The New York Times ran a piece Tuesday about the incredible basketball talent pumping out of the Garden State. The story, “‘Jersey Is Taking Over’: N.J. Hoopers Outshine the Shadow of New York,” highlights all of the top-end recruits playing in New Jersey.
“In addition to (Elliott) Cadeau — the No. 7 player in the country, according to the composite rankings of the recruiting website 247 Sports — the sophomore class includes: No. 1 Naasir Cunningham (Overtime Elite), No. 33 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco Prep) and No. 42 Tahaad Pettiford (Hudson Catholic). And the juniors a year ahead of Cadeau & Co. include: No. 1 Dajuan Wagner Jr., who goes by DJ (Camden High School), No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard’s), No. 12 Simeon Wilcher (Roselle Catholic), No. 20 Aaron Bradshaw (Camden) and No. 48 Akil Watson (Roselle Catholic).”
That’s an insane amount of high school talent that will sign with D1 powers, and all of it is in the neighboring state. It’s about a three-hour drive to the Jersey border from campus, approximately four to the Garden State hoops hot beds around NYC. These are players the Orange should be battling at the front lines for.
At the moment, SU appears to be one of many in the fray for Cadeau. The Orange are on the outside of the three favorites looking at Wagner. Mgbako has verbally committed to Duke. Wilcher is headed to UNC. SU isn’t on Bradshaw’s radar, nor Watson’s.
Bourama Sdibe attended HS in Jersey (St. Benedict’s). Niko Ruffin is a walk-on from Paramus, NJ. Of the heralded recruiting class of ’22, none of the players hail from Jersey. According to the Times article, “In the classes of 2023 and 2024, New Jersey has 10 top-50 recruits compared to just two from New York.”
“The college coaches see that New Jersey guys have confidence, they have swagger, and they aren’t afraid of physical basketball,” says Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff said. “When we travel to national games, our players are always surprised by the ticky-tack foul calls. In New Jersey, the refs let our guys beat each other up a little bit, and our guys welcome that. They know they’re making each other better.”
If the Orange land elite recruits from California, Virginia and D.C., it doesn’t much matter if they tap into the Jersey pipeline. But it’s much easier to consistently work the high school circuit so close to home, and build relationships with prep coaches. Will the next head coach be able to take advantage? Jim Boeheim is undeniably reaching the end of his tenure, and his successor has to do a better job bringing in future pros.
As sportscaster Brent Axe has pointed out, going six years without a first-round NBA pick is not ideal for the Orange. Jersey is in the backyard of SU. It’s a pond stocked with high-end talent. It’s time for SU to be fishing more successfully in these waters.