Bobby Plantutis (3) made the decision to attend prep school after getting his first few Division I offers. (Photo: Ari Rosenfeld/CoBL)
Here’s a notebook from the Big Shots Philly tournament which took place at the BucksMont Indoor Sports Center this weekend:
Bobby Planutis (2017/Bridgton Academy/JB Hoops)
Though the 6-foot-6 wing from Hazelton (Pa.) finally picked up his first two Division I offers this spring, from Mount St. Mary’s and High Point, he didn’t feel that he was ready for collegiate basketball.
So after initially committing to the Mount after the April live periods, Planutis decided he would be better off spending the next year at a prep school, going up to Bridgton Academy Maine) to prepare his body for the physicality of college hoops.
“I am a little thin, I’m 180, 185 pounds, so that was the biggest thing,” he said. “I want to be physically ready when I go to college, I don’t want to have to wait two years to get ready and then lose two years, and then junior year I can play.”
Planutis showed why his recruitment finally reached the Division I level this summer over the weekend, putting in a strong performance as JB Hoops reached the event semifinals. A lanky, athletic wing, he’s a terrific outside jump-shooter and very good passer as well, several times taking his man off the bounce only to drop off to a plunging guard or big man for an easy layup.
Over the spring, Planutis has been hearing from a variety of programs up and down the East coast: “New Hampshire, American, La Salle...Davidson called my coach, but they didn’t actually talk to me,” he said. “(Also) Army, Navy, UMBC (and) Fairfield.”
In addition to hitting the weight room with regularity up in Bridgton, Planutis will also be developing his skill-set against some of the top prep programs in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC)’s AAA division, which includes powerhouses like Brewster Prep, Northfield Mt. Hermon, South Kent and more.
Going up against those sorts of teams on a regular basis will certainly help him be ready for whatever level he’s at by this time next year.
“I think the more I can develop a pull-up jump shot, the better I can be, because everybody can pull up in mid, high-major basketball,” he said.
Jordan Money (2017/St. Elizabeth’s/Team Final)
For some players, being part of a sneaker-affiliated team can have both pros and cons; sure, you’re guaranteed the exposure of playing around the country in front of the nation’s best coaches, but more often than not you’ll often be competing for minutes with other elite players on your own team.
In Jordan Money’s case, he’s forced to play behind five-star recruits Lonnie Walker and Cameron Reddish on the wing for Nike-sponsored Team Final.
And while he’s more than comfortable playing his role when the team is at full strength, he certainly relished the opportunity to be the go-to guy this weekend with both of his uber-talented teammates sitting out due to various other commitments.
“I get to show everyone my skillset, so that’s pretty good for me and our team, because some people we don’t get to play as much when everyone’s here, so it’s exposure for us,” Money said after leading his team to a come-from-behind semifinal victory. “Being a leader at my school, so I’ve got to step up and make big plays when the ball’s in my hands.”
He was able to make the adjustment with ease, scoring 21.7 points per game during Team Final’s run to the championship game.
For Money, though, the harder part was getting used to being more of a role player after being the number-one option with his St. Elizabeth’s team.
“It takes time. It’s not that easy but it gets easier over time,” he said of the transition. “I’ve just got to listen to my coaches, get in the right spots, and be able to make big plays when they need me.”
Even with the inconsistent minutes throughout EYBL play, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard has been able to garner the interest of Division I programs, mentioning La Salle, Rider, and Binghamton as those who have expressed interest thus far.
While no schools have offered at this point, coaches have been clear in expressing what they’d like to see from Money before they do so.
“They want me to stay in the gym and keep working on my game, play hard,” he said. “They want me to get better at playing my role because they know I’m not ‘the man’ on this team, so I’ve got to get better at playing a role, helping out my team in other ways other than scoring.”
Chase Johnson (2017/Ripley HS, W.Va./Big Shots Elite)
Johnson is a guy who’s had a long list of Division I suitors for quite a while now.
Prior to his junior season, regional mid-majors Richmond, Duquesne, Marshall, Old Dominion, Ohio, High Point, Winthrop, and Longwood had already offered the 6-foot-7 combo forward.
But with Big Shots Elite’s undefeated (28-0) start to the AAU season has come a slew of new interest for Johnson, including a recent offer from Bob Huggins and West Virginia.
Johnson grew up a Mountaineer fan, and while he wouldn’t name any favorites in his recruitment, he was willing to admit that landing that offer was certainly special.
“It just felt really good,” he said after being named co-MVP of the 17U division. “All my hard work’s just paying off. I just can’t wait to see what I have in the future.”
That hard work has been applied mostly toward improving his jump shot and his ballhandling ability, both of which he’s been working on “for about a year” and give him the ability to play on the wing even with the body of a traditional power forward.
With his improvement in those areas, other high-major schools have begun to take note, as Johnson cited interest from Penn State, Clemson, and Florida, while also mentioning that Michigan is “supposed to reach out soon.”
Johnson has visited West Virginia on a handful of occasions, and also spent time on Clemson’s campus last summer. He’ll be traveling to Penn State for the Nittany Lions’ elite camp on June 24th, and would be interested in visiting Michigan should they get in touch.
Even before he has a chance to see more schools, though, Johnson already has a good idea of what he’ll be looking for when it does come time to make his decision.
“I just want to get in and play,” he said, “and find good coaches and a team that likes to have fun and win games, because I’m trying to win a championship.”
Jarrod West (above) is being pursued by several mid-major programs and looking to land a high-major offer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jarrod West Jr. (2017/Notre Dame, W.Va./Big Shots Elite)
From the opening moments of the semifinals on Sunday morning all the way through Big Shots Elite’s 17U championship, West was in a rhythm.
The 5-foot-11 point guard from the Mountain State tore up the nets at BucksMont all day long, dropping nine 3-pointers between the two games and coming up with easily as many steals. A 20-point outing in the semifinals against Team Final’s 16U squad was followed up by 18 against the Team Final 17s, and there was little either team could do to stop West from rising up and draining shots seemingly whenever he wanted.
“I got going early, got great teammates, they found me, and when I was open I made the opportunities,” he said.
West certainly has basketball in his blood: his father, Jarrod West Sr., was a standout point guard at WVU from 1994-98, and settled with his family in Bridgeport, where he now coaches his son at Notre Dame HS.
It didn’t take too long for the hoops buzz to catch on.
“My dad was always taking me to the gym, (but) I didn’t get interested (in basketball) until I was probably four or five,” he said. “He would take me, I’d play with toys or something, but I was always around the game.”
West currently has six Division I offers: Marshall, Liberty, Longwood, James Madison, East Carolina and Winthrop, and said he’s been hearing from Michigan, Virginia Tech, La Salle and Vanderbilt.
Coming up are unofficial visits to East Carolina (June 11) and Virginia Tech (June 14); it will be the third time he’s visited the ECU campus.
“I like East Carolina, they’ve got a good coach in Coach (Jeff) Lebo and Coach (Ken) Potosnak’s been on me real hard,” he said. “I like the gym, I like the conference they’re in, that’s great good. Relationship with the coach is really good, they’ve got real good people, he’s an all-american who went to North Carolina, point guard, so it’s everything that you’re looking for.”
West plans on making his decision before his senior season begins in November, and knows what he’s looking for: “(my) relationship with the coach is really important, (plus) campus, facilities and stuff,” he said. “And best opportunity for me, if I’m going to play early or what teammates I’ve got.”
Alex Nordenholt (above) impressed with his passing and shooting ability over the course of the weekend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
-- NJ Soldiers guard Alex Nordenholt (2017/Council Rock South) had a solid weekend, leading his team to a 2-1 record and Silver Division championship with an overtime win over Philly Heat in the final game on Sunday. Currently, the 5-foot-9 point guard is hearing from several Division III programs, including Juniata, Montclair State, NYU, and several others, but one school seems to have an advantage: “I want to try to go to (New York) City and play, any of the city schools” he said, adding academics would also factor into the decision. Why NYC? Well, despite having relatively little experience in the area, Nordenholt is interested in studying acting: “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
-- Philly Heat forward Billy Warren (2017/Neshaminy) is currently sitting firmly on the bubble between Division I and Division II, with interest from Penn, Lafayette, and Campbell of the D-I variety, along with PSAC power East Stroudsburg. Warren expressed that playing Division I ball is certainly his goal, and feels that his shooting and defense are the biggest facets of his game that he needs to work on in order to make that dream a reality. However, he certainly isn’t turned off by the idea of going D-II, saying, “I just want to go to a program that wants me and accepts me.”