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.
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.
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.
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.
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: