Yags’ Point Forward - Hoop Group FAA Recap
Some of the nation’s top young prospects packed the Albright College dorms this weekend in Reading, PA for The Hoop Group’s Future All-American Camp, featuring prospects from the 2020 and 2021 classes. Here’s a look at how our young New England prospects made their presence felt throughout the 4-day event:
CLARKE, MARTIN & KEPNANG BRING HOME MVP HONORS
Terrence Clarke came into camp with an already-sterling reputation but cemented his status as one of the elite prospects in the National Class of 2021 by earning the 2017 Camp MVP Award. Clarke won the staff over by consistently winning head-to-head matchups against other top prospects by getting to the rim at will and showing off an improved jumper. In an environment that can create complacency amongst campers, Clarke embraced the opportunity to compete against the best and maintained his energy level through Sunday’s Top-20 All Star Game.
Clarke’s prodigious natural gifts and tireless work ethic will unanimously make him New England’s unanimous top 2021 prospect as the class starts their prep careers. The 6’6” rising freshman, scheduled to attend Rivers (MA), will immediately challenge himself against NEPSAC competition this fall. Clarke’s name will also be mentioned in the same breaths as other elite members of the national class, making him a marked man heading into the prep season. It all made this weekend’s performance a welcomed one, knowing that the young man already understands the importance of consistency and continuous improvement.
After announcing his plans to transfer to Master’s (CT) and reclassify to 2020 last week, Taelon Martin used Future All-American Camp to introduce himself as one of the most versatile and dynamic two-way prospects in the class. The 6’3” PG/Wing played at his own pace when he was asked to run the offense, showcased tighter ball-handling skills with smoother actions, used an improved jump shot to score at all three levels and gave scouts a glimpse of how disruptive he could be on the defensive end with his length and athleticism. Martin joined Clarke in the Top-20 Game and his efforts on both ends of the court earned him All Star Game MVP honors in the camp’s closing ceremony.
One of New England’s biggest prospects has also become one of the nation’s most improved players over the last 10 months. Franck Kepnang, a 6’10” big with a 7’4” wingspan from MacDuffie, raised the eyebrows of high-major college coaches with his elite size and motor during the PSA Cardinals run to the 15U Peach Jam Finals last month. Kepnang continued to prove that his motor is fueled by an endless desire to win and a genuine love of the game over the weekend. Kepnang’s inspired style, powerful athletic movements and absolute refusal to play with anything less than max effort at all times, make him an opposing team’s worst nightmare. Over the next few years, there will be games in which Kepnang simply breaks his opponent’s will to compete and I’m personally looking forward to watching every second of it.
While he’s still far from a finished product, the Cameroon-native is already a legitimate shot blocker and an effective rim-runner. Every other area of Kepnang’s game needs vast improvement. This is not news to him though. Kepnang is coachable, understands how far he has to go and has -most importantly- shown the pride, passion and work ethic necessary to make big improvements so far. During the “#21-#40” All Star Game, Kepnang even flashed an ability to push the ball up court and threw down a dunk in the open floor that left the entire gym questioning what they had just witnessed.
Kepnang’s refreshing energy was rewarded with the 2017 Hoop Group Future All American Camp’s “Mr. Hustle Award” while his entertaining style clearly made him deserving of the 2017 “#21-#40” All Star Game MVP Award. Kepnang is currently on pace to be a member of MacDuffie’s 2020 graduating class while his long-term developmental plans on the court have him as a prospect in the class of 2021.
OTHER LOCALS BREAKOUT, SHINE ON FAA STAGE
Hassan Diarra, a 6’2” PG/Wing who played last season at John Bowne in Queens and will be a member of Putnam Science’s 2020 class, rode into camp on a wave of D1 love and left the same way. Diarra earned scholarship offers from Iona, Quinnipiac and St Peter’s during the opening days after an impressive summer with the PSA Cardinals. His 6’7” wingspan has always allowed him to play bigger in the post and be extremely disruptive defensively but Diarra proved worthy of being a primary ball-handler for clips at the 2017 FAA Camp. He also played with a heightened level of confidence that was obviously a result of the time he’s put in working on his shot. St. Bonaventure became his latest D1 offer on Monday as a result. Diarra now heads to New England as a name to know, if you don’t already. If it sounds familiar that’s because his older brother Mamadou Diarra is currently a member of the UConn program after a stellar prep career at Putnam. The Bowne-to-Putnam Pipeline continues to run rich for head coach Tom Espinosa and assistant Josh Scraba.
Enoch Cheeks, a 6’3” PG/Wing heading to Kimball Union this fall, put his name on the prospect radar with his extraordinary bounce and explosive lateral athleticism. Cheeks, who played at Mount Pleasant (RI) this past season, has worked to bring his skillset to the same level as his athleticism over the past 8 months and the results are impressive. Playing alongside a few of the camps most highly-touted prospects every time he took the court, Cheeks made the most out of his touches. Without fail, Cheeks would make 2-3 plays per game that left fellow industry members looking through their rosters or asking for more information regarding his status. He’ll be an exciting one to watch in 2020.
Bol Akot followed the same script that has worked wonders throughout history: Know what you do and do what you know. Akot knows how to put the ball in the basket from all three levels and is making a case that there should be a 4th level added for his range. He is currently best described as a “6’ scoring point guard” but will have to take pride in distributing the ball, penetrating/probing to all areas of the floor and putting his teammates in a position to succeed in order to earn the last two words of that label. Akot will have the opportunity to take the reins of the Proctor program this season and handle them until his graduation in 2020.
Hamden’s Ronnie Ellis and New Hampton’s Dyondre Dominguez, both members of the 2020 class, were selected for the camp’s “#21-#40” All Star Game with Kepnang. Akot and Diarra were members of the Top-20 All Star Teams.