By Aggrey Sam
With Nike announcing last year that it would hold “skills camps” instead of a traditional All-American camp and Adidas out of the camp business entirely, Reebok recently announced their plans. As AAU/summer basketball/sneaker camp godfather Sonny Vaccaro steps away from the spotlight, Reebok has made some changes to their approach to the summer.
Instead of ABCD Camp, Reebok will host RBK-U. Held at Philadelphia University from July 6-10, RBK-U will be the only traditional All-American camp around this year. 120 kids will be invited, with 70 selected by a committee and the rest picked through Reebok’s Headliner Tryout Camps. The Headliner camps will take place in 18 cities across the U.S. between May and June and will give 50 players the opportunity to attend RBK-U.
For younger players who don’t make the cut for RBK-U, the company will have RBK Breakout Underclass Camp, which will feature 120 of the best rising sophomores and juniors in Chicago from June 22-24. Also for players who seek exposure, Reebok will sponsor the Proving Ground Regional Combine from July 7-8 in nine cities. Lastly, as a replacement for Vaccaro’s Big Time Tournament in Vegas, there will be the Reebok Summer Championships from July 22-26.
If you ask me, having just one traditional sneaker camp is a good thing. I think what Nike is doing with the skills camps is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t allow enough kids to benefit. I definitely don’t think the sneaker camps should be done away with completely, but three camps with hundreds of kids was a little overkill and this move should make getting invited something for the elite prospects, the way it used to be back in the day. It’s going to place a bigger emphasis on AAU, which I don’t like, but at least it will make college coaches do their homework and have to hustle to see more kids. This summer should be interesting, to say the least.
On the local tip, I ventured out to the Albert C. Donofrio Tournament (better known as Conshohocken, for the suburb of Philly where it’s held) over the last few weeks to check out some of the better players in the Philly area. “Conshy” is probably the best spring AAU tourney in the area, as it attracts the strongest club teams around, as well as teams formed just for the event, which is one of the bigger bragging-rights affairs in the region. The tournament takes place over a few weeks, with two games a night, Monday-Thursday, so it’s different than the usual weekend events with 100-plus squads that leave most fans feeling burned out. It’s pretty well-organized and brings out teams from as far Jersey and Delaware to play at the Fellowship House, the most beautiful local rec center I’ve been to. In addition, the games are played on a shorter-than-regulation courts, for 40 minutes (like college games; high school games are 32 minutes), which lead to high-scoring, exciting matchups.
I didn’t get out to all the early-round games and while I saw much of the action from quarterfinals on, I’ll focus on the championship so you don’t fall asleep on me. Positive Image, a longtime mainstay on the Philly AAU scene, faced off with Just Clean It!, a team put together for the event that featured a mix of kids from Philly private and Catholic schools and players from Glen Mills, a court-adjudicated school in PA known for having high-level athletes. Positive Image’s marquee name is Brad Wanamaker, a Pitt-bound guard I wrote about in the current issue (more on that later), but they also have a few other D1 signees and promising underclassmen. The best player on Just Clean It! Is Lamar Patterson, a husky, 6-5, 225-pound sophomore wing from McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa., (the little brother of Syracuse QB Perry Patterson), but the most intriguing prospect on the squad is Aaric Murray, a 6-10, 225-pound soph shot blocker from Glen Mills with a ton of potential.
The game was mostly a close affair, with the more experienced Positive Image squad and their army of quick, defensive-minded guards always on the attack. Brad and his twin brother, Brian Wanamaker, are known for their aggressiveness, and this night was no different. The twins, along with their Roman Catholic teammates, senior Nick Daggett and junior Courtney Stanley, pressured Just Clean It! 94 feet and went hard to the hoop throughout the game. High-flying Kashief Edwards, a 6-6 combo forward headed to Niagara and versatile 6-7 wing Kenny Moore used their quickness on the interior to draw fouls on Murray, who made a huge impact with his rebounding and shot blocking. Patterson was able to combine his outside shooting and power to give PI some problems, while JCI guards Andrew Rogers, (a 5-7, if that, feisty junior point guard with a great basketball IQ), Joe Hoban (a quick, solid senior combo guard) and Jordan Burdine (a 6-1 junior combo from Glen Mills with a streaky J), as well as Raheem Wiggins (an athletic 6-5 junior combo forward from Glen Mills) didn’t back down from the challenge, either.
My only complaint about the tournament was the inconsistent refereeing, something that made a big impact on the game when Murray was called for his fifth foul (it takes six to foul out at Conshy) on a ticky-tack reach-in and had to sit for a long stretch, eventually fouling out late (and receiving a standing ovation, something I don’t see too much of at AAU games). Edwards (who would be named tourney MVP) and Moore started to dominate the interior, while the Wanamakers finished at the basket without having to worry about Murray’s presence. Still, Just Clean It! stayed in the game and clutch shots from Burdine, Patterson and Wiggins made it a see-saw battle. However, Positive Image’s Moore, Edwards and the Wanamaker twins were just as cool under pressure and some late free throws sealed a 91-87 win.
Brian Wanamaker spearheaded the charge with a game-high 25 points, four rebounds and six assists. Brad also had a nice all-around performance with 20 points, seven boards and four dimes, while Edwards contributed on the inside with 21 and 12. Just Clean It! Was led by Patterson’s 22 (including three treys) and eight boards and Murray put up eight points, 13 boards and four blocks (seemed like a lot more), despite foul trouble. The guard trio of Rogers, Hoban and Burdine (sounds like a law firm) had 12 points and five assists, 11 and five dimes and 14 points (including three trey balls), respectively.
Real quick, I want to apologize for an error in the current issue in the magazine. I wrote a story about Brad Wanamaker, but the photo showed Brian Wanamaker celebrating Roman Catholic’s Philadelphia Catholic League championship game win. While Brad is the more highly-regarded prospect, Brian isn’t too shabby himself. A 6-2, 190-pound combo guard, Brian is arguably the best defensive player in the Philly area and is headed to Central Connecticut State in the fall. As you can see, they’re not identical twins.
Keeping it local, I also wanted to mention six sophomore sleepers in the Philly region. Some of these kids are already household names in the area, but they’re all currently flying under the national radar.
Will Adams, 6-4 wing, Imhotep Charter: Adams didn’t put up huge numbers this season, but even on a team with three D1 signees, his explosiveness and potential were very evident. Taking into account his tenacity, athleticism and sweet stroke, he’s a player to keep an eye on in the future.
Rahlir Jefferson, 6-6 combo forward, Chester: Similar to Adams, Jefferson played on a loaded squad (Jameer Nelson’s alma mater is a powerhouse in PA), but displayed the ability to develop into a special player down the road. The slender, long-armed, baby-faced defensive stopper showed enough athleticism, feel for the game and versatility for Pitt to make him an early offer.
Nurideen Lindsay, 6-2 combo guard, Overbrook: Playing for the alma mater of Will Smith and Wilt Chamberlain, “Nore” led the Philly schoolboys in scoring this year at over 25 a game. He still needs to develop better point-guard skills, but his killer’s mentality and scoring creativity makes stopping him a tough task.
Aaric Murray: 6-10 post, Glen Mills: Murray, who didn’t play organized basketball before this year, was a revelation to almost everyone who’s seen him play. Excellent hands, good feet for his size, tremendous shot-blocking instincts, aggressive on the boards, strong finisher, true post player—I can go on forever about this kid. College coaches, jump on the bandwagon immediately.
Lamar Patterson: 6-5 wing, McCaskey: Since Lancaster isn’t that close to Philly, I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Patterson play before last week, though I’d heard a lot about him. A big-bodied wing with a good handle, polished mid-range game and excellent range, I’m positive he’ll be a high-major recruit—unless he decides to play football in college (a quarterback on the gridiron, he’s the little brother of Syracuse QB Perry Patterson).
Maalik Wayns, 6-1 point guard, Roman Catholic: Wayns, a husky true point guard who plays like a seasoned vet, impressed me this year with his maturity, determination and improved outside J. An excellent decision-maker with looks from schools such as Georgia Tech and Villanova, he has the look of a kid who could become a big-time national prospect with a big summer on the AAU circuit.
Maybe they won’t all develop into superstars, but in a world where things like this happen, they deserve a little love.
I’m headed to NYC tomorrow for the Jordan Brand All-American Classic, which we’ve been covering on the site all week. I should have something on that star-studded affair next week. Before I go, I wanted to shout out my man Anthony Evans, who just got named head coach down at Norfolk State. Enjoy your weekend!