Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The Hoop Group’s Summer Jam Fest continued on Saturday and featured some of the top talent from around the country. I was at Competitive Edge in King of Prussia and took in some 16U and 17U action as teams fought to stay in contention for a title on Sunday. Here were several standouts from the CoBL area and beyond:
Zach Thomas (2014/Oakdale/Mid-Atlantic Select)
While he’s clearly a Division I talent, what’s less clear about Thomas is what position he plays. Even he’s not quite sure.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “I can play the ‘one’ through ‘four’ in AAU; for college, probably the ‘three’ or ‘four.’
“I can play whatever they want.”
At 6-foot-6 and 195 pounds, Thomas is a solid combo forward with a good handle and the ability to run his team; often in Mid-Atlantic Select’s 53-30 win over the Brooklyn Badgers, Thomas would bring the ball upcourt and play point guard.
So far, he’s got offers from Brown, Siena and Navy, with interest from “pretty much the entire Ivy and Patriot Leagues,” though he did say he’s hearing a lot from Bucknell of the schools who have yet to offer. He’s taken unofficial visits to Bucknell, Brown, Princeton and Lafayette, but he’s not sure yet which schools he’ll be taking official visits to after the live periods are over.
“Obviously all the Ivy League and Patriot Leagues are really nice, but I really liked Bucknell, Brown and Princeton,” he said, adding he’s looking for “definitely great academics and great basketball schools–which luckily is who’s recruiting me right now.”
Josh Sharma (2015/Northfield Mt. Herman/Mass Rivals)
Sharma is part of a deep and talented front line on Mass Rivals, along with Goodluck Okonoboh, Matt Cimino and more. The tallest member of the group, the 7-footer already has offers from Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Boston College, Providence, Massachusetts, Lehigh and Holy Cross, with interest from Indiana and West Virginia.
“I’m long, I’m athletic; I can run the floor,” he said when asked about his strengths. “I can finish above the rim, I can block shots.”
Right now, Sharma weights around 215 pounds after adding 20 pounds of muscle over the last year; he plans on finishing his high school career somewhere around 240. So while he’s right now more of a power forward than a center, it’s certainly possible he’ll be able to be a true ‘five’ at the high-major level by the time his high school career is all said and done.
“I don’t have much of a post game right now so I’m definitely working on that,” he said. “Goodluck definitely makes you a better shot blocker, just watching him play all the time, and he’s becoming a really good post player too so (playing alongside him) definitely helps (me) get better.”
Jule Brown (2015/Lower Merion/Jersey Shore Warriors)
After a somewhat slow April, Brown’s had two strong weeks during July, starting to fulfill some of the potential that he’s shown as a youngster on a loaded Aces squad. Now a full 6-6 and 200 pounds, the athletic combo forward is playing with a new confidence level, and schools are taking notice.
“April was a little slow, coming off the season, that (state) championship run,” Brown told CoBL. “It was a long season so I was kind of fatigued, but now I’m starting to pick it up, starting to get in a groove.”
That groove continued in the Warriors’ 61-56 win over Elite Expressions Black (Mass.), where he finished with a team-high 16 points. Playing nearly the entire game, Brown was all over the court for the Warriors, fighting for rebounds in the post and bringing the ball up the court as well.
“Coach (John) Parker has told me that I need to be the leader, so I’m trying to be vocal with all the guys,” Brown said. “Make sure they’re in the right spots; the most important thing is to talk, to get everybody involved.”
Right now, Brown has interest from Monmouth, Penn, Columbia and Colgate; look for more high-academics to join in on his recruitment if he continues on this path.
Matt Alden (2014/William Tennent/Perkasie Knights)
A bulldog of a combo guard, Alden is a wide-shouldered 6-3 and 185 pounds, with some serious athleticism and strength combined with a solid skill set. He’s a good shooter but likes to take the ball inside, muscling his way to the hoop for some pretty impressive dunks, as this clip shows.
“I’ve been described as athletic, I’ve got to work on my shot a little bit but I can get to the rim pretty well,” he said. “Try to play the best defense I can.”
Right now his recruiting is all across the board, with interest from Bucknell and Army as well as D-IIIs like Muhlenberg and Ursinus. If he doesn’t end up getting any Division I offers, Alden has the chance to be a real force on the small-college level with his combination of athleticism and basketball IQ.
“I’m not looking for a huge school, looking for a smaller school; not a Penn State but not as small as 1,000 undergrads,” he said. “Good academic school, good basketball program, that’s pretty much it.”
–While a number of his fellow starters graduated, Greg Bennett (2014/Martin Luther King/Positive Image) will be back for a second year under head coach Sean Colson, who he gives a lot of credit for his development as a player:
“He got me way better than what I (was),” Bennett said. “If it wasn’t for Sean I probably wouldn’t be in this position I am right now, he helped me a lot with my game.”
A very athletic 6-3, 185-pound wing, Bennett said he got his first collegiate call the other day from Division II East Stroudsburg; with a strong year at King he could certainly find himself with a number of D-II options.
–Another intriguing member of that Jersey Shore 16U team is Turkish import Can Oztamur (2015/Cherry Hill West), a 6-foot-5 wing with good athleticism and a solid jumper as well. Oztamur (whose name is pronounced “John”) said his father, who’s 6-7, played professional ball in Turkey; he came over with his family about two years ago.
Going to have to see more from Octamur to see if he’s a sure-fire Division I prospect, as he plays a little out of position for a somewhat undersized Warriors squad, but he’s certainly a name to keep an eye on over the next year or so.
–Though he might be a little undersized as a combo forward, 6-6 Mike Auger (2014/New Hampton Prep/Mass Rivals) has a college-ready body and a versatile game. He scored 22 points in a 71-51 round of 32 win over the NY Gauchos, getting a few tough buckets in the point as well as nailing a trio of 3-pointers.
“I think I’m someone who gets in there and gets a lot of rebounds. I consider myself a tough person,” he told CoBL. “Just get in there and muscle people around a little bit.”
Auger said he had offers from Vermont, Boston U, New Hampshire, Quinnipiac, Binghamton, Holy Cross and Darmouth, with interest from “some MAAC schools, CAA schools, A-10 schools,” though he declined to say any specific schools as many were just now starting to look into him. He plans on taking his visits in August and making a decision before the end of the season.