Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Team Rio wins 7th grade MIT Gold Championship

Congratulations to Team Rio for taking the championship of the MIT Gold Division Championship last weekend. Team Rio’s undefeated trek included a classic battle with Team Takeover that was not decided until the closing seconds of the game. Nationally ranked Scottie Lewis had a big weekend and was named the tournament’s MVP. Their win over Team Takeover represented the 3rd time the 2 NYBL rivals have faced off this year.

The two powerhouses should meet again in the NYBL this season. Also, word on the street is that top 10 ranked player Mikeal Jones will be joining Team Rio for the NYBL! Jones’ addition to the roster should strengthen an already strong team. I will get my first look at the retooled Team Rio when I travel to the East Coast March Madness tournament March 7-9 in Scranton, PA. The event will also feature NYBL favorites NC Preps/CP3 and All-Ohio Red, plus other top teams like Rens, Izod, Rio, New Heights and the Gauchos. For more information about the event visit their website at:


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gym Rats President's Day Tournament-Final Day Report

West Coast All-Stars-6th Grade champions
It took 3 days, but we finally got some very competitive games on the final day of the Gym Rats President’s Day Tournament in Portland. First up on Monday morning, the much anticipated showdown between the Oakland Soldiers and the San Diego Rebels; 2 of the best teams on the west coast. Both teams arrived in Portland with quality guard play and elite frontcourts. From the tip, the Soldiers drew first blood on a Fred Burton layup, but the Rebels responded with an old fashioned three point play by Jack Pugh to take a 3-2 lead. A 4-2 mini run put the Rebels up 7-4 at the 8:43 mark. Midway through the first half the game was tight, as both teams traded buckets. By the 6:15 mark, the Rebels had built a 15-10 lead. The Soldiers responded with a 4-0 run to trim the lead to 1 point (15-14) with 3:40 left in the half. Poor rebounding by the Soldiers allowed second chance opportunities for the Rebels, which they used to take a 22-18 lead into the half. Pugh led the Rebels with 7 halftime points while Shemar Morrow paced Oakland with 6 points.
Jack Pugh & Shemar Morrow
San Diego opened the second half with a trey to push their lead to 25-18. Later, a Morrow layup would draw Oakland to within 1 point (25-24) at the 9:45 mark. A 5-0 run by the Soldiers gave them their first lead (30-29) with 7:52 remaining in the game. The Rebels later  retook a 31-30 lead with 7 minutes left, and from there, the lead would trade hands a couple of times before Oakland began to pull away as Shemar Morrow began to impact the game both offensively and defensively. When the Rebels were able to get off a highly contested shot without it getting rejected by Morrow, they were limited to just one shot as Morrow dominated the boards. The closet the score would get was 38-36 with 5:40 left.  A key adjustment in game involved a double team of Alex Wade which effectively kept the ball out of his hands. The adjustment was crucial as Wade was having a lot of success penetrating and dishing. Denying him the ball spelled the beginning of the end for the Rebels, as Oakland would push the lead to 51-39 with only 3:31 remaining in the game, and later go on to claim a 64-50 victory.  As expected, this game was very intense and was played at a high level. As their reward for the win, the Soldiers punched their ticket to the championship game, where they would face the West Coast All-Stars. Shemar Morrow was a monster defensively, while also finishing with a game-high 16 points. Jay Taylor stepped up big as well and added 12 points, while Fred Burton finished with 9 points for the Soldiers. The Rebels were led in scoring by Jack Pugh who finished with a team-high 14 points, while Obinna Agbo added 11 points. Although Wade did not lead the team in scoring, his quickness and understanding of the game was affecting the game early. In conclusion, it was a great game that featured a lot of individual talent.
Willis McClendon & Paris Dawson Paced the All-Stars
You just know a game is very important and is about to be a grudge match when the head coaches can’t even agree on which basketball to use before the game. Such was the case in the 6th grade championship game between the Oakland Soldiers and the West Coast All-stars. Both teams were locked and loaded with elite talent; the Soldiers with #1 ranked Shemar Morrow and West Coast with nationally ranked Jason Harris. Like most in attendance, I was looking forward to the matchup between Morrow and Harris, 2 of the top players in the country. West Coast got on the boards first with a Parris Dawson layup (2-0), but Oakland came right back with a score. The game was nip and tuck early, and Oakland went up 12-10 after a Devin Hightower jumper at the 4:46 mark. The game was still close with 1:30 left in the game, but the All-stars held a 2 point lead (18-16). By halftime, West Coast was up 22-17. Will McClendon was dialed in from beyond the ark, having drained 3 treys for 9 points. Devin Hightower was hot as well and finished the half with 7 points. 
Parris Dawson drove to the basket again to start the second half and to extend the lead to 24-17. The Soldiers mounted a run that would cut the deficit to 3 points (23-26) at the 7:58 mark. With Dawson in attack mode, and McClendon still hot from the perimeter, West Coast found themselves comfortably ahead 34-26 with 5:48 remaining in the game. However, multiple turnovers and empty possessions by West Coast led to a 7-0 Oakland run that got them back in the game and trimmed the lead to only 2 points (34-32) with only 2:10 left in the contest. Despite their offensive woes late, West Coast was able to hold on and claim the championship by a score of 35-32. Will McClendon was the man for the all-Stars, finishing with a team-high 12 points, followed by Paris Dawson who added 9 points. Harris was sluggish early and finished with only 6 points. Shemar Morrow led Oakland with 12 points, followed by Hightower with 10 points.  In terms of the matchup, the battle clearly goes to Morrow who was more productive offensively and successfully blocked many of Harris’ shot attempts. Harris was more of a defensive factor late, but Morrow owned the boards and protected the rim.
Celtic Family In Championship Game
In the semi-finals of the 7th grade bracket, the I10 Celtics Green cruised by the Yellow Jackets 62-43 to advance to the championship game against Hoop Salem. What was most impressive about that win was the fact that Keion Brooks and Dexter Shouse did not arrive to the game until the second half. By that time, the Celtics were up by 10 points (24-14). Makani Whiteside (5’11 SG/WF LA CA) had it going in the first half for the Celtics to the tune of 12 points. In the 7th grade championship game, The Celtics had little trouble getting by a much smaller and less athletic Hoop Salem team 67-57. Although the final margin of victory was only 10 points, the score was not indicative of the game. Dexter Shouse paced the Celtics with 11 points, followed by Whiteside who added 7 points.  The top guys for Hoop Salem were Johan Downey (5’10 SG Silverton) and RJ Vadeliz (5’111 WF Woodburn). Look for the Celtics to take their show on the run this summer in the NYBL.
For the record, in the 8th grade championship game, the I10 Celtics Black defeated the Celtics Green team 62-50. Kiiwon Bradford (6’4 SG Sacramento) led the Black squad with 13 points. Big Adam Campus (6'3 C Hercules, OR) was the leading scorer for the Green team, finishing with a game-high 17 points.
5th Grade I10 Celtics Take Gold
The 5th grade championship game was a real barn burner, as the I10 Celtics faced off against Seattle Future Black.  Although the Celtics got out of the gate quickly with a 10-0 lead, Seattle found their bearings and came racing back to tie the game at 10 by the 8:19 point. The rest of the game these 2 scrappy competitors traded buckets and leads before the Celtics eventually outlasted Seattle 56-46 to claim the crown.  I was really impressed in the talent level in this came.  Those little guys could ball! Also, a shout out to ARC for winning the 4th grade championship game with a win over the Seattle Stars.
ARC 4th Grade Champions
It was a long weekend that started slow in terms of competition, but by the time the horn sounded on Monday afternoon I had seen some of the top 6th and 7th grade teams on the west coast as well as some nationally ranked individual talent. It’s also always nice to see players from other parts of the country. Finally, To my Midwest and east coast followers, the “Left Coast” has some talent as well!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gym Rats Presidents Day Tournament-Day Two Report

I10 Celtics Green vs Black
Day two of the Gym Rats Presidents Day Tournament offered a few more competitive games as pool play concluded and the first 2 rounds of bracket play tipped off. In the morning, I had the opportunity to catch the second half of the Oakland Soldiers vs Hoops Dreams Black game (6th Grade). Unfortunately, due to a schedule change, I arrived at the game at halftime. As you would expect in a pool game for an Oakland Soldiers team that had recently added the number 1 player in the country in Ohio’s Shamar Morrow, the game was already out of hand by the break (34-15). There was little intrigue in this game, as the Soldiers steamed rolled Hoops Dreams Black by a final score of 53-27. Morrow was as dominate as expected while scoring and rebounding with little resistance. In addition to Morrow, the Soldiers have picked up additional hired guns for the weekend. Devin Hightower (George Hill), Devin Askew (916 Select) Jay Taylor (916 Select) and Fred Burton (Inland Force) have all recently suited up for different teams.

Oakland Starters
In the first round of bracket play, the Soldiers fought though a slow start against Sugar Bush Hoops. Despite the significant talent gap between these two teams, a scrappy Sugar Bush squad went toe-to-toe with the Soldiers for much of the game. Although the Soldiers jumped to a 6-0 start, Sugar Bush fought their way back to cut the lead to 5-7.  By the 7:22 mark, Sugar Bush was as close as 12-13, and was only down by 4 points (23-19) with only 3:10 left in the half. By halftime, the score was only 24-33 in favor of the Soldiers. Morrow again showed why he is so highly regarded, as he dropped an impressive 19 points by the break. For the record, with all of the talent on this team, Sugar Bush should not have kept this game as close as they did. A lack of chemistry and poor defense were evident in the game.  Of course the Soldiers would later blow the game open, but it was a lot harder than it should have been. In fact, in the second half, Sugar Bush was as close as 9 points with 6:30 left, but very quickly, the lead ballooned to 20 points (60-40) before the Soldiers called off the dogs.  Oakland would eventually cruise to a 72-41 victory before advancing to the second round. Morrow finished with a game-high 26 points followed by Jay Taylor who finished with 10 points. With their second round win over Seattle Future Black, the Oakland Soldiers are 5-0 and are headed to the semi-finals where they will match-up with a tough San Diego Rebels at 9:05am.  This should be one of the best games of the tournament!

Shamar Morrow Was a Beast
The Soldiers were not the only team to find themselves in an early battle against an inferior opponent, as the San Diego Rebels had to fend off a scrappy Bay Area Aces in their opening round of bracket. It was 5-5 early, and the rebels were only up 11-15 by the 4:50 mark in the first half. However, by half time, the Rebel’s depth and size began to take its toll on the Aces, as the lead was pushed to a more comfortable 16-24. Despite a mini run by the Aces midway through the second half, the Rebels would seize control game and advance to the second round with a comfortable 65-32 win. BJ Riley (5’4 SG San Diego) had a big game, finishing with a game-high 14 points. Alex Wade shot the ball extremely well while adding 10 points. The Rebels later defeated EBC Blue to advance to the semi-finals.

BJ Riley
Although I have concentrated on the 6th & 7th grade divisions this weekend, I could not resist checking out the 8th grade Oakland Soldiers take on their Bay Area rivals Flight Elite. The game was close early in the first half, but the more talented Soldiers would take a 36-20 lead into halftime. The Flight would make a run in the second period and get the score as close 7 points before the Soldiers would step on the gas and go on to claim victory 66-45. I was really impressed with the play of Oakland’s Kyriee Brown (5’9 PG Berkley), who showed a lot of skill, toughness and a high basketball IQ as he lead his team to the win. Brown knows what he’s doing at the point and is an excellent floor general that handles the ball well, communicates effectively with his teammates and is a willing and able passer. LJ Anderson (5’8 SG Oakland) is a player to watch as is Christopher Wiedt (6’6 C Sacramento). Wiedt has great size at this age and was he gets more aggressive in the post he could be a good looking prospect going forward. Later in the day, the Soldiers lost in overtime 68-66 to a local Maeko team.

Kyriee Brown Was Impressive
The I10 Celtics Green found themselves in a serious battle with the I10 Celtics Black. Although Green raced to a 6-0 lead, the score was as close as 7-8 by the 9:52 mark. Celtics Black was still hanging tough with 5:56 left in the half and was only down by 2 points (16-18). The more talented Black squad relied too heavily on deep jump shots and struggled to rebound consistently.  Consequently, the Black squad, based mostly out of LA, was still in the game by halftime (34-27). An opening trey by Black cut the lead to 30-34. Thanks to the hot shooting from Celtics Green’s Jovon Blackshear (5'7 PG LA, CA), the Arizona-based Green team would hold on to get a 10 point victory (47-57) to advance to the third round where they will face Lynden Tractor at 7:55pm on Sunday. Blackshear was big for Green with a game-high 19 points, Blackshear had his full game on display as he drained deep jumpers, knocked down floaters, scored easily in transition and defended aggressively.  Jalen House came off the bench and was hot from beyond the ark, converting on 3 treys. Keion Brooks and Dexter Shouse both had solid games, with each player finishing with 8 points. Brooks did an effective job defending the rim while Shouse was more of a facilitator from the high post.

Blackshear Carried The Soldiers
The West Coast All-Stars collected 2 more wins on Sunday with victories over Rainer and Flight Elite to advance to the semis where they will face the winner of Team Balance and FOH Blue. Things should really heat up tomorrow as teams advance and battle for championships.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gym Rats Presidents Day Tournament-Day One Report

West Coast All-Stars
One of the sure signs the AAU basketball season has begun is the tip off of the Gym Rats Presidents' Day Tournament held every year in Portland, Oregon. As is the case every year, this field features a number of very talented west coast teams in the middle school divisions. Some of the top teams this year include the Oakland Soldiers (7th & 8th), West Coast All-Stars (6th), and the San Diego Rebels (6th). In terms of numbers, the eighth grade division is the largest with 40 teams entered, followed by the seventh grade division with 42 teams and the sixth grade division with an additional 29 teams.  Since were covering the event as part of the NYBL, our coverage this weekend will focus on the 6th & 7th grade divisions primarily.

Daeshawn Wayne
Day one of the tournament started off like most of events, double-digit blowouts in pool play by more highly seeded teams. In fact, right out of the gate, I watched Seattle Rotary destroy a San Diego-based Triple Threat by a final score of 25- 60. Other than the fact that Seattle Rotary was a much more talented team and totally dominated, there was nothing else really left to say about this game. Both teams started slow, but eventually, Seattle shook off the rust and got busy. As the game progressed, the bigger, more athletic Rotary began to overpower the much smaller Triple Threat players. The only real bright spot for Triple Threat was the play of Solomon Davis (6’3 C Marietta, CA). Davis has good length, is skilled and appears to have a lot of upside potential. According to the score sheet, Davis scored almost half of the Triple Threat points. For Seattle, the point guard play from Daeshawn Wayne (5'7 PG Seattle, WA) was spectacular. Wayne is crafty, plays with a lot of poise, and does a great job of running his team and getting other players the ball. I was also impressed with Wayne’s midrange game, a lost art these days, and his ability to drive and dish the ball. I also really liked Noah Williams (6’1 C Seattle, WA), who's got good size, is very athletic and handles the rock well for his position. Williams has good long-term potential as well.

Obinna Anyanwu & Chibuzo Agbo

The second game of the day featured another blowout, this time the San Diego Rebels totally outclassed HD Rock 62-19. The Rebels are a well-built team that uses precision and execution to excel. Although the Rebels’ strength lies with their frontcourt, they are an all-around very talented squad. As if the Rebels were not already talented enough, this weekend, Jack Pugh (5’9 PF Hilliard, OH) is running with the team. Pugh is an excellent complement to an already talented frontcourt. As is his trade mark, Pugh is attacking the basket and finishing everything. The frontcourt includes Obinna Anyanwu (6’0 C San Diego, CA) and Chibuzo Agbo (6’0 PF San Diego, CA), both of whom are blessed with good size and athleticism and can finish at a high rate around the cup. It’s not just their bigs, the Rebels’ guard play is also solid with Kobe Sanders and Alex Wade. As a team, the Rebels are patient on offense and they pass the basketball extremely well while seeming to work as a cohesive unit. Team oriented play and talent will win you a lot of games.

Tyrone Washington
Blowout number three of the day featured a lopsided game between the West Coast All-Stars and Team Black out. Even without their best player, Jason Harris, who was apparently involved in an accident, the All-Stars had little trouble getting by and undermanned Team Blackout. In this game, it was all about run outs transition buckets for the All-Stars. The All-Stars effectively employed a 2-2-1 full-court zone trap to force turnovers and feast off of easy transition buckets. The top performers for the All-Stars were Tyrone Washington (5’5 SG Phoenix AZ), Nick Valencia (6’0 C Phoenix, AZ) and Paris Dawson (5’7 WF LA CC). Washington showed a nice little mid-range game in addition to the ability to push the rock in transition and find open teammates for easy buckets. Valencia is a big space eater who is not that athletic and is not a high flyer, but is very effective in using his size to protect the rim and gobble up rebounds. Bottom line, you simply can't turn the ball over on this team and expect to beat them. By the time the buzzer sounded, the final score was 58-16. Finally, look for the West Coast All-Stars in the NYBL this season.

Dexter Shouse
Later in the day, I had the opportunity to catch some of the I10 Celtics versus Prep Elite game. By the time I walked in the gym, the score was already 8-2. As was the case all day long, this game quickly turned into a blowout, and by halftime, it was already 39- 9 in favor of the Celtics. Although there was no drama associated with the game, of note, is the fact that the Celtics have added some firepower to their team in the form of Dexter Shouse (6’1 PF Indianapolis, IN) and Keion Brooks (5’11 WF Indianapolis, IN). Both guys are Indiana natives and are highly ranked nationally. With Brooks and Shouse holding it down in the post, an undermanned Prep Elite squad had little chance of scoring and/or rebounding around the bucket. With the addition of the Indiana guys, this Celtics team is extremely deep and extremely talented. In fact, they come off of the bench with guys who can score and defend. Not only does this team have an elite frontcourt, they enjoy great guard play. Specifically, Jovon Blacksheer (5’7 PG LA, CA) and Dominic Winbush (5’5 PG Oakland, CA) are 2 quality guards who can both score and defend. Add Makani Whiteside (5’11 G LA, CA) to the mix and his team is going to be very difficult to beat this weekend. Whiteside has good size for his position and showed the ability to get to the rack and finish. We (NYBL) rank him as a WF, but he may possess PG skills. I plan to watch him more this weekend. Hopefully, day 2 will offer in more competitive games and more compelling storylines.

Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to watching the Oakland Soldiers (6th grade) lace it up. From what I understand, they've added some significant talent for this weekend's tournament. I’m also hoping to see more competitive games on day 2. Some other results: I10 Celtics (8th) defeated Washington Elite 59-57; Oakland Soldiers (7th) defeated Rainer 60-19; and Team Balance (6th) defeated Yellow Jackets 45-37.

Photo Gallery