Team ODOM makes coach’s choice the right one

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Memorial Day Weekend is the ‘unofficial’ start of summer for most people around the nation. This holiday period provided plenty of sweltering conditions in the New York State’s Capital Region as the weather heated up outdoors and indoors — specifically for the 212 AAU boys basketball team participating at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE at Siena College, the University at Albany and Union College.

The ninth edition of the GymRat CHALLENGE provided over 2,500 prep basketball standouts from throughout the United States and Canada an opportunity to compete in one of the largest and most respected AAU Tournaments in North America.

When the event ended Sunday evening, three quality teams emerged with hard-fought GymRat CHALLENGE championships and plenty of positive memories to take back home.

Sought after by two of the nation’s premier events to include his talented group in their Memorial Day Weekend tournament fields, Team Odom head coach, Artie Cox had a choice to make: Head south to the Tournament of Champions or north to the GymRat CHALLENGE. In the end, Cox turned down Tobacco Road and instructed team sponsor Lamar Odom to send the entry fee to Albany. Cox and his troops headed north on I-87 to the GymRat CHALLENGE with his sights set on capturing a championship in the largest event of its kind in the eastern United States. That choice paid big dividends as Cox and Company hit the mark and captured the 2006 17:U GymRat CHALLENGE Championship. From Pool Play to each passing level of the Championship Round, Team Odom appeared to continue to shift into new gears with its remarkably balanced, yet potent, roster of talent from the New York Metropolitan area. The bigger the challenge, the stronger they played. Featuring the talents of Malik Boothe, Andrew Gabriel, Ryan Pearson, Djibril Coulibaly, Johnny Barnes, Roland Davis, Ryan Davis and R.J. Evans, Team Odom came at opponents in waves and proved too tough and determined to be denied. Head coach Artie Cox always appeared to have to pulse of his team and knew exactly when to change tactics on offense and defense. What Team Odom accomplished at the GymRat CHALLENGE will very clearly be a springboard to even more success during the summer of 2006.

To many, competing in the GymRat CHALLENGE can be a daunting task, but RAP head coach Gene Cairo has faced much tougher foes. A Cancer Survivor, Cairo’s RAP squad captured the GymRat CHALLENGE Championship in 2003. In first return appearance to the event since capturing that championship and a much bigger life victory, Cairo once again led his Western New York area team to a GymRat CHALLENGE title. RAP produced a brand of basketball the rest of the 16-and-under bracket could not tolerate. Led by man-child Carlton Smith, RAP overcame a stern test from Philadelphia’s Renegades Black in the championship game before emerging with a 45-44 victory. Cairo is now the only coach in GymRat CHALLENGE history to maintain an unblemished record over more than one event appearance.

In the 15-and-under tournament, Bingo’s All-Stars had all the right numbers come up in registering a 7-0 record -including a difficult title victory over Metro rival New York Ravens. Terence Henderson enhanced his growing reputation in the waning moments of the championship by drawing a key offensive foul with his team clinging to the lead. Bingo’s All-Stars showed they knew how to win the close games, a trait that certainly made head coach David Guzman happy.

Here is a more in-depth breakdown of the three age groups, along with the listings of Most Valuable GymRats (MVG), All-Gym CHALLENGE, and Honorable Mentions selections.
17:U Age Division

17U-MVP-RJ-Evans When you have 10 outstanding basketball players on the same roster, attempting to divide up playing time could easily become a huge problem.

For head coach Artie Cox of Team Odom, allowing his 10 top players to virtually see the court roughly in the same amount of minutes proved to be the perfect strategy. Team Odom also stayed fresh and remained in attack mode at both ends of the floor throughout the entire tournament.

“We play 10 guys. As a matter of fact, we played five and five in almost all of the games. Five in and five out,” Cox said. “Sometimes, teams started out fresh and we might build a four or five-point lead. The second unit came out and just overwhelmed everybody.”

Team Odom’s depth of incredible talent ultimately pushed them to a 58-54 championship victory over Tony Sagona’s classy and quality Jersey Shore Warriors squad. Roland Davis led Team Odom with 16 points, but it was the stellar two-way performance of Most Valuable GymRat R.J. Evans — a member of the team’s ‘second wave’ -that truly helped keep the Warriors from ever grabbing the lead in the second half.

Just before halftime, Evans demoralized the Warriors when he drained a 25-footer with two defenders in his face at the buzzer to provide Team Odom a 30-25 cushion.

“I was unconscious. I just shot it and it went in,” Evans said.

“It really took a lot of wind out of their sails. Five looks a lot better than two on the scoreboard,” Cox said regarding the added cushion Evans’ trey provided.

After Ryan Rossiter rallied the Warriors within 43-42, Evans helped give his team some breathing room again with another clutch 3-pointer.

While his offensive exploits certainly were impressive, Evans also showed throughout the tournament his ability to be a ‘lock-down’ defender.

“That is what I try to work on the most,” Evans said. “Offense is important, but defense wins games.”

The Warriors, led by the talents of Mike Venezia, Frank McKnight and Kyle Fitzgerald, put together a stellar run to advance to the title game, but the defensive work by Evans in the second half of the title game became a major factor in Team Odom’s ultimate triumph.
17:U Age Division GymRat Challenge MVG –Most Valuable GymRat

R.J. Evans (6-4 SG/PG/SF, Team Odom):A sophomore at Norwich Free Academy (Conn.), Evans turned 16 on May 20. Although this talented young man already started receiving Division I interest, his national ‘coming-out’ party proved to be at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE — just his second tournament competing at the 17-and-under level.

The son of Ray Evans, who played in the NFL with the New York Jets and New York Giants, R.J. Evans plays quarterback on his school’s football team. His reputation on the hardwood is sure to grow.

“His Dad brought him up right. He is a very strong role model,” Team Odom head coach Artie Cox said.

Dynamite going to the basket, Evans also displayed superior shooting form — often producing 3-pointers that barely scraped the net.

Evans’ accomplishments throughout the tournament are even more noteworthy considering he came off the bench.

“I love coming off the bench, because we have so many great players. Anyone can go off at any time,” Evans said. “We had the depth.”

Evans won’t always come off the bench for Team Odom. The 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE was just his second tournament with this team after being elevated from the 16-and-under squad.

“R.J. really had a great tournament,” Cox said.
17:U All-GymRat CHALLENGE Team

Andrew Gabriel (6-5 PF/C, Team Odom):An extremely physical performer who dominates the glass on offense and defense, can play with his back to the basket or facing it and is dynamic filling the lane, Gabriel is also a crafty passer and resourceful. There is a great deal to like here, probably the reason why Gabriel already has loads of Division I offers.

Malik Boothe (5-8 PG, Team Odom): Decisive with every movement made on the court, Boothe is quick and knows how to keep his teammates happy and motivated with all the great passes he makes. Pesky and disruptive on defense, Boothe can also create his own offense when he doesn’t pass. Boothe’s jumper needs to be more consistent. If he adds that element to his game, Boothe becomes much more dangerous.

Djibril Coulibaly (6-7 PF/C, Team Odom): There aren’t too many with the ability to keep up with Coulibaly on the floor. Showed excellent hands when snaring rebounds or accepting bullet passes from teammates, Coulibaly is already impressive and has unlimited upside potential. Increased strength will accelerate Coulibaly’s hoops growth process.

Ryan Pearson (6-6 SF/PF, Team Odom): This young man scores points in bunches, producing bursts opponents usually spend the rest of the game attempting to overcome. Pearson’s junkets to the basket are a sight to behold. Once you see Pearson slice his way to rim, you can’t wait to get another glance.

Mike Venezia (6-0 PG, Jersey Shore Warriors): Everything he does is fundamentally correct, so much so that it’s hard to find fault in anything Venezia attempts on the court. Look for his “Proper Shooting Form” DVD in stores near you soon. Blessed with great vision, superior passing skills and potent jumper, Venezia is classic point guard who always knows how to help his teammates perform better. Other players may be more physically gifted than Venezia, yet it’s extremely difficult to ever look away when Venezia is on the floor because he is quietly captivating because of his approach to the game.

Frank McKnight (6-1 SG/PG, Jersey Shore Warriors): This rugged lefty gave up his body all-tournament in helping Warriors advance to the title game. The impeccable timing of McKnight’s passes made the finishes by his teammates more devastating. A true energy player, McKnight’s all-around contributions are what make him a standout.

Kyle Fitzgerald (6-6 PF, Jersey Shore Warriors): Lean and possessing a polished post game, Fitzgerald is also adept at knocking down a 15-foot jumper at the foul line or on the baseline. A solid passer with quality instincts grabbing rebounds, Fitzgerald needs only to increase his overall strength to elevate his game.

Eric Webster (6-5 SF/SG, Northeast Hoop Squad): There is nothing small about Webster’s game. He defined his showing at the GymRat Challenge with a well-rounded array of skills. Webster is an outstanding leaper who knows how to use his abilities to score, rebound and defend. Tough to corral with the basketball because of the ability to change directions quickly and create his own shot, Webster displayed an excellent demeanor and joy in everything he did on the court.

Trevor Deloach (6-4 SG, Hoopsters South Carolina): Methodical in the way he breaks down opponents, Deloach really knows how to dictate tempo: when to run a tired defender into the ground or when punish with a jumper coming off a screen. Deloach is athletic, finishes and rebounds well, plus takes great pride in his defense. Smooth and strong going to the rack.

Courtney Simmons (5-10 PG/SG, Connecticut Nike Elite): Dynamic in his ability to penetrate for himself or to set up teammates, Simmons without question established himself as one of the most exciting players at the 2006 GymRat Challenge. Watching Simmons and Mike Auriemma perform together in the same backcourt is easy on the eyes for a basketball purist. Some guards get to the rim and don’t know what to do when resistance arrives, but Simmons popped the ball out to the wings for wide-open 3s for teammates. Simmons always is in attack-mode and is plenty tough.

Brandon Triche (6-3 PG/SG, Donyell Marshall Foundation): A powerfully smooth player, Triche makes difficult look easy. Springs off the floor with ease to corral rebounds, Triche also can shoot, handle the ball and pass. This Sophomore is special already.

Tomas Vazquez-Simmons (6-5 PF, Donyell Marshall Foundation): Looks and plays bigger than his height, Vazquez-Simmons is active at both ends of the floor and moves exceptionally well. Quick and powerful, Vazquez-Simmons loves to use the glass on his shots in the paint.

Vincent Rosario (5-11 PG/SG, Central Jersey Hawks-Stein): Rosario punishes the opposition with his ability to shoot, slash, pass and make the other four guys on the court look like stars. Understands how to play the game and what he can do to make his team better.

Grant Becker (6-3 SF/SG, York Stars): Becker showed his selection to the 16:U All-GymRat CHALLENGE all-star list in 2005 was no fluke. The swingman flashed a quality jumper from deep or at the mid-range level, while also gliding to the basket when needed. Becker does not attempt to do things on the floor he can’t accomplish, a subtle quality mentors at the next level enjoy seeing.

Greg Ford (6-2 PG/SG, Monmouth Power): Monmouth often was driven by ‘Ford power’ — an engine mix featuring an explosive first step and decisive finishing skills in traffic. Ford handles the transition game with composure and conviction, plus is a quality rebounder and passer. Ford is a very smart and well-conditioned player.

Amaury Fermin (6-0 SG/SF, Stamford Express): A very physical player who explodes to the basket with regularity, Fermin handles and shoots the ball extremely well, plus is not afraid to take the big shot. Fermin finishes extremely well and is a standout defensive player.

Steve Mejia (5-8 PG, Metro Boston): Fearless and fiery, Mejia can destroy a defense by himself with his scoring and passing combination. Loves going to the rim and never backs down from contact — even if it is a 6-10 center. If Mejia does not score, he almost always gets to the foul line. Just about every game Mejia played in featured four or five made 3-pointers and an equal amount of spectacular passes.

Justin Rutty (6-6 PF/C, BC Eagles-Fall): Rutty employs a rugged physical style, yet also flashes a soft touch with his lefty jumper. A real ‘Windex’ man on the glass, Rutty never backs down from a challenge and attacks the opposition in a positive way. Rutty is a solid foul shooter and someone you want as a teammate.

Marvin Billups (6-3 SG Westchester Hawks-Kruger): Billups makes the game look real easy with his smooth, laid-back approach that produces potent results. Billups’ court vision, relentless movement and outstanding three-point range are three of his finest attributes.

Tyrell Thompson (6-3 SF/SG, Westchester Hawks-Karger): ‘Drive, drive and more drive’ appeared to be Thompson’s motto throughout the tournament. Thompson’s solid ball-handling skills aided him greatly in his attack of the rim. Since no one witnessed Thompson take a jumper, we’re not quite sure how strong that element is to his overall game.

Suleiman Braimoh (6-8 PF/C, NYC Jaguars): Braimoh decided to issue his own version of a ‘block party’ by rejecting his fair share of shots. Featured exceptional leaping ability and a relentless nature around the basket, Braimoh’s aggressiveness sometimes nets him a foul call. He is extremely gifted physically and looks willing to do whatever it takes to improve.

Keith Hamilton (6-1 SG/PG, NYC Jaguars): A lethal perimeter player who knows how to get to the basket as well, Hamilton did plenty of damage to the opposition before an ankle injury made him unavailable for the tournament playoffs. The Jaguars’ attack suffered without Hamilton on the court, along with his offensive arsenal and 22 points per game in pool play.

Hakeem Townsend (6-3 SG/PG, Mt. Pleasant Bulldogs): A gifted performer with tremendous vision and extraordinary passing skills, Townsend is also potent as a shooter — making him equally valuable at both guard positions. Townsend is exceptionally quick and athletic, finishes what he starts and always understands what his team needs from him at both ends of the floor. Coaches love having players like Townsend on the roster.

Michael Sands (6-6 PF/C, Long Island Lightning-Sheehy): Sands scores with power, scores in transition and scores because his exceptional hands and feet help him out-work the opposition for hustle points. Really knows how to uses fakes or run defenders into traffic, Sands possesses a remarkably mature game and plenty of potential.

Barry Latham (6-3 SG, Rhode Island Breakers): Yet another talented lefty to star for the Breakers’ program, Latham is a truly gifted athlete and impressive all-around basketball player. Latham gets to the rim so easily, even more remarkable when you considering he is 16, and knows how to exploit an opponent. The college interest is already starting to come Latham’s way, and it is not hard to figure out why.
17:U Honorable Mention Selections

Jesse Smith (6-2 SG/SF, City Rocks Orange)
Conor Sheehy (5-10 PG, Long Island Lightning-Sheehy)
Michael Cavataio (6-4 SF, Long Island Lightning-Sheehy)
Brian Hutchinson (6-5 C/PF, Long Island Lightning-Sheehy)
Tom Dowling (6-3 SG/SF, Long Island Lightning-Sheehy)
Greg Maugle (6-7 C, Montco Red Raiders)
Anthony Minor (6-4 PF, Montco Red Raiders)
Justin Schwartz (6-3 SG, New Jersey Trailblazers)
Kamell Broughton (6-6 C/PF, New Jersey Trailblazers)
Mark Tracy (6-5 PF, New Jersey Trailblazers)
Michael Oglesby (6-3 SG/SF, Central Valley Hawks-Vespo)
Billy Campion (6-8 C, Central Valley Hawks-Vespo)
Jo Jo Florence (6-4 SF, Houston Lynx)
James Dugas (6-5 PF, Houston Lynx)
Eric Johnson (6-5 SF, Jersey Shore Wildcats)
Brian Roscitt (6-5 PF, Jersey Shore Wildcats)
Remy Cofield (6-4 PF/SF, Metro Boston)
Asenso Ampim (6-5 PF, Metro Boston)
Mark Courtien (6-1 SG, Westchester Hawks)
Marcus Roberson (6-6 PF/C, Central Jersey Hawks-Stein)
Antone Gray (5-10 PG, Rhode Island Breakers
Aaron Strothers (6-7 PF/C, Rhode Island Breakers)
Michael Lesane (6-7 C/PF, Rhode Island Breakers
Devon McBride (6-3 SG, Stamford Express)
Lawrence Williams (6-6 C/PF, Stamford Express)
Kenny Small (6-4 SG/SF/PF, Stamford Express)
Jimmel Brunson (6-4 PF, D-Squad)
Will Martel (6-11 C, New Jersey Cyclones)
Almay Blackman (6-0 SG, New Jersey Cyclones)
Shamai Santiago (5-10 PG, New Jersey Cyclones)
Matt Schmidt (6-4 PF, Bay State Bombers)
Jeffrey Ryan (6-7 PF/C, BC Eagles-Rahn)
Terry Coleman (5-10 PG, BC Eagles-Rahn)
Qulllar Marion (6-3 SG/SF, BC Eagles-Rahn)
Patrick Saunders (6-7 C, Concord Thunder)
Josh Last (6-4 PG, Concord Thunder)
Kevin Stempsey (SG, Capital District Blazers)
Jeff Ashamole (6-4 PF, MSC All-Stars)
Keith Robinson (6-0 SG/PG, MSC All-Stars)
Brandon Rogers (6-0 PG/SG, MSC All-Stars)
Tim Llewellyn (5-10 PG, York Stars)
Robbie Estep (6-3 SF, York Stars)
Cory Bray (5-10 PG/SG, York Stars)
Jared Neff (SG, Westchester Hawks-Grant)
Mohammed Lo (6-6 PF/C, Westchester Hawks-Grant)
Glenroy Carr (6-3 SF, Donyell Marshall Foundation)
Rob Brown (6-4 PF, Donyell Marshall Foundation)
Billy Joyce (5-10 PG/SG, Donyell Marshall Foundation)
Stefan Martinez (5-11 PG/SG, Rockland Rockets)
Greg Parker (6-4 PF, Rockland Rockets)
Mike Hammond (6-2 PF/SF, Capital District Raptors)
Jansy Cruz (5-11 SG, Springfield Trailblazers)
Derrick Ross (6-0 PG/SG, Jersey All-Stars)
Jahrine Jones (6-2 SG/SF, Westchester Hawks-Karger)
Dynell Dolson (6-5 PF, Niagara PAL Chiefs)
Kelvin Agee (6-0 PG, Niagara PAL Chiefs)
Jalaun Taylor (6-1 SF/SG, Davis AC-Green)
Patrick Barnes (6-6 C, Davis AC-Green)
Fran Brzyski (6-8 C, CB Hornets)
Chris McDevitt (6-3 SG/SF, CB Hornets)
Kyle Bean (6-3 SG/SF, Mass Hoops Jaguars-Bean)
Joe Grimes (6-0 PG, Mass Hoops Jaguars-Bean)
Chris Derojas (5-9 PG, Firm AC)
Jeff Desir (6-3 SG/SF, Overtime Athletics)
Nick Walsh (5-9 PG/SG, Long Island Lightning-Walsh)
T.J. Carey (6-2 SG/SF, Long Island Lightning-Walsh)
Morgan Kelly (6-9 C, Long Island Lightning-Walsh)
Tyrone Conley (6-2 SG/SF, Lone Wolf)
Pat Bergmann (6-8 C, Lone Wolf)
Mike Stopera (5-11 PG, Scotia)
Patrick Brown (6-2 SG, Central Jersey Jammers)
Kevin Kline (6-4 SF/PF, Franklin Force)
Nafis Richardson (6-2 SG/SF, Delaware Rebels)
Neal Ross (6-1 SG, St. Matthew Knights-Balboa)
Mike Auriemma (6-1 PG/SG, CT Nike Elite)
Jahrone Bunch (6-2 SF/PF, CT Nike Elite)
Edwin Ortiz (6-1 SG, CT Knights)
Adam Landry (6-3 SF, CT Knights)
Thomas Henneberry (6-4 SF/PF, WBA Warriors)
John Cahill (6-2 SG, Helderberg Hoopers)
Johnny Barnes (6-6 SF, Team Odom)
Roland Davis (6-2 SG, Team Odom)
Ryan Davis (5-9 PG, Team Odom)
Raymond Jefferson (6-0 PG/SG, Morris County Bulls)
Khaseem Green (6-1 SG, Morris County Bulls)
Lamar Leverette (6-4 PF, Morris County Bulls)
Nicholas Deltufo (6-7 C, NJ Xpress)
Patrick Sullivan (6-6 PF/C, NJ Xpress)
A.J. Watson (6-5 PF, Middletown Bulldogs)
Aaron Christian (6-0 PG, Northeast Hoop Squad)
Caleb Butler (6-4 SF, Northeast Hoop Squad)
Luke Kiesnetter (6-1 PG, Waterloo Wildhawks)
Brian Hunter (6-2 PG, Lehigh Valley Wildcats)
Chris Galbraith (6-5 PF, Mass Premier Gold)
James Hett (6-1 SG/PG, Jersey Shore Warriors-Blue)
Ryan Rossiter (6-8 C, Jersey Shore Warriors-Blue)
Mike Kernan (6-7 PF/C, Jersey Shore Warriors-Blue)
Greg Sullivan (6-1 SG, Orange County Elite)
Noruwa Agho (6-3 PF, CT Flames)
Mike Labanowski (6-1 PG/SG, East Fusion)
Josh Howard (5-9 PG, Mount Pleasant Bulldogs)
Austin Steed (6-9 C, Hoopsters South Carolina)
16:U Age Division

Gene Cairo’s RAP roster features not only some of the best talent the Western New York area has to offer, but also a group that adapts and executes. Most impressive at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE was tRAP’s deep roster and its ability to prevail against opposition with varied styles. Powered by the explosive skills of Carlton Smith, RAP fought through a series of difficult playoff games to earn a championship date vs. Philadelphia’s Renegades Black. RAP proceeds to build a series of five-to-six point leads, yet the Renegades refuse to go away as the two teams battled through fatigue and the prowess of the opposition to produce a quality championship contest. The Renegades, led by Tamir Johnson and Kenny Ross, staged one final rally that ultimately fell one point short as RAP captured the 2006 GymRat Challenge team title with a hard-fought 45-44 victory.
16:U GymRat Challenge MVG — Most Valuable GymRat

16U-MVP-Carlton-Smith Carlton Smith (6-5 C/PF, RAP): Mr. Smith comes to Loudonville — and dominates. That is our how the marquee should read to describe what Wilson High standout did at the 2006 GymRat Challenge. Smith played like a man among boys throughout the weekend, posting up helpless defenders with remarkable ease. Smith loves to dunk and control the glass at both ends of the floor. This lefty controls so much on the defensive end, he could have an Okay shooting game and still take over because of his shot-blocking and shot-altering skills.
16:U All-GymRat CHALLENGE Team

Jordan Stevens (6-4 SF/PF, Albany City Rocks Black): This physically-gifted stallion is about to enter his sophomore year in the Fall and brings with him two years of varsity experience. Stevens averaged over 20 pointers per game as a freshman in high school and flashed his big-time ‘potential’ at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE. This left-hander is equally adept at scoring in the paint, taking a defender outside to drain a perimeter shot or simply outworking an opponent in transition. Stevens already possesses a remarkably mature game, and it will only improve with age.

Bret Marfurt (6-2 SG, Albany City Rocks Black): A steady two-way standout, Marfurt’s finest weapon is his shooting touch. He can hit the 3 on the move or when waiting for a pass from a teammate. Marfurt departed the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE as one of the most pleasant surprises of the event.

Kenneth Faried (6-6 PF, New Jersey Northstars): His tremendous wingspan is only enhanced more by power in the paint, Faried impressed many at this event with his wide array of moves around the basket. Faried is a high flyerwho is also a quality passer, not afraid to work at the defensive end and has unlimited potential to improve. Look out below!

Jacob Iati (5-8 PG, The Blast): The younger brother of University at Albany guard Jon Iati, Jacob is craving out a quality niche of his own. Iati has potent outside shooting ability and it is enhanced further with excellent ball-handling skills with both hands and a propensity to make knee-buckling passes. His crossover moves left defenders guarding air Like his older brother, Jacob Iati does not back down from anyone. He is the type of player others flock to be teammates with.

Quincy Harkins (6-6 C/PF, Long Island Lightning-Sanders): A rugged inside scoring machine, Harkins displayed his offensive skills are not confined to the paint. When opponents back away in fear of a drive they can not stop, Harkins drained plenty of jumpers to confound that passive defensive strategy. Harkins gobbles up rebounds with solid technique and explosive leaping ability.

Phil Moore (6-6 C, Albany City Rocks Orange): Moore is a player just now beginning to tap into his vast potential on the hardwood. His activeness around the basket results either in a basket or fouls against the opposition. If Moore can increase his strength and commitment toward improving his all-around game, he has the potential to be special.

Tamir Johnson (6-7, Renegades Black): A powerful scorer in the paint, Johnson needs only to become more consistent with his jump shot to advance his game to an even spectacular level. Johnson’s ability to finish on the blocks is certainly attention-grabbing, as are the shots he swats away on the defensive end.

B.J. Monterio (6-4 SG/SF, Connecticut East White): Versatility sometimes means a player is good, but not great, in several areas of the game. Monterio is great as a passer, scorer and defender. This young man is aggressive, dynamic and someone who elevates the play of his teammates.

DeAndre Preaster (6-3 SG/SF/PF, D-Squad): A high-flyer who can handle a number of different positions, Preaster landed on the 2006 New York State Class AA sixth team all-star list as a sophomore at Thomas Proctor. Preaster can handle the ball, soar to the basket for scoring opportunities or to snatch away rebounds, plus defend a variety of positions. Division I coaches are quite of aware of Preaster’s skills and he did nothing to diminish his growing reputation.

Stan Dolaire (6-5 PF/SF, Connecticut Basketball Club): Powerfully built and a high riser, Dolaire punished opponents not up to his high physical standards. Attacked those not hard-working enough to chase him down the floor or unwilling or overmatched to battle him in the paint, Dolaire never neglected his responsibilities at the defensive end: blocking shots, stealing passes and knocking others away. Dolaire displayed a great deal at this event and the upside is exciting to think about.

Mitchell Wiggins (6-4 C, Outlaws): One of those players who revel in their work at both ends of the floor, Wiggins plays big on offense and defense. A finisher around the basket displaying exceptional body control, Wiggins proved equally dangerous on defense with his shot-blocking, rebounding and ability to outlet the ball quickly for easy transition opportunities.

Eric Callo (6-7 C, CT Uptempo): Callo is yet another big man who impressed in this age division. His most positive attributes are the ability to finish in the paint and undeniable rebounding skills. Callo doesn’t give defenders a chance to strip ball away by keeping it high at all times. Spurred his team’s running game with fast outlets and patroled the defensive paint with a vengance.

Dan Gutman (6-5 PF/SF, New Jersey Panthers): Solid all-around performer who impresses with his ability to finish with either hand, Gutman is not truly happy until he is attacking the basket. A power player with enough finesse in his game to keep defenders honest, Gutman showed he truly loves playing defense — an attribute college coaches love.

Owen Wignot (6-5 PF, Firm AC): Potent with his back to the basket, Wignot also showed he can knock down jumpers facing the basket. Wignot hurt opponents with a highly-effective turnaround jumper, strong hands and rebounding instincts.

Bryan Dougher (6-0 PG/SG, New Jersey Hotshots): A superior decision-maker with or without the basketball, Dougher is a top performer at both guard slots. When he performs as a two-guard, Dougher knocks down his perimeter shots or slices his way with ease to the basket. Dougher is also a quality passer who plays under control at the point at all times. Dougher is well-schooled and improving every time he takes the court.

Romeo Diaz (6-3 PF, Mass Rivals): Dealing with Diaz in the paint often proved to be a ‘tragic’ situation for the opposition. Displayed quality finishing skills inside with his right and left hand, Diaz drew a ton of whistles — a rarity at an AAU Tournament, but something that is a great indicator of how tough this talented young man is to contend with in the paint.

Martin Soaries (6-2 SG/SF, Central Jersey Jammers): The sum of Soaries’ parts add up to superstar potential. Did not display any weaknesses at this tournament, as Soaries impressed with a quality jumper, all-around solid defensive skills, extraordinary leaping ability and an uncanny knack of always playing bigger than his 6-2 frame.

Mike Mayes (5-9 PG, Central Jersey Jammers): Don’t blink, unless you don’t mind missing Mayes make an opponent mutter to himself. A point guard who loves to attack via dribble-penetration, a perfectly-timed pass or a 3-pointer, Mayes is the unquestioned leader of his team and easily one of the most exciting players — at any age level — at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE.
16:U Honorable Mention Selections

DeAndrea Kennedy (6-2 PF, Capital District Raptors-DiBacco)
Connor Gallo (6-2 SF, Capital District Raptors-DiBacco)
Justin Carlson (6-3 C/PF, Monmouth Power)
Alex Asher (6-4 C/PF, East Coast Fusion)
David Dixon (6-4 SF/SG, Chicago Canes)
Matt DeSouza (6-8 C, New Jersey Shoreshots)
Alexander Berthiame (5-10 PG/SG, Springfield Fame)
Brennan Cooper (6-3 SF/SG, Springfield Fame)
Sterling Lucas (F, Hoopsters South Carolina)
Anthony Nieves (6-2 SF, Student Athlete Broncos)
Malcolm Austin (6-2 SG, Albany City Rocks Black)
Shimeek Johnson (6-4 SF/PF, Albany City Rocks Black)
Ashton Smith (6-1 SG/PG, Outlaws)
Gary Gaskins (6-7 C/PF, Hoopsters South Carolina)
Garfield Hines (F, CT Flame)
Chris Matgrano (6-6 C, Jersey All-Stars)
Ian Passino (5-11 PG/SG, Lake Champlain Lakers)
Jeff Braddey (5-8 PG, Delaware’s Finest)
Zachery Jackson (5-9 PG/SG, The Blast)
Shevar Richardson (SG/SF, Team Odom)
Rueben Balkum (6-3 SF/PF, RAP)
Jason Corletta (6-3 SG/SF, RAP)
Alan Buzbee (6-3SG/SF, New Jersey Panthers)
Brian Katz (6-4 SG, Long Island Lightning-Sanders)
Billy Butler (6-0 PG/SG, Long Island Lightning-Sanders)
Kyle Bond (5-10 PG, New England Select)
Tyshon Goode (6-1 SG/PG, D-Squad)
Shane Gibson (6-1 SG/PG, Connecticut East White)
Chris Prescott (6-2 SG/SF, Connecticut East White)
Tyrone Gardner (PG, Connecticut East White)
Terry Williams (5-9 PG, Connecticut East Blue)
Tim Sartor (5-10 SG/PG, Connecticut East Blue)
Korey Fisher (6-0 SG/SF, GS Sharpshooters)
Adrian Gonzales (SF/PF, Mass Rivals)
Sam Givens (6-6 PF, Renegades Black)
15:U Age Division

15U-MVP-Terrence-HendersonBingo’s All-Stars won several close games in the playoffs, largely based on a deep roster and a willingness to focus on defense — not offense — late in games.

Terence Henderson and Booker Hucks each turned in a bevy of key defensive plays, helping Bingo’s All-Stars put together a 7-0 record in this event. Hucks came up with a huge steal with 33 seconds remaining in the title game, helping preserve a difficult victory over their Metro rival New York Ravens. Not be outdone, Henderson drew a charge in the waning seconds as Bingo’s All-Stars celebrated a championship earned via two-way excellence.
15:U Age Division MVG: Most Valuable GymRat

Terence Henderson (6-3 SG/PG, Bingo All-Stars): Give Henderson an inch and he’ll take over the game: yes, it’s that simple. Anyone unlucky enough to guard Henderson is in for a long game. Henderson not only is an exceptional finisher around the basket with superb body control, he also possesses a lethal mid-range game — highlighted by a gorgeous floater in the lane. Strong and a fierce competitor, Henderson also showed he is quite adept as a defensive player.
15:U Age Division All-Gym Rat CHALLENGE Team

Michael McLeod (6-2, PG/SG, Newburgh Zion Lions): An eighth-grader with huge upside, McLeod impressed with his ability with the basketball. He makes the easy play, plus the hard ones too. Explosive going to the rim, McLeod also displayed a quality jumper and solid decision-making skills.

Matt Brown (6-3 PG/SG, Rhode Island Breakers): Exceptional vision and unstoppable in transition, Brown is a powerful locomotive driving to the basket. Few defenders even thought of the notion of stepping in to take the charge against Brown. Can shoot, but also can go anywhere he wants to on the floor. Brown is highly entertaining on the court.

Louis Montes (6-3 SF, YABC): Attacks with reckless abandon, Montes is a potent finisher, rebounder and defender. Montes is a true two-way terror in the paint, as he owns the glass at both ends and knows how to score. He can knock down a perimeter jumper, but needs to develop a quicker release.

Bruce Sobers (6-4 C, RI Bubba Ball): Sobers put together a dominating all-around effort in a quarterfinal loss against the City Rocks Black. Featuring an unstoppable array of post moves, Sobers can also face-up, put the ball on the floor and go by smaller defenders with ease. Sobers completely controls the offensive and defensive glass, plus has plenty of growing left to do.

Billy Baron (6-0 SG, RI Bubba Ball): Although the GymRat CHALLENGE did not employ the NBA three-point line, Baron regularly drained his 3-pointers from long distance. Excellent off the dribble and potent shooting from anywhere on the court, Baron is extremely tough and blessed with superior basketball instincts.

Kyle Casey (6-4 SF/SG, New England Select): The word ‘special’ is used way too often. When it is applied to Casey, the usage is correct. This dynamic star might have the biggest upside of any player at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE. Casey features a diverse offensive arsenal where he can score off the bounce, in transition, coming off screens, creating his own shot in the half-court or dominating the offensive glass. Think of an offensive scenario, and plug Casey in because he’ll get the job done. Despite all his offensive gifts, Casey plays completely under control.

Jerrel Joye (6-2 SF, NY Ravens Gray): Joye loves to leap and show off his prowess as an offensive and defensive rebounding dynamo. Goes back up quickly, making it hard for defenders to limit Joye’s scoring on putbacks. Even with all his physical attributes, Joye’s finest trait may be his leadership skills.

Tevin Bracey (6-4 SF/PF, NY Ravens Gray): Bracey’s blocked shots, more accurately described as ‘volleyball spikes’, are something that need to be seen. You really don’t want to be on the receiving end from one of Bracey’s rejections. Is totally aggressive at both ends of the floor, and scores the bulk off his points in the paint. Bracey never backs down.

Diego Ramirez (6-4 C, Connecticut Basketball Club): A monster in the post, Ramirez completely owns the glass and plays well beyond his years. Highly aggressive with exceptional hands, Ramirez moves well and always puts him himself in the best position to rebound, score or receive a pass.

Terrell Coward (6-4 C, Future Stars): Completely disruptive in the passing lanes and when patrolling the paint, Coward is not limited to being dominant at the defensive end of the floor. He uses solid post moves, including healthy array of fakes, to get what he puts. If power is needed, Coward does not lack strength. In fact, Coward appears to enjoy and feed off contact.

Terrell Campbell (6-1 SG/SF, Outlaws): An exceptional finisher with a healthy array of moves, Campbell makes himself even harder to defend because of his ability to shoot from behind the three-point arc. Blessed with a scorer’s mentality, Campbell truly is a handful to guard — easily showing he is one of the finest athletes to compete at the 2006 GymRat CHALLENGE.

Mark Cisco (6-6 C, New Jersey Panthers): Cisco is a well-rounded performer on offense and defense. Offensively, he displayed soft hands, finished around the basket and consistently knocked down a 15-foot jumper. Defensively, blocks shots, alters others and isn’t afraid be physical. The opposition must always be aware of where Cisco is. This guy plays bigger than his frame.

Bunduka Kargbo (6-1 PG, City Rocks Black): Controls the game at both ends of the floor — and has fun doing it. Kargbo enjoys playing the game and isn’t afraid to show it. Attacks the basket at all times, either scoring or setting up teammates for easy baskets. Kargbo elevates the play of others and works extremely hard on defense.

Booker Hucks (6-4 SF, Bingo’s All-Stars): Possesses a scorer’s mentality, yet Hucks has many more layers to his game. A ferocious rebounder and someone who can get boards vs. much larger opponents, Hucks puts an equal amount of time and effort into his defensive duties. Hucks is a huge reason why his team captured the championship.
15:U Honorable Mention Selections

Brandon Mann (6-4 F, Connecticut Basketball Club)
Eric Jean-Guillaume (5-8 PG, Connecticut Basketball Club)
Victor Anderson (6-2 F, Connecticut Basketball Club)
Kyle Pederzani (6-2 F, Nashua Shamrocks)
Isaiah Thomas (6-1 G, Davis AC)
Joseph Efese (6-4 F, Rockland Rockets)
Maurice Chapman (6-8 C, NY Ravens Blue)
Michael Accaoui (5-8 PG, Young Bucks)
Corey Wright (5-10 PG, Young Bucks)
Jefferson Lora (6-4 PF, NY Ravens Gray)
Pucci Angel (5-10 PG, Rhode Island Breakers)
Jeff Holmes (6-6 C, Rhode Island Breakers)
Ryan Lehane (6-5 C, Rhode Island Breakers)
Myles Bowen (6-3 SG/SF, MASS Premier)
Michael Muller (6-5 C, MASS Premier)
David Borkowski (5-11 PG/SG, MASS Premier)
Robert Jagessar (6-0 PG/SG, New Jersey Panthers)
T.J. Meehan (5-9 PG, CT Uptempo)
Will Bayliss (5-10 PG, NH Playerz)
Lewis Hangyal (6-5 C, NH Playerz)
Jose Ramos (6-0 G, NH Playerz)
Mike Rivera (5-11 PG/SG, YABC)
Matthew Bodden (5-6 PG, YABC)
Evan Croll (6-6 C, Syracuse Select)
Brian Wilson (6-2 F, Syracuse Select)
Myles Rueben (6-2 G, Jersey All-Stars)
Gerald Lewis (6-3 F, CJEOTO Panthers)
Raheem Pringle (5-9 PG, City Rocks Orange)
Carl Magnum (6-3 F, RI Bubba Ball)
Michael Burton (5-9 PG, Central Jersey Jammers)
James Torres (6-3, City Rocks Black)
Tyler Foster (6-3 G, City Rocks Black)
Victor Holder (6-2 F, Long Island Lightning-Fenton)
Jere Wright (6-4 F, Middleburg Lions)
Greg Doyle (6-5 F, Middleburg Lions)
Trevon Johnson (6-1 G, Chillies)
Kareem Francis (6-1 G, Outlaws)
Dalen Hulen (6-5 C/PF, Bingo’s All-Stars)
Cameron Ayers (6-2 PG, Montco Red Raiders)
Terrence Sturdivant (6-2 F, Newburgh Zion Lions)
Derek Retos (5-8 PG, New England Select)
Drew Donnelly (6-4 C, New England Select)
Kyle Casey (6-4 PF/SF, New England Select)
Hakeem Harris (6-2 G, New Heights NYC)
Shamek Brown (6-2 G, New Heights NYC)
B.J. Bailey (6-2 SG/SF, South Jersey Jazz)
Sam Roller (6-3 F, East Coast Fusion)
Richie Edwards Jr. (6-3 SG/SF, Future Stars CT)