Friday, December 19, 2014

BMore’s Finest Poised for a Big Year

 Baltimore's Finest-2021
Any discussion about elite 2021 teams has to include Baltimore's Finest. I had the pleasure of interviewing Coach Donnell “Mookie” Dobbins, who in the past three years has built a reputation as one of the most prolific grassroots basketball coaches in the country.  Dobbins is the Grassroots Coordinator and head coach of the 3rd and 6th grade teams for the Under Armour sponsored BMore’s Finest program.  As most basketball fans know, BMore’s Finest has established itself as one of the premier programs in the DC/MD/VA area, and the DMV is celebrated as one of the most talented and competitive regions in the nation.

Coach Mookie was humble when I inquired about his 3rd grade squad who are currently ranked #5 nationally after a superb showing in the 2nd grade National Championship Tournament.   However when I mentioned his 6th Grade mob, his eyes lit up like Time Square on New Years Eve.  According to Dobbins, “These boys are a special group of kids.”  The 6th grade Bmore’s Finest team placed 12th in the 5th Grade National Championship Tournament last season, but with the new aged-based AAU rule changes, they could be a front runner to win the national title in 2015.   The team doesn’t lose any players from its 2014 loaded roster, a roster that included 6 nationally ranked players.  In fact, half the roster will not return 12 years old until mid 2015!

During the 2013-2014 campaign, this squad successfully swept the nation collecting championships including the All-Ohio Red Nike Cup (OH), defeating nationally ranked All Ohio Red, AGAME Super Shootout (PA) and the Rumble in the Bronx (NYC).  Dobbins attributes the team's overall success to its depth.  The 6th grade BMore’s Finest team is amazingly assembled with quick, athletic, small guards like Karell Booker, Ahmad Harrison and Chase McWhite; a pair of three-point snipers in Bryce Lindsay and Chris Winborne and twin towers Malik Missouri and Julian Reese. With the addition of Christian Moore, by way of the Tidewater Wildcats (VA), this may be one of the most potent teams in the country next season.  The team is often identified by its tenacious ball pressure. Dobbins' defensive philosophy mandates that whoever is in front gets the ball, and always look for the next pass.  It’s very rare to find a group of young kids that understands the importance of making the extra pass, especially when individual scoring is at the forefront of youth sports.

When asked about his key player, Dobbins mentioned Ahmad Harrison and accredited such high praise to Harrison because of his competitive nature and versatility.  According to Dobbins, Harrison habitually assumes responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s best player, while playing all five positions offensively.  In addition, Dobbins pointed out that the awkward multi-positioned point forward has tremendous upside and will continue to leave his imprint on the circuit if he maintains the selfless attitude he has exhibited up to this point in his young career. “The sky’s the limit for this team in its entirety; I expect every member of this team to earn a college scholarship and excel both academically and athletically,” said Dobbins.

When asked is there any other place he’d rather be besides coaching, Dobbins replied, “If you would’ve asked me this very same question about 5-6 years ago I would undoubtedly requested another shot at my own professional basketball career, but in this juncture of my life, aside from my children, nothing is more gratifying then being able to positively influence this group of young men and help them develop on and off the court.”  Their team chemistry and brotherly bond are great to watch.  If they are coming to a city near you this season, I advise you to get your popcorn ready.  You can catch Bmore's Finest in action in March when the season three of NYBL tips off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illinois' Lance Jones Demands Attention

Lance Jones Jr-2019
One of the things we enjoy the most is seeing talent for the first time. Although Lance Jones (5’9/SG/IL) has established himself as one of the top players in the country, we have only recently been able to evaluate his talent. The Evanston, Illinois product came to our attention after he logged in a standout performance at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in September. During his stay in Columbus, Jones impressed us with his skill set, ability to shoot the rock from deep, and his elite motor.  In fact, Jones was so impressive, he was ranked among the top 20 in the 2019 division, which was absolutely loaded with nationally ranked players. As further reward for his outstanding play, Jones was selected to the prestigious showcase all-star team (DNP), and was named “Most Skilled” and "Mr. Hustle” by his coach.

Last season, Jones ran with the We All-Can Go All-Stars, but in 2015 he will stick closer to home and play with the Waukegan, Ill-based Future Elite. According to Coach Andre White Sr., Jones has an all around game, a high basketball IQ. He also describes Jones as quick, strong, with the ability to "attack the rack like a man." Andre White Jr, (5'7/PG/IL) a crafty PG with the ability to break down the defense and drive, dish or score, will join Jones in the backcourt. White is also ranked among the top guards in the talent rich state of Illinois.  Joining Jones and White on the team is Bryant Brown (6'3/PF/IL) who also attended the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in September and played his way into the all-star game. Jones is more than just a basketball player as he is an honor roll student and appears to be a good kid from a good family. As he competes on the big stage, Jones will continue to draw attention from national media outlets.  In fact, the NYBL currently ranks Jones #79 overall and #16 among point guards. Jones is also tops in his home state of Illinois, as he is ranked in the top 5 overall and as one of the top 2-3 guards.

Recently, Jones duplicated his outstanding performance from Columbus with another great outing at Ricky Moore’s Illinois Top Prospect Camp.  At the invitation only event, which attracted about 80 elite middle school players, Jones’ play garnered him Co-MYP honors along with Chicago’s Markese Jacobs (5’11/PG/Chicago).  According to Jr. Hoops Elite’s Ricky Moore, Jones’ ability to shoot from deep sets him apart from others in his class.  "When I say deep, I mean really deep," stated Moore. Moore also described Jones as a “pure scorer.” When Jones’ Future Elite squad makes its debut in the NYBL in March, Jones will get another opportunity to compete against the best players in the nation and to raise his stock even higher.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dayton Duo Represent Talent Rich Area

Amari Davis and Sam Anderson Jr.
It should come as know surprise that the Dayton, Ohio area has always been a hotbed for hoops talent. For different reasons, the Gem City’s Amari Davis (6’0/WF/Trotwood/2019) and Sam Anderson Jr. (5’7/P/SG/Trotwood/2020) have yet to receive their much-deserved recognition. For Davis, All-Ohio Red’s loaded roster is to blame for Davis flying under the radar.  Always athletic, Davis has continued to develop his skill set. In addition, his play during the 2014 NYBL season and at the recent Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase clearly demonstrates his long-term potential.  In fact, during session #1 in Washington D.C. in March, Davis’ standout performance was met with rave reviews.

Davis has a knack for scoring but he can also defend at a high level.  Already this middle school season Davis is putting up big numbers for Trotwood Middle School and is averaging over 33 points after 2 games.  Although he is ranked 82nd overall and 25th among shooting guards by the NYBL and is ranked in the top 10 in the state by Buckeye Prep, Davis remains undervalued. You heard it hear first, Davis could be playing high major ball in a few years!

Sam Anderson Jr. is clearly a victim of under exposure.  Because he has not yet embraced the elite camp and showcase circuit, and his OBC/Dayton Swish squad does not play a national tournament schedule, the dynamic guard remains a hidden gem.  The last time we saw him he was leading his team to an upset victory over a very talented Mid Ohio Pumas team as well as a runner up finish at the Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament. Although his Dayton-area team would lose to the eventual tournament champions, Team Teague, Davis balled out on his way to All-Tournament Team honors. 

Anderson is quick, has an elite handle and excels at getting into the paint and scoring. As we see more of Anderson, we expect his statewide and national ranking to rise.  Before we close, we have to mention a few other Dayton-area guys who deserve some attention.  Willieon Yates (5'4/PG/Miamisburg), Savon O’Neal (5'1/PG/Miamisburg), Carter Mims (4'10/PG/Dayton), Keyshawn Hughley (5'7/WF/Dayton) and Keon’ite Hughley (5'4/P/SG/Dayton) are all talented, are all top 30 ranked statewide, and all have the potential to emerge going forward.  In the next few weeks, we will continue to feature players and teams that are under the radar.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mid-Ohio Pumas Load up for 2015

Mid Ohio Pumas (not all players pictured)
When the Mid-Ohio Pumas take the court early next year they will do so with an upgraded roster.  Already one of the top 2020 teams in the country last season, the Columbus, Ohio based squad will be loaded with talent. Coach Dave Mirgon’s team is not flashy and may not scare anybody getting off the bus; however, his team is well coached, fundamentally sound, plays hard and is difficult to beat. “We play team basketball. We are balanced in scoring and work very hard to out execute our opponents,” Mirgon said. “We have several coaches sons who grew up in the gym and know how to play the game.  We have high IQ guys,” continued Mirgon.

Last season the Pumas accumulated an impressive 72-5 record. Those 5 losses came to elite teams like George Hill, We All Can Go (WACG) and Team Teague.  The Puma’s list of tournament championships is extensive, including the following titles Ohio AAU State Qualifier; Ft Wayne Tip Off Classic; Dayton Metro; Ft. Wayne MLK Classic; Midwest Classic; New Albany Classic; Hilliard Classic; OYB Championship; and Tri Village Classic.  In addition to their titles, the Pumas just missed on a couple of other tournaments, including runner-up finishes at the Bearcat Classic and  WACG tournament in Nashville and a 3rd place finish at the Buckeye Prep Invitational.

The Pumas return with a team that has played together for 5 years. Returning for the Pumas are: Jack Pugh (6’1/WF/Plain City); Matt Allocco (5’4/PG/Hilliard); Jack Santa Emma (5’4/PG/Plan City); Cameron McReary (5’11/WF/Bucyrus); Chris Mayfield (6’0/PF/Delaware); Noah Platfoot (5’6/SG/Hilliard); and AJ Mirgon (5’4/SG/Hilliard/2021). Although the Puma name brand may not be a household name, 3 players on the roster are already ranked nationally (Pugh, Allocco & Mott). Although not all are nationally recognized at this point, many are still ranked among the elite in Ohio (Ohio 2020 Rankings). For the 2015 season, the Pumas have added size to their frontcourt with the addition of Jason Morton (6’7/C/Cincinnati) and Chance Mott (6’4/PF/Mansfield).  Mott was a standout for the Mansfiels Cavs in the NYBL last year, while Morton ran with the George Hill Rising Stars.

Jack Pugh, Matt Allocco & Chance Mott
Along with adding one of the best floor generals in the country in Matt Allocco, the Pumas also add his father as to the bench.  This is relevant because Greg Allocco is a well respected high school coach in the area.  Also in the program is coach Tony Staib, the head coach at Gahanna Lincoln High School, another storied program. The fact that the Pumas enjoy high level coaching could make them a very tough out this coming season. In the NYBL, the Pumas will most resemble San Diego Select in terms of how they play and approach the game. In addition, Mirgon compares his team to one of top teams in the NBA. “We are the youth version of the Spurs,” offered Mirgon.

When the (NYBL) tips off in March, the Pumas will likely establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Migron is confident his team can compete against the nation’s best. “I know we can play with the best teams. Adding [Matt] Allocco and [Chance] Mott…I feel pretty good,” Mirgon said. “I expect the 7th grade team to be a top 5 team in the NYBL,” continued Mirgon. “We are never going to walk on the court with the top teams in the country and win the athlete match-up, but don’t get me wrong, we can get up and down the court and we have athletes, and we still pride ourselves on execution, Mirgon said.  Not only will the 2020 Pumas be battling against the best when the NYBL tips off early next season, but their 2021 team is also shaping up nicely and is ready to compete nationally.   Some of the standout on that team includes: Jack Sawyer; Casey George; AJ Mirgon; Kobe Buford; Garner Wallace; and Lorenzo Styles.  Look of the Mid Ohio puma organization to make some noise nationally in 2015!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bradley and Tribble Under Appreciated

DeMarco Bradley Jr. & Greg Tribble Jr.
For several years now, All-Ohio Red (2019) has been one of the best teams in the country. Names often synonymous with that success have been guys like Jerimiah Francis, Jordan Mitchell and Chris'sen Stringer. Not often mentioned is the role that All-Oho's backup players perform.  DeMarco Bradley Jr. (5'5/PG/Cincinnati) and Greg Tribble Jr. (5'5/PG/Cincinnati) are a couple of those role players that are often overlooked and under appreciated.  The diminutive guard duo has enjoyed a great deal of success over the past several years, and as the backcourt for the now defunct All-Ohio Purple, Bradley and Tribble had their hands on the controls of one the elite teams in the class.

In September, Bradley's performance at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase did not go unnoticed by the media.  During the event, Bradley displayed toughness, quickness, a solid handle and the willingness to distribute the ball. In addition, he plays hard, rarely coughs of the rock and his on-ball defense is relentless. As a reward for his performance at the showcase, Bradley was selected to the Top 60 All-Star Game. As a backup, when inserted into games this past NYBL season, Bradley brought stability and helped All-Ohio Red maintain their signature defensive pressure. As a coach's son, Bradley is expected to make good decisions and to hold down the fort until that starters return, and he routinely gets that done. He may be a backup on his current squad, but Bradley has enough talent to be a starter on a number of other teams.

Many of the same attributes attributed to Bradley can be said about Greg Tribble Jr.  Much like Bradley, the undersized PG is super quick, has a superb handle, and can really bring the heat defensively. Tribble seems to attack the cup a little bit more than Bradley and is very adept at scoring the ball.  Tribble also can knock down the perimeter shot if left open. Tribble also logged in a standout performance at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in September as evidenced by his Top 30 All-Star Game selection and top 20 ranking.  While playing against the best players at the event, Tribble excelled and proved he could compete against the best if given the opportunity. Also, Bradley and Tribble were both tabbed to participate in the NYBL Top 60 All-Star Game. With continued growth and development, both Bradley and Tribble have the potential to play college ball at some level.  It's way too early to predict high major D-I potential, but a solid basketball career is a reality for both Bradley and Tribble.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

San Diego Select Prepares to Head East

San Diego Select 2020-Already 17-0 this Season
In an age where super teams rule the circuit, San Diego Select 2020, with a roster of players who all reside in the city, has established itself as one of the top 7th grade teams in the country. Exhibit #1, San Diego Select is currently the 4th ranked team on the west coast according to West Coast Elite 25. Also, this past June, San Diego was 1 win away from playing in the 9th/11th place game after falling to Rip City 48-46 in the second round consolation bracket.  In addition, AAU’s Power Rankings currently rank San Diego 11th nationally. 

Exhibit #2, San Diego finished 74-6 last season with 6 tournament championships, including a title at the Aces Coca Cola Nationals in June, and a final 4 finish at the Gym Rats Presidents Day tourney in Portland, OR.  Exhibit #3, San Diego is already 17-0 this season with 2 tournament championships. Additionally,  a majority of the teams they have beaten so far this season were 8th grade teams. Finally, last season, San Diego participated in the National Youth Basketball League (NYBL) as a fill-in team in session #2 in Atlanta, GA, and over the course of the weekend, competed at a high level and finished the weekend 5-0 against a rugged South Division.

Coach Steve Wade’s team is well coached and well constructed, with a prototypical PG, a scoring wing and two rim protectors and rebounding machines. According to Wade, his team is founded on the concept of developing first and winning second. “We have a hand selected group of kids that have been together for 2 years. We practice a lot and we believe in 80% development and 20% winning. We are team first and I’m proud of the,” offered Wade.

Alex Wade, Thomas Notarainni, Chibuzo Agob & Obinna Anyanwu
Wade has a core of 6-8 players that he really feels good about. Anchoring the paint are twin towers Chibuzo Agob (6’3/PF/CA) and Obinna Anyanwu (6’3/C/CA).  Both Agbo and Anyanwu are big, strong, athletic and aggressive, and provide San Diego with interior scoring, rebounding and rim protection. The coach’s son, Alex Wade (5’0/PG/CA), is a pure PG with a high basketball IQ and ability to get into the paint and find open teammates. He's diminutive, but Wade is quick, smart and knows how to run a team. Thomas Notarainni (6’0/WF/CA) is a scoring wing that can either drive to the cup or shoot from long range.  Highly skilled with a scorer’s mentality, Notarainni can really light up the scoreboard when he gets hot.  According to Wade, Notaraini has made a big jump in his development over the past several months and is poised for a breakout season. His playmaking ability has really increased," Wade said.

Wade is also really excited about the development of Benon “BJ” Riley (5’9/P/SG/CA), who is a returner from last year’s team. “BJ has really broke out. He has really developed, is more athletic and will be a big combo guard for us, this season” Wade said. Also returning is Kobe Sanders (5’5/SG/CA) who has continued to develop as a knock down 3-point shooter.  "Kobe has a high IQ and really knocked down some big shots for us last season,” said Wade.  New to the squad is Jack Rottler (6’2/WF/Orange County), who Wade feels will help with the team’s depth. The rest of the San Diego Select roster includes: DJ Carter-Holenger (6’2/SG/CA); Brandon Angel (5’8/SG/CA); and Ziarire Williams (5’9/SG/CA).

San Diego could have an opportunity to avenge its loss to Rip City this upcoming season, as both teams will be participating in the NYBL when the season tips off in March. Judging from their success in session # 2 last season, Select has a great chance to not only compete in the ultracompetitive NYBL, but also contend for a NYBL national championship.  Coach Wade has high expectations for the NYBL this season. “The expectation going into it [NYBL] will be to win it. We will be a top 4 team,” said Wade. Although Wade’s ultimate goal is a NYBL National Championship, his goals also include a deep run at the AAU Nationals next year. “It’s [playing in the NYBL] about getting better,” Wade said. "We can’t find anything like this [competition] at AAU. We are looking to get battle tested [in the NYBL]. We will be the youngest team in the NYBL, and our kids will execute and play hard,” continued Wade. There are only a few more months until Wade’s team can begin working on their goals, and we plan to be there to cover the action.