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Hoop Group AC Jam Fest Day One Notebook (Pt. 2) (July 6, 2022)

07/07/2022, 3:15am EDT
By Owen McCue & Ty Daubert

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) & Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Hoop Group helped kick off the July live periods with the start of the AC Jam Fest on Wednesday. A couple hundred teams and a couple thousand players filled the 26 courts at the Atlantic City City Convention Center throughout the day in front of coaches from the Division I, II and III levels.

The CoBL staff was on hand throughout the day to take in some of the action. Here are some compelling storylines from Day 1 in AC:

(More coverage: Day One Standouts | Day One Notebook Pt. 1)

Joey Suarez (2023 | 610 City | Downingtown West, Pa.)

Joey Suarez knows at least one college coach is watching every time he plays.

610 City's Joey Suarez shoots a three. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Usually sitting by himself trying to stay out of the view of his son is Suarez’ father Joe, an assistant coach for West Chester University’s men’s basketball team.

For many years, Joe coached his son and his friends, but he now leaves that to others … except for one or two postgame comments when Joey returns home from a game.

“My coach at school, I do and listen to everything he says. I get home and my dad will be like, ‘this one play,’” Suarez said. “He’ll try to find a recording of one thing I did wrong. But I love it. I love having a dad as a coach as well.”

Dad isn’t the only college coach Suarez is hearing from at the moment. The 5-10 Downingtown West guard has drawn up some interest from a few local college programs this offseason.

He said Division III schools started to show a lot of interest after the Hoop Group Spring Jam Fest in April. Division II Holy Family reached out after the most recent live periods in June.

Suarez has taken visits to Cabrini and York College, coming away impressed after his talks with both coaching staffs. He also has a visit to Widener planned in the near future. Suarez also said his dad’s alma mater, Goucher College, has been in touch.

He called having a father who coaches at the next level an “asset” as he sorts through the recruiting process.

“He knows everything about the game and the coaches, so it’s good to hear his advice on what to do with things,” Suarez said.

At Downingtown West, Suarez isn’t the only basketball son on the team. Whippets point guard Dylan Blair is the son of West Chester head coach Damien Blair. 

“Me and Dylan have known each other for years,” Suarez said. “Our dads are great friends, we’re best friends. I love playing with him. He’s a great point guard, great team-first captain.”

With Blair running point, Suarez finds many other ways to contribute for Downingtown West.

“I play my role,” Suarez said. “I’m a 3-point shooter, secondary ball handler, but it’s more about just playing defense right now. Whatever my team needs. Shoot threes, play defense, be the ball handler when Dylan needs a break, whatever our team needs I like to do.”

Suarez did all of that and more in 610 City’s win over Spartan Pride on Wednesday.

He finished with 17 points, knocking down three 3-point shots and also bullying his way into the lane while splitting point guard duties with Dinero Washington.

Suarez has plenty of basketball talent, but it’s the edge he plays with that makes him stand out.

“They said they like how I can shoot the three obviously, but they also like how I’m getting to the rack, getting my body in better shape and just being a scrappy player out there,” Suarez said. — Owen McCue

Jake Bolyn (2024 | Gibbs Elite | Perkiomen School)

Bolyn’s junior year at Owen J. Roberts was relatively quiet in terms of recruitment.

At least, it was before he suited up for Gibbs Elite at the Donofrio Classic in Conshohocken in April.
“Donofrio kind of jump-started everything,” Bolyn said “I performed really well in that. Then after those games, that’s when I started to get a bunch of interest.”

Gibbs Elite's Jake Bolyn waits for a free throw. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Following Bolyn’s strong showing as a 3-and-D prospect with plenty more room to go, Division III programs from all around the greater Philadelphia region began to show interest. Additionally, he took visits to the campuses of Alvernia and Elizabethtown.

However, colleges were not the only ones to inquire; shortly after the Donofrio Classic, Bolyn received a direct message on Instagram from an employee at the Perkiomen School. The 6-4 guard later toured the school and decided to transfer for the upcoming year, reclassifying to 2024 in the process.

Bolyn is especially excited for what the extra year of development before college may bring for him at Perkiomen. His brother, Brody Bolyn, was a bit of a late bloomer and really matured physically during his freshman season at Penn State Berks this past year. Jake Bolyn thinks he could see something similar for himself at the same age.

“I’m hoping, since I have an extra year (of high school), that I’ll be able to develop,” he said. “Change my body, be quicker, keep working on all that stuff and keep perfecting my shot.”

Before he starts school at Perkiomen in the fall, Bolyn is back with Gibbs Elite this summer, looking to show that his promising flashes are the real deal. With all the D-III programs he’s heard from, the 6-4 guard’s next goal is to start picking up interest from Division I or Division II schools. 

To do that, Bolyn will have to keep working on his quickness on the defensive end and continue rising up for shots from deep. Playing well at events like the one he’s at in Atlantic City right now certainly couldn’t hurt either.

After all, he already knows what an impressive performance can do if the right people take notice.

“There’s a ton of coaches here,” Bolyn said. “In our first game, the whole baselines were filled with coaches. It’s definitely cool seeing that. It just takes one game, pretty much.” — Ty Daubert

Deuce Maxey and Milan Dean (2025 | Team Final | Archbishop Wood)

Deuce Maxey and Milan Dean are hoping to have an impact at Archbishop Wood this upcoming season as the Vikings pursue at Catholic League championship.

Team Final's Milan Dean goes up for a dunk. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

The pair of rising sophomores got a taste of what that level is like at Philly Live a few weeks back.

“It’s really all mentally,” Dean said. “The game speed is different.”

The backcourt mates, who have played with Team Final together for about three or four years now, are growing their games and their chemistry together this summer with Team Final’s 15U team against their peers.

“You definitely can feel the difference between playing older guys and playing guys our age, but it’s not nothing different,” Maxey said. “We don’t take it lightly or anything. We always take it the same way.”

“We keep the same mindset. We want to win.”

The talented guards certainly have a lot of promise, just like many of their Team Final teammates.

They were both key contributors in a dominant Team Final win on Wednesday. Maxey knocked down a pair of threes and made several finishes in traffic — all in the first half. He says he can do it all, also contributing to the defensive effort on Wednesday.

Dean concurs with Maxey’s self-assessment.

“He can bring everything to the table,” Dean said. “As long as he keeps his head in the game and everything like that, he's gonna be nice.”

Dean missed his first fastbreak dunk attempt on Wednesday before throwing down two others in the second half. Maxey said he can “jump out the gym” and his athleticism for a rising sophomore is certainly a distinguishing trait of his game.

Dean also likes to consider himself a multi-talented player who can shoot and be a playmaker for others.

“I facilitate,” Dean said. “I can do whatever I want. I can get to the rim easy, shoot. I can dish the ball off.”

Both young players acknowledge there’s a lot of room to grow this offseason. Getting stronger is a top priority — as highlighted by the physicality of their games a few weeks back.

Dean also noted he wants to be more comfortable handling the ball before the upperclassmen of the Catholic League try to put the clamps on him.

It’s a little early to think about the next level, but Maxey said St. Joe’s reached out to his coach and Dean said Temple inquired about him.

For now, the pair of young guards hope to do some more winning this summer. More importantly, they hope to keep doing it together.

“This my brother for sure,” Maxey said. “Always together, always doing everything together. Never leave each other out.” 

“This my dog,” Dean said. “We always keep each other on the same page.” — Owen McCue

Michael Ewing (2023 | All in Beasts | Peddie School, N.J.) 

For the majority of his youth career, Michael Ewing was stuck down in the post.

At 6-6, Ewing was usually the tallest player on the team, so it made sense. However, he and college coaches are recently finding out there’s a lot more to his game.

“Now, what I’m trying to work on is I have to play guard to play at that next level,” Ewing said. “So that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m going to keep working on.”

All in Beasts' Michael Ewing goes up for a shot. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Ewing played sparingly at Mendham (N.J.) as a sophomore before averaging about eight points per game as a junior this past season. Still, there wasn’t too much buzz surrounding the Class of 2023 wing heading into his senior offseason.

Ewing transferred to Peddie and performed well at the Mid-Atlantic Independent School Shootout events during the live period. 

He’s since heard from Swarthmore and Alfed and noted MIT and Saint Elizabeth (N.J.). His coach said MIT and John’s Hopkins have both inquired about the high-academic wing as well.

“After my high school season, there was not a lot happening (with recruiting) because last year, I was still working on a lot of things, still trying to get better work on my handle and my shot,” Ewing said. “Coming into the summer though over the past couple weeks, it’s been a lot higher obviously because I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m just focused on being aggressive, attacking the basket and especially defending.”

Ewing had 16 points in a win over East Coast Power on Wednesday. He and his coach said his shot is still a work in progress, but it looks good in warm-ups and he shot it well at Hun School both from three-point and midrange at Hun School a few weeks back.

Along with sharpening his skill set out on the wing, he also has to become more familiar with how to move on the court outside of the lane.

He’ll hope to have taken strides in all those categories before rejoining Peddie during the school year, where he’s ready to embrace a big uptick in competition.

“It’s a completely different game than what I’ve been used to, which I love, because I love environments that challenge me. I’m playing around different guys, bigger, stronger, faster. The game is quicker. Competition is better. It gives me better players to defend. Everything about it I love.” — Owen McCue

Quick Hits

Lucas Orchard (2023 | PrimeTime | Devon Prep) put together quite a few terrific performances during both sessions of Philly Live last month, he continued that on Wednesday in front of a handful of college coaches in his team’s opener.

“I’m just having fun with it,” Orchard said. “(I’m trying to show) kind of just that I can do it all. If I don’t have a great game shooting the ball, I like to impact the game with rebounds, asists and deflections and steals and charges — all that stuff too.”

Orchard added interest after Philly Live and is hoping to do the same this month. Already in contact with Monmouth, he got a text Merrimack coach Joe Gallo texted Orchard after the second session. A Merrimack assistant also called Orchard to let him know they’d be following him.

“Obviously it’s a little farther in Boston, but we’re going up to the Mohegan Sun tournament (in Connecticut) later this year, and I’m going to try and visit then,” Orchard said.

Orchard said he has also heard from a number of Division III programs and the interest is mutual. Arcadia and coach Adam Van Zelst are at the top of that list right now.

“I like the coach of Arcadia a lot,” Orchard said. “That’s probably my top D-III, honestly.”

— After averaging just under six points per game last season, E.J. Campbell (2024 | PrimeTime | Spring-Ford) is slated to be Spring-Ford’s top returning scorer next season. Campbell went through some growing pains while running point for the Rams in his first varsity season as a sophomore.

He’s hoping to continue to grow this summer as he plays up for PrimeTime’s 17U team.

“I’m just getting used to getting stronger and playing against better competition,” Campbell said.

Campbell said some Division II and III schools have been in touch, noting Lincoln in particular. He’s still got some time to improve his stock for the college level and playing with some veteran teammates this summer should help.

“Really just being a true point guard and making my teammates better and playing good defense,” Campbell said of what he wants to work on.

Amir Speights (2024 | Philly Blue Magic | Constitution) has shown his skill as a 6-5 wing. Now he wants to prove he can take on more responsibility with the ball in his next stage of development.

“I want to showcase that I can handle the ball,” he said. “Be more of a guard and a leader.”

Speights has serious interest from St. Joe’s, where he took an unofficial visit in the spring, and Drexel. He’d bring defensive intensity and shooting to a college program.

Marc Herasme (2023 | N.J. Panthers HGSL | Don Bosco Prep, N.J.) said he hadn’t been in touch with any colleges, but perhaps that may change after his performance in A.C. The 5-11 guard displayed an extremely high motor on defense and did a solid job distributing on offense.

The brother of former Marist and current New Hampshire guard Matt Herasme, the younger Hersame hopes to hear from interested D-I or D-II programs soon.

“Any school that wants me,” he said. “I’m ready to play. play defense, play hard, give it my all — all the time.”

Azeem Murphy (2024 | Philly Blue Magic | West Catholic) had a nice showing on Wednesday. D-Is Youngstown State and St. Joe’s have contacted Murphy’s coach, he said, and the physical 6-4 forward should get plenty of interest from lower levels in the future as well.

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