Newark East Side guard Akbar Hoffman signs with Hutchinson Community College

One of the key pieces of last season's Newark East Side squad that made it to the Tournament of Champions final has found his college home. First Team All-State guard Akbar Hoffman, who led the Essex County Tournament champions with 15.8 points per game last season, has signed to play for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
"We've preached to all our kids to go and think beyond East Side and try to do something positive with their lives," Newark East Side co-head coach Anthony Tavares said. "So him going to junior college in Kansas, he was comfortable when he visited over there. Hopefully he can take advantage of going there and continue his education."
Hoffman was an electric scorer for Newark East Side, going off for a career-high 31 points on 12-of-15 shooting, including making six of seven 3-pointers to lead the Ironbound squad to a second straight Group 3 championship, 83-56, over Ewing. He then had a team-high 13 points in the Tournament of Champions semifinals to down defending  champion Roselle Catholic.
There is no question that Hoffman has the ability to join teammates Abdul Lewis (South Alabama) and Ismael Sanogo (Seton Hall) at the Division 1 level. He is garnering interest from several Big East and Atlantic 10 programs, and Huchinson has a history of sending players to elite programs. Hoffman academics will have to improve to make the next step, and Tavares is confident he can replicate the success he had both on and off the court as a senior.
"He had a workman-like approach his senior year," Tavares said. "If he does as well in the classroom and on the court as he did his senior year, the sky is the limit for Akbar."



Abdul Lewis

Freshman Abdul Lewis is the second New Jersey native to join the team in the last two years, and at 6-foot-9, he's the tallest member of the 2014-15 roster. A two-time state champion, Lewis didn't take up the game until eighth grade. He spoke with USAJaguars.com about why he chose South Alabama and the biggest adjustment to living in Mobile.

When did you start playing basketball?
In eighth grade, I grew six inches. I was always playing football but people started telling me to play basketball because I got taller. I thought it was a good idea since I was taller than everybody.

Take me through your journey to get to South Alabama.
I went to high school at Newark East Side, a public school in New Jersey. I didn't make varsity my freshman year; I didn't make it until my sophomore year but I won two state championships. I got hurt my last AAU season so a lot of coaches didn't see me, but my AAU coach knew Coach (Dan) Matic and Coach (Matthew) Graves, so he talked to them and they came and watched me, and liked what they saw.

Why did you choose South Alabama?
When I came on my official visit, I liked the relationship between the players and the coaches; I thought that was really good. I wanted to have a team that was like my high school team, that was a real family, and this seemed like a real family.

What did you know about South Alabama or Mobile before you were recruited?
Not too much. My AAU teammate, Aakim Saintil, came here last year, so I knew about the school from him, but that was about it.

How has the adjustment been coming from the North to the South?
It's been a big adjustment; the weather is probably the biggest thing. It's really hot down here. But everybody is friendlier, in the town itself; everybody you saw walking around will speak to you. It's way better, I would say. Newark is a bigger city—there are more people—but I like it here.

Had you ever spent any length of time in the South prior to coming here?
My aunt lives in Atlanta, Ga. I used to spend summers there.

What will be your biggest adjustment to the college game?
The speed of the game and the strength and athleticism of everybody else, and the length of the other players too, because there weren't a lot of people my height in high school. When I first played with the team this summer, I noticed that everybody had a good basketball IQ; it's not like that in high school. Everybody here understands the game well. Everybody's athletic and strong; it's more advanced.

How would you describe your playing style?
I would consider myself a stretch-4. I can defend bigger post players and taller wing players.

What do you consider to be the strongest part of your game?
My ability to fight; I won't back down from a challenge, I don't care who it is.

What do you try to accomplish during the offseason workouts?
Making sure I get through all of them and don't quit, and get stronger.

What do you enjoy the most of the game of basketball?
The fact that it takes everything away. You don't think about anything else when you're playing, you just think about basketball.

Who has been the biggest influence on your basketball life?
My mom and my high school and AAU coaches. My high school coaches played a big part because they are kind of like father figures to me. They helped me a lot; they never let me quit and pushed me. My AAU coaches did the same thing. They did everything for me and pushed me as hard as they could.

What do you expect of yourself this season?
To play hard defense, get a lot of rebounds and do whatever I can to help the team.

What coach recruited you and what was your relationship like during that process?
Coach Graves and Coach Matic saw me at the same time, but I talked to Coach Matic the most. He's from up north so that clicked for us. He was a big help for me in the recruiting process.

What professional player do you try to model your game after?
I try to watch everybody, I don't key in on one player. Whenever I see something that I think I can do, I try to do it.

Quick hits:
Favorite NBA team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Favorite college team growing up: I didn't really have one
Favorite sport other than basketball: Pro football and soccer
Favorite musical artist: Drake, Lil Durk and I listen to Justin Bieber
Favorite class: any math class
Favorite movie: "Coach Carter"


East Side Captures ECT Crown Behind Hoffman's Hot Shooting

By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

NEWARK- Akbar Hoffman was certainly spending time along with extra energy in the gym thinking about just how important Saturday’s Essex County Tournament final actually was for his East Side Red Raiders.
“I took my time leaving the gym on Friday and actually put up a couple of more shots than usual,” said the sharpshooting 6-foot-2 senior guard. “I knew how big this game was, and I wanted to make sure I felt real good about my shot before heading home and resting up for the championship game.”
Whether it’s a matter of now being fully recovered from a recent bout with pneumonia, or simply that he has his accustomed shooting touch firmly at hand, Hoffman was the igniter for top-seeded East Side (20-1) as he scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the first quarter to spearhead a 23-6 burst out of the gates as the Red Raiders rolled to a 60-42 win over second-seeded Seton Hall Prep in the title tilt of the 68th ECT before a good-size crowd at Essex County College.
The title is East Side’s third – all of which have come against SHP – while the Pirates finally relinquished the countywide hoops crown after winning the title the past three seasons, including 58-47 over East Side last year.
On an afternoon where the state’s No. 1 ranked team was finally back to full strength with 6-7 senior forward Ismael Sanogo (11 points, 7 rebounds, a block and 2 steals) returning to the lineup after a 2-week absence due to a separated shoulder, it was Hoffman who got the momentum clearly in the Red Raiders’ favor right from the start as he sank four of his five 3-pointers in the game’s opening stanza.
“Akbar is the top player in the county and one of the best in the state,” said East Side co-head coach Anthony Tavares. “He got us going right away with his hot hand and everyone chipped in to help us build a nice early lead.”
SHP (18-4) made a valiant attempt to get back into the game with a 15-9 edge in the third quarter, behind the strong play of forwards Joe Sherwood and Kelly Hogan, who combined for all the Pirate points in the quarter; however, it was not nearly enough as the Red Raiders always maintained a double-digit lead.
The Pirates trailed, 47-35, on three free throws by sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs (14 points) with 6:28 remaining, but a Sanogo basket and then another 3-pointer from Hoffman sealed the deal as East Side re-extended its lead to 52-35 with 3:58 left.
“Getting out to a quick start was huge for us,” said Hoffman. “We knew we wanted to take an early lead. This is such a big game for us against a quality team that has had a lot of success in this tournament, including beating us in the final last year, and we really wanted this championship, that’s for sure!”
One player who has banged heads with both Sanogo and 6-8 Abdul Lewis in practices every day is East Side’s unsung 6-7 junior Taj Price, who contributed 8 points and 5 rebounds in a strong supporting role on Saturday, and was glad to see the front line strengthened again with Sanogo’s return.
“Having ‘Ish’ back is tremendous and just makes us so much stronger for this season’s stretch run,” said Price. “I face Abdul and Ish every day in practice and just going up against them helps build my confidence because they make me a better player.
“Seeing both Abdul and Ish out there on the court again today was terrific for our team and we’re just that much deeper a team moving forward.”
Sanogo did not start Saturday, but he entered the contest with 5:10 left in the first quarter and made his impact with strong work inside.
He had gone down hard on the floor injuring his shoulder in the first quarter against The Montclair Kimberley Academy in the ECT quarterfinals on Feb. 8 and it was first feared that he could be lost for an extensive period of time.
However, his quick recovery has been a combination of diligent rehab and good fortune that the injury was not as serious as was first thought.
“We had him do nothing for a week and then do rehab this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Tavares. “Then, he saw the doctor Thursday who was impressed by Ish’s range of motion and he medically cleared him.
“If you tell a 17-year-old kid that he can play with his teammates he’s going to want to come right back. But, we had him first practice Thursday and Friday and he said he felt good.
“He was a great lift today and everyone rallied around him and Akbar, who has made a full recovery of his own from a bad bout with pneumonia, which can really throw someone for a loop.
“As a team we used so much energy to get out to a big lead and we probably ran out of gas a bit in the second half, but give Seton Hall Prep credit for battling back.
“They are a great program and coach (Kevin) Williams is a class act. I’m just proud of our kids for playing with a lot of heart and effort and we beat a very good team by 18 which is pretty impressive.”
GAME NOTES- SHP was led by Gibbs and Sherwood with 14 points apiece. Sherwood had a strong game off the boards as well with 8 rebounds. Hogan, a 6-7 junior forward, chipped in with 12 points and 6 boards…On hand doing the FIOS TV broadcast as color commentator was former Hudson Catholic and University of North Carolina standout Mike O’Koren…SHP Headmaster Monsignor Michael Kelly reported when asked that he is making terrific progress from both hip and knee replacements in recent months…East Side also defeated SHP in the ECT finals in both 2002 and 2003 when the Red Raiders were led by current NBA standout Randy Foye, who played collegiately at Villanova…East Side junior guard Ahmad Harrison contributed 7 points and 6 assists as one of the strong Red Raider guards. The South Alabama-bound Lewis had 6 points and 9 rebounds.

Guards Pave Way For East Side With Eyes Set On The ECT Title

By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

The anticipated return of 6-7 center Ismael Sonogo when the rehabilitation of his injured shoulder is completed before the start of the NJSIAA state tournament will be huge for Newark East Side’s No. 1 ranked boys basketball team, one which could still be the team to beat right up until the end of the season with the Tournament of Champions in late March.
And, while the versatile Seton Hall-University-bound Sanogo and athletic 6-8 Abdul Lewis (South Alabama) are an outstanding inside tandem, and the capable fill-in Taj Price, a 6-7 junior is also a valuable cog - as all three Red Raider forwards are long, effective off the boards and can alter opponent’s shots - what is just as evident is the fact that the team’s backcourt, paced by last season’s Sideline Chatter Essex County Player of the Year runner-up Akbar Hoffman, is still the pulse that dictates the rhythm on both ends of the court for this very talented team.
It’s a very likeable and unselfish group, and one which has found its ‘A’ game once again with a pair of impressive victories over the weekend, dominating Newark Tech, 54-42, in the Essex County Tournament semifinals on Saturday night in West Orange, and then edging Hudson Catholic, 52-48, in overtime on Sunday in the Metro Classic at Kean, showing its resiliency with a fourth-quarter comeback and then completing the mission in the extra session, boosted by five free throws from Hoffman (21 points) in OT.
For the most part in high school basketball – just as it is in college hoops – guards set the tone, and with Hoffman returning this past week after a bout with pneumonia which sidelined him for the Red Raiders’ lone loss of the season, a 59-57 setback at Seton Hall Prep on Feb. 6, and the hard-fought ECT quarterfinal win over The Montclair Kimberley Academy on Feb. 8, the rotation of backcourt performers is impressive indeed.
Plus, valuable sixth-man Jibreel Ahmad, a supreme defender and adept passer (he had five assists vs. Newark Tech in Saturday night’s ECT victory) has also returned from a sprained ankle that kept him out for those two aforementioned games.
Hoffman, who appears to have fully regained his strength, and fellow 6-2 senior Jamar Gilbert, who has blossomed into a superb player this season, are both capable scorers and distributors, as are Ahmad and 6-2 junior Ahmad Harrison.
The fact that East Side (18-1) can throw four guards of that high quality out on the floor, either at one time – as was the case during effective sequences against Newark Tech Saturday night – or as different combinations with Lewis and either Price or – eventually, again, Sanogo – makes this team extra special, and one which can still win both an ECT title and a Group 3 state crown.
There were initial reservations, including from this reporter who thought Sanogo’s injury could hinder the team’s title chances; however, as was evident in one 24-hour period when the Red Raiders went out and won back-to-back games against Newark Tech and Hudson Catholic, this team is definitely for real.
And, as Bloomfield coach Pat Brunner said recently, “Every player on the East Side team got better,” and that is as full evident in players such as Lewis and Gilbert as any since both those veteran performers have become top tier Essex County players along with Hoffman and Sanogo.
“I just love going out there on the court every day with this team,” said Lewis after his 14-point effort vs. Newark Tech Saturday night as he dominated inside and held the Terriers’ 6-6 Tyree Sykes in check. “Although we lost Ismael for a while here, having Akbar back with his ability to get the job done on the offense end at any time, and Jabreel’s energy on defense, we feel we’re in very good shape heading down the stretch, and hopefully Ismael will be back for the states.”
Lewis runs the floor and rules the glass at both ends as well as any ‘big’ in New Jersey, and his ascension as a bona fide insider performer who can also pass and shoot the medium range jumper has made him a very nice pickup for South Alabama.
“I’ve just kept working at my game as hard as I can, and we all simply had a great summer and fall together,” he said. “All that work is starting to pay off now, and we’re all clicking together out there, which is great to be a part of.
“Having all the talented guards we have just helps put us over the top, I think, in being the complete team that can get the job done at both ends of the court on a continual basis.
“This is fun, and we’re focused now on winning an Essex County Tournament. I haven’t won since I’ve been here, we lost to Seton Hall in last year’s final, and we haven’t won the championship in a long time (back-to-back crowns in 2002 and 2003).
Top-seeded East Side will take on second-seeded SHP, 1 p.m., this Saturday (Feb. 22) in the 2014 ECT title tilt, at Essex County College in Newark. The Pirates defeated the Red Raiders, 58-47, in last year's final.
“We’re strong now, and I think we’ll even be stronger in March," said Lewis. "But, first up for us along with trying to clinch our division crown (Super Essex Conference-American) is to win the county title!”


Newark East Side wins city Holiday Tournament

Along with its own hefty expectations for the new basketball season, Newark East bears a sizable target upon its back as a reigning state champion.
Thus far, the Red Raiders don't look weighed down in the least by all that excess baggage.
Sparked by the smooth, heady floor leadership of junior point guard Ahmad Harrison and the early scoring of its talented seniors, top-seeded East Side rolled to a 20-point lead in the first quarter on its way to a 72-56 win over second-seeded University for the Newark Public Schools Holiday Tournament championship Monday afternoon at Essex County College in Newark.
Abdul Lewis dropped in 11 of his 17 points, Akbar Hoffman scored eight of his 14 and fellow senior Ismael Sanogo had eight of his 12 in the first quarter as East Side (4-0), No. 8 in the MSGVarsity NJ Power Rankings and the 2013 Group 3 champ, forged a 30-10 lead en route to its second consecutive NPST title and eighth overall.
East Side has made it clear that the objective this season is to win the Essex County championship (it lost in the final last February), repeat in Group 3 and compete more resolutely for the Tournament of Champions title after falling in the first round last season.
But, first things first.
"We just wanted to win the tournament," The 6-8 Lewis said. "We have bragging rights in Newark and this is my second time winning. It's a good thing."
Lewis, a South Alabama recruit, struck for 13 of his 17 points in the first half (East Side led, 41-21) and finished with eight rebounds. The 6-7 Sanogo (Seton Hall U.) also pulled down eight rebounds, and Harrison, a 6-2 junior, dished out eight assists, recorded three steals and scored four points on just three field goal attempts. He did not take his first shot until the third quarter.
"Scoring wasn't really my big deal; I'm more of a distributor," Harrison said. "I don't care about scoring as much. I'm more focused on making my teammates happy instead of being selfish with the ball and taking everyone's shots."
There were a lot of contended looks on the East Side bench  after Harrison carved through University's 2-3 zone with five assists, including a pair of low post feeds to Lewis and Sanogo against the Phoenix' undersized interior.
"He's always looking for us," Lewis said. "He even told me last night it's not his job to score. It's his job to get us the ball."
While the defense sagged to combat Lewis and Sanogo, Hoffman took advantage of that activity by knocking down two 3-pointers in the big first quarter. Jamar Gilbert, the Red Raiders' fourth senior starter, also drained a 3-pointer in the quarter off a feed by Harrison.
"We were ready," Hoffman said. "We were in practice the last couple of days working on our jump shots  and stuff. We knew they were gonna play zone, so we came ready to come out and shoot and ready to get the big men involved. They (University) don't have any height."
But University--the 2011 NPST champion and one of the best small-school programs in the state--does still have spunk, and showed plenty of it when forced to switch to man-to-man late in the first quarter and throughout the second.
Sophomore Zamir Wright sank a 3-pointer and two free throws to help University open the second quarter with a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 30-17. But East Side's big guys reasserted themselves defensively in the paint and Hoffman became a driving force with a transition dunk off a steal, a fast break layup off a rebound by Gilbert and another basket inside off a give-and-go by Sanogo to help boost the lead back to 20 points.
"I think because we worked on the zone so much in practice, we  just weren't really in an offensive flow. We weren't prepared for them to go man," Lewis said.
Lewis and the rest of his Raiders understand, however, that they will have to be prepared for zones, double-teams, gimmicks and scrappy man-to-man looks once East Side busts its way out of a zone. The opposition knows East Side's stature as a state champion with much returning talent  and wants nothing more than to knock it from its pedestal.
"It's kind of a lot more pressure," Lewis said. "Before, we weren't really expected to win. Now there's a little more pressure this year."
The mental pressure is something the team and co-head coaches Bryant Garvin and Anthony Tavares will have to deal with. As far as the physical pressure goes, the versatile and unselfish Harrison is prepare to help alleviate that as much as possible with his smart  playmaking.
"I've got a lot of weapons I can choose from," Harrison said. "My game  plan  today was to feed the ball down to the post. They're (University) a really small team, so all we had to do was get the big guys involved and get our guards more involved with their shots. Once they went man, we just spread the court around."
Senior guard Joseph Kelly scored 14 points, eight in the third quarter, and Zamir Wright added nine to lead University. Hoffman had four rebounds and two steals to go along with his 14 points, Sanogo added two steals and Lewis came up with two blocks.  
All-Tournament Team (as picked by the coaches): Abdul Lewis, East Side; Joseph Kelly, University; Alfonzo Anderson, Newark Vocational; Derrick Johnson, West Side; Izaha Jackson, West Side. 
Tournament MVP: Akbar Hoffman, East Side

Newark East Side edges Blair Academy

Let the records show that Newark East Side played its first official basketball game of the season Saturday in West Orange.
But let any opposing ball handler tell you that the Red Raiders defensively are playing well beyond that.
East Side, ranked No. 8 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Power Rankings, fashioned a defense that kept constant pressure on the backcourt and reduced the effectiveness of Blair's talented big men to open its season with a 46-43 victory at the Hoop Group Tip-Off Showcase at West Orange High.
Senior forward Abdul Lewis scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds and played a pivotal role in holding down a deep and experienced Blair team that entered at 7-0 and averaging 72.1 points a game.
East Side, also an experienced club, looked quite a lot like the team that allowed only 36.6 ppg. during the state tournament last  year on its way to the Group 3 state title. In fact, the Red Raiders were so physically sharp and cohesive, they looked as if they'd completed that successful tournament run only a week or so ago.
"It was a challenge, but we’ve been together all summer," Lewis said. "We played in the fall league together and we've been together so long. We just wanted to show everybody we were already in season mode."
East Side will probably want to bone up on its shooting as time goes on (18 of 54 from the floor), but won't have to sweat that detail too much if the defense holds form.
There was stifling ball pressure from guards Ahmad Harrison, Akbar Hoffman and James Gilbert, solid interior defense and rebounding from Lewis and Ismael Sanogo (10 points, eight rebounds) and reliable assistance from reserves Ra'Quan Lynn, Jibreel Ahmad and Taj Price.
Mike Silverthorn. Elijah Burns, Donovan Wright and Sean Lubreski each scored eight points for Blair, which had scored no fewer than 64 points in any previous game this season. They probably had not yet confronted a backcourt that doubled the ball so quickly or defended the passing lanes so thoroughly.
"The guards did a great job," Lewis said. "The big men couldn't even get the ball a lot of times because of the pressure they put on the ball. They helped me out a lot."
East Side trailed most of the first half, but gained crucial momentum with an 8-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and opened a 37-31 lead.
Lewis, signed with South Alabama, sparked the run with a bucket inside off a pass from the Seton Hall-bound Sanogo with 2:04 left in the third quarter, and Sanogo followed with a transition basket off a feed from Ahmad. Hoffman scored the last field goal of the third quarter with a layup off a steal for a 35-31 lead, and Sanogo increased it to six points with a resounding dunk 28 seconds into the fourth.
Blair never regained the lead, but did pull to within 45-43 when Silverthorn buried a 3-pointer with 8.6 seconds to go. Blair had missed an opportunity to tie the game 20 seconds earlier with a steal and 3-point attempt, but East Side collected the rebound and Hoffman wound up being fouled and sank both free throws for a 45-40 lead.
Hoffman was fouled again on the inbound after Silverthorn's 3-pointer and hit the front end of a one-and-one for a 46-43 lead. He missed the second and Marial Shayok gathered the rebound for Blair. The Buccaneers called timeout with less than six seconds remaining and they missed on a 33-point attempt as the buzzer sounded.


Boys Basketball: Abdul Lewis of Newark East Side commits to South Alabama

When Abdul Lewis was looking for a college he was seeking one with the kind of family atmosphere he had become accustomed to during his time at Newark East Side. Twelve-hundred miles south, Lewis found that atmosphere and fit he was seeking.
Lewis, a 6-8, 220-pound power forward, made a verbal commitment to continue his career at the University of South Alabama on Monday.
"They're a family down there. That's what I was looking for, to find another family like my East Side team. I think that's the closest I'm going to get," said Lewis, who visited the campus this past weekend. "The coaching staff really seemed genuine. They seem like that they really care about me developing as a basketball player and my future."
Lewis becomes the second East Side senior to make a Division 1 commitment, joining forward Ismael Sanogo, who made a verbal pledge to Seton Hall University in July.
Lewis chose the Mobile school over offers from Wagner, NJIT and American University. The Newark native admitted that leaving the area was an appealing opportunity.
"I kind of wanted to get away from home," he said. "Growing up in Newark is not really one of the best places to grow up, so I did want to get out of the area."
Last season as a junior, Lewis averaged seven points and more than six rebounds per game to help lead East Side to a 25-8 record and its first state title since 2002. Lewis was a Second Team All-Newark selection for the Group 3 champions, who finished No. 14 in The Star-Ledger Top 20.
Expectations for the season ahead are high as East Side returns six of the top eight players from that team, highlighted by Lewis, Sanogo and guards Akbar Hoffman and Ahmad Harrison.
"Our goal is to make it to the Tournament of Champions final and hopefully win it all," Lewis said. "I think we're more than capable and as long as we stay focused, it can happened."

Jags Add Power Forward Commitment

As Augustine Rubit prepares to suit up for his final season at South Alabama, Coach Matthew Graves and his staff must look for the future stars for the South Alabama frontcourt. That search bore fruit this weekend as they secured the commitment of power forward Abdul Lewis of Newark, New Jersey.
Despite an injury that limited him on the AAU summer circuit (he played on the Roadrunners with current freshman guard Aakim Saintil) and cost him valuable recruiting exposure, the 6'8", 220lb athlete had earned offers from George Mason, Wagner, American and NJIT. Schools such as St. Josephs, Fordham and St. Louis had urged him to attend prep school instead of signing this year so that they could further evaluate him. An excellent student (he is already fully qualified), Lewis chose instead to give his commitment to South Alabama.
"I decided to sign with South Alabama because it was just a perfect for me," he told JagsJungle.com. "After hanging out with the coaches and players, I just knew it was where I wanted to be. Those guys are a family. Also, I fit into their style of play and they plan on using my versatility on offense and defense. I love the atmosphere in the South. It's something special that's just not present up North. Just a different feel. Knowing I would be playing with my former AAU teammate, point guard Aakim Saintil, just added another level of comfortability."
Lewis led his East Side High School team to the public school state title this past year, although his correct statistics from that season are not available. The skills he brings to the court will benefit the Raiders in their search for another title and the following year will help the Jags as they seek a Sun Belt title.
"I'm versatile at both ends of the floor," he said. "On offense I can score on the inside and dominate the paint and also step out and make long and mid range shots or beat defenders off the dribble. I have a good ball handle. On defense I can guard the post as well as taller perimeter players. (To be ready for college basketball) I need to improve my explosiveness and strength."
South Alabama expects to sign as many as three players in the fall period, which begins on November 13th.


Ish Photo Gallery

Newark East Side's Ismael Sanogo stays home, commits to Seton Hall University

Ismael Sanogo (Alex Remnick The Star-Ledger).JPG
Ismael Sanogo (3) of Newark East Side shoots during the NJSIAA Group 3 semifinals on March 7. Sanogo committed to Seton Hall University on his 17th birthday. (Alex Remnick/The Star-Ledger)
Newark East Side's Ismael Sanogo will be staying home for college, committing to Seton Hall University.
Sanogo, a 6-7, 190-pound combo forward made his announcement on a Tuesday conference call, selecting Seton Hall over George Mason, VCU, St. Joseph's and Pennsylvania. Overall, he had roughly 25 scholarship offers and is Seton Hall's first commitment from the Class of 2014.
"It was very unreal. I didn't expect that to happen," said Sanogo, who made the announcement on his 17th birthday. "To have the chance and to have the opportunity to go to a school that's right in my city is something amazing."
Sanogo's future basketball home, The Prudential Center, is less than two miles away from East Side High School.
"My verbal agreement to attend Seton Hall is an important one for me," he said. "Having the opportunity to play in the Big East Conference in my home state and home city, I hope to bring college basketball excitement to the area. Playing for Coach (Kevin) Willard at Seton Hall University is the best decision my family and I could make."
Last season, Sanogo averaged 9.0 points per game and was a defensive standout for a Newark East Side team, which went 25-7, won its first NJSIAA Group 3 title since 2002 and finished No. 14 in The Star-Ledger Top 20.
Right now, Sanogo's strength is on the defensive end, as he has the ability to guard the perimeter, while being a top shot-blocker and rebounder. Sanogo said he has spent the off-season improving his ball-handling and court vision and in the eyes of his coaches, is just starting the scratch the surface of his on-court potential.
"He's improved tremendously as a ball-handler and his range on his jump shot," Newark East Side co-head coach Anthony Tavares said. "He's a tremendous athlete, a great rebounder and he's somebody that doesn't say much, goes in there and competes. He's a wonderful competitor, he does a great job defensively and his biggest attribute is that he's a warrior.
"Once he gets in the weight room, puts 20 pounds of muscle on and does what he has to do, the sky's the limit. By the time he's 20 years old and going into his junior year in college, I think he can be one of the better players in the country if he works hard and stays humble."



Paterson,N.J……..Newark Eastside defeated Paterson Eastside 48-28 to win the Playaz sponsored “Just June” tournament for the 2nd straight year! Ismael Sonago scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and for the second straight year was the M.V.P. of the league! newark Eastside reached the “Chip” by defeating Hudson Catholic 40-31 behind Sonago’s 14 points! Paterson Eastside reached the finals behind the play of Asem Johnson who scored 18 points in a close win over Don Bosco Prep 50-48! Newark Eastside will be one of the top teams in the State next season as they played without the services of 6’7 Abdul Lewis and guard Akbar Hoffman!

2013 Elite 1 Award Winners


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Elite 1: Day One Outstanding Players

Jamar Gilbert | Newark East Side (N.J.) High School | 6-2 | 2014
Appeared to have a solid game with a nice shooting touch and the ability to create by finding the open man. Although it was only the first day his unselfish play turned some heads. Might be a solid player to watch this camp.

Abdul Lewis | Newark East Side (N.J.) High School | 6-8 | 2014
His size and strength impressed a few coaches during station work. While at the fast-break station he was running extremely well. Scouts in attendance are saying he may be the best post player in camp.



Big Things in Newark

Newark East Side (25-7) won its first state since 2002 with Randy Foye at point guard, when it won the Group 3 championship with a 60-54 victory over Camden.
East Side's eight-player rotation included five juniors and a sophomore, but they played with poise, led by forwards Ismael Sanogo, Abdul Lewis and Will Joyce, along with guards Akbar Hoffman and Ahmad Harrison. The team allowed just 43.0 points per game this season, and just 37.4 in seven state playoff games, giving co-head coaches Bryant Garvin and Anthony Tavares the best defensive group in their 13 years at the helm.
"I think they bought in as a family that defense wins championships," Tavares said. "From day one, once we started practicing, we stressed that defense was going to be the key to our season. Statistically, it definitely was the best one."

All-Newark: First Team: Everson Davis, West Side; Akbar Hoffman, Newark East Side; Rakwan Kelly, Newark Tech; Jerrel Pruit, Arts; Keywon Savage, Newark Central.

Second Team: Abdul Lewis, Newark East Side; Jerrell Murray, University; Dwayne Murrill, Newark Tech; Ismael Sanogo, Newark East Side; Tyree Sykes, Newark Tech.

First Team: Everson Davis, West Side; Akbar Hoffman, East Side; Jerrel Pruit, Arts; Tyree Sykes, Newark Tech; Keywon Savage, Central;

Second Team: Nasir Farmer, Newark Central; Abdul Lewis, East Side; Jerrell Murray, University; David Runcie, Columbia; Ismael Sanogo, East Side;

Third Team: Alex Kaslander, Verona; Eric Moore, Shabazz; Isaiah Scott, West Orange; Joe Slattery, Cedar Grove; Ramon Wright, Irvington.

Player of the Year: Akbar Hoffman, East Side


Akbar Hoffman, Newark East Side, 6-1, 175 pounds, Junior
The junior was a feared outside shooter, especially in the big moments. He hit five 3-pointers, including the winner at the buzzer, against Newark Tech in the Essex County Tournament semifinals. The guard averaged 14.8 points over his last 13 games and 11.2 for the season.


Al-Jahaad Bradford, Irvington
Jerrell Murray, University
Jerrel Pruit, Arts
Ismael Sanogo, Newark East Side
Tyree Sykes, Newark Tech



Brandon Federici, Colts Neck

Tavaris Headen, Camden

Joel Hernandez, Teaneck

Akbar Hoffman, Newark East Side

Shaakir Lindsey, Teaneck



Wade Baldwin, St. Joseph (Met.)

Matt Farrell, Point Pleasant Beach

Rashard Figures, Hackensack

Jay Howard, Paul VI

Quadri Moore, Linden


Juwuan Carter, DePaul

Tavaris Headen, Camden

Zack Heeman, Mount Olive

Akbar Hoffman, Newark East Side

Marques Townes, St. Joseph (Met.)


1-Roselle Catholic (25-5)

2-St. Joseph (Met.) (27-5)

3-St. Anthony (28-2)

4-Hudson Catholic (29-2)

5-Atlantic City (30-2)

6-Patrick School (24-4)

7-East Brunswick (26-4)

8-St. Peter’s Prep (23-7)

9-Linden (22-8)

10-Seton Hall Prep (26-3)

11-Ridge (27-2)

12-Elizabeth (18-7)

13-Newark Tech (23-9)

14-Newark East Side (25-7)

15-Teaneck (27-4)

16-Hackensack (27-5)

17-Gill St. Bernard’s (19-8)

18-Paul VI (27-3)

19-Notre Dame (25-4)

20-Pope John (20-8)


1-Newark East Side (25-7)

2-Teaneck (27-4)

3-Sparta (25-5)

4-Mount Olive (23-6)

5-Irvington (14-12)

6-Camden (21-11)

7-Chatham (22-6)

8-Lawrence (19-11)

9-Colts Neck (22-6)

10-Morristown (18-8)


1-Seton Hall Prep (26-3)

2-Newark Tech (23-9)

3-Newark East Side (25-7)

4-Irvington (14-12)

5-Bloomfield (16-13)

6-Montclair (21-6)

7-Columbia (11-15)

8-University (19-9)

9-Newark Central (19-8)

10-Orange (13-10)


Newark Public Schools Tournament, Final Round - Boys Basketball

If Stephen McNair and his Newark East Side teammates needed any motivation during the Newark Public Schools Tournament, all they would have to do is think back to a year earlier.
A year removed from being upset in the semifinals, the crown of best in Newark returns to East Side as it defeated Newark Central, 58-41, in the Newark Public Schools Tournament final yesterday at Essex County College in Newark.
The win marked the third title in four seasons for East Side (7-0), ranked No. 15 in The Star-Ledger Top 20.
"Last year we didn’t live up to expectations," McNair said. "So this year, we knew we had to come out and we had to show that we’re the best team in Newark and that we can compete with any team in the state."
Ismael Sanogo, who was named the tournament’s MVP, admitted that East Side was looking to erase the memory of how its tournament run ended last season.
"We came in with a grudge, we played angry," Sanogo said . "All throughout the tournament, we played angry. That drove everything. That empowered us to play harder. It meant everything to us."
That anger was channeled to yesterday’s final in swift fashion. McNair gave East Side a 10-0 lead on a 3-pointer with 3:52 left in the first quarter.
Keywon Savage got Central (5-3) on the board with a 3-pointer, but East Side responded with eight unanswered points and never looked back.
Six different players scored as it took a 37-14 lead into the intermission.
"I feel like everybody’s scoring," forward Abdul Lewis said. "We’re very well balanced so it’s hard to stop us."
Sanogo, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, gave East Side its biggest lead of the day with a put-back to make it 46-16 midway through the third quarter. McNair and William Joyce added 10 points apiece.
Lewis added 14 rebounds and six points as he, along with Sanogo and Joyce, controlled the glass and allowed McNair, Jamar Gilbert, Ahmad Harrison and Rashan Lynn to be aggressive on the perimeter.
"It’s very important for us to be aggressive on the perimeter so we can force their guards to turn the ball over," McNair said. "We also know that we have Ismael Sanogo, Abdul Lewis and Will Joyce to block shots and get the ball in transition."
Nasir Farmer led Central with 18 points. Savage added eight points and seven rebounds.