Adam Dudzinski, Trey Autry, Trevor Roe: What’s ahead for area basketball stars after Covid canceled 2020 summer auditions

Syracuse, N.Y. – Adam Dudzinski had hoped to display his basketball skills for college coaches last summer. He was entering his final year at West Genesee High School. He was 6-foot-8 and had developed a reputation around Central New York as a promising player.

Then Covid-19 struck. All of last year’s summer AAU basketball leagues were scrapped. Dudzinski, who played on the Adidas circuit for the New York Jayhawks, was reduced to spending the summer searching for opportunities to work out while gyms were closed and college coaches were prohibited from watching prospects in person.

But now, with the NCAA recently voting to restore in-person recruiting as of June 1 and with AAU teams gearing up practices for potential sneaker-circuit games later this summer, Dudzinski and other area basketball prospects can finally play before a college coaching audience.

“It means another chance, honestly,” Dudzinski said. “Last year, we really didn’t get to do anything and that’s when I really wanted to showcase a lot of stuff I’ve been working on and being able to make a name for myself and show these coaches that I can play at the next level. But due to the pandemic, we never really had a chance to do that. So now, it’s kind of a redemption tour, I guess, to get that chance again.”

Dudzinski, the Section 3 Class AA Player of the Year, will prep at Loomis Chaffee (Conn.) next season, which allows him another year to work on his slender frame and play another summer for the Jayhawks. He is one of a handful of Central New York prospects who are looking forward to a summer on the sneaker circuits, where college coaches can perform one-stop shopping at concentrated competition sites.

Trey Autry, 16, is the son of Syracuse assistant coach Adrian Autry and a member of the Albany City Rocks 16U team. A former Jamesville-DeWitt guard, he spent the past year playing for Western Reserve boarding school in Ohio.

Trevor Roe, 16, is the son of former Syracuse basketball guard Matt Roe and is Trey Autry’s teammate on the City Rocks’ 16U team. He played last season for Fayetteville-Manlius and expects to return to the Hornets next season before setting out for prep school.

JJ Starling, 17, the former Baldwinsville High School star who now plays at La Lumiere in Indiana, will play on the City Rocks’ 17U team. Starling is already a sought-after prospect in the Class of 2022. This summer will likely boost his already robust national profile.

All of them relish a chance to spend the summer playing the game they love with a chance to impress as many coaches as possible.

“My goal is to get the attention from some coaches because next year is going to be a big year for me, a big summer because that’s when all the attention starts,” said Roe, who will be a junior next season. “So I want to get some attention from coaches and just get better. It’s cool to know the coaches will be watching us.”

“It’s definitely beyond crazy,” Trey Autry said. “When I was playing 14U there was a tournament the same weekend as Peach Jam. (Peach Jam is the culmination of the EYBL 17U season.) Seeing all the people from the different (college) teams, seeing all the coaches everywhere, it was like, ‘Man, I really want to be in this position.’ Then last year, we got shut down after I was working to become one of the people watched by all these coaches. I’m trying to get my name out and become really good. It’s really crazy to think it could happen this year.”

J-D’s Trey Autry slams home a basket during J-D’s 91-57 victory over ESM at East Syracuse High School on Feb 4, 2020. Roger Hagan PhotographyRoger Hagan Photography

The City Rocks compete on the Nike EYBL circuit. Nike, which canceled its summer season last year, has yet to sanction events this summer but the thought is that by July, it will restore Peach Jam in some capacity and play a condensed season. For now, City Rocks teams are practicing, participating in and hosting a variety of tournaments not affiliated with Nike.

Jim Hart, who oversees the City Rocks franchise and coaches the signature 17U team, said Class of 2021 and Class of 2022 prospects lost exposure last summer that would have catapulted them up recruiting boards and led to scholarship offers. College coaches have told him they would likely bypass the Class of 2021 and focus instead on the transfer portal, where better-known quantities exist.

But because so many programs are losing so many players to the portal, he said, coaches have been inquiring about which 2021 kids might be available.

“I think they’re going to end up scrambling and looking at some of those 2021s late. And there’s a ton of them out there but maybe the homework hasn’t been done,” Hart said. “There are a ton of seniors out there that are scholarship material and they have nothing. They’ll either do a post-grad so they can get extended looks or they’ll go and play as a walk-on.”

Dudzinski, originally in the Class of 2021, averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds at West Genny last season. But he is 6-8 and weighs 165. He said his recruitment has picked up recently, that coaches from the Ivy League and the Patriot League, in particular, have come calling. Massachusetts offered late last week. But he figures another year in prep school will bolster his body and make him a more appealing prospect.

“My main thing is I’m working on my ballhandling and being able to create shots for myself,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things you have to learn at the next level. And then obviously since I’m a skinny person, I’ve been working on my body a lot – going on the weights and trying to eat good. In AAU, I’m trying to showcase my shooting ability, which has always been a staple for me. And also, I think an underrated part of my game is my IQ and passing.”

For Autry and Roe, this summer will spark the beginning of their early recruitment phase.

Fayetteville Manlius vs Henninger - Boys Basketball - Dec 3, 2019

Henninger defeated Fayetteville Manlius 80-46 in the 2019,20 season opener for each team at Henninger on Dec 3, 2019Roger Hagan Photography

Autry is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard. Roe a 6-7, 175-pound wing/forward. The two friends are looking forward to a summer of basketball that could prove pivotal in their blossoming careers.

Autry transferred to Western Reserve to test himself against better players and play a competitive national schedule. He and Roe said the intensity and the skill level at the City Rocks in general and the EYBL, in particular, helps focus their own games.

“At school, we’re going through the plays and everything as opposed to City Rocks, where we’re going through the plays but all my teammates can create their own shots. Everyone is really, really talented,” Autry said. “It’s a different kind of game. It’s a different level of competition. I’d say you’re kind of more playing for your future with the City Rocks just because the coaches can come to the tournaments. During the high school year, it was usually a dead period.”

“At F-M High School, the practices are not as intense and the competition level isn’t as high as on City Rocks,” Roe said. “Most of the kids on my City Rocks team are going to play Division I college, whereas at F-M, it’s mostly lacrosse players and other sport players. There’s only 3-4 basketball players on my team at F-M. So the intensity with the City Rocks is better and there is more competition.”

Autry and Roe will benefit this summer from an uninterrupted viewing experience from college coaches.

“The 2023s are in a good spot,” Hart said, “because college assistants who haven’t been out on the road making offers are going to be on the road and looking forward to doing just that. They’ll see a Trevor Roe or a Trey Autry and say, ‘OK, there’s so much motion, I like this kid, let’s throw him an offer and get the ball rolling, get on his radar.’”

Dudzinski hopes to land on coaches’ radar this summer, too. A product of the lost Class of 2021, he has some ground to make up.

“It’s stressful,” he said, “but there’s a lot of excitement, too. You never know what could happen.”

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