially if he's playing against your favorite team. It will help you to not get mad at the kind-hearted Canadian as he makes the players you root for look silly.

Note- CSN=Comcast Sports Net, PS=Patrick Stanwood, AZ=Adam Zagoria of, KA=Kevin Armstrong of, and NB=Northstar Basketball

Note- photo is from