by Franklyn Calle /@FrankieC7

It’s the Mecca of Basketball; if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. That’s what sixteen of the top freshmen and sophomores in the nation will be keeping in mind this weekend when they partake in the second annual Super 16 National Training Showcase. In front of Mr. Couch himself, best known for being NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s first basketball coach, the rising stars of the prep scene will have the opportunity to prove that they embody the same drive, focus and work ethic that helped lead the former-Laker standout to greatness.  All summer long, Sean Couch—the director of the Jim Couch Foundation and son of the honorary coach, and a group of trusted personnel that are well informed in the youth basketball circuit nationwide, canvassed the nation for the top eighth and ninth graders in America—ultimately choosing 16 freshmen (class of 2016) and 16 sophomores (class of 2015). In all, the game is scheduled to host eight freshmen players with five or more high D1 scholarship offers. The all-star style games, which are to take place on Sunday, October 20, 2012 at 1pm for the Super 16 freshmen game and 3pm for Super 16 sophomore game at Baruch College, will also be streaming on tape delay at thebasketballchannel.net on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 7pm.

After hosting its inaugural showcase last year, the Super 16 Freshman Game, the event’s name was changed to the Jim Couch Super 16 National Training Showcase in anticipation to this year’s festivities, as it wanted to shift its focus away from your average high school showcase and into one that can be most beneficial to the student-athletes. Couch wanted to emphasize training part of the showcase more than the actual game. In the 1960s, Sean’s father, Jim, held workouts at Dyckman Park in uptown Manhattan during the weekends. It is there where he began training Abdul-Jabbar and Jim’s workouts became famous for its training and condition aspects. “Our program is based on training,” says the younger Coach. “The Dyckman program has a tradition of being training-centric, so in order for us to attract the top player we wanted them to come in and have a unique training experience when they come to New York. We’re looking to take it to a level where we involve a lot of the things that you use in individual workouts—medicine ball, speed ladders, balance balls. We do it in a very fast tempo where we try to mimic game situations.”

Although the all-star games will be held on Sunday, the 32 invited players (16 freshmen and 16 sophomores) will report to Baruch College on Saturday at 4pm for a rigorous training session, where they’ll be focusing on conditioning, speed, strength, and variety of exercises involving ropes. In the auxiliary gym, there will be team concept drills. B.J. Johnson, the USA Basketball Assistant Men’s National Team Director, will be on hand to help out, do some observations and talk to the younger players. Following the practice-combine and Johnson’s talk with invitees, the 16 freshmen players will scrimmage. After the exhibition match, the players will eat and then many will attend a study hall right after. There will be professional mentorship from seasoned coaches, where among the topics discussed will be the NCAA clearinghouse requirements. In addition, peer mentoring, where the top sophomore players will tell the freshman how they were able to balance books and ball. As you can see, basketball will only a fraction of what is to take place this weekend for 16 of the best freshmen and 16 of the best sophomores in America.

Many of the players invited will be making their third stop in three weeks throughout the country, after attend the USA Basketball showcase two weeks ago and the John Lucas camp last week. And so with that in mind, Couch wants to make sure that the players get a different kind of service when they arrive to the Big Apple than the previous two weeks. He adds:

“Our emphasis is really on athletics and academics as a lifestyle. It’s like, you come here to New York—this is where you have to show and prove. It’s the city that never sleeps. It’s the place that you come to show what you’re all about. You don’t really rest here. When you get here you have to be on your game. You have to be smart; you have to be on your feet, you have to impress us. You have to have a double-focus so that you can come in and excel on another level. That goes with academics and athletics, and that’s reflected in the speed and tempo of the camp. Everything is going to be quick, emphasizing on focus so you can pick up on things. We’re hoping that when they leave, they understand that it doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t stop in the gym. It begins and ends with the person. At the end of they day, you gotta’ come to the city and show what you do and how you do—that’s just the way it is. This is that final stop on that circuit and we’re asking you what’s your focus, what are you all about?”

Some of the top players expected to attend to keep an eye on include:

Freshman Game:

Mario Kegler, 6-7 Forward, Calloway HS, Miss.- His athleticism is what strikes people the most. The Scottie Pippen comparisons have been thrown around. Turning 15, his versatility—ability to play the one, two or three position makes him five-star talent.

Thon Baker, 7-0, Center, Assists Academy, LA.- Holding the top spot in a few rankings for the 2016 class, his skill-set for a seven footer is beyond impressive. He can put it on the floor, hit the 15-footer, post on he low block, go either left or right—just about everything you wouldn’t expect someone’s his size and age would be doing. Coach likens his game more to Dirk Nowitzki.

Kevin Hamlet, 6-6, Forward, Phase One Academy, CAN.- With a seven-foot wingspan, Hamlet is one of the most promising talent that will be on display.

Devonte Green, 6-2 Guard, St. Mary’s HS. NY.- Word is he got a verbal offer from North Carolina as an eighth grader. People say that when he catches on fire and is at his best, it is very difficult to cool him down.

Sophomore Game

Thomas Bryant, 6-9, Bishop Kearney HS, N.Y.-MVP of last year’s inaugural freshmen showcase, Bryant has been compared to Kevin Durant. He already has picked up over 10 offers and his upside just doesn’t seem to have an ending point at all.

Kejuan Johnson, 6-6, Forward, Westlake HS, GA.- Dynamic leaper. He might not be so high on some people’s list but the flashes of a five-star player are there. Many remind him of Tobias Harris in upside.

Jamar Ergas, 6-3, Forward, Burlington Prep, NC.-  Runner-up at the Elite 24 dunk contest, his athleticism is off the charts. He gets off the ground in a hurry and effortlessly. Ergas has a very smooth game but can switch gears at any given second.