Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest - New England Recap
Several New England grassroots programs traveled to Pennsylvania for Hoop Group's annual Spring Jam Fest. Once again, New England programs faired well against stiff competition from the rest of the east coast.
The weekend started with all four New England Hoop Group Showcase League (HGSL) teams winning their respective showcase games on Friday night, as DC Blue Devils, Metro Boston, Middlesex Magic & Wrightway Skills all defeated their opponents in the 17U division. The successful weekend would continue into bracket play, as six New England-based programs found their way to the Sweet 16 of the 17U Elite division. RI Elite joined the four HGSL teams, and had college coaches following them all weekend. Tedrick Wilcox's athleticism was on full display, as he attacked the basket with reckless abandon and finished high above the rim. His lateral quickness allowed him to stay in front of whoever he was required to guard, as well. The final New England program in the Sweet 16 was Northeast Elite. Led behind 6'5 wing Arie Breakfield and 6'7 forward Jack Schaake, Northeast Elite's run was stopped by Metro Boston when they led 45-37 with 9 minutes left but unfortunately did not score until under 20 seconds left as they fell to Metro 61-50. Schaake finished with three double doubles on the weekend, Arie Breakfield led the team in scoring at 14.8 ppg while Cody Graham of Portsmouth HS hit several big threes throughout all weekend. Graham and Alex Tavares have seen steady recruitment from NESCAC level schools while Breakfield and Schaake have interest from NE-10, NEC and American East Conference schools.
Coming off a championship at the Pitt Jam Fest the weekend before, Middlesex Magic made it to the Final Four on this weekend. Tommy O'Neil's recruitment kept rising, with Air Force offering the 6'8 forward a scholarship over the weekend. His aggressiveness & assertiveness on offense have matched his talent, and he has proved difficult for opposing teams to stop over the past two weekends. Tyler Kolek turned in another solid weekend running the point & drilling perimeter shots for Middlesex, while Ben McPherron provided a boost with his toughness & physicality in the backcourt.
DC Blue Devils lost to the 17U eventual champion, Team Takeover, in the Elite 8, but still had several players that impressed. Kevin Constant was a consistent force all weekend, as he attacked gaps in the defense and finished at the rim effectively. Gob Gabriel continued his strong play from the perimeter, and both Bol Akot & Elliot Nelson were solid with the ball at the point while getting others involved both in the half court and full court.
Metro Boston, who also gave the eventual champion all they could handle in the Sweet 16, received very strong play from Tyrone Weeks. The lefty excelled in transition, but still showed an improving handle and perimeter shot, knocking down several corner 3-pointers as the tournament progressed. Travis Evee also stood out for Metro, as the 5'11 point guard is poised for a big summer. Weeks will do a post-graduate year at Woodstock Academy, while Evee recently announced he will do a post-graduate year at Vermont Academy.
Charles Coleman & Jordan Mason continued to pace Wrightway Skills. Coleman's range continues to improve, while Mason lit it up from inside and out. He is a threat to go off for 30 points in any game he plays, and you can bet tons of college coaches will be watching Wrightway throughout the summer.
There were several other New England products that impressed in the 17U division in PA. Tyler Thomas is a guard for PTT Elite that gets everyone involved in the offense with his court vision, but is more than capable of taking over a game with his scoring ability. Mike Rabinovich is an intriguing big man with his inside-out skill combination for Central Mass Swarm. Demarius Pitts, also for the Swarm, is an athletic wing who scores from all three levels, and is a must-see for a scholarship program looking for a 2018 scorer. Jalen Echevarria of Boston Warriors went off for eight 3-pointers in one of the more impressive individual games of the weekend, and any program looking for some size late in the recruitment process should look at Game 7 Sharks & Cheshire Academy big man Evan Goldberg.
Behind a strong team effort, Middlesex Magic also advanced to the Final Four in the 16U Platinum bracket, losing to the eventual champion 6th Man Warriors. George Smith & Will Dorion paced the Magic in what has been a great start to the spring.