Share This Page

Harlan: Jam Fest puts bounce in Western Pa. basketball talent

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9:54 p.m.

An all-star lineup from Los Angeles traveled across the country this week for the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, an AAU basketball event that drew hundreds of out-of-state teams to gyms around this area.

The California team's roster included a son of Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew. Yet, miles from home, the L.A. Rockfish lost their second-round game to a collection of juniors mostly from the WPIAL.

“They came a great distance to take a loss from a Western Pennsylvania team,” said Adrian Batts, who is the varsity coach at Jeannette and leads this WPIAL-based AAU lineup named Team Bounce. “They probably think there are only football players here.”

Batts says that with a laugh, hoping that characterization finally has begun to fade. He notes how three WPIAL recruits will be on Pitt's roster next season, and how Arizona's T.J. McConnell (Chartiers Valley) and Iowa State's DeAndre Kane (Schenley) advanced far into the NCAA Tournament this year, along with several head coaches with local ties.

“Everyone's now well aware of Western Pennsylvania basketball,” Batts said. “(College recruiters) know they missed a lot of good players because of the stigma we get that we're only a football area.”

Scheduled on a weekend when college coaches can watch, the Pittsburgh Jam Fest was expected to draw dozens of recruiters. Batts counted 15 coaches from Division I teams in the stands for Friday's game at South Fayette, along with a number of others from smaller schools.

The tournament is run by the Hoop Group, which holds a series of events along the East Coast. This one had five age divisions.

Team Bounce entered the 80-team U17 Platinum bracket along with the Pittsburgh Nets, another local lineup, which lost in the first round to a team from New Jersey. Team Bounce's winner's bracket run ended Saturday with a third-round loss.

The finals are Sunday at North Hills and South Fayette. The brackets are updated at hoopgroup.com

Among the top recruits on the Team Bounce roster are Hempfield's Kason Harrell (6-foot-3), Chartiers Valley's Matty McConnell (6-0) and Jeannette's Julian Batts (5-11). The three junior guards who averaged at least 22 points last season all have Division I potential.

All three were in double figures Friday when McConnell scored 25 against the Rockfish.

“They showed that they could play with the top guys in the country,” Batts said. “The more we win, the more (college coaches) will get a chance to see them play.”

Also from the WPIAL are Bethel Park's Joey Mascaro (5-9), Elizabeth Forward's George Prota (6-10), Gateway's Daylon Harris (6-5), Steel Valley's Dom Keyes (6-6), and Vincentian Academy's Ryan Wolf (5-9).

The Kiski School's Dante Lombardi (6-0), son of IUP coach Joe Lombardi, is on the team as well, along with Kieron Smethers (6-4), a junior from Wellsboro.

“There was a lot of mid-major coaches watching our game,” Batts said. “They're all getting a look this weekend, and I think they're pleased with how these guys are playing. From this event, one of these guys will get a scholarship somewhere.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.