Yags’ Point Forward - 2018 Stock Risers
Between my schedule as a firefighter (24-hours on/72-hours off) and the grassroots events that take place every weekend after the prep season, I usually need a few guesses just to come up with the correct day of the week at this time of year. So I’ve got absolutely no idea where the seasonal calendar puts us right now! June in New England usually means we could expect warm weather at some point soon, so it seems like a good time to look back on who took advantage of the spring months to boost prospect stock heading into the summer.
WRAPPING UP THE CLASS OF 2017 (MOST LIKELY)
New England’s Class of 2017 saw their final high-profiled domino fall when Tremont Waters decided to attend LSU earlier this week. Waters’ signing, along with a handful of other prospects deciding to jump back into this year’s class over the last month, meant the finishing touches had likely been put on classes at the local and national perspective. At least for the time being.
Less than 8-hours later, Carl Pierre brought his recruitment, and one of this spring’s biggest prospect rises, to an abrupt end when he decided to commit to UMass as a part of their 2017 Recruit Class. The announcement might’ve taken some by surprise but Mo Vazquez and his Metro Boston coaching staff had been singing the 6’4” workhorse’s praises for the last few months, realizing that Pierre’s production was just starting to reach the same level his potential had been promising for years.
2018 STOCK RISERS
Two of New England’s top 2018 prospects saw their hard work pay off with the highest level of rewards in the last week. Mass Rivals and Cushing wing David Duke earned a roster spot on one of the two American teams at this weekend’s Adidas Euro Camp in Italy. Within hours of Duke touching down in Italy, BABC and St. Andrew’s wing Cole Swider earned his most recent scholarship offer from legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
New England’s highest ranked national prospect and Vermont’s versatile 6’10” Big/Wing/PG, Simi Shittu, has added to his resume with huge performances in the EYBL while leading his CIA Bounce program to a Peach Jam berth. Others who have raised their stock:
Dimon Carrigan, BABC/Woodstock Academy – After deciding to prep and play on the Nike circuit this spring, it took the 6’8” wingspan big man all of one game to showcase an elite ability to protect the rim and earned an offer from the University of Houston shortly thereafter. He’s used his 7’3” wingspan to average 4 blocks per game, good for 2nd on the Nike circuit. Carrigan’s improved skillset and presence in the post has attracted a ton of attention but the young man’s demeanor remains the polar opposite. After immediately setting the bar for his recruitment at the American Conference-level, Carrigan has remained humble while privately collecting offers from programs within the ACC, Big East and A-10. It’s refreshing to know that Carrigan’s ego won’t become inflated alongside his rising prospect status heading into his post-grad season this fall.
Marcus Zegarowski, Expressions/Tilton – The 6’2” point guard carried the momentum from a tremendous season in the NEPSAC right over to the EYBL. Zegarowski leads Expressions into Peach Jam with an 11-5 record by averaging 15 points, 4 assists and 1.2 steals while hitting 44.7% (46-103) of his 3’s. His consistent and efficient productivity has earned him offers from Creighton, Arizona State, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and VCU over the last month.
Nate Laszewski, NE Playas/Northfield-Mt Hermon – Far from an unknown entering the spring, Laszewski is back at 100% health and it’s reflecting in his performance. The 6’10” sniper is hitting 43.7% (10-23) of his 3’s and 91.3% (21-23) of his free throws while sitting 2nd amongst all sneaker circuit regulars with an offensive rating of 137.9. He’s also added recent offers from Southern Cal and Pitt.
Alex Rivera, Mass Rivals/Lowell (MA) – Despite putting up huge numbers for the last three years, Rivera entered the spring as an overlooked prospect on both the local and national level. If you watch Rivera closely though, it doesn’t take very long to realize that you’re dealing with an extremely unique cat who’s earned his credibility on the court with a tireless work ethic. A lot of shorter jump shooters are forced to put near-max efforts into their rise when they want to create airspace between their defender and their ultimate release point. Rivera incorporates a ton of bounce into his shot mechanics but it’s a naturally fluid motion that results in a freakishly consistent release point every time he leaves the floor. The difference is that Rivera’s bounce is real, which allows him to repeat his rise without sacrificing his mechanics. He proves it during warmups with effortless two-hand cock-back dunks and over the course of a weekend with identical release points in every game. Rivera’s fast twitch fibers also give him an explosive first step and allow him to create space while remaining squared up on stepbacks. Unlike most elite shooters, Rivera never uses a team possession just to hunt for his own shot. If anything, he might have a tendency to be too unselfish at times. Rivera’s game proves that The Rules can be more of a hindrance and will always be broken by players who are willing to invest real man hours into building their skillset. College coaches who dismiss guys like Rivera with an eye test will inevitably miss out on a stone cold assassin with translatable skills. And don’t (ever) just take my word for it. His numbers do a lot of talking too: Rivera is averaging 15 points, shooting 47.1% from 3 (32-71 in 8 games!) and currently owns the 4th best Offensive Rating (136.5) on the overall sneaker circuit leaderboard. Rivera’s efforts earned offers from UMass and Jacksonville earlier this spring but, as a 16-year old senior-to-be, reclassifying to 2019 also remains a viable option.
Anthony Nelson, NY Lightning/South Kent – Another player who came to New England as a legit prospect in 2016, the 6’4” PG/Wing maintained his reputation during the prep season and continued to elevate it this spring. Nelson has fit into a jack-of-all-trades role for one of the EYBL’s surprise squads while averaging 10.1 points, 5 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Nelson also added offers from Dayton, VCU, LaSalle, St Bonaventure, UMass and New Mexico to previous scholarship offers from Rutgers, St John’s and Rhode Island. Nelson is bound to find a program who’s in the mix for his services any times he turns on A-10 basketball this season.
Eze Dike-Nwagbara, Northern Kings/Kimball Union – The 6’2” Canadian went about his business during a successful junior season at KUA and has seen the fruits of his labors come this spring. Dike-Nwagbara is a dynamic athlete who is dangerous as a lead scorer or a facilitating floor general who can penetrate and create for his teammates. Dike-Nwagbara’s academic accomplishments have opened the door to the Ivy League and allowed him to become a priority for programs like Yale, Dartmouth, Lafayette and Boston University heading into his senior season.
Thomas Shaughnessy, Middlesex Magic/Needham – It’s convenient to throw labels like “blue-collar grinder” on a player like Shaughnessy due to the elite toughness and leadership ability he’ll bring to his future college program. Listen, I appreciate and attach a ton of value to those attributes and they are definitely what draws your attention to Shaughnessy initially. But the young man simply doesn’t get enough credit for the improvements he’s made to skillset over the past six months and ensuring that his team’s success always grew in line with it. Shaughnessy is on the short list of New England prospects that I would hand the ball to with the game on the line, in the most hostile of environments and in the most pressurized situations. There isn’t a number that be applied to the level of trust a coach has that his player will undoubtedly make the right decision. There’s no stat that can account for an entire team knowing that their teammate would rather lose a limb than Saturday’s fourth game on Court 14. Shaughnessy is That Dude! And for that, he’s received offers from Quinnipiac, Brown, American, Loyola, Navy and Binghamton this spring.
Also Rising: Jakigh Dottin, BABC/Woodstock; Caden Dumas, BABC/Choate; Terion Moss, Maine Blue Wave/Portland (ME); Nick Timberlake, Metro Boston/Kimball Union; Chuck Hannah, NE Playaz/Northfield-Mt Hermon; Sebastijan Skoko, Boston Warriors/Vermont; Ethan Wright, NE Playaz/Newton North