Its a good feeling to see basketball again, even better to bring it back outdoors.
The players only league was the first event we had the opportunity to cover this summer. As we approached the Dodge Field courts in Madison, NJ the league organizers did their due diligence. Each player had their temperature checked and spectators were all wearing their masks. There was also no shortage of hand sanitizing and cleaning supplies for everyones safety.
The first matchup we saw was the NJ Thunder playing the NJ Panthers in a 16U matchup. The first thing that immediately jumped out was Ryan Pettit of the NJ Panthers (“22 Rutgers Prep 6’2 Guard) and his improved ball handling and playmaking ability. The Panthers had him running the show as the teams primary ball handler. Pettit is going to start to get a lot more college attention once teams realize he can play the point guard position as well as the 2 guard.
Darren Tuck (“22 Immaculata 6’4 Guard) picked up where he left off last season. He was able to use crafty moves on drives to get to the rim and finish. He had two dunks in the game, one with a defender hanging on him which proved his improved jumping ability and strength. He led the team in scoring with 11 points, the more consistent he is during the AAU season, the more colleges will notice that he is an asset.
Next game we were able to take a look at were the NJ Panthers 17U Blue vs. Unity Legends team. The first thing you notice was the tremendous size that the Unity Legends team has, now although they have size, the NJ Panthers have a special set of guards that are interchangeable. Chase Clarke (’22 Guard/Wing 6’5 Newark Academy) of the Unity Legends had 19 he was able to dominate the game by getting to whatever spots he wanted. He made great decisions even with the Legends down 15 at one point they ended up winning by 5.
The Panthers played well, Brandon Pfeifer (’21 Guard 6′ Allentown, (PA) ) was shooting the lights out. He had 5 threes during the game, he was able to shoot off the catch, as well as off the dribble, definitely had a great offensive game. Elijah Lane (’21 Guard 6′ Sayreville) played quite the cerebral game. He showed a plethora of ways of getting the ball in the basket, he scored on all three levels and was able to lock up on defense. The best part of his game was his leadership, he is not afraid to communicate on defense and makes the correct play whether thats spacing the floor, or setting the off-ball screen to get a teammate open. Lane is tenacious and definitely shows no fear, he has to be a coaches favorite.
The next game we were able to take in was the Unity Legends vs. NJ Beasts 16u team. Immediately Justin Brown (’22 Guard 6’2 Morris Catholic) jumped off the court the kid is built like Randy Foye with athleticism, and it showed. He was taking it to the bigs of the Unity Legends he looked like he was hungry to play definitely somebody we are going to continue to follow this season. The NJ Beasts also had had a solid big in Naftali Koomson (’21 Forward 6’7 Newark Eastside) he was able to defend well and showed great feet and athleticism being able to get up and down the floor with Justin Brown.
The last game of the day was between the NJ Beasts and the NJ Panthers Select team. Freddie Young Jr.(’21 Trenton Catholic Guard 6’4) was easy to take notice of because it seemed like he was playing with an easier poise and pace than the rest of the players on the floor. With legit size and poise only learned from playing top tier competition he was able to set his teammates up easily. Ryan Cassels (’21 Saddle River Day Guard 5’10) showed great development, his ball handling improved and everyone already respects his college level 3-ball, that caused him to use his hesitation dribble to get everywhere he wanted to on the floor.
The first matchup of the day was the NJ Panthers 17U Blue Team vs. NJ Panthers 17U Select team. This game was probably the best game of the weekend, you had familiar players going against each other which caused them to know their tendencies. Jeremiah DonMartin (’21 Leonia Guard 6′) was great. During this game nobody was able to stay in front of him, he had multiple tough layups over bigger defenders and even a couple And-1’s. Daniel Boateng (’21 Woodbridge Point Forward 6’6) showed his versatility by being able to handle the ball and initiate the offense which created a lot of mismatches which let the guards on his Panthers Blue team get some easy offense. It was a pretty balanced attack for the Panthers Select team but Nick Peltikian (’21 Mahwah Guard) was able to hit a couple of corner 3’s as well as some impressive floaters he was also able to get the ball into his teams bigs where the were able to finish with ease.
The Unity Legends vs NJ Beasts was another good matchup, the Legends used Chase Clarke (’22 Newark Academy G/F 6’5) at more of a forward role where he was able to use his size dominate his matchup. The NJ Beasts had an impressive starting backcourt with Anthony Corbo (Post Grad Covenant College Prep Guard 6’4) and Nazir Williams (Post Grad South Kent Guard 6’4) Corbo showed off athleticism and confidence against college size bigs whether that was meeting them at the rim or hitting his pull up jumper. Corbo looks like the perfect combo guard at the next level. Nazir Williams is also another solid combo guard he was able to get to the rim with both hands and was able to absorb contact while not getting rattled. Both have great skills that complimented each others play style.
Last game of the weekend we were able to watch was the Hoops Heaven Hawks Elite vs Unity Legends. Trevor Bokach (’21 Watchung Hills Guard/Wing 6’5) was able to orchestrate his offense, he is one of those players that dictates the pace of the game whenever he is on the floor and he just looks like he is having fun. His left handed hesi is among the best that I have seen on the high school level for his size. Sean Logan (’22 Westfield Forward 6’9) was blocking everything he had 8 blocks this game, great feel on defense and is very rangy as well. He also can hit the fade away jumper at 12 feet consistently. Someone defintiely wirth tracking moving forward.
Players to watch
Phillip Urban NJ Panthers (’22 Pennington School Wing 6’6)- BOUNCY!!! and he keeps growing he is going to be special
Yathin Vemula NJ Panthers (’22 South Brunswick Guard 6’1)- a player you would want to go to war with, plays in the big moment
Kyle Rolon Hoop Heaven (’21 Somerville Wing 6’3)- a floor spacer who you must close out on or he will make you pay
Gavin O’Farell NJ Beasts (’21 St. Peters Prep Forward 6’7)- your classic 90’s forward that will score around the basket and will get every loose ball and every long rebound a coaches dream.
Matchup of the Day
Trevor Bokach against Chase Clarke was definitely special they were both going at each other, but I would have to give the edge to Clarke
The weekend had a lot of good kicks on court but I have to give the Sneaker Champ title to Jeremiah DonMartin