Elliot Cadeau was born in Brooklyn, but has no memory of living in the town. When she was 3 months old, her parents packed up, tied her to a car seat, and set up camp in New Jersey.
Growing up in West Orange, Gift became a fan of the Jets. His mother from Sweden and his father from Haiti had a hard time understanding the popularity of American professional football, but they brought their son’s temptation to a point. He was allowed to paint his room the Jets’ green and white, but he was not allowed to play sports. His mother thought it would be very dangerous. Instead, he offered his 7-year-old son to join the basketball team.
Ten years later, Cadeau Bergen became a star at the Catholic High School and was hired in the top 10 in the 2024 class. He is part of an elite group of New Jersey high school basketball players who could be among the state’s best talent contingent. never produced.
In addition to the gift – No. According to the overall ranking of the 247 Sports recruitment website, there are 7 players in the country – second class: №. 1 Naasir Cunningham (Overtime Elite), №. 33 Dylan Harper (Don Bosco Prep) and №. 42 Tahaad Pettiford (Hudson Catholic). The teenagers are a year ahead of Cadeau & Co. includes: No. 1 Dajuan Wagner Jr., led by DJ (Camden High School), no. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard’s), №. 12 Simeon Wilcher (Roselle Catholic), №. 20 Aaron Bradshaw (Camden) and №. 48 Akil Watson (Roselle Catholic).
“It was a great time to grow up playing basketball in New Jersey,” Cadeau said. “There is no competition and friendship between elite players here. I don’t feel there is another state that can compete with New Jersey in terms of basketball talent.
Although New Jersey is home to some of the best of all time in the game, including Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Barry – historically struggled to escape the shadow of New York basketball. According to the Basketball Reference, 419 players came from New York and 766 from New Jersey during the 76 years of the NBA. The difference in the lists for the 2021-22 season was equally sharp: the number of New Yorkers was 33 compared to only 12 New Jersey. But in the 2023 and 2024 classes, New Jersey has 10 top 50 employers compared to two from New York.
“I don’t want to disrespect anyone,” said Billy Armstrong, a 1994 Bergen Catholic who now coaches at Cadeau. “But when I played here, the talent was almost not at the current level, that’s for sure. This is my 11th year as a university coach, and I can say that talent has really increased in the last four or five years. It’s a pride when New Jersey is talked about as the best basketball state in the whole country.
Armstrong also played professional basketball in Davidson and abroad. He pointed to the perseverance and toughness needed to live in the main metropolitan areas of the Northeast as part of the reason for the emergence of so much talent in his homeland. He also thinks there is an accelerating effect in the game. Players like Carl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving gave children growing up in Garden State a gift to look at New Jersey-born stars. And those young players have been competing with each other for years, strengthening each other’s games and helping them attract attention by attracting services and college coaches.
A year and a half ago, after the publication of the first ratings of 247, DJ Wagner is considered number 1. 1 player in 2023 Class. The son of former NBA player Dajuan Wagner, the DJ is a highly skilled combo guard. The focus on his game and recruitment gave his teammates a foothold. Bradshaw, who played with Wagner at Camden and their Amateur Athletic Association team at the New Jersey Scholars, got a 3-star job. With offers from blue chip programs such as Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA, it is now 5 stars.
“These kids have been playing with each other and against each other for a long time,” said Science Coach Jason Harrigan. “When there is a really special child in a class – a child like a DJ – his competitiveness affects everyone. He helps to raise the level of the game for the whole class, and they also help him to improve his game.
The level of talent, along with the recent easing of rules that allow college and high school athletes to earn sponsorship money, has created unique opportunities for many players in the state. Cadeau, who has dual citizenship and plays for the Swedish national team, is represented by Roc Nation and already has a five-digit endorsement known as the Name, Image and Similarity Agreement or NIL And Cunningham, the No. 1 contract. In 2024, 1 player recently signed with Overtime Elite, a prestigious professional development program in Atlanta. He became the first player to sign the program without pay, maintaining his collegial compatibility.
“Every kid growing up in New Jersey dreams of reaching out to professionals,” Cunningham said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t even know what college basketball was. I was just thinking about the NBA, the NBA, the NBA, but as I got older, I started thinking more about going to college. With OTE, I receive professional training and education and keep my choices open. Plus, I can still make money with NIL ”
New Jersey coaches, of course, prefer players to stay close to home. And they say NIL helps them convince players to stay in high school for four years.
“These players are proud of New Jersey,” said Dave Boff, who coached Wilcher and Watson at Roselle Catholic. “Fans are looking forward to having a player who will increase his ranks from freshman to last season. And while players can still sleep in their own beds, they can take advantage of the opportunities provided by their talents. ”
When he talks to college coaches about what makes this New Jersey basketball product so appealing, Boff constantly hears a theme: toughness.
“College coaches see that New Jersey kids are confident, courageous, and not afraid of physical basketball,” Boff said. “When we go to the national games, our players are always surprised by foul calls. In New Jersey, the judges allowed our children to beat each other a little, and our children applauded. They know they have improved each other. “
Leaving home was not an easy decision for Cunningham, but he hopes to make things a little easier by bringing in some other players from New Jersey to join him in Atlanta. After all, each of these players sooner or later hopes to jump to a bigger stage – whether college basketball, OTE or the NBA.
“Jersey is capturing,” Cunningham said. “Everywhere you look in New Jersey, there is a high-level basketball player. And soon we will travel all over the country. For us, this is to show what our state is and to be sure that it will continue its success in the future. This is not pressure. That’s the motivation. “