Undiscovered Vol. 1: From Unknown to Recruited

With the game of basketball constantly evolving and progressing, we are starting to see the talent pool of high school basketball vastly deepen. Consistently playing above the rim, sinking NBA range threes, and no-look pocket passes are a few of the skill sets we are getting accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. So many players are good now a days. Some of them are really good. But skill level and potential don’t mean much unless you are seen.

A lot of college level players stay under the radar throughout their careers. It may be because of a certain location, not playing on one of the popular AAU circuits, or a delayed growth spurt; some players don’t end up getting the exposure they need to get to the next level.

Hoop Group Elite camps offer the chance for players to cancel out all of the factors above and get the opportunity to show what they can do in front of the people that need to see. Hoop Group has had many players come to camp with little or no interest and leave with college interest and scholarship offers. The following are a few that have come through in the past few years.

 

  • Gabe Stefanini

Gabe Stefanini came to all three elite sessions in the summer of 2016 holding only one offer as he started the live period. After his successful summer playing in camp, he had a long list of sixteen Division One offers! He eventually narrowed his choices to Santa Clara, Princeton, St. Bonaventure, and Columbia before committing to play at Columbia University in the fall.

  • Keve Aluma

Keve Aluma came in a relative unknown in the summer of 2016. After playing in Elite 1, he made an impression on over ten Division One schools. One of those ten, Wofford College was the school that Keve ended up committing to. He will be playing in the black and gold this season and hopes to continue on Wofford’s success in the Southern Conference.

  • Josip Vrankic

Coming from Canada, Josip didn’t have much interest from schools in the US before coming to the Elite 1 session. After the week, it was an entirely different story. Josip blew up at camp and drew offers from over ten Division One programs. He decided to take his talents west as he will enroll at Santa Clara University of the WCC.

  • Sandro Mamukelashvili

Sandro Mamukelashvili first game in the United States as at Hoop Group Elite Session 1. At the beginning of that session, he held zero D1 offers.  After the week, he was offered scholarships from five high major schools and will be suiting up for Seton Hall University next season.

  • Devin Jensen

Devin Jensen brought his sharp shooting abilities to Elite Session 1 and Team Camp in the summer of 2016. There he was seen by Coach Joey Gallo of Merrimack College. Over the five days Coach Gallo began recruiting Devin who he ended up committing to the Warriors on a full scholarship. Jensen will be a name to watch in the NE-10 these next four years.

  • Matt Faw

Matt Faw held just one Division 1 offer coming into the Academic 2 session at the end of July. After the week, he not only led his team to the league’s championship game, but also picked up offers from five Ivy/Patriot League schools. Matt eventually committed to play for the Crusaders of Holy Cross and will be playing for them this upcoming winter.

  • Michael Myers

Michael Myers injury last March caused him to miss the entire spring season. With the chance of a derailed recruitment, Michael decided to come to Elite camp; he had zero interest at the time from schools at the next level. Through his time at camp, he had the chance to catch the eye of every high academic school on the east coast. Michael eventually found a home at Williams College in of the NESCAC and will be an integral piece of the Ephs as they look to build upon an already historic tradition.

 

College Coaches: Stay tuned to the Hoop Group Undiscovered series as we try to predict who this year’s hidden gems are!

Academic Elite Camp Count Down

 

                                                                             14 Days

                                                                      Player Feature: Matthue Cotton

                                                                        

With offers from high major schools such as Seton Hall, Oklahoma State and Rutgers, Cotton has benefited greatly from Academic Elite 1. He entered the camp with little to no exposure and came out with numerous offers. The crafty guard looks to continue his success this year as he enters his senior season.

 

 

                           13 Days

                                                                    Player Feature: Mikey Dixon

Mikey Dixon is one of the more unique Academic Elite 1 stories. After tearing it up at camp, Mikey later landed himself a Quinnipiac offer where he committed almost immediately. Averaging an impressive 16 points and 4 rebounds his freshman year, Mikey left the mid major and now currently attends the up and coming Big East team St. John’s, where he looks to carry on the values and skills he learned at our Academic Elite 1 camp.

 

 12 Days

Player Feature: Gabe Stefanini

Loyalty is never unnoticed and that’s the case with Stefanini. After attending 3 separate Hoop Group camps starting at Academic Elite 1, Stefanini came onto the college scene as an underrated, high IQ, crafty guard with the ability to slash to the basket and create opportunities for his teammates. While  receiving 12 scholarship offers  from Camp, Gabe committed to Columbia University  and will have an immediate impact in the Ivy League. Jim Engles and staff got a diamond in the rough in Stefanini and the conference will soon find that out as well.

 11 Days

           Player Feature: Bryan Knapp

The Cornell commit is a textbook example of a volume scorer. Averaging an unbelievable 27.1 PPG his senior season, Knapp will provide the Big Red with a player they haven’t seen in years. Head Coach Brian Earl touched on Knapp’s unique offensive abilities by saying “Bryan possesses the natural ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways. His athleticism and ability to create shots for himself and others will be an exciting addition to our back court.” Knapp leaves Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School as the all-time leading scorer and arguably its most decorated athlete. Knapp was one of the biggest stock risers of last summer, with outstanding performances at our Hoop Group Academic Camps and Summer Jam Fest, we are proud to have Bryan as a Hoop Group Academic Alumni!

                             10 Days

        Player Feature: Hans Brase

Efficiency is key, and that’s exactly what you get from Hans Brase. The forward from Germany shot 35% from the three over his four year career at Princeton and provided the Tigers with a lot of power in the front court. After deciding to become a graduate transfer, the Academic Elite 1 standout transferred to the Big-12 powerhouse Iowa State.  Coach Steve Prohm is excited to have the talented German by saying, “He knows how to play the pick and roll very well and he has a very high basketball IQ.” The Cyclones are planning on using the big for frontcourt depth as they look to make another deep run in the NCAA tournament. We take pride in the accomplishments that Brase has from Academic Elite 1 and we wish him all the best for his future endeavors!

                                                                            9 Days

                                                          Player Feature: Eric SavageImage result for eric savage hoopgroup

Clutch players make clutch plays and Eric Savage is just that. The Tufts guard has come up BIG this year as his efficiency was his best attribute. Shooting a phenomenal 39% from the perimeter, Savage was a sniper and someone opposing teams had to game plan for. The Academic Elite 1 standout’s high IQ and leadership abilities are something that are hard to find nowadays. We are overjoyed that Eric has played well at the collegiate level and we wish him all the best  going into his Sophomore Season.

7 Days

Player Feature: Jake Kuhn

The Maryland Guard enrolls at Cornell as one of its unique new players. “Jake brings a ton of experience and versatility to the table and we are very pleased to add him to our program” stated head coach Brian Earl in excitement. Kuhn surprised a lot of people with his performance at Academic Elite 1 last summer. His ability to score from everywhere on the court is something Cornell will learn to love. Kuhn is a player with a copious amount of potential and the opportunity to become a big time leader at Cornell, on and off the court.

For more information;

Contact:  610-929-6658 or email us at hgelite@hoopgroup.com

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.

Elite 2 Final Day Recap

After an extremely busy and productive week at Albright College, Elite 2 has come to a close! It’s been a phenomenal week of basketball, with several players picking up Division I offers and hundreds of players showing off their skills.

The final day of action saw champions crowned, all-stars awarded, and a wealth of outstanding play. The NBA East championship game, in particular, showcased a thrilling finish, as Team 29 defeated Team 34 in overtime, 70-68. A late three-pointer for Team 29 created a one-point lead, which Team 34’s would erase with the following three-point play with three seconds left.

Of course, for one of the most energetic teams at camp, the celebration was one to remember:

Following the championship games, our several award winners and all-stars were announced. Pictures of all of the award winners are on our twitter feed! The most outstanding player award for our top division was given to Jalen Carey (Immaculate Conception ’18) who holds double-digit D-I offers including one from Penn State that he picked up this week.

Gabe Stefanini (Bergen Catholic ’17) was all over the floor during the all-star game, putting his man on ice multiple times and driving to the hole with strength and agility. Stefanini drilled multiple three-pointers, doing it all on offense for his team as he dished out several dimes.

However, Stefanini was not awarded all-star MVP. That award went to Jalen Ray (Hampton ’17), who scored in a variety of ways  on his way to 22 points.

That’s all from Elite 2, where it’s been a fantastic week of basketball. We’re looking forward to Academic Elite 2 next week!