Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The Peach Jam, Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball (EYBL) championship tournament, continued into its second full day and third overall of the first July Live Period on Friday. Once again, hundreds of Division I coaches streamed into the building at Riverview Park Activities Center to check out the hundreds of Division I prospects that filled the rosters of all 36 teams in action.
Here’s a notebook featuring several regional storylines and players:
Team Final’s point guards step up in Carr’s absence
Shortly before Peach Jam, Team Final point guards Josh Sharkey and Vaughn Covington found out that they would be really under the spotlight in the biggest AAU tournament of their lives.
The team’s usual starting point guard, Tony Carr, informed his teammates that he likely wouldn’t be able to play in the tournament due to a hip injury, meaning that Sharkey and Covington would need to step up their play in front of a few hundred Division I coaches.
“Tony, he’s the leader of the team and he’s the point guard, he gets everybody involved and does what he has to do to help us win, Sharkey said. “I just had to step up and be a leader out there on and off the court and just try to get the guys involved, try to do my best.”
After four of five games in pool play, Team Final has gone just 1-3, knocking them out of contention for a top-two spot in the six-team Pool A and the slot in the quarterfinals that comes with it.
But Sharkey (pictured above) and Covington have acquitted themselves well.
In the morning session win, a 81-69 victory over a talented Team CP3 that features one of the nation’s top prospects in 6-10 forward Harry Giles, it was Covington who played hero, burying two late 3-pointers back-to-back to turn a three-point advantage into nine, finishing with 21 points. Through four games, he’s averaging 10.0 ppg and 2.5 apg.
The 6-foot-1, 155-pound rising senior at Neumann-Goretti has offers from Lehigh and Penn, with some interest from Quinnipiac and Fairleigh Dickinson, but it’s been a while since his name was a hot one on the recruiting scene. Coming from a school that’s sent quite a few of his former teammates on to high-major colleges has certainly helped drive him this weekend.
“It’s definitely motivation,” he said. “I like to see all my brothers succeed, but that definitely motivates me, to see them succeeding, it makes me want success.”
Sharkey had a rough first game at Peach Jam but rebounded nicely over the next three, averaging 9.8 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.0 rpg and 1.8 spg through Friday night’s action.
“The first game, I was just trying to get a feel for the game, but the last three games I thought I played well,” he said.
A 5-10, 155-pound point guard, Sharkey is certainly not the biggest player at Peach Jam, but his 11-point, nine-rebound effort against CP3 showed he’s capable of playing at a D-I level. With only a solitary offer under his belt, from Samford, he’s similarly looking to jump-start his college recruitment. But he wasn’t feeling any pressure from all the high-major coaches looking on.
“It’s fun, playing in front of the coaches, showing all the work that you’ve put in,” he said. “You’ve got to show them what you can do.”
This week, both Sharkey and Covington got their chance to do just that.
New York sharpshooter’s stock rising quickly
One month ago, Andrew Platek’s offer list was Albany, Siena, Yale and Fairfield.
Since then, the Albany City Rocks shooting guard has added scholarships from Penn State and Miami (Fl.) plus Iona, Buffalo and Boston University.
That his recruitment went suddenly from mid-major to high-major territory doesn’t seem to have phased the 6-foot-4 guard, who showed why those schools were coming aboard with a 17-point, six-rebound effort in a tough loss to Pro Skills (Tex.) on Friday night.
“I think it’s a blessing, and it shows how hard I’ve been working, it’s come to fruition,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard; all of these offers and attention are great, but I’m just going to keep working hard and getting better.”
Platek has made his mark on the EYBL’s 17U circuit has a sharpshooter, and though he made five triples in this particular contest (on nine attempts), there’s certainly more to his game. He’s a solid 185 pounds and uses that to his advantage, setting hard screens for his teammates and playing tough, physical defense.
“I’d say I’m a good defender, I keep people in front of me well,” he said. “That’s one of the things I take pride in, I take pride in getting rebounds and stops and not letting people score.”
Formerly a member of the Class of 2016 while at Guilderland (N.Y.) high school, for whom he averaged 23.5 ppg this past season while leading his team to the Section II Class AA boys’ championship game, Platek will be transferring to Northfield Mt. Hermon (Mass.) and repeating his junior year.
That’s a common route taken at Northfield Mt. Hermon, which has developed a tremendous reputation under head coach John Carroll for churning out Division I talent.
“He’s a great guy, even better coach,” Platek said. “He really knows what he’s doing, he’s been coaching for a long time and he really took a liking to me. I love the program, I like the players, I think it’s going to be a great fit for me.”
Under Carroll, NMH has become an Ivy League prospect factory, with plenty of local connections; two of his former NMH players (Jackson Donahue & Collin McManus) are coming to Penn this fall, while another (A.J. Brodeur) is committed for next year.
And even though the high-majors have come calling, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility to see Platek end up in the Ivy League in a few years.
“I’m just keeping my interests open,” he said. “Academics are very important to me, and it’s the best education in the world. If you can combine that with basketball, that would be ideal.”
Reddish talks Westtown decision
It’s not going to be difficult to figure out who should be the runaway favorites in the Friends’ Schools League for the next few years.
Defending champs Westtown School already looked ready to dominate the league of Philadelphia private schools thanks to a trio of Division I prospects on its roster—and in the last two weeks, it became official that head coach Seth Berger would have yet another high-major prospect on his team.
Cameron Reddish, a 6-foot-6 rising sophomore guard who’s widely considered in the top 20 nationally in his class, will continue his schooling and basketball as a member of the Moose after spending his freshman year at the Haverford School.
“(Westtown is) just somewhere that was the best fit for me,” he said after scoring 15 points for Team Final’s 16U squad in a win over Mac Irvin Fire. “Somewhere that I can get a great education, be prepared for college, play at a high level of basketball.”
At Westtown, Reddish will join juniors Mohammed Bamba and Najja Hunter and senior Jair Bolden as those with numerous Division I offers. Bamba, a 6-11 center, is ranked among the best in the 2017 class and has a real chance to make the NBA in a few years, while Hunter, a 6-5 shooting guard, is also a high-major target; Bolden, a 6-3 point guard, has a range of offers from mid-to-high-major schools.
The trio of Bamba, Hunter and Reddish is sure to draw some of college basketball’s top coaches to the West Chester (Pa.) private school this season and next.
“I’m getting pretty close to them, we’re pretty good friends, we talk almost every time we see each other,” Reddish said of Bamba and Hunter. “We’re becoming a family, so it’s good.”
Reddish certainly played well in his first Peach Jam, averaging 13.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg while shooting just over 40 percent from the floor. His best game was a 19-point, seven-rebound outing against top 2018 prospect Marvin Bagley and We All Can Go on Thursday.
So far, Reddish’s only college offer is from Penn State, but that won’t last much longer now that he’s playing with plenty of college coaches watching; the crowd during a win over Mac Irvin included an assistant from North Carolina plus head coaches from Penn State, Temple, La Salle and more.
“I love it here, it’s an unbelievable experience, doesn’t get better than this,” he said. “I just go out there and play, just let the game come to me; how it plays out is how it plays out.”
—Impressive overall performance from Team Final’s 16Us in a 84-50 win over Mac Irvin Fire, with several high-major targets showing off why their recruitment is taking off. Recent Temple offeree Daron Russell (2017/PG/Imhotep Charter) had a solid all-around game with 16 points (6-of-9 shooting), nine assists and six steals; Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (2017/PF/Neumann-Goretti) had 21 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double in three games; finally, Delaware guard Jordan Money (2017/SG/St. Elizabeth) put together a 16-point performance of his own on 6-of-9 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
—On the losing side in that game was Christian Negron (2017/PF/Mac Irvin Fire), who had quite a few coaches impressed with his motor and ability around the bucket on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound forward said afterwards he currently holds offers from Illinois, Iowa, DePaul and Virginia Tech, with further interest Vanderbilt, Creighton, Northwestern and Oregon. “I’ve heard a lot from coaches that I just play with a high motor, I think I rebound pretty well. Things I need to work on, just looking to be more aggressive and get to spots on the floor,” he said.
—Shamorie Ponds (2016/SG/NY Lightning) had a nice game in a losing effort to Each 1 Teach 1, going off for 17 points and seven rebounds. The 6-3 lefty claimed offers from St. John’s, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Miami, Seton Hall, Temple and Tennessee, saying that the majority of the schools that were involved in his recruitment had already offered. “They’re recruiting me on and off the ball, I can move to the two; I don’t have to score or make plays with the ball in my hands,” he said.