Monday, April 14, 2014

Joel Berry II Interview

Joel Berry II is one of the top high school point guards in the country and will be playing his college ball at the University of North Carolina next season. The 6’0” Berry is ranked #17 by ESPN and recently competed in the McDonald’s All-American and Nike Hoop Summit games. He also finished his high school season at Lake Highland (FL) as a back to back state champion and became the first player to win the state’s Mr. Basketball award for three consecutive years.

How did the high school season go for you?
It was pretty good. It was a good way to go out winning my second (championship) in a row. We had some doubts at the beginning of the season because it was a new team. Our changing point was when we played Grayson Allen’s team down in Port Charlotte. We lost by like twenty-something, but it was a good loss. Even though we lost, we realized we could compete with high level players like Grayson. After that we didn’t lose a game from December to the end of the season.

During the high school season, especially at the City of Palms it looked like you started incorporating the floater into your game?
Yeah, going into the next level you aren’t going to be able to get all the way into the lane. Coming off the screen I normally pull-up for the jump shot, but when I came off the screens (against Taft) I felt like I could throw the floater. I felt with the pull-up it’s more of a slow shot and they might have blocked that, but with the floater you don’t really know when that is coming and it’s really fast. They had a lot of athletes so I tried to use the floater some more. You know, the floater is in my game, but that is something I want to use more at the next level.

In the McDonald’s practices you were matched up with Tyler Ulis and a little bit with Emmanuel Mudiay. How do you think it went?
I look at this experience as one that a lot of people don’t get. Every single play you are going against high caliber players and a high caliber defense. I love being here, sometimes I might make a mistake but it’s all part of the learning experience. I’ve just been having fun hanging with the guys, and at the same time it’s competitive. We are just having fun and raising money for the McDonald’s program.

How has the McDonald’s experience been off the court?
That was a great experience. That was my first time working with kids with disabilities or kids with illnesses that are deadly. It was a great experience and you see how that impacts the children when they have that smile on their face.  I just love doing stuff like that. Sometimes I don’t like doing it because I feel bad for the child and just want to be able to do something about it, but I don’t know the cure for all that. Just bringing a smile to their face though has been great. I’ve been doing research on how a feeling can heal someone mentally and physically at times. If those kids can smile every day like that hopefully it can heal them in a small way.

What are your expectations for next year at UNC?
I think there are a lot of high expectations with the recruiting class coming in and people are expecting a lot. We can’t let that get to us, but I just want to come in and be like a sponge. Just soak up everything I can and learn the system and everything. I think we have the team to make it to the national championship. You know, we have Marcus Paige coming back. Nate Britt is a great player. With the three incoming freshmen, along with Brice, Kennedy, Meeks, and Hicks, well we will have a lot of talent. We just want to go in and bond together and use our talent to the best of our abilities. I think we will be able to compete for a national championship. 

It seems like you, Theo, and Justin are all pretty close and there is a lot of interaction with the current Tar Heel players. How do you think it will be joining that group?
Yes sir, I’ve been up there for a few visits and I actually played against Marcus in the EYBL circuit when I was in 9th or 10th grade. We’ve known each other and I’ve been able to get to know some of the other guys on my visits so I think we already have a good bond and just looking to continue that when I get up there.

When will you head to Chapel Hill?
I’ll head there on June 16. My classes start on June 19. I’ll be there for a month and then come back home for four to five weeks and then get ready to start my year in Chapel Hill.

2014 Swish N Dish Recap

The AAU basketball season kicked off this past weekend with the NY2LA Swish N’ Dish located in Mequon, WI. Not only does this event serve as the unofficial opener for AAU play, but it also brings together some of the top teams in the Midwest regardless of shoe affiliation. Teams from Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour went head to head during the event, but it was two Nike programs that advanced to the championship game.

Championship Game (17U):
All Ohio Red 87 St. Louis Eagles 71

All Ohio finished 5-0 over a two day span including double-digit wins in a 21 point semi-final win over Mac Irvin and then a 16 point championship victory. The talented team came out firing on all cylinders starting with an Esa Ahmad three from the right wing. Soon Noah Bramlage and D’Mitirk Trice got in on the outside action and it was 15-4 before you could blink. The lead increased to 48-32 at the half with forward Ahmad Wagner getting into the action with several tough baskets down low. Sophomore star Jayson Tatum tried to lead the Eagles to a massive comeback scoring 16 second half points, but the well-balanced Ohio squad always had an answer and never let the lead get closer than six points. The 2014 champions got their revenge after losing to the Eagles in the 16U quarterfinals last year.

Championship Game Top Players:

Jayson Tatum, 6’6”, G/F, St. Louis Eagles, 2016
Tatum exploded last year at the Swish N’ Dish, leading his 16U team to the championship while taking home MVP honors. He did not have the same results playing at the 17U level, but still managed to put on quite a show despite being one year younger than most of his opponents. In the championship game Tatum scored 25 points to go with five rebounds. The versatile Tatum can score from all parts of the court and he showed the variety in his game by scoring on pull-up 3’s, mid-range jump shots in the middle of a zone defense, and coast to coast drives. He missed several Kobe-esque type fadeaways, but the 16 year old presents a match-up nightmare whenever he touches the ball. In a semi-final victory, Tatum went for 24 points and double-digit rebounds while attacking the rim time and time again. One of the few improvement points for the Missouri player of the year is his actual physical strength; however it was noticeable that the young phenom had added a few pounds of muscle to his upper body.

Esa Ahmad, 6’8”, SF, All Ohio Red, 2015
The powerful wing jump started things with a three in the championship game, but Ahmad was on point all weekend long. He scored 17 points in the championship game, but just like Tatum he was one of the tougher players to defend in one on one situations. One of the stronger wings you will see, Ahmad was usually too quick for taller defenders and too powerful for smaller defenders. He also rebounded well and played aggressive defense.

Ahmad Wagner, 6’7”, PF, All Ohio Red, 2015
The other Ahmad dominated in the championship game as well, going for 25 points. Standing at 6’7”, Wagner plays much bigger than his height and dominated around the rim. A strong kid physically, Wagner was active the entire game attacking in the post and on the boards. He also threw down a few rim rattling dunks.

D’Mitirk Trice, 5’11, PG, All Ohio Red, 2015
Trice was arguably the quickest player in the 17U bracket all weekend. Trice ran circles around the Mac Irvin Fire and then scored 10 points in the championship while dishing out several pretty assists. While he is quick, Trice is also explosive. He gets great elevation on his jump shot and hit two three’s against the Eagles. He also knows how to run the pick and roll and delivered several pin point passes to his teammates as they rolled to the basket. Trice might look small physically but it would be a mistake to underestimate the tiny floor general.

Who Is This Guy?

Eli Chua, 6’8”, SF, Inland Empire, 2015
Chua grabbed everyone’s attention Saturday morning going against MeanStreets, one of the top teams in the Midwest. Kentucky bound Charles Matthews and Illinois bound D.J. Williams were the big names on the court, but it was Chua who outperformed them both. A legit 6’8”, Chua led his Inland Empire team to a 13 point victory. Throughout the game, Chua was seen handling the ball on the break, attacking the rim off the bounce, and coming out of nowhere to block shots. While not a knock down shooter, he did hit several three’s throughout the course of the day. With height, speed, and skills one would expect there to be some serious interest from Chua. According to NY2LA Sports, his only offer came from Cal State Northridge. Chua plans to re-classify to the class of 2015 at Elevate Prep in Daytona Beach, FL. It’s believed that the athletic small forward was recently at Redlands East Valley High in California, but then again, he is the mystery man of the tournament.

Other Players of Note:
Malek Harris, 6’7”, F, Illinois Wolves, 2014
Harris sat out his senior season due to a year long suspension and recently announced his de-commitment from Marquette after their coaching change. The 6’7” Harris is spending the spring playing for the Illinois Wolves and he didn’t show a lot of rust on Sunday afternoon. He drove aggressively toward the basket any time he glimpsed an opening in the zone and went to the foul line often. Now that he is back on the market, the schools in consideration are Marquette, Virginia Tech, Florida, Kansas State, and Gonzaga.

Henry Ellenson, 6’9”, SF, Playground Elite, 2015
This was Ellenson’s first tournament with the Playground Elite and the Wisconsin big man looked a bit slimmer and in better overall shape. One of the better ball-handling big men in the country, Ellenson often took the ball coast to coast while going through his legs or around his back at full speed. He knocked in a three from the top of the key and also added several mid-range jumpers to his repertoire. Despite the weight loss he still held his own down low grabbing rebounds when they came near and scoring frequently on the low block. Last year Ellenson played on the Adidas circuit but now he will get a chance to compete in the Nike EYBL.

Glynn Watson, 6’0”, PG, Illinois Wolves, 2015
The Wolves lost early on in the tournament, but they will have a strong spring and summer thanks to the steady play of Watson who is calm and under control as the teams point guard. Watson likes to attack and can also handle the press with ease. Utilizing strong ball handling skills, Watson is the perfect floor general for one of the smartest AAU teams in the land.

Trevor Stumpe, 6’5”, SF, Illinois Wolves, 2015
One of the more impressive three point shooters over the weekend was Trevor Stumpe. In a Sunday afternoon game he hit four three’s in the first half and was deadly curling off screens for jump shots at the top of the key. He lost focus after his hot start, but there was no denying that Stumpe is a strong jump shooter from behind the arc.

Derrick Bruce Jr., 6’2”, PG, Inland Empire, 2015
Along with the mystery man in Eli Chau, Inland Empire also sported impressive point guard play. Derrick Bruce Jr., helped spur the Meanstreets upset. He carved up the defense whether in full court or half court situations. Once he got to the basket he used his size to finish at the rim. Bruce Jr. also showed that he could shoot the ball by knocking in several three’s as the game went on and looked to have the makings of a high-major point guard.

Khalil Fuller, 6’8”, PF, Inland Empire, 2015
Fuller is one of those players that gets overlooked by opponents and fans alike due to his large size, but soon enough he’s dropped 20 points. This was exactly the case on Saturday where it seemed Fuller was scoring on every possession. A bit undersized, Fuller knows how to use his size as he scored constantly in the paint.

Aaron Jordan, 6’4”, SG, Illinois Stars, 2015
Last year Jordan made a name for himself in the 16U Swish N Dish and he parlayed his hot shooting into an Illinois commitment. This year Jordan did not miss a beat and was one of the smoothest jump shooters in Milwaukee. While the shooting guard has a pretty stroke he is more than just a shooter and can put the ball on the floor as well.

Charles Matthews, 6’5”, SG, MeanStreets, 2015
Last year Matthews and the MeanStreets program advanced to the finals in the 17U age group. This year MeanStreets struggled and lost early on in the tournament. While the team didn’t play up to their potential, the Kentucky recruit had a solid showing. Matthews excels in the mid-range and he uses his explosive vertical to shoot over defenders from 15-18 feet out. He showed his soft shooting touch over the course of three days, but wasn’t able to put on any overly dominant performances.

Luwane Pipkins, 5’10”, PG, Mac Irvin Fire, 2015
Pipkins was fresh off a strong junior season playing for Bogan in the Chicago Public League and he continued his high scoring ways throughout the tournament. At times Pipkins was on fire from deep and hit seven in a game on Saturday. It wouldn’t surprise me if he led the tournament in three pointers made. Along with a strong outside shot, Pipkins is tough to stay in front of with his speed and quickness. He might be short, but Pipkins is one of those guys that plays much bigger than he is.

Levi Bradley Jr., 6’6”, F, Wisconsin United, 2015
The wiry forward from Milwaukee showed off his versatility throughout the tournament. At times Bradley Jr. was hitting threes from the left corner and other times he was using his athleticism to slash to the basket and finish above the rim. With continued strong play, Bradley Jr. could be seeing his stock rise over the next few months.

Other Notes:
  • Another player who jumped to the EYBL was Nick Noskowiak of Sun Prairie High (WI) School. Last year he took the Swish N’ Dish by storm playing for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. He committed to Marquette shortly afterwards, but now that Buzz Williams is out of town his recruitment is back open. Illinois, Xavier, and Creighton have jumped in, but the flashy point guard will soon have a larger stage to showcase his skill-set.
  • Center Diamond Stone is one of the top five players in the country; however he was MIA this weekend. Stone said he was getting ready for the “live period” where his Young Legends team will compete at the Under Armour event in Kansas City.
  • The Mac Irvin Fire couldn’t defend their 17U crown from 2013; however the program did win a championship in the 16U division. The Fire was lead by the Simeon duo of Zach Norvell and Ben Coupet. Along with Tatum, the St. Louis Eagles have a few other standout players from the class of 2016.
  • Quentin Goodin was one of the most athletic guards in the tournament. He likes to push the ball on the break and is capable of unleashing a nasty dunk off the bounce.
  • 6’8” Tyler Cook is a high school teammate of Tatum’s and was a monster on the boards all weekend. He also has fairly decent post moves with a solid set of hands.
  • Last but not least is diminutive point guard Jordan Barnes. While Barnes doesn’t start, he is a fire plug off the bench and a key reason that the Eagles advanced to the championship. Despite a slight frame, Barnes can finish in traffic and he can also create space with his quickness when it comes time to take a jump shot. The Eagles might have lost the championship, but their future is bright.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

2014 Spring & Summer AAU Events

With the players from the class of 2014 making their final appearances in All-Star games throughout the country, the spring AAU season is about to kick-off. What players will coaches make a priority? Will anybody make a Myles Turner like emergence? So many changes are on the horizon and here is an early look at the 2014 Spring / Summer AAU schedule. The NCAA changed the live recruiting schedule and this year their will be only one live period in the spring. Coaches are now allowed on the road for one week in April and three weeks in July. Tournaments and dates will be updated as they become available.:

·        April 25-27
·        July 9-13
·        July 16-20
·        July 23-27

Tournament / Camp                  Location                      Sponsor
April 4-6
Swish N Dish                                                       Milwaukee, WI                             NY2LA

April 11-13
Spring Jam Fest                                                   Manheim, PA                                Hoop Group

April 18-20
Real Deal In The Rock                                         Little Rock, AR                  
Southern Hoop Group Jam Fest                       Hampton, VA                               Hoop Group
Houston Easter Classic                                       Houston, TX                                 Big Foot Hoops 
Las Vegas Easter Showdown                             Las Vegas, NV                              Big Foot Hoops

April 25-27 (Live Session)
Nike EYBL (Session #1)                                      Sacramento, CA                           Nike
Adidas VIP Exclusive Run                                  Dallas, TX                                      Adidas
Pittsburgh Jam Fest                                           Pittsburgh, PA                               Under Armour
Jayhawk Invitational                                          Olathe, KS                                     Under Armour
Spring Extravaganza                                          Minneapolis, MN                         NY2LA
Pangos Spring Spectacular                               Las Vegas, NV                               Pangos
Southern Exposure Showcase                         Augusta, GA
Kingwood Elite                                                   Spring, TX                                      Big Foot Hoops
Las Vegas Tip Off Classic                                   Las Vegas, NV                               Big Foot Hoops 

May 2-4
Adidas Nations #2                                             Miami, FL                                       Adidas
Spiece Run N’ Slam                                           Fort Wayne, IN                                
Howard Pulley Invitational                              Eagan, MN

May 9-11
Nike EYBL (Session #2)                                     Plano, TX                                        Nike

May 16-18
Nike EYBL (Session #3)                                      Hampton, VA                                Nike
Adidas Invitational                                            Indianapolis, IN                             Adidas
UA Invitational                                                  Houston, TX                                   Under Armour
NY2LA Invitational                                            Milwaukee, WI                              NY2LA
Southern Jam Fest                                            Hampton, VA                                 Hoop Group
Las Vegas Grand Opening                                Las Vegas, NV                                Big Foot Hoops
H-Town Classic                                                   Humble, TX                                   Big Foot Hoops 

May 23-25
Nike EYBL (Session #4)                                      Minneapolis, MN                         Nike
Adidas Orlando                                                  Orlando, FL                                    Adidas

May 30 – June 1
Pangos All-American Camp                             Long Beach, CA                              Pangos

June 6 – 9
Adidas Eurocamp                                             Treviso, Italy                                    Adidas
UA All-Star Weekend                                        Baltimore, MD                               Under Armour

June 13-15
Adidas Nations #3                                             Las Vegas, NV                                 Adidas

June 18-21
NBPA Top 100 Camp                                         Charlottesville, VA                         Under Armour

June 23-25
Nike Point Guard Skills Academy                    Union, NJ                                        Nike
Nike Big Man Skills Academy                           Union, NJ                                        Nike

June 27-29
Kevin Durant Skills Academy                    Washington DC                              Nike

July 9-13 (Live Session)
LeBron James Skills Academy                         Las Vegas, NV                                Nike (starts June 8)
Superstar Camp                                                Chicago, IL                                      Adidas
Next Level Invitational                                     Milwaukee, WI                              NY2LA 

July 16-20 (Live Session)
Nike Peach Jam                                                  North  Augusta, SC                       Nike
The Finals                                                           Atlanta, GA                                     Under Armour
AAU Nationals                                                   Louisville, KY
Peach State                                                        Aiken, SC
Summer Jam                                                     Milwaukee, WI                               NY2LA
Summer Jam Fest                                             Manheim, PA                                  Hoop Group
Las Vegas Live                                                    Las Vegas, NV                                 Big Foot Hoops 

July 23-27 (Live Session)
Adidas Super 64                                   Las Vegas, NV                                 Adidas
FAB 48                                                Las Vegas, NV                                   
AAU Super Showcase                                      Louisville, KY
Las Vegas Classic                                              Las Vegas, NV                                  Big Foot Hoops
Buzzer Beater Classic                                      Neptune, NJ                                     Hoop Group

July 31-August 4
Adidas Nations Tournament                         Garden Grove, CA                           Adidas