by Chris Lawlor

Time is a precious commodity for Camari Wilkerson. The clock is ticking on his recruiting—a last minute reprieve is what remains for the recent Old Mill (Millersville, Md.) graduate to land a coveted Division I scholarship.  Time was also on his side Sunday afternoon.

Wilkerson’s recruitment is time sensitive.

Unleashing his trademark defense stretching perimeter game and uncanny ability to seize the moment, the 5-foot-10 Wilkerson drilled a an 17-foot jumper with 1 second left giving the Baltimore Elite Black a thrilling 69-67 win over Team Belief in the U17 championship game of the Elevate Hoops Summer Hoop Fest.

The Elevate Hoops’ Summer Hoop Fest was presented for an inaugural, three-day run at the spacious House of Sports.  The event had three age groups: U17, U16 and U15. It was well attended by the college coaches, which totaled more than 50 on the third day when the championship and challenge games were played on the final day. Elevate Hoops made quite a splash with the event held in a suburban setting in Westchester County—just north of the five boroughs.

Wilkerson, who fielded mainly Division II offers (Southern Connecticut was mentioned), is likely headed to a year of prep, where he can buy time, giving him an additional year to mature and to be seen. His ultimate goal is to secure a ride to mid-major program—closer to home is preferable.

“I’ll do what ever it takes to win; I’m athletic and can shoot the three,” he said.

Wilkerson has dynamic skills of a smallish point guard but with scoring ability. He twice pumped in 41 or more points last season. He defends on the perimeter and will blow by most opponents. He’s a jet in transition with the ability to attack the rim, dish a thread-the-needle pass and fill a passing lane. He’s creative off the bounce and finishes with both hands. At the end of the final game, only assistants from Maine, Saint Peter’s and Towson were still in attendance.

Wilkerson wasn’t the only Baltimore Elite recent graduate looking ahead to the fall.

Enter Brandon Horvath, a lanky 6-7 wingman from Southern (Harwood, Md.)—who is another product from Anne Arundel County (near Annapolis). Horvath, too, is conscious of time but with better options. The holder of an A-average with offers from the Naval Academy, UMBC, Mount St. Mary’s, American, Maine and Pennsylvania, Horvath will attend Kent School of Connecticut in the fall after the urging of his high school assistant coach.

“I really want to get bigger, faster and stronger for college. I have the grades and maybe with another year I will get more looks from the Ivies or Atlantic 10 schools. I’m ready for a year at prep school,” he said.

Horvath is a prototypical mid-major 3-man, who on the switch posted up shorter guards for easy vertical shots. He has a high release point and NBA three-ball range. In transition, he has a good handle but makes great decisions that lead to points. On Sunday, he was a perfect backline defender in the 2-3 zone. He’ll need to bulk up in prep school.

Baltimore Elite heads to Orlando, Fla., later this week to close out the summer circuit.

Horvath and Wilkerson were key players in the championship game but few others caught my eye:

EJ Anosike, 6-7, The Firm, 2017: He started out playing in Staten Island but is a rising senior at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic. As a junior, he was a 5, but in college he’s a 4. He is the normally the go-to man with a nice perimeter touch. He’s physical at both ends and grinds in the post to gain possession. He has great grades with Ivies and Patriot League program watching.

Izaiah Brockington, 6-4, K-Low Elite, 2017: The wing-guard has the size and the shot to make things happen at the offensive end. He’s athletic with active hands on defense, which leads to timely deflections. Definitely a Division I prospect with mid to low offers on the table but solid senior year at Archbishop Ryan (Philadelphia) in the Catholic League will yield more.

Kevin Holston, 6-1, Baltimore Elite, 2017: He played last season at Chevy Chase (Bethesda, Md.) averaging 12.4 points per game. He’s listed to prep for a year at Mount Zion Prep (Baltimore). He brings quick, darting moves and is slippery near the basket. Brings a consistent 3-point shot and turn-on-a-dime change of direction.

Jake Needleman, 5-10, Jersey Force, 2017: This guy is a coach’s dream and will excel at high-end academic school in Division III. He’s a point guard who will knock down the three with a quick release and commands the respect of his teammates. A team player, who is a rising senior at Rutgers Prep (Somerset, N.J.).

Anthony Ochefu, 6-8, K-Low Elite, 2017: OK, so his brother (Daniel) recently finished up at Villanova. There is a pedigree and Anthony is blossoming at the right time. He’s already fielding several offers but none from the high majors. He can create a mismatch down low. He has tremendous footwork and possesses an equally impressive work rate. Needs to turn up aggressiveness, though.

Baller With Brains

Each summer the most impressive players are the ones that eat, drink and live the game of basketball. Some say they are enraptured with the game but few have the DNA to back it.

Get this: Jordan “Coop” Gaitley combines that yearning to coach and Ivy League grades to boot.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. His mother, Stephanie Gaitley, is the wildly successful head women’s coach at Fordham. His father, Frank also coaches and older brothers Dutch (Monmouth, Temple) and DC (Fordham graduate) played in college, too!

Dutch is the video coordinator with the San Antonio Spurs and was on the bench with for the summer league.

At 6-4, Jordan Gaitley is a promising wing from the Class of 2017. He led Fordham Prep (Bronx, N.Y.) in all the main statistical categories last season as the Rams went 13-13 in the competitive New York Catholic League B Division while earning fourth team all-state honors. He mains a weighted 4.25 GPA (with a 1280 SAT) and has the likes of Division III schools Williams, Amherst and MIT courting him. He easily could play in the Ivies or Patriot.

“He gets his brains from Steph,” his father said.

However to measure up in the Gaitley household, only one statistic seems to matter: charges taken. According to his father, Jordan came in last season at three per game and that’s just one better per game than his brothers when they played.

Only a coaching family would value that selfless action which usually wins praise from a coach and admiration from teammates.

Simply put, Jordan Gaitley is a son of a coach (high IQ on and off the court) and a knockdown shooter from the deep perimeter. He’s played every position on the floor and runs the point for Prep. Yes, he defends his man well and won’t gamble thinking team first.

No surprise he’s all-in for a career in coaching.

The Golden Girls

The USA U18 Women are the FIBA Americas champion for the ninth time overall, using a superb defensive effort.

Late Sunday, the Americans outscored neighbors Canada 33-14 in the third quarter, en route to a 109-62 blowout-victory and a gold medal in Valdivia, Chile. USA forward Lauren Cox, who just graduated from Flower Mound High in Texas last month, had 15 points while earning tournament MVP.

The gold medal was the USA U18 women’s eighth-straight and the U.S. women are now 53-2 all-time in FIBA Americas U18 Championship play. In the bronze medal game, Brazil (3-2) topped Puerto Rico (2-3) 74-60. The top four teams, including the USA (5-0), Brazil, Canada (4-1) and Puerto Rico, earned a berth into the 2017 FIBA World Championships.

“We went over a lot of things (Canada) would run offensively and how we wanted to defend,” said USA head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, who heads up Pittsburgh. “I think when we got comfortable defending their sets, we tried playing more aggressive and taking away their first, second and third options allowing us to create our offense from our defense.”

The USA blew the game open in the third quarter, putting together two 5-0 runs followed by two 6-0 runs to pull away from Canada. While the U.S. offense put up 33 points overall, its defense allowed Canada just 14 points to lead 84-48 headed into the final 10 minutes.

As a team, the USA set women’s U18 competition records for most field goals attempted (403); most 3-pointers attempted (87); and most rebounds (296).

Next Up …

This is a busy week for both the boys and the girls. The boys are headed into the final live period starting on Wednesday afternoon, while the girls have a seven-day window tipping on Saturday (July 23-29).

Whereas most of the action is concentrated in Las Vegas, another city with high rollers, Atlantic City, is home to Live In AC, starting Wednesday for a three-day engagement at Stockton University’s Sports Center in nearby Galloway, N.J. The 17U will be played in Galloway; 16U at Ventnor Educational Complex; and 15U at Atlantic City High.

Without question this is the premier event this week on the East Coast during the third live period. Last summer, at least 100 colleges attended the event.

In Las Vegas, there are plenty of options. One that stands out is Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic featuring 1,101 teams and 2,710 games ion 57 courts, according to tournament director Hal Pastner. The tournament is headquartered at Green Valley High in Green Valley, Nev.

In Washington, D.C., the 29th USJN/Nike National Girls Championships start Friday at the Washington Convention Center. The 17U, 16U and 15U championships are first followed by the younger age groups next week on the 30 courts under one roof. The prestigious event is sold out with 350 teams and more than 800 college coaches expected to attend.