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:

Academic Elite 1 Day 1 Recap

A lot can happen in one day–especially at a Hoop Group camp–as was proven true when hundreds of talented basketball players converged on Albright College for the first of four days at this summer’s first Academic Elite Camp.

unnamedAfter the players spent three hours registering, posing for photos, and settling into their dorms, it became clear that the talent level on the many courts at Albright’s athletic complex would be the highlight of the day’s twelve hours of action, as, once again, is usually the case.

Following a brief welcome to camp and a set of group drills, the players were off and running in four hours’ worth of scrimmages, where they were able to showcase their many versatile talents and abilities for an array of Division-II and Division-III coaches. In the scrimmages, it was clear from the very beginning that this week’s camp would be full of bright players ready to work on their game and put in hard work.

Among some of the standouts were a duo of Philadelphia-area teammates, as both Markus Stevenson (Academy of the New Church ’17) and Matthue Cotton (Academy of the New Church ’18) impressed on the opening day of action.

While those two teammates had strong evenings on the court, also showing off their skills were a pair of twin brothers, Parker Omslaer (St. Peter’s Prep, N.J. ’17) and Ryan Omslaer (St. Peter’s Prep, N.J. ’17), who are sure to make their mark on this camp as two of the camp’s tallest players at 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11 respectively.

Another player who showed off his stuff today, one that’s not too far from Albright College, was Connor Delaney (Episcopal Academy ’17), a two-sport athlete who proved he could pretty much do it all for his team. Idaresit Ekpuk (West Potomac ’17) also impressed, with a strong defensive presence, particularly around the rim with his long frame.

The night was wrapped up with a meaningful lecture from St. Mary’s (MD) head coach Chris Harney, putting a nice cap on a very productive first day of camp.

As is to be expected, many more players will surely make their voices heard as the action rolls into tomorrow, when the official games kick into gear. Tuesday and Wednesday will definitely serve to be even busier days than today, so odds are we’ll see a wealth of highlight-reel plays from our campers. Stay tuned!

Academic Elite Guest Lecture: Coach Chris Harney

Campers came back from lunch and were greeted by Coach Chris Harney, head coach of Division III St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In his 10 years as head coach of the Seahawks, Coach Harney has compiled a record of 182-74, making him the all-time winningest coach in school history.

Coach Harney first talked to the campers about what to consider when choosing a school. He gave campers five points to consider. Here they are, in order:

Choose your school for the school, not just the basketball. Then learn what your position and playing time would be from the coach. Third, be sure that the coach is someone you can get along with for four years. If he is then you need to see how the campus views the basketball team. A good way to do this is attend a game, see what the atmosphere is like. Lastly, consider your financial situation and know what divisions can give what forms of financial aid to you and your family.

Next the coach showed the camp some drills he believes they should be doing every single day. The coach showed a number of two ball dribbling exercises that helps players improve both their hands. Coach Harney is a firm believer of practicing two ball dribbling every day. It is crucial to a player’s success.

Coach’s last point to the campers: playing college basketball is tough, but don’t let anyone ever tell you you can’t achieve your goal. He said he hoped campers would one day get to feel the same feeling that he felt when he cut down the nets with his St. Mary’s team. Hoop Group appreciates Coach Harney taking the time to come and educate a great group of campers!