ATLANTIC CITY — The Hoop Group Jam Fest series is in the middle of its annual stop at the AC Convention Center, a three-day tournament that’ll set up the Hoop Group Summer League championship this weekend at Spooky Nook.
Here’s Part 2 of notebook from Thursday’s action, which saw the various brackets at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 17U levels go from their second round down to Friday’s semifinals and championships:
Ebrahim Kaba (2024 | NJ RoadRunners | Peddie School, N.J.)
Ebrahim Kaba is the youngest of five brothers. All but one of the Kaba clan are hoopers.
Ebrahim Kaba (above) is the youngest basketball-playing brother in the Kaba family. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Oldest brother Muhamadou Kaba played at East Orange (N.J.) before a college career at East Stroudsburg. Then Sekou Kaba played at George School and Brandeis (Mass.). The third oldest, Malamin Kaba, played at Passaic County College.
Now, younger brother Ebrahim is taking the next steps in his basketball career, which appears to have the most promise of the bunch.
Kaba had a quiet season at East Orange as a junior this past season, but after transferring to Peddie School, re-classifying to the Class of 2024 and a strong performance at the Mid Atlantic Independent School Shootout, he received a Division I offer from Lafayette last week.
“It meant a lot because I’ve never got that type of recognition before,” Kaba said. “It showed me that I’m a good player and if I keep playing then I can reach an even higher level of basketball.”
Kaba is a 6-7 shooting guard nicknamed the ‘slim sniper.’ He can shoot the ball off the catch and shoot and the dribble, and also noted he is a strong rebounder as well.
Kaba’s showing in June did enough to at least intrigue coaches from several levels of Division I. He mentioned Nebraska, Xavier and Maryland-Eastern Shore as other programs to reach out.
While his brothers weren’t Division I players, Kaba certainly has some resources to lean on as he goes through the process. Muhamadou spent four years as an assistant coach at East Stroudsburg and is now the head coach at DelVal.
“Mentally he helps me prepare for my game, and he gives me a lot of feedback when he watches me play,” Kaba said.
He also has connections in the basketball world.
Muhamadou recently helped Ebrahim get in touch with Detroit Pistons guard Hamidou Diallo through a mutual friend and the two worked out together at Manhattan College.
“That was exciting just to play with him and see how NBA players work out and their work ethic, what they do on a daily basis. I learned a lot from that,” Ebrahim said.
With two years left to grow his game and Division I schools suddenly intrigued, Ebrahim is excited to find out what the next steps of his basketball career holds.
After playing with the NJ RoadRunners this summer, the youngest Kaba brother will be ready to get to work right away when he gets to Peddie.
“I know I’m going to take the next step in my game when I get to Peddie,” Ebrahim said. “The facilities that they have and the coaches, I’ll be able to put a lot of work in.” — Owen McCue
Deacon Baratta (2025 | East Coast Power | Phoenixville)
Not too long ago, Phoenixville had a sharpshooter named Mike Memmo break out during his sophomore season before turning into one of the most lethal scorers in the Pioneer Athletic Conference during his junior and senior campaigns.
Baratta (above) looks ready to be a big piece for a Phoenixville squad that graduated a big 2022 class. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
The Phantoms now have another lanky shooter who appears ready to make a name for himself as a sophomore in Baratta, a 6-3 sniper.
Baratta lit it up from deep in East Coast Power’s loss on Wednesday and should have the opportunity to do the same this year for the Phantoms, who graduated 12 seniors.
“I’m most likely going to be starting this year,” Baratta said. “We have a lot of young players this year, but I think we should be good.”
Baratta has basketball in his blood. His father Andrew was a 6-8 center at Penn in the early 1990s. Deacon’s game is a little different as he plays out on the wing and he said hopefully more with the ball in his hands if he can improve his handles.
He’ll have to strengthen his physique and several aspects of his game as he attempts to make the jump from JV to varsity (though he did get a little bit of garbage time experience last season as a freshman).
“I’m just trying to improve every aspect of my game, basically. I’m trying to get stronger. That’s my main goal right now. Get stronger, get better at ballhandling, try to be a point guard kind of.”
The Phantoms will be one of the most inexperienced teams in the PAC next season as starter/sixth man Max Lebisky and reserve Aidan McClintock, both rising juniors, are the only returnees with varsity experience.
However, Baratta said the early inclinations this summer at events like the Devon Prep Summer League, make him optimistic about the Phantoms’ prospects this season.
“When we’ve had our whole team at Dock, we’ve been solid,” Baratta said. “When we have our whole team together, I think we can be pretty good.”
“I’m just trying to improve every aspect of my game, basically. I’m trying to get stronger. That’s my main goal right now. Get stronger, get better at ballhandling, try to be a point guard kind of.” — Owen McCue
— Seck Zongo (2023 | Team Diffrrnt | Patrick School) and Patrick School/Team Diffrrnt teammate K.J. Satterfield have known each other since fifth grade.
Zongo (above) and KJ Satterfield are both being pursued heavily by Saint Joseph's, among others. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“He’s like one of my brothers,” Zongo said.
Satterfield clarified that statement a little further.
“That’s actually my brother,” Satterfield said. “We live in the same house.”
The two close friends have spent most of their hoops careers playing together. Now, there’s a possibility the two Division I prospects can do the same thing at the next level.
Satterfield received an offer from St. Joe’s on June 21 and nine days later his ‘brother’ had a phone call with Hawks’ coach Billy Lange. It wasn’t long before the two were celebrating another offer from the Hawks.
“I’m excited for him because I know the work that he’s putting in,” Sattefield said.”I see it paying off for both of us.”
Satterfield, a springy 6-4 guard, said Northern Illinois, UAB and St. Joe’s are at the top of his list and noted he could make a decision by the end of the month. Along with the St. Joe’s offer, Zongo, a 6-7 forward, added offers from Northern Illinois, Robert Morris and Fordham in June — all schools Satterfield also holds offers from. Manhattan also offered both Zongo and Satterfield in April.
Zongo said he has a trip planned to Northern Illinois next month and the Huskies were one of the several Division I programs watching Thursday’s game along with Lange.
What will he bring to whatever program lands him?
“I play hard. I can play defense 1 through 4 and stuff like that,” Zongo said. — Owen McCue
“I can just help the team win.”
— Yahmir Satterfield (2023 | BW Elite | Imhotep) considers himself a “glue guy” at Imhotep. The 6-2 guard can shoot it a little and get his own buckets at times, but really prides himself on things like rebounding and help-side defense. He likes to step in and take a charge to fire up his team.
It’s not a flashy style of play, but at the end of games it’s what keeps Satterfield on the floor. It’s something colleges have told Satterfield they like about his game.
“They like the way that when it’s close games and stuff like that it’s important they see that I’m in the game,” Satterfield said.
Imhotep’s “glue guy” is now searching for a college program where he can stick. His recruiting process took a big step last month when West Chester extended an offer June 19 and Chestnut Hill followed on June 27.
“That feeling was just like, I worked so hard than I actually got it, it was just a dream come true as a high school basketball player,” Satterfield said.
East Stroudsburg and Lincoln have also been in touch with Satterfield. — Owen McCue
— Connor Shanahan (2023 | Gibbs Elite | Downingtown East) has been hearing from a group of Division III programs since the Philly Live events at the end of June, when the 5-10 guard showed off his usual combination of ball-handling, passing and scoring. Those traits he was demonstrating again with aplomb as Gibbs Elite took out Team M.O.A.M. on Thursday afternoon, as he’s strong with the ball in his hands and makes tough passes on the move, finding shooters with cross-court kick-outs on several occasions and throwing up lobs for alley-oops on a few others.
He mentioned Lycoming, Alvernia, DeSales, Catholic and Susquehanna out of a group that included “a bunch of other” Division III programs, and he’s already quite interested in a few. Lycoming is getting a visit on Monday, and visits to Catholic, DeSales and Alvernia will follow not long after.
“I’m just trying to play somewhere that wants me to play and that I like, and that’s a fun school,” he said. “Good guys, good team, stuff like that.”
— Blake Deegan (2023 | Gibbs Elite | Archbishop Carroll) isn’t thrilled that his normally-reliable outside shot hasn’t been hitting as often as he wants the last few weeks, but that hasn’t stopped college coaches at multiple levels from reaching out to talk to the wing. There’s plenty to like about him, after all, from his lanky 6-5 frame which should benefit from a college weightlifting program, to his ability to guard perimeter and post players, as well as his ability to stretch the floor.
“A lot of D-IIIs and a couple Division IIs are reaching out to Coach [Francis] Bowe and myself,” he said. “Seton Hill reached out to me, Lock Haven, Chestnut Hill, that’s about it for now [for the Division II schools]. D-IIIs right now [...] I’d say Ursinus, Arcadia, York, Franklin & Marshall, those are the most interested.”
Of the group, Deegan said that Ursinus is the only one that’s been trying to get him to campus yet, and he’s likely going to visit the Collegeville school next week. Other coaches, he said, have been telling him to “just keep doing what you’re doing,” and so he’s focusing on getting back to knocking down shots as well as improving his ball-handling.
— Andrew Phillips (2023 | Gibbs Elite | Malvern Prep) is focused on one thing at the moment: earning himself a college scholarship to make things easier on his family. The 6-4 wing said he’s been hearing from schools at multiple levels, but he’s really trying to lock in on a Division I or Division II offer before he makes his decision.
At the moment, Phillips said he’s had communication with both Colgate and Drexel, but one interesting option is D-II St. Anselm (N.H.), which he said has been “all over” him since the Mid-Atlantic Independent School events at Blair and Hun last month. He also mentioned D-IIIs, with Randolph-Macon and Gettysburg contacting him “the most” out of that group. To help himself, he’s trying to work on skills that will help him create his own shot at the next level, while showing off his athleticism and versatility.
“I’m trying to get better with moving and shooting 3s off the dribble,” he said. “I know I can easily catch-and-shoot but trying to get that one-two pull-up, I know that can translate to the next level.”
— Saraj Ali (2023 | Team Final Red | Loyalsock) put together a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds for a shorthanded Final Red in a loss to Crown Platinum yesterday, showing why he’s being pursued by a number of scholarship-level programs. Didn’t get to speak to Ali directly after his game, but in texting with him later that evening, he said he’s been hearing from a group that included D-Is La Salle, Mt. St. Mary’s and Lehigh as well as D-IIs West Chester and East Stroudsburg. Right now, he said WCU is the one reaching out most often; he’s plenty familiar with the PSAC, as his brother Idris Ali, a 5-11 guard, just finished up his freshman year at Mansfield, where he averaged 7.8 ppg in 19 games before suffering a season-ending injury. -- Josh Verlin
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