Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Madiaw Niang

ZS: How do you describe the feeling of to finally garnering a pair of offers? You’ve spoken with several Division-I coaches and generated a decent share of mid-major (and some high-major) interest since you first got to the United States in late November. How does it feel now to reap the rewards of adapting to the new environment?

MN: Wyoming was my first offer in May and now Stetson is my second offer. It feels as if I’m getting more exposure and that I’m getting the results of what I am working for. Since I’ve been here, I feel my game is getter really better. I have also been lifting more, becoming more of a ball handler, being able to score in different ways. I think this is a part of getting the right exposure. It is a good feeling to finally have the offers, but it reminds me I have to keep working.

ZS: At 6-foot-8, 200 pounds and some versatility to you, coaches are cognizant of the matchup difficulties you can potentially create at this level. Which aspects are you working on this summer? Which areas of your game can we anticipate improvement in heading into your senior year?

MN: Key things I’ve managed to improve on is my handle on the court. I’ve also been better at taking the right shots, not forcing shots. I’ve been able to work and improve at finishing hard and attacking the rim. Most importantly, I want to be the leader and have the toughness as a player. Really I need to show people that I can be a consistent force and have an impact in every game and stay focused. That would be key in getting to where I need to go. I also have become more vocal, communicating on defense and that’s a step in the right direction in becoming a leader. I know a leadership role is expected of me next year at Calusa Prep (Miami, FL).

ZS: With yourself, bullish guard Luguentz Dort, and 7-foot-1 Center Ari Boya, you guys have established a bit of a triumvirate. You guys are the team’s most experienced players and the most highly-acclaimed recruits. How do you lead by example and work together?

MN: I can say that myself and those two players, we talk more during the games and we know each other’s games and style of play best. That benefits us on the court. We try to make the job easy for us. Luguentz is great at setting Ari up with lobs and we all work together. Luguentz is a top player in the country, he’s ranked I believe no.24 on ESPN so it’s a great chance to play with a guy like that who has a number of things he brings that allows him to be so hard to guard. It’s been a blessing to be around them both and I try to learn what I can from them. Coach Derrick (De La Grana) has done a really good job of making us all mesh and helping us understand our role on the court. He knows so much and is always teaching me something new each day. I just try to soak it all up and get better.

ZS: Which programs have expressed interest in you and who have you been in steady contact with?

MD: FGCU, UMass, Murray State, Texas Tech, and South Florida are all schools that have been in contact with me. We will see where it goes from there and of course I’m hoping they offer soon. Stetson and Wyoming offered me after watching me play and they’ve shown a lot of love which I am grateful for.

ZS: What was the experience of playing in the CBA (Canaries Basketball Academy) in Spain? How did it prepare you for the speed and toughness that’s displayed every night in the SIAA in Florida?

MD: I was lucky to be around top players and learn from them. They pretty much made us work at all times. We practiced with the focus of a college team, we were on the same schedule as a college basketball team. There were plenty of superior, strong athletes all over. We put in a lot of work, early morning practices, early lifting sessions, so it helped me transition to high-level basketball in America.

ZS: You got an immediate whiff of high-level basketball when you got here to the United States, Madiaw. In fact, your first few games were in the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, a nationally recognized event in North Carolina. During that event you witnessed your teammate Austin Wiley (now at Auburn) score 20 points and grab 15 boards against Independence (N.C.). Then the next game, you witnessed Rasir Bolton scored 36 points and grab nine boards. How did those first two games show you what the level of play is like here in the states?

MD: It was really above what I expected so I had to adjust really quickly. One thing about me, I really don’t like to lose so I realized that I have to do everything I can to just help the team win. I've gotten more physical and put on weight. I've learned I have to always contribute given my size and length. That doesn’t always mean scoring. It means rebounding, negating who it is I am guarding, and doing the little details like taking a charge. So, I learned on the fly how to play to a quicker pace.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Turnback Tuesday: MOWWWWWWW

Imagine hearing a steady chorus of “meow,” with a silent “e.” All over the place. Starting really silent, then growing louder and LOUDER. Spreading quickly. Ear-shattering crescendo at one point. MOWWWWW….MOWWWWWW….Mowwww.....
These are the very sounds which emanate from South Western’s vibrant bullpen every time NJIT-bound pitcher Eric Moul is flushed into a significant moment. Or really, everytime he’s ready to deliver a pitch.
The senior left-hander ate off of the boundless energy his teammates supplied. Moul’s masterwork delivered the Mustangs’ 3-0 victory over Solanco in a District 3 second round playoff game at the Golden Mules field in rural Quarryville on Monday.
“The biggest thing is we try to have fun as a team,” said Mustangs’ head coach Mike Resetar, whose hyper-energetic squad earned a berth in the quarterfinals against Cedar Crest, a 3-1 winner over Cedar Cliff, on Thursday at a site to be determined.
“Let’s be realistic, baseball can be a boring game at times. We like to enforce some enthusiasm and keep out guys loose in the dugout. Some people like it, others don’t like it much. It really doesn’t help our performance, but if our guys are having fun and staying loose, we have no problem with that.”
Moul twirled a one-hitter through five innings. He was replaced by 6-foot-6 junior Parker Bean, who registered six painless outs, dashing any hopes of a Golden Mule comeback.
 Moul pounded the zone early and often. He got ahead of batters and induced routine groundouts and stress-free fly balls throughout the rain-pelted afternoon. The consistent blend of Moul’s curveball, changeup, and eventually a fastball negated Solanco, rendering their bats arctic.
Moul, who fanned three and issued three free passes, attributed extra time in the bullpen and a stout defense for the Mustangs’ success.
South Western feared the prospects of a rain delay or cancellation, as some torrential downpour pelted the Hanover area early in the afternoon.
]Several Mustang players dispatched their uniforms and sprinted out to their cars in shirtless fashion, snagging their bats and gloves before embarking on a two-hour bus ride. The Mustangs got lost, according to Moul, and were entangled in Amish paradise before the bus driver discovered the correct route.
“We were drenched by the time we got to the bus,” said Bean, who went 2-for-3, shanking a pair of doubles.  “I definitely felt comfortable at the plate. I got a good round of batting practice in. It was just a matter of staying relaxed out there, just trying to stay focused.”
The Mustangs’ frittered away that focus during the middle innings. South Western, which belted out six hits and was buoyed by a sacrifice fly from Tyler Harris and Bishop Elder, encountered difficulty on the base paths.
Solanco pulled off four pickoffs. The Mustangs were twice caught trying to snag bases.
“That’s good, because now it gives us something we need to really work on during practice,” said Resetar.
The Mustangs built a 2-0 lead when Keith Pappas took advantage of a lackadaisical and costly error. Pappas bunted safely and ended up bolting around the bases following a mishandled ball and errant throw by the first basemen.
“You don’t see that very often,” Resetar said. “I looked up and saw there was nobody standing at home plate. In that situation you just swing and bunt and just run your butt off.”
For Moul, who penned his Division-I letter of intent back in November of 2011, the shutout ball entailed acknowledging his limitations and simultaneously empowering his strengths. Moul usually doesn’t power past hitters, so he relied on a curveball that had plenty of bite. That, meshed in with a changeup, effectively handcuffed a potent lineup.
“I was mainly throwing my fastball and curveball,” said Moul, who executed a 1-2-3 fifth frame.
“They have a reputation for being a very good team, hitting-wise. I got most of my stuff going and worked on pounding the zone. I got their hitters to hit into my defense, which played great throughout. You’ve got to give them credit.” 
Solanco’s Mark Kreider labored through all seven innings. Kreider yielded six hits, two earned runs and walked two.
With his teammates continuously serenading him with the classic “Mowwwww” chant.
“I needed that kind of support especially being all the way out here,” said Moul.
“This field has that ‘middle of nowhere’ feel to it,” said Moul. “It was like playing in the ‘field of dreams.’”

Turnback Tuesday: Skrelja Shined With Point Forward Role

December 14, 2008:

For Brown University senior Chris Skrelja, the road to success has been about as smooth as a Providence-bound trip up I-95 in snow-blanketing conditions.

Skrelja, a 6-foot-6 point guard, has gone from frustrated freshman to significant senior starter.

“As a freshman, I honestly thought this point would never come,” said Skrelja, once the callow, unsung backup to sharpshooter Damon Huffman.

“A lot of things went wrong for me that year. I think it was a combination of me struggling with the new surroundings and also being a little homesick. My passion for the game really just wasn’t there.”

Skrelja remembers being on a short chain with then-coach Glen Miller (who has since moved on to traditional Ivy power UPenn) just like he remembers averaging a meager 3.3 points and playing just 13-14 minutes a night. He remembers the freshman jitters, the intense rushes of pre-game anxiety.

 He remembers the nights of shaky sleep, with thoughts about his role circulating his brain at a rapid speed. He remembers all the expectations heaped on him because of the stage he played on in high school. At Trinity Catholic (CT), Skrelja was a 3-point rainmaker flanked by Craig Austrie (UConn), Dave McClure (Duke), Mike Trimboli (Vermont), and a variety of others.

There were a few bright spots. The night he erupted for 19 points and 12 boards in a pulsating, signature victory over Harvard, for example. There was his Ivy League Rookie of the Week selection that followed. For the most part, however, freshman year was a struggle.

“The game is just so much faster in college,” said Skrelja, out of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.. “So, it was almost like a rude awakening for me.”

Fast forward to three years later.

A second team All-Ivy League selection who posted 8.4 points, 7.6 boards and 4.1 assists during the 2007-08 campaign, Skrelja has evolved into the face of the program.

He’s a team captain now, synonymous with versatility and a defensive role. He’s also a key source who Brown will feed in crunch time. A big picture of Skrelja, soaring to the basket with his heart speeding and eyes burning, is emblazoned on the cover of the team program.

Tremendously similar to former Holy Cross guard Torey “The Mayor” Thomas (who, like Skrelja, grew up in Westchester County and starred at Trinity Catholic), Skrelja lives out his senior year like the star of his own sitcom.

He engages in conversations with just about everyone – the hot dog man, security guard, and even a 10-year-old fan – en route to his first home game of the season. The student fan base knows Skrelja like a surrogate family member. After games, a big entourage of them wait around for the rangy Albanian kid, who played for the NYC-based Gauchos on the AAU circuit.

Students in the stands sport a replica of his no. 22 jersey. Off the court, Skrelja reminds people of game nights with the vivacious mindset of an event promoter.

He even manages to get the anti-athletic bookworms (who morph into different human beings when they embrace the hecklers within them)  into the seats of the Pizzitola Center. Skelja’s apartment is about 100 feet from this arena, so many post-practice hours are spent in these cozy confines.

It’s a good life. It’s also a life Skrelja will be bidding adieu to after this season. And that’s what makes him so hell-bent and hungry for success.

Having undergone the metamorphosis from off guard/small forward to point forward, Skrelja is flushed into a leadership role this year. Controlling the tempo and quarterbacking the offense and kick-starting the break fresh off the defensive board are responsibilities Skrelja has subscribed to.

“Being a senior, coach trusts me with the ball. My role is to basically be a facilitator. This year I’m going to be more of a scorer than in previous years. I’m still going to have to be a well-rounded player, grabbing rebounds, finding the open man, playing tough defense,” he explained.

Skrelja is averaging nine points and five boards while shooting 49 percent from the floor this season. The transition to game manager role has allowed Skrelja to refine elements of his game and add new compartments to it.

The point forward has become a presence in the running game, operating an offense that features sophomore sniper Peter Sullivan, 6-foot-8 forward Matt Mullery (14.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg), and sophomore Adrian Williams. Williams, the son of Doug Williams, the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, has surfaced as a go-to-guy this season.

In an 80-73 win over Army, Skrelja erupted for 15 points while doling out a career-high 11 assists.

“Chris faces a lot of pressure. He has to dribble the ball and make all the right decisions,” said Brown coach Jesse Agel.

He made the right decision against Army. He whipped a pass to Matt Mullery for the go-ahead basket and sealed the deal with a pair of free throws. He had four assists down the stretch and scored on a crucial lay-in.

Skrelja’s sophomore year was marred by injuries. Skrelja suffered a stress fracture in his left foot prior to the first game of the 2006-07 campaign. It hampered him throughout the rollercoaster season.

During his junior year, Skrelja shot less and passed more, handing out assists like a frat house hands out cups of jungle juice.

He rectified a free throw shooting problem by switching his form up completely. Skrelja began shooting his freebies with one hand, bringing back a lost art mastered by guys like Don Nelson Sr. and former New York Knick Anthony Mason.

This summer, Skrelja was once again bitten by the injury bug. Two herniated discs in his back prevented him from logging any game action at all.

“You just get so frustrated,” Skrelja said. “You don’t realize how much you love the game and how much it means to you until you’re away from it.”

Following a dismal 3-5 start, Brown hopes to snap out of the funk as the Ivy League schedule inches closer.

For Skrelja, who played his first few Division-I basketball games at 17 and was pressed with the idea of doing a post-graduate season, time has zipped by at Brown.

 The team’s elder statesman underwent a self-revelation prior to the season. He realized this was it, everything that he worked for had come down to this season. The chances are this will be his last time to play basketball at this highly-competitive level with teammates he holds a knot-tight relationship with.

Skrelja certainly has no crystal ball, he’ll continue to hold himself to a lofty standard.

“I’ve always set standards for myself throughout high school and college,” said Skrelja.

“I’ve always had high goals, and this year is just about reaching those goals. Being a senior, this is it for me (at Brown). The most important goal is to win an Ivy League championship. Of course, every college player’s ultimate goal is to make it to the NCAA championship.”

After sailing short of the goal the previous year, Skrelja knows the onus to steer the big Brown bus deep into the playoffs is on him.

“Representing the team, it’s definitely an honor,” Skrelja said. “But with that comes a lot of responsibility. I know it’s up to me to lead this year. I’m excited for the responsibility.”

Role player no more, Skrelja holds serious expectations for a banner year and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

These are lofty goals Skrelja never could have considered during a sleep-deprived freshman year marred by uncertainty.

Turnback Tuesday: SK's Day

March 1, 2009:

A devout, lifelong St. John's fan, Jimmy Lorenzo finds himself frustrated at how the Johnnies struggle to keep local talent. It's not entirely on the coaching staff, he says. Homegrown talent tends to become enamored with the bigger name programs outside of the city rather than staying true to their home.

 While he understands that Norm Roberts and his staff have done a commendable job actively pursuing the city and country’s elite players, Hamptons legend Lorenzo says he’s waited far too long to revive the once prosperous program.

Lorenzo, the president of a Manhattan-based entertainment company, is a lifelong New Yorker and vividly recalls watching the late and legendary Malik Sealy, along with Chris Mullin light up MSG.

“Those were the days my friend, there were monstrous lines just to get into those games. And we were a real known high-profile program too. Remember the hilarious, classic scene in ‘Coming To America’ when Eddie Murphy is witnessing basketball for the first time in New York City? It’s no mistake that they chose a St. John’s game for the event. That just symbolizes what St. John's was at the time and what they meant to the city. They were, at that point, the toast of the town.”

"I'll tell you, it was better than going to see a Knick game. And allow me to remind you, the Knicks were actually good back then, bro! There were so many great players on those St.John's teams, watching the culture that Louie C created there was epic. They had the joint jumping. New York was buzzing."

Jimmy Lorenzo is also known as Jimmy Soul, the president of an entertainment company. He rose to local Long Island fame and fanfare from 1976-1996, when he was the legendary emcee “Jimmy Soul” at the Boardy Barn.

 And so Lorenzo's frustration probably compounded when Cincinnati-bound Sean Kilpatrick, an aggressive scorer and post-graduate player at the prestigious Notre Dame Prep (Mass.), opted out of his commitment to the Red Storm last spring.

Kilpatrick, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard, was sold on Mick Cronin's program after narrowing his choices down to Cincinatti and Providence.  Kilpatrick averaged a team-best 26 points during his senior year at  White Plains, finally putting the program on the same plane as vaunted rival Mount Vernon.

At Notre Dame Prep, Kilpatrick has averaged 18.1 points while  refining other aspects of his game and improving in the classroom.  In high school, Kilpatrick was a key piece in a rich backcourt.

 During a stellar career, he played alongside David Boykin (Fairfield/Bridgeport), Jamell Cromartie, and the high-flying Ra’shad  James, long regarded as the most explosive and electrifying dunker in New York State.

Under Spencer Mayfield's system, which mandates that all of his scorers are defenders first, Kilpatrick’s game blossomed. He stole the show from Duke-commit Taylor King when Mater Dei played the Tigers at Pace University in 2007, a game which generated high expectations and hype. The Tigers lost in a wild game littered by calls that left White Plains exasperated, albeit Kilpatrick’s skill-set and value as a scorer was evident.

 Kilpatrick cemented his reputation as a player who could score in clusters with a 44-point outburst, though he struggled in the Jordan Brand Classic Regional game (1-for-10, two points).

From iconic recruiting guru Tom Konchalski to the aforementioned Roberts, Kilpatrick lifted eyebrows as one of New York's top-shelf players. The only hurdle was academic issues.

So Kilpatrick trekked to Fitchburg, Mass. to better his classroom performance and also gain the invaluable experience of playing alongside high-profile recruits such as Johnnie Lacy and James Southerland. At Notre Dame Prep, with his classroom focus turned up several notches, Kilpatrick's  academic issues were no more.

 "At first, I wasn't really crazy about doing an extra year," said  Kilpatrick, sporting a Yankees fitted hat before an entourage of family and friends.

"You know thinking about it now, doing a prep year, it's not a bad  idea."

Since getting acclimated to the prep scene, basketball has been the easy part, as Kilpatrick is quick to note.

 "I'm a lot more focused on the books situation than I am the  basketball situation," said Kilpatrick, who maintains a solid relationship with Mick Cronin and speaks to the Bearcat coach regularly.

 "About once a week," said Kilpatrick.

 "SK" added that his team has plenty of depth and is comfortable featuring a different go-to option almost game. The way they gelled so rapidly has been impressive to Kilpatrick, who is from Yonkers originally.

Pure scorer though he is, Kilpatrick became a key distributor his PG year.

His increased ability to create plays should pay dividends for Bearcat Yancy Gates, whose shooting hovered around 50 percent his freshman year.

 "Sean's made a concentrated effort to get everybody involved," explained Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd.

 "That's why, I think more so than ever at this level, we have a group of kids who take pleasure in the other kids being successful. That starts obviously with Sean and the ability to get to the rim and draw people in. But with Sean, he's willing to give it up. You know, you'll see at this level a lot of kids are going to keep that (possession) and the result is they make a boneheaded play."

 Hurd continued, "That's where I think we kind of step ahead of some teams. These guys really want to play together."

And Kilpatrick really wants to play for Cronin.

"I know coming into Cincy my role is going to be as a scorer. Coach (Cronin) tells me to focus on what I'm doing now and just keep it up. Classes are going well." With 2009 graduation claiming high-scoring guard and 3-point sniper Deonta Vaughn, the Bearcats will likely envision Kilpatrick for the same role.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Orlando's Oliver On To Next Chapter

Few outside of Orlando knew much about Deloran “Niko” Oliver. That is until the mid-season tournament at Montverde Academy. The well-built 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard scored 28 points and created matchup difficulties all night, earning credibility across Montverde's sparkling, college-esque arena.

 Oliver decimated the defense on the full plate of deep 3-pointers, hard drives, step-backs, and rapid, catch-and-stick corner jumpers. He got into the teeth of the defense and never relented, scoring with contact and embracing the brutal at-the-rim hits.

It's no secret around Orlando, Oliver plays with a natural tenacity and toughness very few at the prep level can mirror. He possesses considerable elevation on his jumper and range, attributes which rendered him multi-layered en route to an 18 PPG scoring average this past season. In applying a steady pull-up game, Oliver seized the scoring mantle alongside point guard and Arkansas-Little Rock signee Cam Corcoran.
You’ll likely see the athletic combination guard two feet above the floor before his shot release. Oliver also has the football-basketball mentality, upping the physicality during tense moments. Adapting to rugged, in-your-chest defense and applying pressure all over the court vaulted him into a leadership position under coach Brad Traina at Conrad Academy (FL).

“First and foremost as a player, I pride myself on my impact on the defensive end,” said Oliver, who will prolong his career on the JUCO level at Ridgewater College in Willmar, MN.  

“If I can stop my opponent from scoring, if I can change his shot selection and negate him, at the end of the day I’m winning. Second off, I really look to make my teammates a beneficiary of my presence out there on the court. I always try to make those around me better. I try to find them at their spots, known where they are on the court and kick in the right pass at the opportune time.”

This team guy mentality ingrained in Oliver will certainly have special resonance next season. All signs point to Oliver attaining the keys to Ridgewater’s offense and keying a souped-up, go-go attack.
Partially due to his innate feel for the game and partially because he heads into his collegiate career as a  muscle-bound guard, conventional wisdom tells us Oliver will compete for the starting position.

It will be a transition from the score-first roles the 6-foot-4 guard shouldered at Oak Ridge and The Conrad Academy in Florida.

 As a tangible source of pure athleticism and sneaky bounce, Oliver has the potential to get easy buckets just hanging around the rim.

During his stay at Oak Ridge, Oliver’s presence was a necessity in accelerating Michael Devoe’s development. Devoe, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, has offers from Florida, LSU, Miami and a bevy of others.

“We really had a great relationship as teammates, especially because we were able to constantly make each other better and work harder because of the level we brought it to in practice,” Oliver said.

“As a defensive guy above all, me guarding Mike basically helped me learn how to work against an elite scorer. Mike guarding me, it helped him a lot because he was only a sophomore at the time. So, it kind of gave him a chance to guard a bigger guard who on paper has the size advantage on him. We helped each other in that way and we as a team reaped the rewards of it.”

Down the road, Oliver has the strength and athleticism to become a high-major player. Just how much his game grows this season will be a major barometer of this.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Soccer Player No More, Dort Is One of Country's Top Unsigned Guards

Asked about the high-major talent he’s molded throughout uber-competitive conferences in North Carolina and Florida, Conrad Academy coach Shaun Wiseman didn’t exactly have to think long and hard for the answer.  

You see, Wiseman coached former Florida State guard Ian Miller at United Faith Christian (N.C.), with legendary Charlotte Hornets guard Muggsy Bogues as his assistant.  Corey Sanders (Rutgers), an electrifying guard who quickly became a Youtube and online show sensation his senior year, helped Wiseman’s West Oaks (FL) team to a 2015 state championship.

During his stay at West Oaks, Wiseman also coached current Louisville Center Anas Mahmoud. Chol Marial, a versatile 7-foot-3 Center and the nation’s top-ranked center in the Class of 2019, played a role on the state championship West Oaks team as an eighth grader.

While at Arlington Country Day School (Jacksonville, FL) Wiseman cultivated a post presence in 6-foot-10 Center Koch Bar, now a key frontcourt piece at Bradley.

Still, without a hint of hesitation, Wiseman can put bulldozing 6-foot-4, 205-pound combination guard Luguentz Dort smack at the top of the list.

“Make no mistake about it,” Wiseman said.

 “Luguentz Dort is the best player I’ve ever coached. He’s a special kid. He’s just a man-child out there. I mean, he gets to the rim whenever he wants. He gets to the free throw line. He’s the type of player who can manufacture points in a hurry. And, he can win a lot of games in those moments of heightened pressure. He's just bullish, he's just a winner and a kid whose game is predicated on toughness and talent.”

Dort,  heavily courted by programs such as UConn, Indiana, Oregon, Baylor, Florida, Indiana, Michigan State, and a bevy of others, has spent this season proving his former coach’s words prophetic.

Dort is the kid who put up 36 points in leading Conrad to a win over 22 Feet Academy (S.C.) during a Grind Session event at Taylor County (H.S.).

 He’s the kid who dropped 33 points (in three quarters) in an end-to-end drubbing of his former school, Arlington Country Day. His performance enthralled former UConn assistant Andre Lafleur (now at UNLV) and Oregon assistant Mike Mennenga --both of whom eyeballed his every move.

Dort was a defensive catalyst that December afternoon, collecting six steals and converting two hard strips into thunderous dunks in less than a minute during the first half. He showcased the much-improved, softer touch and range. Bagging corner treys while simultaneously proving he could knock down contested shots, Dort gave an efficient account of his capabilities.

Dort put up 23 points, six boards, and five steals against Bishop Sullivan (VA), displaying an arsenal of power moves and considerable bounce during the second half.

Dort authored efficiency against plenty-tough Potter's House, scoring 24 points (on 14 shots) in a home win.  Against Tech Academy of Canada, playing against his own countrymen, Dort knifed his way to the rim and barreled through double teams all night. The battle intensified, with the mild-mannered Dort exchanging hostilities with Matur MakarMakar, the 6-foot-11 freshman with a world of high-major Division-I promise, played physical on the oft-slashing Dort.

The Montreal native ultimately had the final say against his own people. He managed to leak out and get free for a layup, bucketing the deal-sealer in a 49-47 win over Tech Academy.

Dort, who averaged 25.3 points on the Grind Session this season, surfaced on the high-major scene as a oft-driving sophomore. He was plucked from obscurity, playing in the United States for the first time ever.

With ACD entertaining a national schedule that season, Dort assembled a wild, 33-point performance against Josh Jackson and Prolific Prep.

Dort spent much of the summer of 2016 changing his shot. Working with AAU coach Nelson Osse, he rapidly developed a quicker release and more dependable form. Dort reaped the results of it almost instantly, hitting 11-of-23 from beyond the arc during Brookwood Elite's run in Vegas.

The timing worked. The biggest knock on Dort, during his sophomore year, was his spotty jump shot. The skeptics surfaced, saying he was only a threat at the rim. They said at the next level, when 7-footers are constantly waiting for him at the rim, he'll need a mid-range game and a sturdy three-point game to balance his offensive acumen.

Dort entered the 2016-17 season as a marked man.

During the first open gym at The Conrad Academy in Orlando, Rick Pitino and then-assistant Mike Balado were present.

After witnessing his vastly-improved 3-point shooting, Louisville offered Dort right there on the spot. Dort was operating offense all over the court that night, feeding the post with swift no-look passes and engineering the attack.

He was tearing down defensive boards and kicking up the tempo in transition. Switching to off the ball, Dort hit pull-ups in succession. He darted through defenders and eased his way to the rim, finishing with either hand. He displayed a number of crafty, acrobatic moves in scoring at the rim.

Oregon, Arizona State, Baylor, Michigan State, Indiana, Florida, Illinois and UConn are all working hard right now,” said Osse, Dort’s longtime AAU coach and advisor.

“Lu is enjoying the process and feels privileged to be in this position.”
UConn jumped into the scene merely by accident. During the aforementioned win over 22 Feet Academy (S.C.) at , Dort went eyeball-to-eyeball with then-Washington commit Mamdou Diarra (now headed to Cincy).

 Dort proved himself as one of the most unheralded guards in the country, exploding for 36 points. This caught the immediate attention of the staff.

Lorenzo Romar and Rapaheal Chillious both began recruiting him. Romar has since been fired from Washington. He is currently the Associate Head Coach at Arizona. Chillious is now at UConn under Kevin Ollie and has been extremely consistent in his recruitment of Dort.
Dort, who was recently at the NBA TOP 100 camp in University of Virginia, appears wide open. There is no favorite and there is nobody out of the equation.



Growing up in Montreal, basketball once had little appeal to Luguentz Dort. Soccer was his first sport, the game he had the most passion for.
Soccer? With that kind of extraterrestrial leaping ability, the kid was playing soccer?

Though he had seen a torrent of talent in the area, witnessing guys such as Tristan Thompson and Joel Anthony and Kris Joseph thrive, soccer was his initial labor of love. By the time he reached middle school, Dort was head and shoulders taller than his classmates.

He also developed unrivaled athleticism. This attribute led to both his friends and coaches urging him to ditch soccer and play hoops with a full throttle approach and 12-month focus.

"It was almost as if they were recruiting me," said Dort with a laugh.

"They basically told me I was wasting my time by not playing basketball. Really, the one who I followed around was Shawn (Barthelemy). He was that guy in Canada. He was a playmaker and a scorer. I learned a lot of his moves and picked up the game from him."

Barthelemy was the one who introduced Dort to Nelson Osse, his current coach on Brookwood Elite. Osse, who has been instrumental in guiding Dort through the recruitment process while keeping tabs on his production, has been there every step of the way.
Both Osse and Joey McKittreck have cultivated a hard-barreling, quick-scoring acumen in a pin drop quiet kid who simply morphs into a different human being on the basketball court.

“Defensively, he’s improved tremendously when you take into consideration the jump from his sophomore to his junior year. He can pluck passes out of the air and he is all over the court, picking people off and converting steals into easy dunks. I mean, he’s just a freak of nature out there.”

Hoop Family

Many of Dort’s cousins have authored basketball careers both in Canada, over the waters, and here in the United States. Dort had frequent battles with his cousin, former West Oaks star Richardson Maitre, while playing at Arlington Country Day.

Maitre, also a Division-I prospect, was a skilled combination guard with a dependable jumper and natural finishing ability. He won a 2015 state championship alongside the aforementioned Sanders and bullish guard Andres Feliz at West Oaks.

Dort’s other cousin, Kenny Chery, was a two-way guard at Baylor who is currently pursuing a professional career overseas.

"As a young gun I looked up to all of my cousins and had the opportunity to take advice from them whenever I could," said Maitre, now at Indian Hills (JUCO).

 "Kenny was really the biggest influence because he played my position and he really took me under his wing. He's been with me since I was young."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fayetteville's Baker Cooks Foes At TOP 100

Joey Baker brought a bundle of high-energy finishes and adeptness around the rim at the NBA Top 100 camp this week.

Known for hellacious hops and fearless slashing, the 6-foot-7 Class of 2019 forward displayed an all-around offensive skill-set.

 Baker's unique blend of know-how, high-motor, and ability to take scoring matters into his own hands earned plaudits from the barrage of former and current NBA players in attendance.

During live action of an otherwise lackluster night game, Baker registered his presence with a deep 3-pointer, a nifty stepback jumper, and a straight-away 3-pointer.
 Bouncy, tactical, and possessing an innate nose for the rim, it wasn’t difficult to see how the Fayetteville, N.C. product has skyrocketed up the high-major charts.
Currently, Baker said, a steady group of programs are expressing love on a consistent, day-to-day basis. He now has a stockpile of offers on the table. Entertaining more of a leadership role and locker room presence at Trinity Christian (N.C.) continues to work away at all components of his game.
“I’m probably hearing from Kansas, Louisville, UCLA, the most so far right there. “UNC is involved. South Carolina is right there.”
This summer, Baker is working to become more of a confrontational defender. Devoting more of his focus to the lockdown role and mirroring his offensive impact on the defensive side is an ideal goal for Baker.
“I’m continuing to develop my upside skill-set,” said Baker, who has drawn plenty of Grayson Allen comparisons early on in his career.
“I’m just expanding with my versatility. Rebounding. Passing. Just being an all-around player to help my team win.”
Baker, who has seen a number of current and former NBA players at the event , said the whole networking and learning aspect of the camp has been beneficial. He understands that all of the professionals here at Top 100 camp—Cody Zeller, Tamar Slay, John Lucas Jr. to name a few—were once in the very same position.
"It’s really a unique experience being here (at the Top 100). You get to soak in a lot of information, meet a lot of people and just have fun. My coaches are (former New York Knick) Lee Nailon and (legendary Virginia guard) Sean Singletary. Being molded by pros is helpful. They’ve been where we are at right now. They’re able to help us, give us tips and all that good stuff so it is helpful.”

Nailon authored a 14-year professional career which included NBA roles with the Knicks, Hawks, Magic, Sixers, and several other organizations. The big lefty was a fan-favorite at Madison Square Garden on the downtrodden, dungeon-dwelling 2002-03 Knicks. Despite shaky substitution patterns from then-coach Don Chaney, Nailon was a high-efficiency scorer who could get hot in a hurry.

Singletary etched his legacy right here at UVA, where the crafty 6-foot guard scored 2,079 points before embarking on a professional career in the NBA and over the waters.

Thus, both of Baker's coaches know a thing or two about high-level basketball.

"They both know so much that you can just learn and apply on the court," Baker said.