‘Jersey Takes Power’: NJ Hoopers Overshadows New York Shadow

Elliot Cadeau was born in Brooklyn, but has no record of living in the area. When he was 3 months old, his parents collected their belongings, tied him to his car seat and moved to New Jersey.

Growing up in West Orange, Cadeau grew up a Jets fan. His mother, who is from Sweden, and his father, who is from Haiti, had a hard time understanding the popularity of paid football in the United States, but they became obsessed with their son’s passion – for sure. He was allowed to paint his room in green and white Jets, but he was not allowed to play the game. His mother thought it would be very dangerous. Instead, he suggested that his 7-year-old son try a basketball team.

Ten years later, Cadeau is a star at Bergen Catholic High School and the 10 best employee in the class of 2024. And he is part of a group of elite New Jersey high school basketball players who may be among the players the best of the best in the province. has ever produced.

In addition to Cadeau – the 7th player in the country, according to the 247 Sports website recruiting standards – the second class includes: No. 1 Naasir Cunningham (Overtime Elite), No. 33 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco Prep) and No. 42 Tahaad Pettiford (Hudson Catholic). With youngsters remaining one year ahead of Cadeau & Co. include: No. 1 Dajuan Wagner Jr., who studies with DJ (Camden High School), No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard’s), No. 12 Simeon Wilcher (Catholic Roselle), No. 20 Aaron Bradshaw (Camden) and No. 48 Akil Watson (Roselle Catholic).

“It’s been a great time to grow up playing basketball in New Jersey,” Cadeau said. “The competition and friendship between the elite players here is different from anywhere else. I don’t feel like there is another state at the moment that can compete with New Jersey in terms of basketball talent.”

Although New Jersey was home to some of the game’s all-time champions – including Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Barry – it has historically been difficult to escape the shadow of New York basketball. In the 76 years of the NBA, 419 players have come from New York, compared to just 146 from New Jersey, according to Basketball Reference. And on the list for the 2021-22 season, the difference was just as strong: There were 33 New Yorkers compared to only 12 New Jerseyites. But in the 2023 and 2024 classes, New Jersey has 10 best-50 employers compared to just two from New York.

“I do not want to disrespect anyone,” said Billy Armstrong, who graduated from Bergen Catholic in 1994 and now teaches Cadeau. “But when I played here, the talent was not at the current level, that’s for sure. This is my 11th year as a university coach, and I can say that in the last four or five years, talent has emerged. There is pride here when New Jersey is in talks as the best state of basketball in the country.

Armstrong also played joint basketball in Davidson and professionally abroad. He cited the toughness and difficulty required to live in the metropolitan areas of the northeast as a reason for the emergence of more talent in his province. He also thinks there is a dramatic effect on play. Players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving have given children growing up in Garden State some of the New Jersey-born stars to impress. And these young players have competed for years, enhancing each other’s games and helping them gain recognition by recruiting services and university coaches.

Since the first 247 positions were released a year and a half ago, DJ Wagner has been considered the No. 1 player in Class 2023. The son of former NBA player Dajuan Wagner, DJ is a highly skilled combo defender. His game, and the focus on recruiting, has given his teammates a foot up. Bradshaw, who plays for Wagner in Camden and on their Amateur Athletic Union team, New Jersey Scholars, started as a 3-star registrar.

“These kids have been playing with and against each other for a long time,” Scholar Coach Jason Harrigan said. “And when you get a special kid in the classroom – a kid like a DJ – his competition affects everyone. He helps raise the level of play for the whole class, and they help him raise his game, too.

The level of talent, as well as the recent loosening of restrictions on rules that allow college and high school athletes to receive funding, has resulted in unique opportunities for many athletes in the state. Cadeau, who holds dual citizenship and plays for the Swedish national team, is represented by Roc Nation and already has a five-person approval through the so-called contract name, photo and model, or NIL And Cunningham, player number 1. in 2024 , was recently signed by Extraordinary Scholars, a professional development program in Atlanta. He became the first player to sign with the program without taking a salary, preserving his collective eligibility.

“Growing up in New Jersey, every child dreams of making a profit,” Cunningham said. “When I was younger, I didn’t even know what university basketball was. I was just thinking about the NBA, NBA, NBA. But as I got older, I started thinking more about going to university. With OTE, I get professional training and education, and I get to choose. more, I can still make money with NIL “

New Jersey coaches, of course, prefer players to stay close to home. And they say that NIL is helping to persuade players to stay in their high school for all four years.

“These players are proud of New Jersey,” said Dave Boff, who coaches Wilcher and Watson at Roselle Catholic. “Fans expect to have a player who will climb the ladder from his first player to his major seasons. And the players get to take advantage of the opportunities that their talents give them while they can still lie in bed.

When talking to university coaches about what makes this New Jersey basketball potential so desirable, Boff often hears one topic: toughness.

“College coaches see that the people of New Jersey are confident, have swagger, and are not afraid of physical basketball,” Boff said. “When we travel to national games, our players are often surprised by foul calls. In New Jersey, references allowed our people to fight a bit, and our people welcome that. They know they are improving each of them.”

For Cunningham, leaving home was not an easy decision, but he hopes to simplify a bit by recruiting other players from New Jersey to join him in Atlanta. After all, each of these players hopes to jump to the next big stage – be it university basketball or OTE or the NBA – sooner or later.

“The jersey is taking its place,” Cunningham said. “Everywhere you look in New Jersey, there is a world-class basketball player. And soon, we will be all over the country. For us, it is about showing what our situation is all about and making sure it promotes success in the future. Not pressure. It’s an incentive. ”

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