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After years of being spoiled by the Syracuse basketball program attaining elite status and success, the past year and half has been a trying time for the Syracuse University faithful. That being said, Orange fans could not find a better venue for optimism than Saturday’s 5th Annual Mary Kline Classic Charity All-Star Event in West Orange, New Jersey, benefiting cancer research. Several Orange commits and targets took the floor to help raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer, notably 2016 commit forward Matthew Moyer, and incoming forward/center Moustapha Diagne.

The Underclassmen game tipped off first, following a moving speech from cancer survivor and basketball player, Kyle Atkinson. Moyer played on Team Bravery, alongside an impressive group of the nation’s top high school sophomores and juniors. Moyer’s skills were highlighted in an explosive burst during the second quarter. He threw down several vicious dunks and also made a pretty fadeaway 15 footer off an offensive rebound. His outside shot looks serviceable but is clearly not a strength at this juncture. Still, the raw materials are all there, so it is no surprise that Moyer is skyrocketing up the player rankings this spring.

The MKC was a typical shambolic all-star affair but, impressively, Moyer displayed a very nice floor game and an improved handle. There were a few possessions where Moyer was the de facto point guard and he showed excellent vision and a team-first approach. He finished with 12 points and at least five assists, in a contest where most players were content to go one on one.

Moyer has another year in high school and the Columbus, Ohio native said he is looking forward to taking his game to South Kent School (CT) in the fall.

“Prep school is a transition I need,” said Moyer. “It will be helpful to me in becoming more disciplined, just to work on my game and my strength. In the NEPSAC (New England Prep School Athletic Council) I’ll be playing against the top talent. It’s a whole other level and I feel I need that.”

Moyer also told Otto’s Grove that the Syracuse coaching staff loves his versatility, comparing him favorably to Michael Gbinije and Michael Carter-Williams in that regard. He said the coaches have told him to work on his outside shooting stroke and to build up his physique in the weight room with his strength coach. Moyer added that he is giving his recruiting pitch to guard prospects Alterique Gilbert and Kevin Huerter, both of whom have Orange scholarship offers.

Someone who has already put pen to ink on a Syracuse letter of intent is the aforementioned Diagne.  With the 2015-2016 Orange looking a little thin from a numbers standpoint up front, Diagne figures to be in line for significant minutes.

In the Mary Kline Senior Game, Moustapha made a favorable impression on Team Courage.  A clear strength of Diagne’s game is his comfort in using both hands on the offensive end. A natural righty, Diagne scored inside on several lefty finishes, including a couple pretty baby hooks. Diagne’s footwork is ready for primetime and he moves very well for a very large young man. This was not a game that saw a lot of help defense but Diagne did anticipate the rare coming double team and found open teammates. Like Moyer, Diagne’s outside shot is a work-in-progress but his form is promising. Diagne had a quiet night on the defensive glass but he did alter or block a few shots.

OttosGrove.com also caught up with Diagne before the event. Diagne said he is working diligently to improve his all-around game, particularly his outside shot. He added that he is prepared to play the four or the five in Syracuse’s system. Diagne emphasized that he has also been working very hard in the weight room, which is a scary thought for Orange opponents next year, as Diagne already has a very stout frame.

Three other Syracuse targets played in the MKC. Forward Sedee Keita, a 2016 target, played in the Underclassmen game and did not make much of an impression. He runs the floor well but looks very raw and unpolished, particularly on the offensive end. Classmate and swingman Jordan Tucker also had a quiet game. Tucker looked content to float around the perimeter and shoot the occasional deep jumper – not a great approach to make much of an impact in this sort of showcase. Fairing much better was elite guard Trevon Duval. Arguably the Orange’s top recruiting priority in 2017, Duval flashed a lethal combination of lead guard skills and a lead dog mentality. Duval is a star and he has a swagger to his game that is ready-made for a capacity Carrier Dome crowd. Duval acknowledged to Otto’s Grove that Syracuse is in the mix for his services but said that none of his suitors are in the lead at this juncture.

Much more important than anything that happened on the court, Mary Kline Classic organizer and Syracuse student Alex Kline announced that this year’s event raised $43,000 for cancer research. All proceeds will benefit the National Brain Tumor Society and Brain Tumor Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Moyer summed up what makes the MKC so special: “This event is for something more than just a team or myself. It’s an honor to come together with all these good players, play some game, be competitive and know it’s for a better cause. You’re not just winning or losing. You’re playing for something bigger.”

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