BOWIE, MD – The travel season officially got underway last weekend with the 2018 DMVelite Live Period Warmup, which again gave teams a chance to get some early work in before heading out on the road this spring.
The event gave a lot of us a glimpse of what’s to come, and many teams are loaded with weapons:
Team Melo Shows Off New Talent
On the first day of the DMVelite Warm Up, the Team Melo 17U squad showed off their new arsenal. 2019 St. Maria Goretti (Md.) wing R.J. Blakney (pictured) poured in 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and snagged 12 rebounds en route to a 78-56 victory over Team Takeover Grey. 2019 Wilson (DC) guard Jay Heath had 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while 2020 Poly (Md.) forward Justin Lewis had eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks as well.
In their second victory over Maryland Movement 82-44, Heath had 28 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in 18 minutes. 2019 guard Jalen Rucker (Gilman) had 10 points, six assists four rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes. Rucker will be a wildcard for this team off the bench for sure with his ability to both score and make plays.
With Blakney and Heath leading the way, Team Melo should have no issue in the aggression department. Both players boast a skill set that allows them to get in the paint and score.
Along with Heath, Team Melo has added former Team St8ment members Jon McGriff (Bishop McNamara), Anthony Thomas (Tennessee Prep), Ronnell Giles (St. Vincent Pallotti) and Olanrewaju Olamuyima (McDowell [Pa.]).
DC Premier Working In New (And Old) Pieces
DC Premier’s 17U squad ended Sunday with a bang, winning two games convincingly over Maryland 3D and Team Silk.
Premier has added several intriguing pieces following the dissolution of the DC Blue Devils 17U program. 2019 twin Maryland commits Makhi and Makhel Mitchell (Wilson) return after a previous stint with Premier, joined by Evan Buckley (Stone Bridge), Christian DePollar (St. Stephen's & St. Agnes), Dejean Desire (Georgetown Prep), Anwar Gill (Gonzaga), James Lee (Springfield Commonwealth [MA]) and Josh Wallace (DeMatha).
"We're a good team," Lee said. "We're probably one of the best teams I've played for, AAU-wise."
Rock Ridge (Va.) guard Alex Finch, Bladensburg forward Daniel Oladapo and Wilson's Ayinde Hikim and Ricky Lindo rounded out the opening roster. Olapado, Hikim and Lindo are all planning to prep, with Lindo headed to Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts.
Depth shouldn’t be an issue for this squad this spring and summer with the NCAA Live Period right around the corner.
In their first win on Sunday, Oladapo led all scorers off the bench with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and Lindo was right behind him with 15 points and eight rebounds. Lee led all scorers in their second victory with 14 points. DePollar was 2-for-2 from 3-point range with six points in 13 minutes.
We R 1 Impresses With Strong Backcourt
The We R 1 17U squad made waves during the DMVelite Warm Up with two convincing victories over 6th Man Warriors 17U and New World 17U on Saturday behind strong performances from 2019 guards Isaiah Wong (Bonner-Prendergast, PA) and Xander Rice (Mater Dei Prep, NJ).
Wong (pictured) averaged 22.5 points per game while Rice put up 16.0 points per game. Wong holds Division I offers from 14 schools, while Rice currently has offers from Pittsburgh and Illinois State.
A new face for We R 1 is 2019 Flint Hill (Va.) big man Qudus Wahab, who should be a solid force for them in the paint once they get comfortable playing together. Wahab had just two points, seven rebounds and a block in their first contest but in their second victory, he had 12 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Wahab is one of the most talented big man in the DMV, and should be in for a productive spring and summer.
Here’s a closer look at some of the standouts:
RJ BLAKNEY, TEAM MELO 17U
The St. Maria Goretti (Md.) 2019 wing went to work early, posting 23 points on 9-of 12 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds in an opening 78-56 win over Team Takeover Grey.
For the day, Blakney averaged 15.5 points per game and led the 17U Division in blocks with 7, displaying his superb athleticism on both ends of the floor.
“It has always been one of my strengths, yeah,” Blakney said of his athleticism. “I try to work on other things, but when it comes down to it you’ve always just got to compete and play hard and when that stuff happens, it just comes out.”
The 6-foot-4 Blakney is one of the key returnees for Team Melo, which has added several intriguing pieces.
“It was good,” he said of the team’s debut Saturday. “It always can be better, but the more games we play together, the more we’ll jell together. … [I’m] Just to get better as an all-around player and be the best I can be. The goal is to get to Peach Jam, but we want to be able to just have fun. All of this talent coming together, we just want to have fun and play together.”
Coming off a strong junior season at Goretti, Blakney has attracted offers from Long Beach State, Mount St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, St. Bonaventure, Tulsa and Virginia Commonwealth. He has interest from a few hihg majors, but hasn’t set a timetable for his recruitment.
“Right now I’m just thinking about the schools that are really interested in me and really want me,” he said. “But at this point, I just want to get better and then the recruitment will play itself out.”
JAY HEATH, TEAM MELO 17U
The Wilson (DC) 2019 guard is one of several former Team St8ment members primed for a key role with Team Melo, and so far the newcomers have felt right at home.
“They had guys when we first came,” Heath said, “but we all come together as one and it’s like a family, for real. So, we all play together and we’ve all got each other’s back, so it’s great.”
Heath had a breakout season at Wilson and carried that momentum into the Live Period Warmup. He notched 16 points and 6 rebounds in Melo’s opening win Saturday and followed that with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in an afternoon victory.
Heath’s play has earned him scholarship offers from Boston College, George Mason, Howard, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Rhode Island and Towson. In the past he has mentioned taking a prep school year, but he said Saturday that all options are on the table.
ISAIAH WONG, WE R1 17U
Wong was one of the most high-profile players in attendance Saturday - coming in with 14 Division I offers - and didn’t disappoint, dropping 22.5 points per game in a pair of victories over 6th Man Warriors and New World.
“I’m just trying to get my name out on the circuit, trying to be top on the circuit as a teams and try to win another championship as a team,” he said when asked about his goals.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Wong is slender but wiry strong, and showed the ability to punish opponents both at the rim and from the perimeter.
We R1 won the Under Armour Association 17U title last summer, and with Wong at the helm they appear to have a key piece for another deep run.
“I feel good about this team,” he said. “This team can definitely go hard on the UAA Circuit and any other tournaments we play in.”
Wong’s list of offers currently includes Cincinnati, Connecticut, Illinois, La Salle, Memphis, Miami, Monmouth, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Texas Christian, Temple, Tulane and Villanova.
DANIEL OLADAPO, DC PREMIER 17U
Oladapo had a monster senior season at Bladensburg (Md.), averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per game while leading the Mustangs to their first state title game appearance since 1979.
Oladapo holds a few low D1 and D2 offers, but has elected to take a prep year to boost his stock. He said he’s narrowed his choices to Putnam Science Academy (CT) or Hargrave Military Academy (Va.).
“I think it’ll help me prepare for college better and develop more,” he said. “That’s why I’m really going prep - people think it’s because of grades, but my grades are fine. It’s just because I’m trying to be a better basketball player.”
The 6-foot-6 Oladapo is working on furthering his perimeter game, which is an area he’s made noticeable strides in over the past year. He’s a very effective passer from the wing and the high post, and has improves his handle enough to make him a mismatch for slower forwards. His jumper has gotten more consistent, but he noted it as the biggest area he wants to work on.
“Right now, [my strengths are] attacking off the dribble, playmaking, rebounding - doing everything, basically,” he said. “Being a versatile forward who can come in and bring energy and help my teammates.”
Oladapo’s game was on full display in Sunday’s opener, as he put up 20 points on 7-9 shooting and grabbed 5 rebounds in a 72-49 win over Maryland 3D. He had 7 points and 8 rebounds in a 71-46 afternoon win over Team Silk.
“Playing with DC Premier is great,” he said. “I like playing with my brothers - I call them my brothers - the [Mitchell] twins. I like playing with them, it makes the game extremely easier for me. DC Premier is full of a lot of versatile people who can do a lot of things, so that’s why I like playing with them.”
JAMES LEE, DC PREMIER 17U
One of the many former DC Blue Devils now suiting up for DC Premier, Lee grew more comfortable as the day went, opening with 6 points in a 72-49 win over Maryland 3D and closing with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting ina 71-46 win over Team Silk.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard from Springfield Commonwealth Academy (MA) has the quickness to get to the rim easily, and the explosiveness to finish above it, as evidenced by several big dunks on Sunday.
A DMV native, Lee said he enjoys coming home to play his travel ball.
“The competition here is 10 times better,” he said, “but it’s a lot of kids in the Massachusetts area that are good, and then there’s also kids in my league that are from here, like DJ Mitchell. So it’s not like I’m not playing against good competition.”
Lee listed offers from Coastal Carolina, Coppin State, Louisiana Tech and Winthrop, along with interest from Georgetown, George Mason, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.
LATRELL CAMPBELL, XPRESS UNITED (NC) 17U
Campbell posted 14.3 points per game in three contests for Xpress United, showing the ability to convert whenever his team needed a bucket.
“My goal is to help my teammate get a lot of wins,” he said, “and make sure everybody on the team gets looked at. We’re trying to play as a team with no individuals - everybody touch the rock and everything.”
The 5-foot-9, 140 pound Campbell said Campbell (NC) and Coastal Carolina (SC) have shown interest, and is looking to build on that with a strong spring and summer.
“We play hard every time we touch the floor,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of height, so we’ve got to play together and work together and every part is important.”
JAHMAL BANKS, 6TH MAN WARRIORS 16U
The Bishop O’Connell 2020 wing put up one of the weekend’s most impressive performances on Sunday, dropping 27 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in a 77-67 win over Team Melo 16U.
“I had to make a statement,” he said. “Not just for the team, but personally and to let people know that I’m grinding, I’m working, and I’m trying to be the best player I can be and show my skills and talents for the team. I’m trying to get people around me better.”
Banks showed the ability to create for himself and others against Team Melo, getting to the basket seemingly whenever he wanted.
A two-sport standout - he plays wide receiver in football - and self-described “workaholic,” the 6-foot-4 Banks listed basketball interest from Oklahoma State, Quinnipiac, St. John’s, UNLV, Wyoming and Xavier.
RYAN CONWAY, TEAM MELO 16U
Conway was on of the more highly-touted freshman in the area heading into the high school season, and put together a solid rookie campaign for Dulaney (Md.).
“I feel like it went great, he said. “Our team, we didn’t make it to states like we wanted to, but individually I know I had some good accolades; I made first team All-County and that was good. I think overall it was a great season still, ’cause we got better throughout the season, and that’s what matters.”
Now in his first year with Team Melo, Conway impressed on Sunday, averaging 16.5 points per game.
“I feel like we’re going to be a special group of guys,” he said. “It was our first game earlier, but I think once we get used to playing with each other, I think we have an opportunity to be special as a unit.”
Conway picked up his first scholarship offer from Old Dominion earlier this spring, and said he’s heard from Kansas State, Rice, VCU and Xavier.
RYAN RACHIC, MARYLAND 3D 17U
The Calvert (Md.) 2019 forward had a productive junior year, and it looking to continue that breakout with 3D while putting himself on the recruiting radar.
“I think this summer and spring I’m trying to see kind of where I’m at with maybe being D2, maybe low D1, maybe I’m a high D3 - I don’t know,” he said. “I’m trying to figure it out for myself and I’m just hoping that this season helps me get through that process.”
The 6-foot-4, 175 pounder displayed a nice shooting touch in an opening loss to DC PRemier on Sunday, scoring 14 points while going 4-of-7 from 3-point range and also tallying 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He notched 10 points in a comfortable 60-34 win over Xpress United in the afternoon.
“I’m a shooter,” he said. “That’s what I do and I play off my shot - I’m not limited to just shooting 3’s and nothing else. I use my shot to ball fake and get people off their feet, to move, get open passes - I usually play off my shot.”
JIMMY KPADEH, 6TH MAN WARRIORS 17U
Kpadeh more than fits the bill of “true point guard” as a savvy, experienced leader who has been playing on the varsity at National Christian (Md.) since 8th grade.
He held his own in a matchup against We R1’s highly-touted backcourt in an opening loss, and finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting with 4 assists in a 78-59 win over Team Takeover Grey.
“I think we played well,” he said. “We played good defense and got everybody the ball and played well.”
At 5-foot-8, Kpadeh lacks ideal size, but he’s powerfully built at 185 pounds and keeps defenders off balance with a nice combo of quickness and strength. His 3-point shooting has steadily improved, and he’s also a solid on-ball defender.
“It helps a lot,” he said of his strength. “I can get by players, and it helps me finish at the rim.”
SINCERE JONES, MARYLAND D-FENDERS 17U
Jones started slow on Sunday but closed with a flourish, dropping a game-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting (2-for-3 on 3-pointers) in an 82-60 win over VA Hokies Elite at Holy Trinity. He also grabbed a team-high 8 rebounds.
“The first game I had 3 points, that’s it,” he recalled. “I took a nap on the way to the game, so I had to pick it up - I wasn’t feeling good the first game. I picked it up the second game and got in my groove.”
A 2019 guard, the 6-foot 1 Jones played a key role off the bench in his first varsity season at Potomac this past winter.
“I was backing up a senior guard - Jason Newman,” he said. “He was real tough, so when I got in the game I had to keep the ntensity up for him so when he got back in the game everything still flowed the same. … It helped me a lot. I had to stay tough; even when we were taking on adversity I had to still stay tough and just be the point guard.”
Now he has the chance to display his own offensive talents this spring and summer, and he’s aiming to make a name for himself.
“‘I’m trying to pick up a couple of looks so they notice me going into my senior year and pick up some offers and go to school,” he said. “And try to get my mid-range game stronger. … We’re going to be tough. We’ve got some guards and a lot of good big men, and we’re going to give a lot of people some headaches.”
Heru Bligen (6th Man Warriors)
AJ Burch (Maryland 3D)
Laqueze Campbell (Xpress United)
Karim Coulibaly (New World)
Eric Dixon (We R1)
Mishi Etuaful (Team Nationals)
Jason Gibson (6th Man Warriors)
Donald Green (Team Silk)
Jordan Hairston (New World)
Jordan Harris (Maryland D-Fenders)
Nolan Ivey (New World Blue)
Emari Johnson (Southern Maryland All-Stars)
Sincere Jones (Maryland D-Fenders)
Chereef Knox (We R1)
Ricardo Lindo (DC Premier)
Jonathan McGriff (Team Melo)
Tywon Montgomery (Team Nationals)
Cheick-Oumar Toure (Team Nationals)
JR Unegbu (Team Nationals)
Armon Williams (Metro Celtics)
Braxton Williams (Southern MD All-Stars)
Khalil Williams (Maryland 3D)
Thomas Balistere (Nova 94 Feet)
Tyler Brelsford (Team Melo)
Tremaine Chesley (Southern MD All-Stars)
Ike Cornish (Team Melo)
Che Evans (Team Melo)
Christian Gamble (6th Man Warriors)
Xavier Green (DMV Stags)
Stanley Harley (Southern MD All-Stars)
Montez Mathis (Team Melo)
Chris Miers (NOVA 94 Feet)
Jordan Oates (Maryland 3D)
Saketh Samala (NOVA 94 Feet)
Quentin Southall (New World)
Cameron Tweedy (Southern MD All-Stars)
Kendall Walker (Maryland 3D)
Jordan Abessolo (Team Loaded DC)
Colby Accardi (DC Premier)
Desmond Ford (DC Premier)
Deshawn Harris-Smith (Team Loaded DC)
Kenneth McCoy (DC Premier)
Jamon Moore (Xpress United)
David Onannina (Team Loaded DC)
Michael Poole (Xpress United)
Jordan Spafford (Nova Suns)
Nick Stacy (Maryland 3D)
Trey Thomas (Team Loaded DC)
Zaakir Williamson (DC Premier)