For the last five weeks, Team Focus and their fearless leader Casey Adams have held a Back to School League with games at Turnstone. As Outside the Huddle has been a proud presenter of this league, of course yours truly made the decision to take in just about as many games as possible for the past month and some change.
So as the league wrapped up play on October 6, Bounce decided to look back with some quick player takeaways on some of the guys who stood out most to me during these league games. While there were many things to take from many players, it was this group that caught my eye the most, be it over multiple weeks or even in a single week of performances. That does not mean these are the only guys I was interested in, just the ones that I couldn’t go without mentioning.
CONNOR ESSEGIAN, CENTRAL NOBLE
I will start by cheating. Because by now all my readers know about Connor Essegian, but to mention anything Team Focus does but not mention him is insanity. Outside of what we know about him already, Essegian rebounded strong every week and threw some fun, long skip passes that showcased an expanding court vision.
JALEN BLACKMON, MARION
While I am talking about proven forces and stars, Blackmon did pretty much what you would expect of him in this league: whatever he wanted. The kid is a just a complete scorer on all levels of the floor more often than he is not. Blackmon is smooth, which is a family trait if you’ve ever seen his older brothers play. The dual between he and Essegian to see who was the best or smoothest player in this league was consistently fun.
MICHAEL CARCIONE, CARROLL
A sophomore, Carcione is one of many players in the Team Focus league that isn’t varsity tested but looks like they have solid future on that level. Carcione is very good with his dribble penetration that baits the defender and allows him to switch directions on his way to the rim without much push back.
AUSTIN JORDAN, SOUTH SIDE
At no point have I seen Jordan (main image) look so much on his game. There were so many shades from week one on of Jordan that looked a lot like older brother Justin and that is a great compliment. Week one, Jordan was hitting with such great success, contested or otherwise, and he carried that through the entire league. The spin on his release was beautiful.
JOSH BALFOUR, MARION
He has a tremendous ability to get up and down the floor and a strong understanding of how the game works and flows to fill lanes correctly. He is where he needs to be on the floor almost all of the time. Partially because of that, he is able to be a tenacious rebounder, more explosive even on the offensive end.
DAWSON HUNDLEY, BLACKFORD
Smooth with his small frame, Hundley is able to contort his body between two defenders comfortably. He gets to the basket very well and showed an ability to finish through contact. The kid is a spark plug getting up and down the court, his work ethic rarely being outdone.
RYAN SCHROEDER, CENTRAL NOBLE
He has good reads to pass up on jumpers for more higher percentage shots. That is smart basketball that has its role in almost any offense. That said, his ability to pull up is still strong that helps him not get himself into too much trouble at the rim against the big boys. Schroeder play solid fundamental basketball and while he didn’t shine when I saw him, he caught my eye by being a blue collar, steady hand. That is important to me.
HENRY SCHWARTZ, HOMESTEAD
One of the freshmen playing in the Back to School League, Schwartz moves well by spinning around contact. He is unassuming up the floor, not in a negative way, but by being quiet enough to sneak away where he is a solid spot up shooter.
TREVEON JONES, SOUTH SIDE
Jones is looking like a solid floor general in this offseason and that is something that will contribute to the school season. Of any of the players I saw over this five weeks that I was most impressed with their progress as an individual – even from AAU season – Jones tops my list. He is finishing strong, he is confident and was a leader for his Team Focus Back to School league team.
JACKSON ANDREWS, CENTRAL NOBLE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Originally, I planned only to write about the high school players from the Team Focus ‘Junior’ League. But the play of Andrews and his Cougar teammates required attention. They ran through the middle school league, going a perfect 8-0 before moving up to play against high school kids in the final week of championship bracket play. Their first game up, they came razor close to winning.
Andrews is ready for the next level and he shined as bright as any individual player of any of the three levels during the five weeks. Central Noble’s bright future is brighter because of Andrews, his aggression and natural scoring touch. You don’t see a ton of captivating middle school players in leagues like this, but Andrews held my attention every time I saw the Cougars play. He scored 18 points in the second game against high school players, which Central Noble lost 72-63 in the closing week.
JACKSON DAVIS, CANTERBURY MIDDLE SCHOOL
I will mention one more middle school kid, particularly from week 5 when he willed his team to a 3-0 mark and a ‘Junior Future’ league championship. His jump shot looks pure, but he needs work on making it more successful by slowing it down some. That said, he’s in middle school and there is plenty of time for that. The way that he gets to the basket, spreads the floor and gets his teammates involved is impressive. It made sense that he was the one to hit the championship winning shot on a crisp backdoor cut.
Team Focus White was 2-of-3 on the final day of play winning the Junior (elementary school) and Junior Future (middle school) leagues. Atticus Dean (Team Focus White) of Covington Elementary was named the MVP for the Junior Division while scoring 19 points in the title game and the Whitko’s Kyler Krull (Team Focus Red) was the MVP of the Junior Future Division. Jackson Davis scored a game high 20 points in the Junior Future Division final.
The Yellow team won the championship in the Future (high school) Division, with Jalen Blackmon of the runner up white team being named the Division MVP. Treveon Jones of the Yellow team was the leading scorer in the final game with 34 points.
Want to sign up for the next Team Focus Premier league? It starts October 20 and you can find out more by following @Team_Focus_BB on Twitter or visiting teamfocusbasketball.org
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