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  • Jared Exler

Under the Radar 2023 RI/CT Players to Watch this AAU Season

Pat Spenard 6’8 Center/Power Forward (St. Andrew’s School): Spenard is a reliable scorer around the basket. He has a nice jump-hook and drop-step in his post-up arsenal. Does a good job getting opponents up in the air to finish through contact with his up-fake. Spenard also cannot be left wide open from beyond the arc. He makes three-pointers at a solid rate when spotting up. Spenard uses his high motor to be an effective rebounder on both sides of the glass.

NeJohn Fortes 6’7 Power Forward (St. George’s School): Fortes can stretch the floor from deep. He makes treys at a good rate on standstill attempts. Also can put the ball on the floor, attacking closeouts for athletic finishes around the rim. Fortes makes his presence felt on the defensive end as well. He uses his length and explosiveness when coming over from the help side to block or alter opponents’ shots near the basket.

Eze Wali 6’1 Combo Guard (Bishop Hendricken HS): Wali is a consistent threat from long-range, making treys on the move or when spotting up. He gets to the basket and finishes proficiently with his good burst and explosiveness. Also is a solid playmaker. Wali finds teammates in the half-court for open three-pointers on drive and kicks or high percentage finishes in transition from precise push-ahead passes. Defensively, he uses his length and quick instincts to create steals at a good rate.

Calvin Lucenti 5’11 Combo Guard (Portsmouth HS): Lucenti is an impressive shooter from deep with a quick release. The southpaw makes three-pointers off movement or when spotting up. When opponents close out hard on him from the perimeter, he can put the ball on the floor to get to his soft floater in the lane. Lucenti can also make plays for others. He uses his crafty handle to get into the lane, kicking the ball out to open shooters for treys or dishing the ball off to big men near the basket for high percentage finishes.

Jason James 6’1 Combo Guard (Westminster School): James is a solid shooter from beyond the arc with deep range. He makes treys off the bounce, pulling up off of ball screens or creating separation with his step-back. Gets to the basket effectively using a good change of pace on his moves, scoring with an array of inside-hand and finger-roll layups. Also creates better finishing angles for himself using a spin-move in the lane. James is a solid passer in transition. He finds teammates streaking to the rim for high percentage layups.

Will Groot 6’9 Center (Hotchkiss School): Groot is a good scorer in the post. The southpaw has a nice jump-hook that he is comfortable using with either hand. He creates high percentage finishing opportunities for himself, rolling hard to the basket after setting a ball screen. Also is capable of hitting standstill fifteen-foot jumpers in the mid-range. Defensively, Groot rotates well coming over from the weak side to block or alter opponents’ shots around the rim at a solid rate.

Johnny McCain 6’1 Shooting Guard (Canterbury School): McCain is a terrific floor-spacer. He has fluid mechanics on his shot and needs very little time and space to get it off. Makes three-pointers off the catch or on the move in the half-court. Does a nice job finding open spots in transition to give himself additional good looks from long-range. While making treys at a high clip is McCain’s bread and butter, he has shown flashes of being able to attack closeouts and hit tear-drops in the lane over bigger defenders.

Caleb Crawford 6’0 Point Guard (Loomis Chaffee School): Crawford is a solid playmaker. He gets consistent lane penetration with his shifty handle and quick first step. Makes good decisions when opponents collapse on him in the paint. Finds teammates for open looks both from beyond the arc and around the basket. Crawford cannot be left open from the three-point line. He hits treys at a proficient rate when spotting up. Uses his speed and quickness well in the open floor, pushing the ball to create high percentage shots for himself around the rim. Defensively, Crawford generates steals with active hands and good anticipation. Also moves well laterally, making it difficult for opposing point guards to get dribble penetration against him.

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