On Sunday morning, Ravi Rozier and I made our way up to Springfield, Massachusetts for the start of the Hall of Fame Invitational. It was not that bad of a drive, and we got there at 1:30pm. The competition here is strong with many of the best 15u, 16u, and 17u teams from the East Coast in attendance. It was a good start to the tournament with many of the local teams getting off to strong starts.
After arriving I settled in to check out Raising Champions. Now, I had seen them on Saturday at Island Garden at Lightning Live, and they didn’t look so hot, but they were much more respectable on Sunday taking down a good Nation squad from Maine.
Will Davis (Holy Cross ‘12) looked good early on, settling into the corner and knocking down a couple of long range bombs. He looked quicker than I have seen recently, and also looked more confident in making cuts and taking the ball inside.
Isaiah Manderson (Wings Academy ‘14) hit a couple of jumpers after stepping outside. He is raw in many aspects of the game, but he has good hands and shows signs of becoming a big time presence in the NYC basketball scene.
The pressure defense that Raising Champions incorporated through off The Nation, who struggled to break the trap, and turned the ball over far too much in the 2nd half.
A bright spot for The Nation was clearly the play of Alex Furness (Cushing Academy, ME ‘12). A 6’4” guard with good handle, and the ability to use both hands strong. He also had good range, and kept the Raising Champions defense honest.
In the end though it was Raising Champions who pulled away for the 10 point win.
After that, Ravi and I left to check in to our hotel and get some lunch. We arrived back in time for Raising Champions next game, one that did not end up as successful.
Against Gamepoint of California, the NYC based squad seemed to struggle with the perimeter quickness they faced, as Gamepoint was able to get to the basket, breaking down the defense in the process.
A bright spot in the game for Champions was Mareiga Clarke (Holy Cross ‘12). He showed more athleticism than in the past, putting the ball on the floor and able to drive the ball inside, with solid hands and dribble going left or right.
Raising Champions was down 15 at the break, but got the lead down to 1 at a couple points in the 2nd half because of their on the ball strong pressure defense. It was not enough though as Charles Beard (El Camino, CA ‘11) was able to make enough plays on the inside to help Gamepoint take the 62-57 victory.