Sports

Cluster All Stars

Jacob Barkan ’20

P.Sankar and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Jacob “True Center” Barkan is first time all-star and the lead ball handler for the clout-centric Yellow Team, which is notable for social superstars players such as Barkan, Jeffrey McDonell ’19, Andy Kim ’19, Omar Khan ’20, and the lethal Boris Shmuylovich ’19. Barkan’s improvement over the course of the season has been a decisive factor in his nomination.

“If I am being completely honest, I did expect to be a Cluster All-Star. My 3-point stroke has improved tremendously so it’s just a matter of my teammates getting the ball in my hands. My plus-minus has to be the best on the team,” said Barkan.

Barkan noted that when he’s “got that drip” he performs better.

Barkan said, “After class, I get back, spike my hair in the mirror, make sure I look really handsome, and sometimes I try to wear all-white to Cluster but my laundry situation doesn’t permit that sometimes. I find that I have the best games when, before leaving the dorm, I secure that drip.”

Barkan also credited some of his success to teammate Khan.

“Despite not having as much raw basketball talent as most high schoolers, he makes winning plays and his alpha presence overwhelms the opponent. I can name multiple times where his mere voice caused the opponent to lose control of their dribble and we scored. I’m not going to lie, I try harder out of fear of being yelled at by him. I’d call him cluster ball’s Marcus Smart,” said Barkan.

Barkan works to emulate his game after the Black Team’s Sam Green ’19. He also believes that teammate Vincent Fan ’20 would be the ideal roommate.

Barkan said, “[I would room with] Vincent Fan—The emphasis he puts on his studies is admirable and it would rub off on me.”

Kristian Menes ’19

P.Sankar and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Kristian “Menes” Menes ’19 is Captain of the Black Team, which boasted an 8-6 regular season record. He is also the founder of Menes “Diamonds Glistening” Chains.

This title of Cluster Basketball All-Star comes as no shock to Menes who expected the accolade last season.

Menes said, “I’ve been working towards this nomination for my whole career and honestly, it means a lot. Last year I was on team Orange, and I thought I had All-Star potential but a kid named Michael Codrington [’18] was a ball hog the whole year and didn’t let me get my numbers.”

In order to secure the award this season, Menes underwent a transformation during the season.

“Earlier this year I started off like a Klay Thompson because I was making almost all of my three pointers. And then after a pretty tough ankle injury, I became like Draymond Green because of my versatility. I became a better passer and defender, so I guess you can call me the Lebron James of Cluster Ball,” said Menes.

Attending the University of Pennsylvania next season, Menes is considering pursuing a collegiate career.

“I can play at UPenn if I want to. I know that they need somebody who’s 5’8” that can rebound and do things that a traditional big does. I’ll perhaps be in contact with the UPenn coaches and show them some tape from this season,” said Menes.

Tyler Yang ’19

C.Waggoner and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Since launching his basketball career eight years ago, 6’3”, 177 pound Tyler “Buckets” Yang ’19 has consistently played a key role in every team he has been a part of, according to Yang.

In Cluster Basketball, Yang is a key offensive presence for the Lime team, and aims to play with intensity and a cutthroat mentality.

“I’m the highest scorer on my team so my job is to get buckets, and if I’m being doubled, get the ball to whoever’s not being guarded at all and trusting my teammates… I think [my teammates] understand that even though it’s an intramural basketball league, that me and a couple of the other guys are very intense about winning,” said Yang.

To Yang, this isn’t just intramural basketball. Cluster is a platform where he and his teammates can show off their skills and lead their team to victory. In a match against the Orange Team, Yang managed to single-handedly match every single point put up by the opposing team.

Yang said, “I think the best personal performance was against the Orange Team where I scored the same amount as the other team combined.”

Though Yang claims himself to be the main scoring presence on the team, he also credits teammate Sebastian Romero ’20 for helping the Lime Team achieve success.

“Romero was a hidden gem for us. He’s not that big or that tall but somehow gets rebounds over everybody and scores a lot,” said Yang.

Julian Gonzales ’20

P.Sankar and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Standing at 5’7” and hailing from Andover, Mass., Julian Gonzales ’20 has solidified his status as an integral member of the Maroon team averaging 31 points, 17 rebounds, and 14 assists per game.

Despite his immense skill, Gonzales made a conscious decision to play Cluster Basketball instead of pursuing a career on the varsity team.

“I didn’t want to play varsity because I didn’t want to shadow over Dallion Johnson ’20. Everybody calls me the ‘Filipino Kyrie Irving’ because of my spectacular handles and ability to be a leader and shoot three-pointers. I have great success because I’m in my bag at all times, whether I am on or off the court,” said Gonzales.

Last year, Gonzales suffered a fractured ankle, but worked as hard as he could to come back strong. He was inspired by Celtic forward Gordon Hayward’s comeback from his broken ankle.

Gonzales said, “It was a bad injury, but I worked extremely hard to get back, and I can say for sure that I’m back stronger than ever.”

According to Gonzales, he often found himself having to carry the team in order to win big games.

“This season we were extremely short-handed, as we dealt with many injuries and only had one or two subs most of the time. Thankfully, I put the team on my back and led us to some memorable wins this season.”

Unfortunately, Team Maroon’s season came to a halt when it lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Black Team. Gonzales attributes this defeat to the officiating.

“The refereeing was atrocious and the physicality expressed by the Black Team ultimately lead to our defeat,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales is looking forward to next season, where he looks to continue his dominance in the league.

Ekan Belo-Osagie ’19

D.Owyang and S.Yang/The Phillipian

A master of power napping before important of cluster basketball games, Ekan Belo-Osagie ’19 of the Orange team earned Cluster Basketball All-Star by playing hard in all facets of the game and motivating his teammates.

Belo-Osagie said “I’m really the glue for the rest of the team. I make sure that the rest of our team is playing defense and offense, I kind of act like a pillar.”

Belo-Osagie earned his power napping credentials through strategic scheduling.

He said, “I have sixth and seventh period free, so before going to cluster-ball I always take a nap. That always fills me up with energy, which I really need when I play. Taking a good nap always gives me good headspace, puts me in a good mindset, and gets me ready for the game.”

Not only does Belo-Osagie help connect the rest of the team, but he also is known for his signature pump fake move.

“I’m running towards the basket and the defenders right behind me and I fake a shot, and have [the opponent] jump over me. That’s when I shoot. It works every single time,” said Belo-Osagie.

Belo-Osagie intelligently uses his team’s strengths to its advantage and makes sure that teamwork is the top priority, which has made its season so successful.

“We definitely work well together. We’re always encouraging each other and boosting each others’ morals. There’s this one guy, Prem [Prabhakar ’20], and he’s a really good shooter, so we always make sure to pass the ball to him. That’s always my mindset – to pass to the sharpshooter.”

Tulio Marchetti ’21

D.Zhu and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Self-proclaimed core of the Green Team, Tulio “Special Sauce” Marchetti ’21 demonstrates impeccable play and unparalleled sauce on the court during Cluster Basketball, according to Marchetti.

“I think that I am clearly better than all of the other players on the team not only because I get all the rebounds, but because they don’t have the same sauce that I have. I guess I’m saying that I have special sauce. It’s hard to explain but the other players just don’t got it,” said Marchetti.

Marchetti feels confident in his team’s play, despite a few weak links.

Marchetti said, “Another player [and I], Sam [Sheehan ’20], get all the rebounds. We do think that our team is superior compared to all other teams, especially when we have Matt Cline [’19] shooting almost 100 percent on the two-point line. We do have some liabilities as well, Sean [Kralik ’19] and Sawyer [Moody ’19], but all in all we have a pretty good team. I can’t forget about Rob [De Jesus ’20] and Shaw [Xie ’20] who put in that work, as well as Anay [Mehta ’20].”

While Marchetti feels that the team functions well as a whole, choice of attire remains a point of contention for him and teammate Cline.

Marchetti said, “I do think we work well together, as long as people aren’t taking stupid shots…[but] I do have a problem with Matt Cline’s green jacket that he sometimes wears during the games. I think that it gets his head out of the game and [can] be a big distraction for me as well sometimes.”

Marchetti credits most of his success on the court with his ability to manipulate his opponents’ mental game.

Marchetti said, “My biggest strength is really getting into the heads of the opponent.”

Because of his undeniable superiority on the court, Marchetti has earned the nomination of Cluster Basketball All-Star. Although the Green Team lost in the semi-finals to Team Black, Marchetti utilized his “special sauce” to the best of his ability.

Jami Taveras ’19

M.Suri and S.Yang/The Phillipian

A motivator on the courts of the Snyder Center for the Gray Team, cluster baller Jami Taveras ’19 averages one or two 3-point baskets per game.

“I’m a consistent player—I come out, I shoot a bit, and then I just get off the court. I feel like my performance has been getting a little better throughout the season. Maybe two 3-pointers in one game [to] surpris[e] everyone,” said Taveras.

As captain, Taveras has led the team with an excited but sometimes hesitant attitude as captain.

“I’m always trying to encourage everyone to do their best, but most of the time they’re actually encouraging me. Sometimes, I’m kinda scared to shoot and then they say, ‘Jami just do it!’,” said Taveras.

Although the Gray Team lost in the first round of the playoffs, it remained supportive and high-spirited, according to Taveras.

Taveras said, “I think my positivity definitely [is my best attribute], but I feel like our team is good spirited and we encourage everyone.”

Jeff Du ’19

A.Phillips and S.Yang/The Phillipian

Known as “The Prince” and “Du-man,” Cluster Basketball All-Star Jeff Du ’19 began playing basketball in the sixth grade and easily picked up the sport. According to Du, he quickly improved and soon had the skills of professional players.

Du said, “I started off shooting like Curry, and soon, I had the game-instincts of Magic.”

Commonly compared with LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Du believes he embodies many aspects of ‘The King.’

Du said, “The way [James] uses his athleticism, power, and speed is awe-inspiring; and I try to incorporate as much of it as possible into my own game. After all, he’s the NBA ‘G.O.A.T.,’ and I’m the cluster ball ‘G.O.A.T.’”

Du changed teams in a midseason from Team Orange to Team Blue. The trade did not end well for Du, as his new team lost in the first round of the playoffs while his former team won the championship.

Du described the loss by commending his efforts in the tournament while also explaining his teammates’ negligible contribution in comparison to his own.

“We didn’t execute properly. I gave everything I had—my blood, sweat, and tears—to that game, so I’m fine with the results. I had to anchor the defense and run the offense for my team. I carried my team, but in the end, there’s no ‘I’ in team,” said Du.

Feb 22, 2019