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.
Despite the drop off in high-major talent in New Jersey from 2011 to 2012, the Garden State remains full of prospects. This weekend, schools from all around the state, participated in the Summer Primetime Shootout. The teams included Roselle Catholic, Plainfield, St. Patrick, St. Benedict’s, Trenton Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep, among others. Here are some school lists and evaluations from some of the notable players who participated.
DeAndre Bembry – A 2013 forward who transferred in from North Carolina, Bembry could be the best player on St. Patrick this season with most players leaving. An athletic 6-foot-6 combo forward, Bembry is extremely aggressive. He lists, “Miami, Villanova, Penn State, Seton Hall, Charlotte and Virginia Tech.” Before the season starts, he plans to sit down with his mother and potentially setup some visits.
Jo’el Samuel – Another 2013 transfer who will play for new St. Patrick head coach Chris Chavannes, the 6-foot-9 center is still extremely raw and skinny. However, he has a good skill set for his age and size. Thus far, Radford is the only school which has come on strong for him. Former VCU assistant Mike Jones recently got the job there and will be keeping tabs on the big man.
Isaiah Watkins – Another talented transfer for St. Benedict’s, Watkins came over with Denzell Taylor. The 2013 combo forward has a tremendous presence in the post and gets it done consistently on the defensive side. Since his arrival to the United States in June, he has benefited. Watkins has a whopping 32 schools pursuing him. On his brother’s phone, he keeps a list of schools who have offered or shown interest. That list includes, “Elon, Missouri, Santa Clara, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Iowa State, Charlotte, Virginia, Washington, Temple, West Virginia, Michigan, George Mason, Ohio, Ohio State, Georgetown, Villanova, Indiana, Boston College, Georgia State, Baylor, Boise State, Purdue, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, Lafayette, Stanford, Boston College, Niagara, Kansas and Harvard.” According to his father, Dave, he will attempt to setup visits to Harvard, Cincinnati and Temple either before the summer is over or in the fall.
Jared Nickens – An emerging 2013 star for St. Patrick, Nickens is extremely raw. A long, athletic 6-foot-6 shooting guard and wing, Nickens had a huge summer with the New Jersey Celtics when he broke out at AAU Nationals. During that time, his stock blew up. He lists offers from, “Seton Hall, St. Joe’s and SMU,” along with interest from, “Villanova, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia, Hampton, Wagner, VCU and Maryland.” He is set to visit St. Joe’s on August 27th and could trip to Maryland sometime in September.
Jordan Arthur – The 2013 forward is officially enrolled at St. Peter’s Prep and it is paying dividends academically. Arthur, who missed the majority of the summer due to injury, is still lacking the skill set that is essential to a big man. Being around 6-foot-7, he is an undersized power forward who has loads of potential. Arthur is currently hearing from, “Miami, West Virginia, Florida State, Florida and St. Joe’s.” He says Miami and West Virginia are recruiting him the hardest.
Brandon Taylor – The 2012 power forward from Trenton Catholic was dominant in the post where he reeked havoc inside. A big body who isn’t afraid to shoot, Taylor has improved so much since his sophomore year of high school. He currently has offers from, “Miami, Penn State, Drexel, Temple, South Florida, Richmond, Siena, Maryland and Texas Tech,” with some interest from, “Alabama.” Taylor is on an unofficial visit to Drexel on Monday, followed by trips to Richmond on Wednesday, Miami on August 26th and a visit to USF “sometime before the Miami visit.” After those visits he will likely narrow his list to five schools or less.
Melvin Johnson – The incoming St. Benedict’s transfer played well with his new squad. A 2012 shooting guard from New York, Johnson shot the ball extremely well and used his floater to his advantage, as well. Since the summer started, his game has improved and become much more consistent. He listed offers from, “Virginia Tech, Miami, South Florida, College of Charleston, George Mason, La Salle, Hofstra and South Carolina.” Johnson will cut his list to three or four schools soon and plans to sign in the early signing period. He has a visit planned to head down to Virginia Tech the weekend of September 3rd for the Hokies’ first football game.
Tyrone O’Garro – The 2012 wing has officially transferred from St. Patrick to St. Peter’s Prep, according to coach Todd Decker. O’Garro decided to pursue the school because of, “good academics and a more ambitious student body.” He currently has offers from, “New Hampshire, NJIT, Monmouth and UMBC,” with interest from, “Florida Atlantic, Columbia, Dartmouth and Lafayette.” He will likely make his college decision after the season and is looking for a college that is academic in nature.
Charles Cooke – A long, lanky 2012 shooting guard from Trenton Catholic was inconsistent, yet showed signs of promise. Cooke is a talented shooter who has a near 7-foot wingspan and can get to the hole. His potential is unlimited as he is still working on his game. On Saturday, Towson offered the rising senior. The Tigers join, “Siena, St. Joseph’s, Siena, La Salle, James Madison, Hofstra and Delaware,” who have all offered, along with interest from, “Boston and George Mason.” He visited St. Joe’s this past week.
Justin Sears – A 2012 combo forward from Plainfield showed off why he could be a legit mid-major steal. At 6-foot-7, he has the right amount of athleticism, talent and size to be an excellent combo forward in college. If he improves his handle and versatility, he could be a major threat playing on the wing in attack mode. Sears lists, “Marist, Boston, Fairfield, Lehigh, Holy Cross, Penn, Princeton and Yale.” By the end of August, he will likely cut his list to five schools or less.
Sekou Harris – A small, explosive 2012 point guard from Plainfield will prove a lot of people wrong at the next level. Harris’ ability to shoot the ball, get to the hole, along with running the team as the floor general could make this talented Plainfield team get very far during his senior year. A number of schools are after Harris, who will likely take official visits to, “Quinnipiac, Florida Atlantic and possibly Pepperdine.” He is also hearing from, “Monmouth, Robert Morris, UMES and Iona.” He is set to make his college decision next month.
Tyler Roberson – The newest member of the Roselle Catholic team was arguably the top pickup in New Jersey basketball this year. A long, lean 2013 forward who has limitless potential is bound to be a star. After transferring over from Union a few weeks ago, the forward played limited minutes in his first games with Roselle Catholic due to inexperience and foul trouble. He listed offers from, “Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Joe’s and Kansas State,” to go with interest from, “Kansas and the majority of the Big East.” Roberson does not have any schools standing out at the moment, nor does he have any plans to take visits.
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.