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THE HUSTLE’S 2020 & 2021 NORTHEAST PROSPECT BIG BOARD

By THE HUSTLE, 08/22/19, 5:00AM EDT

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Since The Hustle's 2020 & 2021 Class Rankings focus on the New England region and remain fluid year-round, without any regularly scheduled updates, it only seemed right to break out something new to end of the summer. 

The Hustle's 2020 & 2021 Northeast Big Board features the top-20 overall prospects in both classes from an area that covers New England, New York, New Jersey and also includes Philly.

It's a look from a wider lens at prospects The Hustle naturally gets introduced to during elite HS/Prep events and scouts on a regular basis during the grassroots season. 

1. Jonathan Kuminga, 6’8” Wing, Our Savior New American/NY Rens 2021

Kuminga owns one of the best all-around prospect packages to come through the prep ranks in a while. Everyone is so busy trying to find the next big thing that we have a tendency to take Kuminga's consistent elite-level effort and production for granted. His rare physical abilities and ever-improving skillset have been raved about for a while now but the young man doesn’t get enough credit for being a tenacious competitor with an elite will to win.

At the beginning of every game, Kuminga will actively seek out the opposing team’s best offensive player and body him at both ends of the floor to make sure they feel his presence. He takes these battles personally and refuses to allow opponents to get a mental edge over him at any point in a game. Bottom line: Kuminga genuinely wants to demoralize his opponent and break their will from the outset. It’s that type of mentality that would force me to take him #1 overall if I had one player from the Northeast to start a team with right now.

2. Terrence Clarke, 6’7” Wing, Brewster/Expressions 2021

When Clarke is right, he can dominate the game as a versatile 3-level scorer, uniquely gifted facilitater or even as an elite blue-collar glue guy who’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win. There were too many instances during the summer where it seemed like the joy of the game was gone and everyone’s unrealistic expectations were weighing him down. It’s one of those “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” sort of things and left me wishing I could carry the burdens for the young man, just so he could be at peace on the court and enjoy the skills that he’s worked so hard to develop. When the fully engaged, free-flowing and fiercely competitive version of Terrence Clarke is on display, it’s one of the most impressive sights in amateur basketball. He instinctively manipulates defenders like pawns on a chess board and dictates the game’s flow-&-physicality in a way that few others can. It results in effortless side-step daggers from 5-feet beyond the arch, pinpoint passes that hit his teammates in stride and electric drives to the rim that end with highlight finishes. Clarke’s brash confidence, youthful charisma and menacing wise-ass nature have the power to lift his teammates to elite levels of success while demoralizing his opponents at the same time. We’ve seen it all out of Clarke before, which means it’s not far from returning once again.

At the end of the day, most athletes find freedom when they eliminate the nonsense:

“I have a ton of success when I simplify, stay focused on improving every day and do the things that make me happy. And anyone who has an issue with it or gets in the way of that….fuck em!”

Because athletes who are truly free are also damn near impossible to stop.

 

3. Moussa Cisse, 6’11” Big, Lausanne (TN)/Expressions 2021

The Last Dragon may have the highest ceiling and most pure potential of anyone in the country. Cisse is already a dominant game-changer on the defensive end thanks to his unique ability to function as an elite rim-protector and elite rebounder within the same possession. Usually, great shot-blockers have so much of their momentum moving away from the rim when they contest a shot, that it compromises their ability to grab the ensuing rebound.

Cisse combines great natural timing with an intelligent and disciplined approach: He maintains enough distance between himself and the offensive player, which allows him to take better angles and operate within his own airspace once he leaves the floor. If he doesn’t come up with a block, he lands in a balanced position and employs a cat-quick second bounce to corral the defensive rebound. That’s what makes Cisse the Most Entertaining Defender in Prep Basketball today.

He uses the same athletic movements when catching lobs, gathering putback dunks or cleaning up his own miss around the rim. Cisse’s decent shot mechanics should allow him to extend his range and become a face-up threat at some point down the road. He’s already comfortable putting the ball on the floor for a few dribbles, which will help him develop secondary moves as well.

Cisse owns all the tools to become one of the most valuable prospects in basketball over the next few seasons, at the college level and beyond.

 

4. AJ Griffin, 6’6” Wing, Archbishop Stepinac/PSA Cardinals 2021

Griffin won’t turn 16-years old until August 25th….which is almost scary!

The 6’6” hoops savant took his fair share of heat from scouts and opposing coaches for being a healthy scratch during Peach Jam  but the fact that he averaged 20.5 points on 58.5% FG and 63.2% 3pt (12-19 3pt) during his lone session in the EYBL speaks for itself. Despite his age, Griffin already owns the type of strong frame and instinctive offensive game that would make most high major college players jealous. His polished offensive repertoire features some of the most efficient footwork you’ll ever see from a prep player and makes him a threat to score from any area on the floor.

Griffin also led Team USA’s 16U squad to an undefeated 6-game run to the Gold Medal while averaging 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.8 assists in just over 18 minutes per game. The young man seems destined to play this game at the highest level for the next few decades.

5. Hassan Diarra, 6’3” PG/Wing, Putnam Science/PSA Cardinals 2020

While his rise in the National Rankings started after he showcased his value and versatility in the first few EYBL Sessions, Diarra has held down the #1 spot in The Hustle’s 2020 New England Rankings for a while now. His performance throughout the spring and summer only solidified his status.

Diarra is just starting to show some of the positional skills and physical abilities that will make him one of the top Point Guard prospects in the 2020 Class. With a strong 6’3” frame and rangy 6’10” wingspan, he should own an elite length/strength combo down the road. He’s seen an increase in his vertical/lateral athleticism over the last year, which has allowed him to finish into-&-thru contact at the rim. When you add those physical traits to his elite work ethic, ever-improving jumper and ability to wreak havoc on both ends of the floor, it’s easy to see why programs in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten are trying to secure his services.

It’s not all based off projections either: Diarra was one of just 7 players to average 12+ Points, 4.5 Rebounds, 4+ Assists and 1+ Steal per game. The other six players were Cade Cunningham, Josh Christopher, Sharife Cooper, BJ Boston, Jalen Terry and Symir Torrence.

6. Jabri Abdur-Rahim, 6’7” Wing, Blair/NJ Playaz 2020

At the beginning of the EYBL season, I wasn’t as high on Abdur-Rahim at all. His complete lack of interest on the defensive end was troubling. My outlook changed after he made his commitment to Virginia though. Abdur-Rahim will be held to the highest defensive standards in Tony Bennett’s program, something that will boost his pro stock dramatically.

Abdur-Rahim’s offensive prowess has never been questioned and it was on full display during the EYBL season. After scoring 44 and 41 points in back-to-back games during the circuit’s opening session, Abdur-Rahim put together a 5-game stretch where he averaged 30.6 points toward the end of the season as well. He finished the 2019 season averaging 25.2 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal, numbers that would be considered elite during any season in the history of the EYBL. It also makes him one of the most interesting prospects to keep an eye on over the next few seasons.

7. RJ Davis, 6’1” PG/Wing, Archbishop Stepinac/NY Rens 2020

Davis put together one of the best regular seasons in the history of the EYBL, scoring over 20 points per game while shooting 46.9% from 3. He came back down to earth a little bit during Peach Jam but still finished the season averaging 20.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 45.1% FG/37.1% 3pt/80.9% FT.

There might not be a better combination 3-point shooting, 3-level scoring, all-around instincts and true Point Guard skills in the country right now. Davis will have to make adjustments at the next level but his advanced skillset will always allow him to keep defenders off-balance and on edge.

Davis will visit Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Georgetown and Marquette over the next few months.

8. Matt Cross, 6’7” Wing, Brewster/The BABC 2020

Cross finished his career with The BABC by averaging 23.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.6 steals during the 2019 EYBL season. While he was the ONLY player on the nation’s top grassroots circuit to put up those numbers, his decision to attend Brewster for his final prep season tells you even more about the young man’s mentality. He’d much rather be surrounded by other elite players and win at the highest level than be given complete offensive freedom on a losing team. The move didn’t surprise anyone who knew him, especially since Cross’ controlled rage and maniacal competitive nature are two of the assets that have separated him from his peers during his career.

Cross will also be able to focus on becoming the most efficient version of himself this season, while playing an important role within the nation’s most talented lineup, as Jason Smith looks to win back-to-back National Championships for the second time in his storied coaching career.

Indiana, Texas A&M, Miami, Butler and South Carolina are in the mix for Cross as he heads into the fall.

9. Andre Curbelo, 6’2” Point Guard, LUHI/NY JayHawks 2020

Whether he was guiding the NY JayHawks or Puerto Rico’s 17U squad, Curbelo constantly impressed while leading his team to consistent success this summer.

Curbelo averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals on the Adidas circuit. During Puerto Rico’s 7-game run to a bronze medal, Curbelo averaged 13.6 points, 5.9 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 steals. In the two settings combined, he shot exactly 50% from the field (139-278 FG) and 75% from the FT line (45-60 FT) despite struggling from beyond the arch (4-30 3pt/13.3% 3pt)

As long as Curbelo picks the right program –which can be said for every prospect really- that highlights his skillset and puts the ball in his hands right away, it wouldn’t shock me to see his name alongside CBB’s career leaders in Assists after four years.

Curbelo recently picked up offers from Texas A&M, Kansas and Oregon to go along with previous offers from UConn, Maryland, Texas Tech, Louisville and many others.

 

10. Jordan Geronimo, 6’6” Wing, St Paul’s (NH)/Mass Rivals 2020

As more high-major head coaches saw Geronimo throughout the summer, the overwhelming opinion become consistent with the one I shared with a few of New England’s top prep school coaches heading into the spring…

“Geronimo could be a pro.”

“It’s not a tough eval….the kid has all the tools to play at the highest level.”

“He battled with the big man going to UNC (Day’ron Sharpe) on defense and was efficient as hell on offense (15 Pts/6 Reb on 6-11 FG/3-7 3pt) even while being foul trouble (5 PFs in 23 Mins).”

…Geronimo has the ideal blend of size and athleticism, to go along with a selfless mentality and enough current muscle, to defend up to 4 positions in today’s college game. His movements are both explosive and effortless whether he’s operating in the halfcourt or transition. Meanwhile, his skillset seems to sharpen exponentially every time you see him.

On a balanced Mass Rivals squad, Geronimo averaged 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1 block while shooting 54% from the field and 35.4% from 3 (17-48 3pt) in just over 18 minutes per game on the Adidas circuit. In the 10 games in which Geronimo attempted 7+ FG’s, his numbers jump to 14.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, without sacrificing one bit of his efficiency and shooting 57.7% FG/41% 3pt in about 20 minutes per game.

It wouldn’t surprise me -or any of the college coaches I’ve spoken with- if Geronimo’s name is found within the top-5 of this list at some point in the next few seasons.

11. Franck Kepnang, 6’10” Big, Westtown/PSA Cardinals 2021

It’s hard not to fall in love with BANG! Kepnang’s energy and work ethic if you watch him for any type of extended stretch. The strides he’s made over the course of the last few years are truly astonishing and there’s still so much more talent to tap into. The fact that he’s genuinely fallen in love with the game, while holding himself to the highest standards on and off the court, during his ascent up the National 2021 Rankings is a huge reason why college coaches trust him to reach his potential.

Kepnang’s 7’6” wingspan, muscular frame and endless motor will help him make an impact early in his college career. His ability to make an efficient impact without demanding the ball and his willingness to work tirelessly on his weaknesses will keep him in the game for a long time after that.

UConn, Indiana, UCLA, Stanford and Georgia are just a few who are currently involved but don’t be shocked if this becomes a race amongst the nation’s blue bloods by this time next year.

 

12. Andre Jackson, 6’7” Wing, Albany Academy/City Rocks 2020

When he goes through Combine-style testing in college next year, Jackson’s max vertical will probably be elite among other elite athletes. Whenever you watch Jackson fly up and down the floor a few times without touching the ball, you get a feeling that someone is about to pull the pin on a live grenade. Something violent and destructive is about to go down but there’s no way in hell you’re gonna miss it!

Jackson turned that potential into consistent production for the City Rocks this summer, averaging 14.8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.8 steals during the 2019 EYBL. He still has to develop his offensive game but his defensive instincts and elite athleticism will allow him to contribute right away at the college level.

Jackson will choose between Syracuse, UConn, UCLA, Iowa and Maryland.

13. Kadary Richmond, 6’5” PG/Wing, Brewster 2020

Richmond’s rise into the national spotlight has occurred over the last 16 months, thanks to back-to-back successful seasons at South Shore HS (Brooklyn) as well as partial seasons on the Adidas circuit with the Mass Rivals and the now-defunct Team New England. Richmond’s blend of fearlessness and skill have also made him a crowd favorite on NYC blacktop, where he’s recorded multiple 50-point games this summer.

It will be interesting to see how he fits alongside Clarke, Cross, DeMarr Langford and Jamal Mashburn Jr at Brewster this upcoming prep season after earning offers from some of the nation’s top programs for his sensational play at elite camps earlier this spring. The 6’5” PG/Wing is versatile enough to see a ton of time as a primary ball-handler or as an attacking wing weapon.

Richmond has narrowed his list down to UConn, Oregon, Seton Hall and St. John’s.

14. Cliff Omoruyi, 6’10” Big, Roselle Catholic/NY Lightning 2020

Big Cliff averaged 11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 63.8% from the floor for a Lightning squad whose offense was centered around their skilled guards in the EYBL this summer. As proficient as he is as a rim-runner, lob-catcher and above-the-rim finisher, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Omoruyi become even more dynamic on the defensive end at the next few levels.

Equipped with a 7’5”+ wingspan, Omoruyi gracefully covers ground and suffocates his opposition’s air space at the rim in the same way an eagle destroys the hopes of a panicked jackrabbit right before they reach their sanctuary.

Louisville, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Maryland and Florida are just a handful of the programs who have made Omoruyi a target in 2020.

15. Trey Patterson, 6’8” Wing, Rutgers Prep/Team Rio 2021

I wish I got to see more of Patterson during the grassroots season because he was ridiculously productive and entertaining when I caught him in New Jersey. He’s gained offers from UConn, Indiana, Villanova and a handful of others since then, which means he kept showing off one of the most well-rounded skillsets in the 2021 Class.

Patterson averaged 10.3 points, 6 rebounds and 1.8 assists on the Under Armour circuit this summer.

 

16. Micawber Etienne, 6’11” Big, Suffield Academy/PSA Cardinals 2021

If you told me that Etienne would rank this high at this same time last year, I wouldn’t have been able to envision it. But, over the last year, things have really clicked for NYC big man who has started to draw comparisons to a young Joakim Noah, with much better shot mechanics.

Like most big men, Etienne still has a long way to go before we can even start talking about his ultimate ceiling. But that’s also what makes him so intriguing. While his fluid shooting stroke makes me believe that he’ll be able to extend the floor at some point soon, it’s his unbridled enthusiasm and passion for the game that has convinced me that he’ll be a force in the future.

It’s also convinced programs like UConn, UCLA, Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest, St. John’s and Xavier to extend scholarship offers already.

17. Zed Key, 6’8” Wingspan Big Man, LUHI/NY JayHawks 2020

This ranking will surprise some but Key’s athleticism, skill development and Hoops IQ continue on an upward trajectory. He averaged 13.8 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist while shooting a ridiculously efficient 67% FG and a sound 71.7% FT on the Adidas circuit this summer.

Key’s fluid shot mechanics, increased range, ability to get up-&-down the floor with ease, willingness to bang in the post and advanced understanding of how to use angles around the basket make him one of the most skilled big men in this class. He’s reminded me of Bonzie Colson for the better part of 3 years now and his game is trending in a similar direction at the same stage.

His most recent offers have come from Notre Dame, Georgia, Southern Cal, Providence, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

 

18. Lance Ware, 6’9” Big, Camden/ RENS 2020

When you take a look at Ware’s place amongs his peers in the National 2020 Rankings, it looks like a classic case of setting a young player up for disappointment at the college level. Especially when you consider that Ware is expected to choose between Kentucky (the overwhelming favorite), Ohio State, Miami, Michigan and Providence in the near future.

Ware’s ability to finish dump offs at the rim improved exponentially during the season as he became accustomed to physicality in the post. His scoring averaged jumped from 10.2 points per game in the regular season to 14.4 points at Peach Jam. His rebounding numbers also jumped from 5.8 to 6.4 rebounds per game during that stretch. Defensively, Ware blocked just as many shots during Peach Jam (12) as he did during the entire regular season. For the EYBL season as a whole, Ware averaged 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 49.7% FG and 60.9% FT.

As the updated National Rankings come out, Ware now sits within the top-35 of the 2020 Class, which will naturally create some huge expectations.

Listen, I hope Ware improves, produces and earns $200M during his playing career. Believe me, I really do! But in order to do so, he’ll have to develop a post game that includes more than finishing drop-offs for wide open dunks. He'll also have to become a much better rebounder and start finding open teammates instead of trying to force shots into the heart of the defense every time he gets a touch within 15-feet of the basket. If you look at the top big men in today's game, they all average at least a few assists per game. Ware averaged 0.4 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in the EYBL.

There’s more than enough time for Ware to figure it out. And he's got the talent. I’m just hoping that his current National Ranking doesn’t create a sense of validation and convince him that his game is ready for the highest level of college ball.

19. Adama Sanogo, 6’10” Big, Our Savior New American/NY Rens 2021

Top-10 Rebounders in the EYBL have a history of success in college and NBA basketball. When players crack the Top-10 multiple times, it translates to an even higher rate of success down the road. That’s why Sanogo belongs on this list.

Even after a brutal Peach Jam where he battled foul trouble more often than opposing post players, Sanogo finished the season averaging 8.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 58.7% FG in just over 18 minutes per game. While Sanogo learns how to avoid foul trouble and expands his offensive repertoire, he should be able to maintain his status as one of the elite rebounders in the Class of 2021.

He’s a consensus top-100 prospect right now but that should improve thanks to his motor and work ethic.

20. Bensley Joseph, 6’1” Point Guard, Cushing/Expressions 2021

I’m not sure how many Point Guards in the 2021 Class were able to put up season-highs of 25 points (vs Boo Williams), 11 rebounds (vs NY Lightning), 11 assists and 5 steals (both vs Phenom U) in the 2019 EYBL. Joseph didn’t shoot the ball up to his standards but his toughness and leadership skills earned him an invitation from USA Basketball at the end of the summer.

The best is yet to come for the young pitbull whose recruitment is guaranteed to feature programs from the top conferences in the nation.


Any prospect who played their AAU or prep basketball with a team within these wonderfully drawn borders was considered for The Hustle's Northeast Big Board


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