Safe to say that the last six months have been moderately busy.
Empire State Takeover 2022 event prep started the week after March’s NYSPHSAA state championships, starting off with the inaugural WNY Warmup in Rochester in April. That transitioned into the Middle School Combine in Utica in early June, followed immediately by the Summer Kickoff in Albany. Following that was 12 nights of Summer Run between Troy & Rochester, and finally… it was time to get back to the 570.
For the third straight year, Riverfront Sports in Scranton, PA played a fantastic host to the initial EST one-day event, the EST Fall Showcase, back in action for its 8th year. This particular edition featured nearly 100 athletes representing New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, with talent for all levels including many of the extended region’s finest in the building. Representation ranged from Division I commits & others with a healthy list of D1 suitors to upperclassmen working to get on Division III radars and young talent (including a handful of middle schoolers) with great promise. Participants went through an extended stretch of 3v3 & 5v5 play along with a dedicated skill session coordinated by Mark Williams of Team Footprintz and Aaliyah Lewis (St. John’s WBB alum).
All 3v3/5v5 play was recorded, and I recently had the opportunity to break down all game film from both sessions (as I don’t get the chance to sit back & watch much as the event is in progress for obvious reasons). Many players caught my eye over the course of a competitive day that generally featured some well-played basketball, especially for an individual showcase style setting. First, some general notes:
- This was certainly the hope as time progressed and I spent more time covering various regions of the Keystone State, but Pennsylvania was more well-represented than ever at an EST event. The first time the Fall Showcase hit Scranton, it sold out before a single PA native registered. The 2021 Middle School Combine at Riverfront featured three players from Pennsylvania. That number jumped to 16 in time for last year’s Fall Showcase in Scranton. This year’s event featured 25 players from its host state, many of them Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area locals along with others from areas such as Williamsport, Harrisburg, York, and Philadelphia. Not only was it great to see wide-ranging representation from PA, many of them came through & showed particularly well. It’s certainly the hope & goal to keep this event rolling in the area for years to come.
- I was generally very impressed with the energy & compete level throughout the day. It did come & go in instances, but for the most part, I thought the competitive juices flowed and the heavy majority of players weren’t going through the motions. In fact, it occasionally had a negative impact on the team offenses because of the amount of players locked in on the defensive end. On several occasions, I wrote in notes about entire teams/groups of players on the court competing at a high level, playing with some pride on the defensive end, and complete numerous consecutive actions in team rotation. It was refreshing to see such a healthy percentage of athletes – regardless of their current ‘status’ in the recruiting world – compete like there was a point to prove. It’s not always like that – trust me, I’ve been doing it long enough to see the other side as well – so I cherish environments like this when they happen.
- The various settings throughout the event allow players a greater opportunity to be noticed & separate themselves within their environment. As always, there were different standouts in both 3v3 & 5v5 play. There was a notable crew of 3v3 killers that operated well in space & put their best foot forward in a setting where it’s impossible to hide. They included Makana Gardner, Kaety L’Amoreaux, Maggie Coleman, Maya Jenkins, and Claire McGrath in the AM session and Mallory Heise, Keira Dougherty, Brianna Barr-Buday, Leah Middleton, Molly Walsh, and Rachel Hanley in the PM group.
- Although I love the evaluation setting & opportunity that 3v3 play provides, the game as we know it in its most official form is played with 10 on the floor, so there’s always value in production & positive impact in the tighter windows of 5v5 play. The aforementioned Kaety L’Amoreaux also stood out in AM session’s 5v5 play – no doubt I’ll be writing more thoroughly about her – and Diamond Thornton, Bella Vincent, and Isabella Dennebaum also showed particularly well within their environments during 5v5 with the early group. In the afternoon, it was Brianna Barr-Buday and Molly Walsh once again showing out in their settings, and Reece Beaver, Kat McRobbie-Taru, Zarriah Eldridge, and Alexis Reimold were also clear ‘late session’ 5v5 standouts.
- I keyed in on the word consistency during the afternoon session (and I should have with the AM group as well). It’s easy to be motivated or do the right things in short spurts or early in an event when you’re not fatigued (or early in a game/practice), but consistency in basketball and in life is key – the ability to stay level and ‘keep that same energy’ from the opening to closing stages. These individual showcase-style events can often run ragged in the later moments as players get tired and start to try & get theirs, so those that remain impactful in a positive way from front to back & play ‘the right way’ throughout always stick out to me. There were many that fit that bill, but a few that really caught my eye with how they stayed the course to the final buzzer included Kayla Beaudoin, Isabella Dennebaum, Peyton Dincher, Haylee Ellwood, Cara Macaluso, Emily McDonald, Molly Mescall, Maggie O’Shea, Bella Vincent, and Faith Walker.
- The AM session was guard-heavy, but there were some go-to frontcourt players (led by Makana Gardner & Marisa Smith, both future Division I players in the 2024 class). The PM session was particularly rich in frontcourt talent. That was great, but it also made something abundantly clear… how many guards can effectively make a post entry pass in 5v5 play? Create an angle, place the ball on time/on target to the displayed hand or area, etc… not many. I’ve had conversations with college coaches of all levels just this year about what a commodity it is to have guards that can consistently get the ball into the post & how uncommon it is at this time (and generally a conversation I haven’t started). For all the talent that was in the gym, there were probably only a handful of guards that showed ability to get the ball where it was needed on a post entry pass consistently. It’s not adding views to the IG highlight film, but it adds to your impact & value on the court. As coaches & trainers, if we’re not working with guards on this as a skill, we’re actively leaving a very visible hole in their game – no matter how much some people like to *inaccurately* think that post play is ‘dead’.
This is usually where I start with an extensive list of players that caught my eye at an event. However, the Fall Showcase wasn’t every event. In fact, it took me a little while to decide how I wanted to go about writing for it. Many players had noteworthy stretches – too much for a single post – and there were very few that had knockout wire-to-wire showings. It could be said though that many event standouts could be separated into a few specific categories. With that, look for a series of articles highlighting strong performers from the event to hit the site in coming days. They’ll include:
- Big Names Back It Up (posted/linked 10/14)
- Put Some Respect On It: EST Fall Showcase ‘Stock Risers’ (posted/linked 10/15)
- Starting Strong: New Faces Leave Good First Impressions (posted/linked 10/18)
- The One About The 2025s (anticipated post date 10/20)
- On Deck to Up Now: Young Talent Leading the Next Wave (anticipated post date 10/21)
- Rock Solid: Steady, Consistent Performers (and other noteworthy showings) (anticipated post date 10/22)
As these articles are posted, the links will also be attached to this post as an outlet for all Fall Showcase post-event content. In case you missed it, all photos from the event are up on Facebook at Empire State Takeover. Follow (or like, or whatever it is), look for photos section & EST Fall Showcase folder!
EST event season for 2022 finished strong. Looking forward to highlighting it in its entirety, and I’ll see everyone back in the gym soon!