Summer Superlatives Toughest Players
The third and final part of our Summer Superlatives series focuses on New England’s toughest competitors during the month of July.
Toughness can manifest itself in any number of ways. In fact, ESPN’s Jay Bilas just wrote an entire book on it. Probably the most common meaning relates to the level of physicality a player is willing to show during the course of a game. It can also reflect a player’s “motor” or the consistency with which they are able to distinguish themselves by how hard they play the game. Finally, it can also come in the form of mental toughness, when players show the ability to stay focused and sharp even in the face of great adversity.
With those most common examples in mind, here are some of the toughest customers we saw during the month of July:
Mike Auger, Mass Rivals – His name is virtually synonymous with the word after his performance this summer. Not only does he provide a physical presence inside the paint with his willingness to throw his body around but his effort hard never wavers, and that’s never more impressive than in the July when virtually everyone gets fatigued by the long month.
Jesse Bunting, Expressions Elite – He was a role player extraordinaire for Expressions all season long, and seemed to get better at each step along the way. He provides a physical force inside the lane, runs the court as hard as any big man we saw, rebounds in high volume, and finishes through contact with a combination of strength and athleticism.
Crew Ainge, New England Playaz – You won’t find a more consistently active guard in New England than Ainge. His energy level is a constant and he just seems to fly around the court, making things happen at every turn. We’ve often credited him for his improved skill, which is well deserved, but what separates him from other guards is just how hard he plays the game.
Tyshon Rogers, Connecticut Select – He’s on pace to break the all time scoring record in the city of Waterbury as a senior. This summer, he was probably Connecticut Select’s most consistent scorer, but was able to do so even while playing through injury all month long. It went under the radar because he showed no outward signs of injury, which is toughness personified.
Aaron Swenson, Middlsex Magic – When it comes to sacrificing one’s body for the good of the team, no one is more willing than Swenson. He took an incredible five charges in a single game during the month of July, and steadied the Magic’s ship from the point guard position all month long. When it comes to leadership and intangibles, there aren’t many better than Swenson.
Jayvon Pitts-Young, MB Nation –When Dustin Cole went down with his injury, Pitts-Young stepped right into the vacant point guard position and immediately asserted himself as the leader of the team. He proved himself capable of defending all five positions on the floor and a master of deflections while also rebounding bigger than he is, taking charges, and diving on loose balls.
Brendan Hill, BABC – A two-sport star, Hill’s hard-nosed approach is consistent with his success on the football field. His ability to be physical aggressive, and yet still highly intelligent on the floor, is a rare one. Combine that with the fact that he out performs bigger players in the lane and you know why he was a critical component of BABC’s latest Final Four run at AAU Nationals.
Kenny Grant, Sports U – The recent Rider pledge anchored the interior for one of Under Armour’s top national programs this summer. He has similar roots on the gridiron to Hill and his powerful frame and aggressive mentality are testaments to that. What’s further impressive is that he is disciplined enough to run, rebound, and defend without being worried about his individual offense.