Note: This story originally appeared at the Big East Basketball Report.
When thinking about the top programs on the AAU circuit, a team from Albany (NY) might slip your mind. However, make no mistake about it, year in and year out, the City Rocks program is competing as one of the top programs on the East Coast.
Carmen Maciariello, the club’s vice president, said the reason for the quick rise to prominence is the people within the program.
"We have good people working in the organization," Maciariello said. "We have a lot of guys giving back. With Jim Hart, we’re not like other AAU programs who just wheel and deal. We do things the right way."
The principals behind the City Rocks program currently include Hart, who has been a coach and president of the organization since 1993, and Maciariello. Maciariello worked as the Director of Basketball Operations at Siena College during the 2005-2006 season following a professional playing career in Italy. Maciariello played college basketball at the University of New Hampshire and with Siena after being one of the first City Rocks to receive a college scholarship.
"It started out as just a bunch of local kids practicing in a gym," Maciariello said. "On weekends, we would get in a van, and go play ball in New Jersey, Boston, New York City."
Now, with over 20 teams under the City Rocks banner, they are prepared to kick off another exciting travel season which includes one of the most competitive events every year, the Rumble in the Bronx, which is run by Jim Hart and the City Rocks team.
"Jim is a Fordham alum," Maciariello said when asked how it started. "It’s a great fundraiser for us, and it gives us a national reputation. We’re going to have teams from all over the country – Las Vegas, North Carolina, Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire…"
With an impressive list of current alumni (67 Division-I prospects have emerged from the program), including Big East performers such as Andy Rautins, Paul Harris, Dele Coker, Craig Forth, Lazar Hayward and current NBA player Andray Blatche, it is no wonder why City Rocks is successful year in and year out.
This year’s teams will look to build upon the tradition of excellence set forth by the previous teams. They are once again playing a nationally competitive schedule that will find them in such events as the Playaz Spring Fling, Rumble in the Bronx, Providence Jam Fest, Boston Shootout, Boo Williams Invitational, Gym Rat Challenge in Albany, Hoop Group Jam Fest in Pittsburgh and several GBOA events. Furthermore, the U-16 team will be playing at nationals.
Leading the way on this year’s U-17 team are Jin Soo Kim, Mike Goodman, Jordan Stevens and James Southerland.
Jin Soo Kim, a Maryland commitment, plays for South Kent Prep. He has a torm labrum in his shoulder, and has not even been available to play for Marciariello yet. He is a 6’8” forward who is very versatile and can score in a variety of ways. His length and hustle give him an advantage despite his relatively lanky frame.
Goodman, from CBA Syracuse, tore his ACL last summer, and therefore is garnering most of his interest based off of his production two years ago. Still, Marciariello is looking forward to getting Goodman back and fully recovered.
"We’re expecting a big summer from Mike," he said.
Stevens, a 6’5” wing from Saratoga Springs High School, is another player looking to create more of a buzz this upcoming summer. He has already been offered by Providence, Rhode Island, Western Kentucky, Fairfield, Albany and is getting looks from Saint Joseph’s and other schools.
"He’s getting a lot of mail right now," Marciariello said.
Southerland is an interesting prospect. He is committed to Syracuse, but it is unclear when he will be suiting up for the Orange. The 6’8” small forward from Notre Dame Prep might play one more year before going to college, but reports recently have him looking to play in the 2008-2009 season and he expects to be qualified to do so.
The U-16 squad is led by two players who occasionally also play up at the U-17 level. Taran Buie is one of the most coveted players in the high school class of 2010. Buie is finishing a state championship season with Albany’s Bishop Maginn High School, and is getting looks from schools across the country. Among those interested in Buie’s services are Big East schools Syracuse and Rutgers, as well as Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Xavier, Boston College and Fordham.
Will Regan is also a member of the U-16 squad whose name is already familiar with college recruiters. The 6’8, class of 2010 big man out of Buffalo (NY) attends the Nichols School. Regan is getting interest from Maryland, Georgetown and Fordham, among others.
Despite not getting as much attention as some of the other AAU programs around the country, Marciariello has lofty goals for the City Rocks.
“We want to try to win and be one of the best Nike teams in the country,” he said. “We want to get the kids and try to get them ready for the next level. We don’t just want them to win AAU games. We practice, we have team meals, we eat right and we set curfew. We also have scouting reports.
"We do things the right way, and we try to put the team and the kids in the best situations."
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