Tyler Simpson | Lead Writer
Rifen Miguel, a native from Angola, a country in Southern Africa has only been stateside for over a year now, but has quickly drawn the attention of several top tier division one programs due to his size and innate ability to pass for a big man with his stature. Miguel takes great pride in his vision and passing ability as he labels it one of his strengths of his game.Miguel has been labeled as a space eater in the post who gets great positioning while there also. Miguel who currently plays for West Oaks Academy in Florida was recruited to come to America in 2014 when he was playing for the African National Team in the 16 and under championships. While he said the the play style between the two countries was different, the transition wasn’t that tough to overcome.
Miguel will be attending our event in Orlando ready to go up against all the talented big men and other competition. Miguel will definitely be someone to watch during the event as he has his eyes set on destroying the competition and separating himself from everyone else. How he handles himself against Vernon Carey, Jr., Kentrevious Jones,and several other talented big men will be something to keep an eye on. Rifen and I touched on a variety of topics recently.
How’s your season been going this year?
Very great. My season will be over in two weeks, we just have a couple of games left.
Do you guys have a good shot at making the state tournament?
Yes we do.
Awesome. I believe I read somewhere that you’ve only been stateside for a year now, can you just give me a little brief insight on where you’re from and how you ended up in the United States?
Yeah, of course. I am from Angola, I was recruited to play high school in America in 2014 when I was playing for my national team in the African under 16 championships.
So you’ve been playing basketball for a while now? I know a lot of kids who come over to the United States from different countries usually have only been playing since they’ve come over.
Yeah, I’ve been playing for a while.
What was the transition like coming over from Africa? Is the style of play in America different than Africa?
Yeah, it’s real different.
For people who have never seen you play, how would you describe yourself as a player?
I’m always aggressive in the paint and can score over anyone, I can also shoot 3’s.
Think I read somewhere that you’re a pretty good passer as well, do you enjoy getting your teammates involved?
Yeah, I like to play with vision.
That’s awesome and always a great trait to have. A big man with an exceptional passing ability from the post and all-around is great for any team. You play high school ball down in Florida, you guys definitely face a ton of competition, who’s the hardest player you have guarded or had to play against this year?
The hardest player I have had to guard this year was Bruno Fernando, he plays center for IMG.
Fernando is a big guy. Really good. IMG is really good as well. How’d you do against him?
Bruno is like my brother, he plays on my national team. I did pretty good against him.
At least you held your own, have you been hearing from any colleges yet?
James Madison, Chattanooga, FGCU, with interest from Louisville, Memphis, and Samford.
You graduate in 2019, right? So you have some time to pick up some more offers. Obviously the Louisville interest is big time, they’re a prestigious program. Have they talked to you at all, or mainly through your coaches?
Yeah, they talk to my AAU coach.
Is it just a timing thing before they offer?
Yeah, it is.
I hope you get that offer, that’s a highly regarded offer. You’re coming to our event in Orlando, are you excited about that?
Yeah, of course.
Lots of big names will be there, do you have any goals for the event?
I’m coming to kill every big man in the camp.
Love the tenacity and mentality that you’re going to bring. Do you play with that same mentality every game?
I can show you better than I can tell you.
I love that! Now you’ve got me excited to see what you bring in Orlando. What excites you the most about the event?
Being able to match up against other top players.
Awesome, who do you like to compare/model your game after?
Boogie. (Demarcus Cousins)
Boogie does have that killer mentality, not a bad one to model your game after. What’s one of your weaknesses that you’re really trying to improve before the AAU season?
Improving my body.
Trying to improve your conditioning?
Yeah, conditioning as well.
That’s a huge part to anything. Anything you’d like to tell our readers or attendees before our event in Orlando?
I don’t want to talk too much, I just want to wait for the day and ball.
I like it. Awesome, thanks for taking the time out of your day to talk to me! Can’t wait to watch you in Orlando!
Gotcha, boss. Thanks!
Tyler Simpson | Lead Writer
Angel Smith a Top Rank Showcase Orlando invitee and a 6’6” guard out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida is having a spectacular season for Cardinal Gibbons. Smith who is coming back from a concussion and back sprain is still playing at a high level while his team is competing for a spot in the state tournament come this week. Smith and the Cardinal Gibbons team are looking for some revenge against Dillard, who beat them in the district championship game last week. Dillard, the reigning state champions are one of the best teams in the state, as well as Cardinal Gibbons. Smith expects to have a different outcome than the last time they met and said it all falls on executing the game plan. Dillard, who has Florida State commit RaiQuan Gray, will be the main focus of who to stop for Smith and Cardinal Gibbons. Smith spoke in detail with me about how they plan to stop Dillard, contain Gray, his goals for the AAU season and the Orlando event, and even his all-time starting five!
Angel, how’s it going?
Everything’s going good, about to hit the gym in a few.
Great. How’s the season going for you? It’s district season, correct?
Yeah, we just lost by two yesterday in the district championship. It has been going good since I came back from an injury, had a great game last night.
Who’d you guys lose to? What type of injury are you coming back from?
Dillard, and a concussion and back sprain.
Tough injuries to come back from, Dillard must be a pretty good team then?
Yeah, they won states last year. We have another shot at them next week though.
Nice. Are they just a super strong team or do they have a player that really stands out?
One standout player, the rest are bigs and role players.
Who’s the player?
RaiQuan Gray, committed to Florida State.
Just saw that, so it’s normally a pretty good game against Dillard I’m assuming?
Yep, but they are always the favorite to win.
I can see why. When playing Dillard what’s your normal thoughts going into the game? How you can get the win and stop Gray? You said they have some bigs too, do you guys have anyone with size to combat that?
My thoughts are usually just to come in and dominate and stay in attack mode, be the leader on the court. Stopping Gray we just have to buy in with our defense and force him to put the ball on the floor. That’s our downside and upside, we are a smaller team and have no natural bigs, but we are quicker and faster than them so we try and push the ball every chance we get.
An up tempo team that likes to run in transition can do wonders. Hopefully you guys can get your revenge against them. What AAU team do you play for?
We will and Team Breakdown.
You run on the UAA, correct?
How do you like the UAA?
It’s good, the traveling, great experience, and the facilities we play in are great too.
I just looked at your guys’ roster from last season of the UAA, didn’t realize you played with Elijah Weaver, Tai Strickland, and Anfernee Simmons. How is it playing with those guys? Elijah and Tai will be at our Orlando event, that will be fun as well.
It’s great playing with those guys. They compete every game and in practice we are always pushing each other. This event should be fun!
Yes it should, I’m excited for it. Lots of talent coming in! What are your goals for the event?
I’m a competitor so really just to come in and compete at a high level, play hard, and have fun.
Always a good thing to do. Have you been hearing from any schools?
Yes, a few have been keeping in contact with me.
Tennessee, VMI, Georgia Southern, and Stetson. Some others keep in contact with my coach as well.
Awesome. Out of those schools who have contacted you, what has been their message to you before they offer you?
Keep doing what I’m doing, they are coming down to see me play.
Any upcoming trips planned or just waiting on that?
Just waiting on that.
Nothing wrong with that at all. If you could go to any school in the country, where would you go and why?
It’s between UCLA and Kentucky. They have put a lot of guys in the league in the last couple of years and I’m a big fan of Calipari. My goal is to go pro one day and I think going there would help out a lot.
Both great schools, especially with Cal’s track record of putting kids in the league. Do you have a favorite player to watch both NBA and College?
Yeah, Markelle Fultz and James Harden. My favorite player is Kevin Durant though.
Fultz is unbelievable, wish he wasn’t on Washington. Do you try to model your game after them as well?
Yeah, I watch a lot of film on Fultz. How he’s always in attack mode and can score at every level, also his creativity and passing.
He’s got a real good shot at going number one in the draft. There is some amazing freshman talent this year.
Yup, Malik Monk is a guy I like to watch too. The freshmen are really good this year.
Who’s your pick to win it all?
I still got faith in Kentucky but probably Kansas.
I like Duke to get to the Final Four.
What’s been the best words of advice you’ve received regarding basketball or anything in general?
To be successful in life it’s going to take a lot of sacrifices and hard work, and I always remember that my mom works hard for me so one day she won’t have to work anymore.
So awesome to hear. Last one, if you had to build an all-time starting five, who would it be?
Magic or Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Tim Duncan, and Shaq.
Always include AI! Pretty insane starting five right there! Thanks for your time Angel! Can’t wait to see you next month in Orlando!
No problem man, appreciate you taking the time to talk!
Tyler Simpson | Lead Writer
The state of Georgia produces great athletes of all sports, but is especially rich in basketball talent. With talent all across the state ranging from 2017-2019, it surely doesn’t disappoint in the talent category. Some of the best basketball players in the nation hail from the state of Georgia, with a player in 2019 who is flying under the radar and is extremely talented. TJ Bickerstaff, a 6’7” small forward from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, GA has caught the attention of some major division one programs, and continues to still work and get better. TJ, a future high major player, is only in the class of 2019 and has racked up several offers and interest from some of the top programs in the country. TJ, who plays for The Atlanta Xpress in the Under Armor Association will look to build a strong spring and summer to elevate his play to new heights. I was fortunate enough to catch up with TJ about a variety of topics.
How’s your season been going so far?
It’s been going good, getting better each game.
What’s your guys’ record for the season? How would you say you’re doing as an individual?
We are 19-6, as an individual I’m getting better each game, working in different areas on the court. Trying to perfect different crafts of my game.
Do you guys have a good shot at making the state tournament? Any potential matchups on the road there that will be tough?
Yes, we have a really good shot. The toughest game we will have will be against Cartersville.
Any specific players that they have that will make it tough or are they just an all-around good team?
They have one player who is nice but they are really just an all-around team.
Who’s the player?
Jaylon Pugh, I think he’s a senior.
2018 kid. You’re 2019, right? From Georgia as well?
Georgia’s got some nice teams and some great players in the state, who’s the toughest team you’ve had to play and player you’ve had to guard?
The toughest team we’ve played this year was Christ School in North Carolina. I can’t remember the toughest player I have had to guard though.
No worries, we’re going to transition with the topic a bit here, if you had to describe yourself as a player, how would you do so?
I would say very skilled all-around. I can handle and shoot the ball very well, and I make good plays on defense.
What’s one of your biggest weaknesses that you want to improve on before the AAU season?
Getting stronger. It’s not a big weakness but that is something I’ve been working on a lot.
What AAU team do you play for?
Atlanta Xpress for the UAA.
Awesome, they’re normally pretty good, if I can recall. Have you been hearing from any colleges yet? Have you been offered by any?
I have 7 offers and interest from NC State, UCONN, GT, UGA, and more.
With those schools that have interest, what’s sort of been their message to you before they offer?
They say that they want to get me early. They also say keep working, and they see me becoming a great player in the future.
Do you have any upcoming visits planned?
We haven’t planned any yet, we are really busy at this time.
You’ve got a couple more years to pile on offers as well. Is there a certain school that stands out to you this early?
Really, I like them all. My Grandpa told me that if you’re good, they will find you.
Always a good thing! All offers aside, if you had the choice to play at any school in the country, who would you choose and why?
Duke. With a coach like that you can learn so many different things about the game.
I’m a huge Duke fan so that’s awesome to hear. You’ll be at our event in Orlando next month, what are you looking forward to about our event?
Some competition, I want to test myself with some of the best kids in the country. I also want to get known on a national level.
Do you have any specific goals for the event?
To make the Top 20 game.
Always a good goal to have. Will this be your first showcase type event?
What others have you been to?
Super Sophomore, Hoopseen, John Lucas, OnTheRadar, and Big Shots.
How were all those camps?
They were good, a lot of competition.
I’m sure you just saw LaMelo Ball drop 92 the other night, any thoughts on that?
It was amazing, but I saw the video where he didn’t play defense. That’s still a hard number to get though!
Very true, kind of an odd system they run there in Chino Hills. Is there anything you’d like our readers or staff to know before our Orlando event, or what to watch from you? Is there a certain player you like to mold/compare your game after?
I just want you guys to look out for me that’s all. I model my game after Michael Porter.
Awesome! Any specific reason to why MPJ?
We play very similar, both have size and guard skills.
A lot of people have compared his game to KD, do you see the same attributes and style?
Kind of. MPJ uses more of a pull up game than slashing like KD.
I feel you, MPJ is incredibly skillful, not a bad guy to model your game after. Thanks for your time TJ! Extremely excited to see you next month in Orlando!
Thank you, can’t wait!