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 who played well in front of the staff this weekend:
Ademide Badmus (above) was a problem in the post for all of Team New England's opponents this weekend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ademide Badmus (2022 | Team New England | Lynn English, Mass.)
Watched a fair bit of TNE’s top group this weekend, and quite a few players had consistently good outings. Badmus is a 6-7, 240-pound forward who was a force to be reckoned with inside every time he was on the floor. Badmus is a relentless rebounder and tip-back big man who likes to face up from 10-12 feet and attack the rim, though he also is great at weak-side put-backs. Anything he gets his hands on he secures with authority, and he can start the break as well. Bryant’s his only D-I offer but he also has one from D-II Franklin Pierce (N.H.), and a number of D-I programs interested as well.
Dion Brown (2022 | Team New England | Vermont Academy, Vt.)
Brown had an excellent weekend at Spooky Nook, as the 6-2 guard played in confident control game after game. A smooth, athletic combo guard, Brown did just about everything: he hit outside shots at a good clip, then used that to get defenders off their feet with some hesitation and attack the rim, where showed a deft ability to finish with both hands; he defended at a high level; found his teammates in transition; finished above the rim, and more. Like his AAU teammate, Brown had only one D-I offer from Bryant, and then picked up another one from UMBC at the weekend’s conclusion. If he keeps up that level of play this summer, he’s bound to get more.
Rollie Castinyera (2023 | Middlesex Magic | Phillips Exeter, N.H.)
There are several differences between a good shooter and a great shooter, but one mark is that a great shooter can get his shot off even once the opponent has figured out that he can shoot from deep. A 6-3 guard, Castinyera knocked in six 3-pointers in a Saturday afternoon win, the first three on catch-and-shoots, then becoming more of a pull-up jump shooter once the defense adjusted and started trying to chase him off the line. Castinyera finished with 25 points in the win, showing he can get into the lane and drive off screens as well.
E.J. Evans (2021 | Pitt Supreme | Covenant College Prep, N.J.)
Evans has been a presence on the AAU circuit for a good while now, coming up with Team Final as a youngster, but he’s in his final stretch now, looking for a college home after finishing up a prep year in N.J. He looked every bit the seasoned veteran during a win for Pitt Supreme over the NJ Beasts on Saturday afternoon, knocking home four 3-pointers as part of a 22-point outing. The 6-4, 205-pound guard has great range and a smooth jumper off the catch or pull-up, and he’s got the shooter’s confidence to keep firing even when a couple don’t find their mark.
Tyler Houser (2022 | Central PA Elite | Cedar Cliff, Pa.)
Another impressive big man this weekend was Houser, who helped lead Central PA Elite into the semifinal game of one of the 17U brackets. The 6-9, 240-pound forward/center is a solid-bodied post who moves well on both ends, an active screen setter and rim-runner who also can create his own shot in face-up situations, with a nice shot-fake that he uses to get defenders up in the air and attack the rim, where he can finish well with both hands; he’s also developing a smooth 3-point shot. Houser already has three Division II offers and a number of Division I schools in pursuit.
Acaden Lewis (2024 I Team Melo I St. John’s, D.C.)
Already a polished floor general for his age, Lewis has a bright future ahead if his trajectory continues. He had at least 13 points against Team Thrill and showcased a bit of everything in his arsenal as Team Melo’s 15U played up on Saturday. The 6-3, 147-pound lefty point guard was able to finish with both hands through traffic and displayed terrific vision in finding open teammates, particularly on drive and kick opportunities in the corner. He is receiving interest from George Washington and George Mason so far. He was constantly communicating with teammates and helping them get into the right spots. With a good combination of leadership and skill, Lewis’ stock should continue to rise further into the AAU season.
Zaveon Little (2022 I Team Swish I Voorheesvile, N.Y)
Little played nothing like his name on Saturday, recording a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds in a dominant 63-47 win over Team Takeover Orange. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half by attacking the offensive glass and outhustling the opposition for the ball. He led the break on a few occasions but the next phase of his game will be showing he can shoot from the outside. With a 6-4, 170-pound frame, he can certainly take smaller guards on the block and muscle them for rebounds. It’s possibly the biggest strength of his game and was part of why he averaged 19.5 points and 12.1 rebounds for Voorheesville (N.Y.) in five games this season. He’s receiving interest from Hampton but also locally from Scranton and East Stroudsburg.
Mark Newell (above) had a strong weekend in the middle for Prodigy Basketball, with high-academic D-IIIs all over him. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mark Newell (2022 | Prodigy Basketball | St. Sebastian’s, Mass.)
Newell had a solid game on Saturday in Prodigy’s 66-44 victory over Pro Skills Basketball Philly, and followed that up with an overall strong weekend. The 6-7 210-pound Newell threw down numerous dunks, communicated with his teammates, and hustled on the floor. The forward used his body to get inside for a layup and showed off his passing skills. He is working on improving his offensive skills, such as his jump shot, and adding to his already solid frame. The rising senior at St. Sebastian’s is hearing from high academic schools such as Brown, Middlebury, Hamilton, and Babson.
Pranav Prince (2021 I Team Takeover Orange | First Love Christian, Pa.)
Prince was one of many 2021 prospects playing this weekend, and it’s not hard to see what makes this 6-8 forward an intriguing prospect. He opened the scoring with a smooth trey against Team Swish. On a fast break, he showed off a spin move in the lane before drawing a foul. He also controls the glass (six rebounds) and the paint, as evidenced by a mammoth rejection by pinning the ball on the backboard. He is still raw but, based upon coaches watching him this weekend, expect the Division II and III interest to take shape in the coming weeks. Add that to a terrific backstory of success of the hardwood and it’s not hard to see why Prince is a notable name. In August, he became the male student-athlete from the NBA Academy India to get a high-school basketball scholarship in the U.S. A native of Kerala, India, he was a member of his home country’s team that secured a spot in the 2019 FIBA U16 Asia Cup.
Nick Schroeder (2022 | Unity Legends Select | Nutley, N.J.)
Schroeder is a hard-playing 6-2 180-pounds guard who can shoot the ball and lets the game come to him. In Unity Legends Select 82-66 win over PK Flash Black, Schroeder scored 14 points, knocking down four threes and dishing out five assists. Last season, Schroeder was Nutley high school's leading scorer, averaging 15.4 points per game, playing in all 11 games. The rising senior plays basketball the right way and is not afraid to dive on the floor for loose balls. After playing shooting guard for a while, he is working on improving his handle so he can play point guard. Schroeder currently has interest from D-III’s, Susquehanna and Washington College.
Holden Symonds (2023 | Middlesex Magic | Governors Ac., Mass.)
Symonds made his presence felt for the Magic’s 16Us from the get-go during a Saturday afternoon win, throwing home a big alley-oop dunk on the first possession. The 6-7, 225-pound forward — who grew two inches and gained more than 40 pounds during the pandemic, radically changing his body — is a physical presence in the frontcourt with skill, including a nice right-hand hook shot, and he’s re-learning his shooting form, knocking down a smooth corner trey. Siena and Bryant have offered so far, but no doubt more mid-majors will quickly follow once Symonds gets in front of D-I coaches next month, and there’s plenty of upside left.
Kur Teng (2024 I Mass Rivals Red I Bradford Christian Academy, Mass.)
Playing on the Mass Rivals Red 17U team is a testament to what this rising sophomore can do. Teng tallied 10 points against Team Thrill 17U on Saturday by consistently getting into the lane. Aside from one 3-pointer he knocked down early in the contest, he converted at the line or at the rim. Already boasting an offer from Bryant, Teng is long and can recover when a defender beats him off the bounce. The potential is there and his tenacious defensive play should help spearhead that.
Lance Altenor (2022 | Prodigy Basketball | Austin Prep, Mass.)
Noah Batchelor (2022 | Team Thrill | IMG Academy, Fla.)
Evan Cabral (2023 | All In | Don Bosco Prep, N.J.)
Gavin Carter (2023 | Middlesex Magic | Milton Academy, Mass.)
Jeremy Clayville (2024 | All In | DePaul HS, N.J.)
Mekhi Dedrick (2022 | Team New England | Boston England, Mass.)
Omarion Jett Dobbs (2022 | NJ Beasts | St. Benedict’s, N.J.)
Akili Evans (2021 | New Haven Heat | Lee Academy, Maine)
Kareem Ewell (2021 | WeR1 | The Patrick School, N.J.)
Ty Higgins (2022 | Team New England | Vermont Academy, Vt.)
Louis Hutchinson (2022 I Team Thrill I IMG Academy, Fla.)
A.J. Lesburt (2022 I Mass Rivals Red I Bradford Christian, Mass.)
David Luberoff (2022 | NJ Beasts | Midland Park, N.J.)
Keith Mancy (2022 | NJ Beasts | Kent School, Conn.)
Benny Martinez (2022 | Boston Warriors | Boston Latin, Mass.)
Aidan Mess (2022 | Mid-Atlantic Select | Mt. St. Joseph, Md.)
Michael Moore (2022 | Team Thrill | SPIRE Academy, Ohio)
Aidan Oliver (2022 | Prodigy Basketball | Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Mass.)
Matthew Prociak (2022 | NEPA Elite | Holy Redeemer, Pa.)
Delonte Raynor (2022 I Team Takeover Orange I Fairmount Heights, Md.)
Eli Shearer (2022 | Central PA Elite | Chambersburg, Pa.)
T.J. Vaughn (2022 | Mid-Atlantic Select | Archbishop John Carroll, Md.)
Matt Ward (2022 | Central PA Elite | Big Spring, Pa.)
Jaden Workman (2022 | Pro Skills Philadelphia | Pope John Paul II, Pa.)