by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
This past weekend, the competition and fanfare of summer basketball culminated in Nike Basketball’s Tournament of Champions. Over the course of four days, at various playgrounds and gymnasiums in New York City, some of the country’s best players—from NYC, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles—competed in a five-team tournament to earn bragging rights as the “best basketball city in the country.” There was also a boy’s division, showcasing some of the top high school players in the tri-state area.
When it was all said and done, New York (high school), and Team NIKE Chicago (men’s) emerged victorious.
High School Division
New York 90, New Jersey 88 (OT)
It was a little over two weeks ago when guys from New York and Jersey were competing—and running the show—as teammates in the Big Strick Classic, representing the tri-state area against some of the highest-ranked players from around the country. New Yorker’s like Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington were standing tall, together, trying to hold down their home turf.
But as we saw over the weekend, representing the tri-state area in the Big Strick and representing your borough/region in the TOC are mutually exclusive, and the level of intensity increases when trying to determine who is the best within the New York area.
So when New York and New Jersey matched up in the TOC finals, what ensued was a heated battle, with crowd-deafening noise, numerous lead changes and, of course, overtime.
New Jersey got out to a strong start, with Briscoe (a 6-3 PG in the class of 2015 with offers from Arizona, UConn, Ohio State and others) controlling the game with his tight handle and terrific scoring ability. The New York team—comprised of Whitehead, Carrington, Syracuse-bound Chris McCullough, Rutgers-bound Mike Williams and others—struggled from the start, with New York’s guards taking ill-advised shots and the big men moseying around the paint watching the guards take ill-advised shots.
So while New York was going through the motions, New Jersey continued to get out in transition, looking for open teammates and finishing at the cup. Before NY had time to regroup, NJ was up 47-26 at half.
Ha. Never. Not with the New York team.
If you’ve ever watched guys like Whitehead and McCullough compete, you know that for some reason they perform best under pressure, with their backs against the wall, the crowd in their ears and the opposition clapping in their face.
For Whitehead (a 2014 PG who is down to Syracuse, Arizona, UCLA, Miami and Indiana), it’s almost a Hulk-like transformation; when he gets angry, his face becomes stoic and he plays like a man possessed, scoring at will and without any regard or courtesy for his opponents.
Whitehead came out on a mission in the second half and overtime, picking his spots and scoring from all over the floor. He scored 20 of his 25 points during this span, and using a full-court press, NY used a big third quarter to close the gap. Carrington, who finished with 19 points, also came alive in the second half. At the end of the third quarter, New Jersey was up 58-54, barely holding onto the lead.
In the fourth, Briscoe started to heat-up, but the dynamic trio of NY guards (Whitehead, Carrington, Williams) answered every Jersey basket and the momentum was fully theirs. Down 78-72, Williams hit a clutch 3-pointer to trim the lead to three points with 1:17 left. On the following possession, Whitehead dished to Williams for an and-1 layup, and with 48 seconds remaining, the game was tied at 78, and headed for overtime.
In the extra session, New York’s guards proved to be too much. Whitehead scored nine points in OT, and New York had a semi-comfortable five-point lead throughout the period.
It wasn’t easy, but the hometown boys came out with the win. Just like they expected.
Chicago 108, Washington D.C. 90
Behind strong play from guards Jamarcus Ellis, Chris Singletary and Osiris Eldridge, and with Kevin Durant watching from the stands, Team Chicago cruised to a 108-90 victory in the Nike Tournament of Champions final at Duggal Greenhouse on Saturday.
Washington D.C. (Goodman League) had some stretches when they looked poised for a run, but Team Chicago never let the momentum shift, using sound defense and easy transition opportunities to take home the TOC crown.
The win concludes an epic summer of basketball for Nike, which hosted daily regional leagues across the nation and continued to foster and facilitate national interest in the streetball scene.
The boys from Illinois came through, handled their business and emerged unscathed in the Mecca of Hoops. Congrats and much respect to Team Chicago, and a huge “hat tip” to Nike for showing us all that Summer is (definitely) Serious. Great stuff all around.