Traveling Team: New Jersey Panthers

The Long Island Panthers changed their name to the new York Panthers - and Gary Charles also had too many players. So he added a new team from a neighboring state - and the centerpiece of the new team is one of the best big guys in America.

Derrick Caracter is so big that a new team was basically started just for him.

The 6-8, 270-pound sophomore big man will lead a group that also boasts ultra-athletic 6-7 New York native Kiwan Smith, who will spend his second year at Laurinburg (N.C.) next season.

``We thought it was important for Derrick to be able to identify where he's from and we decided to create a team out in New Jersey," said Gary Charles, who created the spin-off from his New York Panthers (formerly Long Island Panthers) program.

``These guys will have a more limited schedule," added Charles.

Cranford High 5-11, 185-pound point guard Terrence Grier was re-classified as a junior and should run the show and make sure that Caracter is happy. Seton Hall Prep's Andrew Pusar is a good shooter who will need to knock down the outside shot to take some of the pressure of the big man.

The final starter will likely be Weyinme Efejuku, a 6-5 swingman who has also been re-classified and spend another season at Rice High.

Coming off the bench will be a couple of big-time youngsters – 6-1 combo guard Ashton Gibbs and 6-4 forward Anthony King, who will play at Roman Catholic (Pa.) next year – as well as Bishop Loughlin 6-4 wing Nathan Skinner, a Canadian who had to sit out last season after transferring.

Don't be surprised to see these guys matched up in pool play with the "other" Class of 2006 elite big man – Greg Oden at the loaded Kingwood Classic (Texas) in late April.

``The biggest concern I have is that these guys haven't really played together and haven't played on the national level," added Charles. "It might take a little time to get going, but at the end of the summer I expect our talent to supercede our lack of experience."

``We need to play well as a team, but I think we'll be alright," Smith said. "As long as we all crash the boards and help out Derrick and get back on defense, we should be fine."

New Jersey Panthers (N.J.)

Coaches: Brian Young, Gary Charles

Affiliation: Reebok

Top Prospects: BF-C Derrick Caracter (6-8, 270, SOPH)

Projected Starters: WF Kiwan Smith (6-7, JR); WG-WF Weyinme Efejuku (6-5, JR); PG Terrence Grier (5-11, 185, JR); WG Andrew Pusar (6-1, 175, JR)

Others: WG Nathan Skinner (6-4, 215, JR); PG Chris Andrews (5-9, 150, JR); G Ashton Gibbs (6-1, 8th grade); F Anthony King (6-4, 8th grade)

Opening Tourney: Spring Fling (N.J.) – April 1-3

Famous Alum: N/A

Scout Hoops Top Stories