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.
St. Patrick of Elizabeth staked an early claim as the No. 1 team in New Jersey heading into next season.
Led by Co-MVPs Kyrie Irving and Markus Kennedy, the Celtics served notice to the rest of the Garden State by crushing Windsor (Conn.), 54-17, in the final of The Hoop Group Showcase Sunday at The Barn at Rutgers. Windsor was ranked No. 1 in Connecticut for much of last season before losing in the state Class LL semifinals. The Warriors played the entire tournament without a head coach on the sideline and the players coached themselves in a poised and intelligent fashion.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Irving, a rising junior who transferred in from Montclair Kimberley, scored 17 points in the final after averaging 16 in the quarters and semis. The 6-8, 230-pound Kennedy was dominant in the low post, scoring 11 in the title game afer pouring in 22 in the quarters and 15 in the semis. Junior Chase Plummer added 12 in the final.
St. Patrick was playing without three of its top players — Dexter Strickland (adidas Nations in Senegal) and Paris Bennett and Michael Gilchrist (NBA Top 100 Camp) — yet still crushed Jersey prep powers St. Benedict’s (61-35 in the semis) and Seton Hall Prep (54-41 in the quarters).
“It was great to win the whole tournament,” Kennedy said. “Just coming out here and playing hard and not having half our starting team, I think our whole team played well, not just me and Kyrie.”
“We have three very good players not here and with the exception of one game against New Rochelle, every other game was a complete blowout. The young guys really know how to play,” said St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle, who watched from the sideline as assistant Chris Chevannes ran the team. “They really share the ball, they’re really unselfish and we just have a lot of good players.”
Defending champion St. Anthony and Paterson Catholic, two teams which regularly challenge for supremacy in Non-Public B and the state, were both eliminated on Saturday.
Kennedy, a rising junior from Philadelphia native who holds offers from Rutgers, Villanova and Xavier, was simply too much for every team he faced. He scored 16 in the first half of the quarterfinal win over Seton Hall Prep, when the Celtics seized a 30-18 lead over the Sterling Gibbs-led squad. He then added 15 in a blowout win over a St. Ben’s team missing four players who were at the NBA Top 100 Camp (Myck Kabongo, UAB commit Tamir Jackson, Texas commit Tristan Thompson and Pitt-bound Lamar Patterson). The victory over St. Ben’s avenged (to some extent) a loss earlier this year in the PrimeTime Shootout at Rutgers.)
“Obviously, Markus is coming on,” Boyle said. “He has to lose weight. He couldn’t contribute much last year. He had some issues early doing the right thing and once he got himself straightened out there, he had to lose some weight. I think he’s still another 10 pounds away. I think he’s going to be a monster and he’s got another two inches to grow.”
Irving, who said he has offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. Joe’s, was arguably the most impressive player overall at the event. After scoring 47 and 48 points in two games last year for MKA, the West Orange native will join a backcourt that already includes the North Carolina-bound Strickland, Kevin Boyle Jr., Derrick Gordon, Dean Kowalski, Travis Price and Shaq Stokes. That group gives the Celtics arguably the deepest backcourt in the state, certainly moreso than St. Anthony, which graduated six Division I-bound seniors.
“Obviously, the goal is to compete nationally and to win the state championship,” Boyle said. “Our schedule is so difficult next year, it’s going to be very difficult to go out without one or two ‘L’s.”
“We have six teams in the Top 10 in the City of Palms in Florida.”
St. Patrick will also meet Lance Stephensonand Lincoln on ESPN2 on Feb. 13 at Columbia or LIU and will play Oak Hill the following day in the PrimeTime Shootout.
“Playing on ESPN in front of the whole world, that’s a dream,” Irving said.
But with this win, the Celtics feel that much better about next season.
“Aside from a state championship, we want a national championship,” Irving said.
The event moved from Seton Hall and lacked much of a crowd or ambience. It also was missing the New York Catholic League powers Rice, Christ the King and St. Raymond…Irving said he will also attend the Steve Nash and LeBron James Nike Academies. He and Strickland will both be at Nash this week…Plainfield sophomore Isaiah Epps poured in 28 of his his team-high 30 points in the second half of a 92-89 OT loss to Windsor (Conn.) in the semifinals. The 6-foot-2 Epps holds offers from Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. Joe’s. He and Plainfield coach Pete Vasil are headed to Maryland Tuesday for an unofficial visit with Terps head coach Gary Williams. Several members of Epps’ family will also attend…Plainfield frosh Tyrone Johnson, who holds an offer from Rutgers, added 27 points in the semi…6-7 Windsor junior Adrian Satchell tallied a game-high 34 points in the win over Plainfield. He holds offers from Siena, Fairfild an Quinnipiac, according to Windsor coach Ken Smith…6-6 St. Patrick junior Josh Daniel holds an offer from Rider…In consolation play, Passaic Tech earned a nice victory over a Bloomfield Tech team it had lost to badly last season.
St. Patrick 54, Seton Hall Prep 41
St. Benedict’s 74, Neumann-Goretti (Pa.), 65
Windsor (Conn.) 71, The NIA School 71
Plainfield 67, Susquehanna (Pa.) 57
St. Patrick 54, St. Benedict’s 41
Windsor 92, Plainfield 89 (OT)
St. Patrick 54, Windsor 17
(PHOTO COURTESY JAY GOMES/NJHOOPS.COM)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.