Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Ari Rosenfeld (@realA_rosenfeld)
NEW YORK CITY -- The Under Armour Association (UAA) continued its season-opening session at Pier 36’s Basketball City, with games running all day long in the 15U, 16U and 17U sessions.
Here’s a notebook from Saturday night’s action:
Ryan Legler (above) and the South Jersey Jazz have won their first three games. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
South Jersey Jazz off to hot start
Last year, the South Jersey Jazz joined the Under Armour Association for the 16U circuit and had a rough go of it, winning only two games during the circuit’s four events.
They’ve already surpassed that during the first weekend of their time on the 17U circuit, with a few additions proving to be key during a 3-0 start that has them one of just six undefeated teams remaining in the UAA through the first two days of action.
“The first year we were just getting in, that was getting loose and getting a handle for it,” said Myles Cale, a rising senior at Appoquinimink (Del.) and Seton Hall commit. “The second year, we’ve seen the competition, we’re ready, we prepared well for it.”
After surviving New Heights earlier on Saturday in double overtime, the Jazz trailed Oklahoma Run PWP by eight late in the second half before coming back for a 69-63 win.
While Cale, who had 25 points against OK Run, is averaging 22.3 ppg through three games and is certainly the team’s star, this year he’s getting much better support from those around him. Newcomers Kristian Alexander (2016/Appoquinimink) and Ah’Rod Carter (2017/Chester) are averaging a combined 23.3 ppg, and have helped push the Jazz over the edge from close losses into wins.
“We were there every single game (last year),” said Ryan Legler, one of the eight returning players on the roster. “It’s just having the guts to step up, make a shot, get a stop, get a rebound, that kind of stuff.”
Like his father, former NBA sharpshooter and current ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler--who also coaches the South Jersey Jazz--Ryan Legler is a proficient shooter, making 38.9 percent from behind the arc to average 7.7 ppg. Austin Kennedy (5.0 ppg, 3.3 apg), Walt Harvey (5.7 ppg), and others are all chipping in to a deeper and more experienced squad.
Cale was the leading scorer on the entire 16U circuit last year at over 20 ppg, and had started pulling in Division I offers by the beginning of his junior season. Yet when it seemed like he was on the verge of blowing up on the 17U circuit, he ended his college recruitment, committing to Seton Hall in March.
“I think their program is going in the right direction,” he said. “Coach (Kevin) Willard, he just got the Coach of the Year for the Big East and they just won the Big East Tournament and I just think that’s the right place for me, for academics and athletics.”
With Cale off the market, the coaches watching South Jersey Jazz aren’t quite as numerous as those that have flocked to other courts to see programs will multiple big-name players still available.
But Cale has a plan to get the rest of his teammates their due.
“Just keep on winning,” he said. “As long as we’re winning I think more coaches will come and they’ll get as many looks as they can."
St. Ray's rising senior Sidney Wilson (above) recently picked up a Temple offer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Sidney Wilson (2017/New Heights)
Over the last several years, Temple has become known for the tough, physical nature of the players that Fran Dunphy has opted to bring in.
So upon watching Wilson play for just a few minutes, it’s fairly easy to tell why the Owls are working hard to land the 6-foot-6 wing.
While Wilson might not look the part due to his slender frame, he plays with a non-stop motor, constantly attacking the rim when he has the ball in his hands and looking to stymie opponents on the defensive end.
The Owls have been recruiting Wilson since before his sophomore year at New York City power St. Raymond’s, but just extended a scholarship offer prior to this weekend’s live period.
“It felt good,” Wilson said of finally receiving the offer. “One of my alumni from my school, Daniel Dingle, goes to Temple, so me and him talk and have a close relationship. Me and the coaching staff--Coach [Dwayne] Killings, he talks to me a lot, and Coach Dunphy has been getting in contact with me as well too.”
Wilson has yet to visit North Broad, but said a trip down the Turnpike could be in the works soon.
Meanwhile, the Owls are certainly not alone in turning up the heat in their pursuit of the consensus four-star prospect. Wilson also mentioned offers from Indiana, Minnesota, Providence, and Iona, with schools like Texas, Florida, Cincinnati, and UConn having reached out following his strong start to the live period.
He’s working to schedule an Indiana visit for next weekend, when the UAA brings its second session to Indianapolis. Iona, UConn, and Florida are other schools that he also hopes to visit.
For now, though, Wilson is focused on continuing to put in work in front of the bevy of college coaches tracking him and his New Heights teammates, building on his 15.3 point, 6.3 rebound averages early on in UAA competition.
“[I want to prove] that I’ve got an improved shot,” he said. “I can attack the basket as well as anybody and I finish better than anybody in the country, so i want to try and show that I’m really one of the better players in the country this year.”
Delaware native Eric Ayala (above) has been a confident scorer at the UAA. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Eric Ayala (2018/WeR1)
While consensus top-5 prospect Trevon Duval (2017/Advanced Prep Intl., Tex.) brings the crowds to watch WeR1, they’ve also gotten to enjoy three impressive showings by Ayala.
The Delaware native, who played two years at the Sanford School before transferring up to Putnam Science (Conn.) and reclassifying into the Class of 2018 last summer, is playing some of the best basketball of his young career to begin the summer.
Through three games, he’s averaging 15 ppg, shooting 59.3 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3. After seeing some action on both the 16U and 17U circuits last year, Ayala is clearly ready for a big-time role as a permanent 17U starter for the next two summers.
“I just come out and play, I’m not coming out here to show off, I just want to get better,” he said. “I’m not into everything else off the court, I just want to play ball.”
Over the last year, Ayala has gotten offers from St. John’s, Cincinnati, Penn State and South Carolina; he’s looking forward to June 15, when he can hear from college coaches directly for the first time since reclassifying.
Certainly much has changed about him and his game since the move; Ayala is noticeably taller than he was when he was still at Sanford, now somewhere approaching 6-5 and 205 pounds.
“I’m getting taller, so my body’s changing, I’m trying to catch up to my body a little bit,” he said. “Playing with Tre, he’s a good point guard and everything so I’ve been trying to work on my 2-guard skills.”
Ayala put a lot of credit into his development to his time spent up at Putnam Science. Playing alongside future high-major ballplayers like Mamadou Diarra (UConn), Hamidou Diallo (2017/NY Rens), Ayala helped PSA into the National Prep Championship semifinals, where they lost to Villanova commit Omari Spellman and St. Thomas More.
“It helped my game, not just on the court but off the court,” he said. “It made me mature, we were playing a lot of games, off the court I was resting a lot so that helped a lot, too.
“That’s all there is to do: work out, get in the gym, go to school,” he added. “They put us in a great position to succeed.”
Scottie Lewis (23) showed off his impressive athleticism and skillset again on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Scottie Lewis (2019/Team Rio)
When UAA published its 16U schedule for the weekend, all eyes were immediately fixed on the high profile matchup between defending champs Sports U and upstart program Team Rio, both based out of New Jersey.
Sports U is known particularly for its “Fab Five”, as all five of its starters are considered top-100 players in the 2018 class. At the same time, Team Rio is comprised entirely of 2019 recruits playing a year up on the AAU circuit.
Led by Lewis and teammate (both in AAU and at the Ranney School) Bryan Antoine, it was the young guns that emerged with the win in front of a standing-room only crowd, overcoming a late Sports U rally to hand the defending champs their first loss on the Under Armour circuit, 47-44.
On the heels of a 33-point drubbing of Team Beast Mode to open play last night, the win solidifies Team Rio as a legitimate contender to take home the 16U UAA title this summer.
“It’s special,” Lewis said of the victory. “The entire tournament, the entire year, everybody’s been saying we shouldn't play up, that we’re too young, we’re too small, we’re too soft, and to beat a team like that is a big accomplishment for us.
“The entire tournament, the entire year, everybody’s been saying we shouldn’t play up, we’re too young, we’re too small, we’re too soft, and to beat a team like that is a big accomplishment for us. It’s special.”
The game was especially significant due to the proximity of the marquee players involved, all of whom play their high school ball in North Jersey.
As Lewis, already considered a top-10 recruit in his class, tells it, he and his Team Rio teammates have been admiring their older counterparts from afar for quite some time now.
“[Team Rio] came together in 6th grade, and ever since 6th grade we’ve been watching them in 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, watching them kill it,” Lewis said. “We’ve looked up to them, and the fact that we're on the same floor as them and we beat them is a big accomplishment.”
While there’s still three years for his recruiting process to unfold, Lewis already holds early offers from St. John’s and Connecticut, and also boasts interest from Villanova, Florida, and Notre Dame.
Having played with each other for so long, and currently experiencing the start of their recruitments together, Lewis and Antoine--also considered a bona-fide high-major prospect--have formed an incredibly special bond.
“He keeps me lightheaded, I keep him lightheaded. We make sure we stay kids and just have fun,” Lewis said. “We make sure we’re always together so we can feed off each other and build a brotherhood and better connection on the court.”