READING, Pa. — For many years, the New Jersey Playaz have been a landing spot for talented basketball players.
The long list of talent ranges from JR Smith to Gerald Henderson, Kenneth Faried to Mike Rosario, Wayne Ellington to Earl Clark, Rick Jackson to Tray Woodall and Scoop Jardine to Jio Fontan.
The latest phenoms come from the classes of 2012 and 2015.
On Sunday, Kyle Anderson and Isaiah Briscoe, two potential NBA players, played together on the AAU circuit for the first time ever.
As the Hoop Group and New Heights hosted the 2011 End of Summer Classic at Albright College in Reading (Pa.), Anderson and the U17 Playaz team were joined by Briscoe, a rising ninth grader at St. Benedict’s Prep who has never played a single game of high school basketball.
The Playaz won all three of their games, including a triple-overtime thriller over New Heights, 68-67, to win the championship.
Anderson will compete with the Playaz in IS8 next fall and spring, but his tenure with them as a rising senior is over. The next time he competes with the Playaz, he will have chosen a college.
“It’s onto the next chapter in my life,” he said. “It’s been an honor being a Playa.”
Anderson, who began training and playing with the grassroots squad at the age of 8, smiled when he reflected on recent memories.
“My best memories with this team has to be the last two tournaments,” he said. “We won the Desert Duel against Mac Irvin Fire after being down by 23 points at halftime. They came out of halftime and hit a three to extend the lead to 26. We came back to win the game and championship; it was a real team effort.”
On top of that, the Playaz survived a tough New Heights team in their final game of the long summer as Anderson fueled them.
For Briscoe, however, it was a completely different experience.
“It felt good to play with some of the top players in the country,” he said. “Playing 17’s is really different; the game is much quicker.”
While Briscoe has played U14’s and U15’s this summer, it was last year when Anderson discovered who he was and what his game was all about.
“Everyone kept saying that he moved just like me and that he was the next big thing for the Playaz family,” Anderson said. “He’s become my little brother and I will help him out with his game and when he asks questions about recruiting and more.”
When Anderson noticed Briscoe’s ability and talent level at such a young age, it made him wonder how Briscoe would handle the limelight.
“I spoke with our director, Jimmy Salmon, about having him join us for the summer on the 17’s level,” said Anderson. “I’m happy he got to play with us in our last event. He played really well.”
Anderson knows what it is like to be the little brother. He was once that to Dominic Cheek, a former NJ Playaz star who currently plays at Villanova.
Anderson and Cheek had the same situation.
“I was entering my freshman year and Dom was the well known rising senior starring at St. Anthony and bound for the McDonald’s All American game,” recollected Anderson. “He told me how some things can get overwhelming at times but just to put up with it and that it will all pay off in the end.”
During his freshman year, Anderson’s Paterson Catholic team, which featured Fuquan Edwin, Jayon James, Myles Mack and others, played Cheek’s highly-touted St. Anthony squad and defeated them in the North Non-Public B playoffs.
While St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s aren’t slated to play each other this season, Briscoe and Anderson could conceivably meet up down the line.
“I just hope we don’t lose,” Anderson cracked.
As Briscoe’s competitive fire and love for the game keeps him going, he wants to pull off an upset victory as Kyle did his freshman year over the older Dom Cheek.
“I want to get the win and defeat the top player and team in the country,” he said.
Briscoe and Anderson have a solid relationship despite the age difference.
“It makes me feel special that he respects me,” said the rising freshman. “It makes me want to do what he did. Kyle is someone I can talk to; a big brother figure to me.”
Isaiah has gone from the little brother to big brother with his success. The 2015 guard is a role model to his little cousin, Rashae.
Briscoe’s six scholarship offers from Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Baylor, Seton Hall, Cincinnati and DePaul, along with interest from Ohio State, St. John’s, Florida State and others have humbled him more than anything.
Both Anderson and Briscoe are ranked in the top five in the country in their respective classes and have responded well to it.
“It feels good,” said Anderson. “It shows you’re heading in the right direction.” Briscoe felt the same and hopes to “follow what Kyle did.”
Although they are separated by a few years and seven inches in size, these two point guards both play in a similar way. They score, pass the ball, go for rebounds, get their teammates involved and win.
As Kyle Anderson heads off to college next year at Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s, UCLA or Georgetown, he knows Isaiah will deal with the recruiting process and growing pains of being a great player.
“He can call me whenever he wants to talk about it,” Anderson said. “I was in those shoes once.”RELATED CONTENT **Rutgers, Seton Hall offer freshman **McLeod resigns from St. Benedict’s **Taylor named new coach at St. Ben’s **New era dawning at St. Benedict’s