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BOYS BASKETBALL: Philly Live Showcase Gives Preview of Upcoming Philadelphia Catholic League Season

By Rich Flanagan (Photos by Mike Nance), 06/29/21, 2:15PM EDT


By: Rich Flanagan

Photos: Mike Nance

PHILADELPHIA – One of the premiere events of the June live period took place in Philadelphia over the last two weekends. Philly Live, an event orchestrated by Archbishop Wood head coach John Mosco and Imhotep Charter head coach Andre Noble, was held at St. Joseph’s Prep from June 18-20 and June 25-27. Coaches from Temple, Villanova, St. Joe’s, Drexel, VCU, Creighton, Georgetown, Albany, Richmond, Penn State, Yale, Rutgers, James Madison, Fordham, Michigan, Robert Morris, Maryland and many more were on hand to watch some of the best talent in the Tri-State area.

Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing and Michigan’s Juwan Howard were two of the notable coaches in attendance that made the trek to Girard Avenue to watch a multitude of highly ranked recruits compete against one another. Several Philadelphia Catholic League programs showcased their talent and several players accrued college offers along the way.

Here is a round-up from Philly Live:

Archbishop Wood begins life after historic 2021 class:

The Vikings have done this before after having to move forward when the 2017 class, which secured the PCL and PIAA Class 5A title, graduated. Rahsool Diggins (UConn), Daeshon Shepherd (La Salle), Marcus Randolph (Richmond), Jaylen Stinson (James Madison) and Muneer Newton (William Penn College) have all moved on after winning their own league title and making a PIAA 6A title game appearance.

Mosco has been through this and will revamp the roster as he has previously done.

Rising seniors Mike Knouse, who started several games during the state title run, and Tyson Allen will lead the transition. Knouse, a 6-foot-4 guard, had 20 points in a win over Lower Merion, the defending District 1 6A champion. Allen, a 6-3 guard and ferocious defender, had four points and five rebounds in a win over Potomac (Va.).

Archbishop Wood rising senior guard, Tyson Allen (#5) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Archbishop Wood rising senior guard, Mike Knouse (#14) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Justin Moore, the 6-2 transfer from Bishop McDevitt who earned Third Team All-Catholic honors as a junior, will take over at point for Diggins, continuing a succession that goes back to Tommy Funk and Collin Gillespie. He had 24 points and 20 points in wins over Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) and Potomac, respectively. Moore’s play at Philly Live earned him offers from Jacksonville, Albany, Merrimack and St. Francis (Pa.).

Bishop McDevitt transfer, Justin Moore (#2), will take over at point guard for the Wood Vikings this season- PSD Photo by Mike Nance

A plethora of younger players will compete for minutes in rising sophomores Josh Reed and Jalil Bethea. Reed posted eight points and seven rebounds versus Potomac by slashing to the rim and getting into the lane. Bethea is a terrific shooter who is working to do more with the ball in his hands. Add those two to rising junior Basil Laster, the 6-4 guard who secured an offer from St. Peter’s recently, and the Vikings are reestablishing their depth once again. A player to watch will be incoming freshman Judah Hidalgo, a 6-3 combo guard that many are high on.

Carson Howard, the 6-7 big man, transferred in this offseason and will man the middle. He averaged 18.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game at Lacey (N.J.) and is already finding his way with the team, as evidenced by his 13-point, 13-rebound performance against Potomac. Archbishop Wood should have no problem staying among the top programs in the PCL this season.

Father Judge, Roman Catholic welcome new head coaches with league ties:

When Matt Griffin left Roman Catholic to take an assistant position at Albany, no one was sure what direction the administration would go to find his replacement. They did not have to look far as Chris McNesby, Griffin’s predecessor, was brought back to lead the Cahillites. McNesby went 168-56 with two PCL and PIAA Class 4A titles from 2009-16 before stepping down. He is back and has talent to help Roman Catholic get back to the league title game for the fifth consecutive season.

Khalil Farmer, the 6-4 combo guard and one of the best shooters in Pa., scored 24 points in a win over Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.). His play over the last two weekends has earned him offers from Hofstra, Niagara, Drexel and St. Peter’s. His teammate, Daniel Skillings Jr., has also seen his stock rise. The 6-6 forward had 25 points against D.J. Wagner, the No. 1 player in the class of 2023, and Camden (N.J.). His recent offers include VCU, Towson, UMass, Hofstra, Fairfield, Rhode Island and Fordham.

Roman Catholic rising senior Daniel Skillings Jr. (#0) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Roman Catholic rising senior Khalil Farmer (#3) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Former Archbishop Wood assistant Chris Roantree takes over at Father Judge after Sean Tait stepped away in April. Roantree had been on Mosco’s staff for several years and assists in coaching Team Final, one of the elite AAU programs in the area. The 17U team features high level talent in Emoni Bates, Jalen Duren, Jameel Brown, Corey Floyd, Justice Williams and Dereck Lively. The Crusaders will be without Nahseer Johnson (Arcadia) and Justin Blythe (Alvernia) but there are new faces who will be added to the rotation.

Three Bishop McDevitt transfers have joined Father Judge in 6-3 guard Paul King, 6-foot guard Nolan Waldon and 6-4 guard Tearran Peete. King only scored three points with the Lancers last season but figures to be a focal part of the Crusaders rotation as a junior. He showed off his shooting ability with three treys against St. Augustine Prep (N.J.). Guards Jordan Rhinehart and Jalen Flowers are the lone seniors and should be players Roantree can lean on. In the frontcourt, Anthony Lilley, a 6-6 forward who saw action as a freshman, should see extended minutes in year two.

St. Joseph’s Prep receives influx of legacy Philly players:

Jason Harrigan’s first year as head coach had its ups and its downs but it was a learning experience. After having previous experience coaching in the PCL while at Cardinal O’Hara during the 2017-18 season, Harrigan took over for legendary head coach William “Speedy” Morris and finished 3-11 overall. His second season figures to be better as the incoming freshman class features a pair of players who have deep ties to Philadelphia basketball. Olin Chamberlain Jr., a 5-11 point guard, is the grandnephew of NBA Hall of Famer and 76ers legend Wilt Chamberlain. Jaron McKie, a 6-1 combo guard, is the son of former NBA Sixth Man of the Year and Temple University head coach Aaron McKie. Mckie scored 13 points in a win over Chester while Chamberlain had seven in a loss to defending PIAA Class 6A champion, Reading.

The Hawks also received a huge boost in the middle with the addition of Tristen Guillouete. The 6-9 big man transferred in from Life Center Academy (N.J.) and put his entire skill set on display at Philly Live. He had 26 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks against Reading. He also had another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards versus the Clippers.

Archbishop Carroll showcases backcourt depth:

Francis Bowe is working out a good problem. He has more talent at the guard position than any year since he took over the Patriots program in 2019. The depth starts with rising sophomores Chase Coleman and Moses Hipps. Coleman, the 6-2 guard, picked up his first D-I offer from Manhattan on June 18. He scored 11 points in a win over Executive Education Charter. Hipps, the 6-4 point guard who boasts an offer from La Salle and was the only freshman named to the Pa. All-State Class 4A team (second team), continued to show why he isone of the most heralded guards in the 2024 class. He poured in 32 points against East Catholic (Conn.) then added 15 points versus Executive Education Charter.

Archbishop Carroll rising sophomore Chase Coleman (#2) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Archbishop Carroll rising sophomore Moses Hipps (#0) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Bowe welcomes two newcomers into that backcourt rotation in 5-9 rising sophomore Jake West (Plymouth Whitemarsh) and 6-3 rising senior Shawnn Smith (Bishop McDevitt). West is a terrific passer with phenomenal vision. Smith, who avg. 8.1 points per game for the Lancers last season, can get to the rim and knock down shots from the outside. Bowe emphasized that “Will [Chavis] did a fantastic job with him for three years.” Smith is another McDevitt player who had to find a new home after the school closed this month. Chavis was recently hired as an assistant at Drexel under Zach Spiker.

It never hurts to have multiple options at various positions and Bowe is orchestrating ways to give this talented group opportunities to be successful.

“It’s an equal opportunity system,” Bowe said. “If you play hard, play well and play together, you’re going to play. We have a lot of guards and they all believe in each other. They share the ball. It’s not one man’s fiddle.”

Dean Coleman-Newsome, who had a breakout freshman season before missing all of last year with a knee injury, will return to the starting lineup. He is now 6-4 and has grown into his body. Expect a huge junior season for the 2023 guard.

Devon Prep continues its recent rise:

After advancing to the PCL semifinals this season, the Tide look to remain among the top teams in the league. Devon Prep has improved each season since joining the league in 2018 and they appear primed to become a team that contends every season moving forward. 

Devon Prep rising sophomore Ty Mishock (#22) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Devon Prep rising senior IV Pettit (#2) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Rising senior Allen Cieslak led the way with 26 points while 5-8 rising sophomore Ty Mishock, a starter as a freshman, had 12 points in a victory over Abraham Lincoln. Later, in a win over Salesianum (Del.), 6-2 rising senior IV Pettit scored 15 points, Cieslak added 14 and rising junior Jacen Holloway chipped in 11. Versatile forward Lucas Orchard, 6-4 rising junior, had 10 points, nine rebounds and four steals versus the Sallies.

West Catholic finally ready to live up to its potential:

Two seasons ago, West Catholic made the postseason for the first time since 2014. Last year, they finished with a winning record in league play for the first time since 2009. The trajectory has ascended since Miguel Bocachica took over in 2019 and he hopes to keep it that way with potentially the most loaded roster in his tenure.

Anthony Finkley, the 6-7 rising junior, can play all five positions. He can handle the ball like a guard and post like a forward. He has an evolving jumper and that will come with age. He has picked up offers from Marquette, Rutgers and UMBC since June 15. He had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists in a win over Salesianum then 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists against Bergen Catholic (N.J.).

West Catholic rising senior Nasir Griffin (#24) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

West Catholic rising senior Kaseem Watson (#1) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

West Catholic rising senior Kareem Watson (#3) - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Nasir Griffin, the 6-7 rising senior, had 18 points in a win over Gill St. Bernard’s then posted 16 points and six rebounds against St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.). He holds offers from Drexel, Robert Morris and NJIT. Zion Stanford, a 6-7 rising junior, had 16 points in that win over the Sallies followed by 13 points and six boards vs. Bergen Catholic. He has an offer from Bryant. Marcus Branker Jr., a 6-4 rising junior, received an offer of his own from Bryant on June 15. He had eight points against Gill St. Bernard’s.

Kaseem and Kareem Watson, the 6-6 twin brothers, were spectacular over the two weekends. They picked up offers from Eastern Michigan, Cal State Bakersfield, Niagara, St. Francis (Pa.), New Mexico State and Cleveland State. Kaseem, who also added an offer from Hofstra, had 17 points and five rebounds while Kareem added 16 points and four boards in the win over St. Peter’s Prep.

The talent is there but so are the expectations and the Burrs are hoping to live up to them.

Impact transfers abound once again...

As was a theme a season ago as the COVID-19 pandemic put the high school basketball season in jeopardy, transfers are coming into the PCL in large quantities. Yet, there have also been some who have left. Start with players from Bishop McDevitt like Moore, King, Smith, Terrell Pitts (St. Thomas Aquinas (N.J.), Sherod Cannedy (West Catholic), Alassane Amadou and Jaren Morton, both of whom will play at Springside Chestnut Hill and reclassified to the class of 2023. Chad Anglin, a 6-7 forward who played with Roman Catholic the last two seasons, transferred to Imhotep Charter.

Howard (Archbishop Wood), Guillouette (St. Joe’s Prep) and West (Plymouth Whitemarsh) all found new homes. Neumann-Goretti welcomes 6-9 rising sophomore Luke Bevilacqua from St. Augustine Prep, marking its first legitimate big man since 6-9 forward Marcus Littles (West Chester) roamed the paint. Archbishop Ryan brought in 6-2 rising sophomore Mike “Deuce” Jones and 6-9 rising sophomore Thomas Sorber. Both played at Trenton Catholic (N.J.), which closed at the conclusion of the academic year, this season. Jones, who avg. 11.4 ppg, had 18 points while Sorber had seven points, including a three-pointer, and nine rebounds in a win over Pocono Mountain West.

Cardinal O’Hara has added 6-5 rising junior Izaiah Pasha, who came over from Central Dauphin East. He secured an offer from Siena on June 20 then scored 21 points in a game against Sankofa Freedom on the 27th. He also had 15 points in a win over Mastery Charter North.

Notable Performances...

A year after finishing 9-5, La Salle is back in the thick of the PCL discussion. Three years ago, they were playing at the Palestra in the title game and head coach Mike McKee has an array of offensive weapons at his disposal to help him lead the Explorers back there. Rising senior Nix Varano, a 6-2 guard, nailed the game-winning three-pointer to down St. John’s (D.C.) and finished with 24 points. Next, he had 11 points, five rebounds and two steals in a victory over Hudson Catholic (N.J.). Horace Simmons, a 6-6 rising junior, had 13 points and four boards in that win over Hudson Catholic and his performance at Philly Live earned him an offer from Marquette. Chris Williams, a 6-3 rising senior, appears to have come into his own as he tallied 12 points in that same contest.

Sam Brown, the starting guard and Rutgers football commit, did not play in that game but he figures to be back in the starting lineup. The difference maker may be 6-8 rising junior Caleb Bryant, who showed he can control the glass and protect the rim.

Neumann-Goretti lost Hysier Miller (Temple), Chris Evans (Claflin University), Zaakir Williamson (Buffalo) and Blaise Vespe (IMG Academy (Fla.)) but they have more than enough left on the roster as they hope to win their second league title in three years. In a win over Windermere Prep (Fla.), Masud Stewart, the 6-2 rising senior, exploded for 24 points and 5-11 rising sophomore Robert Wright added 20 points and five assists. Amir Williams, a 6-5 rising sophomore, had seven points and seven rebounds in the contest.

Aamir Hurst, a 6-2 rising senior, had 12 points and Wright led the way with 18 in a victory over Downingtown West. The Saints closed out Philly Live with a win over Paterson Eastside (N.J.) as Stewart scored 16 points, Hirst had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Wright also had 12 points. Khaafiq Myers, a 5-11 rising sophomore, had five points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.