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Zero Gravity XL Summit: Coverage Notebook (Pt. 3)

05/17/2021, 8:00pm EDT
By CoBL Staff

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

MANHEIM, Pa. — The new Zero Gravity XL league made its first-ever appearance at Spooky Nook this weekend, with its affiliate group of travel hoops programs joined by an assortment of sneaker-sponsored programs and several other regional programs for a weekend-long tournament. 

CoBL had writers in attendance Saturday and Sunday, watching action in the 15U, 16U and 17U brackets. Here’s Pt. 3 of our weekend notebook: 

(More coverage: Part 1 | Part 2 | Standouts) 

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Tyler Houser (above) already has three D-II offers and is hearing from numerous D-I programs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Tyler Houser (2022 | Central PA Elite | Cedar Cliff, Pa.)

When Houser sets a screen — and it happens often — he does it with authority. That’s a little easier to do when you’re 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, but not all young forwards are expert space-creators, especially not with frequency. When Houser gets his feet set he doesn’t shy away from contact, and it doesn’t slow him down in the slightest.

“When you’re as big as me, it’s not super-hard to set the screens,” he said. “You’ve just got to be able to absorb contact. If you can do that, it’s not hard. I definitely like getting my teammates open.”

Houser’s screening ability is just one thing that makes him stand out: he’s a quick decision-maker with the basketball, knowing what he wants to do and when he wants to do it, whether that’s pop an open 3-pointer or rip towards the basket for an off-hand finish off a mid-range face-up opportunity, or make the extra pass in the course of finding a better shot for a teammate. That’s all the result, he said, of a lot of reps in the gym.

“You can’t just watch something, you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to learn from doing, learn from failing,” he said. “That’s helped me a lot.”

College coaches have certainly taken note of the impressive young forward from the middle of the state. He’s already got three Division II scholarship offers, from PSAC schools East Stroudsburg and Millersville as well as Wheeling University (W.Va.). If nobody else comes on board, he already knows he’s got more options than most, and good ones.

“I’ve gotten to see Millersville and East Stroudsburg, I like their campuses a lot,” he said. “They’re really great options, great schools, both have fantastic coaches. Definitely going to be tough coming down the stretch.”

That being said, Division I programs are sniffing around: Houser said he’s hearing from Patriot League schools Lafayette, Navy, Army and Lehigh as well as a few other academic Division I types. He plans on playing out the rest of the summer, seeing who comes on board, then making a decision in the fall before his senior year. 

He knows that the key to getting next-level offers will be increasing his athleticism and vertical leap, as well as showing he can reliably step out and make 3-pointers. He also said he’s working on “all aspects of my midrange game, just being able to spread the floor...and being able to not just hand the ball off after getting a rebound, being able to take it up the floor sometimes.”

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Jaden Workman (above) will be one of three senior returning starters for Pope John Paul II. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Jaden Workman (2022 | Pro Skills Philly | Pope John Paul II, Pa.)

After a quiet junior season, Workman’s coming into his own this summer. 

The 6-1, 160-pound point guard was a solid contributor as the sixth man as a sophomore for PJP, showing he could hit clutch foul shots in big games and provide a shooting outlet for the team’s more prominent scorers. But he didn’t take a big leap offensively as a junior, staying more of an auxiliary scorer for the Golden Panthers, though he was still a key piece for the District 1 4A champions. 

That looks like it’s changing. Workman was the main bucket-getter for PSB Philly all weekend, playing with the ball in his hands and continually getting into the lane, hitting outside shots, and getting his teammates involved. It’s the setup towards what he hopes is a breakout senior year, where he’ll be one of the leaders for the defending PAC champs.

“This offseason’s very important because it gives me a chance to get better, to play with other players and it’ll get me exposure, too, so that’s very important to me,” he said. “Me, [fellow seniors] Kevin [Green] and JP [Baron] are going to look to step up as the leaders of the team next year, going to look to go pretty far, hopefully further than we went last year.”

This summer, Workman said he’s working on creating his own shot and shooting pull-up jumpers, as well as improving defensively and playing more on the ball. 

As a senior, he’s also working on his leadership abilities, reflecting on the same things that the PJP seniors told him when he was an underclassman playing key minutes.

“They all taught me just to play hard,” he said, “(and) never to get down on my teammates because once you get down on your teammates, that brings the whole team down.”

Like most kids out playing travel basketball the summer before their senior year, Workman’s hoping to play hoops at the next level, and already has D-III Bryn Athyn on his recruitment. He’s benefitted from his PSB head coach, Ursinus assistant Jeff Vangorder, as well as Gwynedd Mercy coach John Baron, father of Workman’s high school classmate. 

One piece of advice in particular sticks out, and applies to prospects at every level.

“(Baron) gives us a lot of tips, he tells all of us always to play hard and never let your body language go bad,” Workman said, “because as a college coach [...] if you see a player with bad body language, they’re not going to want to recruit you or anything.”

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(More coverage: Part 1 | Part 2 | Standouts

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Dom Vasquez goes up for a pass

T.J. Power (above) is a versatile wing forward with outside range. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)

T.J. Power (2023 | BABC | Worcester Academy, Mass.)

Power sports No. 33 and a hairstyle similar to another forward that played in Boston. Okay, so he’s not Larry Bird, but Power’s certainly a solid prospect in his own right, showing his own all-around game Sunday for Boston Amatuer Basketball Club (BABC) 16U in a pool play matchup against We-R1.

Power and BABC fell behind by 20 in the second half before storming back with less than five minutes to go. We-R1 held on for the 67-61 victory but Power’s play stood out. He showed activity on the defensive end with multiple blocks, comfortability handling the ball in crunchtime, incredible footwork in the post and the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor.

The 6-8, 205-pound forward reclassified to the 2023 class after transferring from St. John’s (Mass.) to Worcester Academy. He recently picked up an offer from Creighton, joining Boston College, Bryant, Connecticut, DePaul, Holy Cross, Iona, Iowa, Marquette, Miami, Penn State and Providence as Division I programs vying for Power. He said he’s looking forward to coaches being able to contact him starting June 15.

“I’ve been talking to a couple schools but the rules have been a little tricky with my class,” Power said. “Once the live period hits I’m sure it’ll open up again and I can talk to more schools and build relationships.”

It was his first weekend back on the basketball court in a while. He had been playing baseball, including a no-hitter in April, and recovering from Achilles tendinitis which kept him off the court for eight weeks.

“My handle was a little iffy this weekend just cause I haven’t played in a while,” he said. “The fast pace of the game helped it come back quicker. As that develops, I can start handling it more.”

Power mentioned that he’d like to get back to his typical playing weight, around 215-220, and continue to work on his handle as he heads into his junior season at Worcester. He enjoys playing on the wing and has the potential to play any position on the court.

“We only had six games this season (at Worcester Academy),” Power said. “We have a lot of guys coming back next season so I’m looking forward to that.” -- Sean McBryan

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Liam Joyce (2022 | L&L Running Rebels | Allentown CC, Pa.)

Fresh off a PIAA Class 4A all-state selection and state title at Allentown Central Catholic, Liam Joyce continued his strong play Sunday leading L&L Running Rebels to a 78-64 win in the first round of the Zero Gravity XL Summit Championship 17U bracket.

“We’ve had a pretty good weekend,” Joyce said. “I’m hoping to capitalize on these extra games.”

Joyce has a solid repertoire in the post and always seems to be in the right position on the court. Rebounds, screens and making the right plays look effortless to him.

The 6-6, 210 pound power forward has interest from D-II and D-III schools including DeSales, East Stroudsburg, Cal U (Pa.), York College, Catholic University (D.C) and Elizabethtown. Joyce hopes to build on a successful year of hoops heading into his senior season.

“Over the summer I’m trying to expand my range a little bit and become more of a guard,” Joyce said. “I’m a little bit in between right now, more of a stretch-4. I’m looking to improve my ball handling.” -- Sean McBryan

(More coverage: Part 1 | Part 2 | Standouts

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Quick Hits

— NEPA Elite, the program formerly known as JB Hoops, always has quality small-college players on the roster, and this year’s no exception. In a game against the New Haven Heat (Conn.) on Sunday, three in particular stood out. Point guard Nick Nocito (22/Dallas Area, Pa.) is a 5-11 point guard with the ball on a string, and though his 3-point shot wasn’t falling for him, his ability to penetrate the defense, find his teammates and take smart shots in the flow of the offense was. He’s hearing from Swarthmore, Ursinus and F&M so far. Jason Shields (22/Scranton HS) is an athletic 6-5 off-guard with range and versatility, who’s hearing from a mix of small-college types including D-II East Stroudsburg plus D-IIIs Catholic (D.C.) and Scranton). And 6-5, 205-pound forward Matthew Prociak (22/Holy Redeemer) was active on the glass finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds (six offensive), with a great motor and second effort, plus good hands; he’s hearing from Franklin & Marshall and Juniata so far. Ethan Meuser (22/Hill School), who we spoke to earlier this month, had seven points with 12 rebounds and two assists.

— The Middlesex Magic’s 17u team had a very impressive tournament and left Spooky Nook with a trophy. In the championship game against Team New England, Will Batchelder’s (2022/Middlesex Magic/Governor’s Academy, Ma.) ability to apply pressure on opposing defenses was evident, though his 10 points won’t pop off the box score he proved to be consistent presence throughout the tournament as a lead guard for the Magic. The 6-1, 170-pound guard currently holds offers from a solid handful of Ivy League, A-10 and Patriot League schools, including BU, Holy Cross, Robert Morris, Siena and American, but wants to play out the live period before narrowing down his lists. Over the summer he’s looking to improve his off-ball movement and his athleticism. 

— Another member of the Magic, Trenten Mosquera (2022/Middlesex Magic/ Belmont Hill School, Ma.) already has quite a bit of athleticism that is evident during pregame shootarounds and he even threw down a couple dunks between the semifinal and championship games and had an emphatic block in the finale of tournament. He also showed off some range during the championship where he knocked down two threes. During the tournament Mosquera picked up his D-II second offer from Le Moyne and he already holds one from Southern New Hampshire, he’s also garnered interest from Lehigh, Holy Cross and Northern Illinois. So far the 6-5, 210 pound Mosquera hasn’t been told by colleges what position they are projecting him to play at the next level he has experience at both guard positions and at the wing.

— In his final outing in the Zero Gravity Summit in the 17u semifinal, Maxwell Davis (2022 | Pro Level Titans | IMG Academy, Fla.) dropped 21 points on the eventual champion Middlesex Magic. Davis’ ability to score from the perimeter was on full display, drilling 5 three-pointers of varying difficulty. His quick release was obvious on catch-and-shoot corner threes with defenders closing out and he was equally effective on his dribble pull ups; later in the contest Davis also showed off some in-between shot making ability when he was run off of the line. 

Davis played at Brooklyn Technical High School in New York and his performance during his high school career earned him multiple division 3 offers, in his junior season (the last year for statistical reporting in the PSAL) he averaged 15.8 points per game. His final season was cut short in the playoffs due to injury but his game film garnered the attention of IMG Academy and he’ll be doing a prep year this upcoming season with hopes of earning a Division I offer. 

During his time at IMG and through the rest of the summer the 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard is looking to prove that he is more of a shooter by improving his finishing ability around the rim and adding some more strength to his frame. “I want to be a go-to guy… I can’t just be hitting threes and then my shots off and I have no buckets,” Davis said. “I need to be able to score in every way possible.”  

— A 6-6, 188-pound wing, Justin Molen (2022 | East Coast Cyclones | Salesianum, Del.) sparked a 55-49 comeback victory for the East Coast Cyclones over NOVA Cavaliers Sunday. Molen showed off his soft shooting touch from deep and the line. He also showed potential as a ball handler.  “My goal is to play collegiate basketball,” Molen said. “Whatever level that is, just need a coach to give me a chance in that scenario.” He has interest from D-I’s such as Lafayette, Columbia and The Citadel (S.C.) and from D-III’s such as Swarthmore, Ursinus, Franklin & Marshall and DeSales. Molen, like many others, is excited for June 15 when coaches can initiate formal recruiting conversations with student-athletes. “It’s going to be nice finally having some Division I coaches out in person to see actual games,” he said. “The level of competition always rises when people are watching so it’s going to be good to see.” 


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