Section 7 Successfully Returns!

Centennial (Corona, Calif.) captured the championship in the top division of the Section 7 Team Camp held during the first of two weekends of the June scholastic live period, as college coaches got to evaluate prospects live for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19. We break down some of the top individual performers in the event and examine what we learned at Section 7 with regards to the overall grassroots basketball landscape.

Note: For a more detailed breakdown of many of the standout players we evaluated, make sure to listen in to this week’s “In The Paint” podcast. To subscribe, CLICK HERE.

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., was the site where “getting back to normal” with regards to a high school or grassroots basketball setting with colleges coaches in attendance evaluating tipped off. For college coaches on the D1 level, this past weekend at the Section 7 Team Camp was the first time they were allowed on the recruiting trail since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March of 2020. It was refreshing for many of them to be back out on the trail, as there were lively conversations, plenty of positive connections made and scholarships offered.

The wins and losses weren’t paramount, but for the team that opted out of its state’s regional tournament in order to give its players the opportunity to be seen, winning came with the territory and was icing on the cake for an otherwise productive weekend. That team was Corona (Centennial, Calif.), the CIF Southern Section open division champions who finished No. 22 in the 2020-21 Final FAB 50 National Team Rankings with an underclass-dominated lineup. Not only did the Huskies find out they would finish ranked No. 1 in California as a result of the games in the SoCal open regional (previous 30-0 Torrey Pines of San Diego lost in Saturday’s regional championship), the Huskies advanced to Sunday’s championship game in the All About People (main) division with an incredible 77-73, four-overtime semifinal victory over Durango (Las Vegas, Nev.). Rising junior (2023) Aaron McBride scored on an offensive rebound put back off a missed Centennial free throw to give his team a two-possession lead in the closing seconds.

Its opponent in the championship game was Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), the 2019 champions of the inaugural Section 7 Team Camp held at Brophy Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.). Of course, Section 7 or any other live period event wasn’t held in summer of 2020 because of COVID-19. Similar to Centennial, Gorman is loaded with underclassmen, but the Gaels weren’t at full strength on Sunday. After holding off a talented Campolindo (Moraga, Calif.) team in its semifinal, 52-50, after building a big first half lead, Gorman didn’t have the services of talented 2024 guard Jase Richardson (6-1), the son of former Michigan St. and NBA player Jason Richardson, in the title game. The Gaels also played the tournament without 2022 forward Darrion Williams (6-6). Centennial’s inside duo of McBride and 2023 forward Devin Williams (6-9) dominated the glass and interior scoring and helped the Huskies pull away in the second half to record a 84-64 victory.

Williams, a pogo stick with quick leaps who has grown at least 3 inches over the course of the past year who is quickly developing into one of the best shot blockers in the country, finished the championship game with 11 points and three blocked shots. McBride, a barrel chested forward with terrific stamina and great grades (4.0 student) finished with 15 points and eight rebonds. Both have seen their recruiting soar since the beginning of the event.

The players who arguably benefited the most out of the thousands of players who made up the 191 high school teams in 11 different divisions who played at State Farm Arena were the Centennial 2023 backcourt duo of Kylan Boswell (6-0) and Jared McCain (6-2). Boswell, our tournament Most Valuable Player, had 17 points in the title game while McCain added nine. The third member of Centennial’s backcourt, 2022 Donovan Dent (6-1), added eight points.

Some national recruiting analysts have pegged Boswell the nation’s fastest-rising guard, as he now boast offers from heavyweights such as Kansas, Louisville, USC, UCLA, among others. Make no mistake, however, since Boswell first moved to Southern California from Illinois and played his freshman season at Colony (Ontario, Calif.), we knew he was a big-time player who would easily crack the Top 75 and head towards the Top 50 of the national 2023 class. Most of the country simply hadn’t seen him live. Other schools in the mix for Boswell’s services that he’s interested in include Kentucky, Gonzaga and Illinois.

McCain has also been offered by Kansas and Louisville, with additional offers coming from Texas Tech, USC, LMU and San Diego State, among others.

Gorman’s backcourt of Richardson and 2024 sharpshooter John Mobley Jr. (5-11) also turned plenty of heads and will be high of the recruiting board of plenty of high major schools in due time. Richardson is a terrific left-handed scorer who is a good athlete with good instinct, while Mobley was particularly affective in Arizona. He was knocking down deep 3-pointers that had some college coaches shaking their heads as if to say “I’ve seen enough”. Mobley had six 3-pointers in the title game, good for 18 points, while 2022 guard Ryan Abelman (6-2) added 14 points.

Richardson had 31 points in Gorman’s 69-58 first round victory over Olympus (Holladay, Utah). Mobley had the main court buzzing when he hit 6 first half 3-pointers and finished with 31 points in the Gaels’ 71-59 quarterfinal victory over Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.).

In the other division with the best allotment of teams, the Juneteenth Division, St. Augustine (San Diego, Calif.) showed it will be a force to be reckoned with in California for the 2021-22 season as it downed Mitty (San Diego, Calif.) in the championship game, 78-59. Saints 2024 guard Ian De La Rosa (6-3) had a monster game at an opportune time, hitting five 3-pointers and finishing with 40 points, seven rebounds and five steals versus Mitty. The defending CIF Central Coast Section open division champs were led all tourney by rising junior (2023) Derek Sangster (6-6), a talented wing who moves well and is excellent in catch-and-shoot situations. He had 11 points in the title game.

Section 7: What We Learned

1. There is a New Definition of D1
There will always be differences of opinion on what level high school prospect can play at, but there is no doubt the low-end threshold for a D1 prospect just went up a notch because of the affects of COVID-19 and the robust transfer portal. What a high school D1 prospect looks like in 2021 is not what he looked like in 2016. College coaches mentioned to us how fluid their current roster situation is and that their allotment for 2022 is not large. Simply put, they are prioritizing potential portal transfers, especially since transfers rules are lax across many conferences compared to what they were just a few years ago. The likelihood of them being willing to gamble or take a flyer on a borderline D1 prospect has decreased because those prospects are at the very bottom of the recruiting pecking order. The pressure to win is now and colleges would rather have older, stronger players with college experience and more than ever, a player who fits that bill is available. Moving forward, players (and their parents) are going to have to be realistic of what level is the right fit.

2. The New NCAA Recruiting Calendar is in Limbo
As a fallout from the 2017-18 NCAA corruption scandal, the summer recruiting calendar was changed in 2019. The NCAA wanted to inject the high school coaches back in the boys basketball recruiting process, so they created two scholastic live period weekends for that summer and did so once again in 2021. They also created NCAA operated camps, but in 2019 those events were only mildly successful, as a majority of the nation’s elite did not participate. Those events did not take place in 2020 and will not take place in 2021, either. One problem the NCAA is running into, and it’s the same problem with some state associations sanctioning a scholastic live period in their respective state, is gender equity issues. The NCAA, and some state associations such as the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), are very cognizant of gender equity when it comes to funding various initiatives. If there is not a female equivalent event, the likelihood of these organizations hosting a live recruiting event lowers. There is no guarantee the NCAA camps will return in 2022 and there is a loud, growing sentiment that the state associations that don’t take the time and effort to sanction a June scholastic live period event are costing their student-athletes scholarships opportunities. Section 7 was again well organized and ran (in conjunction with the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association) and we heard positive things from other events such as the one sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), but there are simply too many states not sanctioning these events to make it anything close to equitable for players across the country. Section 7 was the only sanctioned event in the Western United States and some high school programs (just like in 2019) were unable to experience this event because of their lack of resources. If there are no NCAA camps in 2022 what will happen to the recruiting calendar as the pandemic continues to fade away?

3. The Stakes Have Been Raised For Recruits & Families
The announcement of a handful of elite players signing professional contracts with the G League Ignite team and with Overtime Elite, a fledging organization that offers young players an alternative pathway (other than college basketball) to professional basketball, has raised eyebrows and has the grassroots community talking. The main subject is how OTE will operate and what source its opponents will come from. It is clear Overtime Elite is not a league at this time, but rather an organization trying to build a team(s) to compete against established teams in its peer group. OTE’s platform either does not currently exist or is unclear. It all likelihood, it will attempt to align with already established platforms, such as existing grassroots events and/or the Grind Session. How successful that is remains to be seen. While the G League Ignite team is for a selected group of elites and has built-in opponents (other G League teams) and a clear path to pro ball, OTE currently doesn’t have this component in place and is reaching out to almost all the of the nation’s elite prospects. This raises the stakes for college teams and potential scholarship players. During the prep-to-pro decade (1995 to 2005), recruiters had to be cognizant of not putting too much focus on a player who was in all likelihood going to turn pro (i.e. Sebastian Telfair and Louisville) and now some college programs are going to have to do the same with families who may find an OTE offer too hard to pass up. Because this is not just a few elites, high school coaches also have their antennas up when it comes to their top players. We noticed a few elite players not with their respective high school team at Section 7 and not only are some being recruited to independent academy programs, the allure of compensation to play is also in also present. The awareness of the value of a player’s Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) has never been greater because of successful legislation in selected states and more in future years. What remains to be seen, however, is the market value of exactly what that means for a consensus top five recruit and likely NBA player, compared to one who is barely cracking a credible national Top 100. That unknown is causing some concern among high school coaches that a talented player in the program could have one foot in and one foot out in terms of his commitment to the program or making a short-sided or uninformed decision on his future.

Note: For a more detailed breakdown of many of the standout players we evaluated, make sure to listen in to this week’s “In The Paint” podcast. To subscribe, CLICK HERE.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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