This year's installment of the Providence Jamfest offered a good collection of talent as well as a good amount of upsets, which made the weekend very interesting and enjoyable. Inspired play allowed a few players to enhance their positions on the national scene as well as power their teams to victories. Mass Rivals, led by Carson Desrosiers and Matt Brown, made their way to the title game of the 17-under division to match up with the NJ Celtics, led by the dynamic duo of Michael Gilchrist and Kyrie Irving.
Gilchrist and Irving, through their dominant play, led their team to the championship. Gilchrist uses his flair for the spectacular and his effort to dampen the fighting spirit of all opponents during the weekend, while Irving used his steady play to win the title for his team throughout the weekend and overcome the very game Mass Rivals unit.
Michael Gilchrist, Combo-forward (6-7)
N.J. Celtics, 2011, St. Patrick's/Elizabeth, N.J.
Gilchrist has the makings of a "pro", as in top-flight NBA prospect with vast array of skills. However, Gilchrist has just as much heart, which makes him a lethal dose of spectacular that the opposition has to deal with at all times during games. Gilchrist has the are combination of energy player wrapped in the package of elite player with his endless effort, especially on the offensive glass. Similar to Kevin Garnett, Gilchrist has much more strength than his upper body indicates, easily powering up in traffic to finish above the rim with defenders hanging on him. He has an extremely powerful and strong lower half, which allows him to take contact and get up over defenders, quickly getting in the air and over them in traffic before they leave the ground. His relentless style of play on the offensive end also allows him to draw a number of fouls on the opposition. For the future, Gilchrist will have to rely on the fire within for improvement, as he has few peers on the court to lean on for the challenge of getting better. He also needs to improve his jump shot considerably, though he will connect on the occasional 3-point shot. He also needs to rebound the ball on the defensive end in the same way that he hits the offensive boards. Gilchrist has enough quickness to hedge as a power-forward and guard pick-and-rolls, in addition to guarding small forwards out on the perimeter. With his athleticism, he can get anywhere on the floor that he wants, but he needs to improve his ball-handling skills as he has a tendency to take too many dribbles to get to spots on the floor, though he does a decent job of handling the ball in transition and finding open teammates for shots. When he puts the ball on the floor, he also knows how to create space and make contact with defenders, serving to keep them off balance. Gilchrist also plays with a good amount of poise and seems to enjoy the game.
Kyrie Irving, PG (6-1) N.J. Celtics
2010, St. Patrick's/Elizabeth, N.J.
Irving plays a very poised, charismatic brand of basketball, which allows him to run his team with great efficiency. Efficiency describes Irving's game perfectly, as he rarely exerts himself in ways that he should not or display useless emotion on the floor. Irving has range that extends well beyond the 3-point line on his jumper and exhibits no wasted motion on the shot. When he receives the ball, he keeps it high and does not bring the ball down and then back up. This technically sound release allows him to get the shot off quickly and less motion decreases the chance of flawed mechanics, which serves to negatively affect the accuracy of the jumper. He only misses when he kicks his right leg out, which turns his upper body, causing his shoulders to lose proper alignment with the basket. Irving also will connect on the mid-range, pull-up jumper, in addition to using his quickness to get to the paint. Once at the rim, Irving can finish with his right or left hand easily. He has a great understanding of knowing when to look for his own offense and when to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Irving also plays well at high speeds and usually makes the correct decisions in transition. He does a great job of maintaining his poise and rarely changes facial expressions on the floor.
Carson Desrosiers, C (6-10) Mass Rivals
2010, Central Catholic/Windham, N.H.
Desrosiers has a very diverse, mature offensive skill-set, which makes him tough for opposing big guys to guard, especially when they will not leave the paint to guard Desrosiers. He has the ability to connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. Desrosiers will also give defenders a head fake, take one or two dribbles, then pull up for s mid-range jump shot. He could make a living as a pick-and-pop big man or as a trailer on the break for jumpers. Desrosiers has a European big man style of play and when his passing ability is combined with his outside shooting prowess, Desrosiers can easily play the high spot in high-low offensive alignments, especially if paired with an athletic, paint-oriented big man. In the paint, he has good footwork and will connect on turnaround jumpers, but he fades away a great deal in efforts to avoid contact and does not look to use his size as much as he should. Desrosiers also needs to finish with contact in the paint at a more successful rate. On the defensive, Desrosiers would benefit from playing with a defensive-minded, rebounding, athletic, shot-blocker that would allow Desrosiers to roam. Despite his great size and good lower half, Desrosiers shies away from contact and does not rebound as well as he should or anchor his team's defensive efforts. He plays a little too straight up and can get exploited in pick-and-roll situations and when he has to come out and guard on the perimeter. In addition to improving his defensive focus, Desrosiers has to increase his intensity and effort on the floor.
Naadir Tharpe, PG (5-11) New England Playaz
2011, Brewster Academy/Worcester, Mass.
Tharpe has to improve his consistency and range from the perimeter in order to fully take advantage of his blinding quickness. He uses his quickness to get into the teeth of the opposing team's defense almost at will. Tharpe enhances his speed by changing speeds and keeping defenders off balance and guessing. Changing speeds also helps Tharpe with his decision-making, allowing him to slow down and process situations on the floor. Once in the paint, Tharpe easily spots open teammates and will get the ball to them in tight spaces for easy shot opportunities at the rim. His passing ability sometimes gets the best of him and he will turn the ball over in attempts to make the spectacular pass as opposed to making the easy pass. He also has to cut down on his tendency to over-dribble and turn the ball over, instead of just blowing by guys quickly and efficiently. Tharpe also has to continue to get stronger which will help his jump shot accuracy as well as his ability to defend opposing ball-handlers.
Matt Brown, SG (6-2) Mass Rivals
2010, Northfield Mount Hermon/Barrington, R.I.
Brown has incredible strength and uses it to impose his will on the perimeter. He usually faces smaller defenders and they have great difficulty keeping him from getting to the rim, due to his physical style of play. He also has good quickness and gets to the paint almost at will. Brown makes it tough on officials through his bruising style of play, constantly creating contact with defenders and placing the onus on officials to make calls. Once in the paint, Brown has the strength and muscle to take contact and still finish at the rim. He will also connect from 3-point range on jumpers with good lift and a high release, though he needs to improve his consistency from the perimeter, in addition to adding a mid-range jump shot to his game. He usually connects on his 3-point shot when he does not shoot on the way down. He also has to continue to improve his ball-handling skills, though he can get to the rim in the open court. Brown needs to continue to improve his shot selection and use his physical gifts on the defensive end. He also plays hard and does not back away from challenges.
John Golden, SF (6-5) New Jersey Shoreshots
2010, Peddie School/Hightstown, N.J.
Golden has a slight build and will have to continue to add strength and muscle to his frame. However, his frame does not keep him from going to the rim with a purpose. Golden will look to get to the paint and finish, more often looking to go to his right when he puts the ball on the floor. When he goes to the rim, he will also finish with his left hand in the paint if he has to do so. Golden gets to the free throw line rather often due to his propensity to go the hole. If left open on the perimeter, Golden will also connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. He has a somewhat unorthodox release, almost shooting a one-hand jumper, by dropping his guide hand (left) when shooting. Golden has good lift when he looks to get into the mid-range, utilizing the pull-up jumper off the dribble. As long as he does not kick his leg out on the jumper, he usually connects at a high rate.
Wright has decent, but not explosive athleticism, but he does a good job of getting to the rim. He has decent strength, a relatively defined body, accentuated by great length, which he uses to score when he gets to the paint. Though he can get to the rim, Wright will have to improve his ball-handling skills considerably, including adding a left-hand as good defenders will sit on his right hand, forcing him to use the left. Wright likes to use his body to create space and keep defenders off balance when he gets to the paint. He does a good job of using his length and strength to crash the offensive boards and power up to finish in the paint in traffic. Wright will hit the occasional 3-point jumper, but he needs to continue to improve his accuracy from the perimeter. Wright has to improve his defensive focus and cut down on his tendency to drift on the defensive end of the floor. He also has to work on maintaining his composure during games and exhibit more maturity. Wright also needs to continue to improve his shot selection and work on finding open teammates.
Eric Ferguson, SF (6-8) Expressions
2009, Winchendon School/Winchendon, Mass.
Ferguson has incredible length and good upside, he just has to continue to take on the challenge of getting better and improving his skills. He has to get considerably stronger and he has very good leaping ability, which he needs to learn to use to his advantage more often. He has good quickness, but he needs to learn to use his lateral quickness to his advantage on the offensive end by becoming more efficient off the dribble, thus alleviating his tendency to over-dribble when he tries to create offense off the dribble. Ferguson can get to the hole, but he shies away from contact in the paint, which serves to increase the level of difficulty of his shot attempts. Ferguson has good body control and sometimes he uses this tool too much, which also makes his shots too difficult to convert at times. With his length and leaping ability, Ferguson should just go over defenders for shots and he needs to improve his mid-range, pull-up jumper. He will hit the 3-ball, but he needs to increase his level of consistency from that range. With his length and athleticism, Ferguson could develop into a defensive stopper if he focuses on playing defensive more.
• Six-foot-1-inch sophomore PG Zach Hurynowicz (Burlington/Burlington, Mass.) has great poise and the right temperament for the point guard slot. He does a great job of keeping his effort level high at all times.
• Another sophomore Shabazz Napier (Lawrence Academy/Charlestown, Mass.), a 5-11 PG, can score points in bunches, especially from 3-point range. However, he needs to improve his ability to involve teammates and run a team as a lead guard.
• Six-foot-one- inch junior PG Billy Baron (Bishop Hendricken/Warwick, R.I./) has great strength and knows how to use it to get into the paint. He also can connect on jumpers with great regularity.
• Luke Matarazzo (Choate Rosemary Hall/Shelton, Conn.), a 5-9 PG, uses his tough, competitive style of play to make his team go. If left open, he will drill jumpers from beyond 3-point line as well as get into the paint off the dribble.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.