All eyes were on Queens last weekend for the Battle in the Apple event at Monsignor McClancy and St. John’s Prep. The top AAU programs in the city went up against the Nike EYBL Strive For Greatness AAU program sponsored by LeBron James. This was part of the multi city tour that SFG has with The Battle.
Two days filled with high-level hoops action with the top players in the city as well as the nation here are a few observations with some stats and insight when we came through yesterday.
Before arriving at the gym Black ops led by Taj Bryant started the day with the win over the NY Lightning while Naas Cunningham and the NY Rens pulled away late to beat the Wiz Kids. In the battle between two of the top five players in the class of 2024, Naas Cunningham exploded for 28 points in the win.
Upon Arrival at St. John’s prep gym, SFG’s 16U squad was going up against the New York Gauchos led by St. Ray’s underclassmen duo of Tai Turnage and Brandon Stores Jr. The Choz were down by a slight margin and SFG’s Pharaoh Compton (22 Points) was getting busy. Tai Turnage’s hot shooting and the Choz defense pulled away in the second half for a 77-69 win. The 28-point performance in three quarters from Turnage was by far the top 3 individual performance of the day. Brandon Stores added 14 points while Halon Rawlins added 15.
Local AAU Bump: Rens 17U vs New Heights
The Rens were looking to close out the Battle with a 3-0 record but they found themselves in a tight battle late in the second half against New Heights. The Rens dominated in the second quarter up 22-5 but New Heights led by RJ Greene and Nasir Muhammed charged back to close the gap. Rens went into halftime up 37-30.
In the third quarter New Heights’s Jaden Kempson went off for 13 points in the third and they made the game a very close one. A lot of back and forth action throughout the second half as new heights had an answer for every punch the Rens threw. One thing that may have set back New Heights in this game was the lack of free throws made. NH had many tries to extend the lead or cut the deficit but the free throws weren’t working. Tied at 67 with three seconds left, Naas Cunningham gets the tip-in at the buzzer to edge new heights for the 69-67.
The buzzer-beater was a follow-up to the 28-point performance against the Wiz Kids for Cunningham who is the No.1 player in 2024. Rens 17U team left The Battle with a 3-0 record. It was a needed tune-up for the squad who were preparing for the rest of the EYBL season. New Heights was led by RJ Greene with 15 points, Jaden Kempson scored 14.
Riverside Hawks vs SFG
Riverside Hawks 17U looked very strong against SFG’s 17U squad in the 71-45 victory Seck Zongo a 6-6 wing showed much growth since his freshman year and led four Hawks in double figures with 16 points.
The Main Event Wiz Kids vs SFG
The matchup between Bronny James and Ian Jackson was one of the most anticipated matchups of the day King James of course was in attendance to watch his Son and SFG go up against the No.3 player in 2022 Ian Jackson. The court conditions due to the hot weather affected the game but It was still a good competitive game as Elijah Moore was going off and Jackson was having a bounce-back game. SFG’s Zack Davidson (13 points) put on a show to introduce himself to the NYC crowd. Court Conditions due to the hot weather affected the players throughout the game which prevented the Wiz Kids from getting a shot during the last few seconds which resulted in SFG getting the comeback win. The Wiz Kids led by as much as 9 points throughout the second half until SFG made a run resulting in the 56-51 win.
Heavy Hitters at The Battle
As we mentioned before Tai’s 28-point performance was Top five at last weekends event. My initial thoughts after that game was that playing 16U is too easy for the rising sophomore guard as he is known for being one of the very few underclassmen who always plays above his age group. Tai’s performance proves why the future is bright in NYC.
This media platform is based on mostly the NYC tri-state area but we also show love to players from across the nation too and Compton deserves his props. The 6-8 forward who attends Prep powerhouse AZ compass scored 22 against the Gauchos and had a monster double-double of 15 points and 12 boards along with three blocks. Compton introduced himself to NYC the right way.
Eagle Academy Brooklyn rising junior Taj Bryant earned an offer to Robert Morris after his performance at Battle in The Apple in which he averaged 25.5 points per game that weekend. There’s definitely more on the way for Bryant and the Black Ops Cadets are on the come up as an independent program.
New York Rens 16U guard Dylan Harper went off during his stint last weekend which caught the attention of LeBron James on opening night with a 32 point performance. The youngest son of NBA veteran Ron Harper Sr., and younger brother of Rutgers star Ron jr, Dylan is one of the top underclassmen in Jersey and should help lead a talented Rens 16U squad to a deep run in Augusta in July.
Elijah Moore of the Wiz Kids scored 16 points against SFG and showed off his bounce in addition to his range. Moore along with Ian Jackson along with Dionte Johnson and a few other complementary players have a solid squad on the Adidas 3SSB circuit. The squad has hit a few bumps in the road in their first year on a major shoe circuit at 3-5, but they have the talent and the staff to improve as they will build towards making a run when the circuit continues at the next stop in Rock Hill, South Carolina July 7th – 10th
Unheralded Players shined on the Big Stage
Last but not least let’s talk about how the battle wasn’t a platform only for the top players. In our opinion, there were a few local players this weekend that shined and I saw that during SFG’s 16U game vs the NY Lightning.
Lightning guard Sunny Singh went on his run during the first half which made him go viral. John Harrington a guard from Community Health of the Heights led his team to their first city title appearance in schools history two months ago. Last Saturday, he kept playing hard despite being down by double digits to SFG.
When it comes to many high-level events like the Battle in The Apple players like Sunny and John are barely given a chance to play. Both players took advantage of the opportunity given and it’s something they can build off and get better from. Lessons not losses.
Despite court conditions at the Venue ending the event early, there were many highs about the event. The chance to see top AAU programs was one of them. The numerous appearances from current and former NBA players such as Long Island native Danny Green of the Philadelphia 76ers (one of the founders of the event) Carmelo Anthony, Dahntay Jones, and Lebron James. Celebrities such legendary rapper Jadakiss and Brooklyn’s own Rowdy Rebel and many more were in attendance as well.
Very interesting to see what the people at the Battle have next when they come back to the city in the future. Next stop on the Battle / Strive for Greatness tour is Akron, Ohio.