New York Elite Tops City Rocks to Claim 2002 GymRat CHALLENGE Title

Baltimore Bombers Claim 16:U Crown
NY Ravens Win 15:U Championship
Pallacious Named Tournament MVP

Albany, NY-On Memorial Day Weekend, 160 teams from throughout North America descended on Albany, NY to lay claim to one of the most coveted titles of the summer basketball circuit as 2002 GymRat CHALLENGE Champions. Over 2000 prep basketball players competed to separate themselves and their teams from the rest of the pack and establish national notoriety. In the final analysis, Albany proved to be not only an outstanding host city, but also very capable of producing teams to be included among the country’s elite.

In the 15:U Age Division, led by the versatile and athletic play of Paul Harris, the GC Ballers (Buffalo, NY) sped through Pool Play to claim the #1 seed in the Championship Round. In their opening Championship Round contest, led by 21 point and two thunderous dunks in traffic by Harris, the Ballers raced past the Long Island Gaels. In semi-final action against the Morris County Bulls, Harris poured in 20 and received support in the form of dominating play on the glass by Megal Respress and Darnell Kimble. On the other side of the bracket, the New York Ravens moved by the Schenectady Patriots despite a game high 24 points and four deep three-point field goals from Andy Robinson. In the semi’s, the Raven’s Albert Torres exploded for 25 of his game high 31 in the second half to lead his team past the Boston Blazers and into the final against the Ballers. In the Championship Game, another powerful performance by Paul Harris kept the Ballers within four at the half. Harris’ ability to get the basket almost at will led to a game high 26 points, but Torres answered with 24 for the Ravens scoring big baskets both in the post and on the perimeter. The Ravens also received 18 from Richard Jackson in capturing their first GymRat CHALLENGE Championship at any age level.

In the 16:U Age Division, the Albany Capitals used a balanced and disciplined attack to grab the #1 seed heading into the Championship Round. In an ironic twist, the brackets progressed to an all Capital Cities affair in the semi-final round with the Albany Capitals meeting the Albany City Rocks on one side of the bracket and the Baltimore Bombers meeting Metro Players DC on the other. Opponent familiarity led to two closely contested games. In the Battle of Albany, both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, but Mike Callopy’s 14 points allowed the Capitals to outlast their cross-town foes. In the DC Area Shootout, the Bombers pounded the ball inside to outscore Metro DC in an evenly matched game, and Davon Allen had key blocked shots to allow the Bombers to pull away at the end of the game. The Bombers were paced by a game high 17 from Darnell Harris, while Brian Hodge led the Metro Players with 16. The Championship game was a classic back and forth contest with neither team leading by more than six points at any point. The Albany Capitals jumped out to an early lead on the strength of gutsy and solid all-around play from Collopy. Jerrell Green’s lightning first step and transition play allowed the Baltimore Bombers to cling to a lead for most of the second half, but Albany rallied to take a three point lead with under a minute to go on a mid range jumper and lay-up on back-to-back possessions from Collopy. Baltimore responded with a three point play from Daseaw Williams (14 points) that tied the game at 44. After an Albany miss, two clutch free-throws from Davon Allen gave Baltimore the lead for good. Despite sustaining a broken nose two games earlier, Collopy led his gutsy teammates and all scorers with 20 points. Green paced the Champions with 15. Other notable individual performers in the 16:U Division included Preston Miley and Chris Lowery of the Brooklyn (NY) Cyclones. Miley’s ultra quickness and finishing ability in transition made him one of the tournament’s leading scorers. Although largely disinterested in the defensive end of the floor, 9th grader Lowery displayed eye-popping athleticism and crowd pleasing above the rim play on the offensive end.

In the 64 team 17:U Age Division, competition was fierce with at least two potential Championship contenders left out of the Championship Round as a result of loaded pools. The Diaper Dans of Virginia and Jersey Shore Cyclones fell to YABC (Boston) and NY Elite respectively in intensely matched pool champion deciding games. Both the Dans and Cyclones were widely recognized as among the teams in serious contention to win the overall prize. When the Championship Round was set, the defending champion Student-Athlete Broncos (NYC) had captured the #1 seed. After close victories over the RI Breakers and Syracuse Cingular, the Broncos advanced to a semi-final match-up against NY Elite. Elite’s path to the semis was loaded with road blocks. In addition to the in-pool challenge from the Jersey Shore Cyclones, NY Elite took overtime to sneak by the Westchester Hawks, and then had to battle Mickey Walker’s Donyelle Marshall Foundation for a four point win in the quarterfinals, despite steady play from DMF’s floor general Tyler Relph and 29 points from an athletic and rangey Loren Stokes. The other side of the Championship Round bracket saw the Morris County Bulls squeak out a two point victory over the Houston LYNX despite a game high 22 from Houston’s Will Whittington to advance to a semi-final match-up against the hometown Albany City Rocks. The City Rocks v. Morris County match-up featured multiple lead changes and dominant first half performances by the Bulls Jamar Thorpe (15 points in first half, 25 overall), and Albany’s Jeremy Zalacca (21 first half points, 29 overall). Thorpe was powerful and unstoppable both inside and out, and Zalacca demonstrated all-around offensive skills to accompany his obviously high basketball IQ. Tezmar Caldwell controlled the glass for the Bulls, but in the end, clutch shooting from Zalacca and Chad Pizzo iced the victory for the City Rocks. Despite being a low scoring affair, the SA Broncos v. NY Elite semi featured explosive athleticism from the Broncos Deigo Aguiar, as well as Elite’s Oumar Sylla, Konimba Diarra, and Tello Pallacious. Seven three-pointers and a game high 23 points from Carl Benn was not quite enough for the Broncos, as Pallacious and company upended the defending champs 55-54. In the Championship Game, the Rocks started off quickly and jumped out to an 8-0 lead and a 34-32 halftime advantage. However, the barrage of athleticism and inside out skills from Sylla, Konimba, and Pallacious took over in the second half and led NY Elite to the 64-51 Championship victory. The dynamic trio all hit for double figures with Oumar Sylla leading all scorers with 22, and 2002 GymRat CHALLENGE MVP, Tello Pallacious connecting for a double-double of 17 points and 15 rebounds and scoring from all areas of the floor. Pallacious showcased his Elton Brand-like skills throughout the weekend scoring from all angles and all ranges. Unilaterally rated nationally as a top twenty player in the Sophomore class, Pallacious set the tone early as a powerful force going to the rim, and complimented his strength with steady perimeter range from beyond the three point arc. Even with these advanced skills, at this stage in his development, a huge upside continues to exist. Tremendous ball instincts and a 6’8″ frame built for more muscle mass leaves the true potential of Tello Pallacious yet undefined, and talent evaluators everywhere looking for what dimensions he will add next.

Other notable individual performers included:

Frantz Dorsainvil (Jersey Shore Cyclones): Big time basketball body on his 6’7″ frame. Runs, jumps, and attacks the glass. As athletic as Pallacious. Mid range perimeter game gaining consistency.

Sean Christiansen (Jersey Shore Cyclones): 6’3″ Point Guard that sees and distributes. Scores off the dribble to the basket and from the perimeter.

Junior LaLonde (RI Breakers): 6’2″; Great speed and body control combined with consistent perimeter range make him very tough to defend.

P. Jay Bernard (YABC): 6’2″; Smooth perimeter stroke with plenty of range; Set GymRat CHALLENGE record with 10 three-point FG versus Diaper Dans in crucial pool play game.

Ian Johnson (Diaper Dans of VA): 6’10”; Athletic post player with versatile skills; Went for 21 including three 3-pointers v. YABC in pool championship