Isaiah Mucius looking to maximize potential

Isiah Mucius 2

Ari Rosenfeld (@realA_rosenfeld)

Some kids are daunted by a move to a new school, let alone a school 460 miles from where they spent the previous year.

Not Isaiah Mucius.

After spending last season attending– and living at– The Fessenden School, an independent school located just outside of Boston, the New York native will be making the move down to Maryland, as he’ll be transferring to St. James School in Hagerstown for the upcoming year.

The experience he gained living away from home as a freshman at Fessenden has Mucius not only unafraid of the change of scenery, but actually excited for it.

“I’m kind of used to the boarding school process already. It’s pretty easy for me,” he said. “I think it’s easy getting the feel of a new school. It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be a good time.”

Mucius is already looking forward to the elite competition he’ll be facing while playing for St. James, with the DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area being one of the most talent-rich regions in the country. With the 6-foot-8 wing looking to fulfill all of his enormous potential, the step up in competition was necessary to help him improve as much as he can over the next three years.

“I’ll be in the DMV playing against a lot of guys like [fellow FAA attendees] Brandon Slater, Myles Dread, and a lot of high school guys that are gonna be growing up with me in the 2018 class,” Mucius said. “So I think it was just a good fit, environment-wise. St. James was probably the best fit for me to get better.”

With the goal of getting better in mind, Mucius is not attacking the process blindly; instead, he has clearly defined points of his game that he’s hoping to fine tune before entering the college ranks.

He mentioned his “strength, shooting, and ballhandling” as the three main things he’s working on this year, with hopes of getting schools like Virginia and Syracuse, which have already reached out to his coaches, to offer him when they see him play next summer.

Already in possession of elite size for the wing position, Mucius knows the most important thing for him will be spending more time in the weight room, as adding some muscle to his lanky frame will only add to his already versatile skillset.

“I think with the strength, at my size, with me being kind of a lanky guy, me getting stronger and being able to handle, I could do different things. Be able to play the 1 or the 2, and be able to play in the post as well,” Mucius said.

At this point, Mucius could be considered a veteran of Hoop Group Elite camps. Just a couple weeks before Future All-American, he was one of the only rising sophomores playing in the top division of Elite Session 2, and he also attended the New York Top 100 event this past spring.

As someone who’s played in some of the nation’s top events with his Nike-backed PSA Cardinals AAU program, Mucius has liked what he’s seen during his time spent at Albright this summer.

“I think it’s been great. Hoop Group Elite 2 was great, playing in front of all the college coaches,” he said. “Hoop Group has just helped me, getting me out there and getting me exposure, and being able to play against the best guys in my class that are here.”

Jalen Smith living up to his top billing


Ari Rosenfeld (@realA_rosenfeld)

The talk of camp thus far has been about the laundry list of high-level big men, as almost every game set has featured at least one matchup of two top young posts.

No such matchup was as hyped as that between Smith and fellow 2018 superstar Silvio De Sousa, pitting two ESPN 25 players against each other, with both players guarding one another to boot.

While Smith was on the receiving end of a posterizing dunk that made the Sportscenter Top 10, he put together a great all-around performance against De Sousa, flushing a couple putback dunks of his own and even more impressively, displaying a fluid shooting stroke with legitimate three-point range.

And most importantly, his team overcame the momentum that De Sousa’s slam provided the opposition in order to gut out a victory.

“It’s been good overall, even though I just got dunked on. Everybody gets dunked on. I still kept my composure and was able to finish the game out,” Smith said after the game. “I was trying my best to keep [De Sousa] out of the paint. I knew that he wasn’t a very good shooter, so I left him outside shooting a lot. For myself, I just wanted to do what I could do best to help my team win.”

Smith’s 6-foot-8 frame and incredible length have long made him a force on the inside, the newfound confidence he has in his jumper has Smith looking like a true inside-outside threat, who may even be able to transition to the wing full time– he mentioned that he sees himself potentially playing small forward at the next level.

“I’ve just been working on it a lot. It’s just started coming recently,” he said of his outside shot. “It’s helped me a lot, because I’m able to bring people that’s more dominant in the paint on defense outside where they’re not really comfortable.

“I’m able to post up and play out on the wing,” he added. “That could be helpful to a lot of colleges in the future.”

Said colleges are already beginning to swoon over Smith’s skillset and enormous long term potential, as he’s raked in offers from Providence, Miami, and Marquette in the last three weeks. Smith also claims interest from Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State, Richmond, and Maryland, with plans to visit Kentucky and Arizona at some point in the fall.

“It was exciting because I never really knew that high-major coaches were watching me,” he said of earning his first offers. “It’s gonna make me hungrier, just to get even more.”

Thus far, Smith has been one of the main attractions all week at Future All-American, but paramount to that is the fact that he’s used the opportunity to work on his game and prepare to make an impact for his Mount St. Joseph’s team this upcoming season.

“Overall I think the camp is helpful,” Smith said. “It’s helping me hone in on my skills, helping me work more on my outside game.”

Doucoure proving himself as high-major prospect

Mamadou DoucoureAt this point in time, Cheick Diallo is presumably in Lawrence, Kansas, preparing for the Jayhawks’ upcoming season which figures to be his only in college basketball before the NBA Draft comes calling.

At the same time, his fellow Our Savior New American (N.Y.) grad, Kassoum Yakwe, is determining whether to attend prep school or accept offers from one of the numerous high-major programs that would like to get him on campus this fall.

And again at the same time, Mamadou Doucoure, who looks like the next great Malian big man in the Our Savior pipeline, is showing off his skills at Elite Session 2.

Only a rising sophomore, Doucoure has already garnered scholarship offers from St. John’s, Pittsburgh, and UConn, just two years after he began playing basketball and a year and a half after moving to the United States. At Albright, he’s shown off his seemingly natural ability to rebound and protect the rim at 6-foot-9, but also has an advanced offensive skillset for someone with his lack of experience.

“First of all, it was my lay ups. I got my lay ups easy,” he said of what came first when he picked up the game. “That came to me first of all, then the second thing was my rebounds and outlet passes.

“That’s my specialty. I learned it in Africa before coming here,” he added in regards to his uncanny ability to throw Wes Unseld-esque outlet passes to streaking teammates on the other side of the court.

It’s no wonder that Doucoure is already at such an advanced state in his game, as he’s had plenty of time in high school to learn from his country-mates, Diallo and Yakwe; Yakwe is considered a top-100 recruit, while Diallo is a consensus five-star prospect who won MVP honors at both the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic.

“Everyday we help each other. They show me something I don’t know in basketball,” Doucoure said. “They know a lot that I don’t know because they’ve been here before me, especially Cheick. Cheick is one of the best players in the world right now.”

Doucoure has yet to travel back to his home country since moving to the United States, and therefore hasn’t seen his family in a year and a half.

Many would find that to be a miserable experience, but Doucoure considers himself fortunate for the opportunity to pursue his basketball goals against the best talent in the world.

“I still talk to [my family]. I just miss them. But my mom, I talk to her everyday on the phone, before games and after games. They’re all doing well,” he said. “I feel blessed. Every basketball player, they have the goal to play here to make the talent hop. So I just feel blessed.”

Doucoure has been one of the revelations of Elite 2 thus far, coming in somewhat unheralded but leaving as a consensus high-major prospect. As someone who moved across the globe in order to refine his game against better competition, he’s been impressed with what he’s seen in his time in Reading.

“It’s a good camp,” he said of his first Hoop Group experience. “Everybody is trying to show his talent, so I think it’s a good thing for us.”

Rising freshman Lorca already impressing coaches

thEven as someone with two offers, including one already from a Big 10 program, before even starting high school, Maxwell Lorca is staying focused on working on his game and continuing to improve, no matter how high his stock continues to rise.

“It’s really exciting for me, because it’s just that I already know what I can do for the future. It’s crazy,” he said. “I just know that I need to keep working hard because there’s bigger and brighter things I can do.”

As just a rising freshman who will be attending NEPSAC power Northfield Mount Hermon next year, Lorca already boasts offers from Penn State and Saint Peter’s. Standing at 6-foot-10– doctors say he has a chance to be 7-2– with an incredibly long frame, it’s easy to see the potential that Pat Chambers’ and John Dunne’s respective staffs saw in the young big man.

At this point, he’s still caught between whether to put on weight and become a force inside, or expand his perimeter game and become more of a Kevin Durant-style wing. He’s got time to make that decision, though, and for now is making sure to improve all facets of his game in the mean time.

“Right now, I’m trying to develop everything that I can develop so I can have all the skills that I need to be a great basketball player,” he said. “I think right now it’s gonna be in the post, but I want to be able to change that in the future.”

He’ll be in a great position to learn, as he walks into a prestigious Northfield Mount Hermon program that is sending five of its seven players to the Division I level just this year, and already have a big man committed to Penn for 2016 in A.J. Brodeur.

Lorca is also a part of the PSA Cardinals AAU program, which currently has no fewer than five high-major interior prospects in its system. With so much time to grow as a player, Lorca is making sure to pick up as much as he can from the talented bigs that he’s surrounded by.

“I try to do a lot of the stuff that they do because that’s what makes them great players,” he said. “Just being around all these great big guys, it’s just helping me work on my game, it’s helping me develop a lot more.”

A top-flight academic school as well, Northfield Mount Hermon is especially known for pumping out Ivy League recruits. In order to be successful there, Lorca knows he will need to develop not only on the court, but also in the classroom.

“I definitely need to get stronger. I need to work on my game a lot, specifically my handle and my post moves, and my strength,” he said. “Also, I just need to keep my academics up as well, because it’s also a great academic school and I just need to make sure everything is the best I can do.”

This is Lorca’s first Hoop Group Elite Camp, but he also attended the New York Top 100 camp last spring. This week, he’s one of just two rising freshman playing with the upperclassmen, but seems to be acclimating himself well on a team alongside fellow PSA Cardinal Samuel Japhet-Mathias.

“It’s been great. I’ve been able to learn a lot from all the camps and I’ve been able to just work on my game,” Lorca said. “It’s been a little bit difficult because of obviously the strength and the skill of the other players, but I’m adjusting to it.”

Kimani Lawrence showing off newfound skills

Kimani Lawrence
Kimani Lawrence says one of the main things he’s working on is transitioning from the small forward position to the shooting guard spot. Based on his play at Albright so far, it looks like he may have skipped right over the ‘2’ and become a 6-foot-7 point guard.

Lawrence has put on a show all week, using his size and ball-handling ability to run his team effectively, getting into the paint whenever he wanted to create for himself and his teammates.

“During the EYBL I play the ‘3’. Since summer started I’ve been playing a little bit at the ‘2’,” he said. “Since the last few tournaments my point guard got hurt so I was bringing the ball up a little bit, the offense was kind of playing through me, so I was just being more of a playmaker.

“I don’t think [any college coaches] have seen it yet,” he said of his point guard play, “but hopefully they’re impressed with it, ‘cause I’ve been working on it.”

While he’s been impressive as a lead ball handler thus far, Lawrence’s future lies on the wing. As he said, he’s traditionally a small forward, but said coaches, specifically those from Maryland, Syracuse, and Stanford that have expressed interest but have yet to extend offers, want to see him transition to the shooting guard spot at the next level.

“They want to see me play as more of a 2 guard, so I’ve just been working on becoming a 2 guard. Shooting better, being more consistent with scoring, and just making my teammates better,” Lawrence said. “So far it’s been good. I’ve seen a lot of progress that I’ve been making and I’ve gotten a lot stronger, so everything’s been good.”

“I don’t think anybody has seen it yet, but hopefully they’re impressed with it, ‘cause I’ve been working on it.”

Lawrence is considered a consensus four-star prospect and a top-50 recruit in his class by several media outlets, and he’s got the offers to show for it; so far, he’s garnered offers from Creighton, Providence, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Xavier, Wake Forest, and Miami.

A Rhode Island native, he’s taken visits to both URI and Providence already, but says that his hometown schools don’t necessarily have a leg up on the competition, and with two years left of high school, he’s taking things slow and letting the offers continue to roll in.

“Location is not a factor. I’d be happy to play anywhere where I’d get to play right away,” he said. “I’m just open with my recruitment right now.”

This is Lawrence’s second time at a Hoop Group camp, as he was also an Elite Camp attendee last year. This time around, however, things are going a bit differently, as Lawrence comes in with a higher profile and another of experience under his belt.

“From last year it was a lot more difficult, being I was younger and I wasn’t as skilled as I am now,” he said. “This year my work has definitely shown, so I’m just working hard to win a championship at the camp.”

When Lawrence is finished showing off his improved skill set at Elite 2, he’ll head to Spooky Nook in Manheim, PA, where his Expressions Elite squad is one of the favorites to take home the 17U Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest title.