GALLOWAY, N.J. – Andrew Wiggins still makes waves even when he’s a no-show at a major event with the final NCAA “live period” coming to a close later this week.
CIA Bounce 17U was here in full force – save Wiggins – Wednesday at the opening day of Live in AC at Richard Stockton College. Without the bouncy 6-foot-8, top-ranked player from the Class of 2014 and perhaps all of high school basketball, the Canadians looked average, struggling to put away Team Jersey Elite, 34-33, in pool play.
It’s unclear if the Canadian prodigy will appear down the Jersey Shore, less than 10 minutes from Atlantic City.
Earlier in the day CIA hooked up with Juice All-Stars (Brooklyn, N.Y.), with several college coaches in tow. Coaches from Florida State (where his father, Mitchell, played), UCLA, North Carolina State, Baylor, UConn, Iowa State and Syracuse were on hand to watch his teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
In the later game, CIA rallied late, scoring the final four points in the final minute, to beat Team Jersey Elite by one point.
CIA’s loss was the event’s gain as a relative unknown guard from Central Jersey nearly stole the show and earned new recruiting respect.
Rob Ukawuba, a 6-3 rising senior guard from East Brunswick (N.J.) nearly willed the New Jersey squad to victory. He scored 12 points and nearly won it at the buzzer but failed to convert a putback off his miss.
“We should’ve won,” he said. “I like playing the best teams, best players. I’m happy we kept it close but that’s not good enough.”
Ukawuba, a muscular combo-guard, might be mistaken for a wide out on the football field or a striker on the pitch. Like a frontline soccer player and main scoring threat, he’s tough to knock off the ball. Colleges should take note: Ukawuba is dangerous off the bounces and actually enjoys playing defense.
“Not many high school player like to play defense but I like the challenge,” said Ukawuba, whose parents are from Nigeria. “I like to take it to the basket and rebound. Those are my strong points.”
Ukawuba’s top school is Quinnipiac but he hasn’t head from them. He’s getting the most attention from Rider, Saint Peter’s and Wagner, with Division II schools Adelphi and St. Michael’s (Vermont) also offering.
Ukawuba plays the perimeter but shows above-average ability attacking the rim. His developed upper body is built to absorb the punishment.
Amauro Austin, considered one of Philadelphia’s top recruiting gurus, has shifted his focus recently to Philly Pride. Austin is the general manger (of sorts) of the powerhouse club program that boasts Rysheed Jordan, Miles Overton and Jeremiah Worthem.
Jordan, a 6-5 rising senior guard from Vaux (Philadelphia), was playing coy about his recruiting.
“All the major schools have offered,” he said. “You name it and they’ve offered. I’ve received millions of letters.”
Jordan has received offers from the Big Five schools (mainly Temple); but Kansas, Kentucky, Xavier, Texas and Maryland seem to be main contenders.
Overton, a 6-4 guard from St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia), is a coach’s dream. Seems like the rising articulate rising senior he can do it all and makes big-time decisions. It also helps that his father, Doug Overton, played in the NBA and is currently an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets.
“My father handles a lot of the recruiting and talks to the coach’s. That takes some of the pressure off me,” Overton said. “I don’t really have a list yet but I start getting one by September.”
It appears Virginia and Wake Forest are the leaders but La Salle is in the mix along with the other Big Five schools. Doug Overton, an All-American at La Salle, played for legendary Philly coach Bill “Speedy” Morris. Coincidentally so does his son.
“Speedy puts players in position to succeed at the next level,” Miles Overton said. “He produces great players; I like playing for him.”
Overton’s biggest attributes are, “hard work and never stop being hungry on and off the court.”
He’s also developed a relationship with Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic. Nelson was coached by the elder Overton in the early 2000s when he assisted at Saint Joseph’s University.
“We’re like family; we work out a lot. Only blood would make us related,” said Overton, smiling.
Worthem has learned the nickname “Lump” after taking up space in the lane. The 6-7 rising senior from Math, Civics and Science High (Philadelphia) has several college offers.
“So far La Salle, Drexel, Iona, Siena, LIU, Wagner, Stony Brook, Drexel, Robert Morris and many others have offered,” Worthem said. “My dream school is Michigan State. I’d like to play for [head coach] Tom Izzo.”
Worthem is a rugged defender and mixes it up on the boards. He’s quick in transition and sports a soft scoring touch.
His ideal school will reveal itself as the summer winds down.
“I’ve noticed which schools are that have shown up to all my games this summer,” he said. “There has to be a comfort level and I have to build a relationship with the coaching staff.”
The South Philadelphia resident says he’ll major in sports management.
If you’re high-major player, you normally dictate the recruiting process and have more time to decide than others.
Michael Young, a 6-9 forward, who recently transferred back to St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.), is currently plotting his strategy as the live period winds down.
Young is at Live in AC, playing for Nike sponsored NJ Playaz Gold, along with high school teammate Isaiah Briscoe, a 6-3 coveted sophomore.
Young attended St. Benedict’s as a sophomore but left last summer for Hudson Catholic (Jersey City), where he averaged 15.9 points and 11.6 rebounds as 25-3 Hudson Catholic, captured its first Hudson County title since the mid 1970s.
The list of suitors is long, dotted with the likes of West Virginia, Miami, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Pittsburgh, St. John’s but UConn, Rutgers, Xavier and North Carolina State seem to be making a late push.
By the end of August, Young hopes to whittle his list down to five. In September and October he’ll make official visits and will sign his binding national letter-of-intent in November.
“I don’t have any dates yet,” Young said. “But I’ll choose a school that will help me reach the league [NBA].”
Young possesses all the physical tools necessary to reach the league and 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago but is considered as a great teammate with a great attitude. Intangibles that cannot be measured.”
Live in AC format
The first-year event is drawing rave reviews as colleges from every major conference plus every mid-major look along the East Coast was represented. The event has championships in with age groups (15U, 16U, 17U) and is also utilizing Atlantic City High.
The 17U elimination pool features 16 elite programs, including CIA Bounce, Juice All-Stars, Team Takeover, New York Lightning, NJ Playaz Gold, Team Final and Philly Pride.
The top three teams in each of the four pools advance to the playoffs while four pool winners from the lower invitational pool will join them. The 17U championship is Friday at 3:15 p.m.
Christopher Lawlor is a Senior Writer for Blue Media and compiles the Blue Star Go-To 25 national boys and girls high school basketball rankings during the season. Lawlor, an award-winning writer, is a voting committee member and advisor for several national high school events, including the McDonald’s All-American Games. He previously wrote for USA TODAY and ESPN.com, where he was the national preps writer, while compiling the national rankings in four sports. He also managed the Gatorade national high school player of the year award program for a decade at Scholastic, Inc.
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