The July live period has come to a close, as some of New England’s top AAU programs spent the majority of the month traveling all around the country to tournaments in Florida, Las Vegas, South Carolina, Springfield, Mass., Atlantic City, and Philadelphia.
With the AAU season over and the start of players’ high school seasons just a few months away, we break down New England’s top stories following the July live recruiting period:
Auger back in top shape: When Mike Auger trucked through an opposing player for a loose ball in one of Mass Rivals’ opening games at the Hoop Group Summer Jamfest, it was a side of his game that Rivals coach Vin Pastore hadn’t seen on a consistent basis in a couple of years. He was taken aback.
“Incidental contact,” Pastore laughed. “He just kept going. It was like a football play.”
Auger, a 6-foot-6 bruiser of a forward who will be a senior leader for New Hampton this season, has had a tough run the past couple years after suffering from multiple shoulder injuries. He tore his labrum at the beginning of his sophomore season at Hopkinton (N.H.) High, and aggravated the injury two years later after he had gone to New Hampton and reclassified.
After multiple shoulder surgeries, hundreds of hours in the weight room or at physical therapy, Auger finally looked to be completely recovered this summer as the Rivals’ most consistent offensive producer in the post.
“I don’t think he was in complete confidence before, especially with how hard he plays, how physical he was, he always played 100%...that’s his game,” Pastore said. “In the initial part of recovery he didn’t have the confidence to play the game the only way he knew how to.”
Auger is back, and college coaches have taken notice this summer. He now has scholarship offers from Fairfield, Vermont, New Hampshire, Holy Cross, Dartmouth, Binghamton, Quinnipiac, Loyola, and Stony Brook. In an age where most forwards would rather step out on the perimeter than do the “dirty work” inside, true post players come at a premium. Back to his old ways, college coaches are lining up for Auger’s services.
“Kids that are 6-6...Everybody wants to run to the three point line,” Pastore said. “What makes him so good is that he would start inside, then move out and make some threes. Nobody wants to start in and go out.”
"Every program needs a kid like Mike who rebounds, attacks, beats people up around the rim; he physically beats you up. And he likes doing that stuff. He’s a reckless abandon.”
St. Andrews’ Colson carries BABC offense: It wasn’t long ago that St. Andrew's (R.I.) senior Bonzie Colson, a 6-foot-4-1/2 forward with several scholarship offers from high-level programs, was a complete unknown on the national stage.
He certainly didn’t earn his now-nationally known name overnight. An undersized power forward who lacks the elite athleticism that most coaches at major conference schools look for, it took years of efficient production for Colson to prove himself.
“So many coaches go by the criteria and a certain size,” said BABC coach Leo Papile. “He doesn’t fit consensus with that. But, he’s shown to have repeated success statistically in terms of field goal percentage throughout a season.”
Colson led St. Andrew’s, the No. 8 seed of the NEPSAC AA tournament, to a surprise run all the way to the tournament finals last year, where they eventually lost a heartbreaker via a buzzer-beater by Cushing’s Jalen Adams. Colson built a niche for himself as a scorer over the course of the season, and as a result, his team was playing their best basketball in the playoffs.
On the AAU circuit this summer, he flourished for BABC playing on the Nike EYBL circuit, finishing in the top 15 in the league in scoring at just over 18 points per game.
“He’s always been really crafty, he has a lot of scoring value. It’s a unique skillset in terms of productivity in the amount of time he touches the ball. He’s one-dimensional in a good way, he’s very, very crafty,” Papile said.
He continued, "The past couple years he has done it on a national stage, and attracted attention from high major conference schools. He’s an undersized power forward by today’s standards, but he has an extraordinarily long standing reach.”
Papile said that from talking to Colson and his family, the St. Andrew’s star is learning towards taking official visits to Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh -- though those aren’t set in stone yet. He also has scholarship offers from Seton Hall, Iowa State, Rhode Island, and George Washington.
Expressions grooming young talent: Expressions Elite, after qualifying for the Nike Peach Jam earlier this month, continued their impressive summer with a championship at the Hoop Group Summer Jamfest, a loaded tournament that featured several of the nation’s best club teams.
Jared Terrell, Aaron Falzon, Cane Broome, and Abdul-Malik Abu all had a hand in carrying the team to the championship game, but Expressions coach Ty Boswell made quite a statement by starting freshmen Jermaine Samuels and Kimani Lawrence in the finals against Montreal-based Brookwood Bounce Elite.
The freshman duo, whom Boswell purposely put in a hotel room with senior leaders Terrell and Idris Taqqee, used the experience to gain knowledge from their superiors.
“Jared and Idris really took them under their wing; breaking down plays, making sure they understood getting good shots. [Samuels and Lawrence] asked them a million questions, and every single one got answered,” Boswell said.
Samuels, a fearless competitor, came into the game and immediately started attacking offensively. His mindset thoroughly impressed his coach.
“There was no fear that he didn’t belong,” Boswell said, “When I finally took him out, he had that look like ‘why am I coming out?’ He wanted to prove he belonged, and he showed that.”
Lawrence, a Providence native, made his presence felt right away with his great decision making and understanding of the team’s offensive game. He will enroll and join Taqqee at Cushing Academy -- the defending NEPSAC Class AA champs -- while Samuels will attend The Rivers School in Weston.
Rising sophomores Donovan Love, another Providence product who will attend New Hampton, and Ikenna Ndugba -- who is at Brooks School and attended the Nike Elite 100 earlier in the summer -- are two other young players who are a part of Expressions’ supremely talented young group.
Small-town star leads the Playaz: Tyler Lydon wasn’t quite sure what to expect leading up to Basketbull’s Hall of Fame National Invitational. Having switched AAU teams from Albany City Rocks to the New England Playaz, he had only met his new Playaz teammates once, at a practice the day before the tournament.
“I hadn’t met any of those kids. There was a lot of uncertainty, I had no idea how the guys played. I just figured I would go in there and wing it and hope for the best,” Lydon said.
Lydon and his teammates hoped for the best, and that’s exactly what they got—as he, alongside Jarred Reuter, Aaron Calixte, and Crew Ainge, lead the Playaz to the 17U championship in Springfield. In the set of showcase games on the opening night, the Playaz suffered a close loss to Hunting Park (Penn.), but recovered well following their initial loss.
“It was the intensity; we came out that game kind of slow. Going into the rest of the games, that was a reality check for us,” he said.
The rising junior forward comes to New England from Pine Plains, N.Y., a tiny town of 2500 people that rests about an hour north of Poughkeepsie. Last season he led Pine Falls to the New York Division 3 state championship game. This fall, he’ll go play for Pete Hutchins at New Hampton.
“My parents and I decided it was the best decision for me,” the 6-foot-8 point forward said. “I’ll be able to play against the great competition in the league…and the academics are great.”
He’ll be expected to step in and contribute right away for the Huskies, who will have a major hole to fill after graduating McDonald’s All-American Noah Vonleh. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, along with assistants from Providence, Virginia Tech, and others, all watched him in Springfield. Following his return from the Adidas Super 64, he has picked up offers from Florida, Clemson, and Virginia.
New Mission guard primed for big season: Going into July, Boston Warriors coach Cory McCarthy needed a point guard.
McCarthy, who is also the head coach at New Mission during the winter season, looked no further than Shaquan Murray, a skilled senior who plays for McCarthy at New Mission and has proven himself as one of the top scorers in the MIAA.
Murray, who at 6-foot has long arms and an arsenal of offensive moves, stepped in and became the floor leader for the Warriors.
Alongside Lawrence Academy’s Kyle Howes and Kimball Union guard Duby Maduegbunam, the Warriors made it all the way to the elite eight of the AAU Super Showcase Silver, where they eventually lost to city power BABC.
The New Mission guard had a slew of 20-point games over the course of the Warriors’ run, taking advantage of the opportunity given to him by his coach.
“He’s learned how to score how to score in every possible way,” McCarthy said. “Runner, floater, threes off the catch and off the dribble. When guards attack the rim like that against that kind of competition…they’re going to attract attention.”
In leading the Warriors to an 11-4 record in the July live period, Murray has drawn serious attention from several Division 2 schools—including Post University and Bridgeport University, in addition to many different local Division 3 programs.
A good student who boasts a 3.3 GPA and wants to study engineering, Murray is still in the process of formulating college plans. In the winter, he’ll be the go-to scorer on a New Mission squad that will again be amongst the most talented in the state.
“He’s one of the best kids I’ve coached in terms of character,” McCarthy said. “He performed so well all summer against great competition. His confidence is at an all-time high.”