Photo courtesy of Visions by Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong
By David Cordova
As the summer approaches, a lot of people are ready for the anticipation of the summer leagues that are very prevalent in New York City. But before that comes, there’s still the events going on in the spring. There’s one event that resonates with the youth and has a chance to be the premier event in the years to come.
The Junior Hoops Showdown, which is an all-star game that features many of the best talent in the tri-state area is the prelude to what many can expect throughout the summer. The event, which is in its second year of existence, took place at the NYCHA Bronx River Community Center on East 174th Street in the South Bronx. The gym itself may be small, but with the ball bouncing and awesome plays being made, you can hear the roar of the crowd, which at times can be deafening.
“The mission of Hoops Showdown is to bring the community together for at least one day and keep them off the streets,” says Hoops Showdown founder Johnny Rodriguez, “bringing it to a park or a gym or wherever we’re having the event at, just to have everyone enjoy their day, peaceful event, get to watch to the top athletes in the country or the tri-state. All of the top players in the tri-state come out to play and it’s just for a good event for everyone to come out and relax.”
What makes this event more unique than others, one might ask? “Mainly because we want to showcase our kids, these are not our personal kids, we didn’t give birth to them, but these are our kids, these are New York City kids, New Jersey kids, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, whether you want to believe it or not, this is the future of our tri-state, the top talent of our tri-state that you might not get to see on an ordinary day. And not only do we attract the top athletes, but a lot of these kids are eligible for academic scholarships, a lot of them have 3.5 GPA’s or better, so that’s pretty much what we’re trying to do.”
In last year’s event, they had some major names such as Bishop Loughlin junior Markquis Nowell, Cardinal Hayes sophomore Jalen Nesmith, St. Raymond senior Isaiah Washington, a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2017, that is bound for the University of Minnesota in the fall, Monsignor Scanlan senior Saquan Singleton, Roselle Catholic (NJ) junior Nazreon Reid, a top-10 recruit in the Class of 2018. Their college alumni includes Elijah Pemberton, who averaged 12.8 points per game at Hofstra as a freshman and Unique McLean, who redshirted this year at UMass, but is expected to play next season.
This year’s event had plenty of talented names in the building, such as Nesmith, Hudson Catholic (NJ) junior Louis King, the No. 38 player in the Class of 2018, McDonald’s All-American Nick Richards of the Patrick School (NJ), who is bound for the University of Kentucky in the fall, Seton Hall commit Jordan Walker, also of the Patrick School, Luther Muhammad, also of Hudson Catholic and Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Tremont Waters, who is also the No. 32 Player of the Year in the Class of 2017.
When asked about the atmosphere during the event, Rodriguez said, “Man, it’s like the Garden, it’s like Game 7 of a playoff series, every game is intense, everyone is into the game, no plays off, the fans really, really make the game as well as the players do, the fans do a good job of making sure these top athletes, who don’t have anything to prove, actually do have something to prove in front of you. It’s just an amazing environment to be in.”
“I like the intensity, everyone stands up, they amp you & clap, music playing, they got people on the mic like Cha-Ching, and everything like that, so it’s an electrifying feeling to come into a situation like this and just show everyone what I can do and just get the gym rowdy,” says Waters.
Also in last year’s event, Singleton caught a breakaway dunk in which he was fouled, which then went viral on social media and received over 100,000 views on the sports highlights app, Overtime. “That’s a crazy amount of numbers to think about,” says Rodriguez, “Like 100,000 people. If you were in an arena, and someone told you there’s 100,000 people in the arena and you look around, it’s just crazy to think about. It’s an amazing feat for Hoops Showdown, definitely plan to double up on that next year.”
As this event keeps growing, there will be more and more star players and also less-heralded players that will be on the court. There will also be even greater demand for highlights and great competition. “We definitely want to keep getting it bigger and bigger and expanding from having the top players from the tri-state area to having kids from Arizona, kids from California, Texas, Detroit, even maybe we can go out of the nation and get some Canadian kids in here, that’s the goal. Like I said, really, the main goal is to just give the community a break and bring everyone in to have a good time and have a good day with us.”
Highlights of Hoops Showdown:
Courtesy of Sim Facey.
Courtesy of For The Culture Hoops.
Courtesy of Hoop Dreams Magazine.
Courtesy of East Coast Hoops.