Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The final Hoop Group Jam Fest of the summer took over the Atlantic City Convention Center this weekend for the Jersey Shore Jam Fest, with boys’ hoops action in multiple age groups and brackets.
Here’s a notebook covering action from Friday night and Saturday’s action:
Aaron Lemon-Warren has seen his recruitment suffer setbacks due to injury and the COVID pandemic. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
Aaron Lemon-Warren (2022 | K-Low Elite | Mount Zion Prep, Md.)
Adversity has hit Lemon-Warren hard the past couple of years; whether it was injuries or the COVID pandemic, he’s had to deal with a lot. Towards the end of his junior season, Lemon-Warren broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot which ended his season. For his senior year, he played the entire season playing through pain in his left knee that he’s still trying to deal with.
Lemon-Warren certainly didn’t look injured in K-Low’s two wins on Saturday, first over Team Final Red and then SHA Elite. He scored 16 points against Final Red, all of which came in the second half or overtime, including an acrobatic finish to seal a win for his team in overtime. He then scored a game-high 21 points against SHA Elite, only missing two shots from the field (7-9) and going perfect from the line (7-7).
It’s still unclear exactly what position Lemon-Warren is. For the most part, on K-Llow he plays power forward alongside his frontcourt partner Cole Hargrove (Methacton), and does well, finishing around the rim and hitting mid-range jumpers in the paint. But only standing at 6-4, it’s hard to see him playing inside at the next level, which is why he’s trying to get more comfortable with the ball in his hands.
“Definitely my ball handling, being more confident on the floor,” he said. “Right now, I’m kind of playing out of position right now, but as soon as I get used to my ball handling, I see myself as a big guard.”
Lemon-Warren does have the ability to shoot the ball at a high rate from the outside, while being able to rebound inside. He also feels that his passing is an underrated part of his game, which will be an important attribute for him if he plays some sort of guard position at the next level.
With coronavirus affecting recruitment, Lemon-Warren found it difficult to get the right looks from schools, with many kids staying in college, using their extra year of eligibility the NCAA offered.
Therefore, he decided to attend Mount Zion Prep in Maryland after four years at Archbishop Ryan: “I just wanted another year to work on my body, get better and go to college from there. When I was talking to the coach, he was telling me they play a national schedule, so being able to play against higher competition will definitely help me.”
At Ryan, Lemon-Warren was mentored by players like Ja’Quill Stone (Grayson) and Amin Bryant: “They helped me out a lot and were able to make me feel comfortable in my sophomore and junior years, so everything was easier going into my senior year.”
Lemon-Warren will begin to work out with his new team in August as the live period starts to wrap up. So far, he is receiving looks from Bowling Green and St. Bonaventure, but hopes that playing on the prep scene and national stage will help him get better looks than he has now.
Derek Simpson (2022 | SJ Titans | Lenape HS, N.J.)
Simpson has been all over the place this summer, playing in events all over the country. First participating in Jersey and Philly Live with his Lenape squad and then playing in the 3SSB Adidas events playing against some of the most talented players in the country with K-Low Elite. In Alabama, K-Llow matched up against Team Loaded, led by five-star recruit M.J. Rice. Then in Omaha, Simpson and his team faced off against Midwest Basketball with Gabe Cupps and Reed Shepard, both of whom are getting recruited by high-major schools.
Simpson has thoroughly enjoyed all the high-level competition that he’s been playing in this summer. It’s helped him gain more exposure and offers from high level schools, including seven during the live period alone.
“It’s been great, except for the fact that my phone blows up every minute with stuff like that,” he said, “but it’s a fun experience”
As Simpson’s recruiting is beginning to wind down, he’s starting to narrow down the schools he’s most interested in.
The main schools that have offered Simpson and that he’s looking at are Bowling Green, Northeastern, St. Bonaventure, Fairfield, Delaware, Rutgers, and most recently Arizona State. So far, he has visits planned for the end of July to Bowling Green and Delaware, but Rutgers remains an interest for Simpson: “They’re a Big Ten school, so they have the best competition,” he said. “There are no days off in that conference.”
The point guard can both create for himself and his teammates. He likes to push the ball ahead in transition whether it’s him dribbling up the court himself or making an outlet pass to a teammate who’s running up the floor. Simpson had 14 points and five assists while playing with his dad’s SJ Titans team. He showed off his deep range, knocking down a couple 3s, and showed off his leaping ability with a couple of thunderous dunks.
Simpson knows that at this point in his basketball career, everything is about playing with confidence and believing in your abilities.
“I come out here and you always got to feel that you’re the best player,” he said. “That’s been my mindset ever since my freshman year. Especially now since a lot of people are talking to me and I have to show them what I’m capable of.”
It shows on the court. Simpson plays with a lot of swagger and it never looks like he second guesses himself while on the floor. As he heads into his senior season he knows what it takes for him to continue to grow as a player: “At this point in high school it’s all about repetition, in my opinion,” he said, “whether it’s 100 shots a day or something like that. It’s just important to (stay) in the mode.”
Justin Moore (above) has talked to some former Wood standouts about being a senior point guard in the Catholic League. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
Justin Moore (2022 | K-Low Elite | Archbishop Wood, Pa.)
There’s a lot of pressure on Moore to be the next great point guard at Archbishop Wood, but he doesn’t feel any of it. The reigning Philadelphia Catholic League champions have had some high-level guards in the past few years, including Collin Gillespie (Villanova), who led the Vikings to their first ever PCL title in 2017. There’s also back-back PCL MVP Rahsool Diggins (UConn), who was a four-year starter and helped Wood win their most recent Catholic League championship last spring.
Moore has gotten to know Diggins and Gillespie, with both giving him advice on how to get better and prepare for the next level.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” he said. “Rahsool and Colin, they’re my guys. They look out for me, and I can talk to them about anything, so they help me a lot.”
For Moore, this will be his third different high school in three years, after playing his first two seasons under Pat Fleury at Cheltenham and then under Will Chavis at McDevitt for his junior year before arriving at Wood due to McDevitt's closure.
With Chavis now being on the Drexel coaching staff, it creates an interesting dynamic in Moore’s recruitment with an offer from Drexel on the table. Moore knows that Chavis won’t be the deciding factor in his decision, but he did explain their close relationship.
“Coach Will is my guy, we still talk a lot still,” he said. “Even though he was my coach, I look at him as family; he knows whatever decision I make, whether it’s Drexel or not, he’s still going to be there for me.”
Drexel isn’t the only college interested in Moore. The 6-2 point guard has been getting some buzz, with offers from St. Peter’s, St. Francis (Pa.), Jacksonville, Mt. St. Mary’s, Albany and more.
Moore is looking forward to visiting campuses in August and September with trips to Albany and Drexel already planned. He is still getting used to the stress of recruitment, but knows it’s worth it in the end.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It’s still a bit stressful with a lot of coaches calling you, but just to know that you put yourself in a position to play at the Division I level is good along with getting a free scholarship to go to school relieves a lot of that stress.”
The rising senior is a true point guard with good basketball instincts. He plays with excellent pace, and knows when to speed up and play fast, but also when to slow things down and get his team organized. Moore navigates the pick and roll well, reading the defense and deciding either to attack the lane or giving the ball up to a big. Moore did both in K-Low Elite’s 56-48 win over Kings Unlimited on Friday. Even though he only scored seven points, Moore was aggressive, getting into the lane and going to the free throw line eight times. He also created a lot of easy baskets for his teammates by making the right pass on many occasions.
Moore has learned a lot from his dad, who played at Temple for a season, before transferring to Mount Ida College in Massachusetts. From there he played overseas in countries like Denmark, Finland, and Germany.
“I’ve been around basketball for a long time, and he’s taught me the game which has made basketball easier for me,” he said.
Moore is looking to get more consistent with his jump shot because he knows at the next level, he won’t be able to drive past everyone, with bigger and more athletic players. He also wants to continue to grow as a leader on the court for his team as he gets ready for his senior season with Archbishop Wood.
“I’m trying to improve this summer so I’m ready for next season to come back better, stronger and ready to compete for a PCL championship,” he said.
Perkiomen School (Pa.) forward Thomas Haugh has pulled in a number of mid-major offers this month. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
— Hard work is starting to pay off for Thomas Haugh (2022 | Philly Pride | Perkiomen School, Pa.) as he’s started to garner even more attention from Division 1 schools during this live period. Haugh had an impressive showing on both ends of the floor in Philly Prides back and forth 73-72 victory over Rocktop Academy on Friday Night. Haugh had 14 points, which included a few put back dunks and strong drives to the basket. The 6’9 forward is tough to keep off the offensive glass with his size and leaping ability. He also has good defensive instincts, using his good timing to block shots. Although Haugh has the ability to handle the ball and shoot from outside, both aspects of his game are still developing as he looks to play the small forward or stretch four position in college. With a lot of interest from the Patriot League including offers from Albany, Lafayette and Boston, and other schools like Holy Cross and Siena, Haugh has plenty of options to choose from.
— Tyje Kelton (2022 | Jersey Force | Covenant College Prep, N.J.) showed off his improved skills in Jersey Forces’ 64-28 dismantling of Maryland Movement. Kelton’s biggest skill is his athleticism, which was on full display Friday, providing a few highlight dunks in transition. Kelton gets a lot of opportunities in transition because he runs the floor and uses his long stride to his advantage. The 6’6 guard put on display his touch from the outside that he’s been working on, knocking down two three pointers. Kelton totaled 14 points on the night as he attempted to attract the attention of more college coaches. So far, Kelton has only received an offer from D-II Bloomfield, which he’s using as motivation to try and get better as a player.
— The duo of Noah Pit (2022 | West Morris, N.J.) and Geancarlo Peguero (2023 | Gill St. Bernard’s, N.J.) combined for 50 of SHA Elite’s 70 points against East Coast Power in a come-from-behind overtime victory. After being down double digits in the second half, Peguero took over, scoring 18 of his total 24 points, including a big go ahead three in overtime. The native of Puerto Rico is still adjusting to the higher level of play in the U.S, but he showed what he’s capable of. The biggest part of his game is his athleticism, at 6-5, he moves well in the open court. Peguero also has a solid handle and a good touch from mid-range that extends out to the three-point arc as well. So far his only offer is from Dayton, but he has some interest from high-majors with interest from Georgia Tech, Seton Hall and Rutgers so far.
Pit is a player who doesn’t put the ball on the floor nearly as much, with a very good shot from the outside, knocking down four 3s against East Coast Power. He’s good in pick and pop situations, which is where he gets a lot of his points from. Because of the threat he poses with his shot, Pit uses his shot fake effectively, when defenders are trying to close out on him, which creates easier midrange looks for him. Pit has a mix of high academic D-I and D-III schools like Colgate, Franklin and Marshall, Hamilton, and Amherst, but has yet to receive an offer.
— Brett Byrne (2022 | East Coast Power | Methacton, Pa.) showed off his scoring ability in a tough loss to SHA Elite. Byrne showed that he can attack the paint and go up strong, finishing at the rim, but also was able to find his teammates on the perimeter when the defense was sucked in. Byrne knocked down a couple of threes as well, finishing with 18 points in the end. The point guard has a mix of schools looking at him from D-II East Stroudsburg to D-IIIs York and Franklin & Marshall, and D-I Army.
— Earl Greere (2022 | BW Elite | Rocktop Academy, Pa.) is a 6-6 shooting guard, with a smooth offensive game. Greere scored a team-high 20 points in a 70-57 win over PK Flash. He showed off his nice touch from the outside and that he’s not afraid to push the ball in transition and get into the lane. After playing his first three seasons of high school with Delaware County Christian, Greere is ready to play for Rocktop Academy to try and gain more exposure and get more looks from colleges. So far, a mix of schools have reached out including some low-majors and small-college programs, but no offers yet.