Rumble in the Bronx Saturday Recap
No Erik Murphy. No Nate Lubick. No Jason Morris. No problem. That was the story of the day for the New England Playaz as they won their pool and advanced to the gold bracket despite the fact that three of their best players were in Atlanta for Adidas Nation.
While the Playaz got contributions from a variety of players on Saturday, it was Austin Carroll and Jordan Williams who led the way. While Carroll is known by many as a shooter, it was his ability to pass the basketball that stood out in the team’s opening game of the day against the Columbia Ravens of Maryland. His decision making was superb in the open floor as he found teammates for easy baskets and also got the rim and finished himself when the defense dared him to do so. His ability to make those around him better was equally apparent in the half-court set as he passed well out of the pick and roll and when quickly reversing the ball along the perimeter. For good measure, he also knocked down a couple of three-pointers in the second half. Although no stats were available, we would guess that he finished with a double-double of points and assists.
Williams was clearly the team’s leading scorer. He appeared light on his feet and very active on both ends of the floor. He was rebounding out of his area and finishing at a very high rate around the rim, including a two-handed dunk over top of a contesting defender plus the foul. Williams has been playing well for several weeks now and seems to finally be getting used to the speed and athleticism of the AAU season (vs. the tempo of a high school game in Connecticut).
Nadir Tharpe, Dartaye Ruffin, and Jansy Cruz also played well for the Playaz. Tharpe continued to be a playmaker in the open floor and even began to hit his jumper in the second half. If he can do that on a consistent basis he will become an almost impossible guard. Ruffin is a bit of an unsung hero for this team since he isn’t a focal point of the offense but is active on both ends, rebounds the ball well, and gets to loose balls quickly. As for Cruz, he didn’t play to his ability in this game, but his return to the line-up gives the Playaz an added dimension along with some much needed depth in the backcourt.
Also winning their pool was the Expressions team. Kellen Cade was a standout today as he used his speed and quickness to score the ball and create shots for others while also doing a nice job on the glass and the defensive end of the floor.
While Expressions’ victory over the Connecticut Basketball Club on Friday night earned them first place, CBC’s comeback victory over D.C. Assault was one of the biggest stories of the day on Saturday and also put them in the silver bracket. Down by as many as 24 in the first half, CBC showed their offensive firepower in the second as they chipped away before finally taking the lead with two minutes left in the game.
Dominique Langston and Steven Samuels were both outstanding in the CBC backcourt. Langston was a scoring machine as he showed his complete offensive repertoire: knocking down three-pointers; bringing smaller defenders to the block; attacking off the dribble; and even showing a spin move inside the lane. Simply put, D.C. Assault had no answer for him and just couldn’t stop him.
Samuels was equally impressive as he was tremendous with the ball in his hands in the open court and also a playmaker on the defensive end of the floor. Most importantly, he got the job done down the stretch as he proved his ability to handle the ball, make good decisions, and create his own shot in the last two minutes of the game.
As good as Langston and Samuels were, CBC wouldn’t have been able to get the job done if it weren’t for some tremendous performances off the bench. Doug Soutar and Shawn Holley were both so instrumental that they earned their spots on the floor in the game’s final minutes. Holley also had one of the highlights of the day as he caught an alley-oop and finished with a two handed dunk in mid-air while being fouled with just over two minutes to play in the game.
Connecticut Select also played their way into the silver bracket by finishing second in their pool. In their first game of bracket play they knocked off one of New Jersey’s best teams in the Shoreshots. Josh Turner and newcomer Alex Francis formed a potent one-two punch finishing with 14 points a piece. Turner uses his size and length to methodically work his way into the lane before finishing with a variety of runners and floaters. Francis is just the opposite as his explosive first step and quick leaping ability allows him to blow right by defenders and finish above the rim. But this was a complete effort for Select as virtually everyone on the bench contributed. P.J. Santavenere made some big plays in the final 8 minutes as he knocked down two three-pointers and also came up with two important assists against the Shoreshots pressure.
Other News and Notes from Saturday:
• Expressions u16 team got a raw deal in their late night match-up with New Heights. They gave one of the nation’s best teams all they could handle, but unfortunately for both teams, a lack of control by the officials played a part in this outcome. Matt Brown and Rod Odom were particularly impressive for Expressions. Brown continues to shoot the ball well from the perimeter (in large part because he is making better decisions with his shot selection) which opens up driving lanes for this explosive and powerful athlete. It had been over a year since we had last seen Odom, and he has done a great job of cutting up his body and expanding his skill set. Ashton Watkins, Joe O’Shea, and Derick Beresford also played well.
• CBC and the New England Playaz u15 teams met up in a pool play game that featured many of the best freshmen in New England (most notably Alex Murphy, Andre Drummond, and Anthony Jernigan). No one particular player stole the show as CBC relied on a balanced offensive attack to earn the victory. Drummond had 12 points, several big dunks, and numerous blocked shots. Tavon Allen scored 11 showing his ambidextrous skill set and impressive athleticism, while also making plays at the defensive end of the floor. Jernigan broke people down off the dribble for 10 points and Mike Fraylon finished the break well and knocked down the open jumper for 9 points. Tyrus Weaver had a big first half for the Playaz, scoring 10 of his 12 points before the break.
• BABC South hung with the New York Panthers for the first half as Franklin High School’s Ryan Spencer knocked down four three-pointers in the first 16 minutes.
• New Heights u17, with their five New England prep school products, won their pool. Jovan Mitchell had a big day earning MVP honors in the team’s first game of the day.
• Lance Greene had 19 points and Alan Harris 15 in the Mass. Raiders match-up with Squash All Beef from Washington D.C. Both players were able to consistently make plays off the bounce, albeit in very different ways. Greene has a very tight handle and good quickness which allows him to break his defender down. Harris uses his size and length to his advantage as he has a very long first step and does a nice job of striding out and taking only one bounce en route to the rim.
• Tevin Baskin led his Gauchos squad into the gold bracket as well. The athletic forward appears to have bulked up some in recent months and continues to be among the nation’s best around the rim. His size and ability to defend the entire length of the floor makes him stand out as well.
• Kyle Callanan looked good with the Albany City Rocks u16 team. He ran his team, made good decisions with the ball, and showed some craftiness beyond his years.
• Although we unfortunatley never got a first hand look, the word in the Fordham gym on Saturday was that Joe Sharkey had played very well throughout the weekend with the New Heights u15 club.