READING, Pa. — A loaded crop of rising seniors, juniors and sophomores descended on Albright College this week for the second Hoop Group Elite Camp in as many weeks, drawing out coaches from some of the top programs in the country as the second of three July live recruiting periods tipped off at 5 PM on Wednesday night.
Here’s Part 2 of a notebook from Thursday’s action; Part 1 can be found here:
Jameer Nelson Jr. (above) has picked up his first three Division I offers in the last month. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jameer Nelson Jr. (2019/The Haverford School, Pa.)
It was about a year ago that Nelson went from being a two-sport athlete to one, dropping baseball from his schedule to focus solely on the game that, really, he was born to play. And the progress he’s made in that time has been substantial, going from a sophomore who was a solid high school player to a rising senior who’s capable of hanging with some of the best guards around.
Nelson proved his mettle by going up against highly-touted 2020 guard Posh Alexander and then high-major 2019 recruit Isaiah Wong in two games on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, more than holding his own on both ends with plenty of coaches watching.
“I feel like it shows how much I’ve worked in the gym,” he said. “My dad always told me, ‘they can have more games than you, but you can play more than them, you can work more than them in the gym,’ so I’m catching up in that area.”
Nelson’s father, of course, is former St. Joe’s standout Jameer Nelson, who just completed his 15th season in the NBA, and knows a thing or two about being successful in basketball. Father watched son on Thursday as the younger Nelson battled with Wong, scoring 16 points and dishing out a handful of assists. The 6-0 guard knocked down a couple 3-pointers, got into the lane and finished through contact, and even put in a floater or two.
On the other end, Nelson showed his high-level athleticism with a pair of blocks, including a two-handed rejection of a layup.
“I’m trying to figure out how to really work the ball screens, because I’ve got to become a point guard, so that’ll be a big thing for me,” he said. “I watch a lot of film by myself, guys that work off screens good like Damian Lillard and John Wall, because their pacing is really good.”
Nelson’s recruitment has sped up in recent months, with Rider and Siena becoming his first two offers last month, and then La Salle following suit to take it to a new level. All three schools have been involved, but Nelson said that new Siena head coach Jamion Christian has really been pushing hard for his services.
Those offers have also changed his thinking over the last few months. Nelson had been considering a move to the 2020 class, taking a prep year after graduating from the Haverford School in the spring, but now he’s looking at playing out his senior year and then finding a place to go to college next fall as a member of the Class of 2019.
“There’s really no point in going back,” Nelson said. “I have my Division I offers, I hope to get more, but I feel like...not complacent, but I’m fine with where I’m at right now.”
Jordan Hall (2020/Neumann-Goretti, Pa.)
If you ask Jordan Hall which game he performed best in last year at Cardinal O’Hara, he’ll tell you it was against Neumann-Goretti, where he dropped 20 points.
Down four as the clock was ticking down, Hall launched a three, made it, claims he got fouled, but the ref didn’t call it, so O’Hara lost 61-60. Twenty points was tied for Hall’s highest scoring game as a sophomore last season, the other coming against Conwell-Egan -- he averaged 9.5 points per contest on the season.
The commute from his aunt’s house in Philadelphia to O’Hara was about an hour and a half every day, so Hall was looking for something closer, and a somewhere where he could get a fresh start. Ironically, he picked to attend the school he played the best against last year, Neumann-Goretti.
“It’s relieving,” Hall said. “I think Neumann-Goretti is a good situation. I don’t have to worry about [the decision] anymore. I was worrying about it for a long time. It’s good now.”
The PIAA passed a new rule on Wednesday dealing with transfer eligibility rule. Student-athletes in 10th grade or higher that transfer after a certain date will be ineligible for the postseason in their first year at the new school.
Lucky for Hall, Neumann-Goretti’s coach Carl Arrigale called him and informed that as long as his paperwork is in before August 5, the transfer deadline, he will still be eligible for the postseason.
“Coach Arrigale called me yesterday and told me about it,” Hall said. “He told me to get all my stuff done. [Neumann-Goretti] got my transcript, and I just have to finalize all the paperwork on Monday.”
Starting the April live recruiting periods at 6-4, Hall has grown an inch or two since, and is continuing to develop his game. On the Under Armour Circuit this summer with Team Rio National’s 16u team, Hall picked up interest from schools such as La Salle, Dexel, Siena, Holy Cross, and UAB.
Hall is a solid addition to a Neumann-Goretti team which plays a national schedule and is always a contender to take home Catholic League state championships. Senior Chris Ings and junior Hakim Byrd will welcome Hall into the backcourt, although Hall can also play the wing position and even down low if need be.
Since he decided he would be transferring, Hall said, he’s been in the gym almost every day, and is continuing to improve his game. He’s also spoken with Arrigale about what to expect come the season.
“Arrigale said he likes that I’m unselfish but also wants me to be a leader,” Hall said. “Have to be a little bit of a scorer.”
Zach Crisler (2019/La Salle College HS, Pa.)
Two schools in the Big 5 are in the group making a push for Crisler, as the longtime Division I recruit is finally starting to figure out which schools will be there at the end.
Both Saint Joseph’s and La Salle have offered the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward, whose size, mobility and shooting ability have had him on D-I radars since his freshman year at La Salle. They’re in a group along with Rice, Tulane, Old Dominion and Penn State who have been staying in touch, but Lehigh and Lafayette are in the mix as well.
The Explorers have come on late under new head coach Ashley Howard, who has Crisler as one of several local talents high on his wish list as the former Villanova assistant tries to reform the program to the way he wants it.
“Getting to hear, face-to-face, what’s inside a coach’s mind that just won a national championship, that’s something that not many people get in their lives and that was a big part for me, his experience,” Crisler said. “And he has a very clear vision for what he thinks I could be if I came to his program, and that’s really important to me because some people would just be like ‘you’re a pick-and-pop ‘4’ guy,’ and Ash is like, ‘we can see you putting the ball on the floor, defending, being our biggest rebounder,’ all that stuff, so that’s very important to me.”
As for the Hawks, and head coach Phil Martelli...
“Basically the same thing, he sees me as a pretty versatile guy for them,” Crisler said. “Taylor Funk, I think my game’s kind of comparable to his, I just have a little more to go with skill-wise, but I think that’s what they could see me at.”
Crisler’s spent this offseason working out and playing with Team Rio on the Under Armour circuit, where he’s been in a starting lineup alongside five-star prospects Aiden Igiehon, Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine and four-star Westtown School guard Jalen Gaffney, playing under former Rutgers coach Mike Rice.
“He’s helped my game so much,” Crisler said of Rice. “My defense has skyrocketed from where it’s been, I’m much more active, it’s fun playing out there with Cartier [Bowman] and Jalen, and then Scottie, Bryan, Aidan and those guys, it’s a lot of fun, it’s a big family.”
Crisler said his plan post-July is to visit as many of the interested schools as possible, using his official visits on several of the further-away schools and taking his own trips to the more local places, though he did say that both La Salle and Rice were pushing for him to take official visits.
After that, he’ll just be waiting for the ‘wow’ moment.
“I’ve been to so many campuses and things, it’s definitely going to be that place where I go to visit and you just get that feeling of like shock, and you’re like this is it, I could see myself here for four years,” he said.
-- Before he even got to Albright, Xander Rice (2019/Mater Dei, N.J.) had a feeling he’d enjoy his team. Since he had to arrive a day late, on Wednesday night, Rice already knew that he was teammates with his WeR1 teammates Justin Paz and Chereef Knox, giving them instant chemistry in an arena where a little bit goes a long way. “It’s awesome, because we know how to play with each other, set screens for each other, get each other open shots,” he said. “Just helps the game come a lot easier to us.”
The son of Monmouth coach King Rice has the Hawks in his list of offers, along with Bucknell, Illinois State and he added one from Towson on Thursday. Keeping in touch have been Loyola (md.), Hartford, Yale and several other Ivy/Patriot types. Bucknell will get an official visit, he said, so he’s not locked in on playing at Monmouth, but it’s under discussion.
“It would be awesome to play for my dad, but I want to see what’s the best fit,” he said. “We talk about it a lot, it’s not a definite thing, we want to see what’s going to be the best fit for me, but also my family, what’s the best fit for all of us.”
-- One of the bouncier athletes at camp, Cartier Bowman (2019/TBD) is trying to show he can do more than just sky for dunks and blocks. And the 6-3 guard, who previously went to Notre Dame (N.J.), did a bit of that in his games Thursday, stroking a smooth-looking 3-pointer and dishing out several nifty dimes on the break -- along with his usual above-the-rim play.
“I feel like I really did a lot of hard work, because a lot of college coaches told me I needed to work on my jump shot, because in college I’m not going to be the biggest person on the court, I’m not going to be able to dunk on everybody all the time,” he said. “So these past two summers I’ve been working on my shooting and guard skills, being able to impact the game in different ways: shooting, passing, all types of skills.”
Bowman has two offers at the moment, from NJIT and Florida Atlantic; NJIT head coach Brian Kennedy and an assistant were courtside for his games. Also in touch have been a list of low-to-mid-majors, including Marist, Robert Morris, Saint Peter’s and more. But don’t count on a commitment anytime soon; Bowman said he plans on waiting until after his senior year to make up his mind.