Thursday, August 11, 2016

Player Interview #9 - Opong Bramble (2017)

Opong Bramble is a powerful 6-6 wing forward who will be doing a post-grad year at Canterbury Prep. A standout in the New England Prep League last season, Opong played on the AAU Circuit with Castle Athletics (Adidas) based out of New York City. Known for his above the rim play, he received his first Division 1 offer while playing in a tournament in Vegas last month. Opong played his senior year for Macduffie Prep in Springfield.

IH: First off congrats on getting your first D1 offer! Give us a little bit about your background and describe your game for those outside of the area who may not have seen you play.

OB: Thanks I appreciate that! I was born in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, which is a small island in the Caribbean and I have been moving around to various countries since then. I've lived in Suriname (which is in South America) Regina, (a city in Saskatchewan Canada), Maryland and now New York. 
     The best way to describe my game is an all-around player that can take it to the rim because I have a wide frame and am a strong finisher. I also like to run the floor and handle the ball on fast breaks. Right now, I'm working on improving my ball handling and jumpshot so that I'll be able to be a better perimeter player.

IH: Where were you living when you were first exposed to basketball? Do you aspire to set a new path for athletes growing up in St. Vincent?

OB: When I first started playing I was living in Maryland, before that I just played soccer. I was terrible when I first started and I'm pretty sure I didn't score a point in the first season I ever played, a lot has changed since then haha! Although I was born in St. Vincent I didn't live there but I've been back at least once a year. I play on the national team and hope to inspire other young basketball players and just people in general that you can do it. No matter how small your start is or even if you feel like the whole world is crashing down around you, you have to remember and believe in the hero that you have inside of you. Within us all is the potential for greatness and unlimited power. That's what I hope to show all those that happen to see me and whomever I meet as well. You should strive to be great on the court but strive to be even greater in life.

IH: What was the basketball infrastructure like in the places you lived abroad? What made you decide to attend prep school in New England?

OB: In the other countries I've lived, basketball was no where near as serious or as businesslike as it is here in NY. Despite the level of basketball not being as high, it was perfect for me at the time to develop my fundamentals. Fundamentals are often neglected by many teams here in the states, both high school and AAU. 
     I decided to go to a New England prep school because it is the highest level of high school basketball combined with great academics that you can't find anywhere else in the country. I feel like academics comes first and basketball second because basketball is only a small fraction of your life that will eventually end. Then you have to fill the rest of your life with something meaningful which education can help you accomplish.  

IH: What are your goals for your upcoming post-grad season?

OB: I want to help lead my team to a championship after they fell short last year and I also hope to keep getting more offers and eventually commit to the school that offers the best balance of academics and athletics.

IH: Who would you say has been your toughest opponent thus far in your basketball career?

OB: I would have to say my teammate Jordy Tshimanga from Macduffie. We would play against each other in practice and in scrimmages at school. Because of his 6'10 240lb frame, scoring was extremely difficult and posting him up was futile. It was hard to defend him because once he got you in the post it was a done deal. For his size his midrange and three-point jumpshot were very good along with his ball handling skills. He moves almost like a guard and at his size that's hard to defend.

IH: What are your main priorities towards finding the right fit in a school? 

OB: In regards to finding the right fit in a school, I want to go to a school that has a great academic as well as athletic reputation. Even if the athletics aren't as well known, I know that through hard word and faith in my teammates and coaching staff we will be able to overcome any obstacle in our way. My dream is to play in the NBA one day and not just play but have a career and I am a firm believer in that it's not so much about the school you go to as much as its about the kind of work that you put and how dedicated you are to bring your dream to life. Because let's face it, there are countless stories of lottery picks being busts and guys that were unknown that end up being superstars. I mean don't get me wrong it's great for all the players who are ranked top 100 or are projected lottery picks but all that means nothing to me because that's just a number even though they may have worked hard they're still human and I won't submit to anyone just because everyone else says they're better than me. When I'm on the court I'm the best player in my mind no matter who I'm playing and that's against anybody. I respect whoever I'm playing because I know everyone works hard at this level but when we get on that court that's when the real players come out.

IH: Who has inspired you the most towards taking your game to the next level?

OB: My dad continues to inspire me to be the best person and basketball player I can be. Since I was a little kid, he would take me to the park and help me with every aspect of my game even though his main sport was soccer. He learned about basketball to help me out. The most important lessons he's taught me are to never quit under any type of adversity and always have the faith in God and myself to accomplish any task I set out to do. But I also have to mention my family friend and mentor Louis Xifaras because he has connected me with the right coaches to work on my skills and he is with me every single day in the weight room doing whatever it takes to get me in the best shape possible for elite level competition. That includes very selective eating which admittedly is very hard to do since I love to eat all kinds of food even if it's not healthy haha. Both of these men are great examples for me because even when I find it hard to see the end goal they are like the anchors keeping me grounded and continually restoring my faith in myself and the process as a whole.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Player Interview #8 - Babacar Ndiaye (2017)

Babacar Ndiaye is a 6-7 forward from the Bronx, New York. He currently attends Wadleigh High in Harlem, where he averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds a game. Babacar is coming off a very successful AAU season with the Wiz Kids and has been getting interest from Division 1, 2, and 3 schools.

IH: Give us a little bit about your background and describe your game for those outside the City who may not have seen you play.

BN: My name is Babacar Ndiaye and I am from Senegal, West Africa. I am 17 years old and grew up in the Bronx. I am the first member of my family to compete in basketball and am currently working to see how far the game can take me! 

IH: Provide a brief recap of your Spring/Summer. How did you improve and what parts of the game do you still feel you need to improve on?

BN: The AAU season went well! I improved most in my post game, my mid-range jumpshot, and my 3-point shooting. I still feel I need to improve on finishing with my left hand. I also want to improve my ball handling so I can potentially play some Small Forward. Defensively, I want to improve my footwork and increase my foot quickness on the perimeter.

IH: How would you describe your play on the court?

BN: I am a stretch power forward who can open up the court for my teammates. I am versatile and play big around the basket blocking shots and rebounding. Offensively, I can play facing the basket and hit mid-range jumpshots. Against bigger defenders, I can shoot from long-range or attack the basket and finish with dunks! 

IH: What are your goals for the upcoming High School season?

BN: I am setting my goals high for the upcoming High School season! I want to average a double-double around 20 points and 10 rebounds. I also want to stay healthy and ultimatley win the PSAL championship.

IH: Who would you say has inspired you the most to take your game to the next level?

BN: I really look up to Carmello Anthony the most. He is proof that if you work hard, you can achieve your goals and get things done.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Basketball Summer Championships 17U - DC Blue Devils vs Vanier College Prep

July 10, 2016

     DC Blue Devils (New Hampshire) took on Vanier College Prep (Montreal, Canada) in a Consolation game Sunday at Mass Mutual Center in Springfield. Early on it looked like the game was going to be competitive. The Blue Devils got hot from three-point range midway through the first half and took a double-digit lead. They would keep this lead the rest of the contest and would cruise to the victory. Both teams showcased a lot of talent.

Standouts:

Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (2017) - The Blue Devils wing was the best athlete in the tournament and had a couple of highlight plays in the game. Although he is more known for his above-the-rim play, he also hit a number of shots from 3-point range. Defensively, he is very versatile and a strong rebounder around the basket.

Caleb Green and Geo Baker (2017) - The DC Blue Devils backcourt was impressive in the victory. Green is a steady, high basketball IQ point guard and played well on both ends of the court. Baker is an athletic combo guard who showed a beautiful step-back move shooting from the perimeter.

Sukhmail Mathon (2017) - Mathon is a skilled bigman (probably 6-9-6-10) who showed a nice mid-range game and is a good finisher around the basket.

Arnaud Boyer Cillis (2017) Cillis is a strong-bodied 6-9 southpaw and also showed an impressive jumpshot from 15 feet. He is also a good athlete for his size and showed a nice touch around the basket.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Player Interview #7 - Victor Potter Jr. (2018)

ImperialHoops Interview with Victor Potter on June 30, 2016

Victor Potter is a 6-7 combo forward from Monsignor Scanlan in the Bronx. Only a rising Junior, he already has made a major impact on the AAU scene running with Castle Athletics 17U (Adidas Circuit). He recently received his first Division 1 offer from Stony Brook and more are sure to come in the next live period in July!

IH: You are still very under the radar on the national scene, how would you describe your game for people living outside the New York area?

VP: My game is rare in my eyes because I'm a true bigman from New York City. There aren't a lot of bigs that can play down low as strongly and effectively as me.

IH: How did your High School season go?

VP: My high school season was a success overall. Even though we lost in the CHSAA semi-finals, we worked hard, stayed focused and stayed in shape. Our success this year has helped us move up to the CHSAA "AÀ" division for next season.

IH: What are your' plans for the upcoming Summer? Do you have any goals you have set for yourself for the July Live period?

VP: My plan this summer is to continue improving my academics and working hard to expand my game. I want to lead Monsignor Scanlan to a City, State,  and Federation championship. More immediately,  my goal in July is to compete against all the top AAU teams and players while obtaining as many scholarships as possible.

IH: What aspects of your game do you feel the need to improve on most?

VP: My ball handing is something I've been looking to improve on. I think I need to add that element to my game in order to reach my potential my Senior year.

IH: Who would you say has been the toughest player you have competed against thus far in your basketball career?

VP: Hamidou Diallo was my toughest opponent thus far without a doubt! His ability to get to the rim with ease and his guard skills really open up other scoring opportunities for his teammates.

IH: Who would you say has inspired you the most to take your game to the next level?

VP: Coach Marcus, my coach at Monsignor Scanlan, has inspired me the most to improve. He has not only helped me take my game to another level, he's also a family figure to me. He understands my struggle and my background and in doing so, he shows me love which I have never experienced.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Championship - Sports U Team Izod vs Playaz Remix

June 12, 2016


     Sports U (Under Armour Northern NJ) and the Playaz (Nike Northern NJ) met in the championship Sunday afternoon at the Rumble in the Bronx. Sports U took control of the game early and would maintain ten-point lead for most of the first half. They would continue their strong play in the second half and go on for a fifteen point victory. The Playaz, who only had 6 guys on Sunday, were led in the game by 6-6 power forward Marcellus Earlington (2018). Sports U, who made a lot of impressive athletic plays in the second half, were led by Nate Pierre-Louis (2017) and fellow point guards Tucker Richardson (2017) and Myles Mitchell-White (2017) with 10 and 9 respectively.  

Standouts:

Nate-Pierre Louis (2017) - Pierre-Louis had another excellent game in the final. He got into a rhythm in the second half and hit three 3-pointers and continued his strong play in the second half with a beauftil alley-oop on the break. The Playaz had no answer for him attacking the basket as he led Sports U with 20 points.

Myles Mitchell-White (2017) - Mitchell-White is undersized but a tremendous athlete and had the play of the game on a backdoor alley-oop to start the second second half.

Marcellus Earlington (2018) - Earlington, who is a bigtime football recruit, led all scorers with 25 points. He has great feet and hands in the post and was overpowering around the basket. Also showed range out to the 3-point line.

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Semi-Final - Albany City Rocks EYBL vs Sports U Team Izod

June 12, 2016

     The game of the day on Sunday at the House of Sports in Westchester was without a doubt the City Rocks (Nike Upstate New York) versus Sports U (Under Armour Northern NJ). Sports U held a slight lead for most of the game behind excellent guard play from Nate Pierre-Louis (2016). The game was low-scoring as both teams were extremely tough on the defensive end. The City Rocks tied the game late in the second half and even took a one point lead in the final minutes. Sports U countered on a basket from Pierre-Louis and took a one-point lead in the final minute. A steal by Louis in the final ten seconds would seal the game as Sports U escaped with a two-point victory. Overall, the City Rocks had a balanced team effort and were led offensively by 14 points a piece from guard Andrew Platek (2017) and guard/forward Anthony Gaines (2017). They also received a well-rounded game from very athletic 6-5 forward Naziah Carter (2017). Sports U received a balanced effort as well. They were led by Pierre-Louis, as well as 6-4 guard forward Idris Joyner (2016) and 6-10 bigman Jordan Pierce (2017). Pierce, a 6-10 big from Union Catholic, was a presence on the inside throughout the game and led Sports U in rebounds.

Standouts:

Nate Pierre-Louis (2017) - Pierre-Louis' combination of strength and athleticism attacking the basket was tough to stop. The southpaw point guard led Sports U with 20 points and had a number of impressive finishes around the basket. At 6-3 with long arms, he was also a major factor on the defensive end. Also a very good passer off the bounce.

Idris Joyner (2016) - Joyner had an excellent game, scoring 12 points and finishing well around the basket. He is around 6-4 with a strong body and can defend a number of positions on the defensive end.

Andrew Platek (2017) - The City Rocks shooting guard has gotten noticeably stronger from last year and was impressive scoring the ball from all three levels. He didn't have his best shooting game from long-range (he is an elite shooter) but made some nice plays attacking the basket in transition and did nice job getting to the free-throw line. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is deceptively a very good athlete.

Anthony Gaines (2016) - Gaines led the City Rocks in the second half and used his athleticism to make plays around the basket. He rebounded the ball very well and used a combination of long arms and quick leaping ability to play much bigger than his 6-4 height.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Pool Play - South Jersey Jazz vs United Sons and Daughters

June 11, 2016

     USAD (Connecticut) came out hitting on all cylinders and took an early fourteen point lead against SJ Jazz (Under Armour Circuit). The game was super competitive until the end, as both teams were physical on the defensive end and looked to attack the basket on offense. SJ retook the lead with  eight minutes left in the second half and would grind out the pool play victory. They were led by 6-4 guard Ja'Zere Noel (2017) with 12 points, 6-3 guard Anthony Mack (2017) with 11 points, and 6-5 Seton Hall commit Myles Cale (2017) with 17 points. USAD was led by point guard CJ Seaforth (2017), who scored 17 points respectively in the loss.

Standouts:

Myles Cale (2017) - Cale had a big second half in leading SJ to the comeback victory, scoring 15 points on a number of impressive plays attacking the basket. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the court and is a great athlete that can finish through contact. At 6-5 he can play either guard position and has been one of the top scorers on the Under Armour Circuit the past two seasons. He is a great early pickup for Seton Hall!


CJ Seaforth - The USAD point guard is a rangy athlete that also can score from anywhere on the court. He is in the 6-1/6-2 range and also a tough defender. He got into a rhythm early on in the contest and hit three 3-point shots in the first half. Seaforth already has an offer from Fairfield and should def see increased interest this Summer!

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Pool Play - Ring City Elite vs Eastern Blizzard

June 11, 2016

     Ring City Elite (Northern NJ) versus Eastern Blizzard (Providence) was a one-sided affair Saturday morning. Eastern Blizzard showed up twenty minutes late and didn't get to warm up against one of the most talented teams in the tournament. RC Elite showed some excellent ball movement and displayed a talented roster from top to bottom. They built up an early insurmountable lead and would go on for the pool play victory.



Standouts:

Chris Paul (2017) - The Don Bosco Prep southpaw wing is 6-5 and super versatile on both ends of the court. He was a threat to score from anywhere on the court and also had some great passes. Paul had the play of the game (pictured above) where he showed off his athleticism attacking the basket in transition in the second half.

Jordan Cook (2017)- Cook is another southpaw who came off the bench and led RC in the first half with 13 points. He is in the 6-7 range and a strong finisher around the basket. He was tough to keep off the offensive glass against a smaller EB frontline.

Manley Dorme (2017) - Dorme is a versatile 6-8 big man showed some nice moves around the basket and range out to the three-point stripe on the offensive end.

Jordan Cook (2017) - The Ring City point is a strong-bodied guard and a playmaker on the offensive end. Also a good outside shooter.


Rumble in the Bronx 17U Pool Play - the Firm vs Hilltopper Heat

June 11, 2016

     The best game I watched at Basketball City on Saturday was a pool play matchup between the Firm (Adidas Northern NJ) and Hilltopper Heat (Newark). Despite being undersized at virtually every position, Hilltopper Heat was tough on defense and stayed in the game in until the end. Despite HH having the momentum for most of the second half, the Firm would tie the game behind some clutch outside shooting from guard Michael Richardson (2017). The Firm would earn a hard-fought victory 66-63 behind 5 points from Kyle Lofton (2017) in overtime. Hilltopper Heat showcased a number of impressive players, including guards Leandre Washington (2017), Yasin Prelaw (2018), and Jason Battle (2017). All three  guards are quick off of the dribble and can create their own shot. They also received a solid game from bigman Chika Wosu (2017), who has a strong body at 6-6 and was tough around the basket in the second half.

Standouts:

EJ Ansike (2017) - Ansike is in the 6-6/6-7 range and is strong and athletic around the basket. He had a double-double in the victory, scoring ten points on a number of strong finishes around the basket.

Michael Richardson and Kyle Lofton (2017) - Both guards were impressive in the victory scoring 16 points respectively. Lofton is a rangy point guard, who at 6-2, is a good athlete attacking the basket. Richardson got into a rhythm in the second half and hit 3 shots from long range. He is also tough attacking the basket off the bounce.

Leandre Washington (2017) and Yasin Pretlow (2018) - Washington led HH with 12 points and had some beautiful moves shooting off the dribble. Pretlow, who is just a rising junior playing up a division, was tough to keep out of the paint.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Pool Play - City Rocks Orange vs Jersey Force

June 11, 2016

      The City Rocks Orange (Albany/Upstate Prospects) took on Jersey Force (Northern NJ) in a third pool play game Saturday afternoon. This was a competitive game from the outset, as Jersey Force held the lead until six minutes left in the game. Both teams were tough on the defensive end and looked to get out in transition. The City Rocks retook momentum late in the second half and would go on for a 60-58 victory. They were led in the second half by point guard Tyjon Gilmore (2017), who had some real nice moves shooting and attacking the basket off of the dribble. They also got an impressive game from undersized but athletic bigman Oscar Itaje (2017), who hit a pair of three-pointers and blocked/altered a number of shots around the basket.

Standouts:

Jalen Hawkins (2018) - Hawkins, a 6-3 guard from Utica Proctor, came off the bench and dominated on the offensive end. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the court and is a great athlete attacking the basket. He will reclassify as a junior next year and is definitely a player to keep an eye on.

Austin Williams (2017) - The Seton Hall Prep product is a jack of all trades and filled the stat in sheet in a tough loss. He is very athletic wing and impacts the game on both ends of the floor.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Rumble in the Bronx 17U Pool Play - Castle Athletics vs Asphalt Green

June 11, 2016

     The first game I watched at the Rumble on Saturday was a real competitive matchup between two NYC teams; Castle Athletics (Adidas Circuit) and Asphalt Green. It turned out to be a game of runs as Asphalt Green took an early eight point lead on the heels of the outside shooting of 6-2 shooting guard Justin Fishman (2017). Castle, however, would close the gap with some strong inside play from bigmen Opong Bramble (2017) and Victor Potter (2018). After Castle went up 10 six minutes into the second half, Asphalt Green would go on the last run of the game behind more hot shooting from Fishman and Damont Kearse (2016). They would go on for a 65-59 victory. Castle was led in the game behind 17 points and 11 rebounds from Bramble. They also received 10 points apiece from Potter and guard Justin Sneed (2017). Asphalt Green received solid outings from their forward duo of Miles Payton (2016) and Darren Jones (2017), who did an excellent job rebounding against a much bigger Castle frontline.

Standouts:

Justin Fishman (2017) and Damont Kearse (2016) - Kearse and Fishman put on a shooting clinic in the victory scoring 23 and 22 points respectively. Both players connected four times from long range and did nice job finishing around the basket.

Opong Bramble (2017) - Bramble is a strong finisher around the basket and is a powerful athlete at  6-6. He had a momentum changing slam in transition and also showed a nice jump hook move out of the post.

Victor Potter (2018) - Just a rising junior, Potter's athleticism already stands out on the court. He had a pair of beautiful alley-oops finishes and was very active battling on the offensive glass.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Gymrat Challenge 16U Semi-Finals - Early Risers vs Albany City Rocks EYBL

May 29, 2016

      The City Rocks 16U EYBL team dominated at the Gymrat for the third consecutive year. They showed an excellent blend of height, outside shooting, and athleticism. In a semi-final matchup with the Early Risers (Middletown, NY), the City Rocks used an imposing 2-2-1 press and zone defense to keep the Early Risers off-balance on the offensive end. The City Rocks opened up a double-digit lead in the first half with some strong play from Mika Adams-Woods (2018) and Jalen Pickett (2017). They would continue their strong play in the second half and cruise to the victory. Center Isaiah Stewert (2019), guard Joe Girard (2019), and swingman Jeenathan Williams (2018) also made some impressive plays in the victory.

Standouts:

Mike Adams-Woods (2018) - Adams-Woods, a smooth 6-1 guard from Syracuse, led the City Rocks in points and assists. The southpaw made some athletic plays attacking the basket and also shot the ball well from long range.

Isaiah Stewart (2019) - Stewart didn't have his best game finishing around the basket but is a strong athlete at 6-8 and already physicall dominant around the basket playing up an age level.

Joe Girard (2019) - The 6-2 combo guard is a great shooter and automatic from downtown when you let him get his feet set.

Jeenathan Williams (2018) - Willams was the best athlete in the 16U Division (probably the tournament as well) and is EXPLOSIVE around the basket. He had the play of the weekend on a 1st half tip-dunk where he jumped over players from both teams!