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Heron talks about Pitt ....... other Jam Fest notes

Written by Mike White on .

Mustapha Heron was in Pittsburgh this weekend for an AAU basketball tournament, but the question is will he be in Pittsburgh for good a few years from now?

Heron is a highly-rated sophomore guard from Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn. He already has made a verbal commitment to Pitt, but many are wondering what will happen with Heron now that Pitt assistant Barry Rohrssen has left to become an assistant at the University of Kentucky? Rohrssen recruited Heron.

Heron, a 6-foot-4 guard, was in Pittsburgh playing for New Heights in the Under Armour Hoopgroup Pittsburgh Jam Fest tournament. The event is run by Hoopgroup and Heron helped New Heights win the tournament championship in the 17-and-under division.

Before one of the games Heron played at North Hills High School, Heron was asked where things stand with Pitt.

"My commitment is still where it was. I'm still committed to Pittsburgh," Heron said. "Right now, I'm just working on building a stronger relationship with coach [Jamie] Dixon."

Pitt assistant Brian Regan was in the stands for all of Heron's games. This was the only live recruiting weekend of the spring and Dixon was at another event Friday and Saturday, but was at North Hills to watch Heron play Sunday.

Heron is ranked the No. 19 player in the country by Rivals.com. He is very strong for a high school sophomore guard. He has broad shoulders and is well-built. Although he is only a sophomore, he played for a New Heights team in the 17-and-under division, which includes mostly juniors.

Heron is a left-handed shooter who uses his strength and power to score. When I saw him play, he didn't shoot much from the outside. He uses his strength to get to the basket and score.

Heron plays the "2" guard for New Heights, but said "I'm working on transitioning to playing point guard, too."

When asked where he sees himself in the future, Heron said, "At the 1 or the 2."

New Heights is from New York and Heron will play for the team the rest of the spring and summer. Although he said he knows a number of the team's players he said, "I really don't practice with them much, just because of the distance. I'm about an hour and 45 minutes away."

Matty McConnellAbout McConnell and Harrell 

Chartiers Valley junior Matty McConnell (picture) and Hempfield junior Kason Harrell played in the Jamfest for Team Bounce, which was made up of players from the WPIAL and coached by Jeannette coach Adrian Batts. Team Bounce won their first two games and ended up 4-1 in the tournament. From talking with some coaches, McConnell and Harrell opened some eyes and some mid-major schools are interested in them.

Local team wins open division

The DeJuan Blair All Stars, a team made up of some of the top players in the WPIAL and City League, won the open division of the JamFest. The open division is made up mostly of seniors who might not have signed with a college or are hoping to maybe make one last shot impression on a college coach.

The Blair All Stars included Lincoln Park's Elijah Minnie, Obama's D.J. Porter and Seton-LaSalle's Dale Clancy. Minnie's future is still uncertain, but Robert Morris is recruiting him and he could end up at Robert Morris, especially if Minnie qualifies academically. Tennessee also has showed some interest in Minnie lately. Tennessee has a new staff now that Cuonzo Martin left to become California's coach and Tennessee is looking to get in late with some recruits.

Also, it is looking more and more like Obama's Porter will go to a prep school.

Of Rice, Hurley and others

A few things that caught my eye attention over the last few days at the Jam Fest and some notes and anecdotes:

* Seeing former NBA player and currently ESPN analyst Tim Legler squirming around to find where his game was being played. Legler coaches his son's AAU team. 

* Jay Bilas was in the North Hills house Saturday to watch his son play.

* Crew Ainge, the son of Danny Ainge, playing for Playaz. I could see some of Danny's same mannerisms in Crew. And Crew was coached by John Carroll, the former Duquesne University coach who also was the Boston Celtics interim coach at one time years ago. 

* Sharing some old Dapper Dan Roundball Classic stories with Bobby Hurley, who is now the coach at the University of Buffalo. In 1989, Hurley played for the U.S. East team, coached by his father, and the team ran circles around the U.S. West, led by Shaquille O'Neal. But O'Neal was MVP.

* Seeing Virginia coach Tony Bennett when he bumped into Chartiers Valley's Matty McConnell. T.J. McConnell, Matty's brother and the point guard for the University of Arizona, seriously considered Virginia when he decided to leave Duquesne two years ago. T.J. McConnell visited Virginia before deciding on Arizona.

Bennett recognized Matty. They exchanged pleasantries and Bennett said, "your brother did a great job. I thought we were maybe going to play him in the Final Four."Mike Rice

* Seeing Mike Rice hang signs, peel tape and do just about everything as the vice president of Hoopgroup. He was the director of Jamfest. Rice, the former Robert Morris and Rutgers coach, said he doesn't know if he will get back into coaching, but is currently enjoying his job with Hoopgroup and working out youngsters. Rice still lives in New Jersey and has a positive, upbeat attitude about things now and the future. And he showed he didn't think he was too big to hang signs, etc.

Rice also coached a team in the 16-and-under division of the Jamfest and was involved in a most interesting game. The game was played at Ross Elementary in the North Hills district. The game was in overtime and tied with 5 seconds left when the lights went out in the gym. The lights were on a timer to go off at 11 p.m. When it was 11, the lights went off.

After Rice made a phone call to North Hills personnel, a custodian was able to get the lights back on. Rice's team ended up losing by one point.

* I almost forgot how watching and listening to some AAU coaches is priceless.

* Lastly, I am reminded again how AAU basketball can be great for basketball - and also the worst for basketball. Playing AAU basketball for four-five months for some - not all - of these coaches can sometimes hurt a player's game more than help it.

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