ZG Finals - u17 Recap
Behind the balanced attack of Jared Terrell, Aaron Falzon and Jared Wilson-Frame – who also played with the u16 squad – Expressions Elite defeated Wayne PAL Wolfpack (NJ), 59-50, to capture the u17 varsity title at this weekend's Zero Gravity Finals.
The athleticism and depth of Expressions, who were without Abdul-Malik Abu, proved too much for a Wolfpack team that never led. Expressions went a perfect 6-0 on the weekend, including a 51-37 semis win over the Crew Ainge, Jared Reuter, Jeff Spellman-led New England Playaz team.
For the Wolfpack, guard Patrick Forsyth (Seton Hall Prep, NJ) showcased a nice offensive game with a strong handle, solid perimeter shooting and sound decision-making. Inside lefty big man Robbie Walsh kept things close with his high energy and hustle. Liam Connors’ three-point stroke, particularly from the corners, helped stretch the defense and allowed Juwan Carter (DePaul High, NJ) to penetrate using his explosive first step and reliable eight-foot jumper.
With a 60-48 victory, Long Island Lightning Wagner secured the u17 Division II crown over Benfield Ballers (MD). Casey Kelly and Jonah Kaplan, who play together at Oceanside High (NY), carried the scoring along with Greg Gerber (Bethpage High, NY). The Benfield Ballers, who were without 6-foot-7-inch Chris Lee until the finals, went to their big man early and often against the Lightning. Lee, who plays below the rim but possesses excellent hands and a soft touch around the basket, is drawing interest from the Naval Academy. He showed why he’ll be a solid player at the next level.
17u most impressive individual performances:
Aaron Falzon – Expressions Elite – Coming off a very strong spring that saw his recruitment take off, Falzon did more of the same this weekend as he led Expressions to another championship. Falzon can really shoot, and at his height that skill causes mismatch problems for many opposing teams. He also did a great job cleaning up the boards defensively, and made a lot of hustle plays that helped his team win.
Aaron Calixte – New England Playaz – If there was a tournament MVP, Calixte would be a strong choice because he does so many good things every time he takes the court. He is lightning quick with a very good handle, which allows him to get in the paint often, and, when he is there, make great reads to either finish, kick, or pass it to his bigs. Just as impressive was Calixte’s ability to defend in the full court. His quickness and agility gave opposing point guards problems all day, and also created turnovers and scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Jesse Bunting – Expressions Elite – With Abdul Malik-Abu absent, Bunting’s minutes increased; he made the most of the opportunity. Bunting, who will reclassify to the class of 2015 at Tabor next year, is a very active big man who always finds himself in the right place. He brings toughness and strength, and does a great job of playing his role. Also impressive was his sneaky athleticism. He converted a number of surprising plays above the rim.
Juwan Carter – Wayne PAL Wolfpack – As the catalyst to his team’s championship game run, Carter, an athletic scoring guard, attacked and finished over anyone standing between him and the hoop. Besides being a very good athlete, Carter also possesses great instincts and a knack for finishing tough plays in the lane. He hit shots in bunches and also scored by getting to the foul line early and often.
Jared Reuter – New England Playaz – Reuter posed his typical mismatch problems down low for most any team he played. He utilized both hands down low to finish at a high percentage around the hoop, and consistently used his big frame to carve out room wherever he needed it. The Playaz made it a priority to get him the ball often this weekend, and, for the most part, it worked out for them as Reuter usually made good decisions with the ball in his hands.
Jared Terrell – Expressions Elite – He is so physically gifted that he was effective all weekend by using his frame to punish his defenders. Terrell drives to the hoop like a running back, and quickly elevates to finish with ease at the rim. His physical driving game combines nicely with a smooth jump shot, especially with one or two dribbles in between. Coupled with highlight reel finishes in transition, it was another productive tournament for Terrell.
Malik Dare – NY City Rocks – The big man helped the City Rocks advance to the semifinals by using his strong frame to create space and finish down low. What Dare lacks in height, he makes up for in toughness and brute strength. He likes contact and seeks it, which allows him to draw fouls and earn free throw attempts. He also did a great job cleaning the glass on both ends for his undermanned squad.
Patrick Forsyth – Wayne PAL Wolfpack – He is very crafty and finds ways to score often when least expected. Forsyth changes speeds and direction very well, and has a good shot whenever opposing defenders go under the ball screens. He adeptly stops behind them and knocks down the uncontested shots. Forsyth saved his best performance for last as he almost singlehandedly kept his team in its finals game against Expressions.
Other 17u standouts:
Dimitri Floras – Expressions Elite – Floras was his usual self running the point for Expressions. He displayed great pace, and never looked rushed. He maintained a very tight handle and his feel for the game allowed him to get wherever he wanted on the court and to make effective plays involving his teammates.
Jared Wilson-Frame – Expression Elite – He played in both the u16 and u17 divisions, and looked good in both settings. As the day progressed, so too did Wilson-Frame’s production from beyond the three-point arc. He seemed to find better rhythm with each shot. When Wilson-Frame started connecting, he proved very difficult to stop because of his a good shot fake – which he used to get by defenders – and ability to finish in the paint.
Mike Schroback – Wayne PAL Wolfpack – A knockdown shooter, Schroback was crucial in the Wolfpack’s run to the championship game. Apart from hitting a number of perimeter shots, Schroback also played very hard defensively and contributed some key hustle plays.
Robbie Walsh – Wayne PAL Wolfpack – The active and raw big man had a good showing on Sunday as he had to battle a number of opposing big men, and did it well. The workmanlike lefty also showcased a soft touch around the basket.
Crew Ainge – New England Playaz – The little energy bug was hustling to make plays all over the court. Ainge has played well this spring, a trend that continued this past weekend. Undoubtedly one of the most improved players in New England, his game has morphed from being merely scrappy to a guard capable of breaking down his defender off-the-dribble and finishing in the lane. Ainge is also noticeably more aggressive offensively. It’s a welcome development for a talented player.
Nick Burton — MEB – The Mainer had a great game against New England Playaz. The versatile big man, who usually plays down low, also stepped out on a number of occasions; a shot he hit with regularity.