By Nico Fiscella
With 44 of the top 100 players in the Class of 2022 headed to Springfield College for the Spalding Hoophall Classic, the tournament brought together some of the best high school athletes across the nation. While fans come to Hoophall to see the high-flying dunks and flashy passes, college coaches and scouts can also easily be found sitting courtside in the VIP section.
“You have some of the best talent around the world coming up,” said Joel Smith, the assistant coach of the men’s basketball team at Northeastern. The Northeastern Huskies have had multiple players play at Hoophall throughout the years. With sixty different teams coming to Springfield for the tournament, Blake Arena has showcased the abilities of the stars of tomorrow.
The majority of the Class of 2022 has already chosen where they will lace up in college, but much of the junior class remains unsigned. D.J. Wagner, Kwame Evans, and Mikey Williams are some of the many standouts that have yet to decide where they will be taking their talents after high school.
“You never know what is going to happen in the future, so you always want to be prepared and know names,” said Smith. With over 100 future NBA players participating in the tournament over the last twenty years, Hoophall allows for those not in the spotlight to prove their value against the top schools in the country.
Smith values those who catch his interest without having to keep the ball in their hands. He looks for maximum effort, smart play, and the ability to be a team player before anything. The windmill dunks and alley-oops do get the crowd on their feet, but coaches want to see how these players can elevate their game to the next level.
“It is about not making the game all about them but winning… We look at a little bit of everything,” Smith said.
Matchups that teams would never encounter during their normal play throughout a season are created by Hoophall. With games like IMG Academy vs Montverde and the Dereck Lively vs Mikey Williams rivalry highlighting this year’s tournament, Hoophall can be attributed for giving fans the opportunity to watch the future of basketball square-off against each other all in one weekend.
“It is a great opportunity for these teams… these kids can get exposed to a different way of playing basketball,” said UConn Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma, alongside Sue Bird, watched as 2022 UConn commit Isuneh Brady and the Cathedral Catholic Dons defeated Springfield Central High School 72-31. While Auriemma appreciated the opportunity to watch his future Husky, he, personally, would make some adjustments to the tournament going forward.
“I wish they [the girls’ teams] had more than just one game… If there were five or six girls’ games, it would be a huge recruiting thing for us.”
This year’s tournament consisted of 30 total games, with the two girls’ games taking place on Friday afternoon.
Matthew Graves is the assistant coach of the men’s basketball team at Clark University, and while the talent and athleticism are on clear display all weekend, his priorities while scouting include more than just what can be found in the box score.
“First and foremost: the attitude coming on and off the court.” With Clark located right around the corner in Worcester, MA, Graves is using this opportunity to find the right guys to suit up with the Cougars next fall.
For most, the Hoophall Classic is a time to cheer on the stars of tomorrow, but for Auriemma, Smith, and Graves, it is another day in the office preparing for the future of their teams.