Northeast Hoops Festival recap

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The fifth annual Northeast Hoops Festival boasted its most talented field yet with talented teams from New England, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and beyond all making the trip to Connecticut.

Long Island Lightning Gold was the big winner in the U-17 bracket scoring wins over Juice All-Stars, Connecticut Basketball Club and Mass Rivals to cap an undefeated weekend, while Expressions Elite stole the show in the younger age brackets, taking the championships in the U-16, U-15 and U-14 fields.

Standout players

Andre Drummond (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More)
2012, C, 6-foot-10, 275 pounds

Drummond opened his grassroots season the same way he closed his prep year, intent to dominate on both ends of the floor. It's a major step in the right direction for a guy who previously stood out by the couple of NBA-caliber plays he made per game, instead of his cumulative impact. While his game still has a long way to go before becoming efficient, the simple fact that he is aggressively looking to score each time he touches the ball makes all the difference for someone of his physical prowess. His point production came almost exclusively from dunks or face-up moves because he did very little with his back to the basket, but had a couple of absolutely incredible finishes, proving why he is one of the best lob-catchers in the country. Defensively, he still commits too many frustration fouls and needs to learn to keep his hands higher to be more ready to block/contest shots, but was similarly more aggressive attacking penetration and pursing the ball off the glass.

Daniel Dingle (Bronx, N.Y./St. Raymond)
2012, PF, 6-6, 225 pounds

Critics will say Dingle doesn't have a true position, undersized to play the four at the highest level but not quick enough laterally to defend a wing, but the reality is that he inverts his tools to be one of the biggest mismatch problems in the Northeast. Give him any defender 6-6 or under and it's straight to the low post where he has picture perfect footwork and makes great use of his broad shoulders and upper body to carve out space. Put a bigger guy on him and it's straight to the arc where his handle has blossomed into a weapon and he is incredibly crafty getting into the paint and making plays for himself and others. Equally important, but far less noticed, is his understanding of how to get to the free throw line in high volume as he gets a variety of easy points at the stripe by seeking out contact, but constantly keeping his body between the defender and the ball.

Kaleb Tarczewski (Claremont, N.H./St. Mark's School)
2012, C, 7-0, 240 pounds

It's no secret that one of the major keys to Tarczewski's success is his ability to establish deep low-post position, and with that clearly being a point of emphasis for his New England Playaz team, the big fella' thrived accordingly. Utilizing a variety of basic high-low and pick-and-roll, as well as pick-and-replace concepts, the Playaz were able to get Tarczewski the ball at point blank range where even the best shot blockers had no way to stop him from throwing down thunderous dunks. As the weekend went on, Tarczewski showed off his developments in the post, scoring over both shoulders with high-released jump hooks, reverse pivoting off contact to establish a seal when cutting from block to block, and showing his mobility and timing on a variety of offensive put-backs. Defensively, he showed good mobility in the middle of a 1-3-1 zone while also contributing a physical presence inside the paint.

Players to watch

Isaiah Whitehead (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln)
2014, SG, 6-4, 195 pounds

Whitehead is a big guard with tremendous versatility and a world of potential. With size and strength to match his handle and vision, he can take the ball off the glass and lead the break as well as create his own offense. He scores it consistently from 18 feet and in, elevating for midrange jumpers and getting to the rim north to south as well as east to west. He also plays with poise and presence beyond his years when coming off ball screens or going through the lane. He projects as someone who could eventually be able to play any of the three perimeter positions and only has to continue to expand his frame and polish his deep jumper to emerge as a top guard in the Class of 2014.

Jared Terrell (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth)
2013, SG, 6-1, 185 pounds

A man amongst boys in the U-16 division, Terrell combines power with athleticism to overwhelm opposing guards. He is at his best in transition, where he runs downhill to attack the rim virtually daring defenders to get in his path, but is equally effective in the half-court set where he can carry his defender on his back to get to the rim. An equally menacing defender who can pressure the ball as well as contain a scorer, Terrell has a great motor on both ends of the floor and competes with constant energy. Much more of a driver than shooter at this stage in his development, he has the physical tools to take his recruiting stock to the next level but must first prove himself a scoring threat to 20 feet in a half-court game.


• PF Kamari Murphy (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) seemed to come and go this weekend for the Long Island Lightning Gold, but brought his game to another level when the lights were on the brightest, taking over in the final 10 minutes against Juice to show a complete skill set and scoring arsenal that ranged from the block to the elbow to the arc.

Alex Murphy (South Kingstown, R.I./St. Mark's) and John Papale (Wallingford, Conn./Choate) both stepped up to lead the New England Playaz to a retribution win over a Long Island Lightning Blue team that knocked them off a week earlier. Murphy showed his undervalued athleticism by getting loose in transition and then created for his teammates with his passing ability, while Papale didn't miss a shot for the first 25 minutes of the game, scoring 19 in the first half while going five of five from behind the arc.

• Seven-foot center Jordan Dickerson (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) impressed with his combination of size, mobility and athleticism. He was a constant deterrent on the defensive end and although his offensive game is still raw, he benefited from teammates' penetration to finish strong with dunks around the rim.

• Two Terrific 25 sophomores were both in action in Kuran Iverson (Windsor, Conn./Northwest Catholic) and Noah Vonleh (Georgetown, Mass./Haverhill) and while neither put up consistently big numbers, their long term potential remained easy to see. Iverson must utilize his versatility to make the game easier for him, while Vonleh is still getting adjusted to this level of competition all the while growing into a new body.

• SG Kris Dunn (New London, Conn./New London) and PF T.J. Parker-Rivera (Bridgeport, Conn./St. Joseph) provide quality counterparts to Drummond on this year's CBC team. Dunn is a scoring guard who is at his best attacking the rim but also showed a full complement of floaters, pull-ups and open 3s. Parker-Rivera distinguishes himself with his motor as he simply plays harder than most others.

• Long Island Lightning lead guard Kareem Canty (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bridgton Academy) can flat-out score the ball, but will be even better once he learns to pick his spots more tactfully as he'll keep his teammates happy with increased touches and find much less defensive help than he does when going one-on-one from the top of the key.

• Mid-Atlantic Select has another group of talented sleepers from the Maryland area this year including SF Garland Owns, a high-level athlete who excels in the open floor and threw down a collection of highlight reel finishes on Sunday.

• PF Samuel Dingba (Salisbury, Conn./Salisbury) is a young big man who screams of upside with a powerful frame, quick feet and incredibly long arms. He showed some developing offensive skills on the post to match his normal shot blocking and offensive rebounding prowess.

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.