Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Uno En Uno With: Hal Hughes, Scotland Campus Sports

ZS: What would you pinpoint as some of the key factors which led you to choose Hofstra?

HH: I really liked the destination. It really reminded me of home. It's New York, so there is a lot to like.

I love the head coach (Joe Mihalich), he's a great guy. The staff as a whole and the academics. It seemed like a really good system, so I thought it was the best decision.

ZS: How do you see your game evolving there and what time do you envision for yourself at that level?

HH: I want to be reliable in all facets of my game. I think they want me to play stretch big, stretch four.

So I want to get my shooting better, my ball handling better. Especially because playing against bigger guys all the time, I feel like I'm usually faster.

All the time, obviously not. But a lot of the time, I am. So if I can work to develop my left hand and finish bigger and get stronger, I reckon I'll be useful to the team.

ZS: How did your campus visit help influence your decision and which aspects of the program did you feel fit your style and make-up as a versatile four-man?

HH: I just liked the guys on the team. As a skinny guy, one thing I liked was the results they had in their roster. 

I'm trying to get bigger and seeing how they had these results in their players and building them up physically was interesting to me.

Justin Wright-Foreman, he's put on a lot of weight and muscle since he arrived there as a freshman.

He's gotten faster, increased his vertical and all of that. Their big man, apparently he was 210 pounds when he got there--now he's about 240.

So the results they have been able to produce in their players really intrigued me.

ZS: Like Taylor Downs before you, you subscribed to a multi-dimensional role while averaging 13.5 points, 7.0 boards, and 4.5 blocks under coach  (Blake) Kingsley at Scotland Campus Sports (Pa.) this past season.

Coach Kingsley often describes you as the spirit of the team's defense. How would you sum up your overall role this past season?

HH: When we started out I was really a stretch four. Just being the biggest guy on the team, I adjusted to playing a lot in the post.

I'm not going to lie we struggled guarding man to man on the perimeter at times. So my biggest role was just blocking shots. 

I basically had the role of a big man who at 6-10 shot three-pointers and played some face-up.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dennis Found Wichita State After Late Ascension

In signing with Wichita State, late blooming Class of 2018 guard Dexter Dennis ends a recruitment process which saw him ascend from little known low major prospect to a hotly pursued high major talent.

Buoyed by vertically explosive athleticism and a now reliable outside shot, Dennis was the scorer on whom Believe Prep Academy (TN) leaned heavily this season.

The Louisiana native used the post graduate season to polish aspects of his game such as his handle.

Dennis opened up more eyes and opportunities from the start, scoring 18 points on a series of drives and 3-pointers and above the rim finishes against Athletes Institute during the All American Jamboree in Apopka, Fla. back in October.

There were several games in which his scoring spurt-ability and personal runs broke it open.

Playing against consistent competition and high level Division-1 JUCOs helped propel Dennis' steadfast evolution.

The well-built guard became more active on the glass, transitioned to operating offense and applied sturdy shoulder to shoulder defense.

All of this enabled Dennis to shed the tag of "athlete" and avoid being pigeonholed as strictly an upside-heavy athlete.

Dennis' progression in the skill components turned offers from Nicholls State, IUPUI, Southern (La.), Eastern Michigan, Charleston Southern and Austin Peay into a decision between the core four of Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Kansas State, and Wichita State.

Speak to Dennis' coaches, you'll find the intangibles which cannot can be computed are the components which make him an entirely low risk prospect.

The fact that Dennis' heart weighs more than he does, along with the innate leadership qualities that are so rare in this era were equally appealing. Dennis, who averaged 23PPG as an all-state performer in Louisiana, carries a 3.8 GPA.

Wichita State also appears to be prioritizing Miami Christian (FL) point guard Neftali Alvarez.

The Puerto Rico product averaged double digits in assists this past season and turned in a quadruple double in a game.

Wichita State became another casualty of the annual transfer carousel when 3-point shooting guard Austin Reaves asked for his release.

Another fast rising prospect Wichita State has caught on to is Abdou N'Diaye of The Nation Prep in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

A smooth and mobile 6-foot-9 forward, N'Diaye is a stretch four who averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds under head coach Mike Woodbury this past season.

Adept in all facets of his multi-positional game, N'Diaye has become a consistent shooter from 20-feet out and beyond the arc.

 He's got the length and athletic aptitude to guard multiple positions.

Like Dennis before him, N'Diaye is a classic case of a late blooming prospect who brings a wealth of upside.

Gregg Marshall recently flew in on a private jet to assess N'Diaye, who they immediately plunked down down a scholarship for.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Seen and Witnessed Around NYC: Prospects

Larry Moreno, Brooklyn Law and Tech
Simply put, Moreno capped off an illustrious four-year career with the most eye opening performance on the biggest possible stage.

A gritty 6-foot, St. Francis N.Y.-bound guard who has compiled 2,000+ points in his career, Moreno was the engine that propelled the Jets to a thorough 83-57 trouncing of Theodore Roosevelt in the city championship.

Moreno carved into Theodore's defense on hard surges to the rim, finesse finishes, mid range jumpers, 3-pointers, and traditional 3-point plays.

During a decisive third quarter, Moreno's wide ranging offensive game and insatiable thirst for winning was the overwhelming factor.

While Moreno's timely scoring and ability to manufacture points at a torrid pace brought the little Brooklyn school big local and state-wide credibility, his passing and ability to quarterback a team are pivotal. Moreno sees the floor well and has developed a feel for timing and tendencies.

You would be hard-pressed to find many guards who entered a four year varsity career with lofty aspirations as a callow freshman and lived up to them every step of the way. Moreno did just that.

Joseph Pena, Brooklyn Law and Tech

A bigger guard at 6-foot-5, the southpaw has deep 3-point shooting ability and a knack for hustle points.  After being strictly a supplementary piece this past year, Pena will transition to the responsibility of go-to source.

With 2018 graduating claiming Moreno and 6-foot-5 senior strongman Victor Ogbo  (who averaged a double double), Pena will inherit a pivotal role. If he can develop a tighter handle and develop consistency as an off the dribble scorer, he'll have the necessary tools to savor a leadership role.

A key phase in his transition will be the development of a killer instinct, a component the aforementioned Moreno seemed to be born with.

Anthony Crillo, Bayside

The 6-foot guard has a smooth perimeter stroke and can manufacture points in a variety of ways. While his shooting touch has grown, an aspect in display at MTG in Brooklyn this past week, Crillo brings the most value as a game manager.

He's a shifty guard with effective handle and has a knack for finding the open man and making that fireball pass. This advanced feel for the game could enable him to inherit the driver's keys for Bayside.

The program will ride the youth movement in 2018-19. They return several young and unproven pieces and some veterans as well. They will look to bolster their frontline with additional pieces such as Jeremiah Taylor, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who has run with the program this bring. While his post game and back to the basket skill set is still developing, the wide and still growing big brings a wealth of potential.

Marquis Nowell, The Patrick School

The shifty 5-foot-8, 160-pound guard is aan embodiment of the toughness of a New York guard.

The transfer via Bishop Loughlin has the ability to break down a defense with an arsenal of one on one moves.

Similar to former Rice star Kemba Walker, Nowell can create and get hot in hurry. A number of manipulative moves and natural scoring ability coupled with stuffiness enable the four-star prospect to prosper.

R.J. Davis, Stepinac

The incremental improvement Davis has made from being an undersized freshman to a seasoned high scoring sophomore who can score in a variety of ways is astonishing.

Beyond his body transformation and packing significant muscle on a once toothpick frame, Davis has been a calming influence with the ball and proven crunch time scorer.

As a finisher he's got a crafty style and does not shy away from contact. This aspect of his game showed out in Glens Falls, where he knocked back a scalding 27-for-28 from the foul line in the federation champ Crusaders' final two games.

Davis scored 25 points and pulled down seven boards in Stepinac's 88-76 victory over South Shore in the federation championship.

Glen Anderson, Brooklyn Collegiate
The bullish 5-foot-9 guard showed an adeptness at driving into, through, and around defenders.

 Anderson is fearless and his knack for getting around defenders and getting to the rim with relative ease separates him from similar prospects of this style and make up.

With deft handle and a rugged approach, Anderson is finely tuned in all elements of his game.

A combination of strength, speed, and athleticism make him a stout on-ball defender.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Former Wright State Forward Broadens Opportunities With Cosmo

More so than ever, basketball programs at the prep and grassroots level are moving at a furious pace to incorporate international talent.

With the evolution of boarding schools and I-20 opportunities increasing, more and more programs are creating an overseas pipeline to upgrade their roster.

For Johann Mpondo, a brusing 6-foot-8 forward at Wright State in his heyday, opening doors to America for promising student-athlete athlete youth in Africa is a commitment of highest order.

For Mpondo, however, the vision goes way beyond basketball and competition and scholarships.

With his non-profit company Cosmo Basketball, Mpondo's focus is to continue steering promising youth to a better quality of life and opportunities which are non-existent in Africa.

"It all started about three years ago as I started helping kids from Cameroon find high schools in the United States," said Mpondo, who has been a figurehead in bringing recent camps and clinics in the Cameroon area.

"I enjoyed the process of helping materialize the vision and dreams they entertained. As we progressed I became involved with kids all over the continent and even Europe."

Mpondo's responsibility goes well beyond enabling the youth to find scholarship opportunities in the United States.

He helps acclimatize them to the American style of play, the rigors of the academic experience, and other challenges they will encounter during the process.

Cosmo products such as Aristide "Ari" Boya and Nik Elame serve as recent examples.

When they arrived in the United States one year and several months ago, both Boya and Elame were entirely unknown and unproven.

By refining their games while simultaneously schooling them on the intricacies of the American game, Mpondo was instrumental in the development.

The two blank canvasses on which Mpondo saw potential struggled to adapt at first.

Committing to a 12-month focus on the game, each made considerable progress.

Fast forward.

Boya, at 7-foot-1, is one of the country's most menacing shot blockers. He's a vertically explosive Class of 2019 big with athleticism tailor cut for the souped up rim to rim game.

Boya committed to Bradley this past summer, the first-ever recruit to commit to the program as a sophomore.

Boya began to attract high major attention from programs such as Baylor and UConn. Boya's relationship with Bradley assistant coach Drew Adams ultimately influenced his decision to commit to Bradley early.

Elame, a high motored and explosive 6-foot-3 guard, is sifting through offers from the likes of Santa Barbara and UTEP. He's improved as a hard attacking, bouncy Class of 2019 prospect.

Other Cosmo Basketball products, such as bullish 6-foot-7 forward Raymond Dieng of Inspire Prep (FL), are embracing prominent roles.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

TLAP Features Plenty Late Blooming Prospects, International and Local Flavor

Train Like A Pro Academy  (TLAP) is quickly evolving into a national brand in Port St. Lucie.

Bolstered by an exposure-heavy national schedule on the Grind Session circuit, a rigorous training schedule, and an academically enriched program, TLAP has increased its enrollment in 2017-18.

In yielding the prep basketball seed in football crazed South Florida, the program has attracted student-athletes  criss crossing the globe to quench an insatiable thirst for superior competition.

With the buy in process coming along, TLAP suddenly boasts an array of young prospects now beginning to blossom.

The program also has a number of upside heavy underclassmen waiting in the wings.

"The focus is always to broaden opportunities for these young men and make sure they have the visibility aspect in terms of playing against the best and being seen by college coaches," explained head coach and West Palm Beach native Louis Graham, who averaged 17 PPG at Georgia Southern in his heyday.

"I don't sugar coat it for them. We're a program that gets after it and is constantly held to a high standard."

The emergence of diamond in the rough  recruits such as Mohammed Youssef, a heady 6-foot-3 point guard who plays for the FIBA Egypt national team, has keyed the program's incremental improvement .

"He's a very crafty point guard who has exceptional on court awareness," Graham said of Youssef, who has garnered the interest of programs such as Western Kentucky and Winthrop.

A player who has generated similar significant Division-I interest is Eddie Davis.

At 6-feet-6 and having developed prolific scoring capabilities at the wing, Davis is piecing together a breakout season.

Davis torched Impact (Sarasota, Fla.) to the tune of 35 points. He followed this performance up with an identical 35-point game against DME Academy of Daytona Beach.

Davis dissected several junk defenses applied to him with a collection of hard drives, 3-pointers, stepbacks, and feathery 15-18 footers. With augmented strength and physicality, Davis has bulldozed several smaller defenders to the rim and finished with either hand.

TLAP has also tapped into the international market with a 6-foot-10 Center in Mohammed Abed-Hantous, a native of Tanzania.

"He's a giant kid at 16 years old I'll tell you that," explained Graham, who played against myriad behemoths during a career in both the NBA D-League and overseas.

"He likes contact and he's physical. He's about 210 pounds. He's got a good body on him and he has plenty of potential. If he invests his time the right way and continues to work at it, he has the attributes to be a very special player down the road. His upside is very high and coaches really recruit on potential now."

Graham also sees potential in Chris King, a knockdown shooter who has earned credibility as your quintessential glue guy.

"He is one of those kids that will do whatever is asked and just wants to win, without getting enamored with his individual performance," Graham said. He's a glue guy, similar to (Miami Heat forward) Udonis Haslem."

Poised guard play has been a pivotal factor mirroring the ascension of TLAP, which increased its strength of schedule this season.

The deft handle and active hands defensively from 6-foot-3 guard Mikail Woods has been pivotal.

"He's quick, fast, a feisty defender," Graham said of Woods, who has inherited some on-court ownership of the program this winter.

"They call him 'The General.' He's one of those kids that just has natural leadership capabilities and plays smart, composed, in your jersey defense at all times. He's an energizer and he's got a great handle on him."

Another backcourt player with similar high level defensive tactics, a motor, and immeasurable toughness is Brenlee Jansey.

"He's a very rugged little guard and an all around tough minded kid who has the potential to be a steal on the Division-II market," Graham said.

Jamal Ellick, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard with a knack for barreling into the rim and scoring, has been a consistent 20 PPG scorer.

"He's real crafty in transition," said Graham of the local Broward County native.

"He's a physical attacker with the way he gets to the rim and finishes through contact," Graham said.

American University and USC Upstate, among others, have expressed interest in Ellick.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Atlantic Upsets Lake Worth In Thriller

Kadeem Wilks took a deep breath and mentally shut out a raucous crowd at Lake Worth High School Friday.

With the pressure mounting and the crowd volume ratcheted up to eardrum-shattering crescendo, Wilks calmly knocked back the game-winning free throw with 6.8 seconds remaining.

Previously undefeated Lake Worth (17-1) misfired on their final shot attempt at the buzzer, as Atlantic survived in a pulsating 41-40 victory.

Rodwens Albert, a well-built Class of 2018 point guard, scored a team-best 16 points to propel Atlantic (8-6).

Albert reeled off a personal 7-0 run during an 11-3 third quarter spurt that gave Atlantic a 29-23 lead.

Atlantic erupted following a stagnant first half, one underscored by a five minute first quarter scoring drought.

Whether it was a key steal, assist, or a transition finish, Albert constantly had his hand in a pivotal play.

Albert's defensive energy was the factor which ultimately earned plaudits from Atlantic's coaching staff.

Atlantic forced Lake Worth into some tough shots, resulting in an irregular shooting performance for the Trojans.

No longer the unsung backup to Trent Frazier at Wellington, senior guard Jay Medor catalyzed the Trojans with 17 points.

Medor bucketed a stepback jumper and then fed a cutting Willie Razz to slice Atlantic's lead to 38-37 with 3:53 remaining.

It was Medor who knotted the game up at 40-40 on a pair of free throws with 17.1 ticks remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Wilks snaked along the baseline and drew a foul at the rim.

By hitting on the second free throw Wilks sealed it for Atlantic, which returns a key piece in 6-foot-8 forward R.J. Duhart next week.

Duhart was forced to serve a six-week suspension following back to back technical fouls during the Kreul Classic last month.

The decision to suspend Duhart was heavily scrutinized by Atlantic, as the athletic department has tried to appeal it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TPA'S Collum Is Starting To Garner Attention

As a 6-foot-8, 215-pound point guard, Tennessee Prep Academy's Antavion Collum possesses the integral ingredients to create significant matchup issues.

Through the first string of games and following a commendable performance at The Memphis Classic, Collum is averaging 31 points and 15 boards. With his ability to permeate the teeth of defenses, deliver deft dishes and rebound as effectively as a true big, the Class of 2019 Collum is a constant double-double threat. Don't be surprised to see him pile up a few triple doubles either.

He's deadly for his multi-faceted capabilities.

Memphis, Maryland, Florida, Kansas State, Iowa State, Murray State, UT-Martin and a handful of others have plunked down an offer for the big guard.

Collum visited Murray State last week. The true draw of Collum's trade is his ability to hit difficult, heavily contested shots in traffic and simultaneously finish in crafty fashion.

 He's developed a knack for angle bank shots. With the build of a wide receiver, he embraces the contact from rim protectors and can reel off points in a hurry at point-blank.

Should Collum develop into a knockdown threat, there could be limitless potential in his high-major stock.

In Tennessee Prep's loss to Believe Academy (TN) in the aforementioned Memphis Classic, the game's intriguing plot was an eyeball to eyeball duel between Collum and high-rising 6-foot-6 Believe guard Devan Cambridge.

Collum (27 points) and the hyper-athletic Cambridge (30 points) each turned in timely buckets in crunch time. With both players entrenched in a heated matchup, the level of play was amplified.

Freshmen transitioning to the rigors of college basketball often struggle with the physical demands required.

 Given Collum's advanced strength and  physicality applied in his confrontational defense, he'll likely circumvent the high school to NCAA growing pains prospects inevitably face.

As a sophomore, Collum played for former NBA player Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway at Memphis East. He spent time at Hardaway's house and even watched him as "Butch McCray" in the 1994 drama film Blue Chips, starring Nick Nolte and Shaq.

Collum has his own 1990s NBA ties. He is the cousin of legendary New York Knicks guard John Starks, a Madison Square Garden favorite lauded for his rugged style.