Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)
MANHEIM — The grassroots live period was alive and well at the Spooky Nook Sports complex Sunday with multiple local AAU squads suiting up to compete in their respective championship brackets during the Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest.
Among those playing, Team Final’s 16Us won playing up in a 17U bracket and Philly Revolution 16Us topped Team New England to win theirs. K-Low Elite’s 15Us, playing up in 16Us, were also in action, as were NJ Panthers before the tournament concluded with Team Spartans (Mass.) topping VA Premier to win one of the top two 17U brackets.
Here’s a recruiting notebook from the day:
Mike ‘Deuce’ Jones (2024 | Team Final | Trenton Catholic, N.J.)
Opening in 1964, Trenton Catholic faced the threat of closing last summer due to a money deficit and COVID-19 enrollment impacts.
Mike 'Deuce' Jones and Trenton Catholic had a successful 2021-22 season. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)
Students would be forced to search for an alternative school for educational and athletic purposes; thankfully for many, the school was saved when families, school staff and alumni came together to raise enough money to keep the academy open.
“We had to raise our own money to open back up,” Jones said of the situation.
The 6-2 Jones, who has an offer from Temple and interest from Penn State, Seton Hall and UConn, had almost transferred to Archbishop Ryan, as teammate and friend Thomas Sorber did, but stayed once he realized Trenton Catholic would remain open.
“It went really well,” Jones said of his sophomore season with the Iron Mikes. “We made it all the way to the state ‘chip. We fell short, but obviously tried our hardest. It was the same people and I’m familiar with everybody; it felt like home.”
Now Deuce and the 6-9 Sorber, who has multiple D-I offers, are rejoined as teammates for a loaded Team Final EYBL 2024 squad that also featured D-I prospects in Moses Hipps (Archbishop Carroll) and Robert Wright III (Neumann-Goretti) Sunday.
Team Final, playing up in one of the top two 17U brackets (Hoop Group split its best 17U teams into two separate brackets), still captured the championship trophy in an 83-75 victory over Illinois-based Young & Reckless.
Wright and Hipps (four 3s) each scored 16, Sorber had 14 and Jones 11.
While Hipps is the one with the polished outside stroke and Sorber a handful in the paint, Jones and Wright possess tight handles with knacks for getting to the rim and using crafty finishes to either score or draw fouls.
“It’s helpful because, say I’m getting pressured, I have somebody else who can take that pressure off me and bring the ball up,” Jones said about playing with Wright.
Jones’ outside shot still has room for improvement and he hopes to improve on getting his teammates involved and better shots as the summer unfolds and more colleges offer and show interest.
He’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so against elite competition playing on the EYBL circuit.
“We just want to get better and get ready for our EYBL sessions,” he said.
Those sessions include trips to Indianapolis, Louisville, Kansas City…and then Peach Jam in July.
Kevin McCarthy (2024 | Philly Revolution | Episcopal Academy)
Kevin McCarthy did what he normally does in Philly Revolution 16Us’ 67-39 semifinal victory over Pittsburgh-area PK Flash HGSL; he lit the net on fire.
The 6-3, 180-pound Episcopal rising junior guard hit five 3s on his way to a game-high 26 points.
That pure jumper and an improving dribble and penetration game has caught the attention of college coaches as McCarthy picked up his first offer from Florida Gulf Coast and new head coach Pat Chambers last week.
He handled the ball well when teammate and fellow guard Josh Reed was out of the game and showed the ability to play off the ball when Reed took care of ball-handling duties.
McCarthy was active on the glass too, grabbing at least seven rebounds. As these skills continue to develop, so too will the suitors behind FGCU, the first to jump on board.
Playing in the Inter-Ac at Episcopal, McCarthy feels the styles of play on the AAU and high school circuits are similar but said, “This game’s a little faster I’d say.”
That certainly played to Revolution’s advantage in the second half as it outscored Flash 34-11.
With a more balanced and talented squad around him, McCarthy is able to work on other skills that will further heighten his game.
“My ball handling and just being able to attack under pressure and attack the basket more,” McCarthy said about skills he wants to work on during the rest of summer.
Josh Reed (left) and Kevin McCarthy helped the Philly Revolution to a championship in one of the top 16U brackets this weekend. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)
Josh Reed (2024 | Philly Revolution | Archbishop Wood)
Though he got some valuable reserve minutes this iseason, Josh Reed sat for long stretches behind the likes of senior guards Justin Moore (Drexel) and Tyson Allen (Montclair State) during his sophomore season at Archbishop Wood, one in which the Vikings made it to the PIAA Class 6A championship.
It’s much different for him during AAU; Reed is at the top of the pecking order, which should prepare him to take the next step for the Vikings next season as an upperclassman.
“The transition is good,” Reed said about the difference between coming off the bench at Wood and being the main guy on Revolution. “I think it’ll prepare me for the next high school season.”
The 6-3 guard shines with the ball in his hands, getting downhill fast and relentlessly attacking the rim. He also possesses rare athleticism, with two emphatic dunks on his way to 16 points to complement McCarthy’s 26 in Revolution’s 67-39 victory.
He also had five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
“I’m just trying to prove myself,” Reed said. “I feel like I’m very underrated to certain people. I just want to work on my game and become a more complete player.”
A few parts of his game he mentioned he will be working on: pull-up, jumpshot, ball handling, consistency.
For Flash, 6-5 guard Damon Curry scored 13 points and hit three 3s, showing a smooth lefty stroke. Curry averaged 15.8 points per game as a sophomore at Franklin in the western part of the state.
Cameron Wallace (2025 | K-Low Elite | Great Valley)
After a freshman season at Great Valley that saw him start every game, break the school’s single-game scoring record, make All-Ches-Mont American first-team and score 30 in his first district game, Cameron Wallace is now shifting his attention to the AAU circuit with K-Low Elite.
Cam Wallace (above) and K-Low Elite's 15s had a good run in the 16U bracket. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)
K-Low’s 15Us played up against the DMV-area Global Squad HGSL in a 16U semifinal during the 9:40 slate Sunday at Spooky Nook; the 15Us led for the majority of the first half until Global pulled away for a 59-45 victory.
“They’re bigger and stronger so we had to play up and with more intensity,” Wallace said about facing 16Us. “It’s different for us [playing up], teams are better and more well-known.”
Although Wallace didn’t have the greatest shooting morning percentage-wise, his ability to get to the rim and affect the game with his length defensively were on full display, even against opponents one year his senior.
He scored 13 points and had a block and a steal defensively while showing the potential to handle a larger responsibility in bringing the ball up the court against higher-level defenses.
“I can play every position,” Wallace said. “I didn’t play too well today. I’m trying to work on my shooting and dribbling full court, setting up my teammates to score.”
K-Low might’ve lost, but winning isn't the whole purpose of these types of events, and Wallace understands that.
“Experience,” Wallace said about what he wants to get out of this AAU season. “Experience is wealth. We had adversity today. We don’t always have that. We have to like that type of atmosphere.”
As of now, the 6-4 ½, 170-pound (and still growing) wing will take his summer improvements into his sophomore season at Great Valley. He’s already gotten college interest, saying his dad has been in contact with some schools without naming them; his goal is to play D-I which seems within reach based on his early play.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Wallace said. “Trying to get better everyday.”
For Global, 6-0 guard Elwyne Wordlaw (2024 | Springdale Prep, Md.) scored 25 points coming in a variety of ways, mostly with difficult finishes on drives to the basket and Braden Sauritch (2024 | River Hill, Md.) had seven points and seven rebounds in a solid all-around performance.
Alif Bass (2022 | NJ Panthers | Roselle Catholic, N.J.)
Alif Bass averaged around 10 points per game his junior season at St. Peter’s Prep before transferring to Roselle Catholic for his senior season.
Alif Bass (above) said he's been hearing from a couple D-I schools recently as he goes into April. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)
The 6-0, 150-pound point guard joined a loaded team that included UNC commit Simeon Wilcher and provided a spark off the bench as the Lions defeated Camden in an epic Tournament of Champions final in late March.
Now the mission is to find a college fit and he made the most of the opportunity with eyes from all college levels in attendance for the 17U semifinal Sunday.
“I haven’t committed anywhere yet,” Bass said after NJ Panthers 17U’s 47-37 loss to Boston-area Team Spartans National HGSL in a semifinal tilt. “My recruitment is still open. As of right now I’ve been talking to Colgate and Maryland Eastern Shore, both within the last week or two.
“I’m trying to show that I’m more than just a scorer, get my teammates involved, show I can play defense.”
Bass also mentioned wanting to further polish his offensive game by improving his pull-up and attack off of ball screens.
He scored seven points in the game and showed a high-energy defensive impact, grabbing a handful of steals and displaying lateral quickness that was hard for the offensive player to shake.
Six-foot-7, 215-pound forward Darrius Phillips (2023 | NJ Panthers | Seton Hall Prep, N.J.) also impressed defensively and on the glass.
NJ Panthers were playing without 6-4 guard Ethan Simmon and 6-6 forward Donovan McKoy due to injuries.
The difference was the Spartans’ Anthony Felder, who hit four 3s and scored 18 points.
Anthony Felder (2022 | Team Spartans National | Malden Catholic, Mass.)
Felder scored 14 to again lead Spartans in scoring in a 61-56 championship victory against Virginia Premier during the final game of the live period.
The 5-10, 165-pound point guard had received offers from the likes of Georgetown and UMass earlier in his recruitment, but things have been quieter lately; he says he will likely do a post-grad year at St. Thomas More in Connecticut barring any major changes during the AAU season. He mentioned Wofford as the latest school he was in contact with.
“I’m trying to play at the highest level I possibly can,” Felder said. “I’m working to get better each and every day so I can use this game to take me to many places.”
During the high school season, Felder scored 38 points and led Malden Catholic to the state championship.
“We won the state championship for the first time in my school’s history so it was amazing,” Felder said of the season, but the AAU circuit presents different challenges.
“Everything’s different. In high school you know who you’re going to play against, you watch film, but here you don’t know who has bounce, you don’t know who can shoot the ball, so you really have to lock up and play your game all around.”
A lot of the time it comes down to who plays harder and Felder certainly gives immense effort, slapping the floor defensively while picking up his man full court and motivating his teammates while still producing offensively.
So as he’s trying to show D-I schools he’s worthy of consideration for 2023, what is Felder’s dream school to attend?
“Any school from Massachusetts so I could be a hometown hero,” he said with a grin.