New England Playaz 16’s Capture Joe Brown Title
By Phil Kasiecki | Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

New England Playaz 16’s Capture Joe Brown Title

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - New England teams and players made their mark at the Joe Brown Memorial Classic this weekend.  One team came out victorious along the way.

Just a few days after capturing the Hall of Fame National Invitational title, the New England Playaz came out on top in the 16-under division here.  After winning their pool, which included a big comeback win in overtime over Florida-based Marquis Daniels Showtime Elite, they held off a late charge from a good Long Island Lightning team in the semifinals to reach the title game against New Heights, which had its 15-under squad playing up and had just knocked off a very good Playaz team in their semifinal game.

The Playaz grabbed the lead early and gradually got it into double digits, taking a 27-16 halftime lead.  In the second half, the pace of the game slowed dramatically for a while, but the Playaz didn't slow down their play en route to a 52-39 win.  Leading the way in the title game was Nate Lubick (6'8" So. PF, Southboro (MA) St. Mark's School), who capped a solid weekend with 15 points, while Dartaye Ruffin (6'8" Jr. PF, Worcester (MA) Academy) added 13 and held down the fort inside with some good rebounding.

Lubick played away from the basket often, although one series that stood out was in the semifinal when he got several offensive boards before finally getting the stickback.  He shot the ball well from mid-range and long range and ran the floor well, which is also the source of a knock on him.  All too often, he seemed to release out in the open for a possible run-out instead of staying inside to rebound, which didn't help when a teammate didn't get the rebound or it got stolen.  Aside from that, however, he generally plays with the basketball I.Q. you would expect of a coach's son.

Ruffin has always had the body but not the game, and now it looks like his game is slowly coming around.  He rebounded well at both ends, including one play in the championship where he chased down a deep offensive rebound late in the game, and scored a few post field goals.

Jordan Williams (6'9" Jr. PF, Torrington (CT) High) was a load inside all weekend long, playing more physical basketball than he's shown before.  He has a big body and used it well, especially on the boards where he dominated at times and was a man inside.  He also ran the floor well and finished the break a couple of times.

Derrick Thomas (6'3" Jr. SG, Northfield (MA) Mt. Hermon) also had a nice weekend, scoring the ball well and also grabbing some rebounds from the backcourt.  Nyheem Sanders (6'2" Jr. PG-SG, Barrington (RI) St. Andrew's School) was a good complementary scorer as well, and his shots included a clutch three-pointer in the win over Showtime Elite.  Nadir Tharpe (5'11" So. PG, Worcester (MA) St. Peter Marian HS) played limited minutes in a couple of pool play games, but was better in the playoff rounds as he made some good passes and drove through the gaps to create.

A couple of other New England notes on the weekend:

Team Takeover was led by Devin Ebanks (6'8" Sr. SF, Oakdale (CT) St. Thomas More), who continues to look like one of the top players in the country.  Ebanks was simply unstoppable, even in his team's loss in the semifinals.  Not only did he rack up the points and especially in transition, but he also hit a clutch three-pointer that tied the game in regulation before it went to overtime.  More of a scorer than a shooter, he played like he wasn't going to be denied every time he tried to get to the basket.

The Rhode Island Young Bucks competed in the 16-under division and went 2-1.  That one loss was to the pool winner, however, as they had a chance to knock off the host Playaz before losing the game late.  The Playaz advanced to the playoff rounds, but the Young Bucks played well and got another nice showing from Cory Wright, Jr. (5'10" Jr. PG, Pawtucket (RI) St. Raphael's HS).  Wright went for 18 points in a later game and made a number of good passes, especially on the move.  Unfortunately, his teammates didn't cash a few of them in, but he continues to play well as a scoring point guard.

Phil Kasiecki is the managing editor for  To read more of Phil’s stories about both high school and college basketball please visit