Monday, June 4, 2012

Boston Shootout 2012 Recap

Each year many of the top AAU teams from the northeast compete in the Boston Shootout. This year’s event took place this weekend at Tufts University’s Cousens Gymnasium in Medford, MA. The NH Notebook was in the house on both Friday night and Saturday, and I was very impressed by the talent and level of play I witnessed.

A number of players from NH were on display, and they definitely held their own out there, especially considering they were playing against some of the top prospects in the entire country.

On Friday night there was just one game on tap – the 3rd Annual Crotty Memorial Game. The game was played to honor the late Mike Crotty Sr., the founder and director of the Middlesex Magic AAU basketball program. The game pitted the Magic 17U team against the Rivals Basketball Club in a game that featured six local products. On Saturday we were on hand for the NE Playaz sophomores game vs. The City (NY) followed by the Rivals against the Eric Gordon All-Stars.

Rivals Basketball Club 87 Middlesex Magic 86
This was a very intense game as both teams really competed hard out there. It was a tale of two halves, with the Magic dominating the 1st half and the 2nd half belonging to the Rivals. In the end the difference was the Rivals’ depth, as they had nine kids who could all really play whereas the Magic really relied heavily on their starting five and didn’t get nearly as much production off their bench. And when you consider the games at this tournament were played with two 20 minute halves depth is very important. The win for the Rivals (and their depth) is even more impressive when you consider they had mostly underclassmen whereas the Magic starters were mostly post-grads. Additionally, the Rivals were playing without not only their best player but possibly the best sophomore prospect in the country in Noah Vonleh (Haverhill, MA) who sat the weekend out with a minor ankle injury.

Early on the teams went back-and forth trading buckets. Dimitri Floras (Merrimack, NH) came off a screen with the ball and made a nice dish inside to a cutting teammate for a layup. The Magic answered right back though, as Duncan Robinson (New Castle, NH) started to get in a rhythm. The long and athletic 6-foot-7 wing player drained a three-pointer off the catch from the wing. Then after a teammate deflected a pass he grabbed the loose ball around the three-point line, took it to the rim and slammed down a two handed dunk. That gave the Magic a 22-14 lead.
The Rivals kept battling though, as Kaleb Joseph (Nashua, NH) drove into the lane and made a great dish over to Mike LeBlanc (Dover, NH) for the layup. LeBlanc then made a strong offensive rebound and put-back. Still, the magic held a comfortable 38-29 lead.

Then the Magic went on a run to close out the 1st half and increased their lead even more. They got steals and rebounds on defense and turned them into easy baskets and three-pointers on the other end. They were flat out playing better team basketball. Harry Rafferty (Durham, NH) made a great pass to teammate Chris Braley who was cutting back-door for the layup. Rafferty also hit a couple of three-pointers, and Robinson also stepped into another three, hitting this time from the top of the key. Robinson then stepped into the lane defensively and took a charge. The Magic had all the momentum, and they led 57-39 at halftime.

It was a completely different story in the 2nd half. The Rivals picked up their defensive intensity right away to start the 2nd half, and the offense started to flow better as well. Floras hit a step-back three from the corner, then made it back-to-back threes by draining a pull-up jumper from the top of the key. Just like that the Magic lead was down to 10, 63-53 and there was still a long way to go.

Joseph was leading the way defensively for the Rivals, as he really started to play some tough ‘D’ on Rafferty, making it difficult for him to get the Magic into their offense. Still, Robinson (who had 19 points on the game) was cool under the pressure, making a smooth drive to the rim and finish over the Rivals’ interior defense. Unfortunately for the Rivals though, Joseph picked up his fourth personal foul with 13:40 left in the 2nd half and his team down 65-56.

“The refs were calling it tight on the outside but letting everything go inside” Joseph commented after the game.

So the Rivals had no Vonleh and Joseph was on the bench with foul trouble. But again, this is a very deep Rivals squad. Floras (who had 13 points on the game) drained yet another three-pointer, cutting the Magic lead to 65-62. And with 9:00 left to play the Rivals actually took the lead, 69-67. They were on a 30-10 run to start the 2nd half.

The Magic were hanging tough though, as Rafferty (who was having a tough 2nd half so far) made another great pass to a back-door cutter for a layup. Still, the Rivals were able to increase their lead to 82-77 with 3:34 left, and then Joseph came back in the game with the four fouls.

Joseph immediately made his presence felt, as you could tell he was just itching to get back on the court after sitting and watching for so long. LeBlanc grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed it up the floor and then dished it over to Joseph on the right wing. Joseph took it hard to the rim and made a strong spin move into the lane before dishing it back over to LeBlanc cutting to the basket on the left side who then finished with the layup. It was a very well executed 3-on-2 break. That put the Rivals up 84-77 late, forcing the Magic to call a timeout. Joseph was pumped as his team came towards the bench, as it looked like they had this game won.

The Magic weren’t ready to give up quite yet, though. They got a couple of quick hoops to cut the Rivals lead to 84-81 with 1:14 left. Rafferty missed a pair of three-pointers late which would have cut into that lead. With the Rivals now clinging to an 85-83 lead with under a minute left, Floras missed the front end of a 1-and-1. That gave the Magic possession with a chance to tie or take the lead with 18 seconds remaining. The Rivals played some great pressure defense though, not allowing the Magic to get any good looks. They got the ball over to their big man Peter Miller who took a contested jumper from the baseline. The shot was no good, the Rivals got the rebound, they got the ball over to Joseph who was fouled and made both free throws to make it 87-83. Rafferty (12 points) drilled a last second three-pointer but the Rivals hung on for a thrilling 87-86 win. The back court of Joseph and Floras is very tough to stop for any opposing team.

“We were actually AAU teammates together when we were younger on the Shamrocks” explained Joseph, who has been getting recruited by schools like Cincinnati, Louisville and Tennessee. “We won three straight state titles. We like playing together.”

The City (NY) 84 NE Playaz 59
The NE Playaz sophomores team features a pair of NH products, in Collin McManus (Bedford, NH) and Ian Sistare (Dublin, NH). The Playaz are a good team, however in this game they ran into a team from New York that might just be one of the top 16U teams in the entire country. They were fast, they played intense pressure defense, they crashed the boards and they simply did not miss from the perimeter. The Playaz never really got in a rhythm in this game, and fell 84-59.

McManus and Sistare were both in the starting lineup for the Playaz. Both of them are transferring to Northfield Mount Hermon this fall. The 6-foot-10 McManus had a couple of inside buckets early, finishing with 9 points and 4 rebounds. Sistare provided steady play in the back court, playing the majority of the game and chipping in with 7 points.

Eric Gordon All-Stars 80 Rivals Basketball Club 71
Even without Vonleh, the Rivals are one of the region’s top AAU teams. So if they lose you the team that beat them must be legit. The Eric Gordon All-Stars are from Indiana and yes, they are VERY good. Their point guard is 6-foot-5 and is a matchup nightmare. The Rivals got big games from Floras (20 points) and LeBlanc (15 points), but it wasn’t enough against a very dangerous Eric Gordon team.

Early on in this game the Rivals were actually the better team. Floras hit two quick threes to get things started. Then LeBlanc drilled a solid pull-up jumper at the elbow with a hand right in his face. Floras then drove to the rim and made a smooth floater in the lane over the outstretched hand of a 6-foot-7 kid. The Rivals went up 32-24 early, but then the Eric Gordon All-Stars made a run to take a 43-42 lead into halftime.

With the Rivals trailing early in the 2nd half, Joseph made a strong drive to the rim and finish in traffic. Floras then made a great move on the break, scoring on three defenders with a nifty reverse layup. Floras continued to put on a show as he shook his defender with the dribble and hit another three-pointer, with this one tying the game up at 52-52.

That’s when the Eric Gordon team started to take over, as they regained the lead and went up by double digits. It is obvious they have a bunch of future Division I players on their roster. Playing against that kind of a team will only make the Rivals better in the long run. And to their credit they never gave up.

LeBlanc really played well on both ends of the floor in the 2nd half. He crashed the offensive boards and went up strong with a put-back, then on the next trip down the floor he drained a three off the catch from the corner. Then on defense he stepped in and drew a charge on the 6-foot-5 point guard from the Eric Gordon All-Stars. Rivals head coach Vin Pastore is not easily pleased, but even he was clapping after that play!

Joseph (8 points) again battled foul trouble in this game, and with 3:23 left to play and the Rivals down 75-66 he fouled out. The Eric Gordon All-Stars held on from there for the win.

Class of 2013
Duncan Robinson, 6’7”, Middlesex Magic – It is about time that this kid starts getting some ink on the NH Notebook. Robinson recently graduated from the Governor’s Academy and will now be doing a post-grad year at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he will play alongside his AAU teammates Rafferty and Braley. Robinson is a very intriguing prospect with good size and length at the wing position, plus the ability to shoot it from the outside or drive to the rim. He’s athletic and can play the game at a fast pace, always looking to get out, run and push the tempo to create turnovers and on defense and turn them into easy baskets on the other end.

Harry Rafferty, 5’11”, Middlesex Magic – Rafferty was matched up with either Joseph or Floras all game. Those are not easy players to deal with, but Rafferty more than held his own. He limited his turnovers, despite being pressured in the back court all game and having either Floras or Joseph all over him the whole game. Rafferty was able to free himself up for some looks and knocked down shots from the perimeter.

Class of 2014
Dimitri Floras, 6’1”, Rivals Basketball Club – Floras was very impressive, leading the Rivals in both scoring and assists in the two games we had covered. He controlled the tempo, and knew just when to force the action and when to dish the ball off to the open man. Floras was lethal from beyond the arc, especially when pulling up for jumpers off the dribble. He forced turnovers on defense and got out ahead of the ball and finished on the break a number of times. He showed good instincts and the ability to constantly make plays either for himself or teammates and did so without turning it over.

Mike LeBlanc, 6’6”, Rivals Basketball Club – LeBlanc had a very good showing, scoring 15 points vs. Eric Gordon and 8 points vs. the Middlesex Magic. He showed good versatility by scoring inside and outside, hitting shots off the catch and off the dribble and also went hard after rebounds. LeBlanc started the break by rebounding and firing outlet passes, but also ran the floor well and finished in transition. Overall he showed that he can play at a high level and has good size, length and an intriguing skill set. If he can get in the weight room more his stock could really rise, and going to New Hampton now should help with that.

Kaleb Joseph, 6’2”, Rivals Basketball Club – Joseph battled foul trouble in both games we had covered, but still made a number of high level plays. He has good size and length for the point guard position, which allows him to see over the top of a defense and see the whole floor, while also allowing him to pressure smaller guards and force them into turnovers. Joseph is at his best in transition, as he always seems to make the right decisions with the basketball.

Eric Gendron, 6’3”, Rivals Basketball Club – Gendron came off the bench to provide solid back court minutes. He attacked the rim in transition and also hit the mid-range jumper.

Class of 2015
Collin McManus, 6’10”, NE Playaz – McManus used his size to grab boards on both ends of the floor and also gain position inside for dump-down passes from teammates which he converted into layups.

Class of 2016
Ian Sistare, 6’2”, NE Playaz – Sistare played the point this past winter for Trinity, but on the Playaz he is a wing. Showed a solid mid-range game, made plays off the dribble and did a solid job of protecting the basketball against the intense full court pressure defense of The City team.

Matt Barr (Exeter, NH) from the MB Nation sophomores team was also playing in this event. Unfortunately though, I wasn't able to make any of their games. Barr has been having a very productive AAU season so far with MB Nation, though.

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