Bigger Than Ball Vol. 2: Alex Schachne

 

Alex Schachne plays his travel ball with SBA Elite in New Jersey.

-Thomas Hayden
          Within 30 seconds of beginning our interview with Alex Schachne one thing was unmistakably evident. Alex Schachne will be successful no matter what path he chooses in life.  If I read you a list of Alex’s accomplishments, basketball would only make up a small portion, remarkable considering his standout basketball career thus far.  
          Schachne plays high school ball for Coach Mergin Sina at Gill St. Bernard’s High School. GSB High is a well known for its high academic and athletic expectations. Alex is its starting point guard and the definition of a leader: well spoken, confident, and all about winning.  Schachne lead his team to a 24-4 record on the year and a perfect conference record (11-0).  The Knights finished the season ranked one of the top 10 teams in the state of New Jersey.
          Aside from directing traffic on the court, Schachne is using his public speaking voice to guide his peers to greater success in their own endeavors. He held a Tedx talk in his school’s auditorium titled Unlocking Motivation, Applying 10,000 Hours: A Rational Approach to Success, one of the more popular Tedx videos garnering thousands of views on YouTube.
Alex Schachne stood out in our Bigger Than Ball interview, and we have no doubt he will continue to stand out on and off the court.  Here’s our complete Q & A with Alex. Enjoy!
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     Q: How have you enjoyed your first two days at Hoop Group?
     A: It’s been really good. Definitely have enjoyed all the coaches here I like them a lot.  The drills have been good, great to go up and down.  The great thing about Hoop Group is that you guys do a great job of getting coverage, publicity for everyone.  It’s probably the best i’ve seen. There are probably 20 plus coaches at every game. They invited me and made a point that I got here so I came out, and I’m having a good time.

 

     Q: Who’s your favorite NBA player?
     A: Probably Kyrie Irving, he’s crazy with the finishes and the ball handling.

 

     Q: What colleges are showing interest in you right now?
     A: So my goal is to get into an Ivy League school.  I’ve been hearing a lot from Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Yale just in terms of Ivy League teams.  Other than that I’ve been hearing from some D2’s (Division II), Stonehill, and then a lot of D3’s–Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago…

 

     Q: Would you rather have to  wear the same outfit everyday, or eat the same food everyday for the rest of your life?
     A: Wear the same outfit.  I was thinking about just picking an outfit and just wearing it everyday, as long as I wasn’t going out in public because it reduces the amount of decisions you gotta make so you can focus on more important stuff.

 

     Q: Which NBA player do you think you play like the most?
     A: I would say I probably play like Isiah Thomas, just ‘cause I watch him and how he uses his body in his finishes and how he gets around people.  Obviously for anyone under 6 foot you really try to emulate him.  You know there’s levels and I can see the levels of progression just in how confident I am in doing that stuff.  There are certain times where I feel like, you know, it’s kinda coming.

 

     Q: What do you hope to gain from Hoop Group Academic Elite Camp?
     A: I think I am just trying to kind of polish my game and to get some buzz going into July especially. I want to just keep playing, that way I stay in shape and I’m playing well and I have a lot of confidence  going into July.  Want to really get the ball rolling and pick up some offers and get some options going so I can choose a school.

 

     Q: How have you found a way to have such great success in basketball without being the most athletic or tallest person on the court?
     A: I’ve always been quick, so in terms of athleticism i didn’t quite get the height part, but i got the quickness and explosiveness, and I try to use that as much as I can.  I really feel like i’m at the point to where no one can really stay in front of me if they try to guard me.  As long as I have one maybe two people I feel like I can get by them.  I really work on my handle, my explosiveness with the ball, crafty finishes, maybe a little pull up game, so yeah definitely work on all that stuff.

 

     Q:  If basketball was not an option, what would you want to do for the rest of your life?
     A: So I also played soccer, but non-athletically I do these things called TED Talks.  I did two of them.  I had a Tedx conference at my high school recently.

     Q: What were the talks about?
     A: So my first one I talked about…now this is gonna get kinda deep…my first one I talked about free choice, and the second one I talked about how to succeed in things you set out to do. So, i took pieces from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers.  It’s about putting your 10,000 hours in, so I kind of took that, and combined it with my own experiences.  It’s actually on youtube, you can check it out.

 

     Q: What motivates you strive for greatness in athletics?
     A: Who motivates me?  Anybody I see.  Anyone that’s on the court with me it’s like a challenge.  I want to prove myself every time I am out there on the court

 

     Q: Would you rather be trapped alone on a deserted island with Lavar Ball or Donald Trump?
     A: Lavar Ball.  He’ll probably find someway to make enough noise where we would get rescued.

 

     Q: What’s your favorite Drake quote?
     A: My favorite Drake quote…I mean I like his old album Views.  I like Views a lot.  Actually, I like Headlines by Drake too.

 

     Q: Who do you look up to the most?
     A: My dad.

 

     Q: What’s your mentality on the court?
     A: Never back down from anyone.  Usually in my head I’m thinking I’m better than that person, so it’s all about believing in yourself, keeping your confidence high, and being  in attack mode all the time.

 

     Q: How do you plan on using the game of basketball to reach your goals?
     A: I wanna use basketball to put myself in the best position possible coming out of college.  Going to the best college I can, academically and athletically, and using that to create connections and  network.  I plan on using that to give myself more opportunities, open more doors, and hopefully 5 years from now I’ll be on my way to starting my own business.

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 1: Deandre Thomas

-Thomas Hayden

Being the writer on staff for the HoopGroup camp I’m charged with the precarious task of interviewing the      pre-teens and young adults of grassroots basketball.  Everyone has a story, a background, and it’s my job to get them to tell it to me without using emojis.  Every once in awhile, a kid’s character will stand out among all others.  Deandre Thomas was one of these exceptions.

The first time play I saw Deandre play was during our tryout games during camp.  Tryout games always take place the first day of camp immediately after sign-in.  They’re only timed, and have no scorekeeper.  Deandre was on the bench at the time, and one of his teammates made a good play, not a crazy play, but good, and he got everyone up off the bench to cheer like they had just won a state championship.

Deandre Thomas is clearly a gifted scorer.  He puts pressure on the defense the entire game, and attacks the basket unlike anyone else I have seen at camp. His natural ability makes him stand out. What sets him apart though, is nothing basketball related.  He plays the game with a cheerful enthusiasm and respect that’s contagious for teammates and makes him extremely fun to watch.

Near the end of the interview I found out what shaped him to person he is today.  Both of Deandre’s parents have been officers in the United States Air Force from the time he was born.  Their no nonsense attitude and firm upbringing appeared throughout our talk in the form of “yes-sirs” and “thank yous”.  Here are the top ten responses from our brief Q & A session.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Q: How was your first day at Hoop Group?

A: It was good…got a chance to feel out how the camp will be.

Q: If you had compare your game to one music album, what would it be?

A: Nothing Was The Same-Drake,

Q: If you had to play your favorite player 1v1, you’re wearing flip-flops & they’re wearing roller skates, who wins?

A: Me, he’s wearing rollerskates cannot guard me.  I’d be scared he might roll over my toe though.

Q: You’re making a 3 on 3 basketball team using only super heroes or cartoon characters, who do you take?

A: Superman, Hulk, Green Lantern.

Q: What’s the most important thing you look for in recruiting?

                     “If someone wants me. I’m not worried about name. I want to go to a school that I would choose even if I was not playing basketball.”

 

           Q: How many 5 year olds could you fight before you lost?

           A: I’d never fight a five year old…but if I had to 1000.  The first 200 i’m knocking out one punch.

           Q: Who has been the most influential person in your life thus far?

           A: My dad for sure.  He came from nothing. Grew up in the projects in Brooklyn.  We started off in a one bedroom apartment now we have a five bedroom house.

           Q: What is your dream college?

           A: Syracuse.  I like Jim Boeheim, but he probably won’t be coaching by the time it’s time for me to play.

           Q: What do you hope to gain from Hoop Group Academic Elite Camp?

            A: I want to learn different ways I can come off ball screens.  I want to get better at making the right reads so I can make plays for others.

           Q: What motivates you strive for greatness in athletics?

           A: My Grandmother.  She wants to go to Hawaii before she passes and I’m going to get her there.

Pooley’s Picks: College Basketball Recruiting Process

Pooley’s Picks

College Basketball Recruiting Process

Qualifications:  The college basketball recruiting process is a tough thing to navigate.  There are plenty of traps along the way and most people feel at least a little overwhelmed by the process.  However, one of the reasons parents and players struggle in the recruiting process is because they make mistakes.  These mistakes are common and if it is your first time through the process, frankly easy to make.  This edition of Pooley’s Picks we’ll dive into the ten most common mistakes in the college basketball recruiting process.

Picks are in no particular order. Please enjoy the sixth installment of Pooley’s Picks.

Weak Academics: Too often players think that recruiting is all about basketball.  Not knowing the academic requirements of schools you want to go to costs many student athletes.  On top of this, having weak junior or senior years after a strong start leaves many good students on the wrong end of Ivy/Patriot recruiting.  See, the Ivy and Patriot leagues recruit based on a players Academic Index, with each school having slightly different requirements.  The Academic Index factors your GPA and your SAT or ACT scores together to give you a score out of 240.  The calculations are a little complicated, but basically what you need to know is the better you do on both your grades and the test, the easier it is to recruit you.  Therefore, its probable that some high academic kids will actually be taken over players they are less talented than in order to allow those schools to meet requirements.  Other schools like Stanford, Northwester, Vanderbilt in Division 1 also have higher academic standards than just being a qualifier.  Finally, most D3 schools operate completely within the confines of their schools admissions process.  If you aren’t a good enough student to get it, it doesn’t matter what you play like.  Even the top D3’s who can assist student athletes in admissions, don’t have free-reign and may only be able to take one player a year that doesn’t live up to standards.

Short and Sweet: Do well in school so you don’t limit your choices.

We’re Just Working on His Game: There is nothing more important than getting better.  However, in order to get recruited at the right level it isn’t all about instruction and development.  Players have to go to the right events and be exposed to the right people to be accurately recruited.  Too often I’ve heard people say “we aren’t doing {insert event} because Johnny needs to work on his game.”  This is not the way to get to the right college.  The more a player can be seen (in the right light) by different colleges, the more likely he is to go to the appropriate level.

 Short and Sweet: Get to the right events often, the more visibility the better.

Pitt Jam Fest One of many AAU Tournaments to aid the college recruiting process

He HAS to Play for ‘XYZ’ AAU Team:  Wrong! There is never just one answer or one group of answers on the AAU circuit.  I would argue it is extremely important for everyone to play with an AAU team.  However, just because one team wins more games or goes to a certain group of tournaments does not make it the right fit for everyone.  My rule of thumb, if you aren’t a top seven player on your team, you’re not on the right team.  Players going to a tournament with 100 coaches and playing five minutes isn’t as good as going to an event with 25 coaches and playing twenty minutes.

Short and Sweet: Play with a team that lets you shine but goes to the right tournaments.

 

Image result for hoop group elite summer camp

Elite Camps can be a great supplement to summer exposure

He Doesn’t Need Camps or Clinics: Never get caught up in the thought that AAU and High School basketball are enough.  Many players will be recruited from their High School teams.  Many more will be recruited from their AAU teams.  Some players will find the college basketball recruiting strongest at camps or clinics.  Each player is different and college coaches like to see kids on multiple platforms.

 Short and Sweet: Camps and Clinics are an important supplement to high school and AAU.

 

This Event Doesn’t Have Anyone Watching My Kid:  With the amount of games and events that kids attend today, you’re bound to attend one or two without a multitude of college coaches.  Don’t let who it APPEARS is watching you to effect how you play.  College coaching is a network and often a coach at one division will communicate with coaches in other divisions if they see a kid they like.  Second, and perhaps more important, scouting services are all over.  Many scouts will look like an average fan or parent, but often attend events to find players people don’t know about, or re-evaluate guys they have seen before.  Don’t get caught playing lazy or with an attitude by one of these gentlemen see that it can hurt you.

 Short and Sweet: You don’t ever really know who is watching, always play like the college of your dreams is there.

 

He is underrated:  Every player in the county, except for the kid ranked #1 in his class is “underrated.”  Every kid that isn’t getting recruited to Duke and Kentucky is “under the radar.”  The truth is, most kids are getting recruited to the right level.  If your son has a lot of D3 interest and no D2 or D1 interest, it is likely that is where his skill set is the best fit.  As long as you are attending the right events and getting in front of coaches and scouts, the chances are the recruitment is accurate.  Are there exceptions? Absolutely.  Don’t let any one person tell you that your son isn’t good enough, but PLEASE be as objective as possible.  There’s an old adage that states: A player’s coach thinks he’s one level higher than he is, a player’s parents and the player thinks he’s two levels higher than he is.  Just about every person involved in college basketball recruiting does it as a full-time job.  Listen to as many people in this space (coaches, scouts, event operators) as you can, and don’t fixate on the one piece of information you like to hear.  Aggregate all the info you get and remember, you may know your kid better than everyone else, but the experts know everyone else better than you do.

 Short and Sweet: Get as many opinions as you can, and do your best to be objective.

 

My Kid is better than THAT level:  A variation of the mistake above, too many people get caught up in classifying their kid as ‘better’ than a school or group of schools.  Before you say this ask yourself: “Have I seen enough basketball at this level to be accurate?”  Maybe the answer is no, then go watch a game.  If you think your kid is too good to play in the Patriot League, go watch a top level Patriot team play a game.  If you think your son is too good to play in the NE-10, go watch a playoff game in that league.  Most of the time you’ll be surprised just how good the basketball is.  Be careful when putting down leagues too, it is possible your son ends up at that level or similar, which is an accomplishment not a failure.  College basketball is an incredibly hard sport to get recruited in, with just about every high school in the country offering it and only 12 spots on most college rosters.  Any recruitment is a blessing and an accomplishment, never take it for granted.

 Short and Sweet: Know what each level really looks like, before passing judgement on recruiting.

 

My son stopped this player and he is ranked here:  No one cares.  Trust me on this one.  The player on player comparison in one game, is a very bad litmus test for how good your son is.  Most scouting services and college coaches completely dismiss this.  Your son (and the other player) will not be judged on just one performance, especially with so many other factors determining how players play in a game.  Playing against good competition day-in and day-out is what you should be focusing on.  The college recruiting process should never come down to one match up and if there are schools that buy into that, they aren’t the schools you want your son to go to.  What if as a senior he’s scoring 15 points a game and gets out played during the practice before the championship game by a freshman?

 Short and Sweet: The college recruiting process is about being consistent and making lasting impressions, not one time

 

We’re not entertaining interest from those schools:  If you know about a school and don’t have any interest tell the coach.  Sometimes the best thing to hear as a recruiter is no.  However, if you don’t know anything about the school, try to learn more.  Even if you think your son is better than that level, you should always have a plan if his recruiting doesn’t go the way you expect.  If you think your son is a D1 player, but doesn’t have the interest yet, pick a few D2/3 schools and find a couple fits.  The Division 1 schools may come around.  If not, he’ll have a place to go to school where he can play, get an education, and enjoy college.

 Short and Sweet: Give yourself options in the college recruiting process, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

 

Not being Proactive: Too many parents and players are passive about the thing that is most important to them: their college basketball recruiting process.  Be your own advocate.  Clean-up your social media, change your voicemail to be professional, get game tape, and send colleges your schedule.  Find schools you like and help them recruit you.  Schools aren’t going to offer you a scholarship on the spot, but certainly will take notice and evaluate you if you make it easy for them.  Plan out a spring and summer schedule with good events and play on a good AAU team, get a game tape and highlight video (game tapes are still the most important).  This will give you the best shot.  Don’t ever get “under recruited” because you didn’t do your job.

 Short and Sweet: Be aggressive and take control of your recruitment.

 

 

Pooley’s Picks: New Jersey Tip-Off

Pooley’s Picks

2016 New Jersey Tip-Off Preview

Qualifications:  Sticking with the theme of high school events we have NEW JERSEY BASKETBALL BACK!  Nothing like the start of basketball season in NJ and nothing like the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off.  This week we’ll have a little different approach to Pooley’s Picks.  No specific qualifications this week, just some pointers for people to watch out for during this event and really the rest of the season.

Picks are in no particular order. Please enjoy the fifth installment of Pooley’s Picks.

2016 New Jersey Tip Off

The 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off: Ten great match ups. 5 of the top 7 teams in NJ.

The Event: For years (17 to be exact), the Hoop Group has put on the NJ Tip-Off.  Each year, it features high-profile match ups and top-tier talent. The event itself is well run and the venues are always excellent.  The 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off will be very much the same.  First, Eric Kessler and Dave Fedor have a ton of experience running events, and more importantly a ton of knowledge of the teams.  When you get the best teams together to start the season it is important to have a great setup and planning.  This event will have that and more.

 

HC of Pope John at 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off, Vincent Johnson, while at Lehigh.

Vincent Johnson: Vincent was named the head coach of Pope John after former coach Jason Hasson left for Pennsylvania.  “Chico” as many know him, is a great coach with an unbelievable background in basketball.  More importantly, he is a good friend of mine and an excellent mentor to many young ball players.  The #1 thing I’m excited for at the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off is to watch Coach Johnson in his head coaching debut.  Now, he has been matched up with Roselle Catholic, a staple at the top of the NJ rankings.  Don’t be surprised if Coach Johnson and his young, talented squad can keep it close.

2016 New Jersey Tip-Off participant Mike Morreale

2016 New Jersey Tip-Off participant Mike Morreale

Michael Morreale:  The 6’5″ 2017 senior is one of my favorites.  He is an excellent player, known both for his excellent athleticism and long range jumpers.  Entering his senior year, he’ll be a valuable asset for Coach Mergin Sina and the Knights.  Look for Mike to knock down a couple threes and convert on a jam or two.  More than that, look for Mike to make the big play at the end.  Defensively Mike is one of the best around, guarding point guards right on down to centers.  More importantly, he is a great kid and a great teammate.  No question that at the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off everyone will enjoy watching Mike.

 

 

Blair v Linden: Earlier in the year, in the first installment of Pooley’s Picks I predicted the most productive players in New Jersey.  This match up features (admittedly) my biggest snub: Tavon Jones.  I can’t wait to watch Tavon in his first opportunity to prove me wrong.  The big guard can do it all and will have a huge test against one of my favorite backcourts on the east coast.  Let’s not forget the match up also features two great coaches: Phil Colicchio and Joe Mantegna.

 

Bergen Catholic v St. Benedict’s:  Mark Taylor’s team is led by impressive Syracuse commit Bourama Sidibe and fab frosh Noah Farrakhan.  Billy Armstrong’s team is led by two senior guards Gabe Stefanini (Columbia) and Taj Benning (Fairfield).  Something has to give here.  This is the most evenly matched game of the weekend, and one I really am excited to see.  Look for the X-factor, 6’8″ freshman Matt Zona, to jump onto the New Jersey seen.

 

Ja’Quaye James:  The small, heady PG will have his work cut out for him against Newark East Side.  First, the Red Raiders are one of the best defenses at the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off.  Second, they are led by senior stopper Elijah Olaniyi and sophomore stud Anas Amos.  However, none of that matters to James, who has been taking on the country’s best for years.   Watch for some highlight reel excitement, some up-tempo basketball, and a lot of buckets from James.

 

Hun vs Union Catholic:  Just a solid match up.  Union Catholic is tough and physical, Hun is tough and physical.  Guard play from both schools will be the difference in the game.  Hun will try to keep Jordan Pierce of the offensive boards and Union Catholic will need to keep Tyler Washington and Desmond Cambridge away from the rim. Freshman guard Niels Lane, who got a lot of minutes at PSA Cardinals Showcase just two weeks ago, is another X-factor.

 

Calistus Anyichie 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off commit

Calistus Anyichie 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off commit

St. Mary’s Elizabeth Bigs: Certainly not a group the casual fan would talk about, but I think that’s about to change.  Both bigs, Calistus Anyichie and Casmir Ochiaka, have big upside and great coaching.  Perhaps a little underrated right now, I’m looking for them to have a breakout 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off.  As the season continues, look for colleges to start taking notice as well.

Jabri Abdur-Rahim: First of all, it’s not often you get to see a freshman play major minutes in a High School game.  Second of all, it’s less often you get to see a top player nationally impact a game.  Finally, both of those two will come together for the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off, as Abdur-Rahim will do his best to live up to the hype.

 

Samba Diallo:  Will BLOW UP this season.  Been hearing his name a lot lately in some basketball circles.  Samba has started coming into his own. First, look for this kid to have his first big game of the year at the 2016 New Jersey Tip-Off.  Then, look for him to finish his sophomore year with all of the offers.  The big lefty can do it all, and legitimately play 4 different positions.

 

Special Guest this week, Event Director Eric Kessler:

Pooley Picks – Top New Jersey Basketball Players by Productivity

Pooley Picks

Top New Jersey Basketball Players: 10 Most Productive

Qualifications: There are a lot of ways to discuss Top New Jersey Basketball players, here we are talking strictly production.  The players below aren’t necessarily the Top 10 players in New Jersey, but rather players I’ve projected to put up the biggest numbers adjusted for competition. You cannot be on the list if you’re projected to average less than 10 points per game or if your only strength is scoring the ball (players who are projected for low assist AND rebound totals don’t qualify).  Lastly, we have adjusted for competition: Big numbers against a weaker schedule won’t get you in over someone with comparable numbers are against top teams.

Players are in no particular order. Please enjoy the first installment of Pooley Picks.

Nate Pierre-Louis: Nate’s an extremely physical guard who has the keys to the kingdom at one of New Jersey’s top schools.  Look for Nate to have big scoring nights on top of his ability to creep up near double digit assists and rebounds on some outings.  In addition to the situation being right at Roselle, Nate can also flat out play.  This guard can score from all three levels, distribute, and get big buckets in big games. It will be fun to watch the Temple commit this season as he proves he’s one of the top New Jersey basketball players.

Most productive when: He out hustles all competition and gets teammates involved consistently

Least productive when: Teams pack the lane and jumper doesn’t fall

Stat Line Projection: 21.1 ppg / 4.7 apg / 6.1 rpg / 3.4 spg / 0.8 bpg

 

Justyn Mutts: Big man for St. Augustine’s has the potential for some monster nights in 2016-17.  Proving himself with one of the best teams in NJ last year, Mutts had a 22-10-7 game against undefeated St. Anthony’s; along with multiple double-doubles and plenty of 5+ block games. High Point is getting a stat-stuffer with Mutts.

Most productive when: He plays inside then out and stays aggressive on the O-boards

Least productive when: Teams can force him to 15 feet plus and box out.

Stat Line Projection: 17.9 ppg / 1.7 apg / 10.1 rpg / 1.4 spg / 3.1 bpg

 

Scottie Lewis: Scottie has the chance to have the best stat sheet in New Jersey both in an individual game and over the course of the season.  A human highlight reel, he can also do everything and will be in a situation at The Ranney School where he has to for them to be successful.  He’ll get plenty of shots and even more rebounding and assist opportunities.  Even with adjusting for competition, Scottie will have such good numbers he is a no-brainer for this list. Looking ahead, watch for him to start creeping into one of the top New Jersey basketball players ever.

Most productive when: When he’s in the open floor and help-side defensive situations

Least productive when: Teams slow the game and play triangle and two against him and teammate Bryan Antoine

Stat Line Projection: 19.4 ppg / 5.1 apg / 11.1 rpg / 4.7 spg / 2.8 bpg

 

RJ Cole: Tough for anyone on a Coach Hurley team to make the list, as his teams often feature extremely well disciplined and balanced teams.  However, this seems like a year where one player may be required to do a little more for them to be as successful as they’ve been in the past.  Lucky for the Friars, Cole, a top New Jersey basketball player, is set up for one of those years.  RJ is a heady point, whose jump shot has turned a corner.  The lefty, committed to Howard, should have some big games against some of the best teams the Northeast has to offer.  May not boast the stats of some of the other players on the list but will score or assist on a huge % of his teams buckets.

Most productive when:  He’s given space on the perimeter or in ball screen situations

Least productive when: His team needs to grind out wins in the 40s and 50s

Stat Line Projection: 15.4 ppg / 5.7 apg / 3.4 rpg / 2.9 spg / 0.4 bpg

 

Elijah Barnes: Looking to repeat as Shore Conference Champs, Mater Dei’s 6’7” big man can do a little bit of everything.  Most importantly, Barnes can do a lot of rebounding and scoring.  Elijah put up decent numbers on an extremely well-rounded, well-coached team last year.  Barnes is poised for a huge individual season (along with teammate Kenny Jones) in 2016-17. Princeton looks to be getting a tough big man who can do a little bit of everything.

Most productive when:  He’s attacking the glass, inside of 15 feet and then steps out

Least productive when: He falls in love with perimeter game or floats on the floor

Stat Line Projection: 18.7 ppg / 2.7 apg / 11.4 rpg / 1.6 spg / 2.4 bpg

 

Jalen Carey:  With Immaculate Conception getting better and deeper there may be a few less opportunities to score, but Jalen’s overall game should flourish.  Arguably the best scorer in New Jersey (I wouldn’t argue against it), Carey is an explosive athlete, with some of the best downhill moves in high school basketball as well as a consistent mid-range shooter with a developing 3-pt jumper.  Expect some games in the 30’s and a lot of wins for his high school team this year, led by the only junior on the list.

Most productive when:  He has the ball in his hand. Period.

Least productive when:  He’s forced off the ball and required to only shoot long jump shots.

Stat Line Projection: 22.6 ppg / 3.9 apg / 7.1 rpg / 3.6 spg / 0.9 bpg

 

Bryan Antoine: Bryan is a scoring PG who just happens to be 6’4” with an unbelievable feel for the game.  Considering he’s going to touch the ball every possession this season I know big games are on the way.  Huge scoring and assist numbers are a certainty from Bryan, in a league where guys will not be able to stay in front of him.  Along with teammate Scottie Lewis, and an older and stronger supporting cast, look for these big numbers to translate into wins against tougher teams deep into 2017.

Most productive when:  He can get going from deep and consistently get to the line.

Least productive when:  Teams can force contested jump shots and guard w/o fouling.

Stat Line Projection: 24.6 ppg / 6.1 apg / 6.4 rpg / 3.8 spg / 1.1 bpg

 

Gabe Stefanini:  The Italian import had a breakout 2016, both in HS and AAU.  The 6’3” Columbia commit, can play three positions and is hard to stop at all of them.  Not the fastest guard, Gabe’s game is built on deception, a high basketball IQ, and an ever improving jump shot.  His numbers may not be as gaudy as some of the others on this list, but with an extremely deep Bergen Catholic roster and tough schedule, look for Gabe to be balanced in all 5 major categories and lead the crusaders to a lot of wins.

Most productive when:  He plays under control, with his head up, and gets to the foul line.

Least productive when:  He forces early in games and gets into his own head.

Stat Line Projection: 14.1 ppg / 5.1 apg / 6.3 rpg / 2.7 spg / 0.6 bpg

 

Nick Richards: From a production standpoint, I was close to leaving Nick off the list.  For years, Nick has been a top recruit in the nation, and currently holds the number one spot in New Jersey; however, the statistics and impact on the game up until now hasn’t always been there.  That is about to change though.  With this being his senior year, his team playing perhaps the toughest schedule of any team in New Jersey, a recent commitment to Kentucky, and Pat’s losing inside factors Fatir Hines and Cyril Langevine: Nick will be up for more minutes, blocks, rebounds, and points. Not to mention the fact his game has made great strides the last few months.

Most productive when:  He stays out of foul trouble and runs the floor rim to rim.

Least productive when:  He gets caught in that middle 8-15 ft. range

Stat Line Projection: 12.6 ppg / 0.9 apg / 12.1 rpg / 1.6 spg / 4.1 bpg

 

Elijah Olaniyi is one of the top New Jersey Basketball Players

Elijah Olaniyi is one of the top New Jersey Basketball Players

Elijah Olaniyi: Definitely a surprise to some on the production list, but Elijah has begun to separate himself from other NJ wings.  The Stonybrook commit has taken a below average jumper and turned it into a strength.  The energizer bunny, he not only plays hard every second, but he has a nose for the ball.  Never afraid to attack the rim or take tough shots, Elijah will jump about 50% in scoring and slightly improve on an unreal rebounding campaign in 2015-16, which include five consecutive double-doubles. If you watch him play he’ll convince you he’s a top New Jersey basketball player.

Most productive when:  He takes and makes good shots and gets to the foul line

Least productive when:  Opposing Teams can keep him off the glass and out of transition

Stat Line Projection: 15.1 ppg / 2.3 apg / 10.9 rpg / 2.1 spg / 1.1 bpg

 

Top 5 Snubs:

Tavon Jones – Unbelievable competitor and scorer.  Will lead Linden to another long playoff run.

Reason: I’m only allowed to have 10 players on the list.

Bourama Sidibe – Big time prospect who will rebound and block shots with the best of them.

Reason: Very difficult schedule will limit scoring opportunities; aggressive play will lead to foul trouble.

Deng Gak – Top level prospect, who developed a ton last year with Blair and PSA.

Reason: Don’t see him cracking 10 pts or reb with a great five at Blair who can all score and rebound.

Ja’Quaye James – One of the best scorers in the state in 2015-2016 and a good enough distributor.

Reason: Teams will start to key on little guard, assist and scoring numbers could dip.

Justin Minaya – Originally on the list, great all around guard with a bright future.  Major sleeper!

Reason: He’ll have better numbers than a couple on the list, but adjusting for competition hurts.

 

Other Notes:

Difficult to leave Jordan Pierce off a list of top New Jersey basketball players.  However, when it comes to productivity I don’t know if he’ll have the other stats.  Jordan plays hard and records a lot of double-doubles.  The big three at Hudson (Quinerly, Muhammad, King) are all unbelievable talents.  However, for Marinello’s team to win they will share many of the stats needed to be on this list.  Isaiah Wong will be a front runner for this list next year, Notre Dame guard is great.

Patrick School guards (Harris, McClary, Walker) will be in a Hudson Catholic like scenario: talented backcourt, with only one ball. Big nights but not enough counting numbers for Rice’s big three.  George Visconti, crazy scorer who had 5 30 point games last year, just doesn’t quite have the strength of schedule but could average 25+ again this year. Finally, Nazreon Reid, a top 10 player to watch for certain but I don’t expect consistent enough numbers to justify jumping one of the other candidates.