Saturday's Battle of the Borders event featured four teams from Philadelphia against four of New Jersey's best. Imhotep, Constitution, Roman Catholic, and Archbishop Wood represented the Keystone State, while Immaculate Conception, Notre Dame, Mater Dei, and Timber Creek held it down for the Garden State. I got a chance to see Roman Catholic and Immaculate Conception play a high-level game and then Imhotep and Mater Dei go to overtime.
Immaculate Conception beat a shorthanded Roman Catholic team in an afternoon game Saturday that featured three 2018 recruits with St. Joe's offers. Roman Catholic was without freshman Lynn Greer and sophomore Seth Lundy, but still put up a heck of a fight, eventually falling 59-53. The three players in this one with Hawk offers were Jalen Carey and Justin Winston from Immaculate Conception and then Roman's newest junior, wing Allen Betrand.
6'3 combo guard Jalen Carey is ranked 79th in the country by Scout and holds offers from St. Joe's, Temple, VCU, Penn State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Pitt, DePaul, and more. It was clear Saturday why those schools are actively in pursuit. It was clear why St. Joe's has prioritized him early, why they've offered, and why Phil Martelli traveled to Immaculate Conception two weeks ago to visit with him. Carey is a long, bouncy, shifty guard who showed an ability to play both on and off the ball. He was dynamic in pick-and-roll settings, had a burst to get by his man, but also demonstrated patience and stability with the ball in his hands. Carey also knocked down three threes in this one, including a huge triple from the left wing in the game's closing minutes that helped seal the win. Jalen Carey is one of the highest-ranked recruits that St. Joe's is involved with in 2018. He is the type of recruit, the type of guard, that would be a major difference-maker in the Atlantic 10, but it certainly won't be easy.
Carey's teammate on Immaculate Conception, 6'8 forward Justin Winston, also holds an offer from the Hawks. Winston holds a number of the same offers as Carey, as plenty of schools are targeting the duo as a package. St. Joe's, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Pitt, DePaul, and Penn State all have offers out to Winston as they do to Carey. St. Joe's is likely looking for two guards and then a big in 2018. Winston is more of a forward, more of a four, than a post, but in the world of the small-ball five, it's possible that Winston could fill that type of role. He's a versatile, strong, fundamentally strong, and athletic forward with some ball skills. Winston didn't shoot it well Saturday, and his form on his jumper looked a little off, with his release coming on the way down. He did, however, time and again beat his man off the bounce. On four separate occasions, he was able to isolate a smaller defender on the perimeter and take him to the rim, twice earning and-ones. Justin Winston did just enough Saturday to make you want to see more. He showed flashes as a play-maker and as a ball-handler that are unique at his size.
While Jalen Carey was arguably the best prospect in the Immaculate Conception-Roman Catholic game, it was Allen Betrand who was the most productive. Betrand, a 6'3 shooting guard who transferred from Fels (PA) to Roman Catholic over the summer, was dynamic on Saturday. He scored north of 20 points in the loss, playing some point for the Cahillites. Betrand will need to continue to improve as a shooter, but he did connect on a three Saturday. He was at his best though, as he always is, attacking the rim. Betrand gets into the lane at will, and finished through contact time after time. He didn't have to get to the rim either to finish, as he hit at least three nice floaters over the outstretched hands of Immaculate Conception's bigs. It was impossible not to be impressed by Betrand. At the moment, he holds offers from St. Joe's, La Salle, and Robert Morris. For his recruitment to hit that next level, he will need to show improvement in his perimeter shooting. He was terrific Saturday though, and looked like a player you want to buy stock in now. His frame, at 6'3, long, and chiseled, combined with his motor, athleticism, and feel for the game make him one of the more appealing players locally in 2018. With the Hawks looking for a scoring off-guard in addition to a point in 2018, I would imagine that Allen Betrand solidifies himself as one of their primary targets over the coming months.
After watching Immaculate Conception knock off Roman Catholic, it was time for Imhotep and Mater Dei. Going into this one, I was sincerely hoping that Mater Dei would make it a game, as Imhotep is loaded with high-level D1 players like Daron Russell (URI), David Beatty, Donta Scott, and more. Not only did Mater Dei make it a game, but they won it in overtime. The one player of interest to Hawk fans in this one was 2018 point guard Kenny Jones.
Jones is a 6-foot point guard who picked up a Hawk offer over the summer and visited Hawk Hill for the ring ceremony. SJU assistant Mark Bass is leading this recruitment. Jones spent much of the game matched up with Rhode Island commit Daron Russell, Imhotep's speedy senior point guard. To be honest, it wasn't a great day for either. Russell struggled shooting the ball and Jones was kept in checking scoring the ball, finishing with seven point by my count. Jones did connect on a three from the top of the key. He also knocked down his two free throws. What was most impressive about Jones was his basketball IQ. He knew where to go with the ball and didn't get flustered by Russell's intense pressure defense. He has very good court vision, a sense of how to run an offense, and an ability to knock down open shots. He is a slight six feet and is not an explosive athlete. Monmouth, Iona, Stony Brook, NJIT, and Eastern Kentucky are Jones' other offers. For his recruitment to make a jump, Jones will have to incrementally bulk up. His basketball IQ, leadership, and vision were on display Saturday though.
Archbishop Wood (Seth Pinkney) and Notre Dame (Isaiah Wong) also played on Saturday, and I watched them from across the gym while watching the two games recapped above. The only comment on those two Hawk offers I have is that Pinkney is really impressive physically. He's listed around 6'9 but looks much more like 6'11 to me. With a wingspan way north of 7-feet. He's all arms and legs. The 2018 Philly native recently picked up a St. Joe's offer and looks like the ideal center to put next to forwards Pierfrancesco Oliva, Lorenzo Edwards, Taylor Funk, and Anthony Longpre. All four of those bigs are more stretch forwards than defensively-minded posts. Pinkney would fit in perfectly in the middle on Hawk Hill.
Saturday's Battle of the Borders event in West Berlin, New Jersey was a success in its inaugural year. Thanks to The Black Cager for making it happen!