For many graduating high schoolers, it’s one of the final opportunities to display their talents all in the name of earning a college scholarship, effectively changing their lives.
Unsigned Hype founder James Barrett is cognizant of this, having gone through this himself once upon a time. The former Howard Junior College turned Division-I Sam Houston State standout berthed the idea in 2012, and the Senior Games came to life in 2013.
An immense number of future college basketball players have played in the showcase, including Division I players like La Salle’s Isiah Deas, Morgan State’s Phillip Carr, Iona’s Jordan Washington and former St. Francis Brooklyn guard Gianni Ford.
Those four and countless others have emerged in the aftermath of their Unsigned Hype experience with a college scholarship.
Barrett, a Brooklyn native and former Lincoln High School assistant coach expressed to this year’s hopefuls the importance of performing in front of the college coaches in attendance, as well as simply what this game could do not just for the athlete, but for their families.
“Going to college for free is going to change your life,” Barrett said in the Westinghouse locker room in what became a pre-game speech for all of the players before tip-off. “A lot of people go into college and they pay, and when you pay to go to college for four years, you’re going to come out of college in debt.
“It’s like you’re pretty much starting off behind,” he added. “It’s kind of hard to get a job out of college, and then as soon as you start working, instead of using your money to build, you’re using your money to pay back debt.”
As both a former player and coach, Barrett explained what coaches are looking for at these type of signature showcases, giving the players every bit of last-second advice before the doubleheader.
“Some of you guys have the academics but have had a lack of exposure, some of you guys’ academics aren’t where they need to be, and for some of you guys there may be other reasons why you guys aren’t signed D-1 right now,” Barrett continued. “Today there’s going to be a bunch of scouts from all over the country, and they came here to see y’all.
“There’s been a lot of other guys who’ve played in this event and gone on to play D-1,” he added. “So because of those guys, the anticipation to see y’all is heavy. Y’all need to go out there today, play hard, do what y’all do best.”
Some of those players included Michael Reid of PSAL and Federation Champion Lincoln, Kyle Harding and Jamari Lewis of Thomas Jefferson, and Tilquan Rucker of South Bronx Prep, who had a Russell Westbrook like stat-line with 36 points per game, 10.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists.
In game one, Team White handled Team Red, 102-86. Jahrell Thomas of Metro/BDA led the charge, scoring a game-best 22 points and pulling down six boards.
Nazareth product Mike Pollard poured on 18 points, and teammate Keyon Smith of McKee-Staten Island Tech added 15 points.
The aforementioned Lewis and Rucker contributed eight points each for Team White, with Lewis grabbing four rebounds, and Rucker adding on six boards, four assists and four steals.
Immaculate Conception’s DeRhon Mitchell, along with Jefferson teammates Khalil Rhodes and Shevon Ansica, led the Red with 15 points each.
Game two was a more competitive showing, with Team White 2 putting away Team Black by a final of 88-79.
Springfield Gardens’ own Hegel Augustin had a team-high 16 points for the winners, followed by Xaverians’ Zack Bruno (13 points) and the previously mentioned Reid of Lincoln (12 points).
Bishop Loughlin’s Jordan Thomas led Team Black with 25 points, leading all Unsigned Hype competitors on Friday night. Leman Prep’s Deondre Bourne added 13 for Team Black in the loss.