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HG Jersey Shore Jam Fest: Sun. Notebook (July 25)

07/26/2021, 12:00pm EDT
By Zak Wolf & Rebecca Benjamin

Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22) &
Rebecca Benjamin (@rhbenji)

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 Sunday’s conclusion:

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Ryan Dunn (above) has seen his offer list grow from one to more than a dozen over the course of the summer. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)

Ryan Dunn (2022 | NY Jayhawks | Perkiomen School, Pa.)
After being a relatively unknown player at the beginning of this live period, Dunn has seen his stock rise dramatically this summer. With only one offer from Stony Brook to show a few months ago, Dunn has played very well over the last six weeks, which has completely changed his recruiting experience. He now has at least a dozen offers, with plenty of them coming from high majors including South Carolina, Boston College, Marquette, and Pitt. He also mentioned that Virginia has expressed interest in him recently and that Maryland called him this weekend. 

All the interest has given Dunn new confidence, but at the same time he likes to remain humble. 

“It’s boosted my confidence a lot,” he said. “Coming into the live period I wasn’t that confident, but now that I know I’m able to get all these offers it gives me confidence. I still come out and play like I have zero offers and that nobody knows who I am to try and make a name for myself.”

In terms of college visits, Dunn said that he doesn’t have any planned, but that now that the AAU season was over, he’d be sitting down with his parents to figure out which campuses he’d go see.

Dunn’s recruitment isn’t the only thing that’s seen a big change recently. Since his freshman year, Dunn has grown seven inches, going from a small 6-foot point guard to a tall and lengthy 6-7 off-guard. His play style has also changed as well — starting out as more of a playmaker, he’s now an aggressive, score-first shooting guard.  

Dunn is still trying to adapt his game to his new frame. 

“I’m working with my back to the basket a lot now,” he said, “trying to get a lot of fades in because I’m tall and little guards can’t contain that. I’m also working on finishing strong with little guards and blowing by bigger guards.”

Dunn showed throughout the weekend his ability to attack the basket as a slasher, finishing strong at the rim, along with a midrange game that he’s starting to use more. He rebounded well, attacking the offensive glass trying to get a few put backs and competed on the defensive end, moving his feet and staying in front of his man. 

Dunn hasn’t played much high school basketball, with only two years of varsity basketball experience at Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) and one of them being shortened due to the pandemic. To gain some more repetition and play time under his belt, Dunn is taking a post-grad year at the Perkiomen School, which will allow him to get even more exposure and gain more offers from colleges. 

Playing at a prep school like Perkiomen against high level players from all over the East coast is enticing to Dunn, while still trying to refine his skills before he plays at the next level. 

“I want to raise my basketball IQ and get stronger mentally by making the right decisions and learning from my mistakes,” he said. — Zak Wolf

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Quick Hits

Jackson Hicke (2023 | SJ Hoops Elite National | Radnor, Pa.) continued his strong offseason during SJ Hoops Elite’s match up against Team Final Red. Despite his team losing 61-42 to Team Final Red, Hicke put on a show. Hicke was responsible for half of his team’s points, scoring 21 points in the game. It wasn’t so much the point total that it is impressive, but rather how he scored that turned heads. Hicke’s footwork in the post is well beyond his years; his ability to pivot in the paint to create his own shot or creatively find an open teammate is impressive. The 6-5 small forward also made three 3-point shots, adding another layer to his already difficult to defend game. 

Another recent addition to his game: his height. During the pandemic, Hicke reports that he grew between 3-4 inches. This growth spurt, Hicke said, has greatly aided in his ability to shoot over others and grab more rebounds. “Three-to-four inches, that makes all the difference in the world,” Hicke said. 

Hicke has garnered the attention of teams in the Ivy League and the Patriot League, such as Lafayette, Penn, and American. In addition to his talents on the court, Hicke boasts a 4.2 GPA, putting himself in a position to fit in well both academically and athletically in Ivy League and Patriot League programs.
— Already having earned an offer from Saint Peter’s University, Ruben Rodriguez (2023 | Team Final Red | Reading, Pa.) announced on Twitter on July 24 that he received an offer from D-I program Jacksonville University. Rodriguez said that JU “loved the culture at Reading High” and “the energy that [he] brings” to the court.”  

The high-energy and large presence on the court that caught JU’s attention was on display as Rodriguez got up for explosive dunks and used his vertical prowess to make himself known on the defensive end. In addition to his vibrant  playing style, the 6-1 point guard has a gentle touch when it comes to handling the ball. His court vision and passing abilities balance out his explosive aspects of his game.

The two schools that offered Rodriguez aren’t the only ones involved, as he reports that Colgate and UMBC have also taken an interest. Looking towards his high school season, Rodriguez wants to continue to expand his skills on the defensive end and be able to control the game more. Last season, he said, some games were lost due to “stupid mistakes.” Rodriguez is determined to decrease his margin of error as he enters what is expected to be an exciting junior season as Rodriguez and Reading High School are coming off a PIAA 6A championship title. 

E.J. Matthews-Spratley (2022 | South Jersey Titans | Cherry Hill East, N.J.) played with a sense of ease as he dropped 17 points in the Titans’ victory over Jersey Force. His best asset is his shot. He has a strong shot off the dribble, as well as an ability to perform in a pass and shoot offense. Despite his offensive abilities, the 6-2 guard still has some room to grow on the defensive end.  While no school has yet to make an official offer to this potential-filled guard, D-III programs such as Hood College and Alfred State have been in talks with Matthews-Spratley. After being a significant player in Cherry Hill East’s run to the 2020 South Jersey Group IV championship game, going into his senior season, Matthews-Spratley is looking to continue to expand upon his already strong shot off the dribble, as well as develop his leadership skills more.

Aidan Anderson (2022 | South Jersey Titans | Lenape, N.J.) was a reliable presence on the court during the South Jersey Titans’ 72-63 win over Jersey Force. A rising senior at Lenape High School, the 6’4 shooting guard contributed 12 points in the Titans’ victory. Beyond the stat line, Anderson’s fluid movement off the ball and strong physique are just two of the qualities that have led numerous D-III schools, such as Randolph-Macon, Albright, and Mount St. Mary (N.Y.), as well as D-II program Lincoln University, to take an interest in Anderson. Anderson expects to take an official visit to Lincoln University in the near future. As Anderson works to fulfill his goal to bring a state title back to Lenape, he will surely be making waves among D-III programs.

— Following the AAU season, Jordan Derkack (2022 | SJ Hoops Elite | Colonia, N.J.) will be playing a fifth year of high school basketball at SPIRE Institute. SPIRE’s most recent and arguably well known product of the program is LaMelo Ball, who is currently playing in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets. Despite losing to a talented NY Jayhawks team, Derkack was able to showcase his talents. It doesn’t take long to see the tenacity and aggressiveness the 6-5 point guard plays with. His court vision ability to drive the lane makes him an excellent player to have steering the team at point guard. Derkack is looking forward to continuing to develop during his time at Spire, as he has not received any official offers. Heading into his fifth year, Derkack is engaging in conversations with Rutgers, Boston University, Monmouth, University of Delaware, and VMI. Derkack will be exciting to watch as he looks to improve upon his overall game during this bonus year.  — Rebecca Benjamin

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— Fresh off his first EYBL experience, Drew McKenna (2024 | Team Melo | Glenelg Country, Md.) helped Team Melo defeat Philly Pride Gold, scoring 19 points in a 61-58 overtime win.  The rising sophomore can do a little bit of everything, he can handle the ball and uses his size to post up smaller defenders but knows to get rid of it when faced with double teams. This was on display when he helped set up the game-tying three in his team’s battle against Philly Pride Gold. Mckenna was able to catch the ball in the middle of the lane and kick it out to his teammate. Mckenna also has a soft touch from midrange that he’s looking to extend out to the 3-point line more. Right now, McKenna doesn’t have a set position and sees himself as a bit of a positionless player, having experience playing at the ‘2,’ ‘3’ and ‘4’ spots. So far, the only college that’s taken interest in McKenna is George Mason, but he knows that his hard work will pay off soon enough. 

— Playing in the NEPSAC has helped Blair Thompson (2022 | NY Jayhawks | Northfield Mount Hermon, Mass.) garner a lot of attention from Ivy League schools. Thompson sees academics as an important part of his college decision with offers from Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Yale. He also has some interest from power five schools, with an offer from Xavier and Vanderbilt looking at him as well. Thompson is a lengthy wing player who likes to slash into the lane and finish through contact. He put up 14 points in the NY Jayhawks 59-53 win over SJ Hoops Elite and his defense was key in the championship game against K-Low as well. Thompson can guard multiple positions, using his speed to stay with quicker guards, while also using his size to defend bigger guys down low. 

Asim Jones (2022 | Jersey Force | Patterson Charter, N.J.) is a crafty guard who uses his speed to blow by defenders. Jones has a tight handle and likes to use his crossover move at the three-point arc to try and get into the lane. A lot of the time, Jones doesn’t need screens to get by his man, with a quick first step he makes it look easy a lot of the time. Despite only scoring 5 points vs K-LOW Elite, the guard still had a big impact on the game, setting up open looks for his teammates when he got into the lane. Jones is getting some looks from D-II schools like Chestnut Hill (Pa.) and Bloomfield (N.J.)

— Quron Zene (2022 | NY Lightning Black | IMG Academy, Fl.) had a floater that hung on the rim for what felt like an eternity before dropping in at the buzzer to give NY Lighting Black a 54-53 win over Early Risers. Zene scored 12 points in the victory, showing that he has both an inside and outside game, knocking down a couple threes and using his size to rise above smaller defenders on mid-range pull ups. Zene is already committed to play for Ivy League school Colombia, but before he suits up for the Lions, he’s heading down to Florida to play a post grad year at IMG. The 6-4 guard is taking the year to work on his body more by trying to slim down and get it ready for the next level. Zene is looking forward to the intense practices against his teammates that he knows will help him get better along with playing a national schedule against some of the best prep players in the country. — Zak Wolf

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