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:

NJ Tip-Off Game 5 Preview

Game 5 8:30: Columbia Vs. Seton Hall Prep

Another great game to round out the day between two of New Jersey’s finest, Columbia and Seton Hall Prep.  Lead by Junior Stephen Gabriel, Columbia, prepares to take on the young stars of Seton Hall Prep. Seton Hall lead by senior Austin Williams who is joined by junior Alex Imegwu along with freshman phenom Jabri Abur-Rahim, are prepared to take the make a big statement in their first game of the year. With two great coaches, both team will be extremely prepared, so be on the lookout for a very tight game!

Academic Elite 1 Recap

After a long four days of fantastic basketball, we’re finally wrapping things up here at Academic Elite 1, and what a week it’s been! So many outstanding players have made their talents known in front of several Division-II and Division-III coaches.

Some players stood out more than most, like Matthue Cotton (St. Benedict’s ’18) and Kenjee Polanco (Paramus Catholic ’19), who took home the Most Outstanding Player awards for the Ivy and Patriot leagues.

Cotton has been flashing his talents all week and has been a part of many of our highlight videos, including this one, which showcases two of his many high-flying dunks!

Both he and Polanco took part in this afternoon’s All-Star games, which featured the top talent from camp to close out the week.

Polanco’s team, Team 18, took the team championship title in the Patriot League, thanks in large part to his multi-talented offensive game; Polanco featured many different moves as he used his quickness and athleticism to blow by defenders and create his own shots.

In the Ivy League division, Team 11 took home the crown, led by one of the camp’s top players, Idaresit Ekpuk (West Potomac ’17).

We got a chance to talk to several of our campers this week! You can read about twin brothers Ryan Omslaer (St. Peter’s Prep ’17) and Parker Omslaer (St. Peter’s Prep ’17) here, as well as the highly athletic Austin Williams (Seton Hall Prep ’17).

Our interviews with Cotton, as well as Emmanuel Jean Pierre (Nazareth ’18) are available on our twitter account, where you can also see the many talented campers who received recognition for their efforts during this afternoon’s awards ceremony.

It’s been great getting to kick off the summer with so many phenomenal campers, and we’re looking forward to another great week of basketball as our Elite camp kicks off the first July Live Period next week!

Austin Williams optimistic for upcoming summer

The summer before senior year is often a critical one for basketball players with college aspirations, with July live periods and high-exposure recruiting camps usually littering their summer calendars, as each player looks to pick up the best offers they can get on their way to making the fateful college decision.

Take Austin Williams (Seton Hall Prep ‘17), for example.

Williams, who enters the summer without a Division-I offer, has been one of the shining stars at this week’s academic elite camp, mostly because, well, he can do it all.

A fantastic athlete, Williams has been seen flying up and down the court, diving for loose balls, drilling three-pointers, driving strong to the hoop, and making highlight-reel fast break blocks like this one:

He’s got a wealth of strengths that he can show off to college coaches this summer–and he knows it.

“I’ve worked on my shot a lot, and it’s getting better, my athleticism, I can jump really high and stuff like that, and my defense, I can lock down any one,” said Williams on the many strengths of his game.

As far as this week’s camp goes, however, there aren’t any Division-I coaches to impress, with the July live period still being a week away. In order to change that, he intends to hopefully attend the second session of Hoop Group’s Elite Camp.

“I haven’t really been to a lot of events where I can get that much exposure, so I haven’t been looked at very much,” he said. “Hopefully, this upcoming July live periods I can get a lot of coaches to look at me. If I play like I usually do, I think I’ll be fine.”

That said, Williams can still improve upon the weaker aspects of his game and show off to the dozens of Division-II and Division-III coaches in attendance.  

“This camp is good, there’s good exposure, a lot of competition,” he said. “That’s the best part about it.”

“This week I’m just trying to improve on teamwork, trying to learn how to lead a team and be the best team I can be,” he added.

That leadership will be a key aspect of Williams’ ever-improving game, as he plays on a Seton Hall Prep team where he is one of just two seniors.

And for Williams–who admits he’s genuinely a very competitive person–it’s all about improving every possible aspect of his game this week, and this summer.

Check out this highlight reel of some of Williams’ top plays from this week!

Temple Gibbs Looks to Shine in Final NJ Tip Off

Temple Gibbs looks to lead SHP to a second straight NJ Tip Off win (photo from NJ.com)

Temple Gibbs looks to lead SHP to a second straight NJ Tip Off win (photo from NJ.com)

Temple Gibbs and Seton Hall Prep (NJ) are back and will play in the Hoop Group Tip-Off Showcase against their rival Columbia (NJ). Gibbs has committed to one of the best basketball programs in the country in Notre Dame. He has some goals in mind for his team.

“To win a TOC, to go undefeated and to be the best teammate in the state,” said Gibbs.

He and the rest of his team have been working hard heading into their first event of the year.

“Team lifts, working out every day and going hard in open gym,” he said.

Gibbs believes that SHP needs to focus on four different aspects of the game to be successful this year.

“Playing hard as a team, defense and rebounding and playing hard every play,” he told HoopGroup.com.

He looks at the Tip-Off Showcase as an opportunity to show how hard he and the rest of his team has worked.

“Yes, it’s a great event and it gives us another chance to showcase how hard we’ve been working,” said the Notre Dame commit.