READING, Pa. -- On the final day of Hoop Group’s three-day Elite Camp at Albright College, the top teams and players took the floor for a few more sets of games before closing up shop for the week.
The best of the camp’s 800 players were divided into five all-star games - the Top 20, the best seniors, the best underclassmen, etc. - and displayed their talents for one more day in front of college scouts, less than forty-eight hours into the July live period.
Here’s a notebook from the final day of action, highlighting several of the various all-stars the camp had to offer:
Caesar Dejesus (2016/Mount Zion, Md.)
Dejesus left his mark on the basketball court this afternoon for the NBA Top 20 All-Star Game. It is the most anticipated game that Hoop Group has to offer, showcasing the top prospects from the camp.
The moment he entered in the game in the second quarter, the rising senior took control. Known for his abilities as a slasher, Dejesus showed flashes of versatility, as he made a few contested three pointers. He was a vocal leader on the court and ran the offense.
While he has admitted that he needs to work on his defense, he played relentlessly on Hoop Group’s biggest stage. Dejesus never allowed his opponent to get comfortable, he stayed on his man and contested every shot.
“Once I step on the court it’s like I’m in a different zone,” Dejesus said. “I treat it like a canvas. I want to paint my picture the way I want to paint it.”
Many college coaches in attendance got to see Dejesus play his way to Most Valuable Player honors. For Dejesus, the motivation he needed to perform well was personal.
“The other team had a bunch of players from New Jersey. They’re all my friends and they were talking smack before the game, so I had to come ready,” he said, smiling.
Dejesus spent his first three years at Teaneck High School in New Jersey. He is transferring to Mount Zion (Md.) for his senior year, a decision he felt he needed to make in order to further his career.
“I just thought that Jersey was too packed with guards, it was hard to get exposure,” Dejesus explained. “I wanted to get out of the state, I’m looking forward to it.”
According to Dejesus, he has received offers from Robert Morris and Maine, with Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Memphis, LIU Brooklyn, Mount St. Mary’s, and a couple of other schools reaching out to him. So far, out of all of these schools, he has only visited Mount St. Mary’s.
“It’s a great campus, the basketball team is great – it’s just a great school,” said Dejesus.
After today’s performance at the NBA Top 20 All-Star Game, he might have to prepare himself for more schools coming his way and visits down the road. --Eugene Rapay
Chauncey Sterling (2018/St. Anthony, N.J.)
In the NCAA level all-star game, which was comprised entirely of rising freshmen and sophomore, Chauncey Sterling of St. Anthony’s High School showed off impressive coordination and ball-handling ability. What he lacks in 1-on-1 defense, he makes up for in his ability to beat defenders off the dribble on the other end of the floor.
“It was good, it was good competition, I got better as the week went on, and I felt like I proved myself here,” he said.
Sterling could stand to improve his finishing ability and didn’t have the greatest shooting performance, but his ability to find open passing lanes serves him well as a rising point guard at St. Anthony’s and potential Division I prospect.
During his time at the camp, Sterling received an offer from Boston College. Sterling’s brother, Eli Carter, is also entering his last year of eligibility for the Eagles, so Sterling was happy to see the school call his name early in the live recruiting period.
The offer was Sterling’s first on his list, one he should expect to see grow as he continues to progress. Nonetheless, the first offer is an exciting milestone for prospective college players.
“I felt blessed, truly blessed,” he said. “Boston College is a good school, they’re ACC so that’s one of the best conferences, it’s high competition, so as my first offer I feel like that’s a really big achievement.”
To receive an offer from a high-major program is absolutely an impressive achievement, but the ceiling appears to be much higher for the St. Anthony’s six-footer. The Eagles have struggled as a team in recent years, finishing near the bottom of the highly-competitive ACC, but churned out NBA prospect Olivier Hanlan in the recent draft.
Whether Sterling will be the next Hanlan, or whether he’ll even choose Boston College as his future school is anybody’s guess as he enters only his second year of high school play, with likely several other offers to come. As long as he continues to develop every aspect of his game – like he plans to do – and work on improving the minutia, this first offer will only be the beginning of a bright future for Sterling. -- Jeff Griffith
Peace Ilegomah (2016/Roselle Catholic, N.J.)
Just when you think a player has the easy lane to the basket, he comes swooping in and sends the ball flying out of bounds.
Just when you think he is about to be posterized, he plays tough, in-your-face defense in the post that makes an opposing player think twice.
The paint is Peace Ilegomah’s domain. The 6-foot-10 center prides himself on his defensive prowess and his ability to box out in order to grab rebounds.
“I like playing defense, it helps win the game,” Ilegomah said. “When I block a shot or get a rebound, I make sure it helps my team score.”
In the J Bracket Final of the Hoop Group Elite Camp, Ilegomah tallied seven blocks and was an integral piece in his team’s victory.
Ilegomah is hearing from New Jersey schools and more, like Seton Hall, Rutgers, Brown, Princeton, Rider, and a couple of other Ivies. He’s hungry for more offers and attention from colleges, but he knows he still has work to do in order to improve as a basketball player.
“I’m still trying to work on my offensive side,” Ilegomah said. “I’ve been going to big man workouts to learn more post moves that I can use in games.”
This past year, Roselle Catholic enjoyed with a 29-4 record. They won the New Jersey Non-Public B Championship over St. Anthony and captured their second Tournament of Champions title in the last three years.
During this run, Ilegomah took a secondary role for a Roselle Catholic team that was led by Kentucky-bound prized recruit Isaiah Briscoe. This season, he knows that he will be taking upon a bigger role. He expects to be the starting center for next season and has already begun improving his conditioning.
“I’m basically going to be playing the whole game,” Ilegomah said. “I’ve been improving more on my cardio so I don’t get tired fast.”
He hasn’t planned on going on any college visits yet, but when it comes to making a decision for the next level, there is one thing that is important to him.
“I just want to be comfortable,” Ilegomah said. “Any school where I’m comfortable and I can just play.” --Eugene Rapay
Jose Martinez (2016/Long Island Lutheran, N.Y.)
Martinez has been playing the game of basketball for years in Puerto Rico, where he was a standout. However, he’s still trying to acclimate himself to the tempo and style of basketball that is played in the United States.
“I came from a small country where I was dominating,” Martinez said. “I come here and guys are my size but stronger than me.”
Martinez first came to the States in May 2014, leaving his family and friends in Puerto Rico behind in order to further his basketball career. Initially, the transition into a new country was tough – moving in with a host family and starting in a new school, but he’s getting used to it.
On the basketball court, he’s been able to find his niche. Martinez stands 6-foot-9, but lacks the requisite physicality to rumble with other forwards and centers inside. He has found other ways to compromise, using his sweet shooting stroke to lead the way.
“I’m skinny, I’m not a post player,” Martinez said. “So I’ve been working on my jump shot. It’s an advantage for me and one of the best things I can do.”
In the Senior All-Star game, Martinez impressed those in attendance by stretching the floor out with his three point and mid-range shooting. His play earned him the Most Valuable Player Award for the game.
Martinez revealed he might transfer to a prep school or to another school for his senior year. He said that he has been talking privately with his family and coaches, but is ultimately unsure in regards to the matter. He is certain that he will decide by the end of the summer.
As for his college plans, he is still waiting for his first offer. He said that he has heard from San Diego, Quinnipiac, Iona, Drexel, Maryland, and a couple of other schools.
“I want to balance academics and basketball,” Martinez said. “To do well on the court and do great in school.”
As for now, he’s working on becoming a more complete player. His coaches have put him on a weight lifting plan to help him bulk up.
His shooting is already solid, but if he can add the size to rival opposing big men, watch out. --Eugene Rapay
David Beatty (2017/Archbishop Carroll, Pa.)
The Underclassmen All-Star Game, played during the final set of games, wasn’t exactly the most competitive of games--which allowed players with highlight-reel talent like Beatty to break out and make some impressive plays.
Beatty showcased his impressive athleticism on numerous occasions; his soaring windmill slam was arguably the highlight of the game. A close second, of course, had to be jamming the ball between the rim and the backboard on his next dunk attempt.
“It was all good, all of this competition, everybody thinks I’m this big player so everybody’s trying to go hard at me and I like it,” he said. “It pushed me harder so I could get better, so that’s always a plus.
On the week as a whole, Beatty saw pretty quick improvement after a relatively slow start. By the end of the camp, he was playing like a strong Division I prospect and scoring in a variety of ways.
“The first two games I was in a drought, since then I had thirty or twenty points a game, and I had like, nine assists, so I really improved,” he said. “And my coach acknowledged me for that, so I feel good about that.”
The rising junior plans to transfer from Archbishop Carroll to either Conwell-Egan or St. Benedict’s Prep. As far as his recruiting is concerned, there’s a long list of schools after the talented shooting guard.
Penn State and Siena have already offered Beatty scholarships, and according to Beatty, schools like Georgetown, Maryland, Miami, and Syracuse have also expressed interest.
His impressive athletic ability and big-play capabilities will certainly serve any of those programs well, but for now
“There’s more to come, that’s all I’m looking for,” he said.
With the way he’s playing, there certainly is a lot more to come. -- Jeff Griffith
Max Mahoney (2016/Ridge, N.J.)
The 6-foot-7 forward places an emphasis on mastering basic techniques. While some players rely on sheer athleticism, Mahoney has worked hard with his coaches throughout his high school career in order to have solid footwork down low.
“Fundamentals are pretty much the way to go,” Mahoney said. “I just try to have a high basketball I.Q., I think it gets the job done.”
When he is in the paint, his fancy footwork takes over. He uses his nimble feet and his ability to use his body to create space; and it’s through that solid footwork and the hard work he’s put in that he’s become a capable post scorer.
College coaches have taken notice of his work in the post. Mahoney says that he has received offers from Brown, Binghamton, Stony Brook, and UNC-Asheville. He’s also heard from Ivy League and Patriot League schools.
In the mean time, he’s looking ahead to his senior season. Ridge High School finished 24-4 last season, losing to Linden in the NJSIAA North Jersey Group 4 Section 2 finals for the third straight year. Last year’s Ridge team set a school record for the lowest points per game allowed, with 41.8.
“We’re going to be losing a lot this year, seven or eight guys,” Mahoney said. “But we’re not worried, we have guys who are ready to step up.”
Mahoney has visited a handful of schools: Holy Cross, Brown, Penn, Boston, and Princeton. He enjoyed each and every one of his visits, citing the campuses and coaches at each of these schools. He plans on making a decision before the start of this upcoming season.
“It’s going to be a tough decision,” Mahoney added. “I definitely want a high academic school that can compete. Academics come first, but when it comes down to the court, a team that can compete for a league championship every year is important to me.” --Eugene Rapay
-- Dion Harris (2017/Lower Merion, Pa.): A rising junior at Lower Merion, Harris found a spot on the NCAA all-stars roster and used his size well, accenting his two quarters of play with an emphatic one-handed slam in his final quarter at the camp. Harris didn’t display the best hustle, and needs to develop more fluid ball-handling in order to reach the full potential of his sizeable, 6-foot-7 frame. For a big man, however, Harris was able to pass the ball quite well, doing a great job of finding open shooters on the perimeter from his position along the baseline, opening up teammates for multiple three-point attempts. As a young, growing player, Harris should be a great asset to his Lower Merion Aces – an annual District 1 AAAA contender – in his two remaining high school years.
--YaShawn Bright (2016/Christ the King, N.Y.): An athletic, tough wing that excels at getting to the basket. Not only can he use his quickness to beat his man off the dribble, but he can also finish in traffic. One of his brightest moments from today was when he laid down a windmill dunk. The same toughness and energy that he displays on offense also emerges on defense. Bright demonstrated solid perimeter defense and hustle as he dove for loose balls. He needs to improve on the consistency of his jump shot in order to truly become a dangerous threat on offense, but his athleticism will certainly grab your attention.