Saturday, June 29, 2019

CHSAA June Team Camp notebook: Updates, standouts

By Eugene Rapay (@Erapay5)
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops

Archbishop Stepinac's R.J. Davis talks 2019 recruiting surge, Marquette, Georgetown visits

He's played alongside current Illinois player Alan Griffin, and his younger brother Adrian (A.J.), a five-star player in the class of 2021.

While Archbishop Stepinac is well aware of his value and what he is able to bring to the court with his energy, scoring ability, and athleticism, sometimes spectators from the outside don't get to see it, as the Griffin brothers receive most of the buzz. However, this year, things are starting to change, as college programs start to notice and the scholarship offers begin to pile up for rising senior R.J. Davis.

"As proud of I am, it's the hard work he's put into it, his family, and his mentality to stay focused at a crazy time in his life," Crusader head coach Pat Massaroni said of Davis' recruitment, which has now grown to over 20 offers, with 11 coming in since January 1. "I'm proud as his coach, I'm also proud of him and his ability to defend and lead. We all know he can score, but he's grown to do so much more for himself during this offseason."

Massaroni continued: "I think he's been a man on a mission that's kind of been underrated. He doesn't speak about it, but I can see it in him that he's been underrated. Now, the nation is seeing what he is and the level he can get to."

Since the New Year, Davis has fielded offers from Cincinnati, Iona, Georgetown, Providence, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Marquette, Northwestern, Florida, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, adding to a collection that also includes St. John's, Seton Hall, Fordham, Maryland, Manhattan, and many others.

He doesn't plan on trimming that list any time soon, and it could possibly grow to include North Carolina and Kansas in the coming weeks. Both schools were in to see Davis, with UNC assistant coach Hubert Davis in to see him Saturday afternoon and the Jayhawks scheduled to see him on Sunday. Of the bunch, he’s only visited two schools: Georgetown and Marquette.

"It was a good experience for both schools," Davis said of his recent visits. "They had a great campus, great coaching staff for both schools. Both schools were very welcoming, which I liked, working to continue to build a relationship."

Davis hopes to go somewhere that he is able to make an impact right away. As schools begin to take notice of the way he is able to score at all three levels of the floor, evolve into a tenacious defender, and a floor general, it will be interesting to see who else will step into the recruiting picture and what schools he will be eyeing more closely.

Cardinal Hayes' big man Shemani Fuller discusses first Division I, MAAC offers

With star point guard Joe Toussaint graduated and headed for Iowa, Cardinal Hayes is in search of a new leader. 

As 2021 guard Jaylen Murray was unavailable on Saturday, 6-foot-9 rising senior Shemani Fuller looked to make his case to step into the forefront as one of the veterans and biggest players on the court.

With his imposing size and athleticism, Fuller bullied the opposing St. Francis Prep Terriers, helping lead the way in a hard-fought victory. Fuller made his impression known with his powerful slam dunks and ability to clean up the glass.

His work throughout the offseason helped culminate in his first-ever Division I offers.

"It feels great, I've been patient," Fuller said of breaking into the Division I conversation. "I'm happy that my work is finally being seen. You don't honestly know how hard I've been working. I'm just glad that people are starting to see what I'm capable of. I haven't touched the surface yet, of what I could do."

Earlier this month, Rider and Quinnipiac offered the Cardinal Hayes big man.

"They said that they like me and that they would love to have me in their program," Fuller said. "They came to watch me today and yesterday. Rider said the same thing, they love how I play and stuff."

Fuller says that he's also received interest from Saint Peter's, Fordham, Iona, and New Hampshire.

St. Peter's Liam Murphy dazzles with 30-point shooting performance

6-foot-7 wing Liam Murphy (2020/St. Peter's) has been studying NBA players like Klay Thompson and Luka Doncic closely.

The Eagles' rising senior has a reputation for his ability to shoot the ball, flashing a smooth stroke whenever the ball is in his hands. In Saturday's game against Holy Cross, he surely put on his best impression of those NBA snipers.

Murphy finished with 30 points in St. Peter's win over Holy Cross, playing with every bit of confidence and swagger that comes with being a sharpshooter. By no means did this confidence show up in celebrations or through showboating -- Murphy is far from that of player -- but instead quietly with the shot selection. Murphy was taking and making shots from well beyond the arc. Even with a hand in his face or in tight pressure, Murphy found a way to put the ball through the hoop and did so from almost anywhere on the court.

"I'm putting up hundreds of thousands of shots per day," Murphy said of his greatest strength on the court. "My whole game is built off my shot. I want to keep learning the counters and just study the game -- and good shooters like Klay Thompson, Luka Doncic -- guys like that, just be able to play off my shot and make the game easier for everybody around me."

Murphy says he currently has offers from Arkansas-Little Rock, Saint Louis, LIU Brooklyn, American, Rider, and Lafayette. He's also received interest and has visited Ivy League schools. He says finding the balance between high academics and athletics will be crucial in selecting a school

"The highest academic, I really want to get a major and be able to kind of do something in the business workforce," Murphy said of his dream school. "I'm looking to go into economics and finance and get the best basketball experience, build a great bond with the guys and the coaches, and ultimately get that great degree from one of the schools."

Quick Hits:

-- Archbishop Stepinac five-star 2021 wing Adrian 'A.J.' Griffin emerged as one of the top talents in the New York area and in the entire country. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, he was unable to catch a piece of the weekend's action. He was there to support his teammates on Friday night, however, and was unavailable for the rest of the weekend. He also thinks this injury will hamper his ability to play in next month's Peach Jam. Griffin sustained a back injury during his 18-point performance to help the Team USA U-16 team capture the Gold Medal in the FIBA U-16 Tournament in Brazil over Canada. Griffin recently received a spree of offers from Duke, Villanova, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Michigan, and Kansas, adding to his count that also includes a number of other local schools in the tri-state area like Manhattan, St. John's, Seton Hall, Fordham, Rutgers, and UConn.

-- Malcolm Chimezie (2021/Archbishop Stepinac) is back in a groove after recently returning to basketball in mid-May after a surgery to remove a knee tumor had sidelined him for two months. The 6-foot-8 bruising forward made an impact in Stepinac's victory over St. Peter's, proving to be an anchor on both ends of the floor. An athletic forward that prides himself on rebounding and cleaning the glass, while demonstrating an improving ability to see the floor and pass out of the low block, Chimezie and his coaches hope to see a surge in his play and recruitment once he is fully re-acclimated to playing and improves now that he is fully healthy. He currently holds offers from Saint Peter's, Canisius, Bryant, Marist, and Manhattan. Chimezie says he's also heard from Holy Cross and a number of local schools like Hofstra, Columbia, Fordham, and Stony Brook.

-- It's never easy running with a short bench, but that's all Mount St. Michael had on Saturday night. With only six players suited up, it was locked in a close battle with camp host Archbishop Molloy. Ibrahim Wattara (2020/Mount St. Michael) was a key player, almost never taking a minute off. A 6-foot-5 wing, Wattara is a high-flyer. He has great leaping ability and excels at attacking the basket. While he's not the quickest, he makes up for with his fearlessness, the way he is able to finish strong over traffic and his dunking ability. Wattara currently has offers from Iona, Bryant, and a new one from Saint Peter's.

-- Basketball might be a tall man's game, but don't tell Darrell Victory (2022/St. Francis Prep) that. The 5-foot-6 rising sophomore was a sparkplug off the bench, helping St. Francis Prep almost complete a comeback against Cardinal Hayes. St. Francis was trailing by nearly 20 points before the Terriers started rallying back in the second half. Victory came up with crucial second half points, with his scrappy nature on defense -- generating turnovers and flying out in transition -- to also demonstrating the ability to finish in traffic and knock down the three-point shot. He's still young and has plenty of time to grow, but his quickness and tenacious approach will provide him with a great foundation early on. St. Francis Prep ultimately lost by three, but Victory's second-half effort did not go unnoticed.

-- St. Raymond's 2021 point guard Malachi Smith is hoping to break out and be the next talented guard to come out of the Bronx and the Ravens' storied program. He scored 18 points in St. Raymond's lopsided win over Holy Cross. A quick, elusive 6-foot point guard with solid vision, Smith is a weapon in transition. In the half-court, he's got a quick first step and can burst past his defender. He's unafraid of contact and doesn't get gunshy when it comes to moving through traffic. While he needs to work on being more consistent with scoring and finishing, the potential is there for Smith. He currently holds offers from UMass, Iona, Saint Peter's and Stony Brook. Rutgers, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Morgan State, Colorado, Seton Hall, Manhattan, and Syracuse also came in to see him.

-- Christ the King's Moussa Cisse was unavailable to play at the CHSAA Team Camp. The rising junior is one of the top prospects in the country, ranked as a consensus five-star recruit. He currently has offers from Georgetown, Georgia, UConn, and Pitt. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Justin Wright-Foreman selected by Utah Jazz in NBA Draft

Justin Wright-Foreman’s NBA dreams were realized as Hofstra star was drafted by Utah Jazz. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

In his first year at Hofstra University, Justin Wright-Foreman sat behind Juan’ya Green on a Colonial Athletic Association regular-season championship team, waiting for his own opportunity to lead the Pride to similar success. And in an era where too many disgruntled student-athletes transfer far too often and far too soon in search of instant gratification, Wright-Foreman was a throwback of sorts, remaining in Hempstead and honing his craft, working to improve the likelihood of his dream becoming a reality.

As a Thursday night turned to Friday morning at Barclays Center, where Wright-Foreman competed as a sophomore when Hofstra faced Kentucky in December of 2016, the hours of dedication from the Queens native reached a crescendo in the 53rd overall selection of the 2019 NBA Draft, when NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announced Wright-Foreman as the newest member of the Utah Jazz.

Wright-Foreman, Hofstra’s second-all-time leading scorer behind Charles Jenkins, becomes the Pride’s first draft choice since Jenkins, who was a second-round selection of the Golden State Warriors in 2011. The Jazz also made history for the CAA in the process, as Wright-Foreman and Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley — who was taken three spots prior, also by Utah — marked the first time the CAA had two players drafted in the same year since 1992.

“I heard my name and it was crazy,” Wright-Foreman told Zach Braziller of the New York Post as he recounted the delirium surrounding his nascent professional career. “It’s an emotional moment. Nobody knows what I’ve been through, all the late nights in the gym, staying there until 1 a.m., staying there until 2 a.m. To see it pay off is so relieving, but I know I have more to do.”

“Waiting for this all night!!!!!” Hofstra assistant coach Speedy Claxton tweeted shortly after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news of Wright-Foreman’s impending selection. The former Christ the King standout and first-round draft pick after leading Hofstra to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 has served as Wright-Foreman’s recruiter and mentor over the years, and his protege spoke in reverent tones of Claxton’s impact when he passed his predecessor at the point guard position on Hofstra’s career scoring list.

With 2,327 career points in his tenure on Long Island, Wright-Foreman brings an unparalleled knack to score at will to a Jazz backcourt that will afford him an instant opportunity to learn from two of the game’s best in Donovan Mitchell and recently acquired Mike Conley, Jr. Wright-Foreman is equally adept at rebounding the basketball for his position, and makes just as noticeable an impact without the ball in his hands as a facilitator on both ends of the floor.

“He’s just a marvelous, marvelous basketball player who — every game, every day — does something to make you just say, ‘wow,’ Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich exclaimed after Wright-Foreman drained a 34-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to cap off a 42-point effort against eventual CAA champion Northeastern on January 5. His finest hour came weeks later, when Wright-Foreman tied a program record with 48 points in a victory over William & Mary on February 9, a performance Mihalich praised by saying, “as you’re coaching, you’re trying not to also be in awe.”

Wright-Foreman is also Mihalich’s first-ever player to become a draft pick during his head coaching career. The twelfth Hofstra player to be drafted in program history, his career-ending streak of 88 consecutive double-figure scoring games was not only a school record, but the seventh-longest string in Division I history.