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:

New Jersey Tip Off Game 6 Preview

Game 6

Sunday 2:15 – Hackensack Vs. St. Mary’s Elizabeth

Sunday picks up where Saturday left off, with two great teams from New Jersey that have a deep pool of talent. Lets start it off by the Hackensack dynamic duo of Atiba Taylor and BJ Saliba. Taylor, who holds multiple D1 offers, is a smooth operator at the guard position! The crafty lefty can go by any defender and set up teammates with relative ease. Hackensack will need to prepare for a gritty St. Mary’s Elizabeth team lead by the Junior big men Casmir Ochiaka and Calistus Anyichie! Casmir uses his college ready body to bully opposing defenders, while Anyichie protects the paint with his tremendous length. Be ready for another awesome matchup at the New Jersey Tip Off.

Top Prospects from the Spring Tip Off


The first annual Spring Tip Off at Spooky Nook Sports brought in several high profile teams, with a number of next-level players. Here are some of the biggest names and best performers in the ’17 and ’18 classes from the weekend.

David Beatty | 2017 | St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ)

Coming off a very strong junior season at national powerhouse St. Benedict’s, Beatty picked up right where he left off, controlling the show for Philly Pride. He got out in transition and finished with some rim rattling dunks, and also showcased his smooth step back jumper. Expect him to pick up many more offers this Spring.

Seth Pinkney | 2018 | Archbishop Wood (PA)

6’10 and arms that seemingly go down to the floor; that’s the best way to describe Pinkney physically. His explosiveness off the ground makes him a terrific shot blocker and an effective player on both sides of the glass. He was very strong today for Team Philly, and will continue to be.

Laurynas Stonkus | 2017| Knox School (NY)

Laurynas was hands down one of the best performers of the weekend. He is a lights out, big time shooter. He comes off screens, shoots of the dribble, and is near perfect at the catch and shoot. He is going to find A LOT of coach’s radars this live period.

Casmir Ochiaka | 2018 | St. Mary’s (NJ)

A big bodied post, Casmir was a monster on the offensive glass for the NJ Roadrunners. When he gets the ball inside, whether by pass or by offensive rebound, he does not rush. He possesses good footwork and soft touch around the tin.

Stan Scott | 2017 | Williamsport (PA)

A hidden gem of sorts, playing out in the Williamsport area, Stan Scott made his presence known immediately at the Spring Tip Off. He can explode off the ground, and showed it on numerous occasions over the weekend. His recruiting should pick up, because he is a treat to watch.

Koby Thomas | 2017 | Imhotep Charter (PA)

Koby was everywhere on the court. Active in the passing lanes and aggressive on offense. He is an athlete who has a knack for getting his hands on the basketball. He had several big plays in transition, including a couple hard dunks. With three offers at hand (Coppin State, Hampton, Chattanooga), expect more schools to jump on the Philly wing.

Jalen Gabbidon | 2017 | Harrisburg Academy (PA)

The York Ballers look poised for a strong Spring an Jalen is a key reason why. He’s an offensive minded player who can get into the lane with a quick first move, but will also make open shots when left open. He is able to create his own shot in the paint, and can finish around defenders. Expect him to bolster his recruitment this Spring.

Esam Mostafa | 2019 | Arlington Country Day School (FL)

Another member of the NY Ionians who impressed. Mustafa has a college ready body, and is only a 2019. He’s tremendous on the offensive glass, and scores a lot simply by working for offensive rebounds. He also showed great back to the basket moves. The 6’11 big looks like he’s college ready now, and has two years to improve.

We saw a lot of good prospects at the Spring Tip Off this past weekend. It only has us salivating as to what we have in store for this weekend when over 250 teams come back to Spooky for the Spring Jam Fest. Stay tuned for more updates on that this weekend!


New Jersey Roadrunners Show Dominance at HG Showdown

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’98 Chicago Bulls, ’02 Los Angeles Lakers, ’15 New Jersey Roadrunners. Ok, that may be a little farfetched, but you won’t find a hotter team right now than the Roadrunners 15u team. The New Jersey based AAU program has competed in, and won, three straight Hoop Group Showdown tournaments. In a division that includes recognized and talented programs such as the NY Gauchos, NJ Shoreshots and Force, PSA Cardinals (NY) and McHoops Blue Chips (PA), three straight championships is worth recognizing.

The run of success for the Roadrunners started back in April when they topped New Heights at the Spring Showdown. The grind it out victory set the tone for the rest of their Showdown games; they won three championships by less than five points in each game. Blow outs were not a common occurrence, and they found themselves in constant battles with their opponents.

Wins that go down to the final minutes are typically not the recipe for success when it comes to winning multiple championships. Usually there are a few easy games along the way. The Roadrunners club was able to overcome this thanks to their deep bench. The club plays a lot of players, which is a major plus during tournaments that often require a quick turn around, and multiple games per day. That means tournament MVPs like Casmir Ochiaka, Jahid Jenkins and Calistus Anychio were kept fresh for crunch time, another big plus for the Roadrunners.

Over 20 NBA players have had the Roadrunners name run across their chest, and even more have gone on to play in college. Some of the more recent alums include Kyrie Irving, Randy Foye, Jay Williams and Al Harrington. They have established themselves as one of the best organizations in New Jersey in helping players achieve their basketball dreams. From the looks of it, they are not slowing down anytime soon.

Jahid Jenkins took home the MVP after he impressed everyone at the Nj Junior Jam Fest. Casmir, who was the first Roadrunner to be named MVP, is a big power forward who has shown the ability to be a force in the paint. At the guard spot, Jahid Jenkins (pictured left) has been sensational of late, controlling the flow of the game and making winning plays in big moments. And last but not least, Calistus is a center who has shown great improvement in his game over the past three tournaments. He has great size and is beginning to add the skill, which spells trouble for opponents.

A few bounces that go the other way, a three-point that falls instead of rimming out, and the Roadrunners could be on a less favorable streak. That just comes with the territory when you have multiple grind it out victories. Fortunately, their depth has proved to be unmatched and late game coaching has this team firing on all cylinders. Let’s see how long they keep the momentum rolling.