Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
MANHEIM, Pa. This weekend, the Hoop Group’s Spring Jam Fest invaded the massive Spooky Nook Sports complex, with over 400 teams in five age groups all playing no fewer than three games over the course of three days.
Here’s a notebook from the action on Friday and Saturday:
Plymouth-Whitemarsh big man stays home to go national
Naheem McLeod had the opportunity to play on one of the major sneaker circuits. He even appeared with the NJ Playaz during an early-April event, manning the paint for the Nike-backed program for a few games.
But when push came to shove, the Plymouth-Whitemarsh junior center couldn’t leave the PYO program he’d played with since his middle school years. And so there he was in Pittsburgh and then Manheim over the first two weekends of the summer’s recruiting periods, one of the nation’s highest-level prospects not playing on a team backed by Nike, Under Armour or Adidas.
“I think loyalty is everything,” he said. “I was going to play with the Playaz but then I thought about it and was like, I played with this PYO team for eight years, so I was like there’s no point in leaving now, there’s just no point in leaving.”
A few inches taller than seven feet, with long arms and enormous hands, McLeod has been an intriguing prospect since he was first seen in P-W’s open gyms before his freshman season. He moved onto the varsity squad as a sophomore, though he was clearly more project than player, with below-average hands and poor positioning, plus a still-lanky frame that allowed him to get pushed around by more physical bigs even if they were seven or eight inches shorter.
The progress he’s made since then was clear on Friday night.
Though he still doesn’t reign in every ball that comes into his area, McLeod’s hands have gotten much more reliable; though he’s still not challenging every shot that goes up, he contests quite a few of them -- even several on the perimeter, where he’s adjusted to his frame to the point where he can keep guards in front of him, at least most of the time. After all, his presence in the post was a major reason P-W went 28-2, losing only in the District 1 6A championship game (to Abington) and in the second round of the state playoffs (to Roman Catholic).
And though his ball skills are far from perfect, McLeod also made two impressive passes in Friday’s win over Virginia Elite, including a left-handed dump off in the post and a strong kick-out on the move for a 3-pointer.
“Seven-[foot]-three point guard, on the way,” he said with a laugh.
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch. But McLeod has watched the likes of Joel Embiid and other versatile bigs who have come into the NBA during the last few years, and knows that just dunks and blocked shots won’t be enough if he’s going to take full advantage of his physical gifts down the line.
“I’m working on the mid-range jump shot, I’m starting to shoot it just a little bit,” he said, “but I think my bread and butter is at the rim, so I just go to the rim a lot and hopefully finish.”
As McLeod’s on-court maturity and skillset has developed, so has his recruitment. Florida State became the latest school to offer, joining a list that PYO coach Byron Whiting -- also McLeod’s guardian -- said includes Penn State, Temple and Oregon, with further interest from Uconn, Seton Hall and Georgetown.
Don’t expect anything to happen too quickly with McLeod’s recruitment. He said he’s planning on playing out the three five-day live periods in July with PYO, and only in the fall will he start taking visits.
Max Martz (above) committed to Penn in January and then watched the Quakers capture an Ivy League title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Martz even more excited to become a Quaker
When Max Martz verbally committed to Penn in January, he already had a feeling that the Quakers had turned the corner from a depressing decade. The next two months only left him feeling better and better about his decision.
The Ohio native with a sweet stroke committed when Penn was 12-6 on the season and 3-0 in the Ivy League; several weeks later, Steve Donahue’s bunch captured its first-ever Ivy League tournament title (in the league’s second-ever postseason) and its first league championship in 11 years.
And while the son of a college basketball player has spent his whole life watching the biggest event in college hoops -- “17 years of my life, I guarantee I’ve been in front of the TV watching March Madness,” Martz said -- watching the program he’s a year away from playing for was something different.
“To think that I have the potential, my team, when I’m there has the potential to make it to March Madness and be able to play in that, it’s unbelievable to think about,” he said. “It was so much fun to watch them, especially in March Madness. It was unbelievable. I can’t wait to get up there.”
At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Martz’s best asset by far is his 3-point shooting. He was draining shots from all over the perimeter during games on Friday night and Saturday morning, with no fewer than six triples in a win on Friday night; many of those makes didn’t even touch the rim.
In Donahue’s shot-happy system, that skill alone should earn him minutes right away at the ‘3’ and small-ball ‘4’, alongside what will be then-senior Ryan Betley and others in the Penn backcourt. He’s working on putting the ball on the floor now, but Penn’s motion offense doesn’t typically require its wings to do too much handling, just space the floor and let it rip.
“The way they move the ball is tremendous, and they’re not afraid to shoot it, all the shooters they let them shoot when they have the opportunity,” Martz said. “Their ball movement and cutting and their defense, just intensity, I think I can really fit well in that program.”
Wall preparing for starring role at Prep
Every offseason is important for a players’ development. This one is particularly important for Trevor Wall.
The St. Joe’s Prep sophomore spent this past season, his first on the varsity squad, serving as the Hawks’ sixth man and occasional starter under Speedy Morris, averaging 9.5 ppg, good for fourth on a team that went 19-9, reaching the Catholic League semifinals and the second round of the state playoffs.
He’ll have a lot more on his plate next year, considering the three who were above him in the scoring pecking order -- Ed Croswell, Darius Kinnel and Kyle Thompson -- will all be in college next year, at La Salle, Hartford and West Chester respectively.
Kinnel (16.2 ppg) and Thompson (14.7 ppg), the team’s starting backcourt the last three years, have been grooming Wall to take over.
“They’ve encouraged me,” the 6-3, 185-pound guard said Saturday morning after leading the Jersey Shore Warriors’ 16Us to a win over Pure Basketball (N.J.). “Me and Gabe (Arizin), we’ve got to run the team, we’ve got to keep the guys right. We’ve got to get back to the Palestra.”
While Wall tended to play the ‘2’ or even the ‘3’ last year, there’s no doubt he’ll be having the ball in his hands much more for his upperclassmen years at the Prep.
He played both guard positions for the Warriors on Saturday, sharing point guard duties with Justin Zieris (2020/Monsignor Farrell). Wall’s best asset at the moment is his ability to attack the bucket off the bounce, where he’ll happily take contact and get to the line.
If Wall wants to get onto Division I radars, he’ll need to become a more reliable 3-point shooter and continue to work on his athleticism and conditioning.
“I think I’m primarily a point guard,” he said. “I can stretch, I’m versatile...offseason’s pretty important for me. I’ve got to work on my jump shot, get quicker on defense.”
McGlashan hoping North Jersey move pays off in recruiting
Primed to be one of the leading scorers and go-to options for Cherokee (N.J.) last year, Owen McGlashan instead decided to head up I-95 and enroll at one of the North Jersey Non-Public ‘A’ powerhouses, Don Bosco Prep.
Going from a large public school to an all-boys Catholic school was quite a switch in itself, but McGlashan also noticed a significant difference on the court as well.
“From South Jersey to North Jersey, the game style is different, it’s a lot faster, the pace is a lot quicker,” he said. “But…[Group IV champion] Shawnee showed that South can still play with the North. So it’s like a different style, but when we clash head-to-head it’s like we’re playing the same speed.”
At Don Bosco, McGlashan was teammates with a trio of Division I commitments in Ron Harper (Rutgers), Marcellus Earlington (St. John’s) and Matt Herasme (Marist), who all helped lead Don Bosco Prep into the Tournament of Champions title game, where a 26-3 season ended at the hands of Roselle Catholic.
McGlashan, a 6-6, 200-pound wing who came off the bench as a 3-point and defensive specialist, tried to soak up as much as he could from the trio.
“All (the) Division I guys that I played with, I look up to them because that’s who I want to be one day. I’ve got to transform my body into a certain style, to play hard-nosed up there, a shooter. I have to stay in the gym, keep shooting.”
With Harper, Earlington and Herasme off to college this fall, McGlashan is hoping for a big jump up in production during his senior campaign, not to mention a Division I offer of his own. A strong student, he said that he’s heard from assistants at American, NJIT, Holy Cross and Penn, but he knows that he needs to do more than just make open jumpers if he wants to get there. So while playing with Team Speed (N.J.) this summer, he’s focused on turning his game from a wing into a guard, as much as possible.
“[Working on] my handles, my left hand...I was a small forward, I’ve been a big my whole life, so I’m trying to get into that ‘2’ guard because that’s what I’ll be playing in college,” he said. “Definitely my handles, my vertical ability and my left hand.”
-- The East Coast Power 17s drew a large crowd of coaches on Saturday afternoon, with prospects of all levels on the squad based out of King of Prussia. Pennridge’s Sean Yoder, who holds offers from Colgate and High Point, certainly brings out the Division I coaches, but there’s a few others that have interest from D-I through D-III. Episcopal Academy’s Matt Dade, a strong 6-5 wing, claimed interest from NJIT, Holy Cross and Lafayette; Methacton’s Dave Duda Jr. has had some interest from D-Is Lafayette, Hartford and FDU plus D-IIs like East Stroudsburg and West Chester.
-- Jackson Memorial (N.J.) guard Daniel Sofield spent his junior year working on his body and athleticism, and it’s making a big difference this AAU season. A jump-shooting specialist who didn’t move too well during his 16U season, Sofield showed off a much-improved ability to move both with and without the ball in his hands, hitting a couple outside shots but getting much more production attacking the rim in an OT loss to TNBA Flash on Saturday afternoon. So far, the 6-5, 195-pound wing has offers from Stony Brook, Columbia, NJIT and Colgate, and he said he’s hearing from UNH, Elon and Holy Cross as well.
-- The younger brother of Muhlenberg standout Nick Rindock, Parkland (Pa.) senior Logan Rindock is hearing from a bevy of Division III schools. A versatile 6-3 wing who can fill up the scoresheet but also rebounds and passes well, Rindock’s current list includes the Mules but also Susquehanna, York, Hood, DeSales, Dickinson, Cabrini, WPI (N.Y.) and St. Mary’s (Md.). This summer, Rindock said he’s focusing on his 3-point shot and continuing to work on his body.