Sometimes even the most carefully laid plans of mice and men can go astray. And this was especially evident over the weekend when most of the big name players who we were told would be in attendance at the Rumble in the Bronx at Fordham University in New York did not show up and most of the top teams that we expected to go deep into the playoff were knocked off early in the tournament.
But that doesn't mean that things still weren't interesting, as East Coast Elite beat the Connecticut Basketball Club, 62-59, in the 17-Under Division Championship game. And in that game 6-foot-11 junior Malcolm Gilbert from Bryn Athyn (Academy of the New Church) Pa., didn't score a single point, but did have double-digits rebounds, six or seven blocked shots, and was the primary reason why 6-11 sophomore Andre Drummond from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) Conn., was forced to take his game out on the perimeter and score only 11 points in what was a lackluster performance at best.
Unfortunately this was indicative of the way Drummond played all weekend, as he showed flashes of brilliance, but never was the consistent dominant force that we expect him to be. Instead, the Connecticut Basketball Club advanced to the championship game thanks to a well balanced attacked that included the likes of 6-7 Tavon Allen from Worcester (Academy) Mass., 6-4 Greg Langston from Lee (Academy) Mass., 6-11 junior Vince Van Nes from Northfield (Northfield-Mt. Hermon) Mass., and 5-11 junior Phil Gaetano from Wallingford Choate) Conn.
Allen was the big hero in the semi-finals when he hit a pair of deep 3-pointers in the last minute to help bring his team back from a double-digit deficit against the New York Panthers and he is clearly getting under recruited, as is evident by the fact that this athletic wing forward told us that he has a list of schools that includes Drexel, Rhode Island, Siena, Charlotte, Fordham, and Hartford.
Langston provided the perfect complement out on the perimeter with his athleticism and ability to slash to the basket. Van Nes is a skilled big man with a mid-major future and Gaetano is a tough hard-nosed point guard who knows how to run the show, makes great passes and big shots, and has Ivy League-like grades.
The big hero in the championship game for East Coast Elite was 6-4 junior A.J. English from Middletown (Appoquinimink) Del., who finished with 28 points and six 3-pointers and also impressed us with his athleticism and craftiness to the basket. Two other guys who put up prolific numbers in the tournament were 6-7 junior Maurice Harkless from South Kent (Prep) Conn., and 6-3 junior DeAngelo Harrison from Sugar Land (Ft. Bend) Texas. However, Harkless, who did most of his damage when we saw his team in pool play with 31 points against 518 Hustle and 25 points points against Gold Coast, was embarrassingly non-productive in the playoffs. Instead, 6-foot junior Sterling Gibbs from West Orange (Seton Hall Prep) Conn., 6-3 Jeff Short from South Kent (Prep) Conn., and 6-6 Shaq Thomas from Newark (Nia Prep) N.J., and 6-foot junior Dahaun Wiggins from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) Maine were the ones who stepped up and were primarily responsible for leading the New York Panthers into the final four of the 17-Under Division playoffs.