The rosters at the S.J.G. Greater NC Pro-Am — the Bull City summer basketball league — traditionally have been fluid because many of the professional and college players who’ve participated have been involved with matters of hoop outside Durham when July rolled around.
High school players like Voyager Academy’s Jay Huff and Northern’s Ricky Council II are just as busy.
Both Huff and Council were chosen by pro-am organizers to play in the summer league, in its sixth season and now held at Durham School of the Arts, which opened the door for high school players.
The pro-am games had been at N.C. Central University, which was considered a recruiting advantage for the school, precluding participation by prep players, according to the NCAA.
Huff, a rising sophomore, played in the pro-am on June 27th, the league’s opening night, and he said the college players he ran with were bigger, stronger and faster than the boys he bumped against during his first high school season.
Huff is in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this week participating in a U.S. Basketball Association National Championship tournament, and next week he’ll be at a basketball camp at Elon University, keeping him away from the summer league.
Before heading to Myrtle Beach, Huff (6-6½, 155) was in Chapel Hill competing in the Durham Summer Swim League Championships. Busy summer.
Council, a rising senior and 3-star recruit according to Scout.com, hasn’t played in the pro-am but was taking care of business during a basketball camp at N.C. State University, where he averaged 25 points and five rebounds in the games, Northern assistant coach Thomas McKoy said.
For the next several weeks, Council will be with the Virginia-based Team Loaded Amateur Athletic Union squad that will play in Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, according to his father, Rick.
ESPN senior college basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep said Council can bring it.
“Council, to me, is a hidden mid-major Division I target,” Telep said. “He’s improved each year, shoots it exceptionally well and has basketball intellect.”
It was evident during the games at N.C. State that Council has gotten stronger since the high school basketball season ended, and playing in the summer league would further develop his game, Northern coach Ronnie Russell said.
All of the high school kids who play in the summer league will be better for it, local coaches said.
Hillside coach Crasten Davis said the competition at the pro-am can help prep guys who have doubts about whether or not they’d fit on the next level, Davis said.
“With the pro-am, it’s going to be good for some kids because it’s going to be validation for them,” Davis said.
There are Division III college players who, for example, really can score the basketball, but they got overlooked by Division II schools because they’re short, Davis said.
“Even D-III guys can just about play on D-II, and the kids can be interchangeable,” Davis said. “There are no Cinderellas anymore.”
Riverside point guard Justice Kithcart has been putting in work at the summer league.
“Kithcart is a set-up man and has the makings of a pure point guard,” Telep said. “I think he’s at his best in that role but has demonstrated the ability to score. … There’s room for improvement, but he’s one of the best 2016 point guards in the state.”
He’s reportedly getting a hard look from Clemson recruiters right now but expects more recruiting attention to focus on him during and after his upcoming sophomore season.
Southern coach Kendrick Hall said Spartans guard Amari Hamilton is spending his summer wisely at the pro-am.
“That’s one of the best things that he could do,” Hall said. “It would really help his confidence, and that would ultimately help us in a lot of ways.”
There’s room for extra flash and showmanship at the summer league, and the potential exists for some figurative ankles to get broken, especially if the wily pro and college guys humiliate high school kids by shaking them out of their shoes.
At the same time, some of these high school kids might come with a little wiggle, too, Davis said.
The sort of prep guys playing in the summer league aren’t the type whose spirits would get crushed by an embarrassing play but instead would start scheming about how to get some get-back during the next trip down the floor, Davis said.
“If they get on YouTube, they’re gonna get their name out there,” Davis explained.
NOTES —Papa Ndiaye, a 6-9, 210 power forward and rising sophomore at Winston-Salem’s Quality Education Academy, was also on hand at DSA Thursday night and scheduled to play. He’s believed to be among the top prospects in his class nationally. ... Beejay Anya, a 6-9, 275 incoming N.C. State recruit from DeMatha High School in Hiattsville, Md., had the crowd rocking as he rattled the rim repeatedly with explosive dunks during his appearance Thursday night. He might remind fans of a young Richard Howell, the recently graduated State center, before Howell remade himself in the weight room.
— Staff writer Mark Donovan contributed to the report on Justice Kithcart and the notes on Papa Ndiaye and Beejay Anya from Durham School of the Arts Thursday.