CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
PITTSBURGH -- The Hoop Group’s Pitt Jam Fest invaded the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend, bringing hundreds of teams from eighth graders through high school seniors onto 36 courts for a massive tournament to open the first of two April live recruiting periods.
Here’s a notebook from the third and final day of action:
Thomas O'Neil (above) led the Middlesex Magic to their second straight Pitt Jam Fest championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
O’Neil seeing improved work ethic pay off
Without much prompting, Tommy O’Neil is the first to admit that throughout his high school career, he didn’t always put as much effort into basketball as he could have.
As he transitions from St. John’s Prep (Mass.) to a post-graduate year at Vermont Academy, he’s first getting one more go-round on the AAU circuit, playing with the Middlesex Magic 17U team for the second spring in a row.
“Didn’t have quite the work ethic then that I have now,” said O’Neil, a 6-foot-8 forward. “So I’ve just been working hard, trying to get better.”
It’s paying off, as O’Neil turned some heads this weekend in the 17U elite bracket, culminating with his 14-point MVP outing Sunday that helped the well-balanced Magic win the championship with a 69-42 blowout of Crown Basketball.
Following his first game Sunday, a 63-33 rout of Team M.O.A.M., O’Neil picked up an offer from Mount St. Mary’s, which he considers his first Division I offer now that he’s starting fresh with a prep year. In high school, he held offers from Binghamton and Bryant, but isn’t sure if those still stand.
“Academics are pretty big for me too, so no schools [that offered previously] really match the basketball and academic criteria I have in mind, so I figured I’d do a postgrad year to try to get more offers,” O’Neil said. “I have yet to talk to those coaches [from Binghamton and Bryant].”
O’Neil added that he’s excited about Mount St. Mary’s entering the mix and considers it “a good first offer.” He said they have a good program and a good young coach in Jamion Christian. Most college coaches had hit the road by 2 p.m. on the final day, but Boston University, Delaware, Holy Cross and Lehigh all had assistants watching O’Neil’s team in the final.
To see his recruitment pick up even more, O’Neil needs to improve his jump shot. He’s a versatile banger already, comfortable operating in the high post while also slashing to the hoop, often playing the four for his AAU squad. O’Neil, who sees himself as a three or four in college, is adept at finishing with both hands, in the halfcourt and in transition.
“I try to get in the gym every day and try to make 150, 200 3-pointers a day,” O’Neil said of rounding out his game. “I know my body’s good, I’m strong, I can get to the hole most of the time, but if I really want to achieve what I want to achieve, I have to get a good 3-point shot. I think I can defend both [forward spots] and run with most forwards.”
While O’Neil is trying to rewrite his college future, he’s also a big fan of literal writing - literarily.
“I write a lot. I’m a big writer,” O’Neil said with a smile. “Creative stuff. I write all the time, for English and just for fun. I love to do it.”
Young starting to make his own mark for Warriors’ 17s
It was one year ago that Ryan Young was bursting out on the AAU scene, as the Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.) big man went from a solid mid-major target to a Northwestern commit after a couple strong months playing with the Jersey Shore Warriors on the Hoop Group circuit.
Now, it’s his brother’s turn to make his mark with the Warriors’ oldest team. And after a rocky outing on Friday night which saw him miss a number of looks at the rim, Kyle Young found his groove, stringing together several strong performances to help the Warriors to a semifinal showing in Pittsburgh.
“The first game, you get here, it’s intimidating,” he said. “It’s a crazy atmosphere, so many people, so many teams, and you never know who’s watching. I think I just gained a lot of confidence from the first game.”
A physical post player, Young has a similar motor to his brother, who pulled in offers from up and down the East Coast and beyond in part for his unrelenting effort on the court, as well as his ability to pass out of the post and clean up everything on the glass. Kyle Young isn’t quite the polished offensive player that his brother is, but he displays the ability to get free around the rim and got a good portion of his production on tip-backs and second-chance opportunities.
Though both are now about the same size -- Kyle now stands 6-9 and 245 pounds after growing a couple inches since the end of his junior season -- the younger Young brother doesn’t see himself as an exact clone.
“Obviously we do the same things like rebound and stuff like that, but Ryan’s more of a finesse player, Ryan’s got more moves,” he said. “Ryan wants to get around (defenders). I’m more of a power guy, I like going through them.”
Right now, Young has two Division I offers, from American and Mount St. Mary’s, and he named Hartford, Delaware, Brown, Princeton and Lafayette as most in touch otherwise out of a group that he said also includes some A-10 schools.
Quite a few of those staffs had already recruited Ryan, whose journey through the recruiting process has served as a guide for Kyle.
“I actually went on a lot of the visits with him, so I got to experience what Ryan would do and I learned a lot from him,” Kyle said. “Obviously I’ve talked to him a lot about how to talk to coaches, what to do, especially here in the live period.”
Coleman an enigma wrapped in a book
From Friday to Sunday in Pittsburgh, there was a buzz through the building about “the big kid” on the Wrightway Skills 17U team, the 7-footer with tantalizing skills.
Charles Coleman III, perhaps best described as a stretch-five, from the Dexter School (Mass.) got a chance to show what he can do and why he claims offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Oklahoma, South Florida, UNLV and a host of mid-majors entering his senior season. He was engaged in a high-major matchup with 7-foot-1 Montverde Academy (Fla.) five-star Balsa Koprivica in an elite bracket consolation game Sunday afternoon and finished with nine points in a 72-67 loss, a statline that belies his vast potential.
“Obviously, he shoots the [crap] out of the ball and plays real well in the post, but we’re trying to figure out how to play both bigs,” explained Wrightway Skills founder George Wright-Easy, whose oldest team is also featuring another Division I prospect in unsigned 6-9 senior Tayler Mattos. “Obviously, [Coleman] is a real good shooter along with our point guard [Noah Kamba], so we put him in a lot of pick-and-pop, high ball-screen stuff.
“People don’t get to see him really dominate on the block the way that he can.”
Well-rounded offensive game aside, the broad-shouldered Coleman said his main emphasis is on making sure he runs the floor and keeps his large body as active as possible. As far as his recruitment goes, he and Wright-Easy both said he’s wide open and all schools that have offered are on equal footing.
“A ton of schools are calling, ‘Oh, we wanna offer, we wanna offer,’ but it’s like, OK, how many other guys are you offering?” Wright-Easy said.
Mostly everyone has offered Coleman’s opponent Sunday afternoon, and he enjoyed the chance to go toe-to-toe with Koprivica, as assistants from Baylor and Florida State sat courtside.
“He’s a big kid. We’re pretty equal height, see eye to eye, so it was a good experience playing him,” Coleman said.
When he’s not hitting from beyond the arc and protecting the rim, you can usually find Coleman buried in a good book.
“I like reading,” Coleman said. “Some of my favorite books are the Percy Jackson series, Kane Chronicles, books like that.”
-- There wasn’t an overload of unsigned seniors playing in Pittsburgh, but one still looking to catch on at a Division I is Bishop Ireton (Va.) point guard Darius Hines. Running with Team Takeover Orange in the 17U elite tournament, Hines scored 13 points all in the second half on a mix of 3-pointers and pull-ups to nearly rally his team from an 18-point deficit in the final six minutes. The York Ballers still came away with a 50-43 win, but for Hines, what he did down the stretch was exactly what he wanted to show while being watched by Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, as well as assistants from Towson, Radford, Delaware, Saint Francis, Lafayette and Lehigh. Hines said he’s garnered new interest from Marist, and has previously been in touch with Delaware in addition to some Division II offers.
-- All Ohio Red fell short against eventual 16U champion NY Rens, but 2020 St. Edward (Ohio) standout Devontae Blanton had a weekend as strong as he is. Listed as a forward, but a solid ball-handler at 6-4, Blanton has the skill set to help a team anywhere from the one through four position and said he’s often compared to Draymond Green. Blanton has offers from Cleveland State, Dayton, Duquesne and Toledo, and already feels a connection with second-year Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot, who came to Pittsburgh from Blanton’s home state after spending more than a decade at Akron.
-- Basil Koprivica naturally commands the shadow for the Montverde Academy team, but the player who helped the Eagles beat Wrightsway Skill was a lesser-known commodity. Joe Bamisile, a 6-foot-2 2020 guard originally from Richmond, Va., poured in 37 points thanks to a sweet stroke from 3, attacking in transition and getting to the free-throw line. Bamisile claims offers from Richmond, VCU and Old Dominion, but is mostly still under the radar due to an ACL injury that has limited his exposure thus far.
-- Unfortunately for Patrick Mogan, the matchup he was hoping to get didn’t materialize in Pittsburgh. Now a Newton, Mass. resident, Mogan grew up in Radnor, where he lived until just before ninth grade, when he moved to the Boston area due to his father’s job. When he was still in the Philly area, he played for the Malvern Legends, alongside Gabe Arizin, Jake Nelson and Luke House, who all play for the Jersey Shore Warriors. And though Mogan’s Middlesex Magic advanced to the championship game, the Warriors did not, meaning Mogan will have to hope for a meeting at one of the other Jam Fests which will take place over the next few months -- otherwise, he’ll have gone his whole AAU career without having played against his former teammates. A 6-8, 225-pound forward, Mogan has a college-ready body and is an energetic post presence, with interest from Brown and Holy Cross.
-- Coming out of central Pennsylvania, the CATS AAU program made a run to the 17U Platinum ('B' level) bracket championship, thanks to the heroics of Elijah Washington in the semifinals. The Hempfield junior guard capped off a 20-point outing with a steal, layup and-one with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, delivering a 67-64 win for his team. Washington's steal came just seconds after it looked like Tyler Crespo had put the CATS ahead, but the Manheim Twp. junior was called for a questionable charge, negating his own layup following a steal. In the championship game, CATS AAU lost to M.O.A.M. (Fl.), 64-58.