Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest 17U Tips-Off LIVE period

2013 UA Pitt Jam Fest
Kelly Kline | Under Armour

If there’s anybody out there who thinks there’s an “off” season in basketball, the Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest proves them wrong.
Hundreds of AAU teams and just as many collegiate coaches descended on western Pennsylvania on Friday night as the first “live” period of the 2013 AAU kicked off in grand style.

“It’s a great experience, great atmosphere, coaches everywhere so players can be seen,” said Peyton Aldridge, who plays with the Team Work 17Us. “Great teams are here playing, it’s just a great setup.”

Team Work certainly did work on Friday night as the vast majority of the 17U teams got into bracket play. The Ohio program won both of its games, defeating the NY Gauchos and Florida Flash to set up a 3rd-round matchup with Team Charlotte (NC) on Saturday.

matt_klinewski_teamspeedA total of 15 other 17U teams won both their games on opening night, including teams from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

With each team guaranteed to play at least three games, every player will certainly have a chance to put out their best effort with some of the top college coaches in the game sitting courtside. John Thompson III (Georgetown), Tom Crean (Indiana), Mark Turgeon (Maryland) and Jim Larranaga (Miami) were just some of the many notable faces.

(Bracket madness: for updated brackets, click here)

And playing well in this field is certainly no easy task. The amount of talent on the courts lends itself to a high quality of play, and forces everybody to bring their “A” game.

“Just playing against better competition makes me better,” said Victor Dorsey, whose Ohio Basketball Club also won both of its openers; they’ll play Baltimore’s Finest. “You don’t always get to see that competition in high school basketball.”

“I think the talent level is good, it’s pretty high, good competition all over,” Team Philly 17U guard Rashann London said. “I think it definitely helps us out, makes us better in the long run.”

Even though it was just day one, there was plenty of drama in the 17U (current high school juniors) division. The action closed late at S. Fayette High School, where East Coast Fusion-Lemcke (Va.) and King of the Court (Ohio) played to a wild finish, with ECF-Lemcke’s Aaron Young making a pair of free throws with one second left to give his team a 70-69 victory.

DC Assault-Farrington also needed double overtime, to beat Team Philly in a 80-78 thriller. Other close second-round games were Cecil Kirk (Md.) squeaking by Southern Kings (Ga.) 55-54, Maryland 3D’s 65-62 win over East Coast Fusion-Dalton (Va.) and Team Loaded (Va.)’s 60-57 victory over NJ Roadrunners.

Things really pick up on Saturday, with games starting early in the morning and continuing to late at night. And while all 150+ 17U squads play at least one game, by the time the courts are silent those numbers will have been trimmed dramatically as Sunday’s final approaches.

And for the athletes who will are entering their final year of high school basketball, the spotlight now shines brightest on them.

Time to see who shines back.

Josh Verlin is the founder/editor at CityofBasketballLove.com, covering Philadelphia-area high school + collegiate basketball. He’ll be covering the 17U scene at the Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest.

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