What We Learned From the Champions Classic

photo via Chicago Tribune

Last night had a lot of hype to it. It was the highest ranking for all four teams competing in the Champions Classic. All four teams were ranked in the top five in the preseason poll. While all four teams are far from mid-season form, it’s easy to see the potential they all have. Let’s take a look at one thing we learned from each team last night.

Grayson Allen is Duke’s Unquestioned Leader

Marvin Bagley received a lot of attention after Duke’s first two games. It was well warranted when you looked at the freshman’s numbers, but Tuesday night it was all Grayson Allen. Allen erupted for 37 points, shooting 7-11 from three point land. He is now 17-26 from three in the first three games of the year. Don’t expect Allen to shoot that well all season long, but do expect him to have maybe the best shooting numbers of his Duke career. The reason? Trevon Duval. Even Allen acknowledged after the game that many of his looks came off Duval’s creation. With a true point guard alongside him, Allen will get the clutch looks all year long

Depth Won’t Save Michigan State from Turnovers

Michigan State struggled last season to take care of the ball. Cassius Winston was just a green freshman and Tum Tum Nairn wasn’t good enough to keep his job over Winston. This year, Michigan State has a lot of things going in their favor, but the turnover battle can keep them from making a deep run in March. Winston did have 11 assists, but turned the ball over 5 times. Bridges had 5 turnovers as well, and freshman Jaren Jackson had 4. Compare that to Duke’s point guard, Trevon Duval, who only had 3 turnovers and 10 assists. Michigan State won’t cut down the nets if they turn the ball over 17 times a game.

Billy Preston Needs to Get On the Court

Kansas has a strong back court with Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and LeGerald Vick. Up front they are not so strong. To Bill Self’s credit he has adjusted to a four guard line up very well, but Kansas still needs some support down low. Udoka Azubuike looks to be the main man at center, but Mitch Lightfoot doesn’t look ready for major minutes. Freshman Billy Preston was expected to be in that front court rotation, but has missed the first two games for two separate incidents. That left Kansas with just seven scholarship players last night. Preston needs to figure out his off the court issues, because he team needs him on the court if they want to go deep into March.

Kevin Knox will be Kentucky’s Go To Guy

Kentucky has a very talented group of freshman, and I do think Hamidou Diallo will be a big contributor for the Wildcats this year. But I think Kevin Knox will emerge as the player John Calipari goes to when he needs a bucket. You saw it last night on various occasions, and you heard Dickie V scream “Give it to Knox!” numerous times. He was the only Kentucky player to hit a three, scored from all areas of the floor and had his name called late, though his floated rimmed out. Expect his number to be called more as the season progresses.

It’s very early in the season. All four coaches will tell you they have a lot to work on, and are far from a finished product. Then again, I think they would say that at anytime of the year. Regardless of the results, all fours teams showed why they were the favorites to win their respective conferences. Hang on, college basketball has just begun.

In Midst of Recruiting Scandal, Duke Remains Supreme

There hasn’t been a more talked about off-season in college basketball than this year. By now everyone knows about the FBI investigation that flipped multiple programs upside down, and likely isn’t going anywhere for sometime. The investigation has exposed all the flaws and corruption that exist in college recruiting. Despite the negativity surrounding recruiting, one thing remains constant. Duke is number one.

Last night, RJ Barrett, ESPN’s #1 player in the class of 2018 announced his commitment to Duke over Kentucky and Oregon. Barrett solidified himself as the premiere recruit in the 2018 class with his play in the U19 FIBA games this past summer. He led Canada past Team USA, coached by John Calipari, in the semifinals on his way to a gold medal.

With Barrett’s commitment, Duke has now landed the top ranked recruit in four of the last five recruiting classes. In the those five years, Coach K has landed a total of 22 players ranked in ESPN’s Top 100. Barrett gives the Blue Devils three of the top ten next year already.

Five lottery picks in the last three years and countless McDonald’s All-Americans prove that when it comes to recruiting, it is Coach K, along with John Calipari, at the top of the list. And with players like Barrett, Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval, Gary Trent and Cam Reddish waiting for their draft nights, you can expect that lottery number to continue to rise.

A lot of people like to label Coach K a cheater. When top recruits choose Duke, critics like to make pay-for-players jokes. Whatever your personal opinion may be, facts are that coaches all over the country are getting busted for illegal recruiting. None of them have the last name Krzyzewski. The FBI investigation is expected to be around for awhile. Duke may come up, they may not. But until that day comes, you have to admire and respect Coach K’s ability to bring in the best of the best.

HG alumni flood ESPN top 100

The ESPN top 100 recruits for the class of 2017 feature familiar names, and the Hoop Group is proud to boast 24 players that are alumni listed as the best of the best.

Hoop Group alumni also make up 19 of the top 20 players ranked in the eastern region.

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The following is a list of Hoop Group alumni, by ranking, info and scouting reports.

ESPN top 100

#3 Mohamed Bamba, PF
6-11, 210 lbs
Harlem, N.Y.
Westtown School

Mohamed Bamba, who hails from Harlem, N.Y., is No. 3 in the nation – and for good reason. The 6-11, 210-pound power forward is No. 1 in both the state and region, falling second in his position. In a recent ESPN scouting report, Mohamed Bamba was said to have a 7-foot-8 wingspan and a 9-foot-5 standing reach.
Mohamed Bamba received 20 offers which include programs like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse to name a few.


#5 Trevon Duval, PG
6-3, 183 lbs
Wilmington, Del.
Advanced Prep International

Ranking No. 5 in the nation, Trevon Duval, a power guard out of Wilmington, Del., is No. 1 in his position and No. 1 in the state. Trevon Duval has offers from 20 schools including Duke, Kentucky and UNC, among others. Scouting reports describe Trevon Duval as an explosive playmaker who utilizes his speed and size on the court.


#8 Nick Richards, C
6-11, 250 lbs
Queens, N.Y.
The Patrick School

Queens native center Nick Richards earned himself the No. 8 spot in the nation, ranking second in the state and third in both the position and region. The 6-11, 250-pound Patrick School junior is a nightmare off the glass. Richards bodies opponents off the boards, unafraid of contact, making him hard to overcome in the paint.
Richards has had offers from schools like North Carolina State, Kansas and Kentucky – totaling 13 all together.


#12 Hamidou Diallo, SG
6-5, 175 lbs
Queens, N.Y.
Putnam Science Academy

Hamidou Diallo is a sought-after shooting guard who already racked up 17 offers from around the country with the likes of Duke, Kansas and Kentucky. He ranks second in his position. He is No. 3 in New York and No. 4 in the eastern region.


#14 Lonnie Walker, SG
6-5, 180 lbs
Reading, Pa.
Reading High School


(Credit 8EYE Media)

Lonnie Walker is the best in Pennsylvania and No. 3 at the shooting guard position. Scouting reports say Walker is an all-around athlete on both ends of the court. He can play pressing D, go down and can sink threes. The No. 14-ranked player is on Kentucky’s radar and has offers from 12 other schools.


#22 Quade Green, PG
5-11, 155 lbs
Philadelphia, Pa.
Neumann-Goretti High School

Size doesn’t matter for the No. 22 Quade Green, point guard for Neumann-Goretti High from Philadelphia, Pa. The 5-11, 155-pound point guard is a true floor general. Scouting reports claim he is one of the best passing playmakers in the nation. Green is the second-highest ranked in Pennsylvania. It’s no wonder he has sparked the attention of 12 schools with offers from programs like Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky.


#27 Matt Coleman, PG
6-2, 170 lbs
Norfolk, Va.
Oak Hill Academy

No. 2 in Virginia, Oak Hill Academy’s Matt Coleman already racked up 14 offers from schools, including Florida State, Indiana and Virginia. The Norfolk, Va., native is a left-hander who has tremendous speed off the dribble, creating separation on the floor.


#31 Tremont Waters, PG
5-10, 164 lbs
South Kent, Conn.
South Kent School

Tremont Waters is the best there is in Connecticut. The South Kent School point guard has a genuine understanding of the game, demonstrating a high level of maturity for his age. He reads defenses, adjusting to opponents as an overall versatile player with an admirable amount of poise. Waters has eight school offers so far including ones from Duke and Connecticut.


#35 Jordan Tucker, SF
6-7, 190 lbs
White Plains, NY
Archbishop Stepinac High School

No. 35 on the list is small forward Jordan Tucker, a White Plains, N.Y., native who attends Archbishop Stepinac High. His potential is just beginning to develop. He has offers from 16 programs including Syracuse and Oklahoma.


#36 D.J. Harvey Jr., SF
6-5, 190 lbs
Bowie, Md.
DeMatha Catholic High School

No. 36 in the nation and No. 1 in Maryland, D.J. Harvey Jr. has peaked interest of 20 schools so far, with offers from some of the best programs like Duke. Scouting reports say the 6-5, 190-pound small forward works best against contact, finishing after each attack.


#43 Brandon Randolph, SG
6-6, 180 lbs
Yonkers, N.Y.
Westtown School

With 22 offers under his belt including one from the University of North Carolina, shooting guard Brandon Randolph has a bright future. The No. 43-ranked player is just coming into himself after overcoming injuries as an underclassman. He’s making up for time lost, though, and is a dangerous utility beyond the arc, shooting 40 percent outside the perimeter.


#46 Chris Lykes, PG
5-6, 160 lbs
Bowie, Md.
Gonzaga College High School

Ranking second in Maryland and No. 46 in the nation, Gonzaga College High point guard Chris Lykes has vision on the hardwood. Making up for his height (5-6), reports say his quickness is dangerous with his ability to cut on a dime and change direction. Lykes currently has 10 offers.


#59 Jermaine Samuels, SF
6-5, 205 lbs
Franklin, Mass.
The Rivers School

Rivers School small forward and Franklin, Mass., native Jermaine Samuels can score from all over. Playing at an elite level for his age, the 6-5, 205-pound player has peaked offers from eight different college programs.


#60 Kimani Lawrence, SF
6-5, 180 lbs
Providence, R.I.
New Hampton School

No. 60-ranked Kimani Lawrence runs Rhode Island. The New Hampton School small forward recently added to his offensive threat, making progress shooting from downtown. Reports claim he not only has good size on the wing, but is impressive with his vertical athleticism. He has offers from five schools.


#63 Hameir Wright, PF
6-7, 195 lbs
Albany, N.Y.
The Albany Academy

The potential for 6-7, 195-pound power forward Hameir Wright is endless. Ranking No. 63 in the country, the Albany, N.Y., native at Albany Academy is consistently improving his skills set. Wright currently has 10 offers.


#65 Myles Cale, SG
6-3, 195 lbs
Middletown, Del.
Appoquinimink High School

Middletown, Del., native Myles Cale is currently No. 2 in Delaware and No. 65 in the nation. The 6-3, 195-pound shooting guard out of Appoquinimink High committed to Seton Hall in March.


#80 Deng Gak, PF
6-10, 195 lbs
Blairstown, N.J.
Blair Academy

Deng Gak reps New Jersey as the most sought after recruit in the state. The 6-10, 195-pound power forward hails from Blairstown and attends Blair Academy. Gak’s natural talent earned him offers from Duke and eight other programs.


#81 Oshae Brissett, SF
6-6, 195 lbs
Mississauga, Ontario (Canada)
Findlay College Prep

Ontario, Canada product Oshae Brissett is drawing a lot of attention. The small forward shows poise from three-point shooting to finishing in transition, adding in above-the-rim play and shot-blocking abilities, according to scouting reports. The 6-6, 195-pound Findlay College Prep junior has 10 offers so far.


#82 Christian David, SF
6-7, 200 lbs
Milton, Ontario (Canada)
Vermont Academy

No. 82 Christian David, who hails from Ontario, Canada, currently has five offers. Scouting reports say the 6-7, 200-pound small forward creates space on the floor and works well off screens, adding he has a high basketball I.Q.


#87 Nate Reuvers, PF
6-10, 220 lbs
Lakeville, Minn.
Lakeville High School

No. 2 in Minnesota and No. 87 in the country, Nate Reuvers is crossing over the state line after committing to Wisconsin in May. The 6-10, 220-pound power forward and Lakeville, Minn., native will have a lot to offers the Badgers.


#94 Aaron Thompson, PG
6-2, 175 lbs
Glendale, Md.
Paul VI High School

Pittsburgh-committed point guard Aaron Thompson demonstrates true point guard ability. Scouts say the left-handed Glendale, Md., native knows how to run a team. The 6-2, 175-pound Paul VI High junior is the No. 94-ranked player in the country is No. 3 in Maryland.


#97 David Beatty, SG
6-3, 195 lbs
Philadelphia, Pa.
Saint Benedict’s Prep


(Credit 8EYE Media)

Shooting guard and Philadelphia, Pa., native David Beatty is currently No. 3 in the state and ranks No. 97 in the nation. He’s made a difference on his Saint Benedict’s Prep team since he was an underclassman and has an ever-evolving game. He has 14 current offers.


#100 Lavar Batts, PG
6-0, 175 lbs
Concord, N.C.
J.M. Robinson High School

Just making ESPN’s list is No. 100 Lavar Batts. The 6-0, 175-pound point guard is No. 2 in North Carolina and plays for J.M. Robinson High. Batts has five offers, most of which come from within state.


Earning the No. 1 spot was DeAndre Ayton, a 6-10 center from Phoenix, Ariz., at Hillcrest Academy. Wendell Carter, a 6-10 power forward from Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia ranked second.
See the full list of ESPN’s 100.

Southern Jam Fest Recap: We R1 and Team Loaded NC capture 17U and 16U titles

The Southern Jam Fest — one of the East Coast’s strongest and deepest spring tournaments on a yearly basis was highlighted by strong 17U and 16U divisions, with a mix of the Northeast and Southeast’s strongest programs going head-to-head.

17U Champions: We R1
17U Runner-Up: Team Loaded NC
A month after the April recruiting period, We R1 came to Hampton and made a major statement. Capping off a dominant tournament run, We R1 took home the 17U championship with a 75-65 win over a talented Team Loaded VA squad. Even as star point guard Trevon Duval exited the game with a minor injury early in the first half, Eric Ayala and Tyrese Martin took command in the championship game, leading We R1 to an exclamation point on a memorable weekend. After jumping out to a 48-31 lead at halftime and a 24-point lead early in the second half, Team Loaded VA stormed back and brought the lead down to single digits with seven minutes remaining. The teams traded blows for the rest of the second half, but We R1 was able to finish strong and close out their five-game run — a run in which they defeated their opponents by an average margin of 27 points.

Before falling in the title, Team Loaded VA punched their ticket in the championship in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the weekend, scoring a big semifinal win over in-state rival Boo Williams. Although the game started out with a few intense exchanges, Loaded VA quickly opened up a double-digit lead and never looked back, advancing with a 59-49 win.

We R1 made their way to the title with a hard-earned 73-61 win over DC Premier, in a matchup of two teams who know each other well from their yearly battles on the Under Armour circuit. Duval’s 24 points led all scorers, as We R1 opened a small lead late in the first half, but the two teams found themselves neck-and-neck for much of the game before We R1 pulled away late. Duval electrified the crowd with a big dunk and some highlight-reel passes, to go along with his game-high 24 points.

We R1 17u

16U Champions: Team Loaded NC
16U Runner-Up: DC Premier
Team Loaded NC finished off an impressive run through the 16U bracket with a 72-65 win in the title game, fighting off a feverish DC Premier comeback in the final minutes. After jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half — and holding an 18-point halftime lead — Loaded NC saw their lead fall to as little as three in the second half, after Premier picked up their defensive intensity and began to assert themselves on the boards. Despite DC Premier’s best efforts, a few timely buckets for Loaded — and strong free-throw shooting in the final minutes — sealed the win. Capping off a solid scoring weekend that saw his stock rise in the eyes of many scouts and media in attendance, guard Trey Wertz led Loaded’s offensive efforts with 20 points.

Team Loaded NC made their way into the championship with a dominant semifinal win over hometown Boo Williams, going up 17 at halftime and coasting to a 78-54 win behind a game-high 22 points from Trey Wertz. In their entire six-game run, the team outscored opponents by an average of 17 points per game, and also went home with wins over Baltimore Elite and Garner Road.

On the opposite side of the bracket, DC Premier faced a strong Final 4 challenge from We R 1, gutting out a 48-36 semifinal win after a back-and-forth affair. One of the rising stars of the weekend, Jermain Harris finished with 17 points and displayed a strong inside-out game in helping send DCP to the title game.

Team Loaded NC 16u

15 & 14u Champions

By James Albano

Often overshadowed by the insane star power in the 16 and 17 year old brackets, the younger teams in the Southern Jam Fest don’t always get the recognition and love they deserve. This year’s Southern Jam Fest featured highly respected programs in our lower age groups, as Team Takeover and Boo Williams took home trophies. For both teams, the championship game theme was comebacks, trailing early, but rallying late to seal a win.

15U Champion: Team Takeover
15U Runner Up: New Heights

The most impressive piece of Team Takeover’s 15u championship run is that they were a 14u team playing up. The Nike club never once appeared a year younger, running through the 15u bracket and knocking off premier team after premier team.

After knocking off a Team Loaded team that showcased enormous size in the front court, Takeover seemed to have met their match in the final versus New York-based New Heights. New Heights attacked early and led by seven at the break; they led by as many as 10 in the first half. The second half was all Takeover, however. The younger club buckled down defensively and ended plus 12 in the second half, topping New Heights by 5 to take the championship!

Team takeover 15U

14U – Champion: Boo Williams
14U Runner Up: We R1

Boo Williams select refused to go down without a fight in their own gym. We R1 jumped out to a hot start, taking a lead of double digits over BWSL. As Boo chipped away in the first half, We R1 continued to match them shot for shot, and maintained a five point lead into the break.
It was not until late in the second half that Boo made a run, and what a run it was. Starting with a Bryce Steele turnaround jumper to make it 60-58, the Virginia based team went on a 21-8 run to close out the 14U championship game. As they say, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. BWSL definitely finished strong.
 Boo Williams 14u

Southern Jam Fest Players Who Impressed Saturday

IMG_0669-2

New day, same result here at Boo Williams, here’s a list of guys who impressed.

DeAndre Thomas | 2018 | Team Richmond Garner Road 17U

Thomas, who is a 2018 playing up with TRGR, looked as confident and productive as ever in their win over Maryland’s Finest in the Round of 32. Thomas played both guard positions depending on the look they went with, and he handled the basketball well and was aggressive looking for his shot. He has obviously been in the gym because he’s filled out, and Thomas was a great finisher through contact when attacking the basket.

Joe Bryant | 2018 | BWSL Chiz 16U

Sometimes it isn’t your star that shines down the stretch in big games, and while Boo Williams EYBL 16U team has been one of the best teams on the east coast, including winning the championship at the Pittsburgh JamFest, this was one of the first times Lake Taylor guard Joe Bryant really showed out the way he’s capable of. A 6’1” bully of a guard with a strong upper body, Bryant routinely found ways to get in the lane and convert in traffic, and finished with 20 points as he sealed the deal for BWSL Chiz over Uncommon Bulls to advance the quarterfinals.

Trevon Duval | 2017 | We R1 17U
Trevon Duval wasted no time reminding everyone why he is a top five player in the country. He is the ultimate floor general for We R1; he’s methodic in his scoring, dishes out sensational passes, and has a motor that goes forever. He helped sail the ship that got We R1 into the Elite Eight.

Kaleb Hunter | 2017 | Team Loaded NC 17U

There’s nothing more important than putting the ball into the basket, and while he only ended with a modest 14 points in their last game to advance to the quarterfinals, Hunter displayed the ability to score it in so many different ways. A long 6’4” lefty wing, Hunter was phenomenal finishing above the rim in the open court, and he was also good shooting it off the catch from deep. The Neuse Christian wing looks like he will continue to impress coaches with his ability to score it in bunches.

Oscar Tshiewebe | 2019 | Team Loaded VA 15U

Coming over from WV Wildcats earlier this summer, Tshiewebe had another stellar performance that shows great signs for him moving forward. The 6’8” freshman power forward from Mount Mission showed a ridiculous never ending motor as he got after it on both ends of the floor, and his brute strength allowed him to dominate slighter bigs their age. He still has a long way to go, but his ability to run the floor, crash the boards and finish above the rim are some of the reasons he was able to have breakout games like his 21 point outing to lead Team Loaded to the 15U quarterfinals.

Jordan Rider | 2017 | Crusader Nation 17U

Rider is best described as a walking bucket. The 6’1” guard can light it up in a number of ways, especially from deep in transition when he has time to set his feet and hold his pretty follow through. Rider scored it from all three levels, and was reliable throughout the game as a go-to guy.

Jamill Riggins | 2019 | Philly Pride 15U

With Philly Pride having dug themselves a 34-19 deficit at halftime in their game against Garner Road, Riggins took over and led a furious Philly Pride comeback as they squeaked by with a 46-45 win. The 6’2” wing set the tone on both ends, as they turned the defense up and held GR to just 11 second half points and creating easy baskets in transition where he thrived as he finished at and above the rim and brought a lot of energy back to Pride in their comeback.

Scottie Lewis| 2019 | Team Rio 16U
Scottie continues to get better and continues to impress as the stage gets bigger. He makes plays on both ends of the floor, with the ball and without the ball. His length and athleticism creates havoc defensively, where he blocks a ton of shots and lives in passing lanes. He was also able to create off the dribble and clean up around the glass for second chance points.

Alex Petrie | 2018 | River City Reign 16U

Reign had a tough weekend losing two controversial games, but their point guard Alex Petrie continues to boost his stock and play at a high level. The 6’3” lead guard has filled out and he’s shooting the basketball out of this world. He has a mixtape like handle, and is able to create space to get his jump shot off whenever he needs to.

Jaylen Dillard | 2017 | River City Reign Hill 17U

Dillard is becoming a popular name for college coaches, and he showed why in a win over WCBA when he went off for 26 points. The 6’2” guard from Clover Hill just outside of Richmond showed great range hitting four threes, and was big down the stretch recording 16 of his points in the second half. Dillard’s ability to hit shots translates well moving forward in his basketball career.

Noah Locke | 2017 | Team Melo
Despite a loss to Boo Williams, Noah showed his next level ability at the guard spot. An explosive first step got past defenders, and allowed him to make plays in the painted area all game. From there he showed his shiftiness by scoring over big defenders and facilitating to teammates.

Rasir Bolton | 2018 | Team Loaded VA 17U

Rasir is a skilled lead guard who mixed it up nicely on the offensive end, where he used his quick first step and hesitation dribble to attack the basket. He’s an efficient shooter off the dribble, where he has a super quick release. He was very focused defensively, where he showed solid instincts and quick reactions.

Prentiss Hubb | 2018 | DC Premier 17U

Prentiss is a smooth left-handed guard who showed a great feel for the game. He’s a sneaky athlete, and plays above the rim particularly in the open court. Defensively, he was active and alert in the passing lanes, and always looked to find his man and box him out. While off the ball, he spaces the floor well and is prolific from three-point range.

Jonathan Norfleet | 2018 | Team Loaded VA 16U

Jonathan is a strong, explosive guard who did a great job helping his team control pace. His ability to shoot from the perimeter was evident, particularly off the dribble. He exhibited good body control and touch when converting inside the paint.

Reese Mona | 2017 | Baltimore Elite 17U

Reese shot the ball very well off the catch from three point range, where he exhibited a quick and confident release. He moved well off the ball and was relentless off the bounce, where he aggressively attacked the basket and looked for contact. Defensively, he was vocal and did a nice job boxing out and took a number of charges.

Ejike Obinna | 2017 | Uncommon Bulls 17U

Ejike commanded the boards on both ends, where he was quick to react and used his strong hands to secure the ball tightly. He ran the floor and established position early, and showed a soft touch out to 15 feet. He’s an unselfish big with a good feel for the game, and is comfortable operating at the top of the key where he worked some high-low actions.

Keldon Johnson | 2018 | Boo Williams 17U

Keldon consistently competed at a high level throughout the day. He seeks contact on his drives, but more often than not is able to absorb and finish through it. Defensively, he was very engaged and did a great job getting off the ground and rebounding in traffic. He filled the lanes correctly in the open court, and where he likes to play above the rim.

Tahjay Jacobs | 2017 | Team Loaded 757 17

Tahjay got after it on the defensive end, but showed promise offensively as well. He demonstrated the ability to shoot with range from the catch and off the bounce. He was a vocal presence on his team, and displayed solid leadership intangibles.

 

Adam Ayalew (@AKayalew) and Jack Herron (@JWHerron10) contributed to this article

 

For full coverage of the Southern Jam Fest, follow the Hoop Group on Twitter: @TheHoopGroup