Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
MANALAPAN, N.J. — The MADE Hoops tour made its way to central Jersey this weekend with a mid-sized but high-level grassroots showcase held at several venues, though it was the Sportika sports complex’s seven-court facility that was home to all the top teams and games.
With sneaker-backed programs from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Jersey, New York and more in attendance, there was a ton of talent in the gym at the 15U, 16U and 17U levels, and though Division I coaches aren’t allowed out on the trail just yet, there was still plenty of buzz about some of the top prospects.
Here’s Part 1 of a notebook of recruiting (and more) info from Saturday’s action:
More weekend coverage:
CLICK HERE for Friday’s coverage notebook
CLICK HERE for Friday’s standouts
CLICK HERE for Saturday’s standouts
CLICK HERE for Pt. 2 of Saturday's notebook
Bethea not out to prove anything as torrid play continues
Jalil Bethea isn’t paying attention to much outside the court these days.
Jalil Bethea (above) has a number of high-major suitors entering his 17U summer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The Archbishop Wood junior guard, who plays his summer ball with Team Final, is playing the best hoops of his career as he enters the final summer of his grassroots career, the main four-month stretch in which he’ll figure out which colleges will be in the mix for his recruitment, not to mention establish his spot in the national scene.
And according to the 6-foot-4 guard, none of that really matters.
“I just stick to myself,” he said. “I don’t really worry about that stuff.”
Currently ranked No. 58 in the 247Sports Composite, which averages together multiple recruiting site rankings, Bethea’s been playing at a high enough level to earn a good bump in those rankings. Once again, he insists he doesn’t care about them in the slightest.
“Rankings really don’t matter, it’s all about politics when it comes to rankings,” he said. “But when it comes to on the court, that’s when it really matters. That’s when you can show your skills and show what you can do on court.”
Bethea’s game certainly speaks plenty, the talented combo guard an elite shooter who made more than 45% of his nearly 200 attempts as a junior, but he’s also gotten to be a shot-creator as well, expanding his point guard abilities as he becomes a true combo guard and not just a pure gunner.
He’s also got a strong crop of high-majors on his recruitment, mentioning Syracuse, Miami, Seton Hall, Rutgers and Kansas as those who had been in contact most often; he’s also been offered by Villanova, which he’s visited along with Seton Hall, Syracuse and Rutgers.
With a whole summer ahead, he’s not close to starting to hone in on any group of finalists. Bethea said he didn’t have any other schools he was hoping to get offers from, just saying he wants to go where he’s wanted.
“I’m actually going to start taking it more seriously towards the end of the AAU season, before my senior year,” he said. “If I feel comfortable where I’m at, then I’ll be cool. I don’t want to go somewhere and then I’m stuck because I didn’t think over my decision of where I wanted to go.”
In the interim, Bethea’s main goal this summer from an individual standpoint, he said, was to have an “efficient summer.” The team goal is easy: win the Peach Jam, Nike’s annual summer championships, in July.
If this indeed the last year that Team Final will exist in its current iteration, then it’s on Bethea — as well as the rest of the local talent on the squad, like Thomas Sorber (Archbishop Ryan), Robert Wright III (Montverde Academy, Fl.), Ahmad Nowell and Ma’Kye Taylor (Imhotep) and more — to bring home the Peach Jam title and end Final’s run on top.
“It would be, that would be the story, the happy-ever-(after) ending type of stuff,” he said. “We don’t really talk about it, we stay focused, we stay locked into the game, we don’t worry about the other stuff.” — Josh Verlin
After season in Florida, Warren waiting for next big step
Game after game this high school season Jake Warren ran into a big man who matched him in stature. It’s exactly what the Class of 2023 6-10 forward hoped for when he transferred from Downingtown West to Calvary Christian Academy (Fla.) for his senior season.
Jake Warren (above) moved down to Florida for his senior year of high school. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“Basically every game, you’re playing a Top 100 big,” said Warren, who is playing with Philly Pride’s 17U national team this spring. “You’re playing guys who are 6-11, 7-foot and you won’t see that the whole season when you’re playing in public school. You really don’t see guys like that, so to be able to play against dudes like that, it gets you ready, especially for the next level. Everybody I’m going to be playing is going to be 6-9 plus, athletic. Being able to bump against those guys is going to prepare me for what I’m going to do next year.”
Warren lived with his mom in an apartment near the school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. this season, attending the school in hopes of getting a boost in competition and exposure. He averaged 6.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg as his squad consistently traveled to match up with top programs like Prolific Prep (Cal.), Link Academy (Mo.), Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.), Mater Dei (Cal.) and more.
He said the season was a success. A trip to the West Coast for the Tarkanian Classic garnered interest from Montana, Colorado State and Wyoming. After the season he was in touch with Princeton, where he visited three weeks ago.
Navy started to reach out about a month ago and he took a visit there recently, earning an offer and announcing it on Twitter on March 18.
“It’s definitely something I would consider,” Warren said. “Navy’s had a pretty good last few years. They’ve been second in the Patriot League. They’re a pretty competitive basketball team, so being able to have that and how great of a school it is, that’s a great mix for me. A high academic school, but you can really compete and basketball wise really have a shot to go to the tournament. It’s an awesome opportunity, so I would definitely, definitely consider it.”
Warren’s former Downingtown West teammate Dylan Blair is committed to play at Army next season.
“He definitely gave me a little insight into what he’s signing up for with that and how I might want to do that,” Warren said.
Warren is still traveling back-and-forth from Florida through the end of the school year. (He and Philly Pride teammate Ty Burton are too far from each other to fly in together.) He said there’s a lot to pack into each visit back home. He’s still figuring out what his plans are for next year, mentioning a handful of routes he could take.
“Obviously there’s a lot of decisions I’m going to have to make over the next couple months,” Warren said. “If I’m going to commit, If I wanna keep playing through the summer, if I want to do a prep school year. There’s a lot of opportunities I have in front of me right now, so I think it’s really just about continuing with this group and getting used to playing with each other and seeing what the future holds.” — Owen McCue
Jason Schofield (above) impressed with his inside-out play for the PSA Cardinals' 17s. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— Jason Schofield (2024 | PSA Cardinals 17U) is, like many in his class, eager to use the upcoming April live periods to restart his recruitment after a quiet winter on the college front, though unlike many in his class he’s been offered by nine schools over the last two years. The last of those came in December from Coastal Carolina, joining Marist and Hofstra in doing so last fall; he mentioned Illinois and Bryant as two others who have offered. If he plays like he did in a win over the NJ Panthers on Saturday morning, he won’t have a problem reeling in more. The 6-9, 230-pound forward knocked down multiple 3-pointers, made some great high-low post passes, rebounded well and scored in the mid-range, every bit the modern mobile ‘4’ man.
“I’d just describe (myself) as a team player, just trying to win,” he said. “Trying to rebound the ball, play defense, make shots, that sort of stuff… [This summer] I’m trying to [...] get more athletic, just kinda get quicker, get faster, get better.”
— Aris Rodriguez (2023 | Team Final Red 17U) heads into this spring fresh off a state championship with Reading. The bouncy 6-5 guard/wing certainly had an eye-catching senior campaign as he helped the Red Knights finish 32-1 and capture their third state title in the program history.
“It was a blessing, and I’m glad I’m a part of history now,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez has eye-catching athleticism, which shows up on both ends of the floor, and is a strong shooter as well, who notes he’s unbothered by doing the “little things” as well.
What comes next for Rodriguez is still up in the air, mentioning a pair of junior colleges and a prep school as his possible routes. Local JUCO power Harcum College and Eastern Florida State, a JUCO in Cocoa, Fla., are both recruiting him along with SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio.
“I’m super undecided right now. I’m just going to keep my doors open, keep playing and just wait until God gives me a blessing,” Rodriguez said.
— Izzy Millan (2023 | Kipps Bay 17U) looked like a college-level guard against New Heights MHC early Saturday, but he’s unsure what he wants to do next season. The 6-foot guard is enjoying his final spring of hoops, seeing if he can catch a college coach’s eye, but if not he’d like to end up somewhere on the West Coast where he can walk-on to a team. The high-academic guard was accepted to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount (Md.), where he would like to study either engineering or business.
“Just try something different,” Millan said. “I traveled to Cali for one birthday and really liked it out there. Some of my family lives out there.”
— Isaac Hester (2023 | New Heights MHC) is a 6-foot-1 guard looking to play at the Division I level. He scooped up a Division I offer from Northern Illinois in February during his high school season at Ranney School (N.J.). He said Stony Brook and Radford both previously extended offers and have been in touch to various degrees, but the Huskies are the ones most recently in touch.
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