Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By SEVE COUSINSSpecial to ZAGSBLOGWEST ORANGE, N.J. — The Hoop Group Tip-Off Showcase took place this weekend at West Orange High School and it featured some of the top teams and players in the state of New Jersey.
It showcased several committed players who will be playing major Division 1 basketball, including Karl Towns (Kentucky), Reggie Cameron (Georgetown), Tyler Roberson (Syracuse), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Mike Young (Pittsburgh), DeAndre Bembry (St. Joe’s), Josh Brown (Temple), Isaiah Watkins (Duquesne), Denzell Taylor (ODU), Jaren Sina (Northwestern) and Kavon Stewart (Robert Morris).
There were also several underclassman who stood out. Here are five players from the class of 2015 and 2016 who drew plenty of interest throughout the weekend.
TYUS BATTLE, SF, 2016 (Gill St. Bernard’s)
The 6-foot-5 small forward can play multiple positions. Battle participated in the jump ball and also ran the offense from the point guard position. On Saturday night Battle had 14 points and went head-to-head with Bembry in a loss to The Patrick School. The rangy swingman has been mentioned with the likes of Towns, Derrick Caracter and Kyle Anderson as some of the best freshman to explode on to the scene in New Jersey in recent years. He plays alongside the Northwestern-bound Sina and forward Austin Colbert (Illinois) and already holds offers from Syracuse, SMU, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Miami, Rhode Island and interest from Vanderbilt.
BRYCE AIKEN, PG, 2016 (Pope John XXIII)
The speedy 5-8 guard out of Pope John XXIII had one of the best performances of the weekend, going for 24 points and seven assists (with nine turnovers) in a 71-58 loss to Roselle Catholic. Aiken carried the load for a Pope John team playing without their best player, Jermaine Lawrence (hand injury), and controlled the tempo of the game with his handle and quickness. Aiken is short in stature but he does not lack any confidence attacking the basket and finishing in traffic. After Aiken’s big game he received huge praise from Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who Tweeted that Aiken was ”the next great one out of New Jersey.” The praise did not stop there as Dick Vitale tweeted out “you are heading for big time stardom.” Aiken has offers from Rider, Delaware, Manhattan and Detroit and interest from Cincinnati and Xavier. (For more on Aiken, read this story.)
MALACHI RICHARDSON, SG, 2015 (Roselle Catholic)
A transfer from Trenton Catholic, Richardson is a long, athletic guard who can handle the ball create space to get his silky smooth shot off. The 6-6 wing is extremely versatile and can play at the shooting guard or small forward position on the next level. He scored 10 points in the win against Pope John and also guarded several positions throughout the game. He was able to disrupt Pope John’s offense as they attempted to get into their sets. Malachi already boasts an Offer from Tom Creen and the top ranked Indian Hoosiers. Richardson holds offers from Indiana, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Miami and James Madison.
ISAIAH BRISCOE, PG, 2015 (St. Benedict’s Prep)
The sophomore guard out of St. Benedicts is regarded as one of the top guards nationally in the class of 2015. Briscoe is a combo guard with great strength who can score from anywhere on the floor. He is spending most of the time off the ball this season with the Syracuse-bound Ennis at the point running the show. Briscoe scored 17 points as St. Benedict’s crushed Wilbraham & Monson, 57-39. Briscoe lists Villanova, Arizona, UConn, Baylor, Pitt and Syracuse, among others.
LUIS MONTERO, PG, 2015 (Wilbraham & Monson)
A 6-7 point guard from The Dominican Republic, he has a very unique skill set. Montero handles the ball very well for his size and is a dynamic athlete. He was held to 6 points in the St. Benedict’s loss but showed flashes of why he is regarded as one of the top prospects in the class of 2015. Montero arrived in the States in July from Santo Domingo and is an enigma to some but he has been labeled the best prospect out of the Dominican Republic regardless of the class. Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari, who coached the Dominican National team, recently watched Montero, who is also hearing from Maryland, Manhattan and Virginia.
COACHES ON HAND
In addition to Calipari, who watched Towns, Fran Dunphy (Temple) and Jim Ferry (Duquesne) were in the building, as were assistants from Maryland, Cincinnati, Xavier, FIU, St. Peter’s and others.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.