Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
MANHEIM — The first live recruiting period of 2022 was this weekend, with Division I coaches able to join those from D-II, D-III and junior college programs out at major events all across the country. Many of the region’s local teams and coaches were out at Spooky Nook Sports this weekend for the Hoop Group’s Spring Jam Fest, the first of Hoop Group’s major tournaments in the region this summer.
Here’s Pt. 2 of our notebook from the weekend, featuring action from the 17U showcase games on Friday, as well as 17U bracket action on Saturday:
Ma’Kye Taylor (2024 | Team Final | Imhotep Charter)
Ma’Kye Taylor got his feet wet on the high school AAU circuit last year, but he wasn’t quite himself. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward had missed his entire freshman year with a broken leg, and his summer with BW Elite’s 16s, playing up a year, was just his return to the court.
But he worked himself into a significant role on Imhotep’s PIAA Class 5A state championship squad, and now he’s playing with Team Final’s 16U group, playing on the 17U level in Spooky Nook before making their EYBL circuit debut later this month.
Ma'Kay Taylor (above) is making up for lost time after missing his freshman year with a broken leg. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“It went well, after being injured my freshman year, not being able to play, I feel like it was a solid year for me, being as though it was my first year of high school playing,” he said, adding it took through the summer and into the first few games of his sophomore year when he finally began feeling comfortable on the leg.
Now, the injury is well in his past, and the future’s looking brighter and brighter.
On an absolutely loaded Final 16U squad, Taylor still managed to stand out on Friday night in a 78-70 win over Rising Stars (N.Y.). There were a couple smooth spot-up 3-pointers, one from the corner, one from straightaway; the smooth finishes around the hoop, including a reverse layup to open the scoring; a couple no-look passes to teammates, showing he can be a creator with the ball in his hands, even on the move.
He finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. He didn’t miss a shot.
“I feel amazing,” Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be a good offseason with these guys; we’ve got a pretty good team, I feel like we’re going to win something this year.”
Though Taylor came up as more of a ‘4’ or ‘5’ due to his size and solid frame, he said he wants to move to become more of a wing by the time he gets to college, a plan which doesn’t look so crazy with the way he played this weekend.
A native of West Philadelphia, where he grew up around 60th street, Taylor is already starting to get some college interest, saying his coaches have told him that Temple, St. Joe’s, Ohio State and Marquette had inquired. Temple coach Aaron McKie was watching Team Final on Friday night, as the Owls have several local targets on the Nike-backed squad. Neumann-Goretti point guard Robert Wright III (14 points, 4 rebounds-assists-steals), Archbishop Ryan forward Thomas Sorber (14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists), Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Trenton Catholic guard Deuce Jones (7 points, 2 rebounds) also played well in the win over Rising Stars.
As the summer goes on, look for Taylor to continue to play with the ball in his hands and showcase his play-making and shot-making abilities, while retaining the ability to post up and score around the rim.
“I want to be a ‘3’, I think I’ll be a good ‘3’ but I also want to have the ability to play inside and out, some of my best games are played inside,” he said. “Right now, I should be focusing on durability and getting my wind up a little bit more, being though I didn’t get a lot of movement last year; I’m still regaining that, too.”
Jack Seidler (2022 | Team Final | Marlboro, N.J.)
Riding high off a stellar senior year, Seidler is back wearing a familiar uniform as he chases some scholarships.
Jack Seidler (above) is back in a Team Final uniform for the spring, this time in a leading role. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)
The Jersey shore wing played with Team Final last year on the Peach Jam champions, but found it difficult to get serious minutes on a loaded squad, benefitting from the experience and high-level practices but not quite the exposure he was looking for. But he’s back wearing a Final uniform again this spring, playing for a group of unsigned seniors, where he can finally play those big minutes and show what he can do.
Of course, Seidler showed plenty of that during the 2021-22 season, when he led Marlboro to its first-ever Shore Conference championship, first-ever Central Jersey Group 4 championship, and into the Group 4 state championship game against Elizabeth. He was named Shore Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-Group 4 along the way.
“It was amazing,” he said. “We’re a public school that hasn’t really won anything, so I wanted to stay home with the kids I grew up with and take home some hardware for us, and we got the job done this year, it was really special.”
Seidler had at least 15 points in a Saturday game against Cecil Kirk (Md.), knocking down at least four 3-pointers along the way. That ability to light it up from downtown is nothing new for Seidler, who’s trying to show he can be more than just a pure shooter.
Whether or not this April is Seidler’s last few weeks on the travel hoops scene remains to be seen; a prep year isn’t out of the question, and he’s been talking to several schools throughout the Northeast. That’s in addition to talking to American and St. Francis (Pa.), as well as East Stroudsburg and Jefferson among other D-II’s, but he doesn’t currently have any scholarship offers.
“I just want to play this month, then kinda see where everything’s at, talk to my family and see what’s up,” he said. “I’m trying to keep all my options open, so if the right fit comes along, then we’ll see what happens.”
Todd Brogna (above) is a versatile 6-6 forward with several colleges already tracking him. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— First game of the live period was a 63-53 win by one of the numerous Middlesex Magic 17U squads over Jersey Force’s HGSL group, albeit one missing a couple key pieces. Todd Brogna (2023 | Worcester Academy, Mass.), a 6-6, 220-pound forward, was strong inside with 16 points and nine rebounds, plus three steals and two assists, able to get to the bucket from the foul line extended and showing good touch/positioning around the rim. Brogna said he’s hearing from a number of D-II and D-III types already, mentioning D-II Assumption (Mass.) and D-III Babson (Mass.) as two that had been in touch. His teammate, 6-1 guard Sam Hinman (2023 | St. Sebastian’s, Mass.) showed his shooting acumen by going 7-of-12 from deep in the win for his 12 points; he said he’s already hearing from high-academic D-IIIs including Williams, Wesleyan and Swarthmore.
— Impressive showing by TNBA Ohio’s 17s in an 82-67 win over Gibbs Elite in the final set Friday night. The HGSL program from the Cleveland area trailed by two at the break but rolled in the second half, getting contributions from up and down the roster; most telling was the fact that they racked up 23 assists on 35 buckets, a ratio that just about college team would be plenty happy with; six players had multiple assists, led by ’24 guard Luke Skaljac, who had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Playing well on the interior for TNBA was 6-8 post Chase Garito (2023 | Brecksville-Broadview Heights), who had 15 points and four rebounds against an undersized Gibbs Elite. Garito, who along with Skaljac helped their high school team to a 22-2 record this last year, losing to Cleveland Heights in the district championship game, had 17 points, four rebounds and two assists in the win over Gibbs Elite. A muscular post, Garito has great hands and excelled at rolling to the rim, catching and finishing, and had several second-chance buckets; he also showed the ability to face up and knock down a mid-range jumper. A number of D-II and D-IIIs have already reached out, including Fairmount State and Penn State-Behrend.
“I’m trying to work on my, just a lot of left-hand stuff, really,” he said. “I want to get better at using both hands under the basket and being strong and reading that double and seeing, finding open guys.”
For Gibbs Elite, Saleem Payne (2023 | Phelps School) was 3-of-4 from deep to help hi to 13 points, Dean Coleman-Newsome (2023 | Archbishop Carroll) had 10 points and five rebounds; seven other players had between five and eight points.
— Team Final’s 16U group is loaded with Division I prospects, some of whom are still awaiting their first offers, and some of whom are a little further along in the process. Moses Hipps (2024 | Archbishop Carroll) is definitely in the latter portion of that bunch, with offers from Temple, VCU, La Salle and Fordham; he said he’s also been hearing from Iowa, which came out to Archbishop Carroll to watch him work out. They know no matter where they go, eyes will follow, with at least half the team already holding Division I offers and the rest on the verge of getting there.
“We all know what colleges are starting to reach out to us, and we have the sense of that, but I think that we do a good job of just being together and staying together, even though it’s individual when it comes to recruiting,” Hipps said. “We know we’re being watched at all times, but it doesn’t really bother us or affect us.”
A 6-4, 170-pound guard, Hipps’ 3-point shooting ability is still his best asset, and he knocked down a pair of triples in a win Friday night and another one Saturday over Primetime Elite. When EYBL competition starts later this month, he’s hoping to show coaches he can do more than just make long jumpers, including getting into the mid-range, “which I think I showed in the high school basketball season,” he said, “but I want to show I can do it against lankier, longer competition as well when it comes to the EYBL.”
Primetime Elite, whose core is largely made up of juniors from Radnor and Devon Prep, got 17 points (three 3's) from Radnor 6-4 wing Charlie Thornton, who's having a strong spring as he continues his move to the perimeter; his high school classmate, 6-5 Jackson Hicke, had seven points and six assists, showing his playmaking abilities, and Devon Prep's 6-4 wing Lucas Orchard attacked the rim well to get to 10 points, with five rebounds and a couple steals.