Adidas Gauntlet I - New England Recap
The New England Playaz and Mass Rivals headed down to Dallas for the opening session of the Adidas Uprising Gauntlet and each finished with a record of 4-0. With their 4-0 records, point differential, and points against, the two New England programs emerged from the weekend ranked as the number 1 and 2 teams respectively and put themselves in great position to qualify for the Gauntlet Finale in July in South Carolina. Both Playaz and Rivals faced the challenge of having to play three games on Saturday followed by morning games on Sunday.
Saturday morning began with the Playaz facing off against the 51st ranked player in the country, Nassir Little and 1 Family. The Playaz’ defense, which was the storyline all weekend, held the 6’6” Little to 35.7% shooting and forced him into five turnovers. The Playaz were led by the guard play of Tyson Walker with 12 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists, Tyrese Williams who produced 12 points 5 rebounds and 5 steals, and Ethan Wright's 10 points. The trio led the Playaz to a 66-45 win.
On the adjacent court, the Mass Rivals' suffocating defense was holding Stackhouse Elite to 35 points. The offensive story line of the game was the play of A.J. Reeves; Reeves went 6-9 from 3 with 21 points. With Reeves ability to shoot it at that rate from three, and his length and athleticism, this elite prospect is going to continue to catch eyes this coming weekend. Ousmane Diop was huge on the boards, grabbing 11. Taelon Martin showed the growth of his game, demonstrating a tighter handle and a much-improved midrange game that we saw flashes of at the NERR Hoopsfest. Rivals went on to win 63-35.
In the afternoon, Mass Rivals faced off against one of the top teams in Adidas, D1 Minnesota. Seventh ranked 2019 Mathew Hurt was injured and Mass Rivals didn’t show any mercy, winning 82-59. Alex Rivera had 24 points, including 5 3s. Leading to a UMass offer for Rivera; his first D1 offer. Rivera wasn’t the only one putting up double digits for Rivals though. Akok Akok had 13 points to go along with 3 blocks and A.J. Reeves continued his hot shooting from the morning with 12 points. David Duke finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds, while big man Ousmane Diop was an efficient 5-6 with 10 points.
Playaz, playing at the same time on the court next door against Chauncey Billups Elite, were similarly dominant. Northfield Mount Hermon’s product Nate Laszewski was the story of this game (and much of the weekend which explains why his recruitment has reached to the highest level). Laszewski -- know mostly as a sharp shooting stretch 4 -- impacted the game in many more ways throughout the weekend but especially in this game. He shot 2-4 from 3 but grabbed 10 rebounds and was finishing around the rim with toughness. Adding 2 steals and a block, Laszewski showcased a complete game. Moses Flower added 11 points and 3 steals while Brewster big man Lukas Kisunas added 11 points and 5 rebound as the Playaz won 72-43.
In the Night Cap the Playaz faced Mike Miller’s M33M, a squad from Memphis led by 59th ranked TJ Moss. The Playaz once again did a phenomenal job guarding a top prospect, holding Moss to 3-13 shooting and causing 5 turnovers. Laszewski scored12 points while the play of Chris Doherty and Chuck Hannah in the paint, led the Playaz to a 61-51 victory.
With high-major coaches populating the gym, including John Calipari, the nightcap featured Mass Rivals vs. Texas Pro. Akok Akok dominated the story line. The 6’8 forward finished with 22 points with 3-6 shooting from 3, showcasing a great pick and pop game. Along with his 22 points he added 13 blocks (yes 13 and the stat sheet may have undercounted) to go along with 7 rebounds. Alex Rivera continued his hot shooting from 3 going 7-13 for 21 points. David Duke added 12 points and 4 assists. David Mitchell and Jovan Jones’ defense on Jaedon LeDee, the 53rd ranked player in the country, impressed, and was decisive in Rivals huge 73-56 victory.
Mass Rivals had a short turn around as they left the gym at 9:30 pm Saturday and had the 8 am game Sunday. Rivals had their hands full as they faced Urban ASAK and top prospect Brock Cunningham, a 6’7 wing, whose father played football at Texas. Akok continued to display his elite talent going 5-6 from 3. He scored 17 points to go along with five 5 blocks. Alex Rivera shot 5-10 from 3, contributing a total of 16 points. The real story was how David Duke completely took over the 2nd half and willed Rivals to the victory. With his length, handles, and athleticism he got to the rim, scoring or dishing. Duke finished with 14 points 4 assists and 2 steals to help lead Rivals to a 4-0 weekend and a 66-53 win.
In the last game of the weekend for New England teams, New England Playaz faced Gateway Basketball Club from Missouri. Ethan Wright was about as efficient as you can be finishing with 13 points on 3-3 from 2 and 1-1 from 3 and 4-5 from the free throw line. Kai Toews provided great minutes as he went 3-4 from 2 and 1-1 from 3 for 9 points using his electric play style to speed the game up. Chris Doherty also added 4-5 shooting with 2 blocks and 3 rebounds. The Playaz went on to beat Gateway 61-41.