Sunday, February 8, 2015

Special High School Basketball Edition

Primetime Shootout
Roselle Catholic HS, Roselle NJ
Saturday, February 7, 2015

The 2015 edition of the Primetime Shootout had a wonderful lineup of games on paper. Unlike many other tournaments, especially those start of the season showcase games, the games on the Primetime Schedule each year present to the average fans wonderful match-ups often bringing the best of the best to the Garden State to exhibit basketball skills that in many cases will take players to the NBA as well as make the HS teams they play for national household names. 

Interesting enough the first Primetime Shootout I attended was held in South Jersey at Ewing HS many years ago when my beloved Teaneck HS played and won its game against Bishop Loghlin HS of NYC and its legendary Coach Bob Leckie who would go on to eventually become a coach at St. Peters College.  Little did we know that Teaneck was introducing its own future legendary coach in Curtis March as well as the start of no less than 10 division 1 scholarship recruits over a 5 year period. I guess you could say much of what happened for Teaneck started with the Primetime Shootout! 

Years later the Primetime Shootout became so big the games had to be switched from HS and College type gyms to the Trenton Arena where we saw the real power house HS teams start coming in and competing against the best. It was at the Trenton Arena where we saw Lebron James and his HS basketball team hold off and beat Oak Hill which featured at the time none other than Camilla Anthony. 
So interesting how Lebron and his team were similar to the Jackson five. Lebron was Michael and the rest of his team was The Jackson five.  The arena was packed and all the games were special. The only event on the East Coast that was similar was the Slam Dunk at The Beach, which was held annually in Lewes Delaware and coordinated by the very colorful and super marketer Bobby Jacobs. Yes, the Primetime was special. 

Than it seemed something happened all over the country. Funding and sponsorships dried up and events of this magnitude were very hard to produce and present. What was once a super duper weekend event at an actual arena that brought in more money to the local economy in Trenton than most realize, had to go back to D 2, D3, and  HS gyms and based on limited seating and new demands from many HS coaches to bring their high profile teams to NJ, the event has relied on local teams who are still nationally ranked in many cases and full of outstanding talent.  Yes, believe it or not many HS teams have  all expenses paid and in some cases I have heard the coaches must get a kickback to participate and that often is done via them getting consultant money from tournament organizers. 

Please keep in mind all that I write is based on my personal observations and from what has been shared with me by many of my friends involved in coaching on various levels from AAU to HS to College.  What I write however is my thoughts and opinions. What I will say is the $12.00 I spent to attend the games yesterday was well worth every cent. In fact I would pay $30 to see such an event especially since some of the money goes to charity. Well, thats what I was told! 

The games were outstanding for the most part. Yes, 2 were blowouts, and 1 was a true preliminary game thrown in for local people to feel their team was playing. But 3 of the games were nothing short of terrific and well played! 

The Prelim Game

Plainfield beat Neptune 58 to 43 with Jaleal and Jachai Simmons staring and  showing great promise as players. Plainfield has history and tradition and I am sure in the future they will again become a force in NJ HS basketball. But for now they will be watching the action from way above as we get closer and closer to the NJ Finals.  

The Blowout Games

St. Anthony's vs Chester

I have no idea why HS Coaches do not learn from watching St. Anthony's that it all starts with discipline, respect,  commitment, competing every play, and defense. College coaches also need to look at the St. Anthony's model!  It's not hard to figure out why this school that struggles yearly to stay open continues to be not only a national basketball treasure, but a testimony to what happens when you buy into a system. 

Chester, a team with great tradition is experiencing a down year which explains why there was not bus loads of fans from Chester at the game. This is a HS team that has a legendary fan base including senior citizen clubs, moms, church groups and more. But they are young and the coaching staff was very impressive as they kept their cool knowing that next years team will be older, wiser, and more ready for games such as the one they played Saturday.

Marcus Mcduffie of St. Anthony's will have people smiling all over the state of Kansas when he arrives to suit up for Wichita State. He is some kind of special talent who Rutgers should have blocked the airports to get.  Jagan Mosely, yes he with the uncombed hair style that all the kids seem to be wearing, is the type of player who will not only be successful on the basketball court, he will be successful in life!  He is good enough as a junior to have many high D1 offers and wherever he attends he will make an impact. However,  I sure wish a kid like this, who I know has good grades just by observing him, would consider places like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Northwestern. Or if he does attend a place such as Seton Hall or Rutgers he would enroll in the honors college at The Hall or Rutgers College at RU. Special player and future leader in the same way Jerry Walker and Terry Dehare(sp) are in Jersey City! 

Oh yes St. Anthony's  won the game but the score is not even important at this point! 

St. Benedict's vs Riverdale Baptist of Maryland

Riverdale Baptist is one of those HS household names.  LIke Chester, this is a down year for them as they put a number of younger players on the floor to compete. But watch out because they will be ready in a year or so especially since we all know they always find a way to enroll talented players.  

St. Benedict's is a very interesting team. Their loses are confusing based on the talent they have. They have a sophomore point guard from Delaware who is nothing short of exceptional. Yes, Travon Duval is that good. He passes, he defends, he scores, he jumps out the gym, and he is in control!  To me this is far from one of St. Benedict's better teams. But this young man attending school two hours plus away from his home sure has a lot of people excited. He just might be the best lead guard in the state of NJ. Heck he might be the best lead guard on the East Coast! Yes, that good and that impressive!  Nate Pierre Louis is also a pretty good player and a sophomore as well. Problem is he would be considered much better if people would shut up and allow him to just play. Often when friends and family continue to build up a player the expectations are so high it would take a 25 point, 10 rebound, 10 assist day to meet them.  Young man is good with very good upside so the next 2 years will be quite interesting. Great to see my neighbor in Pa. Angelo, a nice sophomore, get into the game and actually score a basket on the last play of the game. 

St. Benedict's won the game and the score certainly is not even worthy of reporting!

The Exciting Games

Linden vs Gill St. Bernard

Years ago I attended a St. Patricks game and saw a small kid on the layup line and immediately thought he was the mascot. He was around 5 ft 5 inches and 85 pounds with a face that made him seem to be around 12 years old.  Fast forward and now that young man has grown up to be Otis Livingston Jr. the son of Otis Livingston Sr. the ex pro football player and current TV Sportscaster. Young Otis to me is the best senior point guard in the state of NJ.  As I often said about Kyle Anderson, with this kid even me at my older age could score 10 points in a game. He is calm, cool and a joy to watch. In fact after Travon Duval, he might be the best lead guard in the entire state. What a player this guy is for Coach Phil Colicchio and the Linden Tigers. 

Side bar: Heard some folks in Linden did not want kids playing for this outstanding Coach. How crazy is that? Linden should be thanking the Lord High Above for bringing this guy to Linden! With his brothers including the famous Chef Brother of TV fame and owner of restaurants all over NYC, Vegas,  and other parts on the country, Coach Colicchio showed why he is an elite coach. He has the Bob Hurley trait which says if you do not commit to D and team you do not play! And play they did beating an outstanding well coached and talented Gill. St. Bernard tean featuring Tyrus Battle who could be the number 1 HS player in NY, NJ, and all of the East Coast even though he is just a junior!  

Otis Livingston who did everything except sell pizza from the concession stand and his teammates including  Joshua Carter and Quentin Dixon, son of the legendary Walleye Dixon of  "And 1"  and Rucker Park fame who despite his huge body is light on his feet with an outstanding outside shot, were a pleasure to watch perform. Loved the Linden fans and coaching staff including the trainer who had his motor cycle leather jacket on with Linden Tigers on the back as if that was an actual motor cycle club. 

Every now and than a special player emerges with such ability that it does not matter what he scores or even does because you can tell that player is exceptional.  Tyrus Battle is such a player. Looking at him you can see Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas on his chest in the future though I sure hope he will consider Rutgers and Seton Hall as well. But as one knowledgable fan said to me as I was leaving the gym "Some Schools Need Not Even Apply!"  This kid is long, athletic, can shoot, is strong and seems like a great citizen! He also, like his entire team, plays great team basketball which says to me Duke has to be in his top 5. I love the Gill program and if you have never seen the school you need to visit. Beautiful campus with great facilities including a wonderful state of the art gym. With a coach who was a highly recruited player out of NYC and a D1 college player, kids attending there are in good hands.  

What a game this was with the teams going back and forth. But in the end a combination of Battle still not in top game condition and Livingston being the super player he is was too much for Gill to overcome. By the way schools need to recruit this Livingston kid because he really is that good and makes everyone around him better, Where is Delaware, Hofstra, Monmouth, Lasalle, Penn, Harvard, Bucknell, LeHigh, Lafayette, Iona, Manhattan and others? Honestly if April rolls around and a place like Wake Forest or Providence has a scholarship still available they need to jump on him as well! 

Trenton Catholic vs Hudson Catholic

Well, needless to say the Catholic school won the game. Two well coached teams playing and competing with Trenton Catholic coming out on top. Coach Nick Mariniello really has become an outstanding coach and motivator as he takes Hudson Catholic closer and closer to where they were during the Mike O'Koren and Jim Sparnakle years. Unfortunately yesterday they ran into a wonderful team with a roster full of talented players including McDonald's All American Malachi Richardson. 

Malachi has grown to around 6 ft 6 and strong enough to really compete on the high D1 level. He is every bit as good as we thought he would be when we saw him as a freshmen at Trenton Catholic prior to him leaving to attend Roselle Catholic for one year prior to returning home. Now a senior and headed to Syracuse of The Atlantic Coast Conference ( so strange to say) he is ready for prime time. Joined by dynamic junior Myles Powell, dynamic PG Marcus Floyd, and 6 ft 9 freshmen Richmond Arirguzoh who one day just might be a top 15 recruit nationally, this team makes Parochial B in South Jersey very interesting and enough for me to drive down to see some games in the state playoffs.  

Hudson Catholic unfortunately will have to play against the St. Anthony mystique which gives the Friars a 10 point lead before the game even starts. But hopefully Nassir Barrino and company will be more ready to play when that day arrives. 

On Saturday they made a great comeback with Coach Mariniello leading the charge but Trenton Catholic had a bit too much going for them on this day! 

The Patrick School vs Ewing HS

What an interesting season thus far for Ewing HS and its Female Coach Shelley Dearden who does an outstanding job!  Ewing came into the game 16 and 0 but ran into what just might be the most talented team man for man in the entire tri-state area.  

I loved Ewing entering the gym to warm up with full warm-ups including warm up pants, something you rarely see these day which is baffling to me. Unfortunately Ewing and its star player Trey Lowe, who is headed to Temple University, got off to a slower than usual start because  St. Patrick's came to play, something they do not always do as evidenced by some of the losses they have.  Amazing the talent on this team including the best big player potential wise in New Jersey,  Nicholas Richardson,  the 6 ft 11 man child who is only a sophomore after transferring to The Patrick School from St. Mary's HS of  Long Island. 

Nicholas Richardson is what I Imagine Darryl Dawkins was as a HS player in Florida. This guy is mobile, skilled, athletic, understands the game, has a nice shooting touch, rebounds, blocks shots and best of all is very mean and intimidating!!!  Big time prospect is an understatement!  This guy is the real deal even though the Patrick School rarely runs plays through him on the box, a place where he is almost unstoppable. 

All I can say is the game was terrific and exciting as Ewing actually tied the game late only to have Mr. Richardson take over scoring 6 points in a row with pure strength and determination.  

What a entire day and evening I had watching some great basketball and talking to people who truly enjoy the game.  I really have to again say how wonderful this event is despite them not giving out awards of any type nor t shirts to participants as they did years ago. 

Come back and check this blog out again when there is a huge game or event. Looking forward to the games at Kean University this week! 

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

What A Friday Evening in Roselle, New Jersey

They came from far and near to see what was supposed to be an exceptional basketball game. From Bergen and Passaic Counties up north to Essex County and even Morris, Sumerset and yes Hudson County as well.  They all came to Roselle Catholic HS to see two of the best HS teams in America play for Garden State bragging rights, though I still feel The Patrick School or St. Patricks will make a statement on that very soon.

Driving in from NEPA I did not know what to expect except a good hard fought game.  Having heard from friends that Roselle Catholic had a gym with old school charm and character made me eager to enter the building and see for myself if it was a HS version of Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke or something similar. Well, it was not Duke but it sure was unique and old school gorgeous not to mention packed to the rafters. Even Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins and Charles Smith the ex Knick were in attendance.  There were even some serious VIPs from entertainment, business, and industry in the building that people failed to recognize.

Its always amazing when I see guys walk into HS events free by flashing credentials for a blog or website they  rarely post on. I saw this yesterday as I patiently went inside and purchased a ticket 3 minutes before they stopped selling tickets,  This was at 4 PM and the game started at 6!  Little did I know there were games all day long and entering the gym which was packed with over 2000 people I had an opportunity to see a nice Plainfield Team get beat by Rutgers Prep. The joke in the stands was that it's a shame to get beat on the basketball court by people you will also work for one day!  Ok-Ok horrible joke sorry.  

The first game had a super talented Life Center with numerous D1 players beat up on Bloomfield Tech. Nuff said!  Now it was time for the final game and the game everyone came to see. St. Anthony's, who has the absolute best family and friends support group I have seen in years, entered the court first along with 6 Assistant coaches with 3 more sitting behind the bench. Somtimes I wonder if certain people would pay to be an assistant there?  Next came Roselle Catholic with fatigue T shirts on representing the purpose of the games,  which was supporting our troops. What a great cause!

St. Anthony's took control and their fans were going berserk making the gym seem like it was in Jersey City. If you came in blindfolded you would think you were at a game in Jersey City right near the Holland Tunnel (smile).  It seemed St. Anthony's who will always be well coached,  play great defense,    play hard, and play with class, was there to win it. Roselle Catholic and its star player Isaiah Briscoe had a rough 1st Quarter keeping up with the St. Anthony intensity and desire to win. But in the 2nd quarter it was the the Briscoe show as he closed it out like the player he is, despite some flashes of immaturity similar to what another player who John Calapari sent packing years ago exhibited,  Briscoe has all the moves and you can tell hours and hours have been spent in gyms working on his game.  But he sure has a nose for getting into it on the court, something he needs to learn to channel before he meets up with the wrong people.

Interesting that the highly rated freshmen, 6 ft 9 Nazren Reid, did not enter till late  in the first half but in my opinion  the complexion of the game changed after he entered despite him not scoring one point. It was his presence and energy and many noticed.  Of course the second half became more Briscoe and Chris Silva who really will be a terrific College Player if his coach Frank Martin does not yell at him every time he does something wrong.  Great place,  but there over Seton Hall, Rutgers, St. Johns?  Well, it is a great campus with a big time arena with all the bells and whistles associated with a SEC program.  

Many felt the game was over with 2 minutes left but as Bob Hurley, who could be the best HS basketball coach in the history of the game,  yelled "THIS GAME IS NOT OVER"   And truth be told it was not till the final whistle sounded with St. Anthony's coming back again to within 3 points with a chance for a tie.  But despite Briscoe missing multiple free throws, something no star guard should ever do, Roselle Catholic held on for the win with Chis Silva being huge down the stretch.

Tid Bits

Markis McDuffie really is better than advertised.

Jagan Mosley is a star in the making

Taurean Thompson really is a very good player

Briscoe is better than advertised but with attitude that could be good or bad depending

Chris Silva is special

Roselle Catholic equals  Great Players, very little offensive sets, good defense, unselfish play, and despite it all well coached!

St. Anthony's equals tradition, very good players, consistent defense, hard work, great sets, patience on both offense and defense, and very well coached!

AAU and Travel Team guys seem to have a lot of say these days.  Saw Roselle Catholic players communicating with summer coaches during the game.

Lastly, to the young man I knew when he played for Teaneck HS and was a good little Player but better yet a wonderful young gentlemen.  Just because you now are an Assistant Coach at Teaneck  and with The Playaz, an organization I think the world of who are doing wonderful things, do not change who you were because you never know who knows who. Follow the lead of those you work with who always exhibit class while being humble.

Finally, saw a guy who has done so much for the Newark NJ community being unnecessarily hassled by a Roselle NY Police Officer inside the game. Was it really that important for them to attempt to embarrass him? . Maybe the game should have been at Kean University!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Exciting Basketball

I have to start with the huge game between nationally ranked St. Johns and soon to be ranked Seton Hall if they can hold off Villanova on Saturday at the Prudential Center. A great win by Seton Hall in an atmosphere that seemed to be electric as I watched from the emergency room of my local hospital.  

We all know the final score and who did what. What I thought was great is the outstanding game atmosphere. On TV it seemed like at least 15,000 people similar to what Seton Hall often drew back in the days of Ramos, Bryant, Morton, Salley, Green, Advent,  and others (please excuse the spelling of some names) . I think it might have been right after the Mountain Arena bomb that did not work with SHU even losing  to Columbia in a home game at the Hockey Arena.  

Well, I always wanted to see SHU, SJU, and RU excel and have true natural rivalries that meant something other than just a win. SJU and SHU seem headed in the right direction but there still remains a question of how SJU will bounce back and what will SHU do if  VU beats them badly at home? If they can win more than they lose both SHU and SJU are headed for a possible NCAA Birth or at least a NIT birth.  Heading out to buy snacks for the huge game tomorrow.  

Rutgers is still  finding its way  but is 8 and 6 despite losing to Big 10 foe Northwestern.  Northwestern is the team they should always circle on the schedule as a must win along with a few others because we already know its about 4 or 5 teams they have almost zero chance of beating till the program improves in most areas. No need to again say all that I think they need.  I will say the coaches they have are fine and with the correct support facility and program wise the improvement will come sooner than later. Hard to even compete with what those other schools are showing to potential players. 

HS basketball was great on Monday evening in Paterson NJ. Hats off to the NJ Playaz Organization for putting on the Jingle Bells Jubilee and making all of the games competitive ones as opposed to matching schools who recruit from 10 states against local HSs who compete with players from the town. I think the Hoop Group, which is still a great organization, needs to change it up next season and get the great match ups with power teams going against power teams and good players matched with good players. $13 is a lot of money to see Roselle Catholic with 25 D1 players at the school (smile) matched up with Blair Academy who has a few good D3 players and two big future role players on the high D1 level.  The Playaz tournament had some great talent and wonderful match ups.  They even had decent concessions and gave out real meaningful trophy's

Loved watching Teaneck HS who I will see again Sunday in the New Years Jump-off at the same location, Paterson Charter School (the old Paterson Catholic) against East Orange who seems to have a pretty good team this year. I cannot wait till the well coached Teaneck Squad matures next season, though they could still win the Bergen Jamboree. Next year they could be a special bunch led by top 5 sophomore guard Deondre Washington and Top 5 freshmen guard Ja'Quaye James, who just happens to have a very famous hip hop Uncle.  Life Center might just be the 2nd most talented team in NJ man for man. Well,  maybe 3rd because The Paterson School is loaded also. Life Center is coached by Never Nervous Pervis, the ex Louisville Star and he has at least 4 high major players on the roster but the record despite beating a very young Teaneck in the consolation game, is nowhere near what it should be. Being an ex great player is not all thats needed to be a great coach. But in time this team could be rolling. How much time? I wonder! 

Paterson Eastside gave all it could against a very talented and well coached Hudson Catholic who seems to be jelling early in the season. Paterson Eastside could still possibly win the North group 4 championship based on some very good talent. Unfortunately it seems people in the stands realize how talented the players are but the players and coaches seem to not know.  Shakur Juiston is a beast who does not realize it. Every high major program between Connecticut and Virginia should watch him. If this kid goes to JUCO he could end up at Kentucky, UNLV, NC State, etc. Yes,  that much natural ability but so unselfish it makes the average fan scream. This young man needs to stop being afraid to be a star! If it does not come out in HS it certainly will come out in college. You cannot go by his stats you have to watch him perform.  Hudson Catholic has a few D1 players as well and seems to have quietly snuck up on everyone and if people blink this could be a future program on the same level nationally as St. Anthony's, Roselle Catholic, St. Benedict's, and the team that I feel just might be the best in NJ, The Paterson School. 

Speaking of St. Antony's they play a huge game Friday evening against Roselle Catholic at Roselle Catholic. Game time is 6 PM and I hope to be there by 4ish to secure a ticket.  Two things for sure are St. Anthony's will not back down and they will play defense! Roselle Catholic? They have the best player in the state and at least 6 or 7 others we will be watching on TV one day. 

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