- National Teams
By Joe Hewison
Jelani Watson-Gayle looked right at home as he claimed MVP honours in the under-16 All-Star game at the inaugural Hoopsfix All-Star Classic – despite it being his first time playing at such a level.
The Newham Youngbloods guard led a second-half fight-back, which saw Team Black recover from a 39-32 half-time deficit to win 76-68.
Team Black outscored Team White 25-13 in the third quarter to swing the game their way after coach Alan Keane called for more intensity on the defensive end.
“The majority of players out there were England players and this was my first time playing against them so I thought it was a pretty good first time,” said Watson-Gayle, who finished with a team-high 14 points.
“We played defence that contributed to our offence and that was [the difference] really.
“Coach said to just keep the tempo up, because we had a sluggish start. I think some people were a little bit nervous.”
Angelico Biella’s Carl Wheatle scored the third-quarter bucket that gave Team Black their first lead since the opening minute and felt the way his team tightened up in all areas after the break contributed to their success.
He said: “It was a great experience to play with so many top level guys in the country, it was a great feeling and a great honour.
“We came back from 12 down, we had some good play in the fourth and we got some good highlights.
“Coach just said to keep it going, play a little bit more defence, keep composed and keep the ball moving. I think the difference was our execution, we took better shots, got better ball movement, the ball didn’t stick as much, and when that happens it is a lot easier to score.”
Sam Japhet Mathias was one of the standout performers for Team White, tallying a game-high 15 points and displaying some neat post moves, despite only taking up the sport a couple of years ago.
Japhet Mathias added: “They started slow but came strong at the end and we didn’t finish too well.
“It was a good experience to play against more players who are my height.”
Image Credit: Abdul Kassim Photography