Eight hundred different players took to more than a dozen different courts this week as part of the Hoop Group Elite Camp at Reading’s Albright College to show off for college coaches around the country.
The camp’s first day marked the beginning of the July live period, allowing coaches from all around the country to get an up-close look at some of the best high school talent in the Northeast.
Here’s a look at some of the standout storylines from the opening day of action:
Nate Pierre-Louis (2017/St. Benedict’s Prep, N.J.)
Despite having a laundry list of high-major schools already going after him, Nate Pierre-Louis has one thing on his mind going into the July live recruiting period.
“My goal for this summer is to dominate,” he said.
On the first day of the Hoop Group Elite Camp at Albright University, he did just that, displaying impressive athleticism and big-play ability that even had his teammates falling over themselves in excitement on the bench.
Although it’s not really his main point of focus at this point in time, the 6-foot-1 Pierre-Louis still has many Division-I programs recruiting him, with the most prominent being Connecticut, Providence, and SMU.
Other schools after Pierre-Louis include Saint Louis, Purdue, Miami, Iowa State, and West Virginia, where he’ll be visiting in September for a football game.
For someone with such a bright future ahead of him, it’s all about dominating the here and now for the St. Benedict’s Prep rising junior, who knocked down several jump shots and constantly found stunning ways to score off the dribble, beating defenders both older and substantially taller than him.
“Right now I’m not even focused on [recruiting],” he added. “I’m just focused on this camp, trying to dominate this camp, dominating this weekend, and I’m just trying to get better every single day.”
Even with his focuses on the day-to-day, he still recognizes the importance of the July live periods in terms of his college recruitment and basketball future, and is taking the necessary steps to improve his game for the long term, such as his finishing ability, his touch around the rim, and his ability to involve his teammates and create opportunities for them.
While his team didn’t play all too well in their morning game, it was the afternoon block that saw Pierre-Louis break out and show off his true potential for a large group of college coaches. He made a shot in crunch time to give his team the win, and he was nothing but smiles and laughter despite having a dunk attempt clang off the side of the rim as time expired.
Probably because he did exactly what he wanted to do – he dominated, and the scouts were there to take notice.
After all was said and done, the day was a fantastic way to start the July live period for Pierre-Louis.
“Today has been a great day, I woke up, went to the early bird – I like to wake up really early,” he said.
As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. Only time will tell what kind of worms Pierre-Louis will continue to get as he continues to dominate. –Jeff Griffith
Joseph O’Brien (2017/Abington, Pa.)
After starting his high school career at Roman Catholic and spending his sophomore season sidelined by injuries, Abington’s Joe O’Brien is finally back on the court to start the July live period.
O'Brien (pictured above, at Temple's team camp last month) hasn’t heard from any college coaches yet, but his size and strength as a low post presence should garner a few looks if he continues to progress, now that he’s back on the court and able to perform.
“It feels really good,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a while, so it feels great to be back. I like being back at Abington. The team is really good, so I can’t wait to get that season underway.”
O’Brien’s Abington Ghosts took the PIAA Class AAAA District 1 title this past season, and the 6-foot-7 rising junior believes that he’ll be able to use his height and strength down low – size having been something the Ghosts lacked in 2014-2015 – to help his team back to the same level of achievement.
“They were lacking in size a little bit last year, and I’m a decent post player, I play solid defense, so that can contribute on both ends,” he added.
The first step of that process will be continuing to develop other aspects of his overall game, such as speed and coordination, so as to maximize his potential in the paint.
To work on such skill sets, O’Brien meets with a ball-handling coach each Wednesday and works out with a personal trainer.
For now, O’Brien is just glad to be back on the court, and we’ll have to wait and see how his hunger will pay off when it comes time to start the journey to another potential district title. –Jeff Griffith
Erron James (2016/Westerville Central, Ohio)
Sometimes in order to succeed, you have to be at the right place at the right time. For Erron James, it’s important to make sure he’s at the place he needs to be.
The guard from Westerville Central High School in Ohio can be seen running around the perimeter until he finds that opportunity to break free.
When he does, watch out. He punishes opposing teams with a smooth three-point stroke, often as a result of a defensive lapse.
In one late afternoon game, James was off to an excellent start, sinking four three-pointers in a row. He also showed off his defensive ability, creating turnovers that led to fast break scoring opportunities.
Once the opposing team started catching on to his ability to shoot from beyond the arc, he used a sweet pump fake to get defenders out of position and drive inside.
Despite having a great game, James is still looking for that first offer.
“Not yet,” James said. “But I hope they can see that I can play hard and shoot the ball well.”
He has been getting looks from a few D-II schools and one D-I school – Air Force, Urbana, Hillsdale, and Concord have expressed interest. For now, all he can do is continue to play basketball and wait.
After the camp, he has his senior season of basketball to look forward to. Westerville Central is looking to regroup after a rough season that featured only four wins.
“We weren’t that good,” James said. “We lost a lot of seniors.”
With a solid senior season, he hopes to attract the attention of college coaches and his “dream school.” Although he is not sure yet who that dream school may be, he says he’ll know what he’s looking for when the time is right.
“When the right one comes,” he added. “I hope to have a good coach, a good system, and good players around me.” --Eugene Rapay
--Brandon Anderson (2016/Don Bosco Prep, NJ): In his evening game, Anderson displayed outstanding court vision through his ability to find open passing lanes and step in front of his opponent’s passes on numerous occasions. The way he was able to see the floor enabled him to create opportunities for his teammates, as well as his own chances to display some athleticism; the 6-foot rising senior created a fast-break dunk for himself by beautifully intercepting a pass and displayed impressive breakaway speed to create enough space to rise up for the dunk. With court vision being a relatively unteachable skill, developing this asset could be critical to any hopes of furthering Anderson’s basketball career.
--Stanley Davis (2016/Chester, Pa.): Davis was one of the hardest working players on the floor on Wednesday. He displayed good court vision as a facilitator of the offense and made it look easy whenever he attacked the basket. He also showed off a steady mid-range jumper. On defense, he was equally as impressive, sticking to his man and barely giving him any room to breathe. This tenaciousness was also demonstrated with each time dove onto the floor to grab a loose ball or when he sprinted from the other side of the court in hopes to stop a fast break.
--Xavier Jennings (2016/Academy for Social Action, N.Y.): In his final game of the night, Jennings displayed great versatility, as he was able to do a little bit of everything for his team. The 6-foot-2 guard from Manhattan ran the offense, scored the ball, grabbed rebounds, dished out assists, and played stifling defense. He was not afraid to get down and dirty, battling his way inside to score or to collect rebounds. As a facilitator for the offense, he often found the open man for the easy basket. Defensively, he showed his active hands to get a steal and disrupt passing lanes. This multi-faceted guard can be an asset for any team that he’s on.