Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
In anticipation for next week’s live period, Team Final invited two other top-tier programs — Team Rio University and NY Renaissance Basketball — to Grail Sports Complex in Wilmington, Del. for a Pre Live Warm-Up on Saturday.
The three organizations brought 15U, 16U and 17U rosters loaded with college talent, including a number of Division I and high-major recruits. CoBL caught action from all of the day’s eight games.
Naasir Cunningham (2024 | NY Rens 17U)
It was no secret college coaches were interested in Naasir Cunningham.
He had scholarship offers from high-major schools before finishing up his eighth-grade year, adding Duke and Kansas to the list this winter and spring.
NY Rens 17U's Naasir Cunningham goes up for an alley-oop attempt. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
What was different on June 15 was that the various programs interested in the 6-foot-8 wing — considered one of the top prospects in the Class of 2024 — had the opportunity to officially reach out to him.
The calls came in and so did more offers for the highly coveted recruit, who said he added about seven or eight scholarships on that day alone.
“It was very overwhelming,” Cunningham said while playing for the NY Rens on Saturday. “A lot of coaches reached out to show their interest, support. But it was a good thing.”
“I heard from most of them before the day, so I expected it, but that’s still something really big so it was a good feeling for me.”
Cunningham added offers during the live period from Texas, Bryant, Texas A&M, Iowa, Kansas State, Florida State, Arizona State and Arkansas.
He said Duke and Texas are two of the schools who showed a lot of interest.
His parents, Eric and Felicia, have helped him through the recruiting process along with NY Rens coach Oz Cross. His dad coached him through how to handle the sometimes overwhelming amount of contact from college coaches.
“My dad had a good schedule for me to make sure I do things on my time,” Cunningham said. “I don’t have to always answer right away.
The live period was only part of a busy offseason for Cunningham.
The former Gil St. Bernard’s standout announced back in April that he will maintain his college eligibility while playing in Overtime Elite — a player development league for high school players.
“I think it’s going to be a big jump for me,” Cunningham said. “A lot of skill development. A lot of physical development. It’s going to be different.”
More recently, Cunningham was one of the 34 players invited to try-out for USA Basketball’s U17 try-out in Colorado Springs last month. He did not make the final roster, but was one of the 18 players to make the first cut, getting some experience playing against and practicing with some of the country’s top players.
“It teaches you a lot,” Cunningham said. “You have to learn how to play off the ball. You’re not the man like you are when you’re playing back home. It’s a learning moment.”
”Being more vocal, being more of a leader on the court,” he added on takeaways from the tryouts. “I learned that it goes a long way.”
Cunningham helped the Rens to two wins at the Pre Live Warm-Up on Saturday, scoring 17 points and hitting the game winning three with under 30 seconds to play.
Next up is the July live periods with the Rens, beginning with EYBL Session 4 in Kansas City on Thursday.
“Win a Peach Jam championship,” Cunningham said. “That’s about it.”
“I’m a big guard, versatile, can play pretty much any position that you need me to play,” he added. “I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help my team win.”
Makye Taylor (2024 | Team Final 16U)
A quick glance at the box score doesn’t tell the whole story of Makye Taylor’s game.
Team Final’s 16U forward knows that, and according to Taylor college coaches do too.
Team Final 16U's Makye Taylor stands out on the wing. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“They like that I’m not one-dimensional,” Taylor said. “I don’t dwell too much on the offensive end. If my offensive end is not going, I can turn it up on defense with the charges and help side and guarding. That’s what they say they like the most. And the energy. There’s never a dull moment when I’m on the court.”
Both at Imhotep and Team Final, Taylor shares the offensive stage with some talented weapons, namely Final 17Us Ahmad Nowell, Justin Edwards and Rahmir Barno with the Panthers then guys like Jalil Bethea and Thomas Sorber with Final, who Taylor played with on Saturday.
Of course Taylor has some offensive talents to show out too. He can shoot it from outside and is working on becoming more of a playmaker from the wing as well.
But there are parts to his game that show up every time he is one the floor, regardless of who he is playing with and who the offense is being run through.
“I try to bring the energy and the grind over and the gritness over from Imhotep,” Taylor said. “It’s the same role.”
Taylor received an offer from Fairfield at the beginning of the live period. It was his first Division I offer. Rider is a school he said has shown a lot of intrigue. UMass, Florida Gulf Coast and St. Peter’s are others who have reached out .
He doesn’t have anything scheduled, but Fairfield and Rider both talked with him about taking visits to campus in late August or early September.
The 6-7 forward who has the muscle to play inside and also enough athleticism and fluidity to show promise further out on both offense and defense hopes he can win over some others with his play in July.
“I’ve been working on my handle and stuff,” Taylor said. “I’d like to showcase that a little bit more, decision making and show coaches that I’m not just a forward in the paint. I can do it all.”
Khali Horton (2023 | Team Final 17U)
Khali Horton doesn’t spend a lot of time at home in Erie, Pa. nowadays.
Horton, a former all-state player at Cathedral Prep, spent this season playing for Legacy Early College in Greenville, S.C.
Team Final 17U's Khali Horton shoots a three. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
After spending the spring with Team Final, he was back in South Carolina playing for Legacy during the June live period.
Now, Horton, a 6-8 sniper, is back playing for Team Final ready for some more roadtripping.
“I’m always on the move,” Horton said. “I’m literally living out of bags right now. I’m never at home. … It’s hard being away from family, but I like being on the move.”
With his whereabouts often changing, Horton said he likes to check in with the coaches who are recruiting him.
He added an offer from Rider in June and also has offers from Akron, George Washington, Ohio and Robert Morris. Right now, he said schools from the MAC are interested, noting contact from Buffalo and Miami (Ohio). San Diego is another school that has expressed interest.
Miami (Ohio), Dayton and Buffalo the schools he said have interest in getting him on campus, possibly in August.
Horton poured in 20 points in Team Final’s second game on Saturday, knocking down five threes. He noted that his shooting ability is only part of why college coaches are recruiting his future services.
“They like my energy and how I run the floor, things like that, how I shoot the ball,” Horton said. “I’m just working on things like that, trying to get in the gym, work on my handle a little bit more too.”
— Tyler Betsey (2024 | NY Rens 16U) showed why his phone was ringing off the hook last month with a 19-point outing in an overtime win on Saturday. The 6-8 win from Connecticut knocked down three triples, including a go-ahead three in overtime. He also hit a couple of pull-up midrange jumpers.
Betsey received an offer from Penn State in early June then Rhode Island, Brown, Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart extended offers at the beginning of the first June live period.
After strong performances at The NEPSAC showcase, he added George Washington, Virginia Tech, Iowa, Iona, St. Bonaventure and Fairfield to his list.
“When the contact period first started, my phone was blowing up,” Betsey said. “Then after the NEPSAC showcase, it picked up again.”
Columbia, Illinois, West Virginia and California are other schools Betsey said he’s been in contact with.
During the upcoming July period, he said he’d like to shoot more consistently, try to talk on defense and get better at attacking closeouts.
He will be much better prepared the next time his phone starts blowing up.
“It was a little weird at first getting a bunch of random phone calls, but I kind of got used to it after the second or third day,” Betsey said. “They liked my positional-size and how I shoot the ball. They say I have a lot of potential.”
— Jaiden Glover (2024 | NY Rens 16U) wowed in his first game Saturday with a 23-point outing, showcasing his tremendous athleticism with a posterizing dunk.
Along with his ability to finish in the lane and at the rim, Glover knocked down four 3-point shots and was active on defense.
Rhode Island and Fairfield recently offered Glover during the live period. Seton Hall, Penn State and St. John’s are the other schools talking to him.
He took an unofficial to St. John’s in June and has an unofficial visit to Rhode Island in the works. Both coaching staffs said they saw him during the June live sessions as well.
“Me personally, I just stick to myself, stick true to who I am,” Glover said of his approach to the recruiting process. “Just shoot the ball and be confident. No matter how many misses. Just keep shooting.”
“I wanna win Peach Jam with this team. I’m just going to keep doing what I do, shoot the ball, finish play hard.”