Hoop Group Alum Shine on the Big Stage

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The Kentucky Wildcats were the talk of the town yesterday after they put a beating on the Kansas Jayhawks Monday night on national television. There was not a more talked about team this summer than John Calipari’s Wildcats; having a roster that consists of nine McDonald’s All-Americans will do that for you. All the hype and speculation was answered Monday night, at least momentarily, when they took down the #5 Jayhawks 72-40 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. The result of this highly anticipated match up was never really in question, as Kentucky took control of the game early and never looked back.

Much of the talk last night revolved around the “platoon squads” that Coach John Calipari has implemented. Taking a hockey-esque approach to their substitution method, Kentucky sends five in and five out every four to five minutes, maintaining fresh legs and causing problems for the opposition. Playing on these platoon squads were four Hoop Group alumni, all of whom had an impact on the outcome Monday night.

Andrew Harrison (pictured) and brother Aaron both took part in the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest in 2012

Andrew Harrison (pictured) and brother Aaron both took part in the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest in 2012

From the get-go, Kentucky, who plays seven players 6-8 or bigger, dominated the game by owning the paint and the glass for 40 minutes. They owned Kansas inside and wore them down with blocked shot after blocked shot, tallying 11 for the game. Leading the way with four of those 11 was Hoop Group alumni Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns, who finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes, was a stand out at St. Joseph Metuchen High School and a member of the Hoop Group Tip Off Showcase last winter.

In addition to Towns, the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew), as well as Dakari Johnson, were the other players to suit up for UK that both were #HGAlumni and had a big impact on game. Johnson, who was a Hoop Group Elite alum, led the balanced scoring effort with 11 points. Andrew Harrison chipped in ten points and dished out four assists while brother Aaron had eight.

One game does not define a season, but it can make a statement. Skeptics will continue to question Coach Cal and his platoon “line change” method and the buzz surrounding Kentucky will continue to grow as the season marches on. But for one night at least, thanks to a little help of four Hoop Group alumni,the critics were quieted.

Game Stats of all 4 Hoop Group Alumni:
Karl-Anthony Towns: 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks 18 minutes
Andrew Harrison: 10 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 19 minutes
Aaron Harrison: 8 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 21 minutes
Dakari Johnson: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 20 minutes

Hoop Group Alumni Nwankwo Chooses Golden Gophers

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NEPTUNE, NJ-  In early September, Hoop Group Alumni Jonathan Nwankwo committed to attend the University of Minnesota next year while on his visit to the school. Physically, Nwankwo is ready for the next level. He’s 6’9 and has a strong build, making him a presence inside. He’s a good defender and rebounder around the rim and offensively, he can  finish with a nice touch. We saw a lot of the Minnesota bound senior at Hoop Group Elite Camp this summer with his high school teammate, Peter Kiss. Here are  their highlights from Academic Elite session one.

Before putting on the maroon and gold for Minnesota, Nwanwko will play his senior season at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Florida after playing at Monsignor Scanlan High School for three years. Nwankwo is excited for the opportunities that Victory Rock can provide him with and he believes the school will help make him a better player and get him ready for college. I sat down with Jonathan this summer and discussed his recruiting process at the time as well as the move down to Florida.

Last month Jonathan joined a hearty list of Hoop Group Alumni who have committed to play Division 1 basketball. The University of Minnesota has landed themselves a big man with a lot of upside. We wish the best of luck to Jonathan both this year and when he steps onto campus at Minnesota.