Battle for the Hall
Talented Northeast teams impress across the board at HOF Spring Classic
The Hall of Fame Spring Classic featured some of the best players in the area and the nation. With players from all over the country and Canada competing on age groups ranging from 11 to 17, the overall talent and competition was intense. Over 30 coaches from Division II and III, plus scout were in attendance.
Connecticut Basketball Club's 17U team came into the weekend as one of the favorites in Springfield, and even without Five-Star rated big man Andre Drummond, the No. 12 team in Five-Star's Top 25 did not disappoint, going undefeated on the weekend. CBC was named tournament champion after Next Level Performance had to leave before the finals to catch a flight back to Illinois.
The matchup of the weekend happened to be CBC's final game in Springfield, and featured them against dynamic Five-Star rated guard Ricardo Ledo and Expressions Elite. Ledo was dominant during most of the weekend in leading his undermanned Expressions team to the semifinal matchup. The game was intense and competitive right from the outset. As always, the stars needed someone to step up and CBC showed its depth. Sensing he needed to bring it in the absence of Drummond, CBC big-man Ethan O’Day took control of the paint, as he did all weekend. He poured in 15 hard-earned points and grabbed 13 rebounds as CBC pulled out a 81-72 win.
The matchup everyone came to see was CBC guard Khris Dunn go against Ledo, and neither disappointed. Dunn started early showing his improving jump shot with two early 3-point shots and spent the rest of the game slicing and slashing through the Expressions defense for an assortment of lay-ups, floaters and pull-up jumpers. Dunn was also a huge factor on the glass using his long arms and huge hands to snare rebounds on both ends of the floor. He finished with 27 points, 5 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds.
For Ledo, he spent much of the day carrying his undermanned team on his back. Coach Pastore had a handful of players who were unable to attend, including highly-touted forward Zach Auguste of New Hampton Prep School, who was on campus at Providence College. Ledo finished with 24 points despite being hounded all over the floor and attracting double-teams as soon as he got near the paint. For the weekend, Ledo averaged an astounding 26 points a game while playing basically every minute of every game.
Next Level Performance from Illinois and Brookwood Elite from Canada hooked up in a battle that featured several Division I prospects. For Next Level, their back court duo of Keith Carter and Aaron Simpson was too much to handle as they combined for 28 points and dished out numerous assists to open teammates. Carter and Simpson took turns and worked together to completely control the game when it mattered most. Both guards were able to get into the lane at will and displayed a well rounded offensive game, as they hit shots from all areas of the floor. NLP big man Nathan Booth battled a severely sprained ankle to record a double-double. The six-foot-8 center labored on, but showed soft hands, a knack for the ball and a good touch around the basket. Coach Dickey Simpkins told Five-Star that his trio is being heavily recruited by mid-majors. “A lot of the A-10 schools and schools like that have been calling. They are really good kids and hard workers.”
For Brookwood, Chris Joseph was everywhere as he tried to keep up with Simpson and Carter, scoring 18 points while distributing the ball well. Brookwood advanced into the semifinals because NLP had academic commitments back in Chicago.
In another quarterfinal matchup, the New York (BC) Eagles defeated a talented Riverside Hawks team, 62-51. The Hawks were led by their beast of a forward Jonte Rutty, brother of Quinnipiac star, Justin Rutty. He scored 14 points and pulled down 12 boards and averaged a double-double for the weekend. When asked who was recruiting him, Rutty responded, “Ask Coach. I don’t worry about that; I just ball as hard as I can.”
CBC advanced easily with a 89-58 over CW Basketball (NY). CBC was led by O’Day who had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. When asked about his recruiting, O'Day said he's “hearing from Davidson, UNC-Charlotte and a few others.”
Expressions Elite beat RI Hawks, 75-63, in another quarter final matchup. Expressions was led once again by Ricardo Ledo, who had 30 points and 8 assists, while completely controlling the game.
News and notes from the weekend:
- East Coast Elite (CT) won the 17U Platinum Bracket with a convincing win over Connecticut Elite, 75-61. ECE was led by Darren Payen of Hamden Hall Academy, who averaged a double-double for the weekend and showed why he is starting to hear from several mid-major programs. Payen made 16-foot jumpers, rebounded well and blocked shots all weekend. He also had several of the weekend’s best dunks.
- Brookwood Elite and Whitby Wildcats came down from Canada and showed they have some serious talent north of the border. Brookwood has Jordan Tyrell, Kenny Jean Luis and Nolan Woodward, who all played really well. For Whitby, they were led by Justin Edwards, who is deciding between Fresno State and Maine this week, as well as Dyshawn Pierre, who has the look of a solid low major D-1 player
- Riverside Hawks are a talented team that has some superior athletes. Jordan Parks, who told Five-Star he recently gave St. Peters a verbal, was impressive all weekend, as was Shaq Mosley, Emile Blackmon and Ryan Frankel.
- The Rhode Island Hawks proved once again they have a strong program. With two teams in the 17U, they advanced to the quarter-finals of the Gold and Platinum brackets. They were led by sophomores Peter Weston, Sam Fradin and Nick Cesare all weekend.
- Riverside Church had a good weekend and was led by Sal Vitello and Marcellas Anderson who each scored in double figures all weekend.
- CBC won the 16U Championship and was led by Kahlil Dukes, from Capital Prep in Hartford. Dukes is a combo guard who can score at anytime, but has become more of a playmaker as he matures. He led the state in scoring as a freshman and led the state in assists as a sophomore. Dukes is hearing from several mid-majors right now but may play himself into a higher level if he keep improving.
- BABC took the 15U Championship and was led by Damien Smith. Besides the fact that he scored 26 in the championship game, Smith proved to be the emotional leader for the Boston team when they needed him the most. Down by 5 points with less than 5 minutes to play, Smith led the charge as BABC came out on top, 72-71, over TEAM Scan (NY).
- Expressions Elite won the 14U Championships by defeating the LI Lightning, 71-63. Juwon Gooding led Expressions with 28 points in the finals.
- Connecticut Elite won the 13U Championship and were led by one of the top 13-year old prospects New England, Tremont Waters. Waters averaged over 20 points for the weekend, and scored 22 in the finals to earn MVP Honors
- Connecticut Basketball Club won the 12U Championship behind the MVP performance of Chaylyn Martin, who dominated the weekend and scored an impressive 32 points, to go with six steals in the championship game.
- Long Island Lightning 11’s won the 11U Championship in an impressive performance against Ball Hoggs from New York.