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Tale of two Julys for Xaverian duo

At the start of July, Manny Thomas and Travis Gill found themselves in similar positions. The two rising seniors were on the radar of plenty of Division I coaches, but needed to perform well during the live recruiting period to raise their stock.

Thomas thrived for the New York Gauchos and at Hoop Group Elite Camp, and in turn, picked up five offers and plenty of other interest because of his play. Gill, however, sprained his right knee at the start of the month, robbing him of lateral movement, and the opportunity to play in front of hundreds of college coaches. As a result, his recruitment is virtually nonexistent.

Fair? No. But, July, arguably more than the high-school season, is when players can make a name for themselves playing in tournaments far from home in front of hundreds of college coaches.

Just ask Thomas, third on Xaverian in scoring last season at 9.2 points per game. He has received offers from Fairfield, Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary’s, and LIU, and has drawn serious interest from Hofstra, Fordham, Drexel, Wagner, Princeton, and Quinnipiac. As a result, he will be able to commit before his senior year with Xaverian even begins.

“He has a big upside, he looks like he’s gonna grow and fill out,” one assistant coach involved in Thomas’ recruiting said. “The AAU circuit is huge for these kids. They get seen by hundreds of college coaches in a single game. That kid benefited greatly.”

Thomas raised his stock by displaying a consistent perimeter shot, ability to defend bigger players in the post, and also score in the lane, too — traits Xaverian coach Jack Alesi credited to the work he put in with his son, Chris, a varsity assistant, since the season ended in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional quarterfinals.

“I’ve never seen someone improve so much from March, when the season ended, until July when the live period started,” he said. “Manny is a kid that works so hard. … If you don’t do the work in the gym, you’re gonna get exposed in July.”

Gill was robbed of such an opportunity with the Brooklyn Ballers because of the knee injury. College coaches didn’t get to see his extraordinary leaping ability that enables him to play above the rim or improved skill set. Instead, Xaverian’s most athletic player, who broke out as a sophomore on the JV and averaged 4.3 points per game on the varsity last winter, spent much of the month at his Mill Basin, Brooklyn home doing pushups and reading about the tournaments online.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I don’t agree with the live recruiting period in July. For players like me, it’s hard. I wasn’t able to be seen.”

As a result, Gill could find himself in a similar position to recent Xaverian standouts Rasheem King and Justin Exum, both of whom eventually went the Division II route. King didn’t have any offers while Exum waited too long and never found an academic fit at the Division I level.

“I do think about that a lot, they were top players in the league and they didn’t end up with the schools they wanted,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Alesi isn’t overly concerned. Gill has put in countless hours of individual work with Thomas and Chris Alesi has regained mobility in the shoddy knee.

“What he lost in July, I’m hoping he will pick up in the fall,” Jack Alesi said. “He still has time.”

He also has motivation. Gill didn’t like sitting at home while others traveled the country, playing in exotic locales in front of big-name coaches.

“That’s made me even hungrier,” he said. “I want to set myself apart this season.”

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