NPSI - Sunday Recap
Game of the Day: St. Thomas More 70 Tilton 66
In a match-up featuring two of the country’s most coveted underclassmen big-man prospects in Andre Drummond (2012) and Nerlens Noel (2013), perennial NEPSAC powers St. Thomas More and Tilton locked up in a contest littered with big-time athletes on both sides. Drummond would be up to the challenge early, being extremely physical with Noel on both ends and scoring over his left shoulder in post isolation situations on the block. After a vicious one-hand, put-back dunk from Tilton’s super freshman Wayne Selden, St. Thomas More would respond with a three from Fairfield-commit Adam Jones to take an early, 11-4 lead with four minutes gone in the first half. Maine-native Indiana Faithfull (seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists) would extend the Chancellors’ lead to nine, at 21-12, with a lay-up off a steal in transition, before Noel would answer with an interior bucket and a pair of free-throws to cut Tilton’s deficit to five with under nine minutes to play in the half. With Noel continuing to be a factor inside and Georges Niang, Selden, and Aaron Law all contributing offense with Drummond on the bench with two fouls, the Rams would storm back to within a point, at 28-27, with 4:46 remaining in the half, but Jarell Byrd would answer with a series of athletic finishes and prevent Tilton from taking anything more than a two-point lead, at 34-32, heading into the break.
With Tilton threatening to extend its lead to double-figures early in the second half, Niang would hit a three from the left wing to give the Rams a six point lead, at 41-35, before a two-hand, putback dunk from Drummond over Noel after his own missed free-throw would keep St. Thomas More within three with 16 minutes remaining. With Drummond continuing to produce with a variety of moves in traffic on the interior, a smooth, plus-one drive from Selden on the other end would give Tilton a two-point lead, at 51-49, but St. Thomas More’s Damion Lee would answer with a three on the ensuing possession to put him team up one, at 52-51, with10 minutes remaining.
Back-to-back threes from Roy Mabrey Lee put St. Thomas More up five, at 60-55, but a crafty bucket inside from Niang and a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Goodluck Okonoboh from Niang would pull Tilton back within one with just over 5:30 remaining. The Chancellor’s Indiana Faithful and Selden would trade threes on ensuing possessions, and, after a Tilton bucket to close the deficit to one, the two team’s would come up empty on multiple possessions to keep the St. Thomas More lead at three, at 65-62, with 1:30 left to play. Faithful would hit two big free-throws to extend the lead to five with under a minute to play, and, following more Chancellor free-throws and a couple late buckets from Tilton, St. Thomas more would eventually hang on for an impressive, 70-66 victory over the defending Class B champion and current AA-leading Rams.
Lee led St. Thomas More with 18 points on 7-13 shooting, to go along with 15 and four from Drummond and 12 points from Mabrey. Noel finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds to lead four Tilton players in double figures, with Niang adding 16 and seven and Selden and Okonoboh finishing with 14 and 10 respectively.
Eugene McCrory (CJEOTO)- A six-foot-eight wide-body on the interior with soft hands, active feet and deceptive bounce, McCrory (game-high 29 points, 12 rebounds) was scoring and rebounding in high volume against Summit Academy on Sunday, catching and finishing above the rim in traffic and beating people up the floor to score in transition. While he’s far from a finished product physically and has a tendency to take possessions off defensively, the former Seton Hall-commit’s unique combination of size and skill gives him tremendous upside as a versatile big capable of putting up numbers in a variety of ways.
AJ West (CJEOTO)- The leaner, more explosive half of CJEOTO’s prolific post tandem, the six-foot-eight forward was on the receiving end of several quality looks from McCrory from the high-post area and showed his ability to elevate quickly in traffic and finish above the rim. While he lacks a legitimate offensive skill-set that warrants major attention or double-teams on the block, West (23 points, 10-11 shooting), does significant damage with his high-rate of activity and natural athleticism around the rim and shows potential as a volume shot-blocker with quick vertical burst and efficient timing.
Trasahn Burrell (Summit Academy)- A bona fide high-major athlete with great length and tremendous bounce, the six-foot-five wing is a human highlight reel in the open floor, attacking the basket with long, fluid strides to finish in spectacular fashion well-above the rim. While his skill-set doesn’t currently match his elite brand of athleticism, Burrell showed signs of being a capable shooter from the perimeter and was a menace defensively pressuring the ball and getting out in passing lanes to cause deflections and ignite the break.
Johnnie Vassar (Lawrence Academy)- An explosive young point guard in the class of 2014, Vassar (13 points, 11 rebounds) features electrifying burst and a dynamic handle that allows him to shake defenders in the open floor and makes plays attacking the basket. Not yet a viable perimeter shooting threat, his elite playmaking ability as a supreme athlete will only be enhanced as he develops a greater understanding of how to play and become an effective facilitator in a structured environment. Defensively, Vassar shows potential as a game-changing, ball-hawking defender capable of not only locking down the opposing team’s primary ball-handler, but dictating pace in his favor by harassing people out of their comfort zones and forcing multiple turnovers in a hurry.
Dan Giovacchini (Lawrence Academy)- The Brown football-commit made shots for the second consecutive game on Sunday, mixing in a series of catch-and-shoot threes from the corners with strong finishes at the rim off quality looks from fellow Division I football-commit Marcus Grant. A tough, physical player who has been invited to join Jesse Agel’s basketball program as a preferred walk-on, Giovacchini (game-high 19 points) competes hard on both ends and features a scrappy, high-I.Q. quality that could make him a valued role player down the road for the Bears.
Jordan Gathers (Rise Academy)- Finishing with a game-high 19 points on 8-14 shooting en route to game-MVP honors in Rises’ win over Lawrence on Sunday, the six-foot-three wing knocked down shots from the perimeter with a fluid, catch-and-shoot release and drove the ball to the basket for a series of strong finishes over late-arriving help. A natural scorer who spaces himself well off dribble penetration to create room to get his shot, Gathers is a rangy, opportunistic defender who attacks passing lanes to create steals leading to easy buckets in transition.
Zach Chionuma (Marianapolis Prep)- The future Boston University Terrier was hitting shots from distance early in Sunday’s game with Nia Prep, showing off a pure stroke from behind the line and the ability to stop on a dime and pull-up off the dribble for a balanced mid-range jumper with good rise. Electric running downhill with the ball in his hands, Chionuma changes ends with the bounce as fast as any lead guard in the region and does a terrific job gathering himself at full speed and exploding off two feet with square shoulders to finish through contact at the rim.
Ousmane Drame (Marianapolis Prep)- The six-foot-seven, face-up big showed his versatility scoring the ball from multiple spots on the floor in Sunday’s loss to Nia, knocking down open shots out to 15 feet and utilizing a polished spin-move to get space for a soft lefty hook on the interior. While Drame’s (16 points, seven rebounds) ability to makes shots from the perimeter is part of what makes him such an intriguing prospect for Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore, he would be better served, at times, to force the issue with his superior size and length in the post and spend more time closer to the basket where he could do consistent damage finishing around the rim.
Shaquille Thomas (Nia Prep)- The most impressive athlete on the floor in Nia’s comeback victory over Marianapolis on Sunday, the six-foot-six , ultra-long, ultra-athletic wing showed off his elite finishing ability in transition, catching the ball above the room on passes from his running mate Kelvin Amayo to finish with flair from a variety of angles. Thomas was a monster on the glass, using his quick bounce around the rim to out-jump groups of defenders and finish with both hands, and, while his supreme athleticism is by far the most dynamic part of his game at this time, the Cincinnati-commit has a blossoming perimeter skill-set that could make him a special player for Mick Cronin and company down the road in the Big East.
Darrick Wood (Nia Prep)- A long, lean athlete on the perimeter with a nice handle and fluid stroke from three, the six-foot-two wing has a terrific feel and can create his own shot with ease off the bounce in the form of a feathery mid-range jumper or smooth finish at the rim. Always under control, Wood (18 points, 7-12 shooting) is a poised and confident with the rock in hand and made several big-time shots in the second half on Sunday that broke Marianapolis’ back and propelled Nia to a convincing, come-from-behind victory.
Andre Drummond (St. Thomas More)- The consensus top-ranked center in the national class of 2012 responded well early to his match-up with fellow stud big-man Nerlens Noel, showing noticeable physicality to establish space on the interior and score with a nice touch out to 10 feet. Plagued by foul trouble in the first half, Drummond (15 points, four rebounds) wasn’t a dominating force on the defensive end like he can be, but he demonstrated an aggressive streak, at times, in banging with Noel on the interior and taking the ball right at the imposing Tilton big to score when he worked to catch the ball on the block.
Damion Lee (St. Thomas More)- Lee (18 points) consistently stood out in his two performances at the event with how hard he plays and an improving perimeter jumper that is quickly becoming one of his strengths as a versatile offensive player. An elite athlete with a nice feel, Lee is dynamite scoring the ball in transition and, while he continues to become more polished offensively, the unsigned post-graduate is perhaps most impressive as a tenacious defender capable of guarding multiple positions and willing to do whatever it takes in his relentless pursuit of the ball.
Nerlens Noel (Tilton)- Noel (16 points, 15 rebounds) more than held his own in his highly-anticipated match-up with Drummond, responding well to the Connecticut big-man’s early initiation of physicality to score consistently around the rim and rebound the ball in high volume on both ends. While he failed to convert on any of his attempts from the elbow, the six-foot-ten center showed solid mechanics on his jumper out to 15 feet and, if he can ever add a consistent perimeter element to his already-productive offensive skill-set, he has all the tools to be one of the most devastating, two-way players ever to come out of New England.
Wayne Selden (Tilton)- Solid, but not spectacular, in Tilton’s loss to St. Thomas More on Sunday, the six-foot-four freshman had a sensational put-back dunk attacking the glass off a missed three-pointer from the weak side, but never really got into a consistent rhythm against a Chancellor squad that made an effort to crowd him at the arc and prevent him getting clean looks and ripping through for clean drives to the basket. One of the elite transition finishers in the region, regardless of class, Selden has a long way to go in terms of learning how to play efficiently in the half-court and moving without the ball to get open.
Michael Carter-Williams (St. Andrew’s)- New England’s premiere scorer was making shots from all over the floor on Sunday en route to the most impressive individual performance of the event, hitting from the behind the arc and driving the ball through traffic to finish acrobatically from a variety of angles at the rim. With such a long initial stride off his decisive first burst, Carter-Williams (39 points, 15 rebounds, 2011 NPSI MVP) is so difficult to keep out of the paint going downhill and, because defenders are forced to commit themselves so hard in one direction in an attempt to keep him in front, he could utilize a simple, pull-back cross more often in order to avoid congestion around the hoop and rise and fire cleanly from 12-15 feet.
Daishon Knight (MCI)- A stocky, strong lead guard, Knight (16 points, four rebounds) is an impressive athlete with a capable stroke from the perimeter who can take his man off the bounce with terrific quickness and a sharp, right-to-left cross. With a developing feel as a facilitator, the six-foot-one guard would fit nicely in a spread-it-out system where he was given the freedom to break his man down off the bounce and make plays going downhill towards the basket.
Omari Grier (MCI)- Despite shooting just 4-13 from three, Grier (14 points) showed the mark of a big-time shooter by taking and making tough shots that came at opportune times for the Huskies and kept them within striking distance against St. Andrew’s. A solid athlete, Grier would benefit greatly from a consistent use of a shot-fake to get hard-closing defenders in the air and create space for him to escape for a clean, mid-range jumper at the second level.
Joe Sharkey (Northfield Mount Hermon)- With Brown head coach Jesse Agel looking on, Sharkey was hitting shots from the perimeter in volume for the second consecutive day on Sunday, letting it fly off sharp ball reversal and using an efficient escape-dribble to create additional space for himself off curl action and pull up from 16 feet. The six-foot-four guard welcomes an accelerated pace and, while he is able to use his above-average size to facilitate plays with the ball in his hands, he can work on improving his shot selection in transition and continue to master the feel of leading the break as a pure, playmaking point guard.
Armani Cotton (Northfield Mount Hermon)- The future Yale Bulldog displayed terrific feel and versatile scoring ability in Northfield Mount Hermon’s convincing win over Worcester on Sunday, putting up 17 points and seven rebounds in a highly-efficient performance.
Tavon Allen (Worcester)- At his best going north-south in the open floor and using his tremendous athleticism to finish at the rim, the Drexel-commit has an unorthodox, but effective, game driving the ball to the basket and can make difficult shots with either hand from several angles. Without a legitimate perimeter skill-set, however, Allen demonstrates a suspect feel trying to create high-percentage offense for himself in structured environments, but his natural physical ability should allow for him to improve significantly under the direction of Bruiser Flint if he commits himself to becoming a more polished player.
Xavier Pollard (Winchendon)- Capping off a solid performance at the 2011 NPSI, the six-foot-two combo-guard made a variety of plays off the dribble in Sunday’s thrilling, buzzer-beating win over Canarias, showcasing a series of tight, creative crossover combinations to break his man down off the dribble and locate open teammates with sound decision-making. An explosive offensive talent who can also sit down and defend on the other end, Pollard has the ability to score and create in a variety of ways and impressed throughout the weekend with his developing feel for making positive, efficient plays with the ball in his hands.
Summit Academy (MI) 90 CJEOTO (NJ) 79
Rise Academy (PA) 71 Lawrence Academy (MA) 55
Alif Muhammad NIA School (NJ) 76 Marianapolis (CT) 62
St. Thomas More (CT) 70 Tilton (NH) 66
St. Andrew’s (RI) 74 Maine Central Institute (ME) 67
Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) 65 Worcester Academy (MA) 41
Winchendon School (MA) 47 Canarias Basketball Academy (SPAIN) 44