By Eugene Rapay (@erapay5)
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops
WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Archbishop Stepinac's gymnasium was packed for the ninth annual
Frankie Williams Charity Classic, a tripleheader which featured just over 80 Division I-bound
and undecided top-ranked players, showcasing the best of the best in boys and girls high school basketball within the tri-state area.
The event, which is named after mentor and coach Frankie Williams, was first held in 2008, a year after he had passed away from kidney disease. The standing-room-only crowd got to witness the local stars of tomorrow and come together for a charitable fundraiser.
Many former participants went on to make their mark on the Division I college basketball scene, with some going even further. Current NBA players Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets), Tobias Harris (Los Angeles Clippers), and Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) are just a few of the professional players that participated in the Frankie Williams Charity Classic during their high school days.
Here are some of the standouts from Thursday night:
Boys' National Game
Nazreon Reid (2018/Roselle Catholic/Roselle, NJ): One of the highly-touted high school
players to headline the event, the LSU-bound big man made it look easy on the floor. Reid has a penchant for throwing down thunderous slam dunks that can drive a crowd wild, but he also proved to be more than just a one-dimensional player. The 6-foot-9 forward is nimble on his feet, showing off a couple of smooth stepback mid-range jumpers. He can even stretch the floor out to the perimeter, where he comfortably took and made a few three-pointers. With a solid physical frame and an ability to anchor the paint on both ends of the court, having these other skills to his game makes him that much more of an intriguing player to watch.
Alan Griffin (2018/Archbishop Stepinac/White Plains, NY): Griffin's stock was on the rise
throughout an impressive senior season with the Crusaders, one that culminated in the school's first-ever state federation title. A future member of the Illinois Fighting Illini, Griffin will look to take his ability as a talented scorer to the Midwest. Griffin is capable of scoring in a variety of ways -- catch-and-shoot, attacking the basket, pulling up off the dribble, and he certainly has the tools to do it. He is a quick, agile player--one that has great ball-handling, and can possibly be a game-changer when he gets hot. He can score at a high rate and is dangerous once he gets into a rhythm. Basketball runs in his DNA, as his father, Adrian, played at Seton Hall for four years and is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His two siblings, Adrian Jr. and Aubrey, are also high school standouts.
Anthony Nelson (2018/South Kent/New York, NY): With Khadeen Carrington having graduated from Seton Hall, Kevin Willard is getting a player that is so reminiscent of the 1,846-point scorer. Both are New Yorkers, weren't exactly the most well-known high school prospects at a national level, and have similar skill sets. Nelson is that quick combo guard that can handle playmaking duties, but also thrive when he’s playing off-ball. He has excellent handles and is able to blow by his defender to finish at the basket -- even in traffic, too. Nelson also has a mid-range jumper in his arsenal and seems to be comfortable with taking shots off the dribble. If he is anything like Carrington, he will be dangerous within the next few years.
Franck Kepnang (2021/Macduffie Prep/Granby, Mass.): It's hard to believe that the bullish 6-foot-10, 220 pound center is just a rising sophomore. He has the physical build of someone well beyond his age and certainly catches the crowd's eye with the way he is able to viciously dunk the ball. Kepnang seems to always be looking for a posterizing, rim-rattling play, and often puts himself in great position inside to free himself for a slam. So far, he has four offers to his name -- Dayton, La Salle, Fordham, and VCU. It's only a matter of time before more schools take notice.
Savion Lewis (2018/Half Hollow Hills East/Huntington Station, NY): New York State's Mr. Basketball showed that he might actually be the best in the tri-state area, as he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Boys' National Game. The Quinnipiac-bound point guard had his athleticism on pure display, with his blazing speed and quickness taking the lead as he drove past his defender and to the basket. He also can knock down shots from deep and has solid court vision in setting up his teammates.
Girls' National Game
Kadaja Bailey (2018/St. Mary's/Long Beach, NY): Joe Tartamella didn't have to work hard to sell St. John's to the 6-foot point guard. She had dreamed of being a member of the Red Storm, and once they offered her a scholarship, she took it right away. Bailey is capable of bringing a multi-faceted approach to Queens next fall. Known for her scoring ability, amassing over 2,000 points over her high school career, she proved to be able to contribute in other areas of the game. Bailey can also facilitate and create for others, as well as add a hard-nosed mentality on defense -- diving for balls, blocking shots, and giving a tough effort. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the Girls' National Game.
"It felt great; I actually felt like a superstar, I'm not really used to this," she said of taking home MVP honors and playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd. "I guess I gotta get used to it."
Maddy Siegrist (2018/Our Lady of Lourdes/Poughkeepsie, NY): Siegrist was also honored for her play, and like Bailey, just so happens to also be Big East-bound. The 6-foot-1 guard is headed for Villanova and the Main Line. It was clear from the opening tip that she is the type of player Harry Perretta enjoys, one that isn't afraid to crash the boards, fight for rebounds, and play tenaciously. Siegrist is excellent at cleaning up the glass, scoring a majority of her points off putbacks. She has a high motor, great leaping ability, and is able to rebound over multiple opponents. When she arrives at Villanova, don't be surprised if she throws a dunk down, she certainly can achieve the elevation to do so.
"It's been an amazing journey for me," Siegrist said, in reflection of her basketball career thus far. "It wasn't like I was in eighth grade and all these schools were offering me. It was really a process. Slowly, I was getting low level Division I and then it got bigger. It's just amazing to see how it all turned out."
Brandy Thomas (2018/Christ the King/Queens, NY): Coming from a storied high school girls' basketball program in Christ the King, Thomas will bring a tough, hardened approach to the basketball court when she suits up for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. Thomas might only be 5-foot-8, but she is capable of playing multiple positions and rumbling with whoever stands in her way. Misses don't seem to bother her much, as she maintains a confidence and high motor when it comes to approaching everything else on the court. She is a physical player and isn't afraid to play through contact inside. Her versatility and toughness will be instrumental to her success at the next level.
Boys' Regional Game
Majur Majak (2018/Patrick School/Elizabeth, NJ): It's hard to miss a 7-foot-1 center like
Majak, who's definitely more than just a basketball player with a tall frame. The Boys' Regional Game Most Valuable Player is very mobile. Not only can he be an interior presence on both ends of the court, but he also welcomes the challenge of stepping out of the paint and defending guards. He was not shy to call out opposing guards to take them on one-on-one, and he was up for the challenge. It's a trait that might be overlooked, aside from the expected abilities that come with his size like rim protecting, dunking, and being able to block shots -- which he's pretty good at. He cleaned up a number of his team's mistakes, turning missed shots into putback dunks. Although he was named the game's MVP, he's maintaining a humble approach as he prepares to continue his journey at Saint Peter's.
"I go to the weight room and workout every day, because I need to get better," Majak said. "I feel myself -- I don't feel ready. I need to work hard to get better every day."
Brandon Redendo (2018/Trinity-Pawling/Stormville, NY): Although his shot was spotty at
times on Thursday night, he's previously shown a knack for being able to drain shots from well beyond the arc. However, his ball-handling and improved dribbling was evident. Redendo showed off his fancy footwork and crafty crossover moves to get to the basket. He got into a groove late in the game, but his physical tools remained consistent all-throughout. He is a shifty point guard that looks to set up others first and can certainly be an asset at the next level. The question for Redendo is, where? He is still undecided, but plans on making a decision at some point within the next week. He will be deciding between America East and Northeast Conference schools. Until that day comes...
"I've been working on quickness, ball handling...five or six times, going up and down the court, and just trying to get strong at the next level," Redendo said. "I can't just be a three-point shooter as a point guard at the next level. I have to get to the paint, look for my teammates, use my ball handling moves and stuff. After that, the three-point shots will come eventually, but setting up my teammates and getting to the paint is the most important part."
William Lee (2019/Bishop Loughlin/Bronx, NY): He was on the losing team of a fairly one-sided Boys' Regional Game. Despite this, with the way Lee played, you wouldn't have known that his team was down. At 5-foot-10, he wasn't the biggest player out there, but he was electrifying. He can thrive in catch-and-shoot situations, or even create for himself off the dribble. Lee is a quick and shifty guard, with excellent ball-handling skills. He was tenacious in his approach to all areas of the game, but was fun to watch once he got into a rhythm. Threes, layups, jumpers -- you name it, he is fearless, when he has the ball.