CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
READING, Pa. -- The first of two Hoop Group Elite camps this summer hit Albright College this week, with over 600 high school prospects taking to the courts in front of well over a hundred college coaches from all levels.
Here’s a notebook from Thursday’s action featuring prospects in the Class of 2018:
Melik Martin (above) is taking a post-grad year in a chase for a Division I scholarship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
York Catholic’s Martin looking forward to prep year
It took getting cut from his eighth grade basketball team to get Melik Martin to even enjoy the sport. Before that point, he said, he had just played hoops because it was something his friends did. Football was his primary sport at that point.
But to Martin, the idea of being told he wasn’t good enough at something forced him to try to get to a point where he was, at least, good enough.
“I don’t like losing,” he said. “Once I didn’t make (the team), I was like I can do anything anybody else can do, so might as well go do it.”
Then, a funny thing happened as he worked to get better and make the team at York Catholic as a freshman. Martin started to really like playing basketball.
By the time he was done his four seasons at York Catholic, Martin had grown to 6-foot-6 and was a third-team all-PIAA Class 3A selection, averaging 16.7 ppg and over 8 rpg as a senior. He helped lead York Catholic to 22 wins, though the Fighting Irish fell to the Saints of Neumann-Goretti in the first round of the state tournament.
“Every year I’ve taken leaps and progression and getting better,” he said. “The better you become at something, the more you love it. Some people are good at their jobs and hate it, but this is a fun job.”
Martin played AAU with the York Ballers in April, and by the end of the month he’d picked up his first Division I offer, from Duquesne. The Dukes, facing a heavy roster deficit due to transfers, were hoping to add Martin for 2017, but instead they sent Martin in another direction, as Putnam Science Academy (Conn.) had already reached out to him about doing a prep season in the NEPSAC.
Considering he wasn’t turning 18 until December, Martin figured it made too much sense not to take another year and try to earn another Division I scholarship, if not quite a few more.
“[There were] a lot of people telling me since I’m young it would be a good idea to help my body develop and get my skills better and all that,” he said. “I went from not being good at basketball, not liking it to I’m here; this is what a lot of people work for since birth, and I made it in five years.”
He’s not talking much to Duquesne anymore, but a host of other low-to-mid-major programs are checking in, including Towson and Brown, which he’s visited; Lehigh, Lafayette, Central Connecticut and a few others are keeping tabs as well. Martin certainly looked the part on Thursday, knocking down several 3-pointers as well as crashing the boards well off the wing during his afternoon game. -- Josh Verlin
N.J. big man Anyichie’s journey inspires his goal
When he suddenly hit a growth spurt that brought him to 6-foot-9 at 15 years old, Calistus Anyichie faced a challenge in his athletic career. Too tall to effectively play his favorite sport, soccer, and still adjusting to a rapidly-changing body, Anyichie decided to pick up basketball, and got a chance to come over to the States for high school.
At the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria Anyichie had a spark of inspiration.
“When I got there, I saw some things going on that I didn’t really like, so I thought maybe I could have an opportunity to change some things,” he said. “It really inspired me to study international relations and see if I can be an ambassador or advocate for my country.”
First, of course, he’d have to get to college to be able to do just that.
So far, he’s well on the right course: Binghamton offered this past week, joining Stony Brook, NJIT, Fairleigh Dickinson and Columbia as schools that have offered and are all actively recruiting the raw-but-improving forward. American and “most of the Ivy League” are waiting on his latest SAT scores; he took unofficial visits to Princeton and Penn last month.
“Right now, I have a good relationship with Stony Brook and Columbia,” he said, “but the rest of the schools are really talking to me [too].”
At 6-9 and 200 pounds, Anyichie has a wingspan that easily is seven feet; he’s picking up the game quickly on the defensive end, where he showed he can guard ball screens like a seasoned veteran and was a vocal defender as well. Offensively he did attempt a few short-range jumpers, but most of his production came on clean-ups and dump-offs. -- Josh Verlin
Fred Mulbah (above) is one of the top athletes in the state, playing above the rim despite a 5-9 frame. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mulbah puts on a defensive and passing clinic
Whether he’s walking out onto a football field on Friday nights in the fall, or stepping out onto the court, Fred Mulbah walks around with an air of confidence about him.
He might be the smallest player on the court, or the field, but Mulbah doesn’t care about any of that. He trusts himself, and his skills, to help him succeed.
”People think I can’t play because I’m small, but that gives me a chip on my shoulder to prove them wrong in both sports,” Mulbah said.
As a wide receiver on the field, and a point guard on the court, the 5-9 two-sport athlete showcases his unreal explosiveness and bounce, easily beating defenders off the dribble, gliding past them and finishing through much bigger traffic at the rim.
He also has a very high motor, always hustling and frustrating defenders with his quick feet and quick hands. He turns heads with his ability to finish above the rim, even throwing down a windmill dunk in a game during the district playoffs last season.
Mulbah did receive one Division I offer, last summer from Coppin State, but there’s been a change in coaching staff, and he hasn’t been in touch with the new staff.
All that the Northeastern guard wants is an opportunity to play college basketball, and he hopes that coaches don’t write him off because he is undersized.
“I’m aggressive, I can score when I want, I get my teammates involved, and I play defense,” Mulbah said. “I want to show people that height doesn’t matter.”
After having played varsity minutes all three years of his high school career, averaging six, six, and 14 points, Mulbah hopes to take the next step and earn himself another college offer.
He has been in talks with D-II Millersville recently, and hopes that more schools will look past the number on the page and come to watch him play.
The flashy explosive guard is set for a great upcoming high school season, playing alongside Antonio Rizzuto, a wing with eight Division I offers. The Eagles are set to improve upon a quarterfinal showing in the PIAA 5A playoffs last season.
“I’m excited,” he said, “hoping that with the guys we have back we can get all the way to the state championship next year.” -- Anthony Dabbundo
Umoffia benefits from high-major tutors
You never know when you will learn a valuable lesson.
For Emmanuel Umoffia, he learned lessons that will stick with him forever as a junior at Putnam Science Academy in 2015-16, his first year in America.
“Hamidou Diallo and Mamadou Diarra taught me a lot,” Umoffia said. “I wasn’t playing hard and tough, but they helped me live up to that standard. They also taught me that sometimes it’s not just about winning, it’s also about pride and standing up for yourself.”
Diallo, a 6-4 five-star recruit, graduated from Putnam after the first semester, and enrolled at the University of Kentucky for the remainder of the school year, but decided not to play; after entering his name in the 2017 draft, Diallo decided to return to Kentucky and play the 2017-18 year.
Diarra, a 6-8 forward, is a rising sophomore for the UConn Huskies.
Umoffia is from the country of Nigeria, where he started his athletic career playing soccer, the most popular sport in the African country.
“I used to play soccer, but then everyone was like, ‘yo go play basketball’,” Umoffia said. “I never liked it because it looked weird, but I started playing and I fell in love with it.”
Umoffia began playing basketball as a seven-foot 16-year-old in Nigeria, and once people recognized how talented he was, he and his family moved to America in hopes of pursuing a career in basketball.
Now 7-2 and 235 pounds, Umoffia currently holds offers from Ole Miss and Providence among others. Louisville and St. John’s are both expressing interest in the quickly developing big man.
During the July Live Period, Umoffia is working on improving his midrange game and his outside shot. In his game on Tuesday afternoon, Umoffia hit a three in transition, something he hopes to incorporate more into his game.
Next year, Umoffia will attend Shore Academy in Florida, in hopes of improving his game, and maybe even learning another lesson or two. -- Tyler Sandora
Okoro tough to miss on Albright courts
Look up Onye Okoro in search of basketball information, and something different than the usual social media pages and highlight videos pops up. Among his first results was a story from 2011, about a 10-year-old Camden boy who went missing for a night -- 10 hours, to be exact, from 9:30 on a Thursday night until 7:30 on a Friday.
Okoro says he doesn’t remember much from that night -- except that he was grounded right after.
It was around that same age that Okoro first got into playing basketball, and the now 17-year-old, 6-8 Okoro is hard to miss on the court.
The rising senior at New Jersey’s Eastern (Voorhees) HS is a strong player and leader on the court.
“Whether I’m playing AAU or high school I always talk on defense; I think I'm the loudest guy on defense all the time, so I just try to talk and get energy even when I’m on the bench,” said Okoro, who plays for Team Speed on the summer circuit.
So far he has been in touch with some D-II schools and Ivy League programs.
“I’m looking for schools that have good physical therapy programs,” Okoro said.
During his senior offseason, Okoro is working on becoming a more complete player and his conditioning.
“I think I’m a pretty good inside player but I want to increase my range and start shooting threes a little bit more,” he said. -- Isabella Sanchez-Castaneda
-- Derrick Herrick is going to have to get used to something new this winter: actual winter. The Houston, Tex. native, who was born in Louisiana, is coming up to the Northeast for the first time this fall, as he’ll be doing a post-grad year at Phillips Academy (Mass.) in hopes of landing a Division I look. “It’s exciting, it’s going to be a change for sure,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the experience and the possibility of going to college for four years out here, so it’ll be good for me, I think.” Herrick, a 6-4 guard who knocked down a few smooth 3-pointers and also drove the lane for a solid one-handed dunk in his afternoon game, citied some interest from Dartmouth, Brown and Colgate thus far.
-- Certainly one of the more energetic players at Elite 1 was 2018 G Ronnie Silva. A 5-foot-9 floor general, Silva was full of emotion as he set up his teammates with fast break opportunities for some impressive dunks. A rising senior at Bradford Christian School in Nashua, N.H., Silva competes in the NEPSAC’s highest classification, where he competes against the best prep schools in the New England region.
“There’s a lot of athleticism and the players are a lot faster,” he said. “It has definitely prepared me for the next level.”
On the court, Silva loves to get up and down and get his teammates involved. While he doesn’t yet have any offers, Silva has been receiving interest from Maine and American University.
-- His last name says it all. Maurice Commander is a true floor general. A rising senior at Curie High School in Chicago, Commander holds offers from Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, and just Thursday Sacred Heart offered him after a strong performance in the morning session. An ultra-quick point guard with a knack for getting to the rim, Commander was excellent at finding his way into the paint on Thursday, weaving through traffic to finish at the rim or find open teammates on the block for easy lay-ins. At Marist High School last season, Commander led his team to an East Suburban Catholic Conference championship, their first in seven years, and also took home the Player of the Year award for the Conference. A very diligent student, Commander has maintained a 4.3 GPA during his first three years of high school.
-- Few players at Albright College standout as much as Latravian Glover Jr., a 6-8 big man out of South Miami (Fl.) Senior High who recently decommitted from Oklahoma State. Glover took over his game in the afternoon session with seven consecutive points in overtime, displaying his ability to score inside and out. After originally committing to Oklahoma State, a change in the coaching staff in Stillwater caused the Miami big man to change course.
He remains an available 2017 big man with a ton of raw talent. He has a decent handle for someone his size, can shoot it from all over, and is difficult to move off the block. Glover said he has been in touch with both Massachusetts and St. Bonaventure, but has not received another Division I offer yet.
-- Souleymane Koureissi started the April Live Period with offers from schools such as Iona, Columbia, and Binghampton, but after a strong spring with Castle Athletics on the Adidas Gauntlet, Koureissi has picked up offers from Minnesota, Rhode Island, and South Florida. Koureiisi has been constantly working on his jumper. After all, a 6-9 wing with an outside shot is very appealing to a college coach.
A rising senior at Iona Prep in New Rochelle, New York, Koureissi is primed for a big senior season, both in terms of his high school season and his recruitment. After the July Live Period, Koureissi plans to sit down with his family and plan out when and where he will take his official visits.