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Hoop Group NJ Showcase Notebook (May 4-5, 2024)

05/06/2024, 10:15am EDT
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

PITMAN, N.J. — Several area girls’ grassroots programs met this weekend at Total Turf for a Hoop Group showcase, with action in the 15U, 16U and 17U age groups across the gym’s five courts over the course of two days.

Here’s a notebook featuring interviews with several local prospects:


Grace McDonough (2025 | Lady Runnin’ Rebels HGSL 17U)

McDonough had the kind of week most young ballplayers dream about.

Grace McDonough (above) pulled in 11 offers after the April live recruiting period. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The 6-foot-2 forward from Lansdale Catholic entered the April live recruiting period with three Division I offers, though she’d been hearing from a number of programs who had promised they’d be checking her out with the Runnin’ Rebels. Almost immediately after she was done helping the Rebels to a 4-0 weekend, her phone started buzzing, and didn’t stop.

By the time the dust cleared, her list of offers was 14 schools long: Northwestern and DePaul headlined a group that extended scholarships, along with Vermont, St. Bonaventure, Colgate, Robert Morris, James Madison, Bucknell, Iona, Rider and Bryant, joining those she already had from Radford, Lafayette and NJIT.

“I actually already started getting calls and texts Sunday right after my game, once I got home. All week I got calls everyday,” she said. “And I honestly was not expecting it, so when it happened, I was like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening. 

“I was in disbelief that I was getting this much attention. I’m just glad that it happened and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

What’s next in the short term is sorting through the tidal wave of collegiate attention. McDonough said she’s been keeping notes on the various programs involved in her recruitment, learning about the schools and teams she could potentially join next year. 

She’s already planning visits, as well: Bucknell, Lehigh and Penn are all getting unofficial visits this month; she also wants to go on a Chicago trip to see Northwestern and DePaul and a Virginia trip to see Richmond and James Madison. In addition to seeing the schools themselves, the visits are an opportunity to learn what she’s really looking for at the next level.

“Definitely [looking at] the academic part, I value academics and I take it seriously,” she said. “I’m not sure what I want to major in yet, so that doesn’t really factor into it. In terms of location, I’m looking down south, I’m looking north, kind of everywhere. But I’m definitely looking at the basketball part the most.”

A versatile forward who can play both the ‘4’ and ‘5,’ McDonough said the colleges who called her the last couple weeks all pointed out her work ethic and versatility, and how she’s improved in her physicality and motor since they saw her last summer.

Offensively, McDonough’s production mostly comes within 15 feet; she’s got a great ability to catch and finish around the rim, paired with a much-improved mid-range jumper, which she’ll hit coming off screens or even on fade-aways. She had a few of those during a 12-point, five-rebound effort in a Saturday win over the NJ Soldiers, including a smooth turnaround baseline jumper. 

“I’ve been working on my shooting in the mid-range and 3s, and just looking for those opportunities when I get the ball rather than passing it right away,” she said. “Definitely staying positive and keeping the energy up when we’re not doing the greatest.”


Carly Bickle (2026 | Delco Goats HGSL 16U)

Call her Busy Bickle.

Carly Bickle (above) plays soccer, basketball and softball for West Chester East and various travel teams. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The 5-foot-5 West Chester East sophomore has been playing three sports — soccer, basketball and softball — since she was in kindergarten, and she doesn’t have any plans on slowing down soon. Even though it’s softball season, her primary sport and the one she hopes to play in college, Bickle was out there starting and playing plenty for the Goats’ 16s, hustling her way up and down the floor.

“I do it mostly for fun, [to] stay in shape.” she said. “I like playing a bunch of sports, it helps me stay on top of things.”

Her springs are busy — softball practices and games throughout the week, with Goats tournaments most weekends, when softball takes a break. Her Goats team practices Tuesday and Thursday nights; Bickle said she makes practice at least once a week, if not twice, squeezing it in around softball games and practices, as well as school commitments. 

There might not be a 16-year-old in the area with better time management.

“It’s super-important,” she admitted. “Because I’ve got homework, school stuff, got to work for each season, and work even outside of practices to get better, on my own.”

Bickle knocked down a couple shots as part of a five-point, six-rebound, two-steal game on Saturday as the Goats picked up a quality 44-39 win over the Mid-Atlantic Magic’s 16s. She’s building on a strong sophomore campaign with West Chester East, the Vikings’ girls making history with their first-ever state tournament win. 

Even in a season-opening loss to Radnor, Bickle said, East’s girls knew they were in for a good season; they ended up winning 19 games, making it to the Ches-Mont League championship and the District 1 5A semifinals before beating Freire Charter in the opening round of the 5A tournament. She had some big outings, including 15 points in the league semifinals.

“Going into the season we weren’t looking for much because we didn’t really gain that much from the last season, but I think the first game we realized how good we could be and we’ve just built off of that.”

With four starters back in the mix for head coach Erin Listrani, this offseason-though-in-season work for Bickle is important as she hopes to help her team best their results from a year ago, her 2026 class forming a good portion of the rotation next year.

“I’m really trying to work on driving, having more confidence with my ball-handling,” she said. “And just scoring more points driving towards the basket. I’ve always been more of a defense, passing, making-stuff-happen [guard] but not getting myself the shots I need.”


Addy Platt (2026 | United NJ S40 17U)

Though she’s one of the younger members of United NJ’s top squad, Platt is also one of its veterans. The 5-10 wing guard from Pope John XXIII (N.J.) is in her second year of playing at the 17U level, having been on the United’s oldest roster a year ago.

Addy Platt (above) led Pope John XXIII to the Non-Public 'A" North Jersey title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“I definitely struggled last season, but it’s really beneficial for me now,” she said. “I know the pace, I know what I need to do. I’m happy I played up last year, and I’m still young, still only a sophomore.”

She’s used to being a leader. As a sophomore for Pope John, she was the leading scorer and rebounder on a team that won 25 games and the North Jersey Non-Public ‘A’ title despite not having a senior in the rotation. 

Playing alongside her younger sister, freshman guard Kaitlyn Platt, on a roster without anybody 6-0 or taller, Addy Platt had to play inside and out for her high school squad. At the next level, she projects as a guard, with a good handle and athleticism on the perimeter, but she’s got the inside scoring ability of a post, which she flashed during a couple wins on Sunday, making a variety of moves to get to the bucket and finish around the rim.

This summer, the goal is to work on her outside shooting; she was 0-for-4 from deep in two games Sunday but did knock down a few smooth one-dribble pull-ups from about 15 feet.

“I feel like my shooting will really determine where I go to school, so I need to make more of my shots,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been getting better at knowing when to take shots, I just need to get better at making (them).”

Playing college hoops has been the plan for as far back as she can remember. Platt’s father played football at Rowan, her brother a Union football commit. She’ll almost certainly be playing a couple levels higher than that.

Platt enters May with a pair of Division I offers, from Marist and Manhattan. More have been on her trail, including Harvard, West Point, and Villanova — where former United NJ standout Brynn McCurry will be a sophomore next season under head coach Denise Dillon

“I love basketball, I love playing basketball,’ she said. “Sports have been a big part of my life, my whole family plays sports, so I really want to play at a higher level.”


Jess Kolecki (2025 | Lady Runnin’ Rebels HGSL 17U)

Kolecki’s something of an outlier when it comes to grassroots basketball, especially as a starter on a quality Running’ Rebels squad which seems likely to be in the mix for a top finish in the HGSL this summer. 

Jess Kolecki (above) is planning on becoming a doctor. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Her goal isn’t to play college basketball; she’s got different plans when it comes to her years after high school. But she’s filling her summer with hoops just the same, even if she plans on hanging up her high-tops after her senior year at Germantown Academy next winter. 

“I just love basketball,” she said. “It’s my last year, I’ve done AAU for my whole life, I love basketball and it’s just finishing strong. That’s all.”

The daughter of two physicians, Kolecki has been planning on going pre-med at Notre Dame — her father’s alma mater — for years, and she’s not deviating from her plan, applying early decision to go to South Bend this fall. The plan is to be a pediatrician, due to her love of being active and working with kids.

Before then, she’s working on a step up in responsibility for her senior year with the Patriots, who are trying to defend an Inter-Ac title — not to mention helping the Rebels defend their 17U championship from last summer. This current group, as 16Us, made it to the HGSL championship game as well.

Kolecki said second-year GA coach Lauren Power is already running offseason workouts multiple times a week. Izzy Casey (Bucknell), Jess Aponik (Kutztown), Jenna Aponik and Sam Wade (Perkiomen School) have all graduated, but Kolecki — a second-team all-league selection as a junior — is one of a core group of returners.

“We’re doing a lot of 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 at GA, we’re doing a lot of defensive work,” Kolecki said. “Coach Power loves to keep us working hard, and we’ve been doing a lot of lifting.

“She’s such a motivator and I think we’re going to be really good next year. She worked really hard on recruiting and we’ve got a lot of really good girls coming in.”


Gabby D’Agostino (2026 | United NJ S40 17U)

D’Agostino’s sophomore year of high school was quite different from her freshman one. 

Gabby D'Agostino (above) transferred from New Hope to Hun for her sophomore year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

After spending the 2022-23 school year at New Hope-Solebury, the 5-5 point guard went across the river to the Hun School (N.J.) for her sophomore season, playing a big role on the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) squad. She said it was a move made for both academic and athletics reasons, Hun’s 45-acre campus outside Princeton resembling a small college, the 110-year old institution renowned for its academics as well; though Hun does have boarding students, D’Agostino said she commuted over the bridge each day.

“Going from public to private, it’s really different; not just basketball but academically as well,” she said. “They were really, really welcoming and I’m so glad that I had that because the team was so welcoming and I don’t think I would have been where I am without them.

“It was a big switch, but a good switch,” she added. 

A talented ball-handler who can dribble her way through a full-court press and break down a defense, D’Agostino impressed this weekend with her court vision and ability to put the ball just where a teammate wants it, threading several passes between defenders for a layup or making the right kick-out to an open shooter. 

D’Agostino said she’s been working on her outside shot to better round out her game, but plans on spending this summer gathering feedback about what she can continue to do to improve. She said she hasn’t yet heard from any college coaches after United NJ’s first live period, spent out in Ohio, but there’s no doubt her talent with the ball in her hands will garner her attention before long. 

“I want to have more ability to talk to coaches and stuff, having different people’s perspectives,” she said. “Even teammates and people that I’ve played against, ask them for help no matter what.”


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Tag(s): Home  Josh Verlin  High School  Girls HS  Lansdale Catholic  Ches-Mont (G)  Ches-Mont National (G)  West Chester East  Inter-Ac (G)  Germantown Academy  Grace McDonough