Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Jared Grubb, Believe Prep Academy

ZS: How would you describe your career at South Laurel? Being the program's all-time leading scorer and the first-ever 2000-point scorer and having the wealth of experience that comes with being a five-year varsity player, how would you sum it up?

JG: It was definitely a unique experience. I think what stands out the most is having the trust of coach (Jeff) Davis. He gave me a lot of freedom to play my game and lead and I owe him for that.

In my first-ever game as a starter, I was a freshman. I wound up scoring 34 points. That moment really propelled me for the remainder of my career. During the next few years, since I had the experience factor I was able to be a leader. Beyond scoring, I looked to make my teammates better and facilitate. 

ZS: You initially committed to play football at Pikeville (KY) as a defensive back. What led you to change your decision and focus on basketball instead?

JG: I actually signed with Pikeville early. I was not opposed to playing two sports in college originally. Coach (Randy) Casey reached out to me about playing a post-grad year and attaining a Division-1 scholarship.

He actually told me his own story, how he arrived at Fork Union Military Academy with no offers and had eight offers by the time his post-graduate season ended. 

I was intrigued. I felt I was being overlooked by a lot of programs in Kentucky. 

ZS: How would you describe your role on this year's post-graduate team?

JG: We've got a lot of talent I feel. As a lead guard, I've got to do whatever is best for us to get the win. Whether it is scoring, dishing, or getting a key defensive stop.

Winning is always translatable to gaining scholarship offers and the more you win, the better your chances are.

ZS: Which aspects sold you on the program at Believe? 

JG: Knowing that I would be able to play on a highly-competitive team and surrounded by Division-1 talent. Also understanding the vision coach Casey and coach Tyson (Waterman) had for me here. You have to go where the system best fits you and of course where you will have the opportunity to be seen.

Tobler Thrives With Old School Mentality

Bullish, multi-dimensional, and barreling to the rim with nary a tinge of trepidation, 6-foot-5 guard/forward Damon Tobler showed sustainable relentlessness this weekend.

The underrated Tobler, now at Believe Prep Academy (TN) following a brief and forgettable stay at Montverde Academy (FL), scored 20 points on 11 shots during the post-grad program's 89-75 loss to Walters State on Friday.

While Tobler may be a relatively unknown on the recruiting market, several immeasurable intangibles make him appealing at the next level.

The physicality of his game was a necessity, especially as BPA buckled under early first half jitters. Stoked with confidence and initiating offense during critical junctures, Tobler put his versatile tool-set on display.

He knocked down deep jumpers. He knifed to the rim. He punched home one extravagant dunk through traffic, supplying energy and jolting the team into focus.

Tobler's advanced physical play and ability to snatch boards upfront was indicative of the toughness that parallels his game. While many of today's players are bone-thin, quick, and ferociously athletic, Tobler is very much a throwback with his football-basketball build and mentality.

In a game filled with heavy trash talk, staredowns and extra-curricular activity, Tobler was not afraid to talk trash or provide confrontational defense.

Believe Prep will certainly need this type of swagger this weekend. Tyson Waterman's team will play plenty-tough Mount Zion Academy in the hoops hotbed of Baltimore.

A major advocate of Tobler and the leadership qualities he has to offer is BPA coach Jason Moxley. Moxley, who coached at Pfeiffer, is the younger brother of former N.C. State assistant Rob Moxley.

Rob Moxley has long been recognized as one of the nation's elite recruiters, having secured high-end talent such as Greivis Vazquez (Maryland) and T.J. Warren.

Jason Moxley's son, BPA alum Andrew Moxley, is a deft shooting 5-foot-10 guard now at Georgetown College (KY) of the NAIA. So, it's fair to conclude he's got an eye for discovering and developing talent.

Tobler's BPA team will gauge their grit amongst a number of the nation's heavy hitters this winter.

 They will compete on the now expanded Grind Session and play in the Tark Classic in Las Vegas next month.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Believe's Cambridge Shows High Major Qualities At Swanny's Roundball Classic

Devan Cambridge took one dribble, ascended to the rim, and crushed a thunderous two-handed dunk during the second half of Believe Academy's win over Legacy Charter (S.C.) during Swanny's Roundball Review in Myrtle Beach this weekend.

The wowing display of freakish athleticism was indicative of the bouncy, explosiveness possessed by the 6-foot-6 guard forward. Cambridge, out of Nashville, Tenn., was on constant aerial watch throughout the afternoon.

Cambridge scored an efficient 13 points  (6-for-8 FG) during a 43-33 win over Covenant. He submitted 14 points during a loss to Bull City Prep (N.C.).

During the tournament finale, against a Legacy team which features a similar high-rising guard in Sharone Wright Jr. (son of the legendary Clemson guard), Cambridge scored a game-best 17 points.

The hyper-efficient and virtually unguardable component of Cambridge's theatrical above the rim game poses a threat for defenses. He's a precise lob pass away from an easy bucket whenever close to the rim.

This superior leaping ability, along with an advanced defensive skill-set has made Cambridge appealing to programs such as Georgia Tech and Auburn. Both programs have plunked down an offer for Cambridge, whose length and shot-blocking acumen along with his ability to turn teams over makes him a two-way gamer.

"He's one of the most gifted athletes I've been around in a long time, said Believe Prep's high school head coach Randy Casey, who has nurtured myriad All-State and All-American players in the Kentucky high school ranks and at No.1 nationally ranked UPike.

"Once we get him to where he's a knockdown shooter and he's able to defend multiple positions, we see him as a high-level and maybe an elite level college player. At 6-6, he's a shot-blocker. The thing about Devan, too, is the energy he brings and the fact that he's a great kid. He does everything that's asked of him with a smile."

As his game continues to develop and Cambridge relishes the role of lockup man, he'll be tasked with negating some of the country's top scorers.

Cambridge got an early whiff of this role when he applied pesky and confrontational defense on All American probable and USC-bound guard Elijah Weaver of Oldsmar Christian (FL).

Believe survived  a late Oldsmar rally for a 64-61 win against the reigning SIAA Florida state champ during Hoop Exchange's All American Jamboree in Apopka, FL.

Among those in Cambridge's corner and keeping tabs on his production this season is his older brother, Jalon Cambridge. The Cambridge brothers combined to average nearly 30 points while simultaneously leaving their respective statistical feats across the program record book at Pope John Paul II (TN). Jalon Cambridge generated headlines when he became just the seventh player in school history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. He would conclude his career as the program's second all time leading scorer.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Malcolm Nicholas, Believe Academy

ZS: Which programs have offered you thus far and who is beginning to knock on the door as far as expressing interest? 

MN: I received an offer from IUPUI. I spoke with Coach (Jason) Gardner for about an hour and he was a really cool guy. 

Eastern Michigan and UT-Chattanooga have offered. I've heard from USF, Jacksonville State, Jacksonville  (FL), and I spoke with Danny Manning and coach Jamill Jones at Wake Forest. South Carolina, my Godfather (Frank Martin) is the head coach there. He's basically told me if I continue to get better and do what I gotta do here, there will be an opportunity for me. Coach Martin actually coached with my father in high school, on a team that had Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. 

ZS: At Mater Academy, you played for an all-time great amongst South Florida coaches in Marcos "Shakey" Rodriguez. Being that he coached Frank Martin, he coached your father (Malcolm Nicholas) and he's piled up 600+ wins, it was a unique situation for you. How did you relish the experience? 

MN: Oh man. His knowledge of the game and just how much he knows is crazy. Every day was a learning experience under coach Rodroguez. Every day I stepped on the court I learned something new and picked something up that I could add to my game.

He ran a motion offense that gave me the freedom to score and create. 

ZS: Which components of your game are you working at to improve and what time do you envision during this post graduate season? 

MN: I'm looking to play the point in college so I'm focusing on using this year to get bigger and get stronger. I always felt my IQ on the court was pretty good and I saw the floor well, so playing the point and controlling the game fits in with my style.

I like to get people involved first and then when I need to go get a bucket I'll look to score. We've got a lot of guys who can play here and with high-level competition throughout the year here, there's always a challenge on our hands. 

ZS: Which aspects played into your decision to attend Believe and how did you wind up here?

MN: It's funny, when I was weighing my decisions I only had offers from Hartford and Canisius in Buffalo. Frank Martin spoke with me and told me it would be a great opportunity to take an additional year to develop. Frank basically placed me here. He reached out to coach Tyson (Waterman) about getting me in here and the rest is history. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Deondre Bourne, CGM Academy

ZS: In which ways do you envision yourself bettering your game and NCAA readiness this year? How Has CGM and the program's constant devotion to skill development enabled you to improve?

DB: I envision myself becoming better in every aspect of my life as far as my physicality, speed, and my education while being away from home on the West Coast at CGM Prep Academy.  Mandatorily, this process is all about development.  Back in high school, players only lifted weights and worked on their game because they had to. 

Post grad ball players, on the other hand, do this type of work because they need to in order to make it to the next level. Working with a group of guys who are all trying to earn a college scholarship brings the best out of me day in and day out, non-stop.

ZS: After piling up 2,190 career points in high school, you enter an environment with significantly better talent and most notably more competition. How do you adjust your game to this transition?

DB: Scoring so much was great, but it wasn't my main goal. I grew up looking at stats, so I focused on trying to surpass Lance Stephenson's record for New York City's most career points in high school. 

In order to do that, I needed to be mentally and physically prepared. This caused me to overly work on developing my game. I worked on my game at a high level to be ready for any task at hand, which is why I played with a national EYBL program in the PSA Cardinals. The Cardinals helped me adjust to every level of competition. So, entering this new environment shouldn't be so hard for me. 

ZS: Which schools have you been hearing from and which type of program do you ultimately see yourself winding up at?

DB: First entering high school, I was hearing from a lot of Ivy League and Patriot League schools. Conference-wise, I'm really liking the PAC-12.

ZS: You played against  (6-foot-9 forward) Abdou N'Diaye in high school in New York. What's it like now having him as a teammate in the same program and how would you describe the impact he's had at CGM thus far?

DB: Abdou is an energetic and talented player who anybody would love on their team. He runs the floor, he's great in transition, plays well inside-outside basketball and he's another big body for the program. We're both players willing to do whatever it takes to win. 

ZS: What would you pinpoint as the most advantageous aspects of taking a post-graduate year? How do you see yourself capitalizing on an additional year, especially given the level of coaching and competition? 

DB: After four years of high academic school work and earning an IB diploma, I felt it was time to work solely in basketball. After traveling to play Montverde Academy, Albany Academy, LUHI, and a few other Catholic schools throughout the years, I found it a bit strenuous going back to the dorms to do three hours of school work and additional studying.

By attending CGM, I can focus more on basketball. I can take advantage of coach Tony Miller's Division-1 coaching experience.  Running the mountains, going to the gym for 4-5 hours and being in the weight room every single day is the right decision to develop my game and my body. As far as competition goes, playing against and alongside close friends like Chieck Diallo, Mo Bamba, Jordan Tucker, and Hamidou Diallo and also working with trainers such as Jerry Powell, Chris Brickley, and Tommy Tempesta kept me on my A game. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dennis To Enhance Profile In Post Graduate Season

Pre-season performances don't tend to hold much juice as far as credibility.

Statistics soon fade into irrevelance. The experience is ultimately valued over the results. A sterling performance or a gaudy stuffing of the statistical book is whittled into meaningless material as soon as the season officially kicks off.

Yet it is these initial stages of the prep basketball campaign which tend to reveal who is who and who is capable of what.

And so Believe Academy's (TN) Dexter Dennis and his veteran poise in an 18-point performance during a loss to Athlete's Institute in the Hoop Exchange All American Jamboree in Florida last weekend elicits promise.

The 6-foot-5 Dennis took a hard dribble, levitated, seized the quality hang time and proceeded to punch home a thunderous one-handed dunk in the first quarter.

 Moments later, Dennis drilled a straight-away 3-pointer. He would again get free in transition for another powerful dunk which injected spirit into the arena.

Providing energy, two-way athleticism, and a readiness in knifing to the rack, Dennis was easily the best player on the court Sunday.

He even drew more attention than 6-foot-4, 200-pound Athlete's Institute guard Luguentz Dort.

Dort, who would commit to Arizona State just a few days after the tournament, averaged 24.5 PPG at The Conrad Academy (FL) as a junior.

Dennis entered Believe without the same lofty expectations as other more acclaimed recruits.

 In supplying immediate energy and sustaining the killer instinct that's hard to come by at the post-grad level, Dennis has taken the first steps in elevating his Division-1 profile.

As a senior at Baker last season, Dexter adapted to a role of multiplicity.  He was the primary stopper on the press. He crashed the boards and battled with bigger forwards in the trenches. While a slasher at heart, Dennis invested extra time in the gym to develop a dependable mid-range and beyond the arc game.

While Nicholls State offered Dennis during the embryonic stages of his recruitment and soon made him a priority, programs such as Lafayette, Northwestern State and Southern (LA) have become involved.

 UNC Asheville has offered recently and Pepperdine has expressed interest. IUPUI, with head coach Jason Gardner on hand in Athens, Tenn. on Monday, has offered.

"He's as good off the court as he is on it," said Believe Prep head coach Tyson Waterman, who starred at Winthrop.

"He's a special kid. He's an everyday guy who is steadily getting better. He's being missed right now, under the radar. He's a high-major player."

Dennis currently holds holds a 3.7 GPA. In showing out with vertical explosiveness and elite level athleticism, Dennis exemplifies an overlooked prospect who could make a late quantum leap in recruitment. A six-month window of prep basketball, which includes marquee matchups on The Grind Session, will be a considerable gauge of this.

"He's an elite level athlete, he puts his head on the rim at 6-5," said Brad Traina, the Associate Head Coach at Believe Prep.

"He has SEC, ACC potential with his level of athleticism."

Recruiting has forever been regarded as an inexact science. Every kid of Dennis' style and know-how can turn a corner on some of the country's massive stages.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nebraska Native Is Pleasant Surprise At Believe Academy

Most prep newcomers thrust into their first-ever meaningful minutes on an elevated stage are prone to jitters. Mistakes which tend to reveal their lack of experience at this ramped up level tend to rear their head. Yet for Believe Prep Academy's (TN) Jimma Gatwech, an unheralded recruit out of Nebraska, the transition came with little adjustment.

While the bone-thin guard has a ways to go physically, he showed poise and a prodigious above-the-rim game. Jimma stuck timely three-pointers, leaked out in transition, and showed nary a trace of trepidation going up against behemoth 7-foot rim protectors. Given his 6-foot-2, 155-pound frame, few would expect the dazzling displays of athleticism he's able to inject into head coach Randy Casey's lineup.

While the team is still establishing its identity and forging the pieces into a functional unit, the Class of 2019 Gatwech's pre-season impact has been felt throughout the program. He's a kid who can deliver a ferocious, momentum-swinging dunk.

Yet he's also displayed a "want it" factor in initiating and seizing what the defense gives him. These attributes should make the hyper-athletic source a key component on this year's Believe team, which will criss cross the country while entertaining a rigorous national schedule. This includes appearances in various Grind Session events.

Believe spent this past weekend at Scott Golden's Hoop Exchange All American Jamboree in Apopka, Fla. The poised play of Gatwech, combined with the end-to-end straitjacket defense provided by high-major prospect Devin Cambridge (Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech), were components propelling the program to a 64-63 upset of defending SIAA (FL) state champion Oldsmar Christian. Led by one of the nation's best point guards in left-handed playmaker Elijah Weaver (USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Villanova), Oldsmar has oceanic backcourt depth with mid-major prospect D.J. Mitchell as well as IPFW commit Tione Rollins, Jose Romero, and Braxton Bartlett.

The team features an experienced, proven frontcourt in South Florida-bound Michael Durr and 6-foot-11 Marcus Hopkins, who was recently offered by San Jose State and Alabama A & M. So, beating a team of this caliber on a pre-season stage of this magnitude pumps promise into an under the radar program. Oldsmar had many opportunities in this heated battle, but costly mistakes such as a blown dunk and several other missed shots resulted in an irregular performance.

Coachability, interchangeability, and wowing open court finishing are immeasurable intangibles that make Jimma an appealing Division-I prospect. His desire for a year round basketball focus and a rapid increase in training are what led him to Believe, which has a core of veteran coaches and an around the clock devotion to skill development. And while he may not pass the eye test just yet, the quality is there and the upside is certainly there.

If this weekend's performance is a portent of what is to come, Gatwech likely will not be an unknown for long. Assimilating to the physical demands and rigors of the NCAA level is a focus he must pay special devotion to. Yet the demure kid's focus, work rate, and flair for the big play have registered his presence leading into the 2017-18 campaign.