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. Benedict’s Prep Notebook: Coaches Flocking to See Duval, Canadian Invasion Continues, Cain Talks Delaware Commitment
NEWARK — From the Dan Hurley Era to the current regime under head coach Mark Taylor, St. Benedict’s Prep has consistently produced a slew of high-major basketball players and a growing number of NBA standouts.
Former Grey Bees J.R. Smith (Knicks), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers) and Tyler Ennis (Suns) are all in the NBA, while Samardo Samuels, Lance Thomas and Scott Machado have all spent time in the Association. Others, like Myck Kabongo and Lamar Patterson, may still get their chance.
Isaiah Briscoe, who began his high school career at St. Ben’s before transferring to Roselle Catholic, is projected as the No. 7 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com.
So it was no surprise that a slew of high-major coaches were on hand at the Newark school on Tuesday to check out their latest wave of talent, which includes 2017 guards Trevon Duval and Nathaniel Pierre, Delaware-bound 2015 guard Eli Cain and a half dozen Canadian players as well.
SMU head coach Larry Brown and assistant Ulric Maligi, Pitt assistant Brandin Knight, Miami assistant Mike Huger, Villanova assistant Ashley Howard, Iona associate head coach Jared Grasso and assistant Brock Erickson and Quinnipiac assistant Eric Eaton were all on hand.
“When I saw Larry Brown came to the gym, I shook his hand, I was honored,” said 6-7, 220-pound Canadian forward Kevin Hamlet.
When the day was done, the 6-foot-2 Duval (pictured), who helped the NJ Playaz win the Peach Jam this summer, had added offers from Miami and SMU to Villanova, Seton Hall and Rutgers. Pierre, the transfer from from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s, added a Miami offer. And Iona offered 2016 forwards Hamlet and 6-8 Arnaldo Toro of Puerto Rico.
“He’s an athletic combo guard,” one coach in attendance said. “He can break you down off the dribble and make shots out to 22 feet.”
“It pushes me to keep working hard to get to the next level,” Duval, who was born in Jamaica, Queens and raised in Delaware, said of the coaches coming.
This year is no different, as the current Grey Bees roster features six Canadians: Hamlet, 6-4 2015 guard Kamar McKnight (pictured), 6-1 2016 guard Marcus Ottey, 6-6 2016 wing Daniel Cummings, 6-8 2016 forward Isaiah Mike and 6-3 2016 guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater.
“I heard the ball program here is very great and a lot of Canadian players came here like Tristan Thompson and Tyler Ennis, so it’s kind of like a Canadian wave coming through,” said the 6-7 Hamlet, who spent last year at Modesto (CA) Christian.
The big redhead impressed the coaches on hand, as he picked up an offer from Iona for his first one.
“He’s an undersized forward with a great motor,” one coach said. “He’s a really good finisher around the rim.”
Said Hamlet: “I’m trying to show my post game and my perimeter game, and my defensive intensity as well.”
Like the Canadians before him, Hamlet is in the U.S. to gain exposure and pursue his dreams.
“It’s every’s Canadian’s dream to follow Tyler, Tristan Thompson and Myck Kabongo, because they’re in the NBA,” he said. “Andrew Wiggins, guys like that.”
CAIN TALKS DELAWARE COMMITMENTEli Cain committed to Delaware over the weekend but hadn’t spoken publicly about it until we caught with him after practice Tuesday.
“I felt it was a great fit,” the 6-6 Cain said. “I really like Coach [Monte] Ross, Coach [Phil] Martelli [Jr.]. I took a visit two weeks ago. I really liked the players and the campus. My family thought it was a good decision.”
Cain previously had Memphis and Oklahoma offers, but when Memphis picked up the Lawson brothers, Cain saw the writing on the wall.
“I just thought Delaware was the overall perfect fit for me,” he said.
Cain boosted his stock this summer by helping the Playaz win the Peach Jam. The team also featured Duval, Syracuse-bound big man Moustapha Diagne, uncommitted 2016 guard T.J. Gibbs and uncommitted 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe.
“It was really like a family to me,” Cain said. “I think that’s what got us over the hump. Playing with Isaiah, he just forces everybody to play hard, every play, we just feed off his energy.”
As for his fifth-year of high school, Cain won’t play with St. Ben’s National team but will play with their other team alongside 6-8 2015 forward Connor Shorten and 6-4 2015 guard Gassan Nehme — and he’s fine with that.
“It’s just certain games I can’t play in, I just can’t play in regular high school games,” he said. “I’m fine with that. I already committed I just want to get better.”
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.