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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.
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Wednesday / April 26.
  • Kentucky’s Briscoe, South Carolina’s Silva Now In Elite Eight After Winning New Jersey State Title Together

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    NEW YORK — During Roselle Catholic’s drive to the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title in 2015, one of Isaiah Briscoe’s favorite plays was to throw the ball off the backboard for Chris Silva to dunk.

    Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff remembers that Briscoe loved the play so much, they did it in the sectional final that year.

    “In the history of New Jersey basketball, I don’t know if anyone has ever completed more off-the-backboard, alley-oop dunks than Chris and Isaiah did that year,” Boff said. “I think they did 10 or 11 that year. They were so comfortable with Isaiah throwing the ball off the backboard to Chris as the trailer, they actually did it in the sectional final in a tie game with two minutes left to go that gave us the lead [against Trenton Catholic]. We were coming back from 22 points down and the basket that gave us the lead which we never gave back was a two-on-one fastbreak where Isaiah threw it off the backboard for Chris for a dunk.”

    Fast forward two years and Briscoe and Silva are both in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and both represent SEC teams. Briscoe and Kentucky face North Carolina in the South Regional final on Sunday in Memphis, while Silva and South Carolina meet SEC rival Florida in the East Regional final on Sunday in New York. Three SEC teams are into the Elite Eight.

    The 6-foot-3 Briscoe had seven rebounds, five points and four assists in Kentucky’s 86-75 win over UCLA on Friday night, while the 6-9 Silva, a native of Gabon, went for 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in a 70-50 rout of Baylor. The two close friends touched base on Friday.

    “We’ve been talking it up, making sure he’s good and everything like that,” Briscoe told reporters in Memphis. “He’s back at home in New York, pretty much his home. I’m proud of him. He’s been through a lot, a lot of adversity. He’s kept his head strong. I’m glad that he’s in the Elite Eight and I just hope that they keep going.”

    Asked if he would sign now for a Kentucky-South Carolina title game, Briscoe said, “That would be crazy, though. That would be crazy.”

    Meantime, this is getting to be old hat for Boff, assistant coach Tommy Sacks and Roselle Catholic. A year ago, the school had two players in the Final Four in Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson and Tyler Roberson.

    In 2013, those two led Roselle Catholic to its first TOC title over a St. Joe’s-Metuchen team that included Karl-Anthony Towns, Wade Baldwin and Marques Townes. Towns, a Kentucky product like Briscoe, is now in the NBA, as is Baldwin.

    “The opportunity to watch these guys perform in college has been far and away the most rewarding part of coaching for me,” Boff said. “It’s the thing that I look forward to as much as anything else at the beginning of the college basketball season. And now in March to see them perform this way in the Tournament and get to Elite Eights and Final Fours has been something I never even could’ve imagined.

    “And in terms of the program I think it just is another example of the hard work that goes into these kids while they’re at Roselle Catholic. They’re obviously great athletes and great basketball players, but we put a lot of time and effort in with these guys and to see them go onto college and be successful I think hopefully shows people that we develop our kids at Roselle Catholic.”

    Going forward, the school has other kids who could play in future tournaments. Senior guard Nate Pierre-Louis will be a freshman at Temple next season, while 6-10 junior big man Naz Reid is being courted by schools like Kentucky, Kansas, UConn, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Rutgers, among others.

    “I saw Naz posted something on his social media the other day and it was a picture of him, Chris and Isaiah and a comment on how great it was that these guys are doing these things and how much he missed playing with them,” Boff said, “so I absolutely think it’s a motivator for other guys in our program to be able to sit at home and watch these guys perform and realize that they’re in the same program these guys came from, they’re getting the same coaching that these guys got and if they keep doing what they’re supposed to do, they’ll hopefully have the same level of success.”

    Photo: John Cerra

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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.