Team Final Scrimmages: Saturday Recap

The first live recruiting period of 2016 doesn’t kick off until next weekend. On Saturday, Team Final hosted a full day of scrimmages at Life Center Academy as a warm up for the April live periods. A full recap is inside, including interviews with Taylor Funk, Chyree Walker, and much, much more.

Saturday’s Team Final scrimmages allowed me to get a look at a plethora of 2017 and 2018 St. Joe’s recruiting targets, including Marcus Littles, Justyn Mutts, Chyree Walker, Eli Brooks, and Taylor Funk. Being in the gym also provided an opportunity to touch base with a number of great basketball minds and get a handful of scoops.

I began my day watching Baltimore-based Team Melo and Philadelphia-based Team Final. Team Final is absolutely loaded, with elite 2017 shooting guard Lonnie Walker, elite 2018 wing Cameron Reddish, top 100 2017 big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and top 100 2018 big man Marcus Littles.

St. Joe’s has offered Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, the 6’9 power forward from Neumann-Goretti (PA), who plays for Team Final. The Hawks have also offered 2018 Team Final center Marcus Littles. 6’6 forward Justyn Mutts holds Hawk interest.

In a blowout win, Reddish and Walker were simply too much for Team Melo. Marcus Littles currently holds just one Division 1 offer, and it is from St. Joe’s. Littles was on Hawk Hill throughout the season, attending at least six or seven Hawk home games. The 6’9 250-pound post played 15u travel ball last season for Team Final, but is playing up at the U17 level this year. He hardly got any touches on Saturday morning. I counted him having the ball entered to him in the post twice, and he scored on a 5-foot jump hook on one of those two entry passes. His only other bucket came off an offensive rebound and put-back. Littles is absolutely massive, especially considering the fact that he’s just wrapping up his sophomore year of high school. While St. Joe’s is currently his only offer, I would expect that to change, and likely as soon as next weekend.

The other name of interest to me on Team Final was 6’6 St. Augustine Prep (NJ) combo forward Justyn Mutts. Mutts is the classic tweener. The question with him this spring and summer will be whether or not he shows enough of a perimeter game to project as a three at the college level, or if he’s moreso an undersized power forward. Mutts had two of the days biggest dunks in the 10:40 game against Team Melo. One came on the break and the other came in the half-court, when he blew by his defender and put a Team Melo big on a poster. Mutts was also 4-4 from the free throw line, and finished the game with 8 points. Justyn was offered this week by Hofstra and St. Peter’s (PA), as first repeated by Pat Lawless. St. Joe’s is tracking Mutts and will likely continue to do so this month. His athleticism and solid-looking stroke make him an intriguing prospect, and one that caught my eye.

I mentioned earlier that Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree is on Team Final, and many of you may be wondering why I’m not writing about him as a St. Joe’s target. The reason isn’t that St. Joe’s pulled out with him, but moreso that I don’t see him as a viable option moving forward. Syracuse, Villanova, and more are heavily on the prowl, and the Hawks’ track record of beating those schools and the countless others that will jump in this summer isn’t great.

While walking around the gym and talking with various media members and AAU coaches, I picked up a few tidbits of information. The first is that Phil Martelli was down in the DC area yesterday morning. After watching 2016 Scotland Prep Institute (PA) big man Cheickna Dembele on Thursday, Martelli was at a 6:30 AM workout at Maret (DC) for 6’10 2016 big man Luke Garza on Friday morning. Garza has offers from St. Joe’s, George Washington, La Salle, DePaul, and Iowa.

Another tidbit that I heard from more than one person Saturday involved the current perception of St. Joe’s. DeAndre Bembry’s success on Hawk Hill these past three years didn’t go unnoticed. High school players noticed. Isaiah Miles’ success this season also caught the eye of the players and AAU programs in the DMV. As I spoke with people Saturday and explained this site and how it covered St. Joe’s, the reaction was unlike any that I’ve gotten in the years since I started. I was told by one person there that it’s possible that the Hawks really see a jump in interest from high-level 2018 prospects in particular due to Bembry and Miles.

Back to the action, the highlight of the early portion of the day was a 1 o’clock game between Team Takeover and the Jersey Shore Warriors. That game, which was tight throughout the first half and the beginning of the second, ended up a comfortable Team Takeover victory. There were two players in this one with Hawk offers and another with strong St. Joe’s interest.

Eli Brooks, a 6’2 guard from Spring Grove (PA) was terrific for the Warriors. He finished with 18 points, including four threes. Brooks went toe-to-toe with Takeover’s backcourt that includes Chris Lykes, D.J. Harvey, and others., and looked unfazed Brooks currently holds strong St. Joe’s interest, but no offer. He was at several games this year, including the Holy War. The Hawks aren’t in the market for a point guard, but Brooks’ ability to shoot it could make him an option despite point guard not being a priority in this class. If I’m the Hawks, I probably take the plunge and extend an offer if he shows well in that first April live period.

Eli’s AAU teammate, Taylor Funk, not only holds a St. Joe’s offer, but he is arguably the Hawks’ top overall 2017 target. Don’t take my word for it either. After watching him play Saturday, I spoke with the 6’8 forward from Mannheim (PA) about the transition from high school ball to AAU ball and his recruitment.

“The biggest difference for me (between high school and AAU) is that in high school, there’s one, maybe two, D1 players,” Funk began. “Then in AAU, it’s sometimes everyone. In high school, I may be going against 6-foot guys, and then today, against a 7-foot guy. It’s just a huge difference, it’s nothing the same. But I’m also playing with better guys too, so that helps.”

St. Joe’s has been active in Taylor Funk’s recruitment for a while now, and he spoke on how the Hawks are recruiting him. “They call me a lot,” he said about the Hawks. “Coach Duda was calling me for a while and then Coach Martelli took over. He called me, yesterday actually, and said, ‘Listen Taylor, I’m going to be honest with you. I want you. You’re my number one guy on our recruiting list for your class. And that felt great. It’s every basketball player’s dream to play D1, but when coaches are begging for you, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

The Hawks are hardly alone in their pursuit of the 6’8 stretch forward. When asked who else had offered, Taylor replied, “La Salle, Monmouth, Boston University and Rider,” adding that Seton Hall “told me that they’re going to watch me in April and give me an offer.”

Against Team Final Red in the early morning game, Funk had 18 points. Then, in the game against Team Takeover, he was held in check, finishing with just six points. His first bucket was a cutback off an offensive rebound, then he also scored on a nifty reverse lay-in and a run-out dunk on the break. He hit a three in the early-going that was waived off due to a foul on the floor, then missed his only other attempt from deep. At 6’8, he possesses great size as a stretch or mismatch four. St. Joe’s certainly had luck with that this year with Isaiah Miles, and the thought here is probably that Funk could develop into a similar role.

The other player in this one with a St. Joe’s offer was 6’4 Bullis (MD) wing Chyree Walker. Walker, who already possesses a college body, threw down the best dunk I saw all day, when he drove from the right wing and dunked on two Warriors’ defenders. In the game I saw, Walker finished with just four points, on the dunk and then 2-4 from the free throw line. In the day’s last game, the showcase game against Team Final, he had 10.

The Hawks offered Walker back in November and have made several trips down to Maryland this year to watch him. I got a chance to speak briefly with the powerfully-built and athletic wing guard after their win over the Jersey Shore Warriors.

“I’m excited,” Walker began, when asked how he was approaching April’s live periods. “I’ve been in the weight room all year, just getting strong, bigger. I’ve stayed in the gym, and I’ve grown. During the school year (at Bullis), I had to play inside a lot, at the 4, but now I can play on the perimeter. A chance to show coaches my ball skills and my shooting that I’ve worked on.

When asked if any schools in particular have spoken with him about how they’d be tracking him this spring and summer, three Philadelphia schools actually came out of his mouth. “Temple, then UPenn, and St. Joe’s too,” Chyree told me. He also added that he got a chance to come up to Hawk Hill for a St. Joe’s game this year, and his whole high school team got to go to The Palestra to watch Penn since they were up in the area to play Westtown.

Walker has an offer from the Hawks. He also has one from George Mason. George Washington, VCU, and more are also actively tracking the wing.

Saturday’s Team Final scrimmages were a great start to a hectic month of April. On Wednesday, I will unveil a huge, detailed primer, looking at all of April’s events and all of the Hawks’ 2017 offers and names of interest. Be on the lookout!

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