The 2017 annual NY2LA Sports Invitational tipped on Friday from Mequon Homestead High School. Day one featured a number of intriguing play-in games to help solidify Saturday’s bracket. In the 17U Division, Playground Elite NY2LA looked like title contenders, getting a big performance from Gacoby Jones. Meanwhile in 16U, D.J. Carton and Quad City Elite continued their strong spring…

Top Performers
D.J. Carton – 2019 – PG – Quad City Elite

Carton was big in the second half to help Quad City Elite pull out a tight win over the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. The rising sophomore guard finished with nearly half his teams points and dished out four assists. With his team struggling offensively, Carton went outside his comfort zone to an extent, carrying the scoring load. He’ll rarely take a shot that isn’t a high percentage look, but Carton started to force the issue and get his team going. A nice all-around athlete, Carton finished above the rim and also rose the ladder for some blocks as well. Carton has been pushing high major status this spring and is drawing some serious Big Ten looks. He finished with a game-high 14 points in Friday’s win. 

Delaware Hale – 2020 – F/C – Wisconsin Swing
There’s a nice upside on Hale. A long, athletic big man, Hale showcased some promise on both ends of the floor. First things first, Hale is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder. He high points the basketball and snatches it out of the air. As aggressive as he was against Larry Hughes Basketball Academy, Hale managed to avoid fouls and gain second chance opportunities. Like most bigs his age, there’s a ways to go with his post-game. However, Hale flashed a nice spin down on the block and a soft touch around the rim. He also runs the floor very well and finished off a couple dunks in transition. 

Jalen Johnson – 2020 – G/F – Wisconsin Playground Warriors
Johnson is so unique and has a rare ability to contribute across the board. There are few very players that impact that game in all areas and even less that have been doing it since middle school. Through eight minutes of action, Johnson posted four points, three rebounds, three assists, and three blocks before he headed to the bench for the first time. By then, the game was all but over as Johnson and the Playground Warriors coasted to a win over Made Men. While his efforts weren’t needed much, Johnson has added some things to his game. The freshman impressed with his ability to snatch rebounds and fire one-hand passes down the floor with pin point precision. 

Jalen Shaw – 2018 – F/C – Kessel Heat Black
Shaw continues to inch closer to his high upside. A bouncy, lengthy 6-foot-10 post prospect, Shaw led Kessel Heat against Playground Elite. Shaw was very efficient around the rim and when he didn’t convert on the first attempt, was very quick to recover and get off the floor in a hurry for second chance put backs. Shaw has good hands and caught in traffic well. He’s an enforcer defensively that blocks a lot of shots from the weak-side and alters even more. An improving post passer, Shaw is getting comfortable and turning and facing and seeing over the top of the defense. He finished with 14 points.

Stock Boosters
Gacoby Jones – 2018 – PG – Playground Elite

Part of a strong backcourt, it was nice to see Jones stand out on Friday. Jones got going right away with 10 quick points in less than four minutes of action. The 6-foot-1 floor general has terrific body control around the rim and showed the ability to absorb contact or adjust in mid-air to convert inside. Jones was just as good at driving and dishing. He drew defenders constantly and was able to dump off passes for easy buckets inside. Jones exploded for 26 points in Friday’s win. 

Mason Madsen – 2020 – PG – Wisconsin Playground Warriors
A player that’s grown on me this spring, Madsen is a terrific pure point guard that understands the position. A magician with the ball, Madsen slices and dices through defenses, almost picking them apart like a surgeon. A pass-first lead guard, Madsen has a great feel for his teammate’s strengths/weaknesses and puts them into positions to succeed. When it’s time to take over offensively, Madsen can shoot the rock from 3-point and mid-range. He’s deceptively quick and has an explosive first step off the dribble. Madsen also surprises with his speed in transition. He has no problems going to coast-to-coast and blows by people in the open floor, always finishing full speed at the rim without letting off the gas pedal. 

Jake Poetzl – 2019 – SF – Wisconsin Playground Warriors
Poetzl had a solid effort in a loss to Quad City Elite. A versatile 6-foot-5 forward, Poetzl has nimble feet for his size, but plays like a bulldozer. Poetzl punished people who got in the way of him and the rim and either finished strong on the interior or got to the foul line. Poetzl can step out and shoot the basketball and also works extremely hard on the offensive glass. Although the Playground Warriors came up short, nobody matched this kid’s motor on Friday. 

Luke Reader – 2018 – G – Wisconsin Jets
Reader was on fire to begin the game, opening things up with four consecutive triples in a win over All-In Athletics. The 6-foot-1 guard found soft spots in the defense and let it fly. Reader is much more than just a shooter, however. He was fantastic in the open floor and on the drive, creating for his teammates. Reader is skilled at looking off defenders and then dropping or firing passes in the opposite direction. By the time Reader was done picking apart the defense, the Jets were already in the midst of a blowout. He finished with 15 points on all triples in limited duty on Friday.