The NY2LA Summer Jam hosted just outside of Milwaukee is an annual AAU event that attracts some of the top players in the country and even some teams from outside the United States. Positioned in the middle of the July live period it draws respected coaches from all over the country as well this year Roy Williams, Dana Altman, Scott Drew, Tim Miles, Greg Gard, Tom Izzo and John Beilein all made the trip to Homestead High School in Mequon. AAU gets a bad reputation in basketball circles, people compare it to all-star games in terms of the amount of defense played. This is an unfair painting of hundreds of teams that play hard on both ends, there are certainly teams that coast on athleticism, but those teams rarely see the success that well coached teams do.
The AAU season which for many teams starts shortly after the conclusion of high school state tournaments, will see its end this weekend. The Summer Jam being such a late season tournament often means as fans we get to see the best these teams have to offer, the early season chemistry issues are ironed out and the teams are gelling. On some of the more elite teams this gelling process can be difficult as high schoolers who are “the man” for their squad adapt to different roles. At every level there are players whose game is based around having the ball in their hands that struggle to play off ball and AAU is no exception, that’s what makes AAU such a good learning experience for some of these players. NY2LA brings together a bunch of teams from the various AAU shoe circuits, in sports many coaches will tell you the best way to improve is by playing against people better than you, which is the goal of AAU basketball. The level of competition is just a step higher than high school ball and is often a better gauge of a player’s skill level.
This article is going to highlight some of the player’s that impressed me this weekend including some Wisconsin standouts and UW-Madison targets.
Carlos Curtis – 2018 – Playground Elite EYBL 17U – Milwaukee Riverside
Curtis has always had the athleticism and feel to be a dynamic D1 player, but at the Summer Jam he caught fire from 3 and elevated the Playground team to another level. Including making two 3’s in 11 seconds to send an elimination gamer to over time. With an athletic frame, he is able to contort his body in traffic to make some tough finishes, but also has the explosion to leave guys on the perimeter when he drives by them. Currently holding five D1 offers from various mid-majors including UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee, Curtis will look to lead a Riverside team losing Terrence Lewis to Iowa State.
Tyler Herro – 2018 – Playground Elite EYBL 17U – Whitnall
The Badger’s commit was on fire for most of the weekend. Herro presents a knockdown
shooting threat that must be found in transition or he will make you play. Watching him is a little reminiscent of Golden State’s Klay Thompson, his defender is glued to him and he gets little to no space to operate in. Herro uses his athleticism to put guys on his hip and drive to the basket despite being the focus of defenses. Even if he does not get to the rim he is able to elevate and shoot over defenders, his ability to get his shoulders squared to the basket on any and every shot is unparalleled in this age group. One thing that might get swept under the rug a bit with Herro is his skills with the ball in his hands, he is a better dribbler than most shooting guards his size and displays very good passing vision for an off guard. Could average more assists than you might expect for Whitnall next season and has the type of shake in his game that he might create more looks for himself and others in college than you might expect. He has serious bounce too, he threw down some vicious dunks this weekend and might put some teams on poster watch his senior year.
Nobal Days – 2019 – Playground Elite EYBL 17U – Racine Park
The young big man has always had a high major body and the high major skills are starting to come along with it. His game still has a few holes, but he is starting to add a lot of polish to his game that really helped Playground Elite win basketball games. His impact on the glass is impossible to miss as he sealed off plenty of talented big men this weekend. He uses his length to contest shots and get on the offensive glass. His screens helped free up Herro and Curtis for some good looks as well. It should be noted that Days was playing up for a large portion of the summer in EYBL, but did not look out of place at all this weekend. Whomever lands Days will get a day one contributor with plenty of upside and room to grow as well.
Hunter Plamann – 2018 – Wisconsin Swing 17U – Xavier
Plamann is a lesser known name in comparison to the first three, but played at an extremely high level all weekend. With tight handles and a knock down jumper Plamann was able to help guide a Wisconsin Swing team to Championship Sunday and give the eventual runners up a serious threat to go home in the quarterfinals. It may be cliché, but Plamann is not afraid of anyone he goes up against, and played with a tenacity that few high schoolers share. A state champion as a junior, currently holds three D2 offers, but could end up playing mid-major ball with a strong senior season.
D.J. Carton – 2019 – Quad Cities Elite 16U – Bettendorf
Carton has seen his stock explode this summer despite not playing on a s
hoe circuit. Picking up four high major offers since the start of the Summer Jam, Carton has had an electric summer. Currently unranked (expect that to change whenever the rankings update next) Carton is an explosive athlete paired with a silky jumper. Carton excelled at one thing I see very few AAU players do at a high level, shoot running off screens. Carton would run under the basket and catch and shoot hitting nothing but the bottom of the net. When he gets going to the rim he is a handful for the opposing defense, showing some serious finishing ability in traffic. Wisconsin was the first power 5 offer for the Iowa Native, Marquette came shortly after, Tim Miles watched his first game Saturday and offered a few hours after that. His recruitment seems poised to blow up and I wouldn’t be shocked if some coaches skipped the big tournaments in Las Vegas to watch Carton play in Kansas City this week.
Bryan Penn-Johnson – 2018 – Dream Vision 17U – Wasatch
Penn-Johnson might be the most physically impressive player at the NY2LA Summer Jam standing at 7’ with a reported 7’7” wingspan he towers over the competition. Just watching him play, there is something very NBA about his game, he keeps it simple and tries to not do too much. Too often in AAU big men will try to show off undeveloped aspects of their game (read as take threes they have no business taking) but Penn-Johnson kept his offense to dunks and flashed some nice post moves. A little reminiscent of John Henson on both ends, Penn-Johnson’s rim protection is the reason I believe he will thrive at the next level. I’d love to know how many blocks a game Penn-Johnson averaged this summer, he shows great anticipation and positions himself well to contest shots. His mere presence deterred some teams from driving not to mention he had some chase down blocks that I thought he had no chance of running down. He also had nice timing for put-backs and was able to kill teams on the offensive glass. Penn-Johnson should thrive wherever he ends up and with a strong freshmen season could enter 1&Done conversations.
Kyree Walker – 2020 – Dream Vision 17U – Hillcrest Prep
Walker is the one player I saw this weekend that I’d be truly shocked if he does not play in the NBA. Playing 17U meant Walker was playing up two divisions above his classmates, no fan would have guessed that. Walker looks like an NBA combo guard already, he is built like a truck and plays with a polish beyond his years. The players I talked to this weekend believe he can be the number one player in 2020 when it is all said and done. I’d personally struggle to name a weakness in Walker’s game after watching him play six games this weekend, he shot, passed, defended at an outstanding level. He has hops as well putting on a dunking clinic early on this weekend. Currently committed to Arizona State he will undoubtedly draw comparisons to ASU product James Harden, similar in stature it will be intriguing to see how polished Kyree can be by the time he enrolls in college. While he undoubtedly has room to grow (every player does) he is physically mature enough to play high major ball tomorrow and his skills are not far behind that.
Musa Jallow – 2017 – Blaze Select 17U – Ohio State
Jallow is an impressive player, as a Wisconsin alum that hurts me a little bit to say. The recently reclassified shooting guard will make his way to Ohio State sometime in the upcoming weeks for his freshmen year there, I was a little surprised how low the Blaze were seeded, because they are a tough out every time I have seen them play. Jallow alone is a force that teams have to be prepared for, he plays hard on both ends. Driving to the rim is where Jallow is at his best, in my opinion, he has the bounce and finishing ability to get around defenders and score at the bucket. I only caught two of Jallow’s games this weekend, but based on what I’ve seen in the past he will be a major contributor to Holtmann’s (weird not seeing Matta here) Buckeyes this winter.
Jamari Sibley – 2020 – Wisconsin Playground Warriors 15U – Nicolet
Sibley plays for a loaded 15U Playground Warriors squad that took home the Under Armor National championship earlier this month. Sibley is a key contributor for this team, playing solid positional defense, but he shines most in my eyes on offense. Sibley has an incredibly polished offensive skillset for a 15 year old power forward. The term scores at all three levels gets thrown around too easily, but that truly fits Sibley’s game, he can stretch out to three, has a nice turn around game in the midrange and has hops to catch oops and throw them down. When the offense got bogged down in a Sunday game they were able to toss it to Sibley and let him operate in the high post. The talent is undeniable, he has a chance to give Wisconsin two top 100 guys in 2020. Most important thing for his game at this point is to put on weight, but that is part of maturing. His 16U season will in all likelihood be the season where his recruiting blows up, colleges are (fairly) very hesitant to get in on 15 year olds. Look for him to have a strong season for Nicolet and hopefully this Playground team can get keep their core together the next two seasons, if for no reason other than a treat for the fans.
Jalen Johnson – 2020 – Wisconsin Playground Warriors 15U – Sun Prairie
Johnson might have had the best summer of anyone from the 2020 class, winning the UAA
national championship and just sky rocketing up boards. His Ball Is Life highlight reel compares him to Lonzo Ball, likely due to a mutual affinity for the outlet pass. Johnson is listed as a wing, but serves as an initiator for his team, Johnson can do it all on offense. He displays a promising jumper, but makes a living in the midrange punishing smaller defenders on a variety of mid-range moves. Explosive off the ball he had a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass that showcased why he is one of the youngest players to get a Wisconsin offer. Johnson displays great vision and clearly has a good chemistry with his teammates as he continually found cutters for easy buckets with tough passes. Similar to Sibley, Johnson will likely find himself on the receiving end of a few dozen recruiting calls and letters next summer. Johnson in all likelihood will be the state of Wisconsin’s first true blue chip recruit since Stone & Ellenson depending on where Herro ends up falling in the final 2018 rankings.
Ryan Davis – 2018 – Wisconsin Playground Warriors 17U – Conant
Davis does everything you would want from a big man and could have a huge impact for a mid-major throughout his career. As simple as it sounds Davis has amazing hands, he plays with some gifted passers that throw some hard dump offs his way and Davis catches and finishes most of what comes his way. I’ll reiterate that again just for emphasis, when you watch a weekend of AAU ball and you see dozens of dropped passes it really makes you appreciate a big like Davis who has those Larry Fitzgerald type hands. He positions himself to perfection on the block, his quick release on lay-ups doesn’t give opposing big men a chance to contest it. The aforementioned skills alone would make Davis a formidable big man, but his jumper is legit and when gets going from distance the Playground Warriors are tough to beat. He saw his recruiting blow up this summer and will have a nice selection of schools to choose from when he makes his choice this year.
Jordan McCabe – 2018 – Wisconsin Playground Warriors 17U – Kaukauna
McCabe is one of the few players who is consistently fun to watch, on the rare off game when his shot isn’t falling he still finds ways to have the crowd oohing and aahing. That said he is a competitor first and foremost. He finds ways to make his teammates better game after game, might just be a coincidence but between him and Jalen Johnson the Playground Warriors organization has two of the best outlet passers in the nation. Those passes are so rewarding for McCabe’s teammates, they know if they run the court he is going to do his best to find them. It is an age old announcing cliché that you have to reward the big man for running the court, but McCabe did that all day Saturday (missed the first 3 days of play while at Under Armour all American camp in Philadelphia) and it got his team out to an early lead against the stacked Dream Vision 17U squad. McCabe is a lethal shooter, all he needs is an inch to get his off and he can make the defenders pay from well behind the high school 3pt line. He is able to finish almost shockingly well in traffic with a crafty set of moves to get around big men at the rim. Able to maneuver in tight spaces with the ball he can get off a shot whenever he wants inside the arc with the floater game to rise above defenders in the paint. McCabe’s handles are something else that could be their own think piece, but the most impressive part is how well he is able to use them to gain a competitive advantage. I see way too many guys dribble the air out of the ball and gain nothing from it, McCabe’s teammates have great chemistry with him and while he dribbles they will cut and keep the defense honest. West Virginia is getting a day one contributor who is a lock to make his teammates better and shoot the lights out from deep.
Johnny Davis, Jordan Davis, Terrance Thompson, J’raan Brooks, Courtney Ramey, Aaron Henry, Christian Brown.
I wish I could write about more players, but I had to draw a line somewhere and wanted to give each guy his due. Easier for me personally to write about the guys I saw multiple games from this summer. This event was loaded that each time slot often presented a tough choice about who to watch. As a Wisconsin native I wanted to give the home state teams a lot of my attention and as a Wisconsin alum I wanted to watch Badger’s targets when I got the chance. In the end I got more than my money’s worth each day of the event. Wisconsin and the Midwest as a whole are loaded with good basketball talent. With players like these the future of college basketball is in great hands.