MANALAPAN, N.J. -- The Elevate Hoops Summer Icebreaker I is one of two tournaments being held at Sportika Sports Complex this week, the first of three five-day periods this month where Division I coaches can be out on the road watching and evaluating high school prospects.
Here’s a notebook from the evening’s action, featuring some 15U and 16U talent:
Joshua Cohen (right) grew from 6-0 as a freshman to 6-9 going into his junior year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Growth spurt has CBA’s Cohen learning how to be big
Imagine being a freshman guard, standing 6-foot-tall, only knowing how to play the guard position. And then, as a junior, you’re standing 6-9 and having to learn how to play a completely different position.
For Christian Brothers Academy junior Joshua Cohen, that was the situation that his body threw at him over the past year-and-change.
“It makes me feel good,” Cohen said. “I’m not complaining, even when I have to switch clothes sizes. Growing nine inches, it really helped my game.”
In basketball, height is the one variable that can really put you at an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to college recruitment, depending on the situation. Thankfully for Cohen, his height is now putting him at an advantage for colleges to reach out to him.
While Cohen has not received a scholarship offer just yet, he has received interest from schools such as New Hampshire and Holy Cross.
“When I was 6-4, I was not getting any college interest but with the growth spurt I was getting a lot of calls and texts and emails from different schools,” he said.
Even Cohen’s AAU team, the Jersey Shore Warriors, did not have Cohen on their radar until he hit his growth spurt this past season.
Though he had a rough intro to the guard-oriented team during the April live periods, several months playing with the Warriors during tournaments in May and June has him feeling much more comfortable back out in front of coaches this time around.
“In my first two tournaments, I was not really fitting in with the team really well and I didn’t know the guys all that well,” Cohen said. “But as I’ve gotten into the program, it expanded my game; the practices were really tough, I really got to work and my teammates are the greatest, we just put up 92 points in a game in July, we’re really well put together.”
The Jersey Shore Warriors looked absolutely fantastic in their rout of Achieve More on Wednesday night, with a final score of 92-47. Cohen had his part in the offensive explosion, including a 3-point play in the second half and a few other buckets on dump-offs, knocking down one mid-range jumper as well.
As Cohen is still transforming into his body, he still has some kinks to work out in his switch from a guard to a center.
“CBA really helped me with elevating my game from a guard to a big man,” Cohen said. “We had a guy come in and help me with my footwork and excel in the big man game. I’ve also been working on my face-up game.” -- Austin Petolillo
Neumann-Goretti’s Fair picks up surprise first offer
Ahmad Fair was very surprised when his father, Anthony Fair, told him Tuesday night that he had just gotten off of the phone with Northern Arizona, and that the Lumberjacks had just extended the younger Fair a scholarship offer, his first.
Fair didn’t expect to receive an offer from Northern Arizona at all. After all, he doesn’t ever remember hearing about the school.
“I guess they’ve been on the phone with my dad and then decided to offer me,” Fair said. “I’ve actually never heard of them before.”
Anthony Fair certainly has, as he played college hoops at Penn State-Altoona with Wes Pifer, who is currently an assistant at Northern Arizona.
While this is Fair’s first offer, he has been receiving interest from Stony Brook and UAB. Fair unofficially visited Stony Brook last month.
“It’s felt great to get my first offer, but I don’t want that to get to my confidence at all,” Fair said. “I still have to play like I don’t have any offers.”
Now that the Quade Green era is over at Neumann-Goretti as the star guard departs for Kentucky, Fair will be running the Saint’s backcourt. During his freshman year, Fair admits he definitely looked up to Green as a mentor.
“A lot of my game is modeled after Quade,” Fair said. “Before I came to Neumann-Goretti I was all about scoring, but now I’ve looked up to Quade and learned how to spread the floor and get my teammates involved.”
A 5-11 point guard with a super quick first step, Fair can easily get past defenders and finish around the rim. Even when Fair doesn’t score very much or play a great game, he still looks the part of a prospect with very high potential.
When Fair was choosing a high school after eighth grade, the decision was easy. Neumann-Goretti, in addition to being right around the corner from Fair’s house, also has a rich history of championships; they’ve won seven of the last eight state championships.
Now that Fair will take over as the Saint’s point guard, he has a simple goal in mind: win.
“Catholic League, Districts, and States,” Fair said. “We’re trying to win everything.”
-- Working his way from the post out to the wing is Maryland 3D/Indian Creek (Md.) 2019 Khalil Williams, who helped MD3D to a 51-36 win over Explosion Basketball (Pa.) in the 16U first round. Williams, who teamed up well with MD3D lead guard Anthony Blunt (2019/Gonzaga College, D.C.), is a 6-6, 175-pound wing from the Annapolis area who got most of his production around the rim, with great hands that gathered in anything in his area; his only 3-point attempt looked good but didn’t connect, and he often was able to grab a rebound, take a few dribbles and lead the fast break before passing off to one of his guards. Williams, who has interest from Colgate and UMBC, could certainly be playing a true combo forward role by the time he gets to college in a year or two, and his frame has quite a bit of upside.
--Before The Haverford School’s Christian Ray reclassified to the Class of 2019 from 2018 last year, he was hearing from schools such as Mount St. Mary’s, Princeton, Yale, and Colgate. Once he became a 2019 recruit, he wasn’t able to be contacted by college coaches. “It was crazy. You’re so used to talking to college coaches and then you can’t anymore,” Ray said. “But we’ve picked up like we haven't stopped talking.”
While Ray currently doesn’t have any offers, he’s certainly been focusing in on one aspect of his game, in hopes that college coaches will begin to take notice. As a 6-foot-6 forward, Ray has been working to make the transition to becoming more of a guard. “I’m shooting a lot more and continuing to work on my handle,” he said.
-- At 6-5 and 200 pounds, Union Catholic (N.J.) forward Justin Archer has the physicality to do well in the 16U age group with The Firm (N.J.). But he’s starting to stretch his game away from the paint, which he showed with a trio of 3-pointers in a big win over Bulls Basketball to open up the tournament. The long-armed lefty might end up at 6-8 by the time it’s all said and done, and if he continues to hone his skill set, he’s sure to pile up the Division I offers; for now, it’s just interest, though Archer said he’s heard from NJIT, VCU and Rider. The Firm’s 16s have an impressive frontline with Archer, St. Joe’s Regional center Smith Vilbert and Jorman Solano, who played at St. Anthony (N.J.) but will have to find a new school due to his former one’s closing.