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Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest Notebook (July 21)

07/22/2018, 1:30am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Donta Scott (above) and Philly Pride were one of a number of shoe-sponsored teams at Spooky Nook this weekend. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
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MANHEIM, Pa. -- The Hoop Group’s Summer Jam Fest packed Spooky Nook Sports for the weekend, with several hundred coaches flocking to Lancaster County for a massive tournament filled with shoe-sponsored programs and some of the best non-shoe programs around.

Here’s a notebook from Saturday’s action, which saw the main brackets whittled down from 100-plus teams down into their final eight programs for Sunday morning’s quarterfinal rounds:

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Donta Scott (2019/Philly Pride/Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
While Philly Pride’s 16s were busy making a run into Sunday’s quarterfinal round, the 17s were proving their mettle in a pair of showcase wins, beating a pair of Nike-sponsored teams in the PSA Cardinals and then Team Melo, with dozens of coaches watching both times.

That’s nothing new for the Under Armour-backed Philly Pride, which has done nothing but beat non-UA teams this summer; though the Cardinals were without the services of 5-star point guard Cole Anthony, they still get added to a list that includes the Albany City Rocks, Boo Williams, NY Rens and more.

“It’s a good feeling, that we keep winning,” Imhotep Charter wing Donta Scott said, “but the most important part is that we get up in Vegas [at the Under Armour championships next week] and just win all of that.”

Scott, an aggressive, athletic 6-foot-7 wing and the highest-level recruit on the team, did his part, with a 13-point effort in the win over Team Melo and a six-point, five-rebound, three-assist, three-steal outing against the PSA Cardinals.

Roman Catholic’s Hakim Hart had eight 3-pointers in the Melo win, en route to a team-high 26 points, after scoring five against the Cardinals. Scott’s Imhotep teammate Jamil Riggins had 12 points and took three charges against PSA, then had nine points against Melo. Perkiomen School’s Chris Arcidiacono, Bonner’s Tariq Ingraham and Lincoln’s Tyree Corbett all had their moments as well.

“We actually play as a team, like...we always come together as a family,” Scott said. “And our length bothers people.”

As Philly Pride keeps winning, the recruiting keeps heating up. Scott recently added Florida, Seton Hall and Nevada to an offer list that already included Maryland, Georgetown, Temple, UConn, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and more. He said he’s expecting an offer from Oregon soon, and other high-majors are sure to check in at the UA championships in Vegas next week.

Once that wraps up, the focus turns to one of the more-anticipated recruitments around, with the local programs having put in a lot of work for Scott’s services over the last couple years, and now several tempting other offers spread around the country.

“I know I can take my unofficials and do those, but they’ve got to be places where I can get to, because I don’t want to keep paying for flights and stuff like that,” he said. “So I’ve got to figure out what far places to take my official visits to.”

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Marial Mading (above) is a lanky 6-10 wing forward with a high upside. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Marial Mading (2019/L&L Running Rebels/Commonwealth Academy, Mass.)

Before he made the journey from Australia to America in 2016, between his ninth and tenth grade years, Mading had a pretty good idea of what he was in for in the Northern Hemisphere. His older brother, Daniel Mading, had come to the States two years prior, in 2014, and gone through the adjustment process while getting recruiting to play at a high level of college basketball.

“It definitely (helped) because it showed me what to prepare for,” the younger Mading brother said. “It’s really fast-paced compared to Australia, it’s really physical, so I just had to get stronger, had to get ready for it.”

Daniel Mading bounced around high schools upon his arrival, going from The Rock School (Fla.) to St. Anthony (N.J.) and then back; he also originally committed to Arizona State, then Texas Tech, but is playing now at Mt. San Jacinto (Cali.) JUCO, and has committed to play at UC-Riverside for next fall.

His younger brother has also changed high schools ones, going from St. Maria Goretti (Md.) to Commonwealth Academy midway through his junior year. He also changed AAU programs this year, going from Team Thrill, an Under Armour-sponsored program, up to the independent L&L Running Rebels, a Lehigh Valley-based program, where he’s the highest-profile recruit on the team.

“It’s great, we don’t have too many big egos on the team, everybody just wants to play together,” he said. “It’s a fun group of kids and they play good basketball.”

Marial Mading is a 6-10, 200-pound wing forward, whose jump shot is still a work in progress, but he’s got a smooth handle for someone his size, and is willing to go inside and use his length to block shots and bother opposing drivers. In a loss to the NJ Shoreshots in 17U third-round action, he put together a 15-point, seven-rebound, three-assist effort.

That’s enough to get him offers from Tulane, Rhode Island, Howard, Towson and NJIT, with interest from several high-majors; Pitt and UConn both had coaches courtside for the ShoreShots game.

“They just say they love my skill and my handle, they want to see me get stronger,” Mading said of what he’s hearing from the programs who have yet to offer. “[I’m] trying to work on my speed, my strength and just tighten up all my skills so I can be the best I can be.”

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James Bouknight (2019/PSA Cardinals/Macduffie School, Mass.)

It was not even five months ago that Bouknight went under the knife, to repair a torn meniscus suffered during his junior season at Macduffie. He was cleared, he said, only a day before last week’s Peach Jam, where he was only able to play limited minutes for a PSA squad that went 2-3 in pool play at the Nike EYBL championships, failing to make it into to the eight-team quarterfinals.

“I didn’t really get into a groove because it was restricted minutes,” Bouknight said, “so I was just out there playing, trying to do whatever I could do to help us win.”

So consider what Bouknight did on Saturday night in a showcase game against Philly Pride his comeback party.

The 6-4, 180-pound shooting guard was as hot as could be, dropping 33 points in a losing effort on 13-of-17 shooting, including 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. The No. 90 player in ESPN’s top 100 for 2019 hit 10 of his final 11 shots, including his final four triples, and in doing so showcased his three-level scoring ability, whether he was creating for himself or getting free off screens and burying open jumpers.

“I don’t really know, I was just playing, trying to ball,” he said. “Trying to keep my ranking, trying to prove myself.”

Bouknight picked a good time to return to form, in a showcase game that had coaches from over 40 schools looking on, including numerous head coaches, like Temple’s Fran Dunphy, UConn’s Dan Hurley and more.

Though he hadn’t been on the court in a significant way for some time, his recruitment was still going strong. Saturday’s performance is sure to only keep that going.

“UConn, Virginia Tech has been talking to me a lot, Virginia Commonwealth. I can’t really go through them all in my head, it’s a lot,” he said. “Right now, I’m just keeping my recruitment open, I’m not making any decisions.”

Bouknight said he’s looking for “a school that plays fast, play with a lot of freedom, gets in the open court...a team that has a good culture.”

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Leo O'Boyle (above) has a silky-smooth outside shot to go along with the ability to score inside. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Leo O’Boyle (2019/JB Hoops/Scranton Prep, Pa.)

O’Boyle was absolutely on fire last weekend in Atlantic City, helping JB Hoops to a runner-up finish in the Hoop Group Summer League playoffs, with a 37-point outburst in the semifinals the personal highlight of the first July live recruiting period.

That was enough for the 6-foot-7 wing forward to see his offer list triple in size, with St. Francis (Pa.), Marist, American and Lafayette adding to a group that began with Columbia and NJIT; it’s now up to seven schools, after Albany offered earlier this week.

“I’m just excited, these are my last two AAU tournaments ever, so I’m just trying to have as much fun as possible,” he said. “I just tried to play the hardest I could every single game and I at the end of the day, I thought I could get one or two [offers] maybe...I ended up with four, so got to be grateful for that.”

O’Boyle kept it rolling on Saturday, scoring 22 points as JB Hoops won its third-round game, beating the NY Lighting Select squad 64-50; JB Hoops later lost in the Sweet 16, 69-64 to Nike-sponsored Expressions Elite.

Though he missed his first three shots from the floor against the Lightning, O’Boyle found his rhythm by halftime, and closed the game hitting his final four shots, including three 3-pointers (one a four-point play) to slam the door shot in the final five minutes. He’s got a beautiful, high-arcing shot that serves as a compliment to his ability to score inside and play tough around the rim.

It’s that outside shooting ability that has his offer list at seven, and though O’Boyle said that he has a few favorites in mind, he wasn’t ready to share exactly who those were just yet. He did say that he was looking for “a school that will provide my academic needs and set me up for my future, and then a place where I could just get right in and play, that’s going to be a major part for me.”

Don’t expect O’Boyle’s recruitment to last much longer. He said he plans on taking visits immediately after the live period, and anybody who doesn’t offer shortly afterwards might be missing out.

“I think I’m going to make my decision by two weeks into August,” he said. “See if anybody [else] offers me by that time, but around then I’ll probably make my decision.”

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Quick Hits

-- Impressive win for the 6th Man Warriors to advance into Sunday morning’s quarterfinal round, as the Maryland-based program took on the NJ ShoreShots and ran away to a 69-38 victory. St. Andrew’s Episcopal (Va.) guard Heru Bligen set the tone early as the Warriors jumped out to an 11-0 advantage and never relinquished the lead, which did shrink to five late in the first half before they put it away in the first eight minutes of the second. Bligen, a 6-2 combo guard, was relentless around the bucket, finishing with a 15 points and seven rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. Longwood became the most recent school to offer Bligen, who also holds scholarship offers from Robert Morris, UMBC, Stony Brook, Navy and Coppin State. Bligen’s high school teammate, Kamari Williams, added 12 points and four rebounds, while National Christian (Md.) 2019 guard Jimmy Kpadeh had four points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Also playing well for the Warriors was 6-8 forward Charlie Weber (2019/Bishop O’Connell, Va.), who had 13 points and five rebounds. Weber, who holds offers from Holy Cross, Lafayette, Mount St. Mary’s, UMass-Lowell, Loyola, American and Siena, stepped out to knock down two 3-pointers and hit a pair of mid-range jumpers, showing much-improved fluidity and strength since last summer, as well as an overall more assertive game.

-- Undoubtedly one of the stars of last weekend’s Atlantic City Jam Fest, Reed Fenton (19/Greater Latrobe, Pa.) reaped the benefits of a stellar opening weekend of the live period, adding offers from Dartmouth, American, Holy Cross, Bowling Green, Marist and Drexel to existing ones from Navy, Drake and NJIT. The 6-4 wing kept it rolling on Sunday night, pouring in 18 points as the PK Flash beat the Jersey Shore Warriors 78-61 in a game they led end-to-end.

“I’m just maintaining a good relationship with all the coaches, all the schools that have talked to me and offered me, I really liked,” he said. “I like the coaches, I like the schools, so it’s definitely going to be a tough decision, to narrow it down to one.”

Drexel coach Zach Spiker was watching Fenton closely on Saturday, checking out both of the Flash’s wins. Though Fenton said he had to sit down with his family at the end of the month to figure out which schools he’d be visiting and when, it certainly sounds like he’s planning on at least giving the Dragons a longer look.

“(Spiker) wants me to come out in August, which I’m really excited about,” Fenton said. “I want to get out there and check the place out. It’s really interesting, that’s a good school to go to, good conference, so I’m really excited about that school.”

-- Philly Pride’s 16s got the best of Boo Williams’ 16s in a Sweet 16 matchup on Saturday night, thanks to a stellar shooting game by Allen Powell (2019/La Salle College HS), who hit five 3-pointers en route to 20 points, and Jordan Longino (2021/Germantown Academy), who hit five and finished with 17. But it was impossible to miss Boo Williams’ J.T. Thor. The 6-9 wing forward, who was born in Alaska and currently attends Huntington Prep (W.Va.), is a lanky left-hander who can stretch the floor as well as he can defend the rim, finishing with 29 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in an impressive two-way performance. Though he certainly needs to add strength and refine his game in all aspects, it’s clear the ceiling is incredibly high for Thor, which is why he already has offers from Florida, UConn and Cal; Maryland assistant Matt Brady was among several coaches courtside for this one.

-- The depth of the main 17U bracket was clear early on Saturday, as East Coast Power and Team Richmond/Garner Elite’s top groups met in a third-round (Round of 32) matchup that played out like deserving to be a few rounds later in the tournament. Ultimately, Garner Road prevailed on a buzzer-beating layup by Trinity Episcopal (Va.) 2020 PF Burke Smith, capping off a 15-point performance for the 6-11 big man with an offer from Columbia and interest from William & Mary, Rice, Princeton & more.

Undoubtedly the highest-level prospect on Team Richmond was Collegiate School (Va.) 2019 SF Robbie Beran, who scored 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, scoring and defending inside and out. The 6-9 wing listed heavy interest from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Rice, William & Mary, George Mason, Richmond, UNC-Charlotte, all of which have offered; though Beran said in a “perfect world” he’d commit before the start of the season, but couldn’t definitively say when he’d commit, or even which schools he might take visits to after the end of the July live periods.

Playing well for East Coast Power was recent Princeton commit Konrad Kiszka (2019/La Salle College HS), who had 14 points, including several key buckets down the stretch of regulation, as the 6-7 wing was continually attacking the hoop, with Beran unable to do much to stop him. Episcopal Academy’s Matt Dade led the Power with 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers and two game-tying foul shots at the end of regulation; the 6-5 wing also grabbed several tough rebounds in traffic.  

-- Alright, one more thing. Watched the NJ ShoreShots’ 16s dispatch the York Ballers 65-48, behind 17 points from Westtown 2020 SG T.J. Berger, who only took seven shots, went 3-of-6 from deep and 6-of-9 from the foul line. But the stat sheet stuffer in this one was Wildwood Catholic 2020 Jahlil White, who recently spurted from 6-3 to 6-6; the lanky point guard finished with 10 points, six assists and seven steals, plus three rebounds (all offensive). Sean Hansen (2020/Ramsey High School) added 11 points and nine rebounds, six of which were on the offensive end; also all over the stat sheet was Bishop Eustace 2020 G David Cross, who had two points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.


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