ONE OF SUMMER BASKETBALL’S MOST COVETED CHAMPIONSHIPS TRAVELS FROM NEW YORK TO MIDWEST
Fox Valley SKILLZ Runs Past PA Red STORM to Grab Championship Honors at 2003 GymRat CHALLENGE
Rochester Area Players take top honors in 16:U Bracket
Long Island Lightning wins 15:U Championship
Bell, Shalvoy, Ambrose named Age Division MVPs
Albany, NY – For GymRats and basketball junkies everywhere, New York State’s Capital District was the place to be this Memorial Day Weekend, as Albany played host to one of North America’s biggest and most competitive AAU boys basketball tournaments at the 2003 GymRat CHALLENGE. Over 2500 prep players from throughout the United States and Canada, gathered at Siena College and the University at Albany in hopes of gaining a piece of the national spotlight, and taking home one of the summer’s most coveted prizes as GymRat CHALLENGE Champions. On Saturday morning, 196 teams from Green Bay to Houston, and Ottawa to Washington began their quest for titles in three age divisions in what has now become the third largest event of its kind on the North American continent. When all was said and done, Wisconsin’s Fox Valley Skillz took home the top prize in the 17:U Age Division, while the Rochester Area Players and Long Island Lightning took home titles in the 16:U and 15:U divisions respectively.
In the 15:U age division it was an all Big Apple Final Four. On one side of the bracket, the Long Island Lightning hammered their Metro New York rival New York Gauchos, 71-51 after opening up a 47-18 halftime lead, to advance and claim a hard fought victory over the New York City RISE Panthers in the Championship Game. The Championship tilt saw seventeen lead changes, and neither team able to gain a lead of more than five points. 15:U Age Division MVP, Tim Ambrose paced the Lightning throughout the tournament and treated a large crowd to a dazzling offensive display. Teammates Johnny Garcia and Larry Davis also had outstanding weekends.
The Panthers made their way to the Championship Game in a semi-final that saw them outlast the legendary New York Ravens 60-37, as they pulled-away in the second half after a highly contested opening 16 minutes. Calvin Rhoden held the hot hand in the Panthers final two contests, and Mohammed Lo was dominating in the paint.
15:U AGE DIVISION ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Tim Ambrose (Long Island Lightning): 15:U Age Division MVP: 5’10”, strong athletic build, Powerful player with wide array of skills. Handles the ball with strength and confidence; Combines ability to slash to the basket with ability to keep defense guessing with pull up jumper. The Brentwood, Long Island native will enter his sophomore year with a bright future ahead of him.
Larry Davis (Long Island Lightning-BARON): 6’2”, Slasher who goes to the hole with authority. Loads of potential.
Ryan Vaeth (Long Island Lightning-BERBY): 6’4” Shooter who can rip it from deep.
Chris Donald (Long Island Lightning-BERBY): Lean Athletic Build. Finishes well around the basket; Tournament Evaluation Staff calls him one of the Top Five players in the 15:U Age Division.
Kirk Cecremer (Fox Valley Skillz): 6’5” Banger who enjoys contact in the paint; Soft Touch around the basket; Tenacious defensive player
Darryl Crawford (NY Gauchos): 6’0”; Athletic build; High riser that jumps out of the gym.
Kashif Pratt (NY Gauchos): 6’3”; Multidimensional player who can create his own shot; Fills it up in transition.
Mohammed Lo (NYC RISE): 6’6”, Huge post presence; Blocks shots; Easily gains low-post position and runs floor for size.
Calvin Rhoden (NYC RISE): 6’2” Athletic swing player with solid touch from the perimeter
Tyrell Vernon – Hamilton Wildcats
Johnny Garcia-Long Island Lightning-BARON
Brandon Mays-Long Island Lightning-LOPIANO
Bernard Cherry-New York Ravens
Greg Nero-Rennselear County Raptors
Robbie Marshall -D–Squad
Hamiou Rahman-Franklin Ballers
Connor O’Brien-Long Island Lightning-HARKINS
David Dale-Providence United
Brandon Fortes-Providence United
Brian Grastorff-Lights Out
Craig Johnson-Shooting Stars
In the 16: U Age Division, number one seed Rochester Area Players pulled away to a double-digit victory over the Morris County Bulls in the title game to claim a coveted GymRat CHALLENGE Championship. Age Division MVP, Chris Shalvoy ran the show for RAP and came up with several heady plays sparking the Western New York team to 33-25 halftime lead. Ismaila Traore kept Morris County within striking distance in the second half, with some nifty inside moves, but the Bulls were never able to overcome the first half deficit. Fox Valley gave RAP all they could handle in semi-final number one. The cheese-head hoopsters used a patient zone offense to consistently get the ball inside to Brian Behnke who delivered for 15 first half points. Rochester made some defensive adjustments at halftime and shut down the inside passing lanes. Fox Valley had to resort to a perimeter game and went dry from outside the arc. With just over 9:00 minutes remaining in the contest Rochester resorted to a four-corner offense and eventually pulled away to a 53-43 win. In the bottom half of the bracket, the Rhode Island Breakers jumped out to a seven-point halftime lead behind the three point shooting of Jamal Johnson. The Bulls Traore took matters in to his own hands in half number two helping to pull his team even at the end of regulation, and leading them to a hard fought overtime victory against the perennial New England power.
16:U AGE DIVISION ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Chris Shalvoy (Rochester Area Players): Tournament MVP, 6’0”, Mature and gutsy Point Guard with wide variety of skills. Sees the floor very well. Solid perimeter shooter, and a creative passer. Shalvoy makes his home in the suburban Rochester village of Pittsford and preps at nearby at Pittsford-Mendon Central School. Although others in the bracket demonstrated greater physical gifts, Shalvoy is a definitive leader and winner. Watch his stock rise with his play at the 2003 GymRat CHALLENGE.
Craig Coenen (Fox Valley Skillz): 6’8’, Runs floor extremely well, Does good job finishing around the basket, Steps out and shoot it accurately from 10 to 15 feet.
Brandon Backman (Fox Valley Skillz): Shooter who handles the ball well. Good court vision.
Nate Brumfield (Rochester Area Players): Small forward that gets the job done on the glass; Tournament Evaluation Staff calls him one of the most tenacious rebounders in the 16:U bracket.
Greg McCarthy (Boston Blazers): 6’8” and slender with good range from the perimeter
Sadiq Kofo (Rhode Island Breakers): 6’0” Ball handler who penetrates and distributes; Sees entire floor.
Brandon Shelton (YABC): 6’2” Shooter with DEEP range
Ismaila Traore (Morris County Bulls): Big Man who is tough in paint; Goes to the hole with authority.
Jamal Johnson-Rhode Island Breakers
Jonathan Ubri -YABC
Andy Robinson-Schenectady Patriots
Eric Meister-Team Woodward
Dan Lewis-Team Woodward
Keith Hardin-Team Woodward
Ross Petland-Boston Blazers
Dwight Jackson-Queens Cobras
Brandon Jones-Jersey Knights
Dax Dessureault-Ottawa Phoenix
Lenford Mills-Ottawa Phoenix
Rodney Solomon-New Jersey Trailblazers
Drew Willy-Morris County Bulls
The 17:U Age Division closed out the weekend with a talented and disciplined Fox Valley SKILLZ team rolling to victory against the well-balanced attack of the PA Red Storm. Age Division MVP DaMarcus Bell teamed up with Brad Ferstenou to provide a dominating inside attack for the Wisconsin team. LaVontay Fenderson, Harry Boyce and Kyle Clark also made impressive showings throughout the weekend.
The New York Elite and Houston Lynx once again put several talented players on display, but had to go toe to toe in the quarterfinal round. In a thrilling contest, the Lynx picked up a lay-up from Thomas Sanders with just over one second remaining in the contest to ruin any chances of a repeat championship for the Elite. Sanders lay-up was the second buzzer beater that the Texan delivered over the weekend. The Lynx exited the tournament in the very next round going down to defeat against the Ottawa Phoenix.
Several teams came in to the weekend underestimating Joe Gill’s PA Red STORM but quickly found out they were a well disciplined and well drilled force to be reckoned with. Guided by strong Point Guard play from Larry Sharp, the STORM pulled off the initial upset of the tournament when they took down defending champion New York Elite in the opening rounds of Pool Play. In one half of the Championship Round bracket, the suburban Philadelphians used an unselfish style of play to overcome a five point deficit in the final 1:34 and backdoor cut their way to a three-point victory over Jersey Cyclones BLUE in Semi-Final action.
In the other half of the bracket, Fox Valley SKILLZ powered past the Ottawa Phoenix 53-35 to punch their ticket into the Championship tilt. In the battle for the big prize, the combined arsenal of talent and offensive execution from Ritchie Davis’ well-coached Fox Valley SKILLZ team allowed them to control the action from buzzer to buzzer, outlast the Red STORM, and bring the 2003 GymRat CHALLENGE Championship home to the Midwest.
17:U AGE DIVISION ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
DaMarcus Bell (Fox Valley Skillz): 6’6”, Inside-Out combination player with a multitude of skills; Silky smooth finishing ability around the rack, as well as comfortable range from behind the arc. The Racine St. Catherine’s High School product will graduate in 2004. Several mid major colleges are presently after Bell who has the ability to hit the perimeter shot and score with both power and finesse inside the lane. A break-out tournament at the Kingswood Classic, followed by an MVP performance in the GymRat CHALLENGE leaves experts awaiting what else may be in store for Bell as he continues to rocket towards the July LIVE period and his senior campaign.
Adrian Joseph (New York Elite): 6’8”, Lefty that can do it all off the dribble or with the perimeter shot. Nearly impossible to guard one-on-one as he combines physical strength with ability to slash to the hole, pull up for a mid range shot, or step behind the arc with confidence and accuracy. Definitely one of the premier players at this year’s tournament.
Kelvin Davis (New York Elite): 6’2”, Finisher that makes things happen. Takes it strong to the hole and seldom gets denied doing it. Another one of this year’s best.
Ryan Bell (Ottawa Phoenix): Point Guard that is long and lanky. Plays well in an up-tempo style. Good poise and maturity.
Eddie Miller (Tri-County All Stars): Point Guard that does it all. Explosive jumper that handles the ball well.
Prince Moadiwe (Student Athlete Broncos): 6’4”, Beast that’s very tough around the basket. Uncontrollable in the paint!
Rob Thomas (Brooklyn Cyclones): Slasher that shoots it and block shots. Creativity in the air makes each possession a potential highlight real clip
Troy Ruths (Houston Lynx): One of the dominant post players of this year’s tournament. Ruths has good moves around the basket and is very agile for his size; Block shots and makes it extremely difficult for his opponents to get easy looks in the paint.
Larry Sharp (Pennsylvania Red Storm): Steady and heady point guard cut in the Dan Dickau mold; Hard-nosed leader and competitor with ability, although unconventional at times, to finish around the rack, and create space for mid-range jumper; Finds the open man and DOES NOT turn the ball over; Controls pace of game and knows where the athletes are.
Rob Agnone-Lancaster Elite
Devon Moffatt-Jersey Cyclones Blue
Desmond Sanders-Jersey Cyclones Blue
David Whitehurst-Jersey Cyclones Blue
Colin Page-Brookwood Elite
Nick Carter-New York Elite
Keith Dundas-Pennsylvania Red Storm
Joe Gill-Pennsylvania Red Storm
Gary Gallimore-Ottawa Phoenix
Sam Dolan-City Rocks
Garry Guillory-Vermont Bobcats
Brad Fersteneu-Fox Valley Skillz
Harry Boyce-Fox Valley Skillz
LaVontay Federson-Fox Valley Skillz
Curtis Massey-Maryland Stealth
Maurice Turpin-New Jersey Trailblazers
Josh Duell-Albany Capitals
Eugene Harvey-SONDAY Express
Brain Beckford-SONDAY Express
Brandon Hudson-Tri County All Stars
Tyler Mikittrick-Fairfax Stars
Dashawn Diwight-Jersey Cyclones Black
Alberto Ortiz-East New Yorkers
Nicholas McMillan-Houston Lynx
Jack Leasure-Rochester Area Players
Pat Washington-Niagara PAL