- Adam Finkelstein
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BRONX, N.Y. -- The Rumble in the Bronx became the latest high-profile spring event to be threatened by the NCAA's new policy on Division I facilities this weekend, but tournament director Jim Hart and his staff wouldn't be denied, assembling another stellar field, despite the loss of their normal six-court headquarters at Fordham University.
This year's event attracted teams from California, Texas and Florida, but ultimately the local programs still defended their turf as the New Jersey Playaz took U17 and U15 titles by defeating the Albany City Rocks and Westchester Hawks respectively, while the New York Gauchos took the U16 crown with consecutive overtime wins over Florida Family and Sports University Elite in the semifinals and finals.
Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J./St. Anthony)
2012, SF, 6-foot-7, 210 pounds | Team: New Jersey Playaz
All great players understand the value of getting easy points and there's nowhere easier than the free throw line. While Anderson could still finish plays more consistently and refine his low-post game against mismatches, he does a fantastic job of using his size and versatility to draw contact and get to the stripe. The 6-7 facilitator also showed off an improved stroke from the perimeter, knocking down six 3-pointers in the Playaz's final two wins.
(Philadelphia/Academy of the New Church)
2012, SF, 6-6, 190 pounds | Team: New Jersey Playaz
Some guys are about potential and some are about production. Goodman falls into both categories but specializes in the latter because he flat-out helps his team win games. He's a freight train inside of 15 feet who attacks the cup with incredible power and momentum, has complementing skill with his well-developed footwork and can surprise with some high-level passes from the short corner. Best of all, he's efficient, knows what his bread and butter is and stays with it instead of getting caught up in trying to prove himself in other areas.
Ricardo Ledo (Providence, R.I./Notre Dame Prep)
2012, SG, 6-6, 180 pounds | Team: Expressions Elite
His individual offensive skills were head and shoulders above any other player in the field. He showed his dominance in spurts, taking over games whenever he chose to assert his will. His most consistent weapon was his jumper, which was his Achilles' heel at one point in his development, punishing defenders for going under ball screens and shaking his man enough to drill contested pull-ups from long range.
Shane Rector (Bronx, N.Y./St. Raymond)
2013, PG, 6-2, 160 pounds | Team: New York Gauchos
An athletic young point guard with an exciting two-way game, Rector puts his physical tools to good use to apply pressure on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has a tight handle and quick first step that allows him to be a breakdown driver. He also has the bounce to finish explosively above the rim, while absorbing contact. Defensively, he gets all over the court forcing steals and deflections that often result in run outs.
Blaise Mbargorba (Highstown, N.J./The Peddie School)
2012, C, 7-0, 210 pounds | Team: New Jersey Road Runners
While undoubtedly still a project, Mbargorba has made huge strides in the past year. Physically, he has both filled out and grown into his body, giving him a big-time frame along with coordination, agility and long, fluid strides running the floor. Offensively he does a nice job of getting big on the block to demand the ball and shows pretty good touch, soft hands and solid footwork to continue to build off of.
Malik Nichols (Brooklyn, N.Y./Boys & Girls)
2011, SF, 6-6 | Team: New York Panthers
The Hofstra signee is reportedly headed to prep school and looks poised for big things this summer. He has a combination of length and athleticism that will intrigue coaches at first glance and a smooth slashing game to put points on the board in high volume. Versatility isn't a problem either because he can defend multiple positions as well as take the ball off the glass and start the break.
Valentine Izundu (Katy, Texas/Cy Lakes)
2012, C, 6-10 | Team: Houston Preps
A long, 6-10 big man with terrific instincts on the defensive end, Izundu opened his weekend with nine blocked shots in Houston's Friday night win. While his offense is behind his defense right now, he had a couple of big-time finishes. However, he will need to soften his hands, strengthen his body and develop a go-to move in the post before becoming anything more than just a dunker on that end.
John Egbunu (Nigeria/Mount Zion)
2013, C, 6-11 | Team: Sports University Elite
A young big man with a high ceiling, Egbunu immediately grabs your attention with his frame and ability to run the floor. He's at least a couple of years away from putting together all of the pieces, but has the motor and aggressiveness to complement his physical tools. He is active defensively contesting shots, catches fairly well and can finish above the rim through contact.
Players to watch
Ja'Quon Newton (Philadelphia/Neumann-Goretti)
2014, SG, 6-2 | Team: Team Final
A drive-first scorer with physical tools beyond his years, Newton has instincts that can't be taught when it comes to getting his own shot and scoring the basketball. He plays efficiently with his bounces, changes direction sharply with his counter moves and finishes with strength and body control. He didn't show the perimeter jumper much, but seems to have enough touch to develop that aspect of his attack down the road.
Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic)
2012, SF, 6-6 | Team: New Jersey ABC
Cooke is an intriguing prospect still flying fairly low under the radar after missing last summer's exposure circuit. He has good size for the wing position along with long arms and a reported 38-inch vertical. He is also well-skilled, handling and passing the ball efficiently within the flow of the offense and showing a smooth shooting stroke that had him making shots in bunches throughout the weekend.
• This tournament was the springboard for Pitt signee Malcolm Gilbert's explosion last summer and for a while on Saturday it looked as if his brother Marcus Gilbert (Philadelphia/Academy of New Church) could follow his example. He's a high-level athlete from the East Coast Elite program who has the talent to take his game to another level as he gets more assertive.
• Team Jennings from California headlined the out-of-area squads making the trip to New York City this year and the team is loaded with talent including 2013 SG Isaac Hamilton (Los Angeles/Crenshaw), 2014 SG Daniel Hamilton (Los Angeles/Crenshaw), 2012 PF Skylar Spencer (Los Angeles/Price), 2013 PG Chance Murray (Los Angeles/Price) and 2013 PG Brandon Randolph (Eureka, Calif./Saint Bernard).
• Tyler Harris was one of the standouts for the Albany City Rocks -- NC State fans needn't worry, he's still headed to Raleigh next year, but he's still age eligible for AAU so he was getting one last run in this weekend.
• Jacquil Taylor (Cambridge, Mass./Cambridge Rindge & Latin) and Jeremy Miller (Milton, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon) are two young post prospects from the state of Massachusetts who both showed glimpses of stardom.
• Aquille Carr (Baltimore/Patterson) is undoubtedly one of the most electrifying guards in the country and a highlight reel waiting to happen. Once he learns to balance his creativity with his responsibilities to run the team, he'll be one of the best lead guards in the country.
• Miles Overton (West Chester, Pa./Roman Catholic) is a big guard with a lethal outside shooting stroke drawing comparisons to former Minnesota star/NBA player Voshon Lenard.
• Tyler Cavanaugh (DeWitt, N.Y./Jamesville Dewitt) was big for the Albany City Rocks all weekend. He can score and pass from both the low and high posts as well as pick and pop to shoot from behind the arc.
• Raising Champions made a nice run in the U17 bracket and Cavon Baker (Jamaica, N.Y./CJEOTO) continues to intrigue. He has a long, strong build with an aggressive north to south game along with good lift and a clean release on his perimeter jumper.
• New Heights made run to the semifinals of the U17 bracket where they were led by Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon), a big guard with a versatile scoring game off both the catch and the bounce.
Adam Finkelstein has been a coach or scout at the high school, college and pro levels. He was an assistant coach in Division I by the age of 24 and also worked as a scout for Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting.
Kyle Anderson carries New Jersey Playaz to U17 championship at Rumble in the Bronx, writes Adam Finkelstein.