JP Estrella averaged 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks in the regular season for South Portland last season. He will play at Brewster Academy his senior season and will soon make a college decision. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

JP Estrella hasn’t made up his mind about which high-level college basketball program will get his verbal commitment.

But the 6-foot-11, 210-pound center/power forward who led South Portland to the 2022 Class AA state title is sure of two things.

He’ll announce his choice on Friday, Sept. 2. And whichever team wins the recruiting battle will have passed the Estrella family chemistry test.

“I’m looking for that homey feel in the college and whether you can just feel chemistry on and off the court,” Estrella said. “All of these teams are good because these guys are really tight for each other. The biggest thing for me is having that family environment and being able to hang out with guys every day. And that translates on the court really.”

“Chemistry off the court equates to chemistry on the court,” said Estrella’s mother, Allie (Booth) Estrella, a former Miss Maine Basketball winner who played at Boston College.

As a junior at South Portland, Estrella averaged 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks in the regular season in an all-state campaign.


Estrella said he set the self-imposed Sept. 2 announcement date because he wanted his decision made before he goes off to prep powerhouse Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, for his senior season, and his Middlesex Magic club coach Mike Crotty will have returned from vacation in Greece. He will turn 18 on Sept. 3 and move in day at Brewster is Sept. 4.

Estrella is part of an unprecedented wave of boys’ basketball players from Maine who have, or will, receive top-tier Division I college scholarships, albeit after transferring out-of-state to finish their high school careers. Dom Campbell (Waynflete/Phillips Exeter Academy) will be a freshman this fall at Notre Dame. Cooper Flagg, and his twin brother, Ace, will be sophomores at Monteverde Academy in Florida after leading Nokomis to the state title. Cooper Flagg has already been offered scholarships by the UCLA, Michigan and Duke and starred on the USA U17 national team this summer as a 15-year-old.

“Me and Cooper are pretty close,” Estrella said. “We both ball around with each other and we’re both doing big things for Maine and we’re showing out for our state which is just awesome to do.”

Over the summer, Estrella has made official visits to – in order – Marquette, Tennessee, Iowa and Syracuse, and seen his name climb national recruiting ranking lists from the 150 range into a consensus top-60 Class of 2023 player. Duke and Kansas joined the list of 20-plus Division I programs (including Maine) to offer a scholarship.

While Kansas is still potentially in the mix, Estrella said he does not plan to make any more official visits. He canceled a planned visit to Duke. Saying no to the Blue Devils was a basketball-development decision.

“I was going to visit Duke right after Iowa but I just think they’re really deep at my position and I really want to play freshman year,” Estrella said, adding, “freshman year is a development year, really. I want to go and be able to play. Those four I’ve visited offer the opportunity.”


Estrella’s announcement will have an old-school feel with a modern social-media component, Estrella said. It will take place at XL Sports World in Saco with friends and family in attendance – “It’s an open invite to everyone,” Estrella said – and be streamed on 247 Sports, a recruiting site that currently has Estrella pegged No. 54 in its 2023 composite ranking, No. 7 among centers. puts Estrella at No. 53, No. 11 as a power forward and, another site, has Estrella ranked 16th overall and fourth as a power forward.

On Wednesday, Estrella will head to Chicago to take part in the Under Armour Elite 24 game, an outdoor all-star game that will take place off the shores of Lake Michigan and be broadcast on ESPNU (7 p.m.). The national attention is something Estrella could barely imagine when he was a 6-foot-4 freshman who barely played varsity minutes at Scarborough before transferring to South Portland.

“It’s a really humbling thing. Now I have to come in there and dominate and do my things, make some new friends and just keep hooping,” Estrella said.

An outgoing sort, Estrella said he’s enjoyed the recruiting and attendant attention that has escalated sharply after Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim made a surprise scholarship offer last August.

“The process has been awesome, learning about all these schools,” Estrella said. “It’s really been a dream and now my dream of playing at the (Division I) level is going to happen and hopefully I can develop at the DI level and go to the league. That’s the end goal.”

Estrella said he expects to play center and forward in college. This summer he’s focused on improving his perimeter skills, especially ball-handling and 3-point shooting, and on- and off-ball defense.


Ben Teer, 30, a Machias native, has worked with NBA bigs like Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein. For the past year, Estrella has been a weekly trainee.

“He’s going to be a really big get when someone lands him,” Teer said. “It’s just insane how much he can already do and to still have so much more ability to grow into his body. That’s what the college coaches I’ve talked to are all saying.”

Allie Estrella said she doesn’t know which school her son will choose.

“I don’t think there’s a wrong decision to be had here,” Allie Estrella said. “I’ve told JP, you have wonderful options with the places you visited. I feel comfortable with all of them.”

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