Hoops Festival draws large pool of local talent

ESM's McDuffie part of Central boys' second-place effort

With help from East Syracuse-Minoa’s Jah-meer McDuffie, the Central boys basketball team finished second at the Aug. 1-3 Summer Hoops Festival in Johnson City, near Binghamton.

But the Central girls side, despite the presence of seven local basketball stars, four of them from 2014 state Class A finalist Jamesville-DeWitt, only managed a single victory in four tries.

When the Empire State Games faded into history (it was last held in 2010), basketball coaches did not want to leave a void in statewide summer competition.

Thus, the Summer Hoops Festival was born, and many of the top basketball players in the state, representing nine different regional teams, made their way to Johnson City to vie for bragging rights.

For that Central girls team, coached by Nottingham’s Randy Wright, four J-D stars – Maddy Frank, Meg Hair, Carly O’Hern and Alyssa Robens – made the squad, joined by Fayetteville-Manlius guard D’jhai Patterson-Ricks, CBA forward Julie Cuomo and East Syracuse-Minoa forward Sydni Eure.

But two other players who made the roster, Chayanna Canada (Nottingham) and Emilee Norris (Cicero-North Syracuse), sat out with injuries, and without that depth, Central struggled.

In the Summer Hoops Festival opener on Aug. 1, the Central girls fell to Hudson Valley 76-35. A day later, Central dropped a tight 71-67 decision to Nassau County (where Patterson-Hicks had 13 points) and lost to Rochester 53-49, despite Frank’s 13 points.

At least Central closed well, beating Southern Tier 61-44 on Aug. 3 as Robens contributed eight points and Central Square’s Schuyler Laux led the squad with 12 points.

Meanwhlie, McDuffie represented ESM on a Central region boys team which overcame a slow start and made it all the way to the championship round before seeing its dreams of a gold medal cut short.

Coached by Henninger’s Erik Saroney, the Central squad included McDuffie, plus standouts like Westhill’s Jordan Roland, newly committed to George Washington University.

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