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Hoop Group AC Jam Fest: Day Three Notebook (July 8, 2022)

07/09/2022, 1:00pm EDT
By Owen McCue & Zak Wolf

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) & Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)

ATLANTIC CITY — The Hoop Group Jam Fest series concluded 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.

The tournament finished up on Friday as CoBL had staff on hand from the first slate of games until the final buzzer.

Here’s a notebook catching up with some of the players the CoBL staff saw during Friday's action:


More AC Jam Fest Coverage: Day One Standouts | Day One Notebook (Pt. 1) | Day One Notebook (Pt. 2) | Day 2 Standouts | Day 2 Notebook (Pt. 1) | Day 2 Notebook (Pt. 2) | Day 3 Standouts


Justin Molen (2023 | East Coast Cyclones | Hill School)

Justin Molen did something he’s never done before earlier this offseason — play against AAU teammate Ryan Zan.

East Coast Cyclones' Justin Molen shoots a three. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

With Molen playing for Salesianum in Delaware and Zan at Ranney School then Rutgers Prep In New Jersey, the two never had the chance to match up during their high school careers.

Now, Molen is taking a prep year at Hill School and Zan is doing the same at nearby Perkiomen School. 

The two squared off in their first games with their new schools earlier this offseason when Perk and Hill opened the June live period against each other. The two Cyclones should face each other a couple more times this winter.

“It was funny,” Molen said. “He came out and guarded me, which was a little interesting. I was thinking of going to Perkiomen too, Perkiomen or Hill, so I’m familiar with all the Perk guys, coaches and all that. It’s always fun going against them, a great program.”

Molen, a 6-6 wing, was the Delaware state player of the year in 2021-22, averaging about 15 point and eight rebounds per game for a Salesianum team that loaded up its schedule with top competition.

He said colleges expressed interest during the first live period last summer, but that waned as the season progressed and programs filled up roster spots.

Molen hopes an extra season at Hill will result in more substantive recruiting results.

“Overall just as a person, (I want to) become a better person, grow a little bit,” Molen said. “Basketball-wise just get bigger, faster, stronger and hopefully get my opportunity to play somewhere D1, D2, preferably scholarship level. But I’ll see where basketball takes me.”

Molen said Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Colgate and Sacred Heart have reached out to him from the Division I level. He took an unofficial visit to Lehigh and went to a camp up there recently as well.

The high-academic student (4.1 GPA) said most of the interest is coming from the Patriot and Ivy League.

“Once they heard of the prep year and heard of my extra year, they kind of came back and re-checked in on me and have been following me since,” Molen said.

Molen said he and Zan helped recruit some players to the East Coast Cyclones when they decided to come back and play an extra season. The Cyclones won one of the 17U championships at the AC Jam Fest on Friday.

Molenwas the team’s leading scorer in a semifinal win over the NJ Road Runners, showcasing a scoring touch from both inside and outside.

He has a skillset he thinks will translate to the next level.

“Versatility, that’s a big part,” Molen said of what college coaches like about his game. “Being tall and playing a guard position, I’ve kind of moved myself into 2 or 3 and started handling the ball a little bit more. And then my ability to space the floor and shoot and know how to play the game the right way.” 

NH Lightning's Meleek Thomas passes the ball. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Meleek Thomas (2025 | New Heights Lightning | Lincoln Park)

Meleek Thomas is looking to become the next big prospect to come out of the Pittsburgh area.

He’s on the right track.

After earning third team all-state honors and helping his squad to the second round of states as a freshman at Lincoln Park this season, Thomas established himself as not only one of the best players in Pennsylvania, but the country. 

In ESPN’s first ranking of the 2025 class, Thomas came in right outside the top 10 at 11, earning the 5-star rating. Thomas creates a formidable duo with his teammate on the AAU circuit Badara Diakite, who was ranked two spots ahead of him at No. 9. 

Thomas has two offers on the table from St. John’s and his hometown Pittsburgh Panthers. He is excited to get on Pitt’s campus with an official visit scheduled Aug. 1.

“It’s a dream come true,” Thomas said.

The young Thomas isn’t letting the notoriety get to his head. He knows that along with it comes added pressure and the plant to handle it is by just being himself.

“You’ve got to take it day by day,” Thomas said. “You’re going to face adversity, go through a lot of different things, play in a lot of different tournaments and see a lot of different people. It’s about who you know, being respectful and your time is going to come.”

Thomas has a smooth pull-up jumper that he’s perfected over the years by constantly getting shots up in the gym. He makes it look effortless as he rises and swishes in shot after shot.

He uses his length to shoot over smaller defenders and then when he draws bigger assignments, he’s able to use his speed to get around them. 

Thomas and his New Heights Lightning team, which plays on the EYBL circuit, played in the 16U age bracket at the AC Jam Fest. They won their first five games before falling to Jersey Force 73-69 in the championship game. 

“You’ve got to perfect everything and be crisper in every aspect,” Thomas said of playing against older competition. “We played 16s, so they’re going to be stronger, faster and you just have to adjust.”

Despite being on the younger side, Thomas wants to become more vocal and a better leader because he knows other players will look to him because of his skill. He wants to make sure everyone knows where to be on the floor at all times so the ball can move and not stick to one person. 

Thomas’ brother was a D1 basketball player at NJIT, so he’s always been able to talk with him about the ins and outs of the college game. Watching his games always brought Thomas joy and he looks forward to the roles being reversed when his brother is able to enjoy watching his college games. 

Adelphe Hermann (2023 | Team PA Black | Trinity)

Adelphe Hermann is introducing himself to college coaches this summer.

After growing up playing the Republic of the Congo, the 6-7 forward decided to come to the U.S. to play this school year via a connection through one of his coaches.

His goal?

“I’m trying to find a D1 opportunity,” said Hermann, who speaks four languages.

Team PA Black's Adelphe Hermann grabs a rebound. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Hermann has been in the U.S. for a little more than two months, starting with Team Pennsylvania Black at the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest in April. He will stay with a host family while attending Trinity High School in Camp Hill, Pa.

There’s been some getting used to thus far. 

“It’s really difficult, honestly,” Hermann said. “It’s not the same thing. I’m trying to fit in. The way people play basketball, the way they eat, the food and stuff. Here, people are kind of in a hurry all the time.”

He said his diet is mostly salads as he tries to stay healthy, but he does enjoy Chipotle.

While he adjusts off the court, Hermann is still figuring out how his game fits into the style of play in America as well. He noted that just like people in everyday life, the game moves fast.

“It’s a little adjustment to him, just the game speed and he’s not able to be the guy,” Team PA coach Jabari Tate said. “Just being able to learn to play the right way and rebound the ball at a high level, that’s what he does well. Rebounding, being able to sit in the short corner, get the drop offs, catch it good and finish strong. That’s the main thing he does well and he can stretch the floor.”

Hermann didn’t have a monster game Saturday against the Penn Warriors, but he showed off a lot of those assets. Offensively he was mostly used as an on-ball screener and roller to the basket. 

Hermann, whose favorite player is Kevin Durant, also stepped out and knocked down a three early in the game and wasn’t afraid to take a few others.

A rejection on the defensive end was the highlight of his day.

“Play hard, play defense all the time, try to do my best,” Hermann said of his game. ”Hitting shots sometimes.”

Hermann said thus far Elizabethtown College has reached out about him. The goal is to introduce himself and his game to more college coaches by the end of the summer. He is also going to travel to the FIBA Africa Youth Camp in the Ivory Coast this fall.

“He has a bright future,” said Tate, who added that Hermann could re-classify to the Class of 2024 at some point in the future.

Quick Hits

Azmar Abdullah (2023 | Rhode Island Basketball Club | Bishop Hendrickson) got to experience a college campus for the first time recently when he visited Bryant. While he was on the campus, he got to work out with the team and play pickup with former St. Peters standout and viral sensation Doug Edert. Abdullah got to test his skills, having to guard Edert on a couple of occasions as well as going at him when he got a chance on offense. 

“It was a good experience,” Abdullah said. “The difference in levels was hard. You can tell that they’re faster, stronger, taller, but I felt like I was able to get up and down with them and get a couple of shots up myself.”

Abdullah has yet to receive an offer, but has interest from other D2 schools like Southern New Hampshire who invited him to one of their camps. D3’s like Ithaca, Springfield, Worcester State, Brandeis and Regis have all reached out as well. 

The lefty guard can put up points in a hurry, using his shiftiness to create separation for his three pointers along with his driving ability. Abdullah was effective throughout the three days in AC and led his team all the way to the 17U championship game before falling to Penn Warriors by one point. 

Jersey Force's Anthony Akande dunks the ball. (Photo: Owen McCUe/CoBL)

Anthony Akande (2024 | Jersey Force | Arts High School) is starting to get looks at the Division I level, recently picking up his first offer from Iona. Akande didn’t waste any time spreading the news to his family when the offer was made to him.  

“I was really excited,” Akdande said. “I showed my mom and family right away. It’s a great experience to get your first D1 offer, you always dream of it as a kid.”

Akande was excited at the prospect of playing under legendary coach Rick Pitino and is looking forward to getting on the Iona campus sometime in the future. He says that Sienna is also in contact with him and that he feels he could thrive in any system as a lead point guard that can get other players involved. He loves to use his athleticism to his advantage that other point guards might not have. Akande is always aggressive whether it’s when he’s driving the basketball or using his length to block shots on the defensive end. 

DiNero Washington (2023 | 610 City | Collegium Charter) doesn’t let his size effect the way he plays out on the floor. Standing well under 6-feet tall, the point guard isn’t afraid to mix it up with other players and is always seeking contact on his drives despite his small stature. 

“I’m not scared to go up and play against anybody. My size doesn’t matter to me, I’ve got a big heart.” Washington said.

Although he’s yet to pick up an official offer, Washington has interest from local D2s and D3s like Immaculata, Gwynedd Mercy, West Chester and Kutztown.  

He enjoys the higher tempo of the AAU games when compared to the more organized high-school style. Washington likes to get up and down the court with his team, but he is also trying to become a more consistent shooter from the outside as well.

 — Oswin Wallace (2026 | Team New England | Busche Academy) only arrived in America seven months ago, so no colleges have reached out to him yet, but it’s clear that won’t be the case over the next few years. “Big O” as he’s been nicknamed stands at 6-9 and is a broad-shouldered individual who dwarfs most 14-year-olds. 

Wallace always loved soccer, but started playing basketball four years ago because of his height and after being named MVP of a basketball camp in his home country of Nigeria last year, Wallace was offered the opportunity to come to America and play high school basketball. Coming to America was a bit of an adjustment for Wallace, 

“At first it was difficult because I had to adapt to the culture like the food, but so far it’s been going good,” Wallace said

Wallace is embracing his opportunity and plans to refine his skills daily. He wants to one day be like two time NBA-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has heritage in Nigeria. 

Dayon Polk (2023 | Penn Warriors | Sanford, Del.) impressed at the point guard spot in his team’s win over Team PA Black on Friday. He said after a strong showing during the June live periods at Philly Live with Stanford, Division II programs West Chester and Seton Hill reached out.

“Every coach seems to like guards who move into the paint, guard the ball, knock down shots, things like that,” Polk said.

Polk is a true floor general and visibly controls the game when he is on the court for the Penn Warriors.

“I like to be a leader on the court, basically a coach playing on the court,” he said. “I like to get everyone involved, knock down shots, just everything to help the team.”

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