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Hoop Group AC Jam Fest: Standouts (July 7-9)

07/10/2021, 12:15am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Spent the past three days at the Hoop Group’s Atlantic City Jam Fest, checking out a mix of local teams and some others from around the region, all playing in front of plenty of college coaches from Division I (on Thurs.-Fri.) and the rest (all three days).

Here’s some players who caught this writer’s attention over the course of the tournament/showcase:

(More coverage: Day Three Notebook | Day Two 2022s Notebook | Day Two 2023s Notebook | Day One Notebook)

Christian Bliss (2023 | NY Renaissance | George School, Pa.)
A new addition to the Philly area, coming down from Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.), Bliss is a point guard with size (6-4, 180), terrific hoops IQ and a game that combines “smooth” with “in control.” Doesn’t force anything, does a great job of getting into the lane when the opportunity presents itself and keeps his head up looking for shooters and cutters. Mid-majors have already offered, and expect academics to play a factor as well.

Sam Brown (above) picked up his first D-I offer, from Albany, in the last couple of weeks. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Sam Brown (2023 | Philly Pride Gold | Lower Merion, Pa.)
Brown’s really coming into his own this offseason, playing with the ball in his hands a lot more. The strong outside shooter is becoming much better at creating his own shot, whether it’s utilizing a step-back or side-step off a crossover, but he also works hard to get free off the ball and is increasingly becoming dangerous in the mid-range and attacking the bucket. The 6-2 guard picked up his first offer recently, from Albany. 

Mouhamed Dioubate (2023 | PSA Cardinals | Putnam Science, Conn.)
First look at this 6-7, 215-pound wing was a good one, as Dioubate had a productive outing for PSA in a losing effort (playing up an age group) against the NJ Panthers. Physical and assertive, Dioubate used a variety of moves and angles to work his way into the lane and get to the bucket, where it was tough to stop him from getting his shot to fall; a left-hander, he also hit a pull-up contested 3-pointer to show his range. Quite a few mid-to-mid-plus types have offered already, but his recruitment has a long ways to go.

Tommy Haugh (2022 | Philly Pride Gold | Perkiomen School, Pa.)
It was definitely a good week in Atlantic City for Haugh, who was all over the court in a good way for Pride Gold’s oldest group. A bouncy 6-9 forward, Haugh has tended to make his biggest impact on the defensive end and on the glass, where his high-running motor definitely helps. But he was also hitting outside shots with some consistency, something I hadn’t seen yet, and showing improved touch around the rim. Albany offered last month, and a couple more weekends like that will have more to follow.

Jackson Hicke (2023 | SJHE National | Radnor, Pa.)
Hicke has been one of the spring’s under-the-radar stars locally, as the 6-4 wing guard has been scoring at a consistently high pace for SJ Hoops Elite wherever they play; this week, he helped them to an unbeaten record and appearance in a championship game that wasn’t played due to time limitations. Hicke is a strong outside shooter with range who competes at both ends, and he’s hitting mid-range pull-ups and attacking the rim more reliably.

Aidan Kehoe (2022 | NJ Panthers | Canterbury School, Conn.)
One of the bigger bodies out there, the muscular 6-10 post asserted himself for the Panthers, where he was an immovable object around the basket. Kehoe didn’t give up on any rebounds, and got a good deal of his production — and there was a good bit of it — on put-backs and dump-offs, even if he had to fight off a few defenders to force the ball up and in. Also showed good defensive timing and instincts, with more than a couple blocks in all of his outings, and made a number of drivers change their minds when he was looming. Kehoe had a number of high-level D-II offers before opting to do a prep year, and he’s hoping for more.

Scottie Middleton (above) has been scoring the ball at a high clip all spring and summer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Scottie Middleton (2023 | NY Renaissance | Patrick School, N.J.)
Another player who’s had himself quite a summer, Middleton has shown he’s one of the top scoring wings around in the 2023 class, and few have been able to slow him down for long. A 6-7 wing with length and athleticism in buckets, Middleton is a true 3-level shooter whose best weapon is his jumper, which he’ll unleash in any situation, showing a great ability to change speeds on the break and pull up while retaining his form and pace. High-majors are already offering; don’t expect that to change.

Lucas Orchard (2023 | SJHE National | Devon Prep, Pa.)
The most consistently productive player on Devon Prep Jason Fisher’s summer squad has undoubtedly been Orchard, a 6-4 wing who just knows how to play the game. Orchard does a great job of working free for open shots even without elite foot speed, and his somewhat-unorthodox release finds the hole with consistency. Has a great understanding of working in two-man and three-man situations, and rebounds well off the wing. 

Tahaad Pettiford (2024 | New Heights Lightning | Hudson Catholic, N.J.)
Look out for Pettiford as a lead guard prospect with buckets of talent, especially once he hits the 16U and then 17U circuits in the next couple summers. A 6-1 speedster, Pettiford can get to the bucket with ease, but he’s also confident from deep, with a smooth 3-point release in pull-up situations as well as off the catch. Rutgers and Seton Hall have already offered, a hint as to his local reputation and abilities.

Ethan Simmon (2022 | NJ Panthers | St. Joe’s-Metuchen, N.J.)
The Panthers had a good week, with a number of different guards and wings showing talent, but Simmons stood out for his combination of size (6-4, 180), athleticism and versatility. His picture-perfect jump shot has great rise and form, and even when it doesn’t go in it never misses by much. Simmon is a good rebounder off the wing who also knows how to see the floor, even though he typically works off the ball. Scholarship level for sure.

Owen Woolbert (2023 | TNBA Ohio | Jackson, Ohio)
Watched TNBA Ohio’s 16s take down Philly Pride Gold’s 16s on Thursday and it was tough not to notice Woolbert, who was productive all game long in coming away with a double-double. The high-academic 6-7 forward had great hands and footwork in the past, and he had the patience to wait for the defense to make a mistake to get to the bucket and finish with ease with both hands. Also showed he could put the ball on the floor in the open court, and said he’s working on extending his range, though he didn’t need to show it.

Honorable Mention
Alif Bass (2022 | NJ Panthers Select | Saint Peter’s Prep, N.J.), Torin Bosch (2023 | All In | Basha, Ariz.), Jayden Brown (2022 | NJ Panthers | Immaculate Conception, N.J.), Peter Carey (2022 | NY Lightning Select | Northfield Mt. Hermon, Mass.), Adam ‘Budd’ Clark (2023 | BW Elite | West Catholic, Pa.), Gavin Cote (2022 | PK Flash | Peters Twp., Pa.), Oliver Jones (2024 | Philly Pride Gold | South Kent, Conn.), EJ Greer (2022 | BW Elite | Rocktop Academy, Pa.), Tyler Koenig (2023 | All In | DePaul HS, N.J.), Ryan Lang (2022 | PK Flash | Knoch, Pa.) Trey Martin (2022 | Philly Pride Gold | Boiling Springs, Pa.), Diovion Middleton (2023 | PSA Cardinals | Wings Academy, N.Y.), Ryan Pettit (2022 | NJ Panthers | Rutgers Prep, N.J.), Danny Rosenblum (2023 | SJHE National | Radnor, Pa.), Austin Sargenti (2023 | All In | Bergen Catholic, N.J.), Jack Scott (2022 | NJ ShoreShots | Hun School, N.J.), Nix Varano (2022 | Philly Pride Gold | La Salle, Pa.), Ryan Walsh (2023 | TNBA Ohio | Elyria, Ohio)

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