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It’s been a productive start to this ‘AAU open gym tour.’ I finished off this past week with an early Saturday morning stop in the Northern Virginia region once again; pulling into the parking lot of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School (SJPG) in the town of Dumfries. I already had a good feel for Team NOVA Hoyas 17u in knowing their head coach, Anthony Pringle, Jr., for three years now, along with having scouted some of their players during this past high school season. Still, my curiosity remained high to see how their players had improved and the overall shaping up of the team. After watching the Hoyas go through a full two-hour practice, it appeared evident that this group shares a likewise potential compared to the other NOVA travel teams I’ve come across thus far. They’re passionate about the game, disciplined, and clearly gym-rats. Pretty much all of their players jumped right into another workout, led by SJPG varsity coach, Angelo Hunt, immediately following the team practice. 

Team NOVA Hoyas 17u

Head Coach: Anthony Pringle, Jr.

Assistant Coach: Larry Doane

Wake Up and WORK!

So, as I just mentioned, I’ve known Coach Pringle for a couple of years now. This dates back to when SJPG held daily summer workouts open to college players during my own career. Coach Pringle serves as an assistant coach on the SJPG varsity basketball squad and leads certain parts of the skill sessions. One thing I’ve noticed about him since day one: he’s ALL about making sure his players take the grind seriously. It was still fairly early during the players’ gym arrival, around 8 a.m., but I knew the coaches would view that as anything but an excuse. The guys got their blood flow going right away, starting off with conditioning of defensive slides and full-court sprints into push-ups. Competition of 3v2 into 2v1 and then 1v1 on both ends of the floor took place afterwards. Along with his value of hard work, I’ve always respected Coach Pringle’s approach to teaching as well. He heavily emphasizes the use of triple threat, V-cuts, and attacking in straight-line drives. The players appeared to have his full attention, taking it all in.

A Particular Term

In the second half of the practice, I noticed the coaches kept reiterating a specific word: ‘harassing.’ This indeed spoke everything about the way they plan to take the court defensively, as they spent about 1/3 of the practice working on that side of the ball. The Hoyas have plenty of pesky guards that can create much frustration for opposing teams if they continue to learn how to execute their full-court press properly. Coach Pringle acknowledges that his group has the right tools to become strong defensive unit and wants to use that advantage as much as possible. I remember him also explaining to the players how various other teams will bring that same type of mentality and they all must be ready to face all sorts of press attacks.

“It’s about how you’re able to handle things out there on the floor with everything all sped up. We’re going to see it a lot of it during these tournaments, trust me.”

On a Hunt for the Hoyas?

Those looking to catch Team NOVA Hoyas 17u on the court this spring and summer can find them in several events, tipping off this weekend (April 20-21):

*tentative

  • April 20-21: ‘DMVElite Live Warm-Up’ tournament, location TBD
  • April 26-28: ‘Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest’ in Pittsburgh, PA
  • May 11-12: ‘Big Shots VIT’ in Fairfax, VA
  • May 17-19: ‘Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest’ in Hampton, VA
  • *June 29-30: ‘DC Metro Showcase,’ location TBD
  • July 13-14: ‘Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest’ in Manheim, PA

Meet the Team

Cephus Wilson-Bahun ’21 – SJPG: After a solid sophomore high school outing, Wilson-Bahun’s now looking on the verge of becoming something special. He’s a lengthy 6’5” wing who’s expanded his shooting range and looks more confident scoring on the perimeter. His athleticism allows him to run the court effortlessly and finish well above the rim; I remember him taking off far for a two-handed flush during a late 15-minute scrimmage. Rebounding impresses the most in Wilson-Bahun’s arsenal currently, however. He attacks the glass with a vengeance and consistently hauls in offensive rebounds, acting like the team’s best in creating second-chance points. I expect a big summer out of him. Once he cleans up his handle a bit, he’ll become a problem.

Darius Bryant ’19 – Wakefield School: One of two unsigned seniors for the Hoyas, Bryant should play as a solid 6’2” guard/wing for the Hoyas. I only got to see a bit of him during my visit, as he arrived to the gym late due to another obligation elsewhere. Still, I can tell that the team plans to utilize his good skill set in several ways on both ends. He already seems to mesh well with the group and understand what type of game plan they want to execute. Definitely will keep an eye on the 2019 prospect.

Darryl Dixon ’20 – Woodbridge HS: Dixon can possibly contribute at either guard spot for the Hoyas, depending on the coaches’ decisions. He has a slender 5’11” frame to go with solid quickness and a good nose for the ball. His activity, if he keeps it up, can transition into him being a threat at the top of the team’s defensive strategy. Offensively, it appears like Dixon’s still getting comfortable in finding his role. I’m optimistic that his confidence will continue to build as more practices/tournaments arrive, but showcasing a strong playmaking style could benefit him greatly. That ability ties into being able to play at either the point or shooting guard spots.

Micah Griffin ’20 – Colgan HS: Arguably the fastest guy in the gym on Saturday, the 5’8” Griffin has a good boost to him playing as a lead ball-handler. That same speed should help in a substantial way when regarding that the Hoyas prefer to play fast whenever they see the opportunity. Griffin’s motor and athleticism makes him one able to produce as a ‘spark plug’ that helps the team out both offensively and defensively. As speedy as he is, however, I noticed that he has a tendency to play too rushed at times. Learning how to hit the brakes when necessary, along with changing paces, will help him play more under control. He’ll also need to become natural within this area in order to set up others more effectively.

Max Mitchell ’20 – SJPG: After transitioning as a new guy on SJPG’s school grounds/basketball program this past winter as a junior, Mitchell continues to show a balanced game and also looks stronger. He’s a good athlete with a notable explosive first-step that gets him past defenders without warning. His shooting touch still appears smooth and stretches out to long range; he operates best as a spot-up threat. The next step for Mitchell involves him improving his ball skills to match up equally with his physical traits. If he can show more comfort in creating his own shot, it’ll take him much further offensively.

Trenton Penn ’20 – Colgan HS: Another lead guard for the Hoyas, I felt Penn’s size at the point position looked the best. He’s only 5’9” but has a solid frame and good strength that could make him a bully with the ball. Keeping defenders more alert by using his body contact will most likely work in a great manner for the Colgan Shark. He protects the ball well and also scores pretty easily on his own; both shooting and driving the ball. Penn might turn out as more of a scoring point guard on the squad, making him capable of switching positions at the guard spot if needed.

Ryan Tully ’20 – SJPG: Tied with Bahun-Wilson as the tallest player at 6’5,” I’d deem Tully as one of the only true forwards on the team and honestly one of the Hoyas’ most important pieces. His physical presence, rebounding, and way of contesting shots all share value and will most likely emerge in key moments of time during games. Tully’s still a work in progress, mainly focusing on increasing his scoring touch around the rim, but he already does plenty of things well and knows how to succeed as a team player. The coaches and I all hold the same level of optimism in how he has a chance to shine throughout this travel season.

Gabe Wilson ’21 – SJPG: I’m still figuring out Wilson’s game, but I can definitely say the sophomore has good body control and length for his position as a two-guard. He had some nice crafty ways of creating space with defenders matched up to him tightly, using his ball control to stretch towards the rim. His attacking play also doesn’t require a number of dribbles, which connects to the aforementioned recognition of his long frame. I’m curious to see how well Wilson ends up shooting the ball; he already looks pretty fluid in searching for offensive looks. If he becomes an acknowledged shooting threat also, he has great potential to soon attract attention in Dumfries. A duo of him and Bahun-Wilson creates a dangerous 2021 package for the SJPG Wolves.

DJ Wright ’20 – Maury HS: I remember Wright standing out for the Maury Commodores back in early February during the annual ‘Coaches for the Cure’ showcase. The 5’9” guard completely lit it up from the perimeter and finished with at least five or more three-pointers. That shooting prowess should continue to fuel this Hoyas group; especially whenever they need someone to take and make such a shot. As of right now, Wright looks like one of the best shooting options from the perimeter and might find himself become one that his teammates go to without hesitation. Expanding his playmaking skills, at that size and position, will make him more of a difficult matchup.

Daryl Garib ’19 – Forest Park HS and Coretez Lewis ’20 – SJPG both were excused from the Saturday morning session. I haven’t seen Garib play yet, but understand that he had missed the practice due to a college visit. As far as Lewis, he looked really good during the regular season when I watched him perform. The 6’1” guard plays much bigger than his size and with a full head of steam, most likely stemming from his toughness as a football standout also. He can get to the free-throw line at WILL.

Best of luck to the Hoyas this weekend! I’m sure they’re more than ready to get started.