“Jersey takes over”: NJ Hoopers crosses the shadow of New York

Elliot Cadeau was born in Brooklyn, but has no memories of living in the neighborhood. When he was 3 months old, his parents packed up, secured him in a car seat, and went to New Jersey.

Growing up in West Orange, Cadeau became a fan of Jets. His mother, who is from Sweden, and his father, who is from Haiti, had a hard time understanding the popularity of American professional football, but they satisfied their son’s obsession – to the point. He was allowed to paint his room in Jets green and white, but was not allowed to play the sport. His mother thought it would be too dangerous. Instead, he advised his 7-year-old son to try out the basketball team.

Ten years later, the Cadeau star received the top 10 in the Catholic High School in Bergen and in the 2024 class. He is part of the elite group of basketball players in New Jersey High School, who may be among the best talent in the state. has never produced. He will move to the Link Academy in Missouri for the 2022-23 season.

In addition to Cadeau, the nation’s 7th player in the 247 Sports leaderboard on the recruitment website, they are in second class: No. 1 Naasir Cunningham (overtime elite), No. 33 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco Prep). ) and No. 42 Tahaad Pettiford (Hudson Catholic). And the juniors ahead of Cadeau & Co. a year include: No. 1 Dajuan Wagner Jr., who does DJ (Camden High School), No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard’s), No. 12 Simeon Wilcher (Roselle) Catholic), 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 is different here, and I don’t think there is another state that can compete with New Jersey in terms of basketball talent.

Although New Jersey was home to some of the game’s all-time greats, including Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Barry, it has historically been difficult to get out of the New York basketball shade. According to the Basketball Reference, the NBA has received 419 players from New York in 76 years and only 146 from New Jersey. and in the 2024 classes, New Jersey has the top 10 employees, compared to just two in New York.

“I don’t want to respect anyone,” said Billy Armstrong, who graduated from the Catholic Church in Bergen in 1994 and now teaches Cadeau. “But when I played here, the talent was far from current, that’s for sure. It’s my 11th year as a university coach and I can say that talent has really risen in the last four to five years. Here’s the pride of New Jersey in the conversation as the best basketball nation in the country.

Armstrong also played college basketball in Davidson and professionally abroad. He pointed to the perseverance and tenacity needed to live in the larger metropolitan areas of the north-east because so many talents have emerged in his home state. He also thinks the game is gaining momentum. Players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving have given New Jersey-born children in Garden State stars to look at. And these young players have been competing with each other for years, reinforcing each other’s games and helping them stand out through recruitment services and college coaches.

Since the publication of the first 247 rankings a year and a half ago, DJ Wagner has been ranked No. 1 in 2023. DJ, the son of former NBA player Dajuan Wagner, is a highly qualified combo defender. His play and attention to recruitment has set his teammates on their feet. Bradshaw, who plays with Wagner in Camden and their New Jersey Scholars amateur sports association, started as a 3-star recruiter. It is now a 5-star, offering deals from blue chip programs such as Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA

“These kids have been playing with each other and against each other for a long time,” said Scholars coach Jason Harrigan. “And when you have a really special child in your class – a child like a DJ – everyone’s competitiveness affects everyone. He helps to raise the playing level of the whole class and they also help him to improve his game.

Talent levels, coupled with the easing of recent rules that allow college and high school athletes to earn sponsorship money, have provided unique opportunities for many players in the state. Cadeau, who has dual citizenship and plays for Sweden, is represented by Roc Nation and already has five-figure support through the NIL And Cunningham, No. 1 player. In 2024, Overtime Elite recently signed a prestigious professional development program in Atlanta. He became the first player to sign a program without a salary, thus maintaining his collegial qualifications.

“Growing up in New Jersey, every child dreams of reaching out to professionals,” Cunningham said. “When I was little, I didn’t even know what college basketball was. I was just thinking about the NBA, the NBA, the NBA, but as I got older, I started thinking more about going to college. With OTE, I get professional training and education, and I can leave In addition, I can still make money with NIL. “

Of course, New Jersey coaches prefer players to stay close to home. And they say the NIL will help them convince players to stay in their high school all four years.

“These players are proud of New Jersey,” said Dave Boff, who directs Roselle Catholicus Wilcher and Watson. “Fans are waiting for the player to rise from their freshmen to the high season. And players can take advantage of the opportunities their talent offers while they can sleep in their bed.

As he talks to college coaches about what makes this New Jersey basketball prospect so coveted, Boff constantly hears one topic: toughness.

“College coaches see that New Jersey boys are confident, lush and not afraid of physical basketball,” Boff said. “When we go to the races, our players are always surprised by the mistakes. In New Jersey, the referees let our boys hit each other a little and our boys greet it. They know they’re making each other better.

For Cunningham, leaving home was not an easy decision, but he hopes to make it a little easier by recruiting some other players from New Jersey to Atlanta. After all, each of these players sooner or later hopes to jump to a bigger stage – be it college basketball or the OTE or NBA.

“Jersey is taking power,” Cunningham said. “There’s a high-level basketball player everywhere in New Jersey. And soon we’ll be all over the country. It’s up to us to show what our country is and ensure that it continues to succeed in the future. It’s not pressure. It’s motivation.”

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