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:

Gill St. Bernard wins dramatic championship

Gill St. Bernard High School wins the 2014 Elite Team Camp National Division

Gill St. Bernard High School wins the 2014 Elite Team Camp National Division

READING, Pa. — For those who discount the importance of summer tournaments, don’t tell Gil St. Bernard (N.J.).

The Knights made four double-digit comebacks in the course of two days — including an 11-point surge in the final — to capture the Hoop Group Elite Team Camp National Division Championship on Sunday with a 47-43 win over St. Anthony’s (N.J.).

“I’m not sure if I like going down early,” said senior forward Ian Demarest,” but it gets the job done.”

His runner in the lane gave GSB its first and only tie with four minutes to play.

“I don’t think anyone thought we would win this tournament,” Demarest said. “Coach gave us little goals. ‘Cut it to five, cut it to six.’ Eventually, it worked.”

National recruit Tyus Battle only scored nine points, but Adam Mitola added 22 points, including a deep 3-pointer from the wing that gave GSB a four-point lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“When you can shoot the ball well, you’re never out of a game,” said coach Mark Mitola, Adam’s father. The Knights hit eight triples on the afternoon.

Guard Jagan Mosely scored a team-high 17 points for St. Anthony’s while checking Battle on defense for most of the game.

“There’s two top guards in the country going at each other and making each other work for their shots,” Mitola said.

St. Anthony’s forward Taurean Thompson went on a five-point spree to cut the GSB lead to one, but Battle came back with a layup in traffic and a pair of free throws.

Mosely’s 3 at the buzzer was short.

“We didn’t panic,” Mark Mitola said. “We had to make shots and rebound. That’s exactly what we did.”

Tyus Battle finds rewards in playing with GSB

10494966_731237140274153_7362984438852018458_oREADING, Pa. — When Gil St. Bernard (N.J.) coach Mark Mitola says his team has been “battle tested” over the past few months it’s quite the double entrendre.

When his Knights hit the gym in the offseason, half the time it’s without star player Tyus Battle. The national recruit might make the second day of a tournament or miss regular open gym practice time.

“When he’s not around we’re a slower team, but we move the ball exceptionally well,” said guard Ian Demarest. “But when Tyus is around we have to adapt. We’re a faster team and we have someone, when we need a big bucket, give it to Tyus.”

Such is the life of the topped-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2016. Such is the struggle of his teammates.

“We tell the kids: Tyus has to do his thing, so let’s work hard over the summer and in the gym so when we put him back in the mix, we’re even better,” Mitola said.

Battle missed out a tournament with his AAU team to play with the Knights at Hoop Group’s Elite Team Camp this weekend. He brought hoards of college scouts with him, from Villanova’s Jay Wright to Michigan’s John Beilein.

Behind Battle’s 22 points — all coming without a 3-pointer — against Roman Catholic (Pa.) the Knights are in the National division’s championship game Sunday afternoon.

“My jump shot wasn’t working so I had to take it to the basket even more and make the refs call fouls,” he said. “I guess it worked.”

Battle scored eight points off free throws including three and ones, leading an 11-point second-half comeback. When Demarest hit a triple plus the foul, Battle assisted on the play.

“He always makes big shots in big moments,” Battle said. “It changed the momentum of the game. All my teammates really stepped up on defense and made open shots.”

Mitola said having Battle with the rest of the team over the summer gives the rest of the team a confidence boost that allows it to make tournament runs like this.

“It shows what kind of kid he is,” Mitola said. “He’s unselfish enough to know how hard his teammates work and how special we can be with him here.”

“We all battle for each other,” said Demarest. “Tyus is a very humble player. He’s maybe the best player in the country for his age, but he’s just one of the guys around school and when we play, he looks for us. Our job is just when he penetrates and kicks, we gotta knock down shots.”

The Knights spread the floor during their second half surge in an effort to let Battle attack the rim. Once perimeter shots started falling, that sprung open lanes for the 6-foot-6 swingman inside.

“We wanted to spread the offense to open up some up some lanes for him,” Mitola said. “We have to find spots to expose some opportunities for us.”

Battle said it’s encouraging to see his teammates improve even when he’s separated from them. Through his busy schedule, games like the semifinal win over Roman Catholic make spending more time with Gil St. Bernard that much more rewarding.

“I love these guys,” he said. “I love this school and community. It’s always great coming back to be with them.”

Jaren Sina Sinks Buzzer Beater To Beat Sports U [Video]

A look back at Hoop Group Alum Jaren Sina Sinks 3 Point Buzzer Beater Devastates Sports U at Hoop Group Summer Classic. Jaren Sina is a member of the class of 2013 and has verbally committed to play for Alabama.