Yags’ Point Forward - Recapping the Peach Jam
New England was well-represented down in North Augusta, SC this past week, as five different Nike-sponsored squads carried area prospects on their rosters into the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. Here's a look at how they performed down south.
The Cardinals made the region's deepest run, losing in Sunday's championship game to a MOKAN Elite squad led by two of the country's best players, 6'10" wing Michael Porter Jr. and 6'1" point guard Trae Young. While teammates Mohamed Bamba and Quade Green justifiably garnered most of the major headlines, PSA wouldn't have made their run without the toughness and productivity from Commonwealth's Hasahn French and St Luke's Walter Whyte.
French was his usual tenacious self throughout the week, powering his way to the basket and snatching rebounds with his elite explosive leaping ability. With the Peach Jam officials being evaluated by their supervisors throughout pool play, there were times when opponents took advantage of French's brute strength and played to the officials in order to get him into foul trouble. Regardless, French was able to establish himself in matchups against Nike South Beach, where he finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, and Chicago's Mean Streets, finishing with 8 points, 5 boards and 3 blocks.
Whyte, whose stock has risen while he's played a Jack-of-All-Trades role with PSA, continued with his selflessness throughout pool play. His biggest game of the weekend statistically came against the NJ Playaz, when he scored 17 points, grabbed 5 boards, and dished out 2 assists in the final game before the single elimination playoffs began.
Both Whyte and French made their biggest impact in PSA's semi-final battle against Team Penny, a Memphis based squad featuring two of the nation's toughest and most productive big men in PJ Washington and Isaiah Stokes. PSA's usual defensive alignment employs the long, lithe, 6'11" Bamba defending the wing and offering backside help in the paint while 6'7" 230lb French bodies the opposing team's beefiest big man in the post. But PSA ran into some 1st half issues since both Washington and Stokes are north of 6'8" and 240lbs with diverse skillsets.
Washington showed off his inside/outside package and played the best ball of his career throughout the week. Stokes found his midrange jumper early on and gave PSA headaches on the boards. The duo opened things up for Team Penny's wings and PSA found itself facing a 20-point deficit early in the second half.
Green led the PSA charge and brought them back within 5 late in the game, which is when Team Penny's defense finally began keying on him and forcing other Cardinals to make plays. Enter Whyte and French.
Three voilently aggressive highlight reel dunks by French raised PSA's intensity level through the roof and brought the Peach Jam crowd to their feet. But French saved his biggest play for last. With PSA up one and under a minute to go, French stepped into the passing lane and forced a turnover, leading to Whyte drawing a foul in transition. Moments before, Whyte had driven into the lane and hit a foul line jumper to tie the game after the defensive hedged onto Bamba and French, leaving him wide open to rise up and drain a feathery 14-footer. Whyte calmly stepped to the line and knocked down both shots to give PSA a 3-point lead. A final defensive stand gave PSA the 2-point victory, sealed an epic 20-point comeback, and clinched a spot in the Peach Jam Championship Game.
The Cardinals ran into a scorching hot MOKAN team in the finals but it didn't take anything away from PSA's season or the efforts of the two New England products on their roster throughout the season. Both players' recruitment went to another level during the EYBL season and both will compete in upcoming elite camps throughout the summer.
French currently holds offers from dozens of high major programs and has made visits to St John's, St Louis, and Rutgers. Memphis became the latest major program to offer French yesterday and will most surely not be his last. Whyte has garnered interest from a variety of levels and has recently gone on unofficial visits to Davidson and Yale.
Expressions' only two losses during the 2016 Peach Jam came against MOKAN in pool play and PSA during the quarterfinals. The New England-based program flew somewhat under the radar throughout the week despite having four 2017 prospects in every major recruiting syndicate's national top-75.
South Kent's Tremont Waters led the charge for Expressions, assuming the pure point guard role that he'll be asked to play at the high major program of his choice. Waters showed off his shiftiness and elite range throughout the tourney, catching opposing guards both big and small off balance and getting his shot off at will. Waters was routinely watched by the coaching staffs from Duke, UConn, Kentucky, and Stanford while averaging 15.4 points, 5.2 assist, 5 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on the biggest stage.
Rivers' Jermaine Samuels used the 2016 Peach Jam to remind major college coaches of his versatility and ability to play at an extremely high level in whatever role is necessary. Expressions may have realized his value most when he wasn't on the court though. After playing a pivotal role and blowing up for some huge games in pool play, Samuels went down with an ankle injury late in a tied game against PSA. Expressions couldn't recover without Samuels and the PSA lead ballooned without his presence.
Samuels constantly stuffed the stat sheet down south, averaging 14.5 points, 8.5 boards, 2 assists and 1.5 steals in six games.
New Hampton's Kimani Lawrence continued raising his stock in front of the country's best college coaches and gave those in attendance several glimpses of his elite ability to finish in transition and through contact. Lawrence reeled off 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game and showed why he's one of the most sought after rising seniors in the nation.
It's reasonable to expect both Lawrence and Samuels to gain interest from the highest levels of college hoops going forward. Coaches from USC, Xavier, Butler, North Carolina, UConn, Duke, and Syracuse were in attendance for their games.
Commonwealth's Derrick Ellis gave Expressions instant energy off the bench and became a thorn in opponents side defensively as soon as he stepped onto the floor. His ability to get under taller guards and aggravate the living hell out of them is almost comical to watch at times. Ellis averaged 6 points, 3.5 boards, 2.2 assists, and 1 steal in pool play while routinely forcing some of the best guards in the nation into some horrible decisions.
After advancing past pool play with a 4-1 record, The RENS ran into a hot Team Penny squad that exploited their size advantage and eliminated the New York-based squad in the quarterfinals.
Putnam Science's Hamidou Diallo proved that he's worth the price of admission yet again, as he kept the Peach Jam crowd on their toes all weekend, anxiously awaiting a high wire act that can only be delivered by one player in the country. More importantly though, Diallo showed off better balance on his jumper and his special ability to rise up in traffic to hit midrange shots when opponents pack the paint against him.
Diallo finished the week averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.6 steals.
Vermont Academy's Jordan Nwora also played a pivotal part in the Rens success, both in transition and in a half court setting with his ability to hit the 3 and finish at the rack. Nwora wreaked havoc on the session's opening night with 25 points and 8 rebounds against E1T1 and 21 points, 4 boards, and 2 assists against CP3.
Nwora finished the weekend averaging just under 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.
BABC played their usually brand of rugged, hard-nosed basketball but finished 2-3 and didn't advance past pool play. The did however have one of the most consistently productive players in the entire Peach Jam with Vermont Academy's Marcus Santos-Silva.
Santos-Silva continued to prove that his ability to rebound the ball is genuinely elite and will not be affected by the level of opponent he plays. Whether it was a 27-point/9-rebound performance against E1T1, a 12-point/18-rebound paint domination against the Rens, 10-points/12-boards/5-assists against Philly's Team Final, 12-points/11-boards against Houston Hoops, or a steady 8-point/8-rebound output against Wendell Carter's CP3 squad, Santos-Silva simply brought it every single game and was an absolute menace in the post throughout the week.
Santos-Silva also showed off his creative passing ability and hit the open man on the perimeter whenever the baseline would be cut off or the paint was packed. He finished with Peach Jam averages of 13.8 points and 11.6 rebounds and was watched by the likes of Temple, Rutgers, and Boston College during the session.
Tilton post-grad Terrell Brown also continued to stake his claim as one of the region's most improved prospects. The 6'11" Brown is now a legit weapon from the top of the key and drains the straight away trey at a ridiculously high rate. Brown averaged 13.2 points, 5 boards, and 1.4 blocks, highlighted by a 22-point/12-rebound performance against Houston Hoops in BABC's finale.
Albany City Rocks
The City Rocks went 3-2 in pool play but lost out on a spot in the Peach Jam playoffs on a tiebreaker. Still, a few New England products built upon their already impressive EYBL seasons.
New Hampton's Anthony Gaines put together yet another string of games that proved the 6'4" wing could be a legitimate high-impact rebounder and lockdown perimeter defender, one of the truly unique prospect packages on the market. Gaines averaged 11.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2 steals during the Peach Jam, highlighted by a 16-point/18-rebound performance against Texas' Pro Skills squad. Gaines is set to visit George Washington again this summer while Providence, Northeastern, and Cincinnati are also in the mix for his services.
Northfield-Mt Hermon's Andrew Platek only cemented his status as an elite 3-point shooter with his performance at this year's Peach Jam. The underrated aspect of Platek's game is his ability to anticipate plays, take the correct angle, and step into the passing lane to wreak havoc. Platek was consistently amongst the leaders in steals throughout the EYBL season. After averaging 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2 steals last week, Platek can focus on his college choice as Butler, Harvard, North Carolina, Indiana, and Stanford are among the schools who have offered him.
NEW ENGLAND'S TOP-10 PEACH JAM PERFORMANCES
1. Hasahn French & Walter Whyte, PSA Cardinals vs Team Penny in Peach Jam Semifinals
The remainder of this list will only have one player at each spot but when two players essentially save their team from elimination and play equally huge roles, it's hard not to mention them together. It's also fitting considering the type of brotherhood bond coach Munch Williams has helped forge within his PSA program. Whyte and French combined for 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals in a 66-64 win, but their biggest impact was made late in the 2nd half of PSA's 20-point comeback. It was a special performance that was the perfect representation of each player's heart, competitive nature, and the elite intangibles that they each bring to the table. At one point in the final minute of the game, I turned to the guy I was sitting next to -who happened to be 2018 Westtown (PA) prospect Cameron Reddish's father- and pointed to my forearm. The hair was standing straight up and the chicken skin was in full effect.
2. Hamidou Diallo, NY RENS - 27 Pts, 13 Rebs, 2 Ast, 2 Stl vs BABC
Diallo showed off the entire package that makes him one of the nation's top-3 prospects, in this man's personal opinion. Diallo was locked in early, scoring from all three levels and using his elite athleticism to make his presence felt in every aspect of the game. Diallo's most impressive plays wasn't his breakaway left-handed windmill hammer dunk or his pull-up at the foul line in transition when BABC hustled down court to clog the paint, it was a sequence where he showed off his timing and second bounce ability while fully extended to snatch back-to-back rebounds and an eventual tip-in for two. The fact that it happened in front of coaching staffs from Duke, UConn, and Kentucky only made it that much more entertaining.
3. Marcus Santos-Silva, BABC - 27 Pts (10-13 FG, 7-9 FT), 9 Rebs, 2 As vs E1T1
This wont't be the only time you find Santos-Silva's name on this list and that's WITHOUT including his 10-point, 12-rebound, 5-assist effort against Philly's Team Final. Coaches from programs in the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC were all asking about Santos-Silva over the course of the weekend and it's for an obvious reason. Santos-Silva doesn't have the "sexy" look of an all-world basketball prospect with lean features or elite athleticism. Instead, he owns something exponentially more important: An Elite Understanding of How To Play The Game! Santos-Silva literally lays the groundwork on every possession, gaining great position and getting to where he wants to go instead of allowing the defender to make that decision for him. Defensively, he does make that decision for the opposing player and it enables him go to work on the boards. Easy buckets, hard fought tip-ins, and crafty lay-ins are the usual result.
4. Anthony Gaines, Albany City Rocks - 18 Pts, 16 Rebs, 4 Ast, 4 Stl vs Pro Skills (TX)
Gaines has become one of the most exciting two-way players in the entire EYBL and his energy, attitude, and tenacity makes an old, out-of-shape, unathletic white guy who never had any bounce like myself, want to go out on the floor, attack from the perimeter, and try to sky over the skyscrapers in the paint for a rebound. The big difference is that Gaines gets positive results when he attempts such a feat and his game against Pro a Skills was the best example of that. Eight of his rebounds came on the offensive end. EIGHT! Throw in his four steals and he personally gave the City Rocks twelve more possessions than their opponent. TWELVE! If you told any coach at any level that one player would give him 12 additional possessions in a single game, they would ask where they could find and sign that young man. Expect more and more college coaches to ask that question in regards to Gaines during the month of July.
5. Jermaine Samuels, Expressions - 17 Pts (7-12 FG, 3-5 FT), 16 Rebs, 3 Ast vs LV Prospects
With Kansas' Bill Self, UConn's Kevin Ollie, and Coach K and the Duke staff looking on from the sidelines, Samuels went to work against the Vegas Prospects star combo of 6'6" point guard Troy Brown and 6'6" wing Charles O'Bannon Jr. Samuels' biggest buckets and most violent rebounds seem to come when Expressions needed them the most. Whether he was making the perfect cut when the regular offense broke down or soaring above the trees in the paint grab one of his fourteen defensive boards to end a Vegas possession, Samuels was the star of the game and showed off a multitude of reasons to be excited for his future development.
6. Tremont Waters, Expressions - 21 Pts (5-9 FG, 9-12 FT, 2-3 3pt), 10 Rebs, 3 Ast vs King James
The epitome of Waters' attitude and his personal accountability is the fact that he was more upset about leaving 3 points on the board due to missed free throws than he was happy with an outstanding performance. It's that sort of never-settle-for-less approach that has made Waters such a talented player and will only help him succeed at the next level. In a must-win game for Expressions, Waters shined in the area of his game that is most underrated. He grabbed 10 rebounds, including 3 on the offensive end to give his team extended possessions. Waters combines an outstanding nose for the ball with a tenacious motor and explosive leaping ability to grab boards and start the break for his squad, many times leading to an easy transition bucket. There were once again 3-minute spans in which Waters simply took over the game and made Peach Jam his personal playground.
7. Jordan Nwora, NY RENS - 25 Pts (9-16 FG, 4-5 FT, 3-8 3pt), 8 Rebs vs E1T1
Put it this way: E1T1 isn't going to be upset if they never see another team with prospects from the Northeast again. Matter of fact, the team from Florida may now dread the style of basketball we play more than the winter weather we're hit with! Nwora went to work early and often in The RENS matchup with E1TI, using the attention being paid to his more ballyhooed teammates to get open in transition and in half court sets. Nwora connected from beyond the arch and on easy lay-ins, the two most efficient scoring areas on the court. He'll be a pleasure to watch in Vermont Academy's offense next season.
8. Hasahn French, PSA - 10 Pts (3-5 FG, 4-6 FT), 8 Rebounds, 3 Blk vs Nike South Beach
The numbers next to French's name hardly ever tell the story of the effect that his presence has on the game. His game against a Nike South Beach squad that included a red hot national prospect in Chaundee Brown and a player looking to reinvigorate his prospect profile in 7-footer Zach Brown was no different. With the game tied 41-41 at the half, French not only asserted himself on the offensive end (6 offensive boards) but began to physically dominate the paint on the defensive end as well. French would either keep his man far enough from the basket so teammate Mohamed Bamba could apply back side help with a rejection or punish his man to the point that he would no longer call for the ball and the ball would instead up in the hands of Bamba's man who would not see any better results. The two PSA studs would control the paint to the tune of a combined for 31 points, 22 rebounds (10 offensive), and 9 blocks in an 89-79 PSA win.
9. Marcus Santos-Silva, BABC - 12 Pts (5-7 FG, 2-3 FT), 18 Rebs, 2 Ast vs The RENS
Andy Borman had a simple game plan for his RENS team: Keep Santos-Silva off the boards. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, good luck with that. Not only is Santos-Silva powerfully built, extremely long (7-foot wingspan), and confident in his footwork, but he's about as easy to box out in the paint as a greased pig is to catch while you're wearing oven mitts on a rainy day. He's so crafty around the basket that a lot of his buckets come after opposing big men become content with their defensive position and think they've shut down every possible angle for Santos-Silva to score. The RENS a squeezed out a 59-54 victory but it wasn't until Santos-Silva exhausted both their players and coaching staff alike.
10. Terrell Brown, BABC - 22 Pts (10-14 FG, 2-3 FT), 12 Rebs, 2 Ast vs Houston Hoops
Brown didn't show off his improved range in this contest against a smaller Houston Hoops club, instead choosing to employ his baby hook and improved explosion to finish dump offs around the rack. If Brown can find a way to consistently combine this same sort of aggression with his aforementioned improved stroke from the top of the key, Tilton will have one of the most improved and productive big men in the New England area next season. Brown is making it easier and easier to dream on his ceiling as a 6'11" big with a dangerous outside stroke, and equally dangerous back-to-the-basket game, who can also patrol the paint and block shots on the defensive end. The glimpses of that player have been on display throughout the EYBL season for BABC and could be consistently witness during the '16-'17 NEPSAC season for Tilton.
YAGS' ALL-NEW ENGLAND 2016 EYBL TEAM
After a 3-plus month season against some of the top players in the country, here are my top EYBL performers from New England with their final EYBL stats included:
Hamidou Diallo, NY RENS/Putnam Science Academy
19.1 Points, 5.8 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1.6 Steals, 47% FG
Tremont Waters, Expressions/South Kent
13.4 Points, 5 Assists, 4 Rebounds, 2.1 Steals, 85% FT, 34% 3pt
Marcus Santos-Silva, BABC/Vermont Academy
12.8 Points, 9.8 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Block, 53% FG, 71% FT
Anthony Gaines, Albany City Rocks/New Hampton
14.7 Points, 9.4 Rebounds, 2.8 Assists, 1.7 Steals, 54% FG, 69% FT
Jordan Nwora, NY RENS/Vermont Academy
15 Points, 6.1 Rebounds, 44% FG, 76% FT, 37% 3pt
Kimani Lawrence, Expressions/New Hampton
14.6 points, 5.3 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 50% FG, 40% 3pt
Andrew Platek, Albany City Rocks/Northfield-Mt Hermon
12.3 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 2.2 Assists, 1.8 Steals, 45% FG, 78% FT, 39% 3pt
Jermaine Samuels, Expressions/Rivers School
13.6 Points, 6.9 Rebounds, 1.8 Assists, 1 Steal, 47% FG, 70% FT, 33% 3pt
Hasahn French, PSA Cardinals/Commonwealth Academy
7 Points, 7.5 Rebounds, 1.5 Blocks, 50% FG (11.5 PPG/11 RPG in 8 GP w/out Mo Bamba)
Terrell Brown, BABC/Tilton
11.6 Points, 5.8 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, 54% FG, 52% (13-25) 3pt