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Team Final: Philly's Most Eligible Recruits

Most AAU basketball teams group kids into age groups. Older players can't play in the younger brackets, but younger players are free to compete at older levels. For Philadelphia-based Team Final, their 16-year-olds are so talented, they don't even have a 17-and-under (17U) team. Final's class of 2013 is so stacked with precocious talent, they often play against the 17U squads.

Colbert '13 PF

In that regard, 6'9" Power Forward, Austin Colbert said, "It's a lot different being beat up by 17's and then coming down to the 16's, we kind of have an advantage because we are used to the physicality of the game and the quickness."

Colbert, who plays at St. Patrick's in New Jersey, is tall but not big. The skinny build of the top-25 player might put some off, but he has a nice defensive skill set in the post and shows great timing as a shot blocker and and enough agility to create trouble in the lane defensively.

In addition to hitting the gym, Colbert needs to become more aggressive on both ends of the floor. He has tremendous potential as a college 4, and needs to use his size and athleticism to become a presence inside. His back to the basket moves are also very raw and he appears more comfortable playing face up.

His shooting range is above-average for a big and that, combined with the difficulty of banging around with more filled-out bodies inside has him looking toward the perimeter. "I think big guys always want to play on the wing," he said, "but I’m working hard on my dribbling and my shooting." According to Colbert, "I want to be able to come out and guard the 3 and stretch out to play the 3 in college."

At least one former Big East assistant told me he thought that Colbert would be more comfortable playing inside after putting some weight on his frame. It is a punishing experience to take a beating against bigger players inside, but adding some bulk would make the experience easier on his body and encourage him to play a tougher, more confident game. According to that coach, once Colbert did that, he would truly be able to shine.

Colbert lists Seton Hall, Xavier, Pitt and Oklahoma as schools pursuing him, but has also heard from Villanova as well as other schools in the ACC, Big East and even the Ivy League.

Jefferson '13 G/F

Rondae Jefferson is perhaps the leader of Team Final and he has been on the 2013 short-lists for most schools in the Big East, Big 5, and from national powers like Kentucky.

Jefferson is 6'7" and considers himself a Point Guard. While he may not be an elite ball-handler or distributor, he can play anywhere from the 1 through 4, with his best college position likely being the 2 or 3.

Inside the arc, Jefferson is a near-unstoppable force. He is explosive going to the rack and finishes well at the rim. With no fear of contact, Rondae can get to the free-throw line, almost at will. He's a strong defender with a big wingspan and enough agility to and basketball I.Q. to guard anyone.

While Jefferson will also ultimately need to fill out in the gym, he is at least a strong player for his age group.

The left-hander's jumper is raw, but Jefferson has been working to improving that aspect of his game. At the Hoop Group Southern JamFest, Rondae noted that, "[a] lot of teams think I can’t shoot, but so far this weekend I’ve been proving it to them that I can shoot." He did nail a few shots from beyond the arc during that tournament, but more consistency will help him shake off defenders who don't respect his shooting range and see more success in the half-court set.

While he has had nice things to say about Villanova ("It's a great place"), he gives his top-3 schools as, North Carolina, Kentucky and Temple. The latter likely being a show of respect for his brother Rahlir Jefferson's alma mater and coach.

Garner '14 G

2014 guard Shep Garner, is another Team Final star who has received interest from Jay Wright's staff. At 6'2" he plays the 2, but can also be effective at the point, and has been generating a lot of buzz on the AAU circuit.

Garner, a product of Roman Catholic in Philadelphia, has a tendency to become a human high-light reel in competition. He threw down a thundering windmill dunk in Hampton, for example, that had the building talking for much of the weekend.

In addition to his massive jumping ability, however, Garner can also handle the rock and use his dribble to break a defender. He also has a good shooting touch from beyond the arc, and can score off the catch or dribble.

He is an unselfish player, who will find an open teammate when he draw a double-team, and often makes good decisions when passing the ball. If he does not grow any more in high school, he will likely be able to develop his point-guard skill set enough to play that position at the high-major level.

In addition to Villanova, Garner is being recruited by Florida, UNC, Syracuse and Pitt, and does not yet have any favorites. He has mentioned, however, that he wants to "get away from home," a sentiment that Jay Wright will have to try and change.

Garner's backcourt teammate with the Team Final 15u's, Ja'Quan Newton, is perhaps less sought-after, but has generated similar interest from high-major programs, including Villanova, Rutgers, Temple and (his current favorite) Syracuse. Newton was the MVP of the state championship game for his Neumann-Goretti squad this past season.

Newton can score as well, and often lead his high school team in that category, but he is also adept at finding his teammates and racking up assists. Rob Dauster of thought he might have been one of the best freshmen from Philadelphia.

Team Final is absolutely loaded with Philadelphia and New Jersey's top prospects, and with Villanova targets. Davon Reed (6'5" shooting guard) is another name that could begin to pop up as the summer circuit rolls along and he gets an opportunity to show off his shooting stroke.

Team Final isn't the only elite AAU program from the City of Brotherly love, of course. Team Philly has produced a lot of great talent over the years as well (including Kyle Lowry and Maalik Wayns) and while I haven't personally seen Team Philly play, NBE Basketball seems to think that sophomore guard Brandon Austin could be a serious Big East talent.