Basketball recruits gear up for April all-star tournaments

La Salle’s Zach Crisler drives on Constitution’s Jabari Merritt. This could be a big weekend for Crisler.

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Zach Crisler, like the rest of the current high school junior class, knows the importance of these final two weekends in April.

The April live recruiting periods, as they’re known around the hoops recruiting scene, are two 48-hour windows — 5 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Sunday — when college coaches at all levels can watch and evaluate prospects at dozens of tournaments around the country.

Commonly known as AAU basketball, though the Amateur Athletic Union has only a small slice of the pie these days, these massive tournaments can bring together hundreds of AAU teams that can play as many as six or seven games over the weekend, all in hopes of impressing coaches  from at least one college program, whether that’s Division I, II, or III.

The two periods in April, along with three more five-day windows in July, represent the only time between the end of the last high school season and the beginning of the next one when college coaches can really see prospects in a competitive atmosphere.

And considering that most college coaches don’t get to see many out-of-area prospects during the season, this first April weekend is a great time to make a good first impression.

That fact isn’t lost on the participants.

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
La Salle High’s Zach Crisler shoots over St. Joseph’s Prep’s Ed Croswell.

“I think for everyone it’s just a chance to boost your stock and show everyone on a national scale what you really have to offer and show college coaches what you could add to their program,” said Crisler, a junior at La Salle High School. “I think it’s a good chance for people who have already been on the map to show they can play at a high level and show there is a couple sleepers who can definitely boost their stock as well.”

Crisler certainly belongs in that first group.  The mobile and versatile 6-foot-9 forward enters the weekend with an offer list a dozen  schools long, from  Penn State, Temple, St. Joseph’s, and Drexel to TCU, Tulane, Iona, and more.

But if he wants to pull in offers from the likes of Stanford, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and other high majors that have been keeping tabs on him, he’ll need to play well over the next couple of weekends.

As long as he does, Crisler won’t have to worry about getting seen by the elite programs. He’s playing this summer with Team Rio National on the Under Armour Association  circuit, one of the major “sneaker circuits,” along with Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League and the Adidas Gauntlet.


Previous recruiting stories:

Chris Arcidiacono

Kyle Thompson and Darius Kinnel

Seth Lundy

Chris Ings

AJ Hoggard


The UAA and EYBL will follow the same schedule, in the Dallas area the first April period and in Indianapolis in the second. The Adidas Gauntlet circuit will be in various locations the first weekend and then Atlanta the second.

With Team Rio, Crisler will be on the same squad as five-star wings Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, both of whom have offers from Duke, Kentucky, and the rest of the blue bloods. Villanova coach Jay Wright recently visited Lewis and brought three assistants with him to show how serious he is about the Ranney School (N.J.) junior, and he’s not the only one who has done so.

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Crisler shoots over Constitution’s Jabari Merritt.

“Almost every school in the country will be there to watch them as well as to watch other players on the team,” Crisler said. “Everyone is a high-caliber, high-major player.”

April Live Period Breakdown

Nike Elite Youth Basketball League

Camera icon YONG KIM / Staff Photographer.
Girard College’s Mikeal Jones goes against Kennedy Catholic’s Clay O’Dell.

First Weekend: Irving, Texas (Drive Nation sports facility)

Second Weekend: Westfield, Ind. (Pacers Athletic Center)

Notable local participants: Team Final

Overview: The ninth year of the Nike EYBL features 40 teams from around the United States — and a couple from north of the border — vying over four sessions from  April to  May for the right to be one of 24 teams playing in the Peach Jam, arguably the biggest event of the July live periods. The Philly-area entry for all nine of those seasons has been Team Final, which has produced such current local talent as Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Villanova), Shizz Alston Jr. and Trey Lowe (Temple), Lamarr Kimble (St. Joseph’s), and plenty more. Roman’s Seth Lundy and Church Farm’s Jon Bol Ajak are two of the biggest draws on a 17-under team that features three local sophomores — Lynn Greer III (Roman), A.J. Hoggard (Archbishop Carroll), and Mikeal Jones (Girard College).

Under Armour Association

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Donta Scott of Imhotep Charter goes up for a shot against William McNair of Martin Luther King.

First Weekend: Dallas, Texas (Duncanville Field House)

Second Weekend: Indianapolis, Ind. (Best Choice Fieldhouse)

Notable local participants: Philly Pride, WeR1

Overview: The UAA isn’t quite as old as the EYBL, rounding into its current shape in 2014, but it has turned out plenty of high-major prospects and future pros in its own right. Both the Philly Pride and WeR1 rosters are filled with local talent, and both will be in the running for the UAA championship in July. WeR1 features Villanova recruit  Eric Dixon (Abington) along with Bonner-Prendergast guard Isaiah Wong, who enters the spring with a bevy of high-major offers. Philly Pride has Chris Arcidiacono, headed to Perkiomen School for a prep year, though the stars are on the wings, with Imhotep’s Donta Scott and Jamil Riggins plus Roman’s Hakim Hart. And don’t miss Team Rio, on which  La Salle’s Zach Crisler plays alongside five-star wings Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine of the Ranney School (N.J.).

Adidas Gauntlet

Camera icon LOU RABITO / Staff
Haverford School’s Christian Ray ( drives against Roman Catholic’s Chris Kuhar.

First Weekend: Dallas/Los Angeles/Indianapolis/Washington

Second Weekend: Atlanta  (Lakepoint Champions Center)

Notable local participants: K-Low Elite

Overview: Not to be outdone by its two sneaker competitors, Adidas has developed its own summer circuit, though it is run somewhat differently from the other two.  It has  Gold and Silver levels as well as the ability to play into the circuit’s July championships at one of several qualifying events around the country. K-Low Elite, formerly known as Team Philly but now named after one of its most famous alumni and benefactors, Kyle Lowry, is on the Gold circuit, playing in the Washington event during the first weekend, at Athletic Republic. This year’s 17-under group had a strong summer last year on the 16-under circuit and returns Dahmir Bishop (Imhotep Charter), Christian Ray (Haverford School), and Amin Bryant (Archbishop Ryan) . They will be joined for the next two weekends by Archbishop Wood senior Seth Pinkney.

Hoop Group Summer League

Camera icon CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Nick Alikakos (right) battles with Kyle McCloskey of Germantown Academy.

First Weekend: Pittsburgh (David Lawrence Convention Center)

Second Weekend: Manheim, Pa. (Spooky Nook Sports)

Notable local participants: Jersey Shore Warriors, S.J. Hoops Elite, East Coast Power

Overview: The HGSL isn’t quite the same as the other circuits. It’s more of a group of showcase teams that Hoop Group has playing high-level games on the opening nights of tournaments before jumping into the massive Jam Fest brackets in the second or third rounds. But the Warriors have been the area’s preeminent non-shoe team in the area for years, with players such as Ryan Young (Northwestern), Taylor Funk (St. Joseph’s), and Eli Brooks (Michigan) on the team in recent years. This season, look out for Lower Merion wing Jack Forrest and Episcopal Academy sophomore Alex Capitano to lead the way. Seniors Nick Alikakos (Hill School) and Malik Slay (Downingtown East) will also be playing the next two weekends.

Elevate Hoops

Camera icon FILE
Marcellus Ross of St. Joseph-Hammonton

First Weekend: Washington (Catholic University)

Second Weekend: Manalapan, N.J. (Sportika)

Notable local participants: Jersey Force, Dream-Phenom

Overview: This is the only member of this list that doesn’t have any sort of specialized circuit or showcase series.  The Elevate Hoops events nevertheless draw several programs from the Northeast region that feature numerous Division I prospects as well as plenty of programs that attract the small-college crowd. The most notable program with local ties is the Jersey Force, which draws heavily from South and Central Jersey. Incoming Penn freshman Alex Imegwu (Seton Hall Prep) and incoming La Salle freshman Jared Kimbrough (Neptune High) were on last year’s 17-under team, along with Loyola (Md.) signee Kenny Jones (Mater Dei Prep). High-scoring guard Marcellus Ross (St. Joseph-Hammonton) leads the pack this year.