Al-Amir Dawes is ready to lead the NJ Playaz – Q&A with HG Insider on the upcoming AAU season & more

The New Jersey Playaz are always a team to watch in the Nike EYBL. This year the Playaz will rely a lot on class of 2019 guard Al-Amir Dawes. Dawes, a standout from The Patrick School in New Jersey, is ready to take on this role and put his team in a position to win a Peach Jam Championship. Dawes spoke on this and more with Hoop Group Insider.

Q: What are some goals that you have in mind for this AAU season?

A: “Going into my final AAU season I’m just trying to do one thing and that’s win the Peach Jam Championship,” said Dawes. “We want to continue the tradition the Playaz have built through the years.”

Q: This year you are going to play more of a leadership role. What are you learning about what it takes to be a leader?

A: “I am learning how to put a team on your back and I’m trying to be more of a coach and a player,” he said. “I want to be there for my teammates, teach the new guys and just lead by example.”

Q: What did you learn last year from your 17u experience in the Nike EYBL?

A: “I learned that when you play in the EYBL you can’t take any plays off,” he said. “You have to give it your all every play and put you blood, sweat and tears into it.”

Q: What are some things you guys need to focus on to put yourselves in a good spot to win it all?

A: “I think what we need to focus on as a whole is chemistry,” Dawes said. “That is important especially in the EYBL with teams who have been together since sixth grade. We are just working on our chemistry so once we get that figured out we will put ourselves in a good position to win the Peach Jam.”

Q: For those that haven’t seen you play, when your playing well what are you doing on the floor?

A: “When I’m playing well I make a lot of shots and the hoop gets a lot bigger,” he said. “I also play quick defense, talk a lot and my game continues to elevate. The more fun I have the better I play.”

Q: What would you say makes the New Jersey Playaz the program that it is today?

A: “With Jimmy Salmon, I think he makes players good on and off the court,” Dawes said. “We have a family like relationship here and that’s what really makes our program as good as it is.”

Q: What are some personal goals you have in mind for this season?

A: “I’m trying to make a much bigger name for myself,” he said. “I’m trying to improve upon my recruitment and like I said to keep getting my name out there.”

New Jersey Tip-Off Game 1

Game 1 2:30: Immaculate Conception Vs. East Orange

You’re going to want to get to the NJ Tip-Off early cause the day starts off with a great matchup between Immaculate Conception and East Orange. East Orange, under 1st year coach and former Newark Tech coach (and state champion) Joe Jordan, looks to take down one of the best teams in New Jersey. Immaculate Conception features a player who many (Including myself) consider the best scorer in New Jersey, Jalen Carey! The 6’3 combo guard is capable of putting on a show against anyone! This is a matchup you’re not going to want to miss!

2016 Pitt Jam Fest Day Two Recap


A full slate of games in the heart of the live recruiting period gave plenty of memorable moments in downtown Pittsburgh.

With a full day of basketball in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look back at just some of the expansive action that took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center:

TTG Elite survive and advance

The Pittsburgh-based program is on its way to the 17U Platinum quarterfinals with a pair of wins Saturday. The first came in a 65-53 victory over Cecil Kirk where Brennan Jackson posted 10 points in the first half.

The second contest ended in heart-pounding fashion. The game against the Ohio Unity needed an extra frame to decide a winner after Ohio Unity hit three free throws with less than a second remaining to tie the game.

A Shawndale Jones contested layup with seconds on the clock to give TTG Elite a 53-51 victory. They’ll play for a chance to crack the Final Four when they play the DC Blue Devils at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday.

Blue Devils dominate

Speaking of the Blue Devils, they showed college coaches and fans alike why the program is a forced to be reckoned with.

The 17U Blue Devils started off the day with a standing room-only crowd watching their game with the Uncommon Bulls (VA). That contest turned into a blowout as the Blue Devils cruised to a 61-41 victory in a matchup littered with Division I talent.

DC got a bigger scare when they faced Team Final Black (PA) in the following round. The Blue Devils built a big lead, but a three-point barrage from Team Final Black made it a tightly-contested game. The Blue Devils were able to hold off long enough to secure a 59-56 win.

Tshiefu Ngalakulondi impressed throughout the day, putting his length and scoring ability on display with a number of high-impact dunks. Suk Mathon did his share in the post, playing well against Uncommon Bulls’ Simon Ejike-Obinna.

NJ Playaz Red scrap to wins

It wasn’t an easy day for the 16U NJ Playaz, but they made the most of their opportunities and continue into 16U Platinum championship bracket through Saturday.

The Playaz started off their day with a close 63-61 victory over Early Risers (NY) and found themselves in another grinding battle against TNBA West Ohio. Anas Amos hit a game-tying layup with 6.6 seconds in regulation, then a Playaz three-pointer with less than a minute all but secured the decision in a 57-53 overtime effort.

Jalen Carey displayed why he is considered a top 50 prospect in the 2018 class, displaying a smooth shot and plenty of athleticism that has plenty of high-majors pining for the 6-foot-2 New Jersey guard.

The Playaz compete in the quarterfinals against Erick Green Premiere at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

Middlesex creates Magic en route to quarterfinals

The Middlesex Magic had a path to the 17U Platinum quarterfinals that was far from a given.

The Massachusetts-based program was given all it could handle in the third round against TNBA West Vega (OH), but pulled away with a hard-fought 45-41 win.

The road didn’t get any easier with a matchup against Team Takeover Black 16U, one of the more athletic programs in the entire field. A back-and-forth affair that had plenty of physical moments ended in the Magic’s favor by way of a 59-55 triumph. Brendan Hoban tallied 18 points and 6 assists in the win; the 6’2 guard has had quite the weekend.

Cormac Ryan impressed throughout the day, scoring in bunches. The 6-foot-5 guard connected on four three-pointers in the Magic’s first game and posted 22 points in the win.

Middlesex will get the chance to battle its way to the championship, starting with a 9:15 a.m. Sunday tipoff against WV Wildcats Select.

2014 Fall Jam Fest: Tournament Recap


This past weekend, the Hoop Group Fall Jam Fest took place inside Hoop Group Headquarters in Neptune, New Jersey. The tournament hosted 62 teams total across four age brackets. Like most Hoop Group events, the Fall Jam Fest saw tremendous talent from players of all ages at the high school level. Here is a recap of every age bracket from the weekend.

15u Bracket
If this weekend is any indication of what the future holds for basketball in the Northeast, then we have nothing to worry about. There was a lot of good action to be seen from the 15 year old age group. We saw the ninth grade BABC team make their way down from Boston and put on a great showing. They won their pool on Saturday with two strong victories and eventually made it to the championship after Maurice Works hit a three with 2.1 seconds to knock off Hoop Heaven Elite in the semis. They would face the Jersey Force, who came into the final game rolling off a double digit win over the Hilltopper Heat, in the finals. The 15u championship game was a neck and neck contest that went down to the final seconds. Neither team was able to gain a substantial lead and that led to a dramatic finish. With just seconds to go, Jersey Force trailed by one when Darius Kinnel took an inbounds pass and drained a jump shot from straight away to give the Force a win and a trophy!

Congratulations to both teams, especially the Jersey Force on being named the 15u Fall Jam Fest champions!

AAU tournaments are a great chance to get better during the fall, but they’re not the only way. Hoop Group Junior Elites provide you with a chance to get the same exposure and competition as an AAU tournament in just one day! Our next Jr. Elite will be this Sunday at Hoop Group Headquarters.

16u Bracket
There were a lot of story lines involving teams in the 16u division. For one, there were the Juice All-Stars, who made the trip to New Jersey from North Carolina and showed how much talent there is down south. Then there were the NJ Playaz, who scored 204 points in just two games on Saturday. They had guys scoring in bunches this weekend. They also had a crazy game Sunday morning versus Rock Elite, an AAU team based out of New York. The game went back and forth with clutch play after clutch play from both sides. In the end it was the Playaz that were able to sneak out a win, but both teams impressed a lot. Next there were the NC Runnin’ Rebels, who were a 15u team playing up and made it all the way to the championship. They had some major size and talent on their team and made it all the way to the championship when they knocked off the talented NJ Playaz in the semifinals. In the end, the 16u bracket was dominated by the South Jersey Jazz this weekend. Coached by former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, Tim Legler, the Jazz won the weekend in convincing fashion, beating every team they played by double digits. Guard Myles Cale is a special player and led the way for his team much of the weekend. Congratulations to the SJ Jazz on their tremendous play this weekend!

17u Bracket
The 17u bracket at the 2014 Fall Jam Fest was filled with potential recruits and college prospects. Over a dozen college coaches were in attendance to watch guys such as Sam Iorio (Jersey Shore Warriors), Simeon Fryer (Jersey Shore Warriors), Dontae Julius (Prestige Pariots), Dan Largey (NJ Shoreshots), Jayln McKoy (Juice All-Stars), Alex Sorensen (Game 7 Elite), Tarik Boyd (Redemption Christian) and Patrick Andree (Jersey Shore Warriors). In two exciting playoff games, the championship game was set when the Jersey Shore Warriors defeated Redemption Christian Academy and the Prestige Patriots held off the NJ Shoreshot’s attempt at a comeback. In the final, Jersey Shore bested Prestige despite a 24 point effort from Dontae Julius. The Warriors got 21 points from Sam Iorio, as well as 11 form Simeon Fryer, who was a consistent scorer for his team all weekend. Congratulations to the Coach Sagona and the Jersey Shore Warriors on their 17u championship!

Open Bracket
As impressive as the 17u age bracket was, the open bracket blew it away; this field was LOADED with big time players. Heading the group of all-stars was Tyus Battle,’s number 14 ranked player in the class of 2016.

Tyus Battle is ranked 14th on and  16th by for the Class of 2016.

Tyus Battle is ranked 14th on and 16th by for the Class of 2016.

We also saw a lot of impressive future Division one players such as Isaac Vann, Jonas Stakeliunas, Jagan Mosely, Myles Powell, Jason Dunne and Trevon Duval, to name a few. The open bracket had a great “Final Four” on Sunday, consisting of Hoop Heaven Elite, Redemption Christian Academy, Coastal Academy and the NJ Playaz. All teams brought Division one talent to the semifinals and the result were two exciting games for fans to watch. In the end it was the NJ Playaz who took home the trophy with a big win over Hoop Heaven Elite. With a roster filled with D1 players, the Playaz put up 83 points and had four players in double digits. Myles Powell capped off a tremendous weekend with a 31 point finale.

The 2014 Fall Jam Fest was another well run, exciting event for parents, coaches and players. The talent level was very high, the highlight reel plays were everywhere and the competition was intense. Congratulations to all our champions. The last Jam Fest of the year 2014 will be the Fall Jr. Jam Fest on October 11-12 at Hoop Group Headquarters. We can’t wait!

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