Open Gym Spotlight Series - Jadon Archer
Jadon Archer is The Man this year.
He was the leader on the Fall AAU Circuit with RI Elite, including a ZG Beast of the East Varsity title. Transitioning into prep season, he has willed MacDuffie to fall success and carried their open gym efforts. He is a popular figure in his school community.
So it was no surprise that he took center stage at Nov. 2nd's NERR Open Gym Series at Clark University in Worcester.
"I thought he stood out in terms of maturity, leadership, and poise. It was very easy to notice him as the top guy there,” said Aaron Patterson, who is in his first year as head coach at the MacDuffie School, "He's a winner. He knows how to win."
Archer leads the team in wins in their fall open gym scrimmages. In the PJN Classic, a fall event MacDuffie participated in, but Patterson was not allowed to coach, the team was down 22 at halftime. Archer played the whole second half, and MacDuffie rallied to victory.
"I'm a two-way point guard," said Archer, "and I always look to win."
Archer brings a broad skill set to the table. Both he and his coach think he is a quality athlete. A shot-maker, they tell of his added distribution savvy this fall as well. And both believe he provides terrific value rebounding from the guard position. Archer even claims to model his game after Russell Westbrook.
Archer has greatly upped his physical prowess as his career has progressed.
"His skill-set wasn't a surprise because that's been well-known since he was an underclassman, but the developments he's made with his body were notable," said ESPN National Recruiting Analyst and NERR Founder Adam Finkelstein. "He looks much stronger and better able to play through contact."
Archer says he spends considerable time in the weight room. He enjoys squats and hopes improving his body will strengthen his ability to dunk and finish at the rim. He also embraces a fearless, attacking mentality on both sides of the ball while transitioning exclusively to the point guard position.
"He showed more of an ability to pass the ball and make plays for other people than I had seen in the past, not just in terms of a willingness to be unselfish, but to do so with an understanding of timing and spacing along with an ability to deliver balls on time and on target with either hand," said Finkelstein.
"Combine those things with his shot-making and ability to score the ball, and I really thought he had taken his game to the next level."
That may be a part of who the new Jadon Archer is. He wasn't always the leading guy. This spring, he was in a reserve role for a talented BABC AAU team. Last year at MacDuffie, he has had touted recruits like James Bouknight, Ismael Massoud, and Richard Springs, now at UConn, Wake Forest, and UConn, fronting the program's success. But now, in his postgrad year, it has been Archer's time to shine.
"They made me tougher," said Archer. "Going up against him (Bouknight) in practice and having to guard him made me realize how hard it is at the next level." Playing against star recruits like Sharife Cooper in the EYBL brought similar realizations.
"He's shown great leadership this year, both on the basketball court and in the school,” Patterson said, noting Archer’s efforts to make the team’s student-video-coordinator feel involved, making sure the court is cleaned after practice, and the underclassmen on the team are showing respect to their opponents.
"He wants to stand out for the right reasons."
He also wants to stand out on the court in his final year, hoping to win a NEPSAC Championship and impress recruiters. Patterson tasked him with that leading role. There is a lot of youth and inexperience at MacDuffie this year. The ball will be Archer's hands to run things. So far, Patterson is pleased with what Archer has shown in fall open gyms in terms of running a mature operation and offense.
"I think it comes naturally," said Archer, "Being a point guard, I've always liked to lead."
Leadership is a significant intangible, but hard skills have come along as well. Archer has continued to improve ballhandling and passing off the dribble. Patterson agrees with Finkelstein that Archer's instincts are now top-notch. When Patterson knew he would be becoming Archer's coach, he stressed a need to enhance his outside shooting. It is still a focal point of Archer's development, but Patterson is pleased that his range is now beyond the arc, and with consistency.
Archer says he hears positive feedback about his motor and how he gets his teammates involved. He also knows he needs to upgrade his shot from a distance and keep bettering himself.
Archer started his career at Enfield High School, his hometown public school. Looking back, he says his defense and focus on his physique have come a long way. The competition in the NEPSAC has forged better ballhandling and control of the game over time as well.
Patterson and Archer believe that he is a division one player and that running the show for MacDuffie this year will prove that.
"To me, he checks all the boxes," Patterson said. "If I'm a division one coach, I want him on my roster."
Archer is committed to going to school for free and removing that burden from his family, so while the stakes are undeniably high heading into his senior season, his current growth indicates his goals are all obtainable.
The best advice he's gotten: "Just keep going. There may be some days the motivation may feel like it's not there," Archer said, "Just keep going, and you'll get what you want."