A mountain of young talent will be hitting the hardwood of the prestigious SIAA conference very shortly.
The unique blend of size and upside brought by 6-foot-9 Jonathan Izemef and 6-foot-8 Bretner Mutumbo, has generated high expectations and headlines.
Both will play under Steve McLaughlin at Potter’s House (Jacksonville, FL) next season.
They’ll get their Division-1 teeth cut in the talent-stacked and rugged SIAA conference.
The opportunity to play in the Grind Session will also help acclimatize the two evolving behemoths.
Grind Session has stacked its 2017-18 schedule with a hyper-competitive package of events.
Integrating Potter's House to "The Grind" will enable Izemef and Mutumbo to ply their trade against known and notable basketball powerhouse programs across the land.
Matchups against programs such as (reigning Florida State champs) Oldsmar Christian, Hillcrest Prep, Prolific Prep, Tennessee Prep, and a number of other traditional Division-I launchpads will become a necessary barometer of the promising tandem's growth as freshmen.
The opportunity to garner Division-I scholarships and generate high-major noise will be there from the jump. Not a bad opportunity for a freshman, huh?
Both young men have worked furiously at adapting to the particulars of the true Center and stretch four position.
Playing for 1Family on the grass-roots circuit, they've registered their weight on a national scale.
While most callow, raw work-in-progress caliber sky-scrapers arrive at the doorstep with tremendous upside and a debilitating handful of flaws, Izemef and Mutumbo's quick evolution as upfront monsters seems unprecedented at the high school level.
Both players have displayed an advanced skill-set and scoring acumen, complete with post moves and thunderous finishes at the rim.
They’ve shed the tag of soft, dunking with relative ease and penetrating the nooks and crannies of frontline defense to score.
Consider the 1-2 punch's adeptness for blocking shots.
Assess the fluidity at which they run the floor and finish with a full head of steam and thrive in the up-tempo attack.
Witness their innate feel for post moves, refined back to the bucket moves, and how deft they are at popping jumpers from 15-feet out and beyond, taking bigger rim protectors away from the basket in the process.
You’ll find that any off-season buzz or headlines they’ve generated is certainly not too much too soon for the young prodigal talents.
Mutumbo, who earned MVP of NYBL all-star weekend, has garnered the nickname “Baby Thon.” Virtually every big stage he steps on, you'll hear spectators and coaches liken his game to Thon Maker.
“You can see why he reminds them of Thon Maker,” said Brad Augustine, the local Florida grass-roots hoops pioneer who is currently running 1Family Hoops.
“I mean he rebounds it very well, he pushes the length of the floor. He possesses a rarified skill-set and he can shoot from 15-feet. Jonathon, on the other hand, is your prototype stretch four. He’s a very effective shot blocker and he dunks pretty much everything around the rim. He’s got a good touch out to about 12-feet which he’s expanding.”
Augustine is a former player development ace, the craft at which he cut his basketball teeth (following an overseas career). A local Orlando product, he’s nurtured countless NBA and high-level Division-1 talent. He envisions the Mutumbo-Izemef tandem climbing the ladder rather rapidly.
“Bretner has the ability to be one of the best wing players in the country while Jonathan has such as unique skill-set for four at his age.”
With an above-the-rim game and a physical rim-protecting advantage over their opponents, Augustinie said playing the tandem at age-appropriate levels just wouldn't cut it.
Gauging their grit against bigger, stronger players is the best viable option in accelerating their development.
This will ready them for the rigors of the SIAA and then the ensuing stage of play.
The noise both young pups have generated this spring has reverberated to the offices and courts of the country’s high-major coaches and talent evaluators.
“Every Division-1 school in the state of Florida has called about Jonathon,” Augustine explained. Florida, Florida State, Miami. Jordan Fair from Louisville, he recently reached out.”
Make no mistake about it, elite level and hyper-competitive high school basketball in America is often predicated guard play.
Look no further than this year’s Montverde team.
With prized recruit R.J. Barrett, Pitt-bound Marcus Carr, highly-touted point guard Andrew Nembhard, North Carolina-commit Rechon “Leaky” Black, and Albany-bound sharpshooter Cameron Healy, the team was bolstered by quick, hot-shooting guards.
At this level, a lot of bigs flash upside. Yet a vast majority of them cannot score with a defender between them and the basket consistently. They tend to take longer to develop.
The craftiness and scoring ability shown by Mutumbo and Izemef should bode well for Potter’s House head coach Steve McLaughlin. McLaughlin who has molded similar high-major talents during his time at the helm. In most recent memory, McLaughlin nurtured a monstrous 7-foot, 280-pound Center in Udoka Azubuike.
“Big Doke,” as he’s known by McLaughlin and teammates, went on to etch an All-American career at Potter’s House. He penned with Kansas, choosing the Jayhawks over Florida State and North Carolina.
During his injury-shortened freshman season at Kansas, Azubuike showed flashes with a 17-point performance against UNC-Asheville. He also ripped 12 boards in a nationally-televised win over Duke in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“Udoka has actually been home and working with Jonathan and Bretner everyday,” Augustine noted.
“It’s great because they are in a privileged position to learn from a five star player and future pro. It’s all part of their production. Look—They are going to be on the Grind Session. They are going to be playing in the SIAA. They are going up against national talent every night and it’s really going to speed up their development.”
Both young men seem focused and embracing the workload necessary to keep Potter's House in the realm of national prominence.
"What you look for the most as a coach is a killing willing to work and put the time in," said McLaughlin.
"By the time I get into the gym, these kids already have their sneakers tied. They've already been running up the floor and getting their blood flowing. They're in the gym before the coaches even get there. The rapid improvement you see in them from the time they got here to where they are now, it's incredible. You see the way they've grown, muscle-wise. You see they are on the vertimax everyday, they're in the weight room everyday, they're on the gun getting shots up everyday."
McLaughlin recalls seeing the eyes of Izemef and Mutumbo light up when Udoka addressed them. Udoka, who authored one of the most illustrious high school careers in Florida high school hoops history, waxed poetic on the importance of time management in this environment.
"He basically told them how big the opportunity they now have in front of them is. He told them grind hard and listen to coach and you will be alright. These kids, they really took the message to heart. You could see how it has impacted them since."