Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cartagena Aims To Leave Mark At Trinity Pawling

The number of high school players who pick up and transfer is astonishing these days.

One of the primary reasons for the uptick in transfers, however, is the growing number of prep programs throughout the country.

There is the allure of the prep school route, which many local HS coaches now have to compete against.

The idea of transferring to an away-from-home campus where you'll be bordered by top-tier talent and entertain a national schedule (with NCAA coaches often meandering through the stands) just seems more enticing.

Again, it's gotten to the point where local HS coaches are essentially recruiting against prep school coaches in keeping homegrown talent.

They are also competing against AAU coaches --major players in the suddenly popular process of shipping kids off to prep school.

Well before today's times, prep schools were mainly appealing for the opportunity of a post-graduate season. The advantages outweigh the costs.

Notre Dame Prep, for example, was instrumental in helping White Plains product and current Brooklyn Net Sean Kilpatrick prepare for the rigors of the college experience. Following a year in which White Plains ascended the national ranks, Kilpatrick did one prep year before entering a guard -laced Cincinnati program. The year of additional experience, plus a redshirt year, enabled him to author an all-American legacy at the Big East program.

For White Plains product Luis Cartagena, prep school was the best route to maximize all scholarship opportunities.

The 5-foot-11 guard, who earned All-Section and All-State honors at White Plains, earned a full ride to Trinity Pawling. The school will invest a year and full scholarship in Cartagena, a gritty combo guard who has gone from a slasher to a facilitator to slasher, facilitator, and shooter. Now converted to a 1,200 shots per day gym rat, Cartagena will offer immediate contributions during his one year stop up north.

Cartagena is the kid who left Yorktown with many pleading for him to consider staying, particularly following a week in which he dropped 29 on Hastings and then proceeded to score 30 points and rip 10 boards on Peekskill as a sophomore.

At White Plains, legendary head coach Spencer Mayfield eliminated Cartagena's demure side and forced him to lead by action and words.

The result was a 20 PPG senior year by Cartagena, who seized the leadership mantle in catapulting the Tigers to a berth in the Section 1 semifinal.

Cartagena On His Upcoming Role

I feel like I'll play a huge role heading into Trinity Pawling. Being that I'm a veteran and one of the post-grad guys, I've got the experience and leadership components to my game. Everyday during the summer, I've had two workouts to get me prepared for what's next.

On Growth

I believe that I've improved in every aspect of my game as far as hitting the jump shot with consistency and being a leader on the court. I would identify myself as a player-coach. Meaning, I've adjusted to being an extension of the coach but also competing with my brothers out there.

On The Prep Experience

Prep School, from my perspective, is a way to improve at anything you do. This gives you another chance to get ready for college. My purpose is to use this opportunity of  attending prep school to become all around better, on the court and in the classroom. The main goal is to walk away with a scholarship and also leave a positive impact on the community of Trinity Pawling. I want to be associated with Trinity Pawling and have a  hand in the success the program generates.

On his biggest influence

I would say my father definitely pushed me the most, not just basketball-wise but in learning how to be a man. Without him, I would never have gotten this far in life. He's led me in the right direction. The number of hours and the amount of money he's invested in me with basketball is mind blowing. It doesn't matter where the workouts or the games are, he made sure that I was there. With the faith of God I want to make sure I can give everything he gave to me back and more.

On The Summer Workload

My summer routine consists of waking up early in the morning and driving myself to Mount Vernon pumping iron at FASST with the help of the almighty coach Pete and coach Vin. After this, I go to Roosevelt HS in Yonkers and get shots up with my Godfather, coach Morris. Most of the time, I'm in the gym with my brother Brandon Redendo preparing for the future.

Burress To Finish What His Mother Started At S4G

Aaron Burress speaks and conducts himself with a noticeable maturity. He possesses a mindset and focus that's rather rare for an 18-year-old.

Burress views life and life's inevitable challenges with a deeper perspective than most.

The death of Burress' mother, the most traumatic experience of his young life, played a tremendous role in shaping this all-business mindset.

A 6-foot-5, 215-pound double double threat on the court, Burress values the constant emphasis his mother placed on both hard work and holding himself to a high standard.

And so, with his mother's memory constantly circulating through his mind, Burress will fight to attain a Division-1 scholarship during his post-grad year at Shooting 4 Greatness Academy.

His goal ultimately is to play four years and eventually pursue his trade on the professional level. Out of his commitment to keeping his mother's lasting legacy intact, this is the lofty expectation Burress will hold himself to.

"In my mother's memory, I'm trying to help as many people as I can," said Burress, a versatile threat and late bloomer on the NCAA recruiting market.

"I'm trying to work as hard as I can in every aspect in my post graduate season. With school I'm trying to get mainly all As and Bs, that's a major focus for me. I got all As and Bs this past year, so I want to continue that throughout college."

Burress will also dedicate his performance on the court to his mother, who helped push his evolution as a player.

"I'm trying to fulfill both of our dreams," he said.

Shooting 4 Greatness head coach Kyle Solomon has molded a number of talented and versatile guards in his years. Never, however, has Solomon had a kid of Burress' intellect and maturity walk through the door.

"You just don't see a kid like this very often in prep school because he's already qualified and he's a kid who took a chock full of honor courses," Solomon said of Burress.

"On the court, he's a man-child. He's got the body of a tight end and he's a grown man out there. He's got the ability to play anywhere from 1-3. He's a high flyer. He's also got the handle and outside shooting ability, so I'm really targeting him to get 16-17 points, eight rebounds, and about six assists per game. He's capable of that, in my eyes."

Consider Burress your prototype safe bet recruit. Playing for a Wakefield program which managed a meager five games last year, the ramped up competition at S4G and a hyper competitive national schedule influenced Burress' decision to go the prep route.

"Aaron's father has done a great job filling in with the mother's love," said Solomon, who rattled off ECU, Western Carolina, Delaware State, Jackson State and Burress' father's alma mater, Greensboro A & T, as potential NCAA destinations.

Solomon, an innovative trainer/coach known for taking borderline Division-1 recruits and turning them into mid-majors, believes Burress' best playing days are very much in front of him.

"He's Barack Obama off the court and an absolute warrior on it," Solomon deadpanned.

"He's trying to make a statement this year and prove to the city of Wake County that he could play the guard position. The unfortunate passing of his mother, he's using that as a battery. It has made him more hungry to pursue his dream and play for a scholarship and eventually play off it. Not only is he going to be successful on the court, but his demeanor and the manner in which he carries himself shows he's going to be successful off it as well."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Uno En Uno With: Keith Fagan, New Rochelle Assistant

ZS: How do you assess this year’s team based on experience and the lofty expectations hovering over the program, knowing you’ve got a title to defend as we break in 2016?

KF: The 2016 New Rochelle Huguenots, although led by a group from the class of 2018 are a veteran group, with four  two-way players from that class starting on last year’s Section 1 champ and State semi-finalist. 

Bolstered by a group of six more from that class that played a major role on a two-year undefeated junior varsity run, the cupboard is hardly bare for New Rochelle.

The Huguenots return starters at RB/HB/RT/RG and C, as well as NG/DT/OLB/ILB/SS. The Huguenots graduated talented players from the 2015 squad without a doubt, but the beat goes on for Head Coach Lou DiRienzo in 2016. These Huguenots should face little resistance until the Sectional Championship game outside of a week 3 matchup with Scarsdale (1 of only 3 Section 1 Class AA teams to make the playoffs the last 7 years, New Ro and expected Sectional Championship game opponent John Jay East Fishkill are the others). Waiting for the Huguenots in the state playoffs should be the Goldbacks from Newburgh Free Academy in Section 9, hell-bent on revenge after losing to the Huguenots 21-20 in last year’s state quarterfinal matchup. With only 3 class AA teams on this side of the state, Sections 1, 2 and 9 rotate a bye every year into the state semi's.

Section 1 has the bye this year, so 1 victory outside that sectional title game would mean the 6th state title game appearance for Lou DiRienzo and the Huguenots since the 2000 season. 

No Class AA team in the State would have more State title appearances since the State went to a 5 class state playoff system in 1996.

ZS: Which position players are flushed into prominent roles this season?  Who will New Ro lean on for leadership?

KF: returning starters for the Huguenots are SR C/DT Denmar Wellington, SR OT Bailey Pilavdjian, JR TE/OLB Lloyd King, JR OLB Jonathan Saddler, JR HB/SS Romeo Holden, JR TB/ILB Jared Baron. Up from the JV and ready to announce their presences with authority are JR SE/FS Jaylin McGhee, JR DB Morgan Paul, QB/ILB Keion Jones-Hiland, JR SE/DB Myles Taylor, and OT/DT Rhain Allen. Add into that mix veteran players who contributed on last year’s team, SO TE/DT Khairi Manns, SR HB/DB Nashiem Hiland, SO TB/ILB Jordan Forrest, SR SE/DB Najee Bass, SO TB/ILB along with newcomer SO HB/DB Jayden Lambert, and the Huguenots are certainly not lacking in experience or talent.

ZS: What’s the strength of schedule like and which games have extra juice this fall?

KF: Unfortunately, the powers that be decided to end the five-year run of power scheduling, where teams are ranked in pre-season and scheduled accordingly, in favor of returning to a league structure. So, New Rochelle has league contests v.s.  Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck and White Plains. Non- league games vs north Rockland, Clarkstown South round out the 6 game regular season. A major upset would have to occur for New Ro to not to be 6-0 heading into the week 7 "qualifying round," where the anticipated #1 seeded Huguenots would face the #16 (out of a possible 20) seed. 

Since a #8 seed has never beaten a #1 seed, it's safe to say the Huguenots should walk into the section semi-finals. 

In an up year for New Rochelle, and a down year for section 1 Class AA, New Rochelle should not see a team that is able to stay within 3 TD's of these talented Huguenots until the state semi's/championship game.

ZS: What should fans anticipate as far as the system Coach D will employ? Any changes?

KF: The Huguenots have been running the same 3-4 defensive scheme for the last 20 years, and when you've averaged giving up a measly 8.7 ppg over that span, things won't change at all defensively for the Huguenots. 

According to Max Preps, the New Rochelle Huguenots have the #1 defense in the state, regardless of class, public or private, the last 10 years. 

Offensively the Huguenots will continue to expand on their hybrid wing-t (think Auburn, Ohio state) offense they've been running since 2013. 

Last year’s 27.8 ppg average was the highest offensive output for new Rochelle since the 2003-04 Ray Rice-led Huguenots that obliterated opponents on their way to back-to-back state championship game appearances.

ZS: Any true fan of Section 1 has vivid memories of the deadly Ray Rice/Geoff McDermott tandem and that memorable team. 

What can you say about Ray’s commitment and contributions to the New Rochelle program? Even during his days as a young and promising face of the NFL with Baltimore, it seems he made great contributions to his alma mater.

KF: Ray is amazing. From sponsoring the team with new uniforms every two years, springing surprises on the team constantly (like in 2012 before the state championship game when he bought every player and coach on the team Nike dry-fit t-shirts, sweat suits adorned with the new Ro fluer-di-lis, beats head phones and a Nike travel bag), to new weights and workout gear, to coming to practice weekly. He's constantly around the players, so much so that he's not "Ray Rice, superstar" to them, he's just Ray. I have two stories about Ray and the team.

ZS: Let’s Hear em

KF:  We were playing John Jay East Fishkill on opening day last year. Big game.  Week  1, under the lights at John Jay-EF. The whole state had their eyes on this game. We win 18-16, scoring a TD with :30 left to win it.

 After the game, Ray is mobbed by what seemed like 200 fans clamoring for an autograph and "selfies" with Ray. So, as my WR who caught the game winning 45 yd TD pass and I walk off the field, the kid says to me, "Coach, why aren't they mugging me, I caught the game winner, he's just Ray."

The second story was last year as well. We are playing Saratoga Springs in the State Semifinal, winner goes to the dome to play in the Chip. SS has this huge, 6'2" 250, 4.5 running D1 RB named Dakota Harvey who made a killing all year cutting back against the grain when running Zone. I coach the DL, so I wanted to make sure the DL on backside pursuit stayed in their lane and didn't allow the cut back. So I take the ball and try and simulate what this kid from Saratoga was doing.

Ray took one look at my sorry behind trying to simulate Harvey, he came over, and having watched the film knew the kind of back Harvey was, proceeded to give scout team RB looks to the DL. Needless to say he still has it, and was just purely amazing at running the ball. We held Harvey to his season low rushing total, no doubt because our kids faces a better back in practice than a D1 Running back!

ZS: Knowing the mistake Ray made, knowing how it tarnished his golden image, yet also knowing how much he has done to help prevent others from such a mistake, where do you see him going in the next few years? 

As unfortunate as it is, the NFL has obviously seen worse from guys. Yet these guys have  been given a second and third chance. Will the NFL take him off the blackball list or what coach?

KF: Here's the thing about Ray. I know he messed up, you know he messed up, but most importantly he knows he messed up. 

He and Janay were in a bad place in their relationship, and although it never previously was physical between the two of them, there were certainly disrespectful treatment by both of them towards each other.

Well, Ray learned from his HS coach and the guy Ray considers a father Lou DiRienzo, there is only three things you can do when you make a mistake; Admit it, learn from it, and take steps to never repeat it. Well, Ray has done all three, and is a better man, husband and father because of it. Here’s the thing about his "non-signing" in the NFL.

All 32 owners are cowards, hypocrites and liars.

And here's why I say that. They are cowards because we all know the media fire storm that will immediately hit the team that finally does the right thing and signs Ray. What better opportunity to shine the light on the dirty little secret the NFL refuses to acknowledge and that is the nasty nature of domestic violence in this country? 20 people every minute are victims of intimate partner violence in America. 20 PEOPLE EVERY MINUTE!

So, instead of acting like a bunch of ostrich with their billionaire heads buried in the sand, why not take a stand, get behind the guy that is trying to do everything in his power to raise awareness of this issue, who has taken every single step and then some that every expert of domestic violence says should be taken, be a leader in the community, sign Ray and use that to further the cause to stop domestic violence in this country!

 They are all hypocrites because they all say they want to win, they all say they'll do whatever they legally can to put the best product on the field, and then they choose not to sign a pro-bowl running back that is a proven 1,000 yard rusher, a back that has over 9,000 all-purpose yards in six seasons!

That is the very definition of a hypocrite. Say one thing, do another. And don't give me the "down side of his career" BS the NFL owners public relations team is desperately pushing to anyone who will listen. From 2009-2012 he averaged 1,266 yds rushing.

 In 2013, after being injured in week 2 with an injury that 99% of RB suffering the same injury have season ending surgery, Ray ran for 660 yards on basically one leg, so in my eyes he still maintained his 1,266 YD season average! If that's the "down side" of a career then I'll take those guys and win a Super Bowl. The owners are liars because no NFL team signing Ray has zero to do with football and 100% to do with NFL owners being cowards and hiding from controversy. Unless an owner steps up, stops hiding from the issue of domestic violence, wants to win more than he doesn't want to speak to the media, Ray won't get signed. But all it takes is 1. One owner that is brave.

One owner who has integrity, one owner that wants to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I'm choosing to think positively, and I continue to believe at some point in the very near future a true leader among the jelly fish that are the NFL owners will emerge and give Ray the second chance he had earned.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Unselfish Seaforth To Call His Own Number more in 2016-17

Widely regarded as a clone of current Gael Schadrac "Sed" Casimir, Iona-commit C.J. Seaforth is actually more of a pure passer.

While more adept at creating, Seaforth is seeking the assassin's instinct which flows naturally through the 5-foot-11 Casimir's veins.

The 6-foot Seaforth, now a senior at Hamden High, chose Iona over Fairfield and hometown Quinnipiac earlier this summer.

Seaforth averaged 21.5 points to lead Hamden, en route to a New Haven Register All-Area Selection.

Thriving with the speedball concept, the blurrish guard has become Hamden High's most promising prospect since the days of  Craig Benson (Quinnipiac) and Scott Burrell, the UConn product and professional who won an NBA championship with the 1998 Chicago Bulls.

Iona, the reigning MAAC tournament champion, has been a steady presence in the NCAA tournament.

The Gaels have churned out a wealth of high-caliber guards, Scottie Machado, Sean Armand, and A.J. English, to name a few.

Seaforth and Casimir played together on the AAU circuit with Stamford-based United Suns and Daughters.

"CJ might be a better passer than Sed, but Sed's probably got a little more killer in him than CJ," said Troy Bradford, who coached both on the AAU circuit.

"(Sed's) a quiet killer too, you won't even know it. At the end of the game he'll end up with about 35 or 36."

Using motivational maxims to illustrate his
point this past season, Bradford has reminded Seaforth that scoring at will gives his team the best chance to win.

"C.J. is almost unselfish to a fault," Bradford said.

"I've been on him and on him and on him to take games over. I've told him, 'at this point in the game, you being unselfish is not going to help us.' He's starting to get it. The last month, actually probably from May of the AAU season on, he got it. But, he would have games where he would have 30 and 40 and he would have 10 assists."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harrison's LaBarbera Racking Up Offers, Interest

Harrison point guard Avery LaBarbera grew up with a basketball all but glued to her fingertips.

She developed a natural feel for the game by the time she reached middle school, dissecting defenses with relative ease.

Her basketball IQ, deft handle, all-around scoring ability and skill-set as far as quarterbacking an offense garnered notice.

Now, the recruiting mail she was inundated with as a freshman and sophomore has turned into mid-major offers. Some of the nation's most prestigious academic programs are now steadily vying for her services on the basketball court.

Iona, Canisius, Holy Cross, and Marist have all put offers on the table. LaBarbera has significant family ties to Iona College and she grew up infatuated with the play of former Gael Scottie Machado.

LaBarbera's high academic profile and beyond-her-years playmaking acumen has become appealing to programs such as Columbia, Penn, Princeton, American, as well as Bucknell.

LaBarbera averaged 17.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.5 APG in Section 1/NYS Class A en route to earning ninth team all-state honors.

According to AAU coach Nick Volchok, LaBarbera's selflessness and quick growth in all facets of her game have resulted in increased Division-I attention.

"Her game just continues to evolve all around," said Volchok, the former Gorton sharpshooter.

"She sees the floor like no other kid on the court. Her IQ is amazing. She's been a great teammate. A great leader. She's put in better work on the defensive end. She just keeps getting better. The next phase for her is just going to be getting stronger."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Uno EN Uno With: T.J. Tibbs, Baruch Basketball

ZS: What are your fondest memories of the tournament run at Staten Island and how do you describe the feeling of being the local product representing your own city, giving Staten Island some visibility?

TT: My best memories are easily the faces of my teammates and our fans throughout the tournament.  I was fortunate to be a part of a real talented team from 1-17. We only played about 8.  My favorite memories are of our bench's reactions from some big shots and big moments. They were totally invested,  even though they knew they weren't going to play. That's what made us great. Being a local kid just made it so much better. We don't get a lot of recognition and for once we were able to be mentioned with perennial top national programs.

ZS: Point guards are always considered an extension of the coach. Having playmaking ability at the point, having Division-I experience under your belt, all of this essentially rendered you another coach out there on the court for Staten Island. Did this experience help shape your decision to become a coach?

TT: I've always known I would coach. My freshman year at Monmouth I was driving back home twice a week to coach an AAU team.

My junior year at CSI, I was also the Head Freshman Coach at Curtis High School. My Dad is a coach. It's in my blood. I've been very fortunate to have had tremendous coaches in my life who have had an impact on how I think the game. Nobody better than my Dad. Playing point guard and coaching to me goes hand and hand. I always wanted to try my hand at coaching college basketball. 

ZS: You played the game at the Division-I and also the Division-III level and were still able to launch a stable basketball-centric career. You were able to find the opportunities, basketball-wise, which elude many at the Division-I level. What advice would give to a young recruit out there who is maybe being underappreciated on the Division-I market and has the opportunity to ply his trade on the Division-II or Division-III market? What would you tell someone who is, like many of today's promising athletes, so bent on playing Division-I without considering other potential NCAA destinations?

TT: The most important thing nowadays is to go somewhere where you are wanted. Everyone has flaws in their game. There aren't too many can't-miss talents out there and all those guys are lottery picks. I never fault a kid competitively for wanting to play at the highest level, but in the end you should go somewhere where you will get a real opportunity and be able to grow. If you are a pro, you are a pro. They will find you.

 Going to school for free or extremely cheap should be the goal. Doesnt matter how good you look on a division 1 roster if you are averaging 3.3 minutes a game. That's why there are so many transfers.

ZS: How have you relished your experience at Baruch and in what direction is the program headed now?

TT: I have grown immensely as a basketball mind and coach at Baruch and all that credit goes to our Head Coach John Alesi.

He really respected my mind for the game before I came on staff and I admired his teams from when I played against them. John is great because he allows me to be me within his program. He trusts that I will put in the work necessary and help our program grow in every aspect. 

As far as our program goes, we expect to contend for our conference championship every year and have a chance to make a run in the tournament. Our core group of guys this year has bought into what we as coaches are trying to do and that has enabled us to make the last two championship games. Our program doesn't cheat any detail and we pride ourselves on earning everything we get. We want to be a regionally strong and a national contending program. 

ZS: How would you describe the day-to-day grind and responsibilities of being a coach and a recruiter in a city rife with young talent?

TT: College coaching is a lot about recruiting. What I love about Division-III is that we are able to be out recruiting all the time so, we get to see kids develop over the course of their HS careers and seasons.

We have to make sure we are identifying the right student-athlete for our program and then working hard to show them that being a part of our program is not a four- year decision, it's a 40 year decision. Recruiting is intense and competitive but being that our entire staff are former college basketball players, we love that aspect. 

Day to day it's all about executing Coach Alesi's vision for our program and making sure our current players are supported with school and life. Its not easy being a student-athlete at Baruch. These kids work their butts off. 

ZS: Describe the NBA draft process and how you became the unlikely draft prospect that you did...

TT: My junior year I declared for the draft, with the full intention of always coming back. It wasn't like it was now where almost everyone put their name in. I was one of about 50 underclassmen to do it. I wanted the chance for some NBA personnel to evaluate my game through film and get some feedback.

I also wanted to get some publicity for our school and program. A couple of teams reached out to my coach for film and had conversations with him. Some of the things they told him gave me a lot of confidence and also a good look into what I needed to improve. The Spurs were the most diligent throughout the process. The feedback I received allowed me to have the most productive offseason of my career. 

ZS: What kind of adversity did you face during your career? How did you answer to the odds stacked against you as an undersized NYC guard without the fanfare or hype of other high-profile New York guys at the time?

TT: I've never in my life felt like the way I played was fully appreciated. I was a pass first point guard who would put up 3-4 shots in a game if it didn't call for me to shoot. If someone else had it going I wasn't going to force shots to reach my average.

 Even in HS, my St. Peter's teams weren't very good but I felt like I could compete with the Brian McKenzies, Edgar Sosa's, James Feldeine's and Zamal Nixon's. 

I thought I was every bit as good as those guys. It made me really appreciate the process and took me on a path to where I was still able to become a pro and have opportunities to play overseas from an unknown Division 3 school.  I've always been overlooked at every step, but when you are on the same court as me it doesn't matter how many stars you have or what college you went to. You have to beat me and outwork me. 

ZS: How do you still challenge yourself everyday and use your own experience to cultivate a winning mindset in young players?

TT:  I'm the most competitive person you'll meet. I'm always trying to improve and get better. I hate losing more than I enjoy winning and I pride myself on being the most prepared coach that I can be. I don't talk to my players about anything regarding my own playing career.

 It's not relevant. I just try to give them the right information constantly in a way they can use it to be successful. I am also extremely honest which enables me to build strong relationships with our guys. Truth hurts sometimes but we are all men, we get over it. 

My job is to encourage our guys and push them to be a little better than they were the day before. That is what champions do. 

ZS: What is your current involvement beyond coaching and as far as becoming a continued reputable presence in the basketball community?

TT: Between helping run an AAU program, being a part owner of OneBasketball (top app on the App store) and running clinics for players, parents and coaches, things get busy.

 I just really love the game. I love being around kids and helping them learn about the game I love. I don't put myself out there as much as you should as a young coach but it is because I am really happy where I am at. I am so grateful that I was welcomed into the Baruch Basketball family.

 One day I will earn an opportunity to have my own program but for now I am focused on graduating our senior class and being a better coach than I was yesterday. 

Hadzic Well-Prepared For Bigger Role

Following a summer in which he averaged 17 PPG for the Florida Elite on the AAU circuit, Damir Hadzic is looking to author an encore at Conrad Academy in Orlando.

A 6-foot-8 stretch four type, Hadzic possesses a steady stroke from beyond the arc.

Hadzic's wowing 7-foot-1 wingspan renders him hard-to-guard at the prep level, as the Bosnian-born role player continues to put his weight on the Division-I scales.

 Hadzic, like highly-sought after high-major recruit LuGuentz Dort before him, has transferred to Conrad Academy from Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla.

Hadzic, who grew up in Italy, rattled off Bradley, Arkansas-Little Rock, Tennessee Tech, UMBC, and Utah Valley as potential NCAA suitors.

He's yet to schedule any visits, instead turning his attention to his beefed up defensive role at Conrad Academy this winter.

"I've improved on defense and I want to work on my defense more as my role increases," Hadzic said.

"I want to play harder. This year, I think is going to be a good year for us. We lost last year (at ACD) in the semi-finals to West Oaks. We want to revenge that this year and get to the championship."

Hadzic will also shoulder more responsibility on the defensive glass. He spent the summer adding bulk  to a once-leafy frame, working on vital aspects such as boxing out and providing increased physicality with wider bigs down low.

Conrad Academy head coach Shaun Wiseman is known to employ a souped-up, high-horsepower attack which emphasizes scoring between 7-17 seconds on the shot clock.

In addition to working harder on the glass, Hadzic vows to use those no longer slim and dainty arms to manipulate and change the trajectory of shots in the paint, where he'll be bordered by an influx of 7-foot and 6-foot-11 transfers this season.

Hadzic is also cognizant that he'll play a supplemental role to Dort, the bulldozing 6-foot-4 guard on which Conrad Academy will lean for leadership and beyond-his-years playmaking acumen.

"He's a leader again this year," Hadzic said. "He had his injury last season but he got back. I saw him playing in AAU, he was killing. So, he's gotten healthy and he'll be a leader again. I feel really confident playing with him. He knows how to pass the ball, he's extremely unselfish. He just flat out knows how to play."