PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The April live recruiting periods hit the Steel City this weekend, as the Hoop Group’s Pitt Jam Fest took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center overlooking the magnificent Allegheny River.
Here’s a notebook from the final day of action:
Sibling jealousy inspired Syracuse-area rising star
When he was four years old, Symir Torrence had the urge to start playing basketball.
And the reason was simple: his three older sisters all played.
But as a child, with talented sisters “five and six” years older than he, it was the older siblings who always came out on top -- a learning-by-defeat method that was certainly frustrating for the younger brother.
“Yeah,” Torrence admitted, “but I would be screaming on the sideline when they were playing, cheering them on.”
By eighth grade, Torrence was finally beating his sisters -- several of whom played collegiately -- one-on-one. Now, after two impressive years at Syracuse Academy of Science, he’s ready to take the next step in his exposure.
Currently 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, the talented lead guard is waiting on his first college offer, but he’s got some big names sniffing around: Syracuse, Georgetown and Washington have all checked in, as have George Washington and Siena. It’s only a matter of time before those offers start coming in for Torrence, who showed off his impressive all-around game in leading the City Rocks 16s into the Pitt Jam Fest championship game.
Though the City Rocks lost to Indiana Elite Fastbreak in the final, Torrence showed his stuff, hitting four 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points, as well as a handful of dimes and rebounds apiece.
“I’m working on being a leader on the court, my consistency and my shot, passing the ball and getting others involved first and then getting myself involved and winning the game,” he said.
At SAS, which he led to the New York Class A sectional final before bowing out to Jamesville-DeWitt -- he scored his 1,000th point on his final shot in that game -- Torrence plays primarily point guard.
With the City Rocks, he plays any one of three perimeter positions, a helpful learning process although he sees himself playing on the ball in college.
“It’s a big adjustment because I have a lot of players who can score on this team, on my other team I have to do a lot of facilitating and stuff like that,” he said. “This team is good because it helps me off the ball and to see where I am off the ball.”
Jared Kimbrough (above) picked up a handful of offers during his breakout junior season at Neptune (N.J.). (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Shore-based big man making big strides
There are many more players who say they enjoy playing defense than those who really seem to embrace the task.
Jared Kimbrough doesn’t fit in that group: ask him what his biggest strength is on the court, and his answer is instantaneous: “Defense. I love playing defense, contesting shots and blocking them.”
Watching the 6-foot-7 post play this weekend, it’s clear he means it.
As his Jersey Force squad is settling into its half-court defense, Kimbrough is patrolling the paint, eyes up, pointing out defensive assignments. He can step out and guard opposing guards and wings, bothering them on screens to let his guards recover. When opponents start to dribble towards the hoop, he locks in, altering if not blocking just about every layup.
And when the ball comes off the rim, he doesn’t wait for it to come to him -- he goes up and gets it, every time.
“That’s just how I’ve always done it,” he said.
On the offensive end, Kimbrough displayed solid hands and the ability to finish through contact, though he didn’t attempt a jump shot in either the semifinals or finals.
This summer, he said, he’s trying to work on his “post moves, extending my range and a little bit of ball-handling.”
During a junior season at Neptune HS in which he averaged a double-double, leading the Scarlet Fliers into the Central Jersey Group 3 playoffs, where they lost to Lawrence in the quarterfinals. Kimbrough chipped in 25 points and 18 rebounds in that game.
Earlier in the season, he picked up his first scholarship offer, from La Salle; that was followed by offers from local school Monmouth, plus Towson, Iona and Fairleigh Dickinson.
“Before Shore Conference [play], that’s when (La Salle) offered me, at our practice,” he said. “When La Salle first offered, everybody started paying more attention.”
Indiana guard Jared Hankins (above) led Indiana Elite Fastbreak to the 16U Pitt Jam Fest championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
-- Indiana Elite Fastbreak took home the 16U championship behind a terrific weekend by Jared Hankins (2019/Lawrence North, Ind.). A 6-4 guard with confident range out behind the 3-point arc, Hankins is an above-average athlete who competes hard at both ends, but he really showcased his ability to score the ball. In a semifinal win over Middlesex Magic, he dropped 25 points, including five 3-pointers; then, in the championship game against City Rocks, he dropped 22 points, including four from deep. Hankins said he’s still waiting on his first offer, but is hearing from a list of mid-high majors that includes Iowa, IUPUI, Milwaukee, Indiana State, Ball State, Western Illinois and more.
-- In the 17U title game, Thomas Shaughnessy (2018/Needham HS, Mass.) put on what’s sure to be one of the best individual performances of the entire AAU season. In leading his Middlesex Magic to the championship victory, the 6-foot guard erupted for 38 points and eight three-pointers, with seven treys coming as part of a 25-point first half. Shaughnessy hit shots both off the dribble and off the catch, which only helped open up his dribble-drive game. Coming into the weekend his only offer was Army, but he picked one up from Quinnipiac shortly after the tournament ended; Shaughnessy mentioned that most schools from the Patriot and Ivy leagues have expressed varying degrees of interest; with a collection of coaches from those programs in attendance on Sunday, expect his offer list to grow in the coming weeks.
-- Watched a few games of the Michigan Warriors this weekend, and two of their 17s certainly deserve mention. Kenneth “Tré” Harvey (2018/West Bloomfield, Mich.) and Jaren English (2018/Romulus HS, Mich.) both had strong weekends in helping the Warriors into the Elite 8 of the 17U bracket, showcasing very different skillsets. English is a 6-4 wing who could play any one of four positions at the next level; he was comfortable on the ball, could shoot 3s off screens and was a tough rebounder with a post game; he’s got D-II offers from the University of Indianapolis and Northeastern State (Okla.), with interest from several others. Harvey, a 6-0 guard, is a 3-point specialist who’s quick to launch from beyond, but in a 24-point effort against Jersey Force in the quarterfinals he also showed he can attack the rim off the bounce as well. No offers yet, but his coaches said that Navy and Boston U had inquired about him after the first live period.
-- When his teammate, Kenny Jones, went down in the semifinals with a sprained ankle, Jersey Force’s Caleb Fields (2019/Wildwood Catholic, N.J.) had to have the ball in his hands even more in the 17U championship game. That’s just fine with the athletic 6-2 wing guard from South Jersey, who played along side two point guards in Ryan Legler and Trey Smith this past year but will have the ball in his hands as a senior for the Crusaders. “That’s my primary focus this summer,” he said. “Work on my handles and my vision, my court vision, passing. Pick-and-roll game, too.” NJIT offered Fields last year, and the Highlanders’ staff is still in pursuit; he’s also hearing from Towson, Stony Brook, Columbia and Lafayette, all of whom are looking to see how he handles point guard duties.
-- Following a semifinal run at last weekend’s Spring Jam Fest in Manheim, Rip City’s 15U squad once again cracked the final four this weekend in the Steel City. In their quarterfinal win over Team Felton of the Under Armour Association, they were led by the dynamic backcourt duo of Jhamir “Jig” Brickus (2020/Coatesville HS, Pa.) and Rahdir Hicks (2020/Malvern Prep, Pa.). Two of no fewer than four Division I prospects on the roster, they took turns operating as lead ballhandlers, with Brickus using his trademark quickness to blow by defenders and Hicks consistently probing the defense to create open looks. Look for this Coatesville-based squad to continue to make noise as they progress through the spring and summer.
-- Middlesex Magic’s 16U group ran into a buzzsaw in the semifinals in that IE Fastbreak group, falling behidn 20-0 and eventually losing 64-55, but Spencer Aronson (2020/Lawrence Academy, Mass.) still was able to showcase a well-rounded game in defeat. The 6-1 combo guard had one of the prettiest shots in the gym all weekend, with a terrific rise, form and high release point that went for three 3-pointers in the game. Aronson recently made the decision to reclassify, transferring from Holliston HS (Mass.) to Lawrence Academy, to focus, he said, on “grades, and to get stronger and bigger, which I think will help me out a lot.”