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.”

Pooleys Picks – Top Northeast Backcourts

Pooley Picks

Top Northeast Backcourts: Maine to Washington, DC

Qualifications: Backcourts are the back bone of high school basketball teams.  In this weeks installment of Pooley’s Picks we dive into the Top Northeast Backcourts, Maine to DC.  Qualifications are simple: The be one of the Top Northeast Backcourts you have to be a team projected to win a lot of games with at least a top-notch point guard and shooting guard.  Wings will be considered especially if they share a load of perimeter scoring or ball handling. Depth will be considered, but no where near as much as the starters, who usually play a large majority of minutes in HS games.  This list is for high schools only (Friends/MAPL league schools will qualify).

Top Northeast Backcourts are in no particular order. Please enjoy the second installment of Pooley’s Picks.


Gonzaga (Washington, DC): Gonzaga has a rich history of great basketball teams and competes in the best high school league in the country.  This years backcourt may be one of the best ever for the Purple Eagles.  Featuring two elite scoring point guards, Gonzaga will be tough to guard and to score against.  Chris Lykes, a 2017 Miami commit, and Prentiss Hubb, a 2018 top ten PG in the country, will run the show and lead a strong backcourt supporting cast.  Also look for Myles Dread, Eddie ScottAnwar Gill, and fan favorite Mike Myers to have standout seasons.  Hard to find a deeper, tougher, and more well-rounded than the Purple Eagles in 2016-2017.

Quote: “They have a great ability to play off of each other, but more importantly they understand how to let the other take the lead…If one is having a great scoring night, the other is always able to have a great facilitating night.” – Steve Turner, Head Coach Gonzaga College High School

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring B+ Shooting A- Passing A- Athleticism B-
Defense A- Rebounding B- Experience A Depth A+ Bball IQ A



Hudson Catholic (Jersey City, NJ): Hudson Catholic has one of the Top Northeast Backcourts on talent alone.  Add that to the fact that their guards are extremely well coached while still given the freedom to make plays and you have a great combination.  Lead by the big three of Jahvon Quinerly, Luther Muhammad, and Louis King this team will press, drive, and shoot their way to being a top team in NJ.  Complimented by star senior Tyheem Burno look for Hudson Catholic to play four guards at times.

Quote: “Hudson Catholic has a lot of Experience going into 2016-17.  Considering the teams these guards have played in the last two years, and the balance between Quinerly’s distribution and shooting, and Muhammad’s athleticism, defense, and raw scoring…I don’t see many backcourts in the northeast being better than them.” – Pat Lawless, NCAA Certified Scout MADE Hoops

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring A- Shooting B+ Passing B+ Athleticism B
Defense A Rebounding B Experience A- Depth B Bball IQ B+



Patrick School (Hillside, NJ): Coaches Mike Rice and Chris Chavannes have their own three-headed monster in the backcourt this season.  The pre-season #1 team in New Jersey may also have the most balanced backcourt in the country.  Lead by an extremely underrated PG in Jordan Walker, a lights-out shooter in Jamir Harris, and a physically gifted downhill guard in Marcus McClary, the Patrick School will never be outgunned at guard.  Al-Amir Dawes will bring energy, skill, and scoring in bunches off the bench to supplement an already electric bunch.

Quote: “We’re excited about the backcourt we have this year.  Many have experience at the national level and they’re all tough kids who love to win. I like my guys matched up against anyone.” -Mike Rice, Head Coach Patrick School

Report Card

Ball Handling B Scoring B+ Shooting A- Passing B+ Athleticism B+
Defense A Rebounding B+ Experience A Depth B- Bball IQ A-



 John Carroll (Bel Air, MD): John Carroll boasts perhaps the best Point Guard in the country in Immanuel Quickley.  Complimenting him is the up-and-coming Montez Mathis.  Between the two they give you everything you need in the backcourt.  When your looking among the top Northeast backcourts something from each team on this list has to separate them from the pack and with these two its length.  Opposing teams will have a really rough time getting past these two.  Add to the mix Junior Farquhar and this team is going to be fun to watch.

Quote: “John Carroll is not only fun to watch, but they can teach you something about how to play.  All there guards are creative, aggressive, and determined.  Lead by Quickley, I would be shocked if this team doesn’t have a huge edge at the guard position in just about every game. – Zack Curran, Director of Marketing Hoop Group

Report Card

Ball Handling B+ Scoring A- Shooting B- Passing B+ Athleticism A
Defense A- Rebounding B+ Experience B+ Depth C+ Bball IQ A-

Paul VI (Hyattsville, MD): Paul VI may have the most balanced backcourt in the country.  With Pitt commit Aaron Thompson running the show, long-athletic Brandon Slater hitting triples and slashing, and Anthony Harris doing a little bit of everything, this backcourt will be a nightmare to defend.  Adding to the depth is highly-touted freshman Jeremy Roach.

Quote: “…as skilled and fast as we are on the perimeter, the most impressive thing about this group is how quickly the ball moved and how willing they are to defend.” – Glenn Farello, Head Coach Paul VI.

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring A- Shooting A Passing A Athleticism B+
Defense A- Rebounding B+ Experience A- Depth B+ Bball IQ A



Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, PA): Imhotep is known for is pressure defense and tough hard nosed guards.  2016-2017 is no different for the Panthers as they boast two of the top guards in PA.  David Beatty and Darron Russell can do it all, and with help from Bernard Lightsey.  Also look for Chereef Knox (forward who’s developed into a big wing) and Donte Scott to be key contributors as well.

Quote: “We feel we have a very good backcourt.  Dave, Daron, and Bernard…Expect a lot from them on both sides of the court.  When they play well, we feel good about our chances to win.” – Andre Noble, Head Coach Imhotep Charter

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring A- Shooting A Passing B+ Athleticism B+
Defense A Rebounding A- Experience A- Depth B Bball IQ B+

Westtown (West Chester, PA): The top two hear are already household names.  Both with size, scoring, distributing, and shooting there are very few guards anywhere that can compare with Randolph and Reddish.  As long as these two bring it every night and stay out of foul trouble, Westtown will have an edge at guard.  Noah Collier, an athletic and talented freshman will start for the Moose. For depth, Coach Berger will look to two freshman to give him valuable minutes: Seyon Kpaan and TJ Berger.

Quote: “Our backcourt of Cam Reddish and Brandon Randolph is not only super talented, but also really together.  Anytime you have two future pros in the backcourt, it’s a pretty special thing.” – Seth Berger, Head Coach Westtown

Report Card

Ball Handling B+ Scoring  A+ Shooting A Passing B+ Athleticism A
Defense  A- Rebounding A Experience A- Depth C+ Bball IQ A-

Blair (Blairstown, NJ): Everyone knows the top two guards at Blair: Anthony Mack and Matt Turner.  Perhaps a new-comer may propel this group into the best guards in the country, keep an eye on Junub Char Chuol.  Chuol has a lot of upside and some buzz around him.  The two known guards Mack and Turner, compliment each other nicely: Turner a strong tough slasher and Mack having one of the best jumpers in the country.

Quote: “Two guards with excellent size, college ready right now.  Both guards can score the ball, get to the rim, defend, rebound and shoot with range.  Blair backcourt would be a difficult matchup for any team in the country.” – Jay Gomes, Publisher

Report Card

Ball Handling B- Scoring B+ Shooting A Passing B+ Athleticism A-
Defense  A- Rebounding A Experience A Depth B- Bball IQ A-

Neumann Goretti (Philadelphia, PA): Lead by simply the best pure Point Guard in the country, Neumann Goretti is a top Northeast Backcourt for sure.  First, when your leader is also your most talented player, any team is in a good spot.  Second, when your team has a history of being well disciplined and making the extra pass you’re nearly unstoppable.  Finally, look for young guard Christian Ings to have a breakout season.

Quote: “Neumann’s backcourt may not have as many names as some of the other teams.  However, when you have the right name everything just falls into place.  Quade Green will lead the tough guard play of Neumann all year long, he’s so good alone, he makes any group tremendous.  Neumann compliments Quade enough to be in the mix.” – Steve Keller, Owner National Recruiting Report

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring B+ Shooting B+ Passing A+ Athleticism A-
Defense  A- Rebounding B Experience A- Depth C+ Bball IQ A


Bishop Louglin (Brooklyn, NY): Markquis Nowell certainly leads the charge here, but this NYC school has guards all over the place.  A team that could legitimately play four guards at once watch Loughlin live off of transition, penetration, and three-point shooting this season.  Watch out for Keith Williams lighting up the scoreboard, guards Tyrese Gaffney and Jordan Thomas all over the floor, and wing Adrien Nunez drilling big shots.

Quote: “Bishop Loughlin’s backcourt duo is one of the best on the east coast. Junior PG Markquis Nowell is a high level playmake and class of 2017 Cincy commit Keith Williams has shown he can score in a variety of ways and dominate the game. These two will be a big reason why the Lions receive national attention this year.” – Pat Lawless, NCAA Certified Scout MADE Hoops

Report Card

Ball Handling A Scoring A- Shooting B+ Passing B+ Athleticism A-
Defense  A- Rebounding B+ Experience A- Depth A Bball IQ A-

New York City Guards Aren’t Dead By a Long Shot:

I keep hearing this talk about how NYC guards aren’t what they used to be.  I’m starting to think that’s silly.  They may not have more than one team on this list, but that’s because the talent of one city is spread a bunch.  Christ the King’s Tyson Walker and Jose Alverado are studs.  St. Ray’s has one of the best guards in Isaiah Washington (complimented by Dallas Watson and Omar Silverio). Saquan Singleton (Scanlon) and young Posh Alexander (Our Savior Lutheran) are two more.  Finally, you get to Molloy and WOW: Cole Anthony and Khalid Moore!  I know this list may not reflect it from a team backcourt… but if you’re looking for guards, New York City is still one of the first stops you have to make.


Other Notes:

Special thanks as always to Steve Keller and the National Recruiting Report, certainly he is the star of the show.  Also, thanks to the coaches who helped with some information and quotes on there teams.  Thanks to Jay Gomes of NJ Hoops and Zack Curran here at HG.  Finally, a big thanks to Pat Lawless for some information and breakdown.  Follow all the guys above on their twitters (linked above) and follow me HERE.


9 Takeaways from the Fall High School Showcase

Hoop Group wrapped up its Fall tournaments and showcases with the Fall High School Showcase on October 25th and 26th. A perfect way for teams to get a tune up prior to the beginning of their season, Hoop Group Headquarters saw some serious talent in the building for this showcase. It was a weekend where the phrase “next level talent” was used a lot, Twitter was kept busy with the hashtag #HGShowcase and video cameras were put to good use. Here are some takeaways of the Fall High School Showcase:

-Several seniors proved why they have already signed LOIs
There were a few players playing in the Fall High School Showcase who already committed to Division 1 schools next year. Leading the group was Roselle Catholic’s Chris Silva. The 6-8 South Carolina commit was a walking highlight reel, throwing down thunderous dunk after dunk. He led Roselle Catholic in scoring in all four of their games, crashing the boards and putting his head down and getting to the rim. We  also saw Trey Lowe (Ewing High School ’15). In Ewing’s two games on Sunday, Trey scored 22 points and followed that with a 16 point, 10 rebound effort against Silva and Roselle. Temple is getting a great scorer in Lowe. Towson commit Alex Thomas (Coastal Academy ’15) dominated on the glass and showed an ability to knock down the top of the key three, and Roman Catholic’s Trevaughn Wilkerson (committed to Hartford) and Gemil Holbrook (Rider) showcased strong jump shots.

Chris Silva made a living at the line at the Fall High School Showcase. He could not be stopped.

Chris Silva made a living at the line at the Fall High School Showcase. He could not be stopped.

-There are still plenty of unsigned and talented recruits
We saw a number of seniors who remain unsigned and will be great additions to college programs once their decisions are made. Of these players were Coastal Academy’s Tyler Kohl and Isaac Vann. Both players were scoring machines. They both displayed the ability to get in the paint and score at the rim, but could also hurt teams from the outside. With several offers in hand already, it will be interesting to see where the two land. Point guard Lamar Kimble was another player who played well and is yet to make his decision. With his list cut to Creighton, Drexel and UMASS, Kimble was a terrific floor general for Neumann-Goretti. He also has a knack for scoring 16 and 22 points in Neumann’s two games. Speaking of great floor generals, expect junior Bryce Aiken to have a tremendous year for the Patrick School. Aiken is a very tough, hard nosed player. He is quick and can get up and down the floor in a hurry. It’ll be great to see his stock rise this season. Lastly, Gill St. Bernard post Jonas Stakeliunas will be a nice compliment to Tyus Battle this year. He already holds offers from Holy Cross, Marist, Siena and FDU.

-The talent level amongst underclassmen was through the roof
One thing is for certain, the talent level in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will remain high for a few years. Start in Pennsylvania where you have guys like Quade Green and D’Andre Vilmar representing the Class of 2017. Green lit it up from the outside, confirming what we saw at Future All-American Camp; he can play. Vilmar has a high motor and is great on the defensive side of the ball. His hustle and athleticism helps make plays for Roman.

A new face in New Jersey will be Nick Richards, who recently transferred to the Patrick School from St. Mary’s in Long Island. Richards is 6-10 and an elite shot blocker. He owned the paint defensively, wowing the crowd with several ferocious blocks. Other young NJ hoopers that impressed included freshman Jared Kimbrough from Neptune High School. Jared is long and athletic and it’s easy to see how high his ceiling is. He did a great job holding his own against Chris Silva and the other bigs of Roselle Catholic. Not an easy task for any player, especially a freshman, Jared has a lot of potential.

-Speaking of Roselle’s size…
Roselle Catholic has size that can cause problems. Some say size wins games in basketball. Roselle Catholic has a lot of size. Will that translate to a successful 2014-15 season? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: beating them inside will not be easy. Aside from Chris Silva, the Lions feature Pierre Sarr (6-6 and recently committed to Monmouth), Ganlandou Cisse (6-9 with offers from Towson, Norfolk State, Canisius and Quinnipiac), and hightly touted freshman Nazreon Reid (6-7). The front court for Roselle is loaded with size and talent and will be a nightmare for teams to match up against.

-Philly can ball..
There were a number of Philadelphia teams in the building for the Fall High School Showcase. Based on the preview we saw, the city of brotherly love will be loaded with talent this year and in the future. Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti and Imhotep Charter all came from the Philadelphia area and all posses players who are already committed or will commit to Division 1 programs. We saw shooters, slashers, defenders, all type of players. Whatever typer of player you’re looking for, you can find it in Philadelphia.

Neumann-Goretti should have a strong 2014-15 season.

Neumann-Goretti should have a strong 2014-15 season.

-… and the rest of PA isn’t bad either
As great as it is, the talent in Pennsylvania is not limited to the Philadelphia area. Start with Westtown High School, who has has a great supply of talent in the classes of 2016 and 2017. It starts with floor general Jair Bolden, whose stock continues to raise every time he plays. Offers keep coming in (La Salle being most recent) and don’t be surprised when the major conferences come knocking. The class of ’17 features newcomers Najja Hunter and Mohamed Bamba. The development and growth of these players will be fun to watch. Bobby Casey and Scranton Prep also had a strong showing, playing two very good NJ teams in Coastal Academy and St. Anthony’s. Casey led Prep with 26 and 22 in the two games. He also made 10 threes combined in those two games.

-Kevin and Thomas Huerter are a deadly combo for Shenendehowa
One of the most fun teams to watch, Shenendehowa plays the game in a very fundamentally sound fashion. The Stallions are led by brothers Kevin and Thomas Huerter, who had great weekends against teams such as Roman Catholic, Roselle Catholic, Southern Regional and Manasquan. Kevin was one of the best shooters of the weekend, setting the nets on fire with three ball after three ball, including seven in one game Saturday night. Brother Thomas was impressive as well, scoring double digits in all games, including 20 over Roman Catholic. At Elite Team Camp this summer, both players had some interest and offers from some Division 1 schools. They are looking increase that as they enter the 2014-15 season.

-NJ private schools will be as exciting as ever
St. Anthony’s, Patrick School, Gill St. Bernard’s, Roselle Catholic. All four teams have next level talent, all four should have successful seasons and all four were in the same building last Sunday. St. Anthony’s will feature Wichita State commit Markis McDuffie as well as Top 150 player Jagan Mosely. Big men Taurean Thompson and Mohamed Bendary (committed to NJIT) continue to grow under Coach Hurley as well. We already mentioned Aiken and Richards for the Patrick School. They will be joined by Jamir Harris (2017) and Marcus McClary (2016), both of whom were in the building for the showcase.

 Gill St. Bernard’s will be led by’s #14 ranked player in the Class of 2016 Tyus Battle. Battle is a a premier talent and it is easy to see why every school in the country wants him. In addition to Battle, GSB has strong forwards in Stakeliunas and Julias Stoma (2016) and are loaded with shooters on the perimeter. Complimenting Roselle’s bigs are Matt Bullock, who can shoot the lights out, and Asante Gist at the guard position. And let’s not forget about Isiah Briscoe, who is ready for a tremendous senior campaign as he decides between Kentucky, St. John’s and UCONN.

-The high school season needs to start NOW
A preseason high school showcase as talented as this one only raises the level of anticipation for the actual season, and with added anticipation, comes an added desire for the season to begin. The High School Showcase Series will continue when the season starts, the first being the Reading Tip-Off Showcase on December 12th at Albright College. Good luck to all players and teams as they prepare for their season!

Be on the look out for mixtapes from the Fall High School Showcase coming soon!

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