PSA Cardinals 16U head coach Casey Williams has been coaching the youth in NYC for a long time. So when it came to the NYC Invitational back in April, he felt a sense of nostalgia. “Good old fashion NYC AAU basketball”. Williams said about the prestigious event . “Gauchos gym was a great atmosphere to compete against the locals”. Which is something we have not experienced at all. Five of Grassroots programs four of them representing three major sneaker circuits Nike EYBL, UA Association and Adidas 3SSB.
Five of the top grassroots organizations in the Tri-state area NY Rens, PSA Cardinals, Riverside Hawks, NY Jayhawks and the host organization NY Gauchos had teams from all high school age groups 15-17U participating in mostly scrimmages to work out the kinks with their teams and preview their teams to many college coaches watching virtually and many scouts and media in attendance.
Recently we caught up with some of the players after the event as well as a representative of each organization as they gave their thoughts about the NYC Invitational as well as how they see their teams as they head into their respective circuits in July.
Williams gave some insight into his 16U squad which at the time was just beginning to get used to playing each other at the time. “ I liked how our group rose to the occasion and competed on a big stage” Wiliams added.
The growth of the PSA Cardinals 16U since the NYC Invitational has shown in the recent tournaments they participated in when they won championships in events such as the Hoop Group NJ Jam Fest and The Collision. Offers have been flowing in for all of their players, especially their core group of rising juniors Jayden Lemond, Jayden Reid, Mouhamed Dioubate, and others. The PSA Cardinals 16U squad is set for a big July as they are currently preparing for the EYBL regular season in July.
“ The NYC invitational was ran at a very high level, says PSA Executive director Munch Williams. “ To see many of the top grassroots programs in the NYC area under one roof was a powerful message to the rest of the country the best part was the competition on all grade levels.
The PSA cardinals only participated in the first session of the NYC invitational. Still, since we have seen many of their players in other events since then, we know each squad has a strong nucleus of talent that can compete with some of the best teams in the nation.
The host team of the event New York Gauchos has a lot to be proud about. When I spoke to Boys Director Book Richardson he spoke highly about the growth and unity of the organization. “In terms of the Gauchos I think we are more unified now having a true system in place with our 15,16,17U teams.
“ I’m happy that there is a lot of unity and solidarity with in our program that we haven’t seen in a while Richardson also added”.
The Gauchos had a strong showing at the NYC invitational especially with their 17U team. Zaire Williams a 6-3 shooting guard from Eagle Academy II in Brooklyn came into this event looking to do a post grad year and re-class into the class of 2022 but after his amazing performance at the invitation his stock grew even more and high major schools started to offer, eventually for Williams he found a school he can go to right away in Wagner College in which he committed to a few weeks later. Zaire Wells a 6-6 wing from St. Benedict’s prep in New Jersey is another guard who shined in the invitational and raised his stock even more.
The Gauchos 17U squad has a lot of talent on their roster with Iona Prep’s RJ Greene leading the way. The 6-5 wing joined the Gauchos a couple of days after the NYC invitational at the Pittsburgh Jamfest and has been one of many key players for them. We recently seen RJ at The Collison earlier this month when he went off for 23 points against Team New England. The offers continue to roll in for Greene as well as other members of this team.
One thing the Gauchos takes pride in is that they have players in their organization from all age groups playing varsity in both the PSAL and the CHSAA. Markell Alston, Naszaire Simmons and Brandon Williams are just a few of their underclassmen players who have shined so far.
Alston is an eighth-grader playing up in 16U, and he looked like he fit right in. Nazaire Simmons had the big defining moment as a freshman on varsity by scoring the game-winning bucket to beat Xaverian in the CHSAA spring league championship.
As for looking back at the event in April, Richardson takes pride in hosting an event where all of the talent was right in our backyard. “This event was tremendous especially with the for the first time in over a year where you have an AAU event that we didn’t have to travel all over the country to find talent to come play in this event”.
“There’s no venue like Gauchos gym in the country with all of the talent here I’m glad that we were able to put on not only for the city but for the country says Richardson.
As the July Live period looms, we will look forward to seeing the Choz compete with some of the best programs in the nation, and as for their players, more of them will be earning more scholarship offers along the way.
One team that has shown tremendous growth from the 1st to second session of the NYC invitational is the Riverside Hawks 17U team.
In the first session the Hawks got off to the wrong start but showed much growth in the second session. The Hawks proved that when they beat the NY Rens 64-60 in a real game to close out the event back on April 25th.
“ I think we have vastly improved in these past two weeks in the NYC invitational. It was great to play in an event with Local teams from all three sneaker circuits Nike, Adidas and Under Armour”says 17U head coach Dermon Player.
Mount St. Michael Academy senior wing Noah Best left the gym that night with high hopes after the win over the Rens. “ I think our team have a lot of potential we played well against a High level EYBL team and we did real well and we competed so on the UA circuit we are going fo be phenomenal.
If you haven’t been following the Riverside Hawks since April, the Hawks are had a great debut in the UA Association’s Memorial Day tournament in Indiana going 3-2. The Hawks have a great group of guards like Maurice Odum a 6-0 guard from East Harlem who plays high school ball at Union City HS is one player who could flourish in this circuit as he showed in the first session with many big scoring games. Odum who holds an offer from St. Peter’s is one of many players who is set for a big July when the UA Association begins on July 8th in Georgia. Other notable prospects on the Riverside Hawks 17U squad include Todd Rochelle, Promise Opurum, Richard Smith, Jalen Bradberry and more.
As we look forward to part two, we will talk about how arguably two of the deepest teams from April’s NYC invitational look to become contenders in their respective circuits.