Thus far, the Lea8ue has been buzzing, and Session 1 was a very good start to year four of MADE Hoops. Teams came out and competed hard from the jump, and starting getting MADE with no hesitation. With it being a new year and a clean slate for most, Session 2 is here to kick off 2018 in a big way. With a new 8th Grade facility on hand, and divisional play set to tip-off, things are going to get pretty spicy in Springfield this weekend. There are plenty of formidable and talented teams in the thick of things, which is broken down below.
Team Takeover Grant comes in at 2-1 atop the Division, and very battle tested. This program is always at the top of the pack wherever they go, and will look to stay there with a successful Session 2 in Lea8ue play. After some close games in Session 1, look for Team Takeover Grant to execute even more and separate themselves from some teams. It won’t be an easy task, as they’ll face some of the tri-states better programs. They are set to play the Lightning, Gauchos, and Playaz, so things will definitely get gritty. Nonetheless, they have a good unit that will look to prove themselves even more by the time Session 2 is all said and done.
Both the Playaz and Team Melo are also 2-1, and sit in prime position to keep climbing and bettering their records. The NJ Playaz beat two NY teams at Session 1, but fell to the Boston Spartans. In Session 2, the backcourt of Dasean Lecque (younger brother of five-star PG ESPN Top 100 recruit Jalen Lecque) and William Richardson will look to continue their high-level of play in the Lea8ue so far. They both had a good Session 1, helping the Playaz to a winning record, and they will look to progress in their next 4 games this weekend. With games against Team Durant Blue, the ATL Cavs, and UPlay Monarchs just to name a few, it’ll be interesting to see if they keep going forward or take some steps back against some top-notch competition. As for Team Melo, they will also look to continue forming their identity, as all of their Session 1 games were close contests (winning by 1, losing by 2, and winning by 6). They will have 3 games in Springfield against the Lightning, Expressions, and Team Durant Blue, so you’ll have to keep your eye on this DMV squad to see how they pan out as they try to put themselves in position to advance to their first Championship Weekend in MADE Hoops play.
Team Durant Blue, the ATL CAVS, and NY Lightning are all at 1-2, and will all play 4 games this weekend. This will really shake up Division A after the weekend has ended, so these games are very important for these three programs in particular. Two out of the three can easily change their records for the better, while one is likely to stay even or slightly sink even more. Either way, it foreshadows competitive basketball and maximum hustle and effort. Even so, don’t sleep on any of these three teams, as they are all capable of playing better than their record indicates. These teams are the most dangerous usually because they are looking for separation in the group, and also looking to prove that they belong amongst the elite.
At the bottom (for now) remain 0-3 Expressions, NY Gauchos, and UPlay Monarchs. The key for these teams will simply be getting chemistry better, and looking to etch their first win into the standings. Getting that first win is important because it can swing that team’s momentum and confidence, and really change things for the better. These teams will be looking to climb the totem pole and fight hard in Massachusetts. It’s safe to say no one likes to lose, and we are sure these teams will display that with their sense of urgency and game approaches come Session 2.
The NY Renaissance hold the top spot in Division B after three tough games in Session 1. At full strength, they were tested, but passed and impressed. They remain undefeated in Lea8ue play, and will look to continue their streak and chase their goal of replicating last season’s feat of going undefeated the entire circuit and winning the Championship. They’ll play four games against teams of all different records (3-1, 2-1, 2-2, & 1-2). Team Durant Black and the Boston Spartans will be solid contests for the Renaissance this weekend. Both of those teams are looking to keep their winning ways in tact as well, especially the Boston Spartans who will look to stay hot at home in the state of MA. Team United and UPlay Canada round out their schedule, but no game can be taken lightly. The focus remains another undefeated Session, thus we shall see what Champions are made of.
The Boston Spartans are at a 75% winning pct. after four games. The 3-1 Spartans look to continue their poised play in front of their home crowd, even with the toughest schedule on the menu. They’ll have a full course meal on their plate with the likes of Team Takeover Oladipo, Team Final, The Renaissance, and Team United – all teams .500 and above. While their schedule is tough, the "basketball gods" just less than a mile away at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame might be on their side throughout the weekend. This is their second go around in the Lea8ue, and they definitely are hip to the dynamic and competitiveness of it. Expect Coach Chatman to have his squad fired up and prepared, especially players such as Keyonte Beals, Amari Howell, and Tony Felder.
Four 2-1 teams is freakishly exciting in the country’s hub for the most competitive middle school competition. Team Durant Black, Team Final, Team Takeover Oladipo, and the PSA Cardinals are tremendously in the thick of things, meaning from here on out there’s no time for let up. Team Final has the easiest schedule of the four 2-1’s, playing two teams with a combined one win thus far. The remaining three will all bump heads with each other, while Final only gets to square off with Takeover Oladipo, but will have the hometown Spartans in the Sunday closer to make matters even more interesting. Either way you slice it, this four-way 2-1 record deadlock is great for the Lea8ue, and will really unfold into some exciting games and team/individual performances.
The 2-1 record club will really get MADE, and it’ll be interesting to see how these teams continue to trend this year. PSA and Team Durant Black both reached Championship Weekend last year for the first time in their MADE Hoops careers, while TTOO and Team Final are frequent visitors of that plateau. Regardless, with teams possibly bringing reinforcements, be sure not to miss out on the personnel and playmakers of these good teams.
Team United is at an even 2-2, which is a steady record after one session. They control their destiny, and will simply look to win more than they lose going forward. They will have the opportunity to do so against three different New York opponents. United will play the winless Wiz Kids, and two tougher teams in the PSA Cardinals and Renaissance. They don’t have too much room for error, so look for them to be sharp in hopes of staying afloat heading home for Session 3. They lost their last two contests of Session 1 after winning the first two, so definitely look for them to come out strong against PSA knowing their next opponent is the Renaissance on a tough saturday in Springfield.
UPlay Canada (1-2) and The Wiz Kids (0-3) will both look to win by any means. As they try to rise in the standings and change the tide, look for their true effort and determination to come forth. It’ll be interesting to see these two teams get after it this weekend, and who really steps up on their respective rosters. It’s never over, and both of these teams surely have that mindset coming into the weekend. Their first game will actually be against each other to avoid last place. UPlay Canada’s only win of Session 1 was against a NY team (the Gauchos), so the Wiz Kids look to avoid being the second. Off rip, these two teams will be playing to stay alive and get off on the right foot with a win streak.
The 8th Grade Showcase games should be fun to watch, especially because these teams aren't on the Winter Lea8ue circuit this year. They will be playing amongst each other, in three games of competition. The showcase will feature the NY Jayhawks, NJ Bulldogs, City Rocks, and Team Rio National.
For Team Rio and City Rocks, this isn't their first go around in MADE Hoops competition. Top-ranked class of 2019 recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis were in the MADE Hoops showcase ringer before, and brought the funk. The NY Jayhawks and NJ Bulldogs are new to the list, but not new to the game or to competitors. Both squads have talent, and both squads can compete and win games. It'll be interesting to see who goes 3-0 in this field, and see how these teams stack up against each other.