Hall of Fame NIT u17 Sunday Recap
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Sharing the ball on offense coupled with suffocating team defense is a recipe most any college coach would want from their own team.
So with a slew of college recruiters watching on Sunday at the Hall of Fame National Invitational hosted by Basketbull at Western New England University, it was the New England Playaz who most impressed with this formula en route to the u17 Select title.
In a finals clash with the New Jersey Playaz, New England – which was missing Mustapha Heron (leg injury) – featured a balanced offensive attack that saw five players reach double-figures. Tyler Lydon (15 points), who was playing in his first tournament with the team, led the squad, while Jarred Reuter (14 points), Crew Ainge (11 points), Max Twyman (11 points) and Aaron Calixte (10 points) rounded out the group. Marcel Pettway narrowly missed joining the fraternity as he finished with nine points.
The New England Playaz secured the 14-point win by also ratcheting up its defensive pressure, particularly in the second half. After giving up seven three-pointers in the first, the Playaz limited their New Jersey counterparts to one over the final frame. It was an effort which helped break open a four-point halftime advantage.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Playaz were led by sharpshooters Myles Powell (16 points) and Cheddi Mosley (14 points) – each of whom had four three-pointers – and Elijah Cain (11 points).
Below are some other players who impressed:
Crew Ainge – New England Playaz – Two plays stood out for Ainge this weekend. The first occurred on Saturday when he recognized – before anyone else on the court – that an opponent’s three-point attempt would come up short. Sprinting in from the opposite elbow, he snatched the ball mid-air before firing it up court to streaking teammate for a transition layup. The second was on Sunday. During a possession when Ainge brought the ball up, he went to pass to a teammate on the right wing. As he was about to release his pass a defender jumped the lane. While Ainge appeared to be readying to throw a chest pass, he opted, mid-motion, for a low bounce pass. Instincts can’t be taught.
Elijah Cain – New Jersey Playaz – A high-volume shooter who scored in bunches, Cain was most effective when driving into the paint and creating contact. His slender 6-foot-5 frame with long arms allowed him to maneuver through tight spaces and finish even when it appeared there was nowhere to go. Cain’s relentless attack also put constant pressure on the referees to blow the whistle. While his shoot-first approach isn’t always ideal for the point guard position – a role that Cain was in sporadically over the three-day tournament – it seemed to suit a squad that made it all the way to the finals.
Schadrac Casimir – USAD – Though Casimir was mentioned in this space for his Saturday performance, it is hard to overlook what he did again on Sunday. Casimir first tallied 26 points in a quarterfinals win over CT Select, before dropping 18 points in a semis loss to the New Jersey Playaz. His ability to score, sometimes seemingly at will, was blended nicely with a consistent willingness to involve his teammates. Casimir has put together a strong live period this July, something which most definitely reinforced and, most likely, strengthened his recruiting status.
Chaise Daniels – CT Select – While Daniels physical attributes are undeniable at 6-foot-8, his instincts and general feel for the game appear to be improving each week. Besides converting a couple dunks, Daniels also displayed a developing low-post game; something he first exhibited a few weeks back at the Elite 75 Showcase. With another offer in hand courtesy of Fairfield University, Daniels continues to have a very productive month.
Levy Gillespie Jr. – Connecticut Basketball Club – The 6-foot-2 point guard will not overwhelm spectators with flash or athleticism, but his on-court decision-making and solid play remain a constant on the AAU circuit. Gillespie uses his size advantage over opposing point guards to see the floor and make smart, decisive passes. This weekend he also showed a willingness to take his defender down low on the block, something most likely incorporated into the game plan with big man Paschal Chukwu (injured hand and leg) missing.
Tyler Lydon – New England Playaz – Another double-dip from Saturday’s recap, Lydon was too good on Sunday not to mention a second time. The long 6-foot-9 big man slashed his way to the hoop and finished with aggression on numerous occasions. He had a knack for knowing when to make the right cut, especially when Jarred Reuter had the ball on the opposite block. Lydon also wasn’t shy about hoisting three-pointers when his defender sagged. He had one each in both the semis and finals. It’s going to be fun to watch Lydon’s game develop over the next few seasons under the tutelage of New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins.
Lee Messier – Middlesex Magic – With many gifted shooters in the field, this 6-foot-3 Tilton School product had arguably the best weekend. Now fully recovered from an ankle injury that dogged him during the prep season, Messier’s shooting form and rhythm appear to be clicking. The Magic took the New England Playaz squad down to the final seconds on Saturday night – before falling by one-point – in large part because Messier hit a game-tying three-pointer with six seconds remaining. He continues to prove that he’s someone who must closely-guarded at all times.
Cheddi Mosley – New Jersey Playaz – A fearless perimeter shooter, the 6-foot-2 guard is a threat to rise up and score from anywhere on the court. Because Mosley has the agility and hops to create spacing for his own shot attempts, defenses are forced to account for the rising senior from St. Anthony High (NJ) well beyond the three-point line.
Anthony Pate – New England Playaz – Arguably the tourneys best defender, Pate was a force up top on the trapping press defense. His long and active hands, coupled with his quick feet, made him a challenge, particularly at 6-foot-3, for opposing guards. The New Hampton product also was a factor on the offensive end, though oftentimes his points came as a result of a well-executed play, timely cut for a layup or hustle play that resulted in a bucket.
Jarred Reuter – New England Playaz – While Reuter’s footwork and offensive post moves are well-documented and did not disappoint this weekend, it was his passing abilities which stood out most. Reuter seamlessly adapted to the frontcourt addition of Lydon; the two combined on a couple of nice passing plays that resulted in layups/dunks for Lydon. In addition, Reuter continues to prove that no matter how athletic his opponent, he has the know-how and physique to neutralize his matchup and get favorable shot attempts.
Ryan Roach – South Shore Wolfpack – Roach did an excellent job of balancing his own offensive opportunities, including a couple nice drives and some high-percentage perimeter shooting, with ensuring he involved his teammates. Though the Wolfpack don’t boast the athleticism of some other teams, they know how to run an offense that relies on solid screening and constant motion. As the team’s floor general, the 5-foot-11 point guard was a key factor in advancing to the National title game.
Aaron Swenson – Middlesex Magic – Another undersized point guard (5-foot-10), Swenson is the de factor leader of a Magic squad that went 3-1. He repeatedly found his way into the lane on offense for layups or, more often, to kick out to a teammate for an open jumper. Swenson does the little things that help his team win: track down a loose ball, make a key pass that sets up an assist, or apply on-ball defensive pressure on the opponent’s point guard. Though not always measurable, they are intangibles that help a team win.
Isaac Vann – USAD – At 6-foot-5 and with an above-average vertical, Vann almost always looks to finish above the rim. And despite a few hard falls after being fouled, the long and athletic slasher continued to stay aggressive and fearless when taking it to the basket. When his defender sagged, Vann was not shy about knocking down a few perimeter shots. Still, he is a high-flyer who is best suited in an up temp offense until he can bulk up his frame. Vann will want to do so, however, without sacrificing the lateral quickness and active hands which make him a potential lockdown defender.
Dizel Wright – Mass Bulls Elite – Wright played with the usually efficiency that has become his trademark at Putnam Vocational (Springfield, MA): solid shot selection, crisp passing and few turnovers. Besides providing a consistent perimeter shooting threat, the 6-foot-1 guard was a factor in transition. His upper body strength and quickness allowed him to get into the lane with ease and finish after contact. With deceptive length, Wright knows how to use his body and position himself so that bigger players don’t alter his shots.
Paul Lazdowski can be followed on Twitter @plazdow