March 16, 2016

Top Dade private school basketball players shoot it out in all-star game

Several of the top senior hoopsters from Miami-Dade County's private schools met at Belen on Wednesday night for one final rodeo in a North-against-South all-star game.

Emulating the all-star style of the pros, defense was optional and often times discouraged. There were a lot of scorers on the court and it resulted in a lot of -- well, scoring. 

The North won a 128-115 barnburner, which was split up into two 20-minute halves to fit what some of the players will see as they move on to play college ball.

Chris Mejia of Mater Academy won the MVP award for the North while Florida Christian's Gabriel Perez took home the honors for the South.

Mejia, who is soon to visit Southeast Louisiana of the Division-I Southland Conference to see if that's where he'll sign, slammed home a pair of thunderous dunks -- one off an alley-oop -- in the waning minutes. His athletic build and long arms make him a tough perimeter defender and someone who can break down an opponent with the ball in his hands.

At 6-4, Perez was often the tallest player on the floor for the South. A banger in the paint for most of his high school career, Perez developed an outside game as a senior and showed in the all-star affair he can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting, which will be vital for him in college. Perez is looking at a trio of Division-III schools -- Ithaca College in New York, Ohio's Marietta College and Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

--Also with the length and athleticism that could translate to the next level were Joshua Moncur of Northwest Christian and a pair of Pace Spartans in Phillip Brunson and Isaiah St. Fleur. Another Spartan, Don King (no relation to the boxing promoter, I don't think), put on a shooting display late draining back-to-back threes and having a third in a row go in and out.

--Twin brothers from Divine Savior, Danny and Juan Pineda, were the smallest players on the court but were explosively quick and possess excellent ball-handling and distributing skills running the point. With defense frowned upon on Wednesday, they weren't pressing as often as they may like to, but it's clear they can pester opponents defensively and showed it once or twice with backcourt steals.

--Doral Academy's Fabian Corraliza was sinking threes in the first half and looked a bit like Doug McDermott in the Firebirds' Chicago Bulls-esque away uniforms.

--Homecourt heroes Luis Mejer and Daniel Puente of host Belen drained back-to-back three-pointers late.

--Westminster Christian's FAU-bound football-playing tight end John Raine showed off some flashiness and handles in the open court. A couple other Warriors, Tyler Halfaker and Keon Pricely, got into the act with emphatic dunks.

--Nearly every player on both sides was able to hit one from long range as closing out on open shooters was not a top priority.

Below are the entire rosters from the two teams.

North (Name, School)

Fabian Corraliza, Doral Academy

Chris Mejia, Mater Academy

Oscar Quintana, Mater Academy

Don King, Pace

Armand del Castillo, Pace

Phillip Brunson, Pace

Isaiah St. Fleur, Pace

Joshua Moncur, Northwest Christian

Lino Connell, Greater Miami Academy

Frank A. Garcia, LaSalle

Stephen A. Bier, LaSalle

David Anilus, Archbishop Curley

Danny Pineda, Divine Savior

Juan Pineda, Divine Savior

Corey Friedman, Miami Country Day

South (Name, School)

Angel Sosa, Columbus

David Martell, Columbus

Luis Mejer, Belen

Daniel Puente, Belen

Keon Pricely, Westminster Christian

Tyler Halfaker, Westminster Christian

John Raine, Westminster Christian

Gabriel Perez, Florida Christian

Michael Wright, Florida Christian

Ryan Heckaman, Gulliver

Drew Massirman, Gulliver

David Monell, Westwood Christian

Chris Barrenechea, St. Brendan

Christian Garcia, Archbishop Carroll

Anthony Miralles, Archbishop Carroll

Al Blades Jr. breaks down STA transfer, his recruitment

Blades Jr
Al Blades Jr. at The Opening Miami Regionals on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.


Al Blades Jr., the highly-sought 2018 cornerback who transferred this offseason from University School to St. Thomas Aquinas, went in depth with the Miami Herald on the move.

"My development," Blades (6-0, 170 pounds) says. "I basically just want to get better and be ready for college.

"[Aquinas] pushes you as a student, which is great so when you go into college you're not going into the deep end. It also pushes you as a player because you're surrounded by people just like you. If you have a man next to you on the same level as you, that just makes you want to work even harder."

A prime example would be five-star senior wide receiver Trevon Grimes, whom he'll now get a chance to go up against on a consistent basis in practice.

"That's really a blessing to go up against someone like that every day," Blades says. "If you can go against the No. 1 player in the nation, you should fear no man -- no matter what. That just helps you with your confidence going into games."

In the Rivals Camp, Blades says Grimes beat him one-on-one quite a bit, but he learned from the experience.

Recruiting-wise, Blades says that since decommitting from UM, he doesn't have any top schools. 

He does say Florida State, UCLA and UM are recruiting him a little harder than other schools -- the Bruins from which he is still awaiting an offer. He adds that he likes the Hurricanes combination of head coach Mark Richt and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.

He has also received recent offers from Georgia and Mississippi State.

Blades went back to the day he became the second player invited to the 2018 Under Armour All-America game, receiving the invitation in person from Deion Sanders.

"I was on my A-game that day," he recalled. "I played really well that day at the Deion camp and he saw the potential in me and we just got together."

Blades recently debuted his recruit diary. If you missed that, make sure you check it out.

 

March 11, 2016

Family - figuratively and literally - a factor in James Cook's commitment to FSU

James Cook
James Cook after 2015 Class 6A state championship game. Photo: Manny Navarro.


One thing star 2019 Miami Central running back James Cook always points to when talking about Florida State is that the Seminoles feel like family to him.

The figurative notion is accurate in a quite literal sense considering his older brother, Dalvin Cook, is at FSU and one of the elite running backs in the nation.

Although he still has three more high school years between now and any kind of enrollment, James decided to announce he would be following Dalvin's footsteps to FSU with a tweet Friday morning that had -- guess who -- Dalvin's picture in it.

"When I went up, they showed me love. That gives them an edge," James Cook (5-11, 182 pounds) told the Miami Herald on Sunday before announcing any commitment. "They treat me like I'm their family. They show everybody the same amount of love."

Cook first started receiving college scholarship offers before he played a down of high school football in the spring of his eighth grade year.

"It feels great, but you can't just let that go to your head because it'll all be gone in a matter of time if you don't keep working," Cook says. "I approach it like keep working hard and I'm going to keep grinding."

On the gridiron, Cook proved his worth with the early scholarship offers. He spearheaded the Rockets rushing attack in the Class 6A state championship victory with 178 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Cook would become the third Central Rocket in recent memory to head to Florida State with Devonta Freeman, now with the Atlanta Falcons, preceding the Cook brothers in this pipeline that has developed.

At The Opening Miami Regionals on Sunday, where Cook won running back MVP, he said he had UM, Ohio State and Alabama alongside the Seminoles in his top.

Cook says he runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and hopes to get it down to a 4.4.

His freshman highlights:

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

March 10, 2016

UM commit Waynmon Steed likes DC Manny Diaz's defense, says shoulder '100 percent'

Waynmon Steed
Waynmon Steed at The Opening Miami Regionals. Photo: David Furones.


Four-star Miami Central linebacker and UM commit Waynmon Steed says his shoulder is feeling "100 percent," and it showed on Sunday as he took home linebacker MVP honors at The Opening Miami Regionals.

Steed sat out his entire junior season recovering from surgery on a torn labrum. He initially committed to the Hurricanes under the previous coaching staff in February of 2015 (before the surgery), and the new staff is only making positive strides in his recruitment.

"I like the 4-3 defense and I like the linebackers coach, Coach Manny Diaz," said Steed (5-11, 221 pounds). "He treats me like I'm already there, a true UM commit. That's what I like about him."

Steed likes how the defense will play aggressively.

"He talked to me about that, he showed me film and everything on how he's going to change the concept," Steed said. "It was great to hear. That's what we run [at Central], so I'm kind of used to it a little bit."

And not just Central, but mostly all high schools in South Florida. Steed thinks more local defensive recruits that weren't previously considering Miami will now pay more attention to the Canes because of the scheme.

Steed says his shoulder has been fully recovered since January. It originally popped out of place in a playoff game his sophomore season. He would continue to pop it back in and play through it all the way through the following spring, but with the injury constantly lingering, he learned he tore his labrum after the spring and had surgery, sidelining him his entire junior season.

Steed, who added an LSU offer in January and a Cal offer last week, runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and a 4.3 in the shuttle.

His highlights that got UM to offer after his sophomore campaign:

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

Dunning high on LSU, wants Alabama offer

 

Tyler Dunning
Photo: David Furones.


Since decommitting from Miami, St. Thomas Aquinas four-star linebacker Tyler Dunning has had a new list of suitors he's surveying.

LSU, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kentucky and Syracuse comprise his top five of schools he currently has offers from.

"I'm looking at LSU a lot," Dunning says. "I've always liked LSU. LSU has always been that school to me, that type of school that I like."

Alabama has also begun to show interest since Dunning decomitted and coaches have told him they will swing by to check him out in the spring. Dunning says an offer from Alabama could catapult the Crimson Tide to the top of his list.

On the field, Dunning hopes to improve on his pass coverage. The 7-on-7 season will present him with the right opportunity to do that.

He likes what the Aquinas defense will be able to do next season.

"Our defense is going to be crazy," he says. "We might have cheat codes over there."

He's especially thankful for the transfer of defensive end Lashawn Paulino from Coconut Creek.

"That's my boy. He's going to make sure the O-line stays off my knees," he says.

Last season Dunning was effective on the defensive line (as seen in his highlights) from the time five-star Ohio State-bound defensive end Joey Bosa went down. He will return to his natural linebacker position for his senior season.

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

March 09, 2016

'Big chance' LB Miller commits to UM, Canes also top WR Harley's list

Miami recently lost commitments from a local linebacker and local pass catcher in Tyler Dunning and Kemore Gamble, but in-state replacements in the 2017 recruiting class could come imminently. 

Lakeland Kathleen three-star linebacker Ventrell Miller told the Miami Herald there's a "big chance" he commits to the Hurricanes, and three-star St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Mike Harley has called the Canes his clear No. 1.

Miller (6-0, 227 pounds) says he likes the new coaching staff at UM and the fact that it's a private school.

"It's a place where I can grow and develop as a linebacker," Miller says. "It feels like home, it's not far from home and they have a tendency to send linebackers to the NFL."

A notable one would be Ray Lewis, who went to his same high school. You think he's heard of him?

 

Miller adds he needs to take another visit to the Coral Gables campus before making any kind of decision and that UNC is the only other school in contention for his services at this time.

Harley (5-10, 170) says the Canes have topped his list for about a month now.

"Good coaching staff and it's home where my family can see me play," he says.

He doesn't know when he'll knock out a final decision, adding he's "still letting the recruiting flow through."

Harley's 21 other offers, according to 247 Sports, include South Carolina, Mississippi State, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Harley won wide receiver MVP honors at Sunday's The Opening Miami Regionals and also impressed at the Rivals Camp the previous week.

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

 

Canes surging for Jeudy; Tigner likes UF, Auburn

Jerry Jeudy
Jerry Jeudy at The Opening Miami on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.


Deerfield Beach will once again have one of the most formidable wide receiver tandems in South Florida with four-star Under-Armour All-American Jerry Jeudy and three-star Lavarus Tigner.

Jeudy (6-1, 180 pounds) told the Miami Herald at The Opening Miami Regional on Sunday (where he qualified for The Opening in Oregon) "all my top is equal."

But Bud Elliott of SB Nation and Peter Ariz of CanesInsight have reported that it's Alabama and Miami at the top for Jeudy, who also noted to Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country that he doesn't have a leader (when previously listing the Crimson Tide as his favorite) and "all of the schools are equal right now."

While Jeudy is giving off some mixed signals, one thing that's clear is that UM has boosted itself immensely in recruiting him since the new coaching staff has taken over.

"They have a nice coaching staff," Jeudy said of the Canes. "They moved up a lot. It was just cool [taking an unofficial visit last week]. I like the way the coaches were talking to me. We were just going over what I'd be doing in their offense."

The Hurricanes stand in a much better position with Jeudy now than they did in December when he tweeted out this top 10 that made no mention of them.

Jeudy feels his speed and ability to get open is what makes him elite. He says his two favorite things to do as a receiver are either to take a screen and go all the way with it or blow the top off a defense with a deep route.

**Tigner (6-0, 180.5) has Florida and Auburn a his top two schools with the Gators in the lead.

"Florida I just feel like is another home. Academic-wise, I like both schools, but I just feel more comfortable at Florida," Tigner says. "If I had [to go with] any other option, I'd go with Auburn."

Also helping UF is that Tigner considers himself good friends with St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback and Gators commit Jake Allen.

Last season Tigner wasn't able to be as impactful as he wanted to be playing behind Jeudy and Riley Ridley, now at Georgia. He's excited about what he can do either opposite of Jeudy or alongside him.

"This year is my year," Tigner says. "Two great receivers on the same side of the ball, nobody can [handle] that."

Tigner is a player with the ideal confidence and attitude for a receiver that is bound for success.

"I come out here to prove a point. I'm the best," he says.

He was impressive when seen at the South Florida Express tryouts in late January, winning virtually every one-on-one matchup.

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

March 08, 2016

Marco Wilson a more complete player since recovering from ACL

Marco Wilson
Marco Wilson at The Opening Regionals at Plantation American Heritage on Sunday, March 6. Photo by David Furones.


Four-star American Heritage cornerback Marco Wilson sat out his entire junior season recovering from surgery on a torn ACL.

Now saying he is 100-percent complete in his recovery, the limits the injury put on his legs helped him make strides in other areas.

"I gained a lot of upper-body strength. Also, mentally, I paid attention to more things throughout the game. Watching my teammates play, I learned how offenses line up, how to watch receivers," says Wilson, who is now 5-11, 180 pounds. 

"I think everything happens for a reason, so it just makes me more hungry because I really miss the game of football. It makes me play harder."

Wilson listed Ohio State, UM, UF, Tennessee and Oklahoma as schools he is highest on at Nike's The Opening Regionals on Sunday at his high school, an event he didn't participate in but was present to watch.

If he chooses the Hurricanes, his position coach in Coral Gables would be his former high school coach in Mike Rumph.

"It helps a little bit because I'm comfortable with him. I know how much of a great coach he is. I know what he can do on and off the field for a player," Wilson said. "I think he'll develop those guys that he's coaching."

What did Rumph teach Wilson during his time at American Heritage?

"He just helped me with basic technique things. When I came in here as a young guy, I didn't really know that much -- although I also got coaching from my dad (former Miami Hurricane Chad Wilson) -- but he would help me with small things that would make me perform better on the field," Wilson added. "He's always going to be looking out for you and making sure you're doing the right things in school and not just on the field."

While Wilson did not participate in the Miami Regionals of The Opening, he says he will instead opt for the one on May 1 in New Jersey.

"I hope I get invited to The Opening (in Oregon). I heard it's a great experience. My brother (current UF defensive back Quincy Wilson) went there. He told me how good it is," Wilson said. "And I know I'm the best corner in 2017. That's how I look at it."

Marco Wilson was quoted in a 247 Sports article as saying that Miami and Florida -- the two programs he has family ties with -- are recruiting him the hardest.

"I'm not going to anywhere just because of my dad or my brother," Wilson said, however. "I want to play early. I want to make sure I start my career on the right track to get to the next level. Also, I don't want to come in to a college and leave as the same player. I want to make sure that I learn new things and become a better player."

As far as offers he doesn't have that he hopes to get at some point, he goes cross country with USC and UCLA. Distance is not a factor for him.

Before Wilson sat out his junior season, he was last seen making insane highlight catches in practice (like this backflip catch). 

"I could still do all that," Wilson says. "I don't know what I'd do without doing that because I'm very athletic and I like to show it."

He says he is yet to come up with any new tricks but will be back at it.

Wilson's sophomore highlights:

March 07, 2016

Al Blades Jr. debuts his recruit diary

It's not often fans get to see high-end recruits truly open up to the world. They are mostly restricted to their responses to the basic recruiting questions -- who's in your top right now? What schools are recruiting you the hardest? Got any visits planned? When do you think you'll make a final decision?

Al Blades Jr., one of the top 2018 prospects who is already set to play in that year's Under Armour All-America game, is changing that, debuting his recruiting diaries with a comprehensive video introducing himself to the world.

Even those who are already familiar with the St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back's work will learn a lot about him by watching his in-depth video, which covers a wide range of topics.

Blades isn't sure how often he will continue putting videos out, but by the looks of the debut, it will be a series to follow throughout his recruitment.

 

For the link to the page, click here.

And while we're on the topic of Blades Jr., you may want to check out his sophomore highlights at University School.

Twitter: @DavidFurones90

Ohio State, Florida steady at the top for Grimes

Trevon Grimes
Trevon Grimes at The Opening Regionals at Plantation American Heritage on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.


Ohio State and Florida remain the two schools in the lead for five-star St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Trevon Grimes -- with OSU at the top.

The Buckeyes have been known to be the top choice for the Midwesterner from Indiana who grew up an Ohio State fan for some time.

"Since I was a freshman, they just treated me like a son," said Grimes at Nike's The Opening Regionals on Sunday at Plantation American Heritage -- where he earned a spot at The Opening in Oregon. "They didn't look at me as a recruit. They looked at me as more of a family member."

Grimes added that having Hall of Fame wide receiver and former Buckeye Cris Carter as his position coach as a freshman only added to his feelings toward the program. 

Despite everything that has pointed toward Ohio State for Grimes' services, he's still taking a good look elsewhere to assure he makes the best decision.

"Now that I have the opportunity to go there [OSU], it's like, 'Why not?' But as time has gone on, I've had a chance to look at other colleges -- Florida, Miami," Grimes says. "I know that it's a tough decision, but there are other schools in the running too."

You'll notice Grimes included UM on his own. He wasn't asked specifically about the Hurricanes. He clarified, though, that the Gators are No. 2 for him and the Canes are just one of the schools in the mix after the top two.

He first moved UF into that second spot when he took a Junior Day visit to Gainesville. The UF momentum remains since the trip in late January, which allowed him to see first-hand what his quarterback teammate, UF commit Jake Allen, means when he talks up the Gators.

"All he does is, 'Florida this, Florida that.' Now that I get a chance to actually know what he's talking about, I understand why he says the things that he does," Grimes notes. "He just says Florida has an amazing atmosphere, has amazing coaches, great facilities. Once I got up there, I walked through the doors to get there and right once I stepped in I felt love... I just felt welcome."

Of the Hurricanes, Grimes says he likes wide receivers coach Ron Dugans.

"He's a great man," Grimes says. "We sat down in his office and he didn't talk to me like a recruit, he talked to me like life lessons."

How hard will it ultimately be for any other school to beat out Ohio State?

"Pretty hard," Grimes says. "They have the lead, but nothing is impossible."

Grimes is uncertain of when he will make a final decision.

**Grimes and Allen say he will be the newly-minted No. 1 overall player in the nation in the Rivals rankings next time they are updated. As of now, he's ranked third and the nation's top receiver. He was alerted of the news on Saturday.

"I woke up, saw it and I was just amazed," Grimes says. "Hard work has paid off. I'm still speechless. It's a dream come true."

**A 6-4 receiver, Grimes models his game after someone similar in stature -- Calvin Johnson.

"Why not him? Growing up, I loved everything about his game. He's a big, tall receiver, stretches the field, deep threat guy -- huge and he's fast," Grimes says.

**While receivers like Miami-bound Sam Bruce and Michael Irvin and Illinois-bound Dominic Thieman are moving on from Aquinas, the Raiders will be reloaded once again with returning producers like Michael Harley and up-and-coming talent, including a transfer from Western in 2018 receiver Elijah Moore, a close friend to Grimes.

"I'm just looking at bringing him in, embracing him, getting him acclimated, showing him the little things," Grimes says. "I just feel me and Jake Allen's connection -- we all have an amazing bond.

"We look at each other like brothers, not teammates."

In addition, the Aquinas offense received a big transfer at running back from four-star senior Kyshaun Bryan.

Here are Grimes' junior year highlights:

Twitter: @DavidFurones90