Jackson Memorial senior forward/center Eric Carter, Point Beach senior forward Dom Uhl, Christian Brothers Academy senior guard/forward Louie Pillari and Point Beach senior guard Matt Farrell give the Shore Conference one of its best basketball recruiting classes in the last five years.
The aforementioned players have combined to garner a tremendous amount of Division I basketball attention and should be among the top players in the Shore Conference this season.
But besides that, they’ve raised the profile of the Jersey Shore as a place where colleges can find Division I men’s basketball talent.
Basketball talent evaluators like Jay Gomes, the publisher of NJHoops.com, agree.
“Four kids getting Division I basketball scholarships offers for the Shore Conference is definitely a good year for the Shore,” Gomes said. “These kids have people excited about basketball at the Shore this year.”
And the Hoop Group, which states its mission as “a comprehensive basketball company dedicated to fulfilling dreams of players, parents, and coaches by providing the best instruction, competition, and exposure,” will bring all four players and their respective teams to the company’s Jersey Shore event called the Boardwalk Hoop Group Showcase on Jan. 11 at Long Branch High School.
Carter’s Jackson Memorial team will challenge Uhl and Farrell’s Point Beach squad in the 5 p.m. game and Pillari’s CBA team will take on St. Anthony at 1:40 p.m.
“The Boardwalk Hoop Group showcase has been a precursor to the Shore Conference Tournament as it gives every Shore Conference school in it a good indication of where the team is at this season,” Gomes said. “It is a great day for basketball at the Shore.”
It all starts with collegiate men’s basketball coaches seeing players from the Shore, recognizing their talent and presenting these players with the chance to play Division I men’s college basketball.
During the heavy recruiting period over the summer, it was hard keeping up with all the offers of these seniors.
Carter with his size and athleticism in the post said he had 25 offers. Uhl and Farrell, who led the Garnet Gulls to the Group I state title last season, each said they had at least 20 offers. Pillari had more than a handful, as well.
Narrowing down the options to a reasonable final list was probably the hardest part for each player.
“I definitely looked for a good academic school and I wanted to have a good relationship with the coach and make sure the college team fits my style of play which is going up and down the court playing an up-tempo game,” Uhl said of his final list of Temple, Boston College and Iowa.
In the end, Uhl picked Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and the Haweyes program.
Carter’s final list also included three schools: Drexel, Towson and Delaware. He picked Delaware as his college destination and joins Blue Hens coach Monté Ross’ roster next winter.
“When I went on my official visit, I felt the most comfortable there at Delaware,” Carter said. “It wasn’t just about me being a basketball player with the way they were recruiting me. They were very respectful and understood that I was still a kid.”
Pillari, who grew five inches from his freshman year to now to become 6-foot-5, opened the eyes of college basketball coaches with his ability to play either shooting guard or small forward. Even with a smaller finalist list to pick from, it wasn’t an easy decision for Pillari, who picked Navy over Army, Pace and St. Thomas Aquinas College.
“You have to pick a school where you’ll feel the most comfortable. You can’t just pick a school because it is Division I,” Pillari said of his decision to go with Ed DeChellis’ Midshipmen program. “All men’s basketball college coaches are going to be nice to you on the phone and when they see you play in person. But then you get to campus freshman year and it could be a totally different scenario.”
Of the aforementioned players, Farrell is the only undecided after decommitting from Boston College this fall. He’s arguably the best point guard in the Shore Conference and one of the top five players in the Shore Conference
“I’m motivated to play hard this year, knowing it is my senior year and my last year of high school basketball,” said Farrell, who averaged 15.4 points, 6.7 assists, 4.2 steals and 3.0 rebounds per game last season. “There is no deadline on making a college decision. I’m going to play it by ear and when I feel I’m 100 percent sure, I’ll pick a school.”
Starts with AAU
Even though it is possible to garner Division I men’s basketball recognition from a player’s high school performance, all four players confirmed they were all noticed first via their performance on the AAU circuit, which got the overwhelming recruiting process rolling for each player.
Uhl played with the Jersey Shore Warriors, while Pillari has played with the New Jersey Cyclones, the New Jersey Shoreshots and the Central Jersey Devils. Carter played with Team Final and Farrell played with the Raritan Roundballers.
This summer, each player was extremely busy perfecting their game for the high school season.
“I have to give credit to Kevin Owens, my trainer,” Pillari said. “He’s been the biggest help in my personal game and all my coaches have helped me too. This past summer, I played in 32 games during AAU season.”
Farrell almost changed AAU teams this summer, but opted to stay with the team he had been with since his freshman year.
And when the interest in Farrell skyrocketed, he was glad he had a trusted support system around him.
“For any athlete, the recruiting process is definitely overwhelming,” Farrell said. “I had coaches calling me and sending me texts all the time. People were even calling my mom and dad trying to find out what I was doing. I was just glad I had a good relationship with my high school coach Nick Catania and with my family.”
For Jackson Memorial’s Carter, he’s glad the process is over for him. He committed on Sept. 27 and remembered when news got out of his decision.
“I committed that day at school around 1:30 p.m.,” Carter said. “By 1:38 p.m. I had 72 text messages, 10 missed phone calls and my phone froze because everyone was trying to reach me.”
For everyone but Farrell, the recruiting process is over. Now all four players can focus on performing at a high level for their high school teams this season.
Point Beach, Jackson Memorial and CBA all won on opening night, with each star player contributing to his team’s victory Friday.
Point Beach, which is the top-ranked team in the Asbury Park Press, defeated Keansburg 75-23 as Farrell and Uhl each scored 19 points. No. 2 Jackson Memorial defeated Brick Memorial, 49-40, as Carter had six points and No. 4 CBA defeated Manalapan, 71-53, as Pillari had a game-high 22 points.
On Saturday, Jackson Memorial defeated Brick 46-28 in the opening round of the 30th annual WOBM Christmas Classic as Carter had 11 points. On Sunday, West Orange defeated CBA, 46-45, in the Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic as Pillari got team MVP honors with 21 points.
While Lakewood is the defending Shore Conference Tournament champion, Point Beach, Jackson Memorial and CBA are top contenders for the SCT title this season and those schools will be exciting teams to watch.
Those schools are anchored by Division I men’s basketball scholarship players like Farrell, Uhl, Carter and Pillari.