UAA hoops offer respite to nasty Saturday weather

FISHERS, IN – I spent just about 15 ½ hours in the Best Choice Field House Saturday for Day II of the second weekend of the Under Armour Association spring and summer schedule.

It was 20-plus games (spread over the 17s, 16s and 15s divisions) of mostly full-throttle action from Under Armour’s contribution to the “shoe and apparel company”-funded (along with Nike and adidas) grassroots hoops scene.

None of that action, though, was nearly as nail-biting and stress-inducing as the 30 minutes it took me to drive from the gym to my hotel in Carmel through a lightning storm the likes of which we don’t experience often in Southern California.

And come to think of it “often” can easily be replaced with “at all”.

It was quite the cure for “nodding off behind the wheel” – and then some.

Things started with the 8 a.m. tip-off for the 15s’ Division game between Southern California-based Earl Watson Elite and Texas Hard Work, with the latter winning in overtime, in no small part due to the forceful inside presence of 6-foot-6 Godsgift Ezedinma, and ended just short of 11 p.m. when Delaware-based “WeR1” handed Team Breakdown of Florida its first loss (after six wins) in the 17s’ Division, 58-55.

Six players scored from eight to 15 points for WeR1, led by Eric Ayala (Putnam, CT, Science Academy by way of New York and the Puerto Rican national program; he’s originally from Class of 2017 before “reclassifying” to 2018 but may still end up in college in the fall).

Six-foot-three (on the short side of that, probably) Anfernee Simons (Orlando Edgewater), who is already “committed” to Louisville, led Team Breakdown with 17 points – 15 on of those from behind the arc – and 12 rebounds.

Paul Person was well short on a 3-pointer that would have tied the score at the end of regulation for Team Breakdown.

But the 5-10 or so (he’s listed at 6-foot but that seems well into the Trump-like realm of “reality”) Person – a junior at Orlando West Oaks Academy – provided the game’s both WTF moments by way of two you’re-kidding, right?-dunks.

Relative to his size (or more accurately “like thereof”), Person’s jams were even more impressive than the ones that Team Rio sophomores Scotty Lewis (6-5ish) and Bryan Antoine (a little more 6-5ish), by way of Tinton Falls, NJ, Ranney School, hammered in against the Atlanta Xpress in a 17s game about an hour a couple 100 feet away in the six-court facility.

Other performances of note during that big hunk of Saturday:

*Nico Mannion (Scottsdale, AZ, Pinnacle/Earl Watson Elite 16s) and Jalen Suggs (Minneapolis Minnehaha Academy/Grassroots Sizzle 17s) have to be considered as two of the four or five best “point guard-types” in the national Class of 2020.

I certainly didn’t see anyone better at that age/position last weekend in Dallas (adidas Gauntlet) nor Friday night during the EYBL session not far from here in Westfield.

Mannion took a knee in his left quad late in his team’s first game Saturday (exasperating an injury he suffered the weekend before in UA’s first session in New York) and was on the bench with the leg being iced Saturday night and wasn’t expected to play in his team’s finale Sunday morning.

*I watched just short of the complete first half of the Sports U (New Jersey) 17s’ ultimate 75-60 victory over Ohio2K Elite and didn’t to see anymore to be reminded that Jahvon Quinerly (who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists) and Luther Muhammad (14 points, including four 3s) likely make up the national Class of 2018’s best starting backcourt for Jersey City Hudson Catholic.

And it doesn’t hurt Sports U’s cause to have quite the now-engaged 6-10 (or so) Nazreon Reid (17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks against Ohio2K) of Roselle Catholic High doing the kind of things few his size are capable of in the Class of 2018.

*Among the other point guard-types/circa Class of 2018 that I saw Saturday was Devon Dotson (Charlotte Providence Day School) of Team Charlotte.

He may not quite be at the same level a prospect at the position as Jahvon Quinerly is right now but he’s certainly easily placed among the Top 10 or so PGs in the class nationally, regardless of grass roots circuit that he’s playing on.

*Moses Brown (New Heights/New York Archbishop Molloy) drew a bunch of coaches from high-profile programs to his game’s Saturday.

He’s every bit the 7-foot he’s listed at and even played that “big” on occasion when I was watching even if he still lacks a lot of low-post savvy and isn’t yet quite the shot blocker/defensive presence he can be some day.

*The biggest bummer I experienced Saturday (before having to navigate the weather on the way back to the hotel, that is) was when I found out that 7-2 Chol Marial (Cheshire Academy) was sidelined for the Connecticut Basketball Club with a stress fraction to a leg and – apparently – isn’t going to play the rest of the spring.

He’s the best really big prospect in the Class of 2019.


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