Hoophall Classic held annually on Martin Luther King Weekend in Springfield,MA personifies the term “Big Stage”. Platforms like this is what prospects play the game for.
Last year a record 35+ Canadian ballers participated in the prestigious event held on the campus of Springfield College home of the Basketball Hall Of Fame. This year a more mild Canadian feel in terms of quantity but no shortage of quality. Here is a primer of 14 prospects that will represent the red and white this weekend in New England.
2000 born 6-7 RJ Barrett
Sits no.1 on the ESPN rankings for class of 2019 except Barrett will most likely reclass to 2018 when it’s all said and done. RJ is the consensus top prospect in the entire American high school player pool or at very least in the conversation for it. Something Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker battled for their entire high school career until Wiggins strangle held the number one spot after Parker went down with injury in his senior season. Barrett is a son of a pro, the prince of Canadian basketball. Nicknamed 'Dont Panic' north of the border for his uncanny ability to seize the moments. How tough is RJ Barrett? he deals with double teams and triple teams at times and still manages to get to the line at an alarming rate and for the most part shoots a high percentage night in night out. In Montverde’s elimination game at last years DICKS Nationals Barrett was held to 0-10 from the field. The national spotlight is back on Barrett Monday afternoon on national television to redeem himself. No better time to show the nation why despite being from the Canadian suburbs he’s inner city tough. He only scored 7 points in last year’s victory at Hoophall on 3-of-10 shooting. He has unfinished business in Springfield. RJ has also been the center of controversy back home due to complaints of conflict of interest sorrounding his father who is an executive with Canada Basketball. Senior Barrett has been accused of catering too much for RJ at the expense of his peers. For one day only, lets focus on RJ, with the politics put aside expect a DONT PANIC performance Monday. Were thinking 30 point game, and fingers are crossed for 40.
1999 born 6-2 Marcus Carr (Committed to Pittsburgh)
There is no one questioning the toughness of Marcus Carr, after a knee injury that sidelined him the entire 2015-16 season, he’s returned in 2016-17 and now is a big time contributor in Kevin Boyles rotation. After regaining strength in his knee, Carr got back into the swing of things last summer playing AAU where he parlayed strong performances into a commitment to Pittsburgh for the fall of 2017. Confident, aggressive and assertive are some of the adjectives that describe Carr’s style of play on both ends of the ball.
1999 born 6-9 Grant Shepherd
After playing high school ball in British Columbia and back to back summers with the Canadian cadet program, Shepherd took his talents to Montverde, FL last fall. He was courted at the eleventh hour in an attempt to fill the void of Simi Shittu’s departure to Vermont, VT. Shepherd who doesn’t do anything great is a serviceable big man and under Boyle has been a situational prospect in his rotation. Garnering interest from Pac-12 schools Shepherd will look to increase his stock playing AAU ball along side RJ Barrett on the Nike EYBL circuit with Uplay Canada Basketball.
2000 born 6-2 Andrew Nembhard
The key to winning is poise under stress and Nembhards ability to be at ease under pressure is what separates him from his point guard peers. Mentally strong and always aware of all the elements in the game, this think pass first floor general demonstrates leadership skills second to none. He makes his teammates around him better. Playing on a loaded MVA squad with Carr and a 6-7 American guard committed to North Carolina Nembhard is being developed slowly but surely. One note from from his scouting file that stands out is in August at the adidas nations event in California, on a stacked roster with names like Nickeil Walker, Luguentz Dort and O`shae Brissett, it was Nembhard (134) who logged the most minutes. A testament to the trust the head coach had with Nembhard at the helm. Welcome to the hoop hall Andrew, the stage is yours.
1999 born 6-7 Emmanuel Akot
Nothing explains the upside Emmanuel has more than his offer list does. The pride of Winnepeg, Manitoba, Akot recently trimmed his list to Arizona, Oregon, Utah and Louisville. Akot stands 6-7 and primarily plays the three position. What enamours observers is his potential on the defensive end where he can defend multiple positions, Akot also relishes making plays offensively in the open court. How far has his perimeter game has come, is what scouts and observers are intrigued to see at Hoophall. After a stint the Canadian Cadet team last summer and averaging 9.9 points in 18 minutes in the U17 FIBA World Championships, look for Akot in the national spotlight to show why he`s regarded in the same conversations as a RJ Barrett and Simi Shittu when it comes potential with no ceiling.
1998 born 6-8 Josip Vrankic
A slender 6-8 with high IQ, Vrankic arrived in Utah as part of a package deal and since has emerged into a feel good story and Santa Clara commit. Teh Serbian Canadian is naturally left-handed, but has learned to shoot his jump shots right-handed while using his left hand for most of his layups and other shots inside. On offense he can stretch the defense with his shot and possesses passing ability and craftiness around the basket that enables Vrankic to fill it up regularly. In 12 games on the Under Armour circuit in 12 games for Canada Elite, Vrankic averaged 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. After a strong AAU summer Vrankic was selected to the U17 Canada squad for the 2016 FIBA Americas where he was seldomly used averaging 3.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in only 16 minutes. In the championship game versus USA when O`shae Brissett went down with injury, Vrankic was thrown into the fire, in 22 minutes he shot 1 of 6 and collected 4 rebounds. Back on the national stage and in his element with Wasatch (ranked among the top independent programs in the nation) expect this Broncos commit to demonstrate his smarts, skills and versatility. Vrankic has shown flashes of domination this season. On December 10th against Wakefield, VA JV poured in 39 points — making an impressive 15-of-18 of his two-point attempts along with a pair of 3-pointers and three free throws in addition to a team high 11 rebounds to lead the Tigers. Which Vrankic will show up Sunday?
2000 born 5-11 Damion Squire
Much like fellow Quebec prospects Squire is grossly underrated and unheralded. He`s 5-11 but plays 6-3. He personifies toughness from the point guard spot and has high major athleticism for his size. While playing for his nationally ranked Tigers, in a game against in-state rivals Lorne Peak Squire had 19 points and seven boards to lead the Tigers. He also hits three pointers. At Hoophall his defensive game will be under the microsope as he will see minutes defending Trevon Duval of IMG Acedemy, FL. Duval is a Duke and Kansas target and the Tigers could benefit from some of that Montreal toughness Squire brings to the table.
1999 born 6-3 Michael Okafor
Okafor had zero intentions to make a prep switch but after a strong summer playing non circuit AAU basketball with Can-Amera Okafor at the eleventh hour was recruited and enrolled at Wasatch. He is a high character, two way player with athleticism. When a prep power brings in a senior you expect him to see receive lots of burn. Hasn`t been the case às he gets acclimated to the elite competition the Tigers see night in night out. If Wasatch are to make another national title run this spring Okafor should be contributing. He has the size and ultra athletiscism ofa Norman Powell and has huge hands and wing span like a Kawhi Leonard. Will Okafor see a longer leash Monday at Hoophall ? Regardless he is one of the most coveted JUCO bound talents in Canada entering this fall. As evident by an offer from head coach Todd Phillips of Salt Lake Community College. SLCC Bruins won the NJCAA national championship, stacking up a record of 31-8.
1999 born 6-9 Simisola Shittu
Created waves when he told Kevin Boyle and Montverde to beat it and then joined forces with fellow Canadian Christian David under Coach Popp in Vermont. Shittu a natural four man has a desire to play more on the perimeter and wing. At times during his first season in New England Shittu has also experimented playing point guard. When RJ Barrett reclassifies to 2018 many automatically move Shittu to no.2 in the class but not so fast. Against Brewster, NH this week in a Hoophall tune up Shittu looked like his old dominant self close to the basket. There has to be some internal believe in this young man he is as much as a NBA prospect as his former Montverde teammate RJ Barrett is. With the who`s who of high school basketball expected to be sitting in media row, Shittu has a opportunity to cement his status as a one and done. With a great mix of scoring instincts, size and mobility Shittu is a long, wiry and a top level athlete that is very explosive in the open court. Has a capable 15 ft shot and looks capable of extending his range. Will he reclass to 2017? Why not utilize another year of polishing his perimeter stuff? Hoop Hall will show the world how far he`s come in developing that area. Many are looking forward to seeing Shittu`s progress. In Canada we call him the Big Ticket and at Hoophall Simi will be worth the price of admission.
1998 born 6-7 Christian David
Had a solid first season south of the border in 2015-16 then unfortunately experienced a nasty knee injury in their playoff game and was sidelined all summer. During his recovery David pledged allegiance to Butler University. Much like the Bulldogs most notable NBA alumni Gordan Hayward, minus the two inches, David is an outstanding shooter. He has a high, quick release on his jumper taht enables him to get his shot off when he wants. David uses his underrated athleticism to his advantage on the glass making his an excellent offensive rebounder. Also an effective passer with high basketball IQ. His personality trait of ultimate humbleness and the injury that took away a chance to perform for CIA Bounce on the EYBY circuit derailed the online hoopla surrounding David. Several scouts and observers have mentioned CD is too nice and question his commitment to become a great basketball player. How much will the dog in Davids game shine for Vermont this weekend? A terrific talent we are hoping can silence his critics with a strong showing.
1999 born 6-7 Dalano Banton
Canada has produced some high major point guards in recent years alas Jamal Murray and Shai Alexander. Both Murray and Alexander are 6-5 or taller and both benefited from exponential experience playing AAU and prep ball with a green light and keys to their respective teams. Banton doesn’t have the major experience running the point but was brought in to MacDuffie to run the show. At 6-7 and 185 lbs think Shaun Livingtson with long and fluid strides who can crash the boards great from the guard spot. Expect to see Banton snatching rebounds out of midair only to glide up the court, flowing through defenders to eventually lay the ball into the hands of a teammate for an easy. At 185 lbs he still needs the added size to his slender frame. His outside jump shot is improved and he can be too unselfish to a fault which is common for a natural point guard. Some questions that observers will look at during his HoopHall debut are his leadership ability, how mentally tough is he? Will he have the poise to led the team if they face adversity? Perhaps the most intriguing Canadian to take the court come Sunday.
1999 born 6-10 Alex Christie
A high character and academic big man that made the switch to MacDuffie last fall from The Rise Center, ON. Two summers ago after taking off the summer off to solely focus on development Christie catapulted into group of promising 2018 big man prospects from Canada. Under the shadows of fellow Canadian big men (Brendon Kenyon, Kweasi Ezeagu, Grant Shepherd) while playing AAU ball with UPlay Canada Basketball, MacDuffie has provided Christie ample playing time to develop through in game action. With his academics set and lack of big bodies going around in the Ivy League, Christie will attempt to use the Hoophall platform Sunday to cement his stock as a bonafide Ivy League prospect.
1998 born 6-6 Shamiel Stevenson
In Canada we refer to him as Charles Barkley, a bully down low and albeit undersized Stevenson can corral rebounds at an alarming rate like Sir Charles could After a fall out at Wasatch Academy, UT last summer Stevenson was recruited to Hillcrest Prep, AZ where he joined American blue chip prospect DeAndre Ayton and regained his swagger back. Many are enamoured with his physical attributes and tend to overlook his developing finesse skills. . In 2016-17 Stevenson is noticeably trimmer and is knocking down three point field goals with regularity. Stevenson has received scholarship offers from Pitt, USC, Arizona State, Georgia Tech and VCU. Indiana, Utah State, Baylor, Florida and UCLA have also expressed interest in his services.