Hoop Group Tip-Off, December 18-19th: Recap & Seton Hall Prospect Evaluations

Nine games in two days, two locations, several standout players. The Hoop Group's 2010 Tip-Off Invitational was jam packed with exciting games, outstanding players, great teams, and phenomenal coaches. I was fortunate enough to  take in most of this excellent event.

During Day 1, I focused more on the flow of the game and the overall teams. On Day 2, I focused on the individual Seton Hall prospects more so than the game. My recap will reflect that.

Game 1, Scotch Plains-Fanwood 60, Newark Tech 59

The first game of the event was Scotch Plains-Fanwood (my alma mater) vs. Newark Tech. Scotch Plains had an agenda of taking and making three pointers early and often. The Raiders were able to accumulate a lead of 34-21 at the half, extending the lead to 17 points late in the third quarter. Their ability to score in transition, knock down the three, and Newark Tech's inability to use their size advantage contributed to this lead. However, Scotch Plains was playing their second game in 24 hours (defeated GL 55-38 the day before), and Newark Tech mounted a fierce comeback in the fourth quarter.

Newark Tech began to exploit their size advantage, dominating Scotch Plains on the boards. They were also able to force numerous turnovers and tack on easy points in transition. Down the stretch, both teams missed some key free throws, but Scotch Plains was able to do just enough to hang on. Newark Tech actually sank a three at the buzzer; Scotch Plains had a 4 point advantage with seconds  to go.

Player of the Game: Senior, Charles Oliver (Scotch Plains-Fanwood), 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

Oliver was clearly the best player on the court. He tallied a game high 23 points for the Raiders. Oliver was able to flex his perimeter ability as well as score numerous baskets in transition. Oliver is strong going to the hoop and has an above average outside shot, especially when he squares to the basket. He was also able to run the floor, something of a combo guard, do everything man for the Raiders.

Game 2, Don Bosco Prep 73, Christian Brothers Academy 61

The second game in Plainfield had a lot more talent than the first. Gary Nova, the Pittsburgh football verbal, drained three treys in the first 4 possessions for Don Bosco Prep. The second team all-state quarterback set the tone for Don Bosco as they jumped out to an early 12-2 lead on CBA.

Don Bosco put on an effective press early in the game which really held the CBA offense back for awhile, until they were able to break it consistently in the second quarter. CBA's offense ran through Matt McMullen, the Colgate bound forward. McMullen wound up scoring 29 of CBA's 61 points, or 47%. He was a matchup nightmare for the smaller Don Bosco squad.

However, Bosco shot the lights out through most of the game, especially in the first half. They led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter, 15 of those 17 points were from three pointers. When Gary Nova wasn't drilling threes, John Landro was. When Nova and Landro cooled off, Jemal Mosley was able to step up and go hard to the tin. Mosley is a tough, undersized point guard who really went hard to the rim every chance he had. This balanced Bosco attack could not be matched by CBA, who only had one weapon, Matt McMullen.

Don Bosco led by 10-12 points for most of the game. They actually led by 12 points at the half (thanks to a Jeremy Hazell falling down three pointer by Gary Nova at the buzzer) at the end of the third quarter and won by 12 -- a very consistent lead. McMullen continued to hit big shots for CBA throughout the first three quarters, but he was held in check down the stretch in the fourth; he could only do so much. JP Koury was the next best player for CBA, although most of his 17 points came when the game was already decided. CBA wasn't able to mount a comeback due to a real lack of a perimeter game. McMullen was able to do everything within the arc, but no one stepped up from behind it.

Player of the Game: Senior, Matt McMullen (Christian Brothers Academy) 29 points

Colgate has a real gamer in McMullen. Although undersized for the 4 spot, he has a terrific mid range game with a plethora of moves to separate himself from his defender. He can even knock down the occasional outside shot.

McMullen is very willing to bang down low, him and a player from Don Bosco were mixing it up pretty good throughout the game - they picked up a double foul at one point. Matt's willingness to bang needs to be contained. A few times he was very close to picking up over the back fouls on offensive rebounding opportunities.

For continued coverage on the other seven games, and extended analysis on Seton Hall prospects, please continue reading.

Game 3, South Kent (CT) 80, Hun School 61

Ricky Ledo's off the backboard, one handed slam in warm ups that made the refs tell South Kent to relax turned out to be foreshadowing. Ledo threw down an identical dunk as time expired in what turned out to be a great game, and a phenomenal second half for the unsigned junior.

Ledo accumulated 35 points, most of which came in the second half against Hun School on Saturday. South Kent came out of the gates slow, they struggled on offense. Hun led 16-8 at the end of the first, and 33-26 at the half.  UNC-Wilmington bound Dylan Sherwood and UMBC commit Will Wise were able to capitalize on great post to post passing as well as effective drive and dishing. Sherwood had numerous easy weak side layups. Tulane commit Grant Fiorentinos was quiet in the first half, he actually came off the bench, but he picked it up in the second half.

Hun was able to use a zone defense and some terrific passing on the offensive end to post a seven point lead at the half. However, they wouldn't be as fortunate coming out of the locker room.

South Kent outscored Hun 26-14 in the third quarter, capped off by a Ricky Ledo trey at the buzzer. Ledo was clearly the key to South Kent's offense. The school from Connecticut was playing without future St. John's player Maurice Harkless, for reasons I still don't know -- I don't believe he made the trip. Rutgers bound Derrick Randall wasn't too impressive on the offensive end. He is a rebounding force and had several very nice blocks. In fact, South Kent rarely ran their offense through Randall, it will be interesting to see how Rutgers coach Mike Rice uses him.

The story of the second half was clearly Ricky Ledo. He was drilling long threes and killing Hun in transition, with many layups off of turnovers. While Derrick Randall was matched up with Grant Fiorentinos and contained for the most part, Ledo was going off. The effective post to post offense that paid dividends for Hun in the first half was completely shut down in the second. Fiorentinos was able to get some nice mid-range buckets, but fellow post player Dylan Sherwood was shut down.

When South Kent extended their lead to 15 with a few to play, things really slowed down until the final seconds. Remember that foreshadowing in warm ups? Well, Ledo was handling the ball off a missed Hun shot with five seconds to go. Instead of dribbling the clock off, he came down the left side of the court, threw the ball off the left side of the backboard and threw the ball with authority. Everyone in attendance was caught off guard -- the place was electric. While sportsmanship can be questioned, there is no question that the dunk was a fitting cap to Ricky Ledo's performance in the second half.

Player of the Game: Junior, Ricardo Ledo (South Kent, CT) 35 points

Although Ledo was quiet in the first half (I actually forgot he was on my player to watch list), he made noise in the second half. Ledo showed exceptional range from the beyond the arc, taking and making a few NBA type three pointers. Ledo is exceptionally athletic, has a nice shot and decent passing ability. He matches the 97 rating that ESPN gives him.

As ESPN notes, Ledo has to work on his consistency. I barely noticed him in the first half (I was concentrating on the Hun players and Randall), but then again, South Kent played poorly in the first.

Game 4, Rice (NY) 73, Plainfield 66

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend this seemingly exciting finale due to family commitments. Here is a recap. Its interesting to see that there is no mention of Cincinnati bound wing Jermaine Sanders in the write up. 

Game 5, Hudson Catholic 57, Neptune 40

Neptune really couldn't match up with the young (1 senior on entire roster) Hudson Catholic squad. Point guard Ikie Calderon was very strong going to the hoop and finishing for Neptune, but they had little offense besides that.

Much of Hudson Catholic's offense was ran through point guard Kavon Stewart. He was definitely the more impressive of the two Seton Hall prospects. Stewart has a very tight dribble, great vision and is very good going to the hoop. He does lack a shot though (air balled once or twice, no perimeter shots). He is comparable to a Eugene Harvey type of point guard. Great at two things (dribbling, passing) but weak at shooting. The good news is that Stewart is only a sophomore.

The second Seton Hall prospect in this game was sophomore forward Reggie Cameron. Cameron definitely has the frame and potential to be a very good forward. He has above average handle for a high school 4/5 player and has a high basketball IQ. He was in the right position many times on the offensive end. Cameron was able to show off some of his mid-range ability, but Hudson Catholic rarely ran their offensive through him at the post, so its tough to judge there. Cameron is also a little slow. He is a sophomore and has room to grow, but I'm hesitant on his ability to be a 3/4 at the next level with his current speed. Tack on another 2~ inches and hes a solid 4.

Player of the Game: Sophomore, Kavon Stewart (Hudson Catholic) 21 points

Game 6, St. Anthony's 62, Gill St. Bernard's 50

Two very impressive teams, coaches and some very impressive players in this game. GSB really took it to St. Anthony's in the first half with active defense, great passing and phenomenal three point shooting. GSB led after the first quarter, 17-16 and only trailed by five at the break, 35-30. Point guard Alex Mitola and shooting guard Jaren Sina were hitting everything from deep in the first half. GSB's lone forward Dominic Hoffman was in foul trouble early, but for some reason St. Anthony's didn't take advantage via Kyle Anderson until late in the first half. Without Hoffman in the game, Kyle Anderson had at least a 5 inch advantage on anybody in a GSB uniform.

Coming out of half time, legendary coach Bob Hurley had an effective but simple plan. Feed Kyle Anderson the ball down low, and really pressure GSB defensively. It worked. Kyle Anderson ended up with 23 points and 10 boards and St. Anthony's extended their lead to double digits throughout most of the third quarter. GSB was able to cut the lead to 5-6 with a few minutes to play thanks to several St. Anthony's turnovers,  but they were never in position to really challenge St. Anthony's lead.

Star forward Kyle Anderson also got some help in the form of 17 points by Rutgers bound point guard, Myles Mack. Mack showed true point guard ability. He was able to drive and dish, play good defense and scored in transition. However,  is perimeter shot was a bit off yesterday.

Gill St. Bernards was carried by Alex Mitola and Seton Hall prospect Jaren Sina. They scored 19 and 22 respectively, 41 of GSB's 50 points. 33 of their 41 points came from behind the arc.

Jaren Sina is absolutely deadly when he squares up to shoot and is nearly lights out coming off of screens. He also showed a bit of mid-range game once or twice yesterday with a drive, stop and pop. The sophomore was going up against a nationally ranked St. Anthony's squad, its unreasonable to expect him to do everything. His 22 points off 6 of 12 shooting from beyond the arc were enough to really turn some heads. My only question is how will Sina develop? He clearly wasn't physical enough to drive against the Friars, but he is also only a sophomore. That question will be answered in the coming years.

Kyle Anderson was absolutely dominant in the post against a much smaller GSB team. His post moves were very methodical and effective. At one point in the second half, Anderson was fouled three possessions in a row (a 10 second span) because GSB just couldn't stop him inside. 

It will be interesting to see how Bob Hurley uses Anderson. He wants to be a guard, but with his 6-8 frame, he is a huge match up problem in the post. Anderson really didn't do much from outside the post against GSB, he was really playing the role of a center.

I can't just give one game ball out in this one. Jaren Sina wowed the crowd the most, but Kyle Anderson was quietly effective in the post. Both were equally as impressive in different ways.

Game 7, Linden 57, Teaneck 53

Nothing was going to match the level of excitement that GSB and St. Anthony's brought to the table, but the first half of this game really didn't help. Linden led 9-8 after the first quarter, both teams were struggling offensively until Elijah Hodge stepped up for Linden early in the second quarter. He knocked down a 3, made a tough layup in transition and made a nice dish for 2 and Linden was up 16-8 in the blink of an eye.

Linden maintained a sizable lead for most of the uneventful game until the fourth quarter. The second shortest player in the Hoop Group field, but the shortest that I saw play, Shakir Lindsey (5'5) sparked a run for the Teaneck Highwaymen. Lindsey played stout defense and hit a huge three pointer down the stretch to ignite his teammates. An offensively challenged Teaneck side for three quarters flipped a switch in the fourth. Linden led by as many as 18 in the third quarter, but Teaneck cut this lead to two at 55-53 with under a minute to play. Linden was rattled by the effective press that Teaneck put on late in the game, they simply couldn't break it. But the lead was just too much for the Highwaymen as Linden hit their free throws when they absolutely had to.

Point guard Elijah Hodge and wing Rodney Sanders accumulated 35 of Linden's 57 points. Sanders had 18 points and 8 rebounds, Hodge had 17 points.

Player of the Game: Senior, Elijah Hodge (Linden) 17 points.

Game 8, St. Benedict's 67, St. Raymond's (NY) 62

This New York - New Jersey match up had a bunch of D1 talent in it. St.  Ray's was led by guard/wing Nkereuwem Okoro and power forward Daniel Dingle. Okoro was more of a wing than a shooting guard. He missed most of, if not all, of his perimeter shots. However, he goes extremely hard to the hoop and plays aggressive defense. In his 6'4 frame, the junior has plenty of potential to develop an effective shot. Dingle is an absolutely workhorse in the paint, his 23 points and 12 boards reflected that ability. The junior was banging with St. Benedict's all game long, he really does have a motor.

St. Benedict's was led by George Mason bound guard Vaughn Gray. While their most impressive player, college wise, is NC State commit Tyler Harris, Gray stood out last night. Gray sports a long 6'5 frame that helps him in all aspects of his game. It adds to his shooting ability, his driving ability and his defensive prowess. Gray isn't great at one single thing, but he is a very solid all around player. Gray finished with 18 points and 5 assists.

Tyler Harris had a quiet but efficient night. Most of his 16 points came on easy lay ins due to great passing by Gray and fellow post player Michael Young. Young is another play to watch, he matched Harris' 16 points. Young is only a sophomore and is already 6'8.

St. Raymond's was down by 12-14 with 2 minutes to play when I left Walsh Gym. Surprisingly, they were able to cut the lead down sizable after I left. Just my luck, right? 

Player of the Game: Junior, Daniel Dingle (St. Raymond's) 23 points, 12 boards

Game 9, Columbia 66, Seton Hall Prep 56

Once again, I missed the finale. And once again, it turned out to be a great game. SHP and Columbia went back and forth for much of the game until Columbia pulled away in the final 2 minutes.

Despite Sterling Gibbs' 21 points, he was clearly disappointed by the loss:

 

 Sterling Gibbs 
Played terrible and let my team down tonight... Gotta get back in the gym starting tomorrow!

 

This result is definitely an upset. Here is a more thorough recap.

----------------------------------------------------------

This weekend's event had its close games, its come backs, its blow outs, and its outstanding individual performances. In short, it had just about everything. The three stars:

Ricardo Ledo, South Kent (CT) - 35 points, including a phenomenal dunk to cap off the game.

Matt McMullen, Christian Brothers Academy - 29 points. Terrific all around game. Scores in many different ways.

Kyle Anderson, St. Ant's / Jaren Sina, Gill St. Bernards - I once again can't separate the two. Sina wow'd the crowd with his sharpshooting, but Anderson was dominant in the post.

Seton Hall prospect list:

-Kyle Anderson - Junior, St. Anthony's

-Jaren Sina - Sophomore, Gill St. Bernard's

-Reggie Cameron - Sophomore, Hudson Catholic

-Kavon Stewart - Sophomore, Hudson Catholic

-Nkereuwem Okoro - Junior, St. Raymond's - Listed on Rivals, but I haven't heard much besides that.

 

Many thanks to the Hoop Group staff, specifically Marquis Webb, for having me and hosting a wonderful event. Hopefully they'll be back at Seton Hall next year.

Visit the Hoop Group website @ www.hoopgroup.com for more information of this weekend's event and future events.

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