By: Rich Flanagan
Photos: Mike Nance
PHILADELPHIA- When the 2018-19 season ended in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals at the hands of La Salle College High School, Roman Catholic had a number of questions heading into the offseason. With an accomplished group of seniors in Seth Lundy (Penn State), Hakim Hart (Maryland) and Louie Wild, who would do a prep year at Olympus Prep (N.J.), moving on to the next step in their careers after having won two Philadelphia Catholic League titles and a PIAA Class 6A crown in 2018, the Cahillites certainly had holes to fill in its starting lineup and bench depth.
Two starters returned in point guard Lynn Greer III and 6-foot-10 skilled big man Jalen Duren along with Justice Williams, who started a few games but primarily came off the bench. The additions of Nasir Lett (Lincoln University), a transfer from Camden (N.J.) who actually began his career with Roman Catholic, and freshman Xzayvier Brown helped the pave the way for Matt Griffin’s team to finish the Philadelphia Catholic League season with a 10-4 record and go on a run to its third league title game before falling to Neumann-Goretti. At the center of that success was Greer, Duren and Williams and their play this season landed them on an exclusive list.
Duren was named to the 2019-20 Pa. All-State Class 6A First Team while Greer and Williams were selected Second Team. It marks the third straight year that the Cahillites (18-10) have had three players selected to the all-state team. Last season, it was Lundy, Hart and Duren, Third Team as a freshman, who received the honor.
Griffin, whose team finished in fifth in a deep field of Philadelphia Catholic League programs this season, was thrilled to see these three standouts receive this distinction.
“I’m extremely excited and proud of our guys,” Griffin said. “It’s a testament to the hard work that they put in and also to our staff and the time they put in with our players as a program. I’m proud of those young men, especially in a competitive field.”
Before he even took the court for the Cahillites, Duren was one of the most well-known prospects in the Class of 2022 and he burst onto the season as a freshman.
His game took an even bigger step forward in his sophomore year as he avg. 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks this season. He had several memorable performances over the course of the year. He posted 12 points, 11 boards and five rejections in a win over Methacton, the District 1 Class 6A champion and potential matchup for the Cahillites had the PIAA 6A tournament not been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that game in the Diane Mosco Foundation Shootout at Archbishop Wood, Duren went against another 6-10 skilled big man in the Warriors’ Jeff Woodward (Colgate), a fellow member of the Class 6A First Team.
He had a stat line of 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks against Camden in the N.J. Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at Cherry Hill East going against another talented forward in Kentucky commit Lance Ware and former Neumann-Goretti forward TaQuan Woodley. He was even better in Philadelphia Catholic League play posting a 27-point and 19-rebound game versus the Saints and a 34-point, 21-rebound and five-block performance against Archbishop Wood, both double-overtime losses.
From there he was integral in the Cahillites return to the title game, first converting the game-winning putback against Bonner-Prendergast on the road in the quarterfinals then going for 20 and 18 to down the Vikings in the semifinals. He did not get a shot at a state title but he “hit 20 field goals from outside of 15 feet” and “improved his free-throw percentage by 30 percent” in his second season, according to Griffin.
Duren came into the Cahillites program extremely raw but the potential was always there and Griffin and his staff helped him harness it in two seasons.
“When evaluating Jalen’s play as a freshman, he mostly relied on his athletic ability and physical attributes to score the basketball,” Griffin said. “It was more screen and roll and lobs for him. He really has taken a step forward and a large part of it had to do with the fact that he was required and relied on to do more as a sophomore. He was challenged and he rose to the occasion.”
Duren will not be returning to the corner of Broad & Vine as he will transfer to Montverde Academy (Fla.), the school that produced the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, in the fall.
If Duren took a huge step forward, Williams took 10 as the sophomore led the Cahillites with an avg. of 18.6 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. The 6-4 guard displayed the ability to get into the lane at will coupled with a smooth jumper and quick first step. Along with Duren, Williams had a strong outing against the Vikings with 32 points including going 13-for-14 from the free-throw line then kept the momentum going by scoring 20-plus points in five consecutive games. He avg. 22.0 points in the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs.
Williams currently holds offers from UConn, Michigan, Maryland and Penn State, among others and Griffin feels his best basketball is ahead of him.
“He got more aggressive and assertive,” Griffin said. “He’s not one to force stuff and he’s extremely efficient. With his production, ability to perform in big games and his ability to score off the bounce, he really has established himself, not only as one of the best guards in the state but the country. His potential is through the roof. If you look at where he is as a sophomore in high school, it’s really exciting to see where he can go. What I love about him is that he’s the most humble, coachable and hardworking kid and that’s the reason why he made such a big jump.”
Greer closed out his career with another all-state selection, his first since making First Team as the starting point guard of the 2018 PIAA 6A title team.
The 6-3 floor general avg. 18.2 points despite missing four games in the regular season. He posted a 37-point game vs. Bonner-Prendergast, the highest scoring total by a Cahillites player since Hart had 33 against Cardinal O’Hara last season. After being held out of the PIAA Tournament as a junior after being ruled a transfer, Greer was held out of the Class 6A Tournament this year with a hip injury. He suffered the injury in the regular-season finale against Bishop McDevitt but played through it to lead Roman Catholic back to the Philadelphia Catholic League title game, his fourth straight appearance at the Palestra.
Despite not playing in the PIAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons, he started in three straight league title games, winning a pair, and Griffin, who was named head coach prior to Greer’s freshman season, stressed how this culminated his illustrious career.
“His playing résumé in high school has been as good as you can get it,” Griffin said. “It’s a well-deserved achievement and it’s a little bit unfortunate that we didn’t get to continue playing due to certain circumstances but he had a terrific career. It’s a tremendous honor to be selected and to be on there twice is pretty awesome.”
Greer will graduate from Roman Catholic and do a prep year at IMG Academy (Fla.), a program that won the GEICO Nationals Championship in 2019. He finished his Roman Catholic career with 1.392 points, eighth-most in school history.
Ethan Morton, 6-5 Sr. G, Butler
William Jeffress, 6-7 Sr. F, Erie McDowell
Jalen Duren, 6-10 Soph. F, Roman Catholic
Jhamir Brickus, 5-11 Sr. G, Coatesville
Stevie Mitchell, 6-1 Jr. G, Wilson
Jeff Woodward, 6-10 Sr. F, Methacton
Lynn Greer, 6-1 Sr. G, Roman Catholic
Ike Herster, 6-6 Sr. F, Kennedy Catholic
Karell Watkins, 6-4 Jr. F, Chester
Justice Williams, 6-3 Soph. G, Roman Catholic
Erik Timko, 6-3 Sr. G, Methacton
Yasir Stover, 6-0 Sr. G, Simon Gratz
Jaelen McGlone, 6-4 Sr. G, Cheltenham
Shaquil Bender, 6-2 Sr. G, Abraham Lincoln
Zach Rocco, 6-2 Sr. G, Penn-Trafford
Jake Hoffman, 6-3 Sr. F, Mt. Lebanon
Akeem Taylor, 6-4 Sr. G, Chester
Caleb Mims, 6-0 Sr. G, Bethlehem Freedom
Player of the Year: Ethan Morton, Butler
Coach of the Year: Matt Coldren, Wilson