Southern Jam Fest Recap: We R1 and Team Loaded NC capture 17U and 16U titles

The Southern Jam Fest — one of the East Coast’s strongest and deepest spring tournaments on a yearly basis was highlighted by strong 17U and 16U divisions, with a mix of the Northeast and Southeast’s strongest programs going head-to-head.

17U Champions: We R1
17U Runner-Up: Team Loaded NC
A month after the April recruiting period, We R1 came to Hampton and made a major statement. Capping off a dominant tournament run, We R1 took home the 17U championship with a 75-65 win over a talented Team Loaded VA squad. Even as star point guard Trevon Duval exited the game with a minor injury early in the first half, Eric Ayala and Tyrese Martin took command in the championship game, leading We R1 to an exclamation point on a memorable weekend. After jumping out to a 48-31 lead at halftime and a 24-point lead early in the second half, Team Loaded VA stormed back and brought the lead down to single digits with seven minutes remaining. The teams traded blows for the rest of the second half, but We R1 was able to finish strong and close out their five-game run — a run in which they defeated their opponents by an average margin of 27 points.

Before falling in the title, Team Loaded VA punched their ticket in the championship in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the weekend, scoring a big semifinal win over in-state rival Boo Williams. Although the game started out with a few intense exchanges, Loaded VA quickly opened up a double-digit lead and never looked back, advancing with a 59-49 win.

We R1 made their way to the title with a hard-earned 73-61 win over DC Premier, in a matchup of two teams who know each other well from their yearly battles on the Under Armour circuit. Duval’s 24 points led all scorers, as We R1 opened a small lead late in the first half, but the two teams found themselves neck-and-neck for much of the game before We R1 pulled away late. Duval electrified the crowd with a big dunk and some highlight-reel passes, to go along with his game-high 24 points.

We R1 17u

16U Champions: Team Loaded NC
16U Runner-Up: DC Premier
Team Loaded NC finished off an impressive run through the 16U bracket with a 72-65 win in the title game, fighting off a feverish DC Premier comeback in the final minutes. After jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half — and holding an 18-point halftime lead — Loaded NC saw their lead fall to as little as three in the second half, after Premier picked up their defensive intensity and began to assert themselves on the boards. Despite DC Premier’s best efforts, a few timely buckets for Loaded — and strong free-throw shooting in the final minutes — sealed the win. Capping off a solid scoring weekend that saw his stock rise in the eyes of many scouts and media in attendance, guard Trey Wertz led Loaded’s offensive efforts with 20 points.

Team Loaded NC made their way into the championship with a dominant semifinal win over hometown Boo Williams, going up 17 at halftime and coasting to a 78-54 win behind a game-high 22 points from Trey Wertz. In their entire six-game run, the team outscored opponents by an average of 17 points per game, and also went home with wins over Baltimore Elite and Garner Road.

On the opposite side of the bracket, DC Premier faced a strong Final 4 challenge from We R 1, gutting out a 48-36 semifinal win after a back-and-forth affair. One of the rising stars of the weekend, Jermain Harris finished with 17 points and displayed a strong inside-out game in helping send DCP to the title game.

Team Loaded NC 16u

15 & 14u Champions

By James Albano

Often overshadowed by the insane star power in the 16 and 17 year old brackets, the younger teams in the Southern Jam Fest don’t always get the recognition and love they deserve. This year’s Southern Jam Fest featured highly respected programs in our lower age groups, as Team Takeover and Boo Williams took home trophies. For both teams, the championship game theme was comebacks, trailing early, but rallying late to seal a win.

15U Champion: Team Takeover
15U Runner Up: New Heights

The most impressive piece of Team Takeover’s 15u championship run is that they were a 14u team playing up. The Nike club never once appeared a year younger, running through the 15u bracket and knocking off premier team after premier team.

After knocking off a Team Loaded team that showcased enormous size in the front court, Takeover seemed to have met their match in the final versus New York-based New Heights. New Heights attacked early and led by seven at the break; they led by as many as 10 in the first half. The second half was all Takeover, however. The younger club buckled down defensively and ended plus 12 in the second half, topping New Heights by 5 to take the championship!

Team takeover 15U

14U – Champion: Boo Williams
14U Runner Up: We R1

Boo Williams select refused to go down without a fight in their own gym. We R1 jumped out to a hot start, taking a lead of double digits over BWSL. As Boo chipped away in the first half, We R1 continued to match them shot for shot, and maintained a five point lead into the break.
It was not until late in the second half that Boo made a run, and what a run it was. Starting with a Bryce Steele turnaround jumper to make it 60-58, the Virginia based team went on a 21-8 run to close out the 14U championship game. As they say, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. BWSL definitely finished strong.
 Boo Williams 14u

Southern Jam Fest Storylines: Day 2

IMG_0187 2
Southern Jam Fest rolled on in Hampton with a full day of Saturday action, capped off by a handful of thrilling late night matches, setting the stage for a memorable Championship Sunday.

Power programs holding court.
In a deep field featuring perennial programs from up and down the East Coast — and a few beyond — there has been very little shake-up as the brackets in each age group have played out. In 17U, a vaunted Elite 8 group is headlined by Boo Williams, Team Loaded VA, New York Jayhawks, Team Loaded NC, We R1, Baltimore Elite and DC Premier. Team Loaded, DC Premier and We R 1 have additional teams still contending for titles in the younger age groups (14U, 15U, 16U), while top younger squads like Team Rio 16U and We All Can Go 15U head into Sunday with serious eyes on a title.

Keldon Johnson backing up the hype.
Coming into the weekend nationally ranked in the Top 10 of some prospect rankings, 2018 Boo Williams wing Keldon Johnson has been superb for the hometown team. Playing up at the 17U level, Johnson has done a bit of everything for his team en route to a berth in the Elite 8 heading into Championship Sunday. In Boo Williams’ big 71-68 win over Team Melo on Saturday night, Johnson was a pest on the defensive end while scoring 22 points — 16 of which came in an intense, high-level second half.

New names emerging.
After the first two days of action, a crop of emerging players have made their names known with strong weekend performances. Donatas Kupsas — a 6-foot-8 2018 stretch forward — has been one of the main head-turners of the weekend, showing off an impressive offensive arsenal for the New York Ionians, who have played their way into the 17U Elite 8.

In terms of guys whose stock has considerably risen this weekend, local standout Jalen Ray (Team Loaded 757) has been the main contender. The 2017 guard strung together two consecutive 20-point showings, and showing a smooth stroke from three-point range. Baltimore Elite point guard Blake Francis came out of the gates strong on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, as he plans to head to prep school next year.

Derquan Washington has become a standout in the D.C. high school scene over the past two seasons, and is now beginning to build up his reputation on the grassroots circuit, as the 2018 scoring guard scored 19 second-half points for DC Premier in a Saturday morning comeback win. Another name popping up in conversations at the 16U level is Elijah McCadden (Boo Williams), who has displayed an intriguing blend of versatility and athleticism on his way to impressing scouts and media in attendance.

Underclassmen playing up, holding their own…
To go along with Johnson and Kupsas, there is no shortage of impressive underclassmen making their mark against older competition. DC Premier 2018 point guard Prentis Hubb acts an invaluable steadying hand for his team, while DeAndre Thomas of Garner Road had an impressive Saturday performance as a 2018 playing up at 17U. At the 16U level, two 2019 DC-area bigs are playing major roles for their teams, as Mahki Mitchell (DC Premier) has been dominant on the boards, while Qudus Wahab (Uncommon Bulls) cemented his status as an elite shot blocker with a major upside.

Storylines emerging at Southern Jam Fest

Boo courts

Southern Jam Fest tipped off Friday in Hampton, and the first day’s competitive action set the stage for a gripping weekend of basketball.

As Day 1 came to a close, here are some of the storylines that were swirling around the gym…

With none of the major shoe brand (Nike, Under Armour, Adidas) circuits taking place this weekend, Southern Jam Fest yet again features an incredible mix of programs from each of the circuits. As teams have become increasingly tied to their specific brand circuit, this tournament offers a rare head-to-head comparison of some of the top sponsored teams on the East Coast — and beyond.

While the presence of shoe-sponsored programs like the hometown Boo Williams (EYBL), a vaunted Team Loaded program (Adidas Gauntlet) and We R1 (UA Association) loomed large on Day 1, the depth of this year’s field can be credited to a strong turnout of unaffiliated programs.

Throughout the weekend, many of these teams unaffiliated teams — in every age group — will get the chance to face off against perennial sponsored powers in games that will drastically impact the look of Championship Sunday. Whether we see a “David” emerge to down a grassroots Goliath, however, remains to be seen.


Five Star recruit Trevon Duval leads a talented bunch of players here at Boo Williams this weekend

Trevon Duval leads a talented bunch of players here at Boo Williams

The 17U field features some of the most sought-after prospects in the country, and we’re bound to see some big matchups between them, even before Championship Sunday. Versatile wings like Andre Rafus (Team Melo), Myles Cale (South Jersey Jazz) and Naji Marshall (DC Premier) — among many others — have the potential to take over big games with their scoring ability, while standout big men Ejike Obinna (Uncommon Bulls) and Nate Watson (DC Premier) will meet up in an exciting battle of productive 2017 big men on in the Round of 32 on Saturday afternoon.

And on top of that, a key storyline to keep an eye on as the weekend continues: elite point guards Trevon Duval (We-R1) and Matt Coleman (Boo Williams) may find themselves on a crash course to the 17U championship.

While it may not muster the sort of buzz that a Live Period event might, it could be argued that the Southern Jam Fest comes at a pivotal time in the grassroots calendar. Teams are a month removed from the April recruiting weekends, and now have the chance to test themselves against some of the stiffest competition they will see until July. Not only does the level of competition bring out the best in teams, but the venue — Boo Williams Sportsplex — gives the event the feel of a major summer tournament, the week before Memorial Day.


After a stretch of dominance at the middle school level in recent years, Team Rio has already begun making waves with a team made up mainly of 2019 prospects, playing up at the 16U level. After one of the most dominant showings of any team — regardless of age group — on Friday night with an 89-41 opening win, the young group looks to be a real championship contender in the 16U division.

In the opposite corner of the bracket, however, is Boo Williams 16U, who may be considered the team to beat after a 53-point opening round win Friday evening.

For full coverage of the Southern Jam Fest, follow the Hoop Group on Twitter: @TheHoopGroup

Southern Jam Fest: Media & College Coach List

The Southern Jam Fest has been one of the main yearly attractions for national and local media on the spring circuit, and this year was no exception.

SoJam Media row

Even as this year’s Southern Jam Fest was moved to April (instead of its traditional May date), the tournament still attracted the strong media and scouting service presence it has become known for, along with a collection of Division II and III coaching staffs.

The list below will be continually updated throughout the tournament as more media outlets and college programs arrive.

(Are we missing any media outlets, scouting services or college coaches on this list? Please let us know! Tweet us @TheHoopGroup or join the conversation with the #HGJamFest hashtag.)
  • Scout
  • Rivals
  • 247Sports
  • Ball Is Life
  • McDonald’s All-American
  • USA Basketball
  • NBPA Top 100 Camp
  • National Recruiting Report
  • Bob Gibbons All-Star Sports
  • DMVelite
  • ESPN Radio
  • Phenom Hoops
  • Playmaker Mixtapes
  • Inside Carolina
  • Virginia Preps
  • Hoo Nation
  • Roundball Rundown Report
  • Vantage Hoops
  • Hoya Report
  • Terrapin Times
  • Hoyas247
  • Get Me Recruited
  • Daily Tar Heel
  • 360Sports Mag
  • Joshua Berman Photography


  • Salisbury
  • Mount Olive
  • Virginia Wesleyan
  • Ferrum College
  • Randolph-Macon
  • Randolph College
  • Hampden-Sydney
  • Eastern Mennonite
  • Virginia State
  • Barton

Sports U Team Izod Succeeding On And Off The Court

2013 Under Armour Invitational
Kelly Kline | Under Armour

Sports U Team Izod (N.J.) has become a fixture on Championship Sunday at almost every tournament they enter. With teams from the U9 level up to U17, the organization has become a model of consistency, getting some of New Jersey’s most talented players to buy into a team dynamic on the floor.
The secret?

“There is no secret.”

Ed Bright is the President/General Manager of the organization and has overseen Sports U since its creation ten years ago.

“We work hard, there are no secrets,” Bright said.

“We live by the five P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”

Founded by Bright and former NBA star Daryl Dawkins ten years ago, Sports U has become the program of choice in New Jersey. The five-P philosophy has become a staple of the organization, which Bright explains is much deeper than just basketball.

“We do a lot of off-the-court activities. We do etiquette training, leadership training, critical thinking,” the co-founder explained.

“[Players] learn how to introduce themselves, how to interview, how to introduce others.”

“I want them to see that this ball is going to stop bouncing,” Bright says about the academic side of Sports U’s mission.

“When they think about college, I want them to think about a great 40-year decision, not just a great four-year decision. That college has to impact your life for the next forty years.”

Aligned with sponsors Izod and Under Armour, Bright says that there is an inherent advantage to being a sponsored team – an advantage that the Sports U organization is very grateful to have.

“Seven, years ago, Izod loved the vision. They committed to us…We’re very grateful about where we are as a program. We’ve been blessed.”

“Obviously sponsorship means that you’re able to be in all the right places and attract more of the elite-type athlete…You can put them in this type of forum like Hoop Group. You can put them in front of 200 to 300 coaches during the live period.”

As the program has grown, so has its reputation in recruiting circles.

The organization’s 2013 class had great success on the AAU circuit and will be well-represented at the Division I level next season, with players headed to Temple, Oregon State, St. Joseph’s, Princeton, and Quinnipiac, just to name a few.

Karl Towns

Sports U Karl Towns commits to University of Kentucky. Towns is one of the top players in the country.

The Sports U 2014 class is off to a great start, as well with center Karl Towns verbally committed to Kentucky and sharpshooter Jared Nickens recently making his pledge to Maryland.

“At the end of the day, we’re able to stand at a table and I cry while they sign their national letter of intent, I cry like a baby,” Bright says.

“They can get the chance to show what we work and prepare so hard for. They buy in.”

Led by Nickens, this year’s 17U squad took home the 2013 Pitt Jam Fest championship, advanced to the semifinals of both the 2013 Philly Jam Fest and Southern Jam Fest, and recently advanced to the championship game of the Rumble in the Bronx (Sports U won the Rumble title in the 16U division).

This impressive consistency at major events is a point of pride for Bright.

“We are committed to getting better every time out. We play hard; if you’re coming into to play us, it’s going to be a 15-round fight. Because we play hard.”

Heading into the summer, the Class of 2014 could prove to be the best for Sports U yet.

Along with Towns and Nickens, guards Wade Baldwin and Tarin Smith and big man Quadri Moore are all being recruited at the high-major level. On top of those five, the roster is filled with likely Division I prospects, most of whom will be attending Hoop Group events this summer.

“Hoop Group events are the best,” Bright explains.

“You’ve got history, you’ve got professionalism, and you’ve got guys that know the game of basketball and also know how to deal with the coaches, and program directors.”

More than anything, Bright is ecstatic with the direction the program is headed and the people involved from top to bottom.

“We’ve got great kids. We’ve got the best families in the business,” Bright claims.

We’ve got tremendous sponsors in Under Armour and Izod. The head of all of our coaches – Brian Coleman – is brilliant.”

“Our young men get better as young men…There is no secret.”