Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Gilligan and Walker Lead Bishop Elite in Nationals
The Bishop 17U team also went to other big tourneys, including the Hall of Fame Invitational and Gym Rat Challenge. Their biggest win was over the Long Island Lightning, which was the #19 ranked team in the country at the time, led by Memphis recruit Kuran Iverson.
I recently got my hands on some game tape of 3 different Bishop Elite games from down at AAU Nationals in Orlando. Here's what I thought.
The 2 players who really stood out the most were Devin Gilligan (pictured above) and Kamahl Walker. I was very impressed with the progression they have both made over the course of the summer. Gilligan made the all-tournament team at the Hall of Fame Invitational, and Walker made the all-tournament team at the Gym Rat Challenge. Both players played at a high level, fearlessly matching up toe-to-toe with some of the top players in the country.
The other players who stood out on the game film that I saw were Trevor Glassman, Richard O'Brien (both from Bedford, NH), Mabor Gabriel and Troy Pelletier. Also contributing off the bench were Tom Nason, Zoubel Iradakunda and Zach Grattan.
This is a team made up exclusively with kids from New Hampshire. They had less reclassified / post-grad players than virtually every team they played against. Not only that, but many of the top AAU programs out there are sponsored by a shoe company like Nike, Adidas, Reebok or Fila. Either that or they are directed by a current or former NBA player like Eric Gordon, Terry Porter, etc. In either case they have tons of funding. But the Bishop doesn't have nearly that kind of budget. They do more with less. Credit should be given to Sudi Lett, TJ Thompson and the kids in the program.
Now, back to what I saw on the game tape. This team plays a brand of basketball that is not only fun to watch but it will prepare these kids for their careers at the next level. They play straight up man defense, with all 5 guys extending out and really getting up and pressuring their man. They press full court occasionally, and look to push the ball in transition and attack the rim at every opportunity. On offense they go 4 out 1 in, spread the floor and play drive-and-kick basketball. This creates more room for Gilligan, Walker and company to create off the dribble and make plays.
Here's a closer look at what I saw on film from each player on the team, all from the Class of 2013.
Devin Gilligan, 6'5", Kimball Union Academy - Gilligan is the leader of this team. He's the only one on the squad who was playing his second year as a member of the Bishop 17U team, as he reclassified to 2013 last summer. He was one of the top players and leading scorers on the team in 2011 and this year was no different. Since heading off to prep school Gilligan has matured a lot and he has also gotten much bigger and stronger physically. He has improved his outside shot and his defense. Down in Orlando he showed that he is a deadly scoring weapon from the wing - fiercely attacking the rim off the bounce with a variety of dribble-drive moves (including his patented spin move) with the strength to finish inside through contact. And if his defender backed off to play for the drive he would face up and drain the three ball. Gilligan is an intriguing prospect entering his senior season at KUA, where he will team up with big man Abdul-Malik Abu and point guard Devon Thomas to form one of the best trios in New England.
Kamahl Walker, 5'10", Bridgton Academy - the guy that runs the show and controls the tempo for the team on offense. He applies the pressure at the top of the key defensively and I really liked what I saw on film from him. The two words I would use to describe what I saw from him in those games down in Orlando - fast and fearless. Walker just has that extra gear most players don't possess, with blazing speed in the open floor or in the half court. He always goes full throttle on both ends of the floor. The game is played at a much different speed in college and in the NEPSAC (where he'll be playing this winter for Bridgton) than what he is used to in the NHIAA, but luckily with his quickness it will be an easy adjustment. And for fearlessness Walker was constantly driving to the rim, leaping up and throwing his body into the paint making plays, even with defenders in there waiting for him who are MUCH bigger. He showed both qualities on one play - against a full court press, he broke the press all by himself, slicing his way through all 5 defenders and fearlessly going up at the rim for the finish. He also stepped outside and knocked down the three ball with ease.
Trevor Glassman, 6'2", New Hampton School - in the games I saw, Glassman was right up there with Gilligan and Walker as the team's top scorers. Glassman got more minutes with Majak Wenyin not being there and Pelletier playing with a wrist injury and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Glassman showed once again that he is a knock down three-point shooter, and that when he is on there are few better shooters in New England. He is especially dangerous when shooting off the catch, off kick-outs from teammates. Not only was Glassman on fire from beyond the arc, but he also played some terrific on the ball defense. It was late in one of the games I saw and the Bishop was down by 2 and Glassman was legit all over his man, way out past the three-point line, the kid wanted to get ride of the ball as soon as he could!
Richard O'Brien, 5'10", St. Andrew's School - what can you say, O'Brien is hard nosed, blue collar kid who flat out works his tail off out there. Not the most athletic kid out there, but you'd be hard pressed to find many players out there who have the work ethic that he does or play with as much heart. O'Brien is a tenacious defender, both in the half court and on the press. He can stick with anyone and really pressure the basketball hard so his guy turns it over. On offense he is a smart, unselfish floor general. He looked to dish it to the open man and set teammates up for looks first and then looked for his own offense second. O'Brien got out ahead of the basketball, finishing in transition and also knocked down the outside shot.
Mabor Gabriel, 6'7", Trinity HS - long and athletic face-up 4 man. Gabriel defended the basket by coming over on help side defense and routinely blocking or altering shot attempts. He also showed a very strong handle and shooting stroke for a kid his size.
Troy Pelletier, 6'3", Manchester Central HS - give him credit for playing through and injury, but the wrist was definitely holding him back a little. Still, Pelletier picked his spots when attacking offensively, driving to the rim and not forcing anything.
Tom Nason, 6'10", Berwick Academy - big guy who is working hard and getting better. Came in off the bench when the Bishop wanted to go with a bigger lineup. Nason used his big frame and long arms to clog the middle and make it difficult for opposing teams to attack the paint. He rebounded well, keeping the ball high and hitting the outlet.
Zoubel Iradakunda, 6'2", Manchester Memorial HS - Zoubel is quick, athletic wing who came in off the bench to give a breather to guys like Gilligan, Pelletier and Glassman. Iradakunda has good length and leaping ability and as a result plays much bigger than his size. He's a tough defender, excels in open court and can also stick the outside shot.
Zach Grattan, 6'8", John Stark HS - Grattan gave the Bishop another big body to go into battle when facing teams from around the country who had guys that were 6-foot-8 or bigger. He went up strong with shots inside and really battled on the boards.