The second day of the Elevate Hoops Summer Icebreaker featured action on four basketball courts at Philadelphia University.
It was another day for 17U basketball, but the first for 16U and 15U teams. For the younger teams, it was their first chance to play in front of college coaches this summer.
Games were played throughout the whole day, and will continue with the semifinals and finals, as well as consolation games, on Friday. Here’s a notebook from the day featuring several upperclassmen from the Mid-Atlantic region:
Everett Winchester (2016/Threat 220/Gilman School, Md.)
As the wave of so-called “positionless basketball” begins to trickle down from the NBA to college programs, Everett Winchester might preparing to enter the college ranks at just the perfect time.
At 6-foot-6, Winchester plays like a natural point guard. His elite size for the position, however, allows him to guard all three perimeter positions, as well as scrap for tough buckets inside; he’s also a capable enough shooter to be able to slide off the ball offensively.
Winchester’s size is particularly helpful when he has the ball in his hands, as it allows him to see over smaller defenders and orchestrate his team’s offense.
“A 6-6 point guard, a lot of coaches love that, so that’s something I’m embracing right now,” he said. “I think I have an advantage over a lot of other guards because if there’s a trap that’s coming, I can see over the trap. Not to boost myself, but I believe I have great vision, so my height helps me out tremendously on the court.”
At this point, his only offer is from his hometown school, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), but his game is still a bit raw at this point. His yet-to-be-tapped potential has schools at higher levels starting to sniff around, and he certainly has the looks of a late blooming mid-major-plus prospect.
“Right now they just want to see if I can play consistently, and that’s what I’m trying to do, I’ve been to camps and things like that, so now they just want to come out and see if I can play like this all the time,” he said. “I’m just trying to dominate every game and show the coaches that I can dominate.”
Winchester mentioned TCU, LSU, Saint Louis, and Temple as some of the schools that had been in contact with him recently, and he feels of those schools, TCU and Saint Louis are probably closest to offering.
While he’s certainly grateful for the opportunity he has to play at UMBC, he’s hoping to garner some additional offers in the coming weeks, as staying that close to home is not something that’s particularly appealing to the Baltimore native.
“I definitely want to go further from home, kind of get away. [UMBC] would be a last option, if I had to stay home,” he said. “It’s close, but it’s a great option for me, so if I had to then I would definitely go there, without a doubt.”
Andre Rafus (2017/Team Melo/St. Benedict’s, Md.)
Forward Andre Rafus has two more years until he graduates high school, but he’s already got a number of college coaches knocking on his door.
In fact, he has so many offers that he keeps a list stored on his phone because he can’t remember them all off the top of his head.
17 schools from across the country have offered Rafus - UNLV, USC, UCLA, UConn, Kansas State, Dayton, UMass, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgetown, West Virginia, St. John’s, VCU, Memphis, Arizona State, California, and Delaware.
However, he has only visited two schools so far: Georgetown and St. John’s.
While most high school players are selective of which schools to visit, he says that he plans on keeping himself busy by visiting the rest of his schools in August.
“I like all the schools that took their time to offer me,” Rafus said. “I’m just blessed to have as many scholarships as I have.”
Rafus was off to a slow start, unable to get his shots to fall in his afternoon game against Jersey Force. He turned it all around with an emphatic dunk that got the Team Melo bench going.
From there, Rafus caught fire, pulling up and making his shots from long range with ease. He used his quickness to shake off defenders and create space for a jumper. Even with a hand or two in his face, that didn’t stop him from taking control. Rafus finished with 20 points en route to a victory over Jersey Force.
He’s looking forward to his new home at New Jersey basketball powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep, after spending the last couple of years at St. Frances Academy in Maryland.
“I think it will get me better overall, educationally and in basketball,” Rafus said about the decision to transfer.
St. Benedict’s Prep is coming off of a 26-6 season that included a Prep A State Title over Blair Academy, avenging a state final loss that they had the previous season.
For now, he’s not looking to make a commitment any time soon. He plans on making a decision at the beginning or the end of his senior year.
“I’m looking for a school that fits,” Rafus added. “A school that will push me to be able to be the best player that I can be.”
Xzavier Malone (2016/Team Philly/Plymouth Whitemarsh, Pa.)
With Team Philly point guards Devon Goodman (2016/Germantown Academy) and Jabri McCall (2017/Academy New Church) injured, it was up to Xzavier Malone to take a bigger role.
Malone, a 6-foot-4 guard, usually plays off the ball. This time around, there were instances where he played point guard. He could have fooled those in attendance that watched him play, making it look like he’s done it before. Malone dropped a number of dimes and showed that he was capable of working in a new role.
Aside from getting some playing time at point guard, he also showed his growth as a player. Primarily known as a slasher on offense, using his athleticism and quickness, he showed off his jump shot. Malone displayed flashes of being a spot-up shooter, making his mark on the court as he drained three pointers.
“I’ve been working on my jump shot a lot,” Malone said. “I’ve been going to my school getting extra reps in, hitting the gym with a couple of coaches and they’ve been helping me get my stroke right.”
Unfortunately for Malone and Team Philly, the South Jersey All Stars beat them in the U17 quarterfinals with the help of a go-ahead three pointer with just five seconds remaining in the game. However, if Malone can consistently drain jump shots, coupled with his ability to attack the basket, he will be a formidable player.
As for now, he’s looking forward to his senior season at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Once again, he is expected to take a bigger role, due to the loss of guards Andre Mitchell and Jimmy Murray to graduation.
“I’m still trying to learn how to step up into a leadership role,” Malone said. “I’m working on being more vocal. So when the games come, I can help them in tough situations.”
Plymouth Whitemarsh finished 28-4 last season and lost to Malone’s former school, Martin Luther King, in the PIAA Class AAAA state quarterfinals.
Malone is still waiting to receive his first offer, but says that he has heard from Temple, Rhode Island, Drexel, and North Texas in the past month. He hopes to add to that list and hopefully get offers with a solid senior campaign.
However, his biggest challenge might not be on the basketball court.
“The hardest thing for me will be in the classroom,” Malone said. “Transferring from King to Plymouth Whitemarsh was a huge, drastic change educationally. I maintained this year, but I struggled somewhat. I know it’s going to get even harder, so I just have to buckle down.”
Malone plans to retake his SATs, and once he gets his academics squared away, there’s no doubt that he will deliver on the basketball court.
Zach Kent (2017/WeR1/St. Andrew’s, Del.)
As a relative unknown last summer, Zach Kent had one mid-major college coach gushing that he felt Kent could help his team at that moment, even as just a rising sophomore in high school.
A year later, Kent is now a bona-fide, nationally-known prospect whose recruitment could be on the cusp of blowing up as the live periods get going.
Right now, the 6-foot-10 center holds offers from three Atlantic 10 schools in Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, and Dayton, but his interest has reached a much higher level; Kent named Purdue, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Maryland, and Notre Dame as those among the “places all over” that have reached out to him since they could begin contacting 2017 prospects just last month.
While those schools wait to assess him further, he has already begun building relationships with the staffs at both local schools on his list, La Salle and St. Joe’s.
“The relationships are still new, still growing. Just talking, getting to know each other. Everything is still so new,” he said. “They check in and see how I’m doing, and right now it’s asking me where I’m gonna be this month, so I just tell them and we communicate like that. We’ve had some nice conversations over the phone.”
Kent seemed confident that if he stays true to himself and plays his game throughout the live periods, some of that high-level interest can convert into scholarship offers. That’s not on the forefront of his mind, however, as he views that mental approach as being counterproductive.
“They haven’t said it’s any specific part of my game that they want to see, but I’m working on everything,” he said. “I’ve been trying to really change my mindset and stop looking at the coaches and seeing who’s watching. You’ve got to focus about the opponent that’s in front of you and trying to get better every time you step on the court.”
For now, Kent is content to take his recruitment slowly and see what offers may start to roll in.
He hasn’t had a chance to visit any schools yet, so don’t expect him to make a decision anytime soon. In fact, he seems intent on waiting until his senior year before committing to his future college to be sure that he doesn’t rush into a decision.
“When it comes down to it, a large part of my decision is gonna be the upcoming roster and the coaching staff that’s gonna be there when I’m a senior,” he said. “But it’s still so long until I’m a senior. You have to really be careful if you go gung ho about any certain school at this stage.”
Marcus Floyd (TBD/WeR1/TBD)
You may be looking at the above heading and wondering exactly when Marcus Floyd will be leaving the high school ranks, and exactly what high school he’ll be coming from. Don’t fear, though, as you’re not the only one.
In fact, Floyd isn’t quite sure at this point what his future holds, as the recent Trenton Catholic graduate is considering the option of prep school, but is still holding out hope for an opportunity to play college basketball next year.
The speedy floor general mentioned that there’s a few schools that are “on the border” about extending him an offer for this coming year, but he doesn’t currently have an offer in place as a member of the 2015 class, so it’s looking as though prep school is his most likely route.
“Most likely, I’ll probably go to prep school,” he said. “I’ll decide what prep school I’ll probably go to, I’m not sure though. I’m not sure. Don’t take my word for it yet.”
Floyd finds himself back on the AAU circuit right now hoping for a last-minute offer after having coaches see him play again, but isn’t against going to prep school if it’s still necessary after this month.
He was hesitant to mention the specific schools he’s considering right now, but any school would essentially offer Floyd a chance to make up for lost time, as he was forced to sit out his entire junior season at Trenton Catholic after tearing his ACL in the preseason.
“If I go to prep school, it’s just preparing me [for college],” he said. “I tore my ACL, so right now I feel like I’m where I was before I tore it. I think getting that prep year, I’ll get a lot stronger and just get a lot better with my mind and all that stuff, getting older. I think I’d do good with that extra year.”
After playing for WeR1’s second team, WeR1-Rushton, during the spring, Floyd has joined the program’s main team for the rest of the summer and is hopeful that his chance will come in the next couple weeks with the increased exposure. He won’t, however, necessarily jump at the first offer he gets if doesn’t feel it’s the right fit.
“If I feel as though the offer is a good fit for me and I think it’s the right situation,” he said as to what will be the determining factor in his reclassification decision. “It’s not about going to the best school or the highest level school, it’s about getting in where you fit in. You’ve got to stay in your lane.”
Expect Floyd to have a firmer grasp on his plans for next year by the end of July, when he will sit down and solidify his decision.
Eli Brooks (2017/Jersey Shore Warriors/Spring Grove, Pa.)
With the ongoing evolution of basketball, fans of the sport have seen the role of a point guard change over time. Traditionally, point guards are meant to be facilitators and are supposed to take a secondary role in scoring. Nowadays, there are basketball teams at the college and professional level that sport a scoring point guard that can shoulder the offensive load.
For Eli Brooks, he tends to shy away from the new breed of point guards.
“I try to look for other people,” Brooks said. “As a point guard, that’s my job - my shots will come later.”
He possesses solid court vision and has a great feel for where his teammates are on the court. He sets up his teammates with excellent scoring opportunities by finding the open man and being selfless in taking an extra pass.
It may not be the most glamorous style of play, but it is effective. Brooks was an instrumental piece in the Jersey State Warriors’ one-sided win over Threat 220.
He currently holds one offer from Mount St. Mary’s and has been contacted by James Madison and St. Joseph’s.
So far, he has visited only James Madison and Mount St. Mary’s, with the latter giving him an offer that same day.
He hopes that college coaches and scouts recognize his playmaking abilities to set up his teammates. In the meantime, he is gearing up for his junior season at Spring Grove High School (Pa.), where his dad is the head coach. During the offseason, he works out with him often at the school’s gym.
“It’s been great, other than at the dinner table, I get to hear about everything I did wrong during the game,” said Brooks, grinning.
This past season, Spring Grove improved to a 15-10 record after finishing 7-14 the year before.
With two years left to grow as a player and a long time to make a college decision, Brooks is certain about one thing for when that time comes.
“I’ll look for a school with good academics and a good program,” Brooks said. “Academics are pretty important. I don’t see myself going to the NBA, so I need a good job.”