ZG Finals - Saturday Recap
More than 700 teams flocked to the greater Boston area for the annual Zero Gravity National Finals. As most teams progressed though pool play on Saturday to see who will earn their way to bracket play on Sunday afternoon, the following players stood out:
Akok Akok (Mass Rivals, 2019)- Akok showed the same improved range on his jump shot throughout the day that he did during the month of April. Defensively, opposing drivers had no way to avoid the long & athletic big man standing in their way. Potential is starting to turn into production, and he is poised to be one of the most followed 2019 prospects in the region once the live period kicks off next month.
Cole Swider (BABC, 2018)- Swider's improved athleticism is one key reason why his recruitment has elevated itself even past what it was with his recent Duke offer. He lead BABC to big wins, as his confidence rubs off on his teammates. He was knocking down shots all over the court & getting out and running in transition.
Chuck Hannah (NE Playaz, 2018)- The ultimate glue guy, Hannah is a key cog in a Playaz' attack that has been among the most efficient all spring. The lefty is an absolute beast on the glass, forming a 1-2 tandem with fellow Playaz southpaw Chris Doherty that not many can match.
Malachi de Souza (Castle Athletics, 2018)- The South Kent product is one of the smoothest players in New England's 2018 class. He knocked down shots consistently all weekend, but his game elevates to another level when he is aggressive in getting to the hoop. That opens up so many more options for him on the court. If he can keep attacking the hoop, opponents better watch out this summer & next winter.
Daniel Dade (NE Playaz, 2019)- Dade was one of the top point guard in the field & really impressed with his steadiness. The lefty has a mature understanding of how to use ball screens and understands all the options he has with his four other teammates on the floor. He hit the roll man, the shooters in the ball side & weak side corners, got to the basket & pulled up himself, all depending on what was available on that specific play.
Thomas Shaughnessy (Middlesex Magic, 2018)- The spring of Shaughnessy continued on Saturday, leading the Magic to key wins that should make for a very entertaining Sunday. Similar to Swider, his toughness & competitiveness makes his team go, but his Shaughnessy's ability to hit shots should not be overlooked, as he is more than just a tough, emotional leader for the Magic.
James Bouknight (NE Playaz, 2019)- One of the more athletic players in the field, Bouknight can change the momentum of a game with a put-back dunk off a miss, a creative slam in transition, or a tough drive & finish through contact (all of which he did on Saturday!).
Jay Reynolds (DC Blue Devils, 2019)- Owning one of the plays of the day with a thunderous one-handed dunk in transition, Reynolds is a deceptive athlete who accelerates on his way to the basket. He has a great build that can take contact inside the paint, the off-guard also showed his 3-point range consistently for the Blue Devils. Reynolds was one of the breakout stars of the tournament.
Brycen Goodine (BABC, 2019)- One of the most athletic players in the local class of 2019, Goodine makes plays that leaves spectators (and opponents) shaking their head. The smooth guard still has a lot of room to develop, which is scary for all NEPSAC and grassroots coaches facing him.
Meikkel Murray (Metro Boston, 2018)- The Putnam Science wing is an absolute athletic freak. He elevates quickly and is not afraid of whoever is guarding the basket. He loves to push the ball in transition, and opponents thought it best just to get out of the way. He uses his athleticism to change the game on the boards, as well.
Tyler Kolek (Middlesex Magic, 2019)- Kolek has knocked down shots all spring long, but his passing ability was noticeable on Saturday. He understands that the ball moves quicker up the court with the pass rather than the dribble, and always had his head up in transition. Kolek's ability to drive & kick in the half court benefited his Magic teammates, opening them up for easy jumpers.
Jared Whitt (BABC, 2018)- The 6'10 big man is a 5-man with solid touch inside and the ability to step out past the FT line with his shooting range. His back-to-the-basket game has shown a lot of improvement, and he rebounded very well on the defensive end for BABC throughout the day. Whitt has a throwback game as a true 5-man, and does not try to veer from what he is, like so many big men do.
Tyler Burton (Mass Rivals, 2019)- Burton has improved steadily over the course of the spring. His jumper has improved, and, with his recent growth spurt, is starting to fill out. He is a smart player who makes the easy play on the court, not trying to force anything on offense. Burton's best days are certainly ahead of him.
Tyler Thomas (PTT, 2018)- Thomas hit the shot of the tournament with a 30-foot buzzer beater on Saturday. He is a scorer who takes advantage of what the defense gives him, and is developing the confidence to have the ball in big moments.
Charlie Deacon (Evolution, 2018)- The incoming Tilton wing can really get up! He made several plays that wowed all in attendance. He is aggressive in getting to the hoop, and not scared of contact once it comes.
Matt Constant (Team Saints, 2020)- Playing up two age divisions, Constant is a skilled point guard who combines possessing a great understanding for the game with a little flare that makes him entertaining to watch. He is not afraid of going up against bigger guards, and sets up hims teammates well for their own shot.
Robby Stankard (Boston Bobcats, 2021)- The Groton School product is a skilled big who has excellent touch on his shot from outside the paint and outside the 3-point range. His feel for the game is excellent for a young player, as he carved up opponents' zone defense with his sense for where his teammates were located.
What makes this event unique in New England is the possibility of the most talented grassroots squads facing off on Sunday in the playoffs, regardless of sneaker affiliation. NERR will have a full recap of the 9th, 10th, and varsity divisions this week, as well as the All-Tournament Team in what is sure to be a day to remember.