“Jersey is taking over”: NJ Hoopers transcends New York’s shadow

Elliot Cadeau was born in Brooklyn, but has no recollection of living in that neighborhood. When she was 3 months old, her parents collected their belongings, tied her up in a car seat and moved to New Jersey.

Growing up in West Orange, he became a fan of Cadeau Jets. His mother, who is Swedish, and his father, who is Haitian, found it difficult to understand the reputation of American professional football, but they satisfied their son’s obsession to a point. He was allowed to paint Jetsen’s room green and white, but was not allowed to play sports. My mother thought it would be too dangerous. Instead, she suggested she try her 7-year-old son on a basketball team.

Ten years later, Cadeau Bergen is a star of Catholic High School and is among the top 10 in the 2024 class. And he’s part of an elite team of New Jersey high school basketball players who may be among the best talent contingents in the state. never produced.

In addition to the chain – No. 7 players from the country, according to the composite classification of the 247 Sports recruitment website – the secondary class has the following: No. 1 Naasir Cunningham (Overtime Elite), no. 33 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco Prep) and No. 42 Tahaad Pettiford (Catholic Hudson). And the juniors a year before Cadeau & Co. including: No. 1 Dajuan Wagner Jr., DJ (Camden High School), No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako (Gill San Bernardo), No. 12 Simeon Wilcher (Catholic Roselle), no. 20 Aaron Bradshaw (Camden) and No. 48 Achilles Watson (Catholic Roselle).

“It’s been a good time to grow up playing basketball in New Jersey,” Cadeau said. “The competition and friendship between the elite players here is like no other. I don’t feel like there’s any other state in New Jersey that can compete with basketball talent. “

Although New Jersey has been home to some of the greatest games of all time, including Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Barry, it has historically struggled to escape the shadow of New York basketball. In 76 years in the NBA, there have been 419 players from New York, and only 146 from New Jersey, according to the Basketball Reference. And in the 2021-22 season lists, the difference was just as noticeable: there were 33 New Yorkers, 12 compared to New Jersey. But in the 2023 and 2024 classes, New Jersey has 10 50 hires compared to two in New York.

“I don’t want to respect anyone,” said Billy Armstrong, who graduated from Bergen Catholic in 1994 and is now a Cadeau coach. “But when I played here, the talent wasn’t nearly at the level it is now, that’s for sure. It’s my 11th year as a college coach, and I can say that he’s really taken on talent over the last four or five years. That pride is here when New Jersey is the best basketball state in the country and is in the conversation. “

Armstrong also played professional basketball at Davidson and abroad. He expressed the firmness and toughness he needs to live in the major metropolises of the Northeast as part of the reason why he has created so much talent in his hometown. He also believes that there is a boost effect in the game. Players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving have been given a look at some New Jersey-born stars to children growing up in Garden State. And these young players have been competing against each other for years, strengthening and helping each other play games, hiring services and college coaches.

Since the release of the first 247 chart a year and a half ago, DJ Wagner no. 2023 Level 1 Player Dajuan Wagner, the son of a former NBA player, is a highly skilled combination guard DJ. His games, and his focus on recruiting, has turned his leg on his teammates. Bradshaw, who plays for Wagner at Camden and his Amateur Athletic Union team, started with the New Jersey Scholars as a 3-star recruit. It is now a 5-star company offering blue chip programs such as Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA

“These kids have been playing for a long time and against each other,” Scholars coach Jason Harrigan said. “And when you pick up a really special child in a class – a kid like a DJ – it rubs off on everyone’s competitiveness. It helps raise the level of play in the whole class, and it also helps lift their game.”

The level of talent, along with the recent relaxation of rules that allow college and high school athletes to earn protection money, has brought unique opportunities for many players in the state. Cadeau, who has dual citizenship and plays for the Swedish national team, is represented by Roc Nation and already has a five-digit endorsement through what is known as a name, image and similar agreement, or NIL And Cunningham, No. 1 Player In 2024, he recently signed with Overtime Elite, a prestigious Atlanta professional development program. He was the first player to sign up for the unpaid program, maintaining his college eligibility.

“Growing up in New Jersey, all kids dream of becoming professionals,” Cunningham said. “When I was little, I didn’t even know what college basketball was. NBA, NBA, NBA I was thinking But as I got older, I started thinking more about going to college. With OTE, I receive professional training and education, and I keep my opportunities open. Besides, I can still make money with NIL. “

New Jersey coaches prefer players close to home. And they say NIL is helping to convince players to stay in high school for four years.

“These players are proud of New Jersey,” said Dave Boff, Wilcher and Watson coach Roselle Catholic. “Fans expect him to be a player who rises from first grade to senior season. And the players take advantage of the opportunities that their talents offer so that they can still sleep in their beds. ”

When he talks to college coaches about what makes New Jersey’s basketball options so prized, Boff constantly hears one topic: toughness.

“College coaches see New Jersey boys as confident, proud, and not afraid of physical basketball,” Boff said. “When we travel to national games, our players are always amazed by the calls of dirt. In New Jersey, the judges let our boys beat for a while, and our boys welcomed him. They know they’re getting better at each other. ‘

For Cunningham, leaving home has not been an easy decision, but he hopes to make it a little easier by hiring other New Jersey players to join Atlanta. After all, each of these players is expected to jump to a bigger stage – be it college basketball or OTE or NBA – sooner or later.

“Jersey is taking over,” Cunningham said. “Everywhere you look in New Jersey, there’s a high-level basketball player. And soon we will be all over the country. For us, it’s about showing what our situation is all about and making sure it continues to be successful in the future. There is no pressure. It’s motivation. “

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