Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Girard College played host to the Big Shots Philly Pride tournament this weekend, with a number of talented programs in the 15U, 16U and 17U brackets worth checking out.
Here’s a notebook from Saturday’s action:
Jack Clark (above) picked up a dozen offers out of the April live recruiting periods. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Clark planning visits after blowup April
That Jack Clark would catch the attention of Division I coaches when he got back out in front of the masses for the April live recruiting periods was all but guaranteed. After all, the Cheltenham guard had sprouted to north of 6-foot-6 during his junior year, meaning he was full of a word that catches everybody’s attention on the AAU circuit: upside.
And indeed, as soon as Philly Pride took to the court in New York on April 21, Clark caught the attention of not just a handful of schools.
Which led to a phone conversation he had, over and over, with collegiate head coach after head coach.
“They’d start with how how are you doing, how’s school, how’s your family and things like that, just asking about my personal life,” he said. “They end with the offer.”
Over the following two weeks, with Clark averaging just a hair over 10 ppg for Philly Pride, the scholarship offers started pouring in: La Salle, Central Connecticut State, Towson, Bowling Green, Drexel and Norfolk State first. Then things hit a new level: Penn State offered, followed by Rhode Island, Tulane, Saint Joseph’s, George Mason and finally South Florida, all joining a late March scholarship offer from Rider.
That’s 13 in total, and it’s just as certain that more will jump on board over the course of the summer.
“I knew I was going to pull offers, but I didn’t think I was going to pull that many,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen that fast, in a short period of time. I was pretty shocked.”
Along with that group of offers, Clark said he’s also been hearing regularly from a pair of schools that hadn’t offered, Temple and Virginia.
With two months until he’ll get back out in front of Division I coaches for the three July live recruiting periods, Clark and his parents are planning on a number of college visits. In early June, he’s taking unofficials to La Salle, Temple, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Central Connecticut State; he also is planning on visits to Penn State and George Mason, but doesn’t have dates yet set for those schools.
It’s still too early for him to have anything close to favorites; these visits will be primarily for him to get a sense of the various schools recruiting him and go from there.
“I’m looking for a nice campus, because I don’t want to go leave home and go to a not-so-nice campus,” he said, “so I want to go to a nice campus, nice basketball facility, and I want to go somewhere where I know I’ll play.”
-- NJ Playaz 16s, playing up in the 17U bracket, picked up two wins to open the tournament, including a hard-fought win over Philly Pride’s 16s in the marquee matchup of the day. Justin Winston (2019/Immaculate Conception) dropped 17 points to lead the way for the Playaz, as the 6-7 forward is taking advantage of a recent decision to move to the Class of 2019 and playing with the younger group. A powerful wing forward, Winston showcased a nifty mid-range jumper and even knocked down a 3, though he’s at his best slashing to the hoop, which he did even when matched up with Philly Pride’s talented 6-7 wing Donta Scott (2019/Imhotep Charter). La Salle became the most recent offer for Winston, who also holds scholarships from St. Joe’s, Rutgers and more.
-- Philly Pride’s 17s certainly benefitted from having Eric Esposito back on the court, as the Conwell-Egan junior adds some sharpshooting ability to the lineup. The 6-5 junior missed April with a leg injury but is clearly back on track, knocking down five 3-pointers in the team’s second-round win. He’s got a terrific form and rotation on his jump shot, and even took his man off the dribble to hit a mid-range jumper as well. With his size at the off-guard position, he could sneak into low Division I territory with a strong July, especially if he hits shots like that in front of college coaches.
-- The K-Low Elite’s 15U backcourt of Ahmad Fair (2020/Neumann-Goretti) and KeShaun Hammonds (2020/Constitution) stood out in a win over WeR1’s 15U ‘B’ team, combining for 35 of their team’s 55 points. The pair of slender 6-0 guards are similarly high-energy ball-handlers, though Fair is flashier on the ball, making a number of impressive dimes as the game went on. Also impressing in the win was big man Naadir Wood (2020/West Catholic), as the 6-6 forward did an excellent job of finding space in the lane and presenting to the ball, and displayed excellent effort in keeping rebounds alive as well as good hands.
-- A big reason that Team DejaVu, out of Harrisburg, was able to even somewhat hang with a K-Low Elite 17U squad that had significant advantages in height, talent and athleticism was thanks to the efforts of Hempfield (Pa.) 2019 G Eli Washington. The 5-10 lefty had 13 points, displaying a smooth jumper and tight handles, though he often had to play too with the ball too much; he also showed he could score different shots when challenged at the rim by K-Low’s post players.
-- Speaking of that K-Low Elite 17U squad, that win over DejaVu was a balanced one, with the team’s 21 field goals split between seven players. Damon Wall (2018/Doane Academy) had a strong game running K-Low’s offense, scoring 14 points, while Kharon Randolph (2018/Haverford SchooL) added 11. Both guards are certainly scholarship-worthy, and though both are hearing from Division I schools, they’re still waiting on their first scholarship opportunities. Wall, who has a smooth 3-point shot and is a muscular 6-0, certainly looked the part on Saturday; he’s not the type to wow in any one particular outing but has a steadiness to his game that’s apparent over time. Both strong students, Wall and Randolph have each been hearing from Brown, while Randolph also mentioned interest from Colgate and Wall named Lafayette, Murray State, and Drexel.
-- The recently named PIAA Class A player of the year, Tamir Green announced last month that he’ll be doing a post-graduate year after finishing up at state runner-up Constitution (Pa.) in June. Now it appears as though the electric 5-foot-9 scoring guard has found a home, as he says he’ll be attending Indiana Prep Academy as a member of the 2018 class. Running with Hoopdreamz after playing on the EYBL circuit with Team Final last year, Green showcased his trademark scoring ability, scoring knocking down a trio of long-range jumpers against Philly Pride. It will take becoming more of a facilitator for Green to emerge as a Division I lead guard, and he showed improvement in that realm today with a number of impressive drop-off passes after getting swarmed in the lane.