NEW YORK CITY -- The Under Armour Association kicked off the 2016 April live periods with a bang on Friday night, taking over the six-court Basketball City facility in Manhattan for some 16U and 17U action in front of hundreds of Division I coaches.
The action was exciting, as top players from the classes of 2017, '18 and '19 (plus a few from 2016) showed off their stuff over the course of four rounds of games.
Here’s a notebook from the opening night of the first UAA event of the summer:
Team Rio's Scottie Lewis (23) drives while head coach Mike Rice watches. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Team Rio dominates in Under Armour debut
There’s been a good deal of hype surrounding a group of young New Jersey ballplayers who played under the Team Rio banner during the summer as they rose up through middle school, and they made quite an impression in their first major-circuit appearance.
Despite having a roster consisting almost entirely of freshmen playing up at the 16U level, Team Rio had no problems with Team Beastmode (Tex.), running away for a 73-40 win. A confident bunch coming in even surprised themselves with the margin of victory.
“I was expecting to win by 10,” said Bryan Antoine, a freshman at The Ranney School (N.J.). “But coming out winning by 33, that’s pretty good.”
Antoine had a monster game in the win. The 6-5 guard dropped 30 points on an efficient 10 of 17 from the floor, making six of his 11 3-point attempts; he also had seven rebounds, five assists and five steals without a turnover, according to Under Armour’s statkeepers.
So far, he said he has an offer from St. John’s and interest from Villanova plus “a couple of others,” and he’s not the only one that’s got high-level Division I potential. Scottie Lewis, another 6-5 freshman from Ranney, has a super-long wingspan that allows him to be a top defender; Jalen Gaffney, a 6-1 guard out of Pennington, also chipped in 10 points in the win.
Antoine and Lewis, plus fellow Rio members Alex Klatsky and Chris Autino, were a big reason why Ranney went from a four-win team last year to a 21-4 squad this season.
In addition to all its talent, Team Rio has itself the most high-profile coach on the UAA circuit. Mike Rice, whose videotaped treatment of his players at Rutgers ended his tenure there three years ago, started working out many of the Rio players last year and is now calling the shots for them on the sidelines.
“Coming in, I thought it was going to be the guy that screams at everybody, but he’s pretty much a friend to you, he’s on your side,” Antoine said.
This is far from the first foray back into basketball for Rice, who was Team Tournament director at the Hoop Group for two years and coached his son’s NJ Shoreshots squad on the AAU circuit the last two years.
Rice spent last season as the interim head coach at The Patrick School after former coach Chris Chavannes stepped down to concentrate on being the school’s principal. He certainly seems to be enjoying working with Team Rio, though it helps having several future high-major basketball players on the team.
“They do things that 15-year-olds shouldn’t do,” he said. “And I’m talking about not just athletically, I’m talking about instinctively and how their instincts are trained to jump to the ball and help the helper and do those types of things. The sky’s the limit as far as a lot of those guys on this team as far as their potential and their future.”
Sports U's Jahvon Quinerly impressed with a 26-point, six-rebound effort in a win over Washington Supreme. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Quinerly leads “Fab Five” as they begin title defense
Coming off an undefeated 2015 UAA campaign on the 15U circuit, Sports U’s highly touted 16U group found itself in an unfamiliar position in its first live period game: behind on the scoreboard.
That surely wouldn’t last long, though, or at least not if standout lead guard Jahvon Quinerly had anything to say about it.
Thanks to a flurry of points from Quinerly, considered one of the top point guards in the Class of 2018, Sports U turned the 10-point deficit that they faced through much of the first half into a slim halftime lead, before pulling away behind Quinerly’s 26 points to defeat Washington Supreme, 63-50.
Playing in front of college coaches for the first time this season, nerves almost certainly played a part in Sports U’s slow start.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Quinerly said postgame of the live periods. “This is my favorite time of the year, I love the summer. We came out slow but we managed to pull away in the second half. It was a great team win.”
It may have been coaches’ first time seeing Quinerly this spring, but many of them are incredibly familiar with his game by now; he listed offers from Villanova, Cincinnati, Penn State, Northwestern, Seton Hall, and St. John’s, as well as interest from Syracuse, Wichita State, and Wake Forest.
With an incredibly refined game for someone having just their sophomore high school season, and already receiving so much high-major attention, Quinerly is focusing on refining just a couple key attributes as he and his teammates look to defend their UAA title.
“My coach told me I’ve got to be more vocal on the court and that college coaches really look at that, so I’m just trying to improve my leadership skills and lead the team,” he said. “I haven’t been a good defender in the past, so I’m trying to work on that. That’s one of the main things I’m trying to improve this summer.”
Quinerly makes up just 20 percent of Sports U’s so-called “Fab Five”, along with hisHudson Catholic teammates Luther Muhammed and Louis King, Roselle Catholic’s Nazreon Reid, and Pope John XXIII’s Atiba Taylor, all of whom are considered to be surefire high-major players at the next level.
There were talks throughout the high school season of the entire group playing up an age group and competing on the 17U circuit. Instead, however, they’re back taking on all comers within their own class, with the knowledge that every opposing team will bring its A-game to try to knock them off.
“There’s a lot of new teams in here so we’re looking to see who people say is exciting,” Quinerly said. “Honestly, we’ve been winning since eighth grade, so we’re used to the pressure.”
Jamar Sudan (above) was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor in Philly Pride's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
--Solid game from Jamar Sudan (2017/Chester) in a 67-56 win for Philly Pride’s 17Us over Sports U. With quite a few dozen coaches watching, the 6-6 forward led his team with 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting, going 5-7 from the line and grabbing four rebounds as well. He’s certainly undersized but there’s no denying his motor and ability to finish through contact (he had several 3-point play opportunities), and he’s capable of guarding numerous spots on the court as well.
--Though New Heights’ Keith Williams (2017/Bishop Loughlin, N.Y.) led the way with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting in a 63-58 win over Earl Watson Elite (Cali.), it was point guard Isaiah Washington who made some big winning plays late in the game. The 6-foot point guard finished with 10 points on a rough (3-of-12) night from the floor but had eight assists and three steals, including a few key late ones to polish off the win. He claims offers from “Minnesota, Rutgers, Providence, Seton Hall, Iona, and a couple more” and said that Indiana had been talking to him as well.
--Another elite 2018 guard, Prentiss Hubb (2018/Gonzaga HS, D.C.), also impressed in his UAA debut, playing on the 17U circuit with DC Premier. In a hard-fought win over the Houston Defenders, Hubb ran the show en route to finishing with 20 points and eight assists. He excels in the open floor, consistently finding the open man but also knowing when to score it himself. Hubb demonstrated his abilities in the half court as well, though, knocking down three three-pointers and finding teammate Nate Watson (26 points) down low for easy buckets.