Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
WEST CHESTER, Pa. -- For the third year in a row, the PSA Cardinals and NY Jayhawks AAU programs put on a one-day combine at the Westtown School, showcasing their teams’ talent on the 15U, 16U and 17U roster with a day of drill work, film breakdown, half-court 3-on-3 action and full-court 5-on-5 action
Here’s a notebook from the afternoon’s action:
A.J. Hoggard (above) is headed to Huntington Prep (W.Va.) for his junior year after two years at Archbishop Carroll. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Former Carroll guard Hoggard talks move to boarding school
Huntington Prep first reached out to A.J. Hoggard after his freshman year at Archbishop Carroll, to see if the talented young guard would be interested in leaving the comforts of the Main Line for boarding school in West Virginia, to play for the same traveling prep program that also formerly featured No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins among many other Division I alums and current players.
Last year, Hoggard said no. This year, after head coach Paul Romanczuk stepped down following a 14-year run, he said yes.
“When coach Paul left, it was just like why not have a new start, which is going to propel my game and get me to where I want to be, and help me excel at the things I want to do?” he said. “When he left, it was like, why’s it not my time to go leave, too?”
Hoggard is also going through a new start on the AAU circuit, switching over to the PSA Cardinals after previously playing with the Philadelphia area’s Nike-backed program, Team Final.
He’ll depart for Huntington Prep on Aug. 10, leaving his hometown of Coatesville to attend St. Joseph Central Catholic High School, which Huntington Prep is part of; Huntington Prep students are St. Joseph’s students as well, but travel the country as Huntington Prep on the basketball courts.
“It’s going to be difficult, but me, wanting to catch my dream, I just had to get used to it,” he said of being more than five hours from home. “It’s something I have to do. I’m going to leave for college one day, so why not starting to get used to it now?”
A 6-foot-3, 205-pound lead guard, Hoggard already has offers from Ole Miss, St. Joe’s, Seton Hall, Temple, La Salle, UConn, Rutgers and more, with further interest from Marquette, Florida, Syracuse and Pitt.
With a list of schools that’s more likely to grow than shrink over the next 12 months, Hoggard is likely going to have the ability to come back to the Philadelphia area for his collegiate years if he wants to -- though what he wants is still very much to be determined.
“I haven’t really thought about it, me and my dad have been talking about it,” Hoggard said. “Next year, junior year, going into senior year, that’s when I’ll start with visits and stuff like that.
“It would be fun, coming home and not being that far from home,” he added. “But I just want to go where the best fit is. If going home is the best fit for me, I’ll stay home, if going away is the best fit, I’ll go away...I just want to get the best fit for me and what can help me get to the next level.”
Max Lorca-Lloyd (above) played with Chile in the U-18 FIBA America championships in June. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Lorca-Lloyd starting to believe in NBA dream
Maxwell Lorca-Lloyd has been a player to watch since his freshman year at Northfield Mt. Hermon, when the big man was impressing at various camps and events in the Northeast. And despite having a 6-10, 210-pound frame, Lorca-Lloyd said, he didn’t think he could potentially play at the highest levels of basketball.
And then, this spring, it clicked.
“My goal is to make it to the NBA, and that’s something that, it wasn’t my goal before I would say, March, or February,” he said, “because around that time is when I realized I could make money doing this.”
It’s not that Lorca-Lloyd didn’t take basketball seriously. The athletic post player had more than a dozen Division I offers by the end of his junior year at Northfield Mt. Hermon (Mass.), including Georgetown, Harvard, Penn, Cal, Baylor and more.
But it did change somewhat his priorities when looking at college options.
“Academics are, they’re important to me but I also want to go to a school where they can help me become the best player I can be,” he said. “I value them both equally, but I just want to make sure I get the best of both worlds.”
He backed up his plans to play at the highest level at the FIBA America U-18 championships in June, where he helped Chile -- where his father is from -- to a fifth-place finish, averaging 14.2 ppg and a tournament-high 11.3 rpg.
Currently, Lorca-Lloyd’s list of suitors is a mix of high-majors, high-academics and a mixture of the two.
“I’ve mainly been talking to Baylor, Harvard, Penn, Stanford, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and then Cal,” he said.
Three official visits are already set: Harvard on Sep. 13-15, Stanford from Sep. 28-30 and then Vanderbilt on October 5-7.
At Northfield Mt. Hermon, a NEPSAC program known for pumping out high-academic and high-level hoops talent, he was classmates with players on both Penn and Harvard’s rosters; Harvard incoming freshman Noah Kirkwood is an NMH product, as is Penn rising junior A.J. Brodeur.
Lorca-Lloyd knows that the Ancient Eight might not have the hoops talent that the Power Five conferences have top-to-bottom, but it’s far from devoid of players.
“You can just tell, like the talent level that they’re bringing in, the guys that they have, they could be pros if they really wanted to work for it,” he said. “I know a lot of guys at Penn or Harvard from Northfield Mt. Hermon, and they’re great guys, great competitors, great basketball players.”
A Few Standouts (afternoon sets only)
James Bouknight (2019/PSA Cardinals/MacDuffie School, Mass.)
A 6-4, 180-pound guard with a sleek, athletic frame, Bouknight made his official return from February meniscus surgery last week, but it took him until this live period to get back into his groove. After dropping 33 points, including eight 3-pointers, in a showcase game at the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest on Saturday, Bouknight (pronounced “BOOK-night”) had his jumper working for him again at the combine, making it look easy from all over the court.
Andre Curbelo (2020/NY Jayhawks/Long Island Lutheran, N.Y.)
Silky-smooth with the ball in his hands, Curbelo is a 6-0 point guard with a confident style both scoring and dishing the rock. He had no problem bringing the ball up or handling it against pressure, and always delivered on-point passes, whether those were dump-offs into the lane against lengthy defenders or cross-court looks on the drive. Although his jumper wasn’t connecting at a stellar clip, his form and shot selection was strong, and his misses weren’t by much.
Tyson Etienne (2019/PSA Cardinals/Long Island Lutheran, N.Y.)
Typically the second fiddle to superstar Cole Anthony on the PSA 17s, Etienne showed plenty of what he can do with the ball in his hands. The 6-1 guard with long arms plays bigger than he is, in control at all times with the ball in his hands, whether he’s burying 3-pointers, pulling up to hit even contested jumpers and making crafty passes all over the floor.
Franck Kepnang (2021/PSA Cardinals/MacDuffie School, Mass.)
A powerful young 6-11 center, Kepnang is still a somewhat-raw force in the post, but he’s certainly a force. Muscular and strong, he’s almost impossible to muscle out of position, and though he’s still becoming more of a consistent finisher around the rim, he displays good footwork and instincts with the ball in his hands and his back to the hoop.
Luke Kolaja (2020/PSA Cardinals/Blair Academy, N.J.)
Though he’s still only going into his junior year of high school, the 6-8 Kolaja held his own physically against the rising senior forwards, playing a tough outside-in brand of basketball, where he uses his jumper to open up driving ability. Kolaja has a strong foundation and overall frame, and he’s a hard worker on the floor as well.
Chris Ledlum (2019/NY Jayhawks/St. Peter’s, N.Y.)
Ledlum plays one way, and that’s downhill. The 6-6, 230-pound combo forward is a bundle of muscle and motor and talent, with a smooth 3-point shot but a nose for the rim, throwing down several monster dunks, no matter if someone was in his way or not. Also a skilled finisher with two hands, Ledlum can hit the mid-range jumper and is a strong and versatile defender. High-majors are all over him, but he’s a terrific student who’s got Ivy League types in the mix as well.
Mo Sylla (2019/NY Jayhawks/Putnam Science Ac., Conn.)
A 7-0 center, Sylla was one of the biggest bodies at a combine full of them. But he was plenty mobile, sprinting up and down the court in transition and finishing above the rim with ease on lobs, blocking a few shots as well. At his size, being active, showing good hands and mobility and running the floor are all that you need for the attention to pour in.