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BOYS BASKETBALL: Philly Live Brings Intrigue as Teams Get Prepped for New Season

By Rich Flanagan, 07/07/23, 3:15PM EDT


Photos: Kathy Leister, Mike Nance, Donna Eckert, Krystal Williams, Dan Hilferty & Jack Verdeur

By: Rich Flanagan

PHILADELPHIA – Philly Live was once again the marquee live period event not only in the area but perhaps on the east coast over the course of two consecutive weekends in

June. The event was played at both Jefferson University and St. Joe’s Prep with teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware competing against each other but teams from Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, and Washington D.C. also made the trip.

Playing against some of the best teams at this point in the summer is vital, but the allure is competing in these contests as NCAA head and assistant coaches look on only feet away. Temple head coach Adam Fisher was there for his first live period at the helm of the Owls as was Florida Gulf Coast head man Pat Chambers. Coaches from across the country flocked to this event and school logos from Alabama, UConn, Syracuse, Fairleigh Dickinson, Iona, Villanova, George Washington, Kentucky, Bucknell, Rider, St. Joe’s, Drexel, Albany, Seton Hall, La Salle, Buffalo, Michigan, LSU, Kansas, Merrimack, Miami (Fla.), Xavier, Lehigh, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Penn State and more were donned during the six days the high-level event was played.

A multitude of local programs impressed at Philly Live and showcased some exciting prospects heading into next season. Let’s take a look at some of them:

St. Joe’s Prep Ready to Return to Prominence

The Hawks advanced to the Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinals before falling to Archbishop Wood on the road. The corps of Tristen Guillouette, Jalen Harper, Matt Gorman, Jaron McKie, Olin Chamberlain Jr., and Jordan Ellerbee got their first taste of postseason play and nearly made the league semifinals for the first time since 2018. St. Joe’s Prep was thrust into many high-profile games at Philly Live and came away with a 5-1 record.

Guillouette, the 6-foot-9 rising senior forward who earned offers from Towson, St. Bonaventure, and North Carolina A&T, had a monster game with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and six blocks against defending PIAA Class A champion, Imani Christian. He also added 16 points against Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) and 15 versus Immaculate Conception (N.J.).

McKie was the biggest riser of this group with offers from Seton Hall and St. Joe’s coming in. The 6-3 rising junior hit three three-pointers on his way to 19 points against Saint Ignatius (Ohio) then busted out for 33 points, including 21 in the first half, in a 70-55 win over Payne Tech (N.J.). He poured in 25 points and hit the game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime vs. Immaculate Conception.

The son of the former Temple standout and head coach, Aaron McKie feels the Hawks are primed to breakthrough this season but understands they also need to temper expectations.

“It’s going to take a lot of focus, dedication, and hard work,” McKie said. “We’re here all summer working out, so I definitely think we’re on the right path to that.”

McKie started off the game against Imani Christian going 7-for-7 and finished with 29 points, including seven makes from deep. Head coach Jason Harrigan feels that McKie’s recruitment is only beginning to take shape and his play in front of college coaches should only get better from here.

“At this point, it just started for him,” Harrigan said. “We’re looking at where he is in his development and where he’s hoping to go. It’s about style and fit, but also with the shuffling of college coaches, you never know. It’s about respecting coaches and programs and enjoying the process.”

St. Joseph's Prep senior Tristen Guillouette #21 - PSD Photo by Jack Verdeur

St. Joseph's Prep junior Jaron McKie #1 - PSD Photo by Jack Verdeur

St. Joseph's Prep junior Olin Chamberlain Jr. #0 - PSD Photo by Jack Verdeur

Chamberlain looked great in that same game going for 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Harper chipped in 10 points in the win.

St. Joe’s Prep may have been a year ahead of schedule with last season’s playoff berth, but this will be one of the better programs in the Philadelphia Catholic League with outstanding guard play and a dominant big man in the middle.

Father Judge No Longer a Surprise

Chris Roantree always had an expedited plan when he returned to coach at his alma mater. The Father Judge Crusaders advanced to the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs before falling to Archbishop Carroll in the opening round, but what it showed – similar to St. Joe’s Prep – is the program in the midst of a rebirth.

The pieces are there for the Crusaders’ deepest run since Marc Rodriguez - the first 1,000-point scorer in program history who played at East Stroudsburg - graced the floor in 2017. Roantree believes this group can do it but more importantly, his players do even more so.

“Since I’ve been here, the goal has been to be at the Palestra and to have a chance to get down there,” Roantree said. “These guys really believe that we can do it right now. One of the good things is we’re really young as we’re only playing two seniors, but we have a lot of talent with some surefire Division I guys.”

The Crusaders rolled over Roselle Catholic (N.J.), 65-47 behind 16 points and five steals from 6-2 rising junior Kevair Kennedy and 18 points and five rebounds from 6-2 rising senior Laquan Byrd

Father Judge head coach Chris Roantree - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Kennedy showed flashes as a freshman then came on strong as a sophomore and this is the year he really shows the league who he is. He turns defense into offense with ease, both in converting steals into layups at the other end or finding the plethora of shooters Father Judge boasts in 6-4 rising junior Kevin Beck, 6-foot rising sophomore Rocco Westfield, 6-6 rising senior Anthony Lilley and 6-3 rising sophomore Derrick Morton-Rivera.

Father Judge junior Kevair Kennedy #5 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Father Judge senior Laquan Byrd #3 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Roantree has been with Kennedy, who is receiving interest from Rider and Quinnipiac, every step of the way and it’s no surprise to hear the praise the head coach is giving to his multifaceted guard.

“Kevair is one of the better young guards in the area and in our league,” Roantree said. “He has been fantastic for us in terms of making the right plays and knowing when to shoot and get a guy open. He’s setting the tone for us defensively and I’m happy about him.”

Byrd came into the Philadelphia Catholic League two years ago and his first impression was a 37-point outburst against St. Joe’s Prep. Now, he's being tasked with leading the Crusaders’ resurgence and he proved he is more than capable by earning Second Team All-Catholic honors. He only boasts an offer from Lincoln University, but his list should include many more in the coming months.

If Byrd wants to get on the radar of Division I programs, he has to do the little things but Roantree emphasizes that consistency is the biggest with him.

“One is consistency, particularly on the defensive end which has allowed him to get out on what we call ‘Road Running’ where we run our break,” Roantree said. “He makes the right plays out of that break and that allows him to get downhill. We keep talking about how to slow him down because he’s an improving shooter but shot 40 percent from three on 80 attempts last year. He’s trusting his shot more and hoping to get those attempts up to 110 to 120.”

“Road Running,” as Roantree calls it, should give the opposition fits this season as Kennedy and Byrd can facilitate the break but even more so, they can shoot when the opportunity presents itself. The Crusaders understand how to attack the paint to draw the defense in then their shooters find space on the wings and in the corners. It’s a recipe for success that benefits Morton-Rivera, who had 11 points and drilled three treys against Roselle Catholic. “Derrick is maturing and stepping into that next role of being more than a shooter,” according to Roantree.

Father Judge has ample shooting and more size upfront next to Lilley with the addition of 6-9 rising junior Everett Barnes, who comes over from Burlington City (N.J.) where he avg. 9.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. He already boasts an offer from Robert Morris and his role as a rim protector will be vital to the Crusaders’ success this season.

Bethea is the Face of the League This Season

When a spectator, college assistant or even a veteran head coach walks into a gym, they’re immediately drawn to whatever Jalil Bethea is doing. To think the 6-4 Archbishop Wood rising senior didn’t score a single point as a freshman is mind-boggling to most but he has more than made up for lost time in his two full seasons as a starter. He showed out at Philly Live in front of several programs vying for his services, particularly Syracuse which had new head man Adrian Autry and associate head coach Gerry McNamara on hand.

Bethea erupted for 42 points and 11 rebounds against Camden (N.J.) with a mix of tough finishes around the rim and smooth jumpers, which has been his forte from his early days with the Vikings. During one possession, he drew a defender in, pump faked, repositioned himself as the defender came back down, and finally sank a jumper from straightaway almost as if the defender wasn’t there.

The 2023 Philadelphia Catholic League MVP has gotten so much stronger in the last two seasons and his drives to the rim have transitioned from simply drawing fouls to converting through contact with much more regularity. 

Archbishop Wood senior Jalil Bethea #1 - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Add in his long arms for extension and finishing and rebounding ability, and Bethea has officially become the face of the league as he moves into his senior season.

This is the year where Collin Gillespie and Rahsool Diggins – the latter player who won consecutive league MVPs including during Bethea’s freshman season – made a name for themselves and captured Philadelphia Catholic League titles. Bethea wants nothing more than that but first he wanted to showcase what he could do for a future program at the next level.

He went for 30 points, six rebounds and five assists in an 84-68 win over Tunstall (Va.) then recorded a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 73-65 victory over St. Rose (N.J.). Lastly, he shot 9-for-17 from the floor on his way to 24 points in a win over East Catholic (Conn.) in another sensational performance.

Everyone knows his name but more importantly they know his game. With one more year to play in Warminster, he’s hoping they will remember his name.

Cardinal O’Hara Looking for its New Leader(s)

When watching Cardinal O’Hara face off against Camden Eastside (N.J.), a familiar face has returned to the sideline. Former Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon was directing this current group of Lions that has undergone a major transition over the last few months.

Ryan Nemetz stepped down the day after Cardinal O’Hara lost to Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA Class 4A Tournament. He took over in 2018 and led the Lions to their first two state playoff appearances in program history.  A month later, former Archbishop Carroll assistant Mike Richards was given the job, but he abruptly stepped down in June. O’Hanlon was brought on to be an assistant by Richards, and he and fellow assistant Matt McGowan decided to stay on for the live period and help the team make this latest transition.

O’Hanlon is the winningest coach in Patriot League history with 361 career wins and led Lafayette to three NCAA Tournament appearances in 27 seasons. He also has had success in the Philadelphia Catholic League winning Coach of the Year twice at Bonner-Prendergast and leading the Friars to the 1988 league title behind Brian Daly and alongside assistant Steve Donahue, now the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania who was present at Philly Live.

The longtime coach is a basketball lifer in the area when also taking into account his first Division I assistant job was under Fran Dunphy at Penn and now he finds himself in the league where he played (now defunct St. Thomas More) and coached. O’Hara is coming off perhaps its strongest two-year stint in recent memory with two league and state playoff appearances and the catalyst of that team, Izaiah Pasha has graduated and will do a prep year at St. Thomas More (Conn.). Taking his place will be 6-3 rising senior Aasim “Flash” Burton.

Burton, who has recently taken visits to Sacred Heart and Drexel, had 17 points in a win over Trinity Catholic (Fla.) and 22 points against Spring-Ford at Philly Live. Burton is the primary ball-handler and shot creator on the outside while 6-7 rising senior Pearse McGuinn handles his business on the inside. McGuinn had 16 points in the win over Spring-Ford by getting to the glass and finishing over smaller defenders, but his perimeter game is the reason programs like Rider, Army, Delaware, William & Mary, and American University were looking on.

Cardinal O'Hara senior Aasim “Flash” Burton #5 - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

Cardinal O’Hara has experience at the helm in O’Hanlon and key pieces in Burton and McGuinn in its starting lineup, but it will need players such as 6-foot rising senior Anthony Hobbs, 6-1 rising junior Dasir Williams-Bey and 6-5 rising senior Miles Johnson to be effective to continue its recent run of success.

Neumann-Goretti Revamped and Retooled

Carl Arrigale watched as his Neumann-Goretti team played Largo (Md.). The most successful coach in Philadelphia Catholic League history smiled as he took note of what his new group can do and where they needed help. He has a newfound sense of purpose all these years later, even after losing the Philadelphia Catholic League and PIAA state title in the same postseason. Within the first few minutes, he notices a key element that has been missing from his team the past few seasons, one which included Baylor commit Robert Wright III, Iona signee Sultan Adewale and Khaafiq Myers. Wright transferred to Montverde Academy (Fla.) for his final season and Adewale graduated.

Myers was missing this game as he deals with a knee injury, so Arrigale was seeing several new faces become acclimated with his style of play but overall, he was impressed.

Neumann-Goretti senior Amir Williams #12 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

“Last year, we didn’t have any depth, but now we do,” Arrigale said.

Wright, Adewale, Myers and Amir Williams helped the Saints reach the league and state final twice in the last two seasons, winning both in 2022. The starting lineup was loaded but the drop-off when Myers missed a game or a starter got into foul trouble presented a major flaw in Arrigale’s team, and that needed correcting. Myers will be back healthy for the start of the season and Williams is one of the elite shooters in the league at 6-5. Where the production comes from after that is what excites Arrigale and he will have plenty of options.

Torrey Brooks avg. 16.9 points and 9.5 assists while knocking down 59 three-pointers at League Bound Academy (N.J.) this season and scored 689 points in two seasons there. The 6-foot rising sophomore is crafty when he gets into the paint and the lefty can really shoot it from deep. On the other side of him is Keon Long-Mtume, a transfer from Martin Luther King who avg. 23.9 ppg last season. Another addition that should complement Myers and Williams is 6-3 rising freshman Nazir Tyler, who avg. 13.3 points and 5 rebounds while making 57 three-pointers as an eighth grader at Germantown Friends School.

Options abound for Arrigale and the Saints and the return of 6-foot rising sophomore Stephon Ashley-Wright, Rob’s younger brother, plus the emergence of 5-9 rising sophomore Deshawn Yates gives Neumann-Goretti one of the deeper backcourts in the league heading into next season. The Philadelphia Catholic League has yet to experience the Saints’ signature point forward in 6-6 rising senior Larenzo Jerkins, who had to sit out all last season due to PIAA transfer rules. The Chester High transfer had 24 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in a win over Ramapo (N.J.) and added 16 points, 14 boards and two blocks in a victory over Hudson Catholic (N.J.).

West Catholic Begins Life After State Championship

It cannot be understated what West Catholic accomplished over the last two seasons: two Philadelphia Catholic League semifinal appearances, the first district title in 70 years and the first state championship in program history. It was nothing short of miraculous for a program that had fallen on hard times, but Miguel Bocachica was the man to turn things around after winning two state championships as an assistant under Andre Noble at Imhotep Charter.

West Catholic, defeated Deer Lakes 83-55 to bring home the PIAA 3A State Title - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert

Bocachica also had the stars to do it in Adam “Budd” Clark (Merrimack College) and Zion Stanford (Temple) and they scored 30 points apiece in the state final in Hershey against Deer Lakes. Clark, Stanford, twins Kareem and Kaseem Watson (Cal State Bakersfield), Nasir Griffin (East Stroudsburg), Amyr Walker (Arcadia), Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui (East Stroudsburg) and MJ Branker Jr. (California University of Pa.) have all moved on, but this will not be a rebuilding project for Bocachica by any sense of the imagination.

Saaid Lee comes to West Catholic after playing last season with Math, Civics & Sciences and having started his career with Bonner-Prendergast. The 6-1 rising junior scored 17 points in a 51-45 win over Bergen Catholic (N.J.) and will be a key member of the rotation. Isaiah Muhammad, a 6-4 rising junior, drilled three three-pointers, and had 11 points in that game and figures to see major minutes after playing sparingly as a sophomore. Another player who showed promise and will be crucial is 6-3 rising junior Micah Waters, who scored 11 points in the state semifinals against Trinity.

There is also size and versatility in the front court, a hallmark for the Burrs these past two seasons. Tariq Jennings, the 6-5 forward and lone senior on the team, will see his first season of extended action and be called upon to provide rebounding, shot-blocking and perimeter shooting.

Jaden Banner, the 6-6 rising junior, plays on the perimeter but can take bigger forwards off the bounce, and the X-factor is 6-7 rising sophomore Kingston Wheatley, who is just scratching the surface of what he can be.

West Catholic senior Tariq Jennings #1 - PSD Photo by Dan Hilferty

Wheatley is adding muscle to his frame and the confidence in his skillset is beginning to pour out. Jasir Tyler, a 5-8 rising sophomore, is also an intriguing prospect as is 6-6 rising junior Isaac Cole, a two-year varsity player who scored 16 points versus Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) and earned an offer from St. Bonaventure in the process.

Bocachica has the luxury of bringing in some impact freshmen starting with Jayvon Byrd, who sank six three-pointers and finished with 20 points in that 67-60 loss to Gill St. Bernard’s. The Burrs are also excited about 6-1 incoming freshman Xavier Fauntroy, who can shoot from the outside and get to the basket in a hurry. It’s a new corps of Burrs but quite possibly the deepest Bocachica has had in his time at West Catholic. The essential difference is that there is no clear No. 1 scoring option, which opens the door for a plethora of players to contribute on the floor.

Archbishop Ryan Has Pieces for Momentous Season

Never have the prospects been greater than they are on Academy Road right now. The Archbishop Ryan Raiders are coming off a trip to the PIAA Class 5A semifinals where they fell to Justin Edwards (Kentucky) and eventual champion Imhotep Charter. Aside from Michael Paris (Delaware Valley University), head coach Joe Zeglinski returns his entire rotation starting with 6-9 rising senior forward and Georgetown commit Thomas Sorber and 6-3 rising guard and Florida Gulf Coast commit Darren Williams.

Archbishop Ryan senior Thomas Sorber #35 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Archbishop Ryan senior Darren Williams #2 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Sorber went for 25 points and 12 rebounds while Williams scored 19 points including the game-winning layup on a backdoor cut in a 58-56 triple overtime win over St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.). Sorber had future head coach Ed Cooley looking on for his game against Bergen Catholic, one in which he went for 23 points and 12 boards. Williams was equally as impressive with 17 points including three three-pointers. Sorber also posted what may have been the best stat line of Philly Live with 26 points, 18 rebounds and eight blocks against Gonzaga Prep (D.C.). The dynamic tandem returns for their final season at Archbishop Ryan and that already gives the Raiders serious aspirations of making their second Philadelphia Catholic League title game in three seasons and second state title game in four years.

What makes the Raiders lethal is the supporting cast and number of variations its lineup can throw at the opposition. Rocco Morabito, the 6-3 rising senior guard, was ruled ineligible for the postseason due to PIAA transfer rules, but he is back and adds another shooter on the outside. He made three shots from behind the arc and scored 13 points against Bergen Catholic then poured in 14 points vs. Richmond Heights (Ohio).

There are also multiple guard options in 6-3 rising senior Christian Durham, 6-foot rising junior Mark Gallagher, 6-2 rising senior Gavin Reed, 5-11 rising sophomore Matt Johnson and 6-1 rising senior Ryan Everett, who really came on during the state tournament last season. They will allow Zeglinski to mix up his starting lineup and create mismatches all over the floor. There is also the addition of 6-5 rising junior Brandon Russell, who avg. 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 assists, and made 31 three-pointers at The Pennington School (N.J.) last season and should be a welcomed addition.

The piece that brings it all together is 6-6 rising senior forward Jaden Murray. Murray is a terrific complement to Sorber as he can hit from the elbow and baseline while controlling the tempo at the high post with pinpoint passing and tough finishes inside on quick drives to the rim. He gives the Raiders a dimension that makes them a threat to win double-digit games in the Philadelphia Catholic League once again along with a deep postseason run. 

Devon Prep Has Plenty Left After Historic Two-Year Stint

It’s not farfetched to say the past two seasons have been the best in Devon Prep’s history. The Tide have made the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs twice followed by a pair of PIAA state tournament appearances and most of all, the 2022 PIAA Class 3A title. Four starters are gone from that team in IV Pettit (Chestnut Hill College), Allen Cieslak (Susquehanna University), Jacen Holloway (Army West Point) and Lucas Orchard, who is doing a prep year at Perkiomen School.

Despite the loss of those four heralded players who won the biggest championship in program history, talent is robust at Devon Prep as head coach Jason Fisher is ready to usher in the next skilled set of players in an ever-growing supply line.

Rising senior Ty Mishock is the lone remaining starter from the state title team and has been an integral part of the Tide’s success since joining the rotation as a freshman. He sank four three-pointers on his way to 22 points to go along with five assists in a 62-60 overtime loss to St. Georges Tech (Del.). One of those treys was a banked-in heavy to force the extra period.

Shane Doyle had his moments last season, particularly in the state tournament (16 points vs.  Saucon Valley, 12 points vs. Trinity), and he should be even better this year. The 6-3 rising junior had 16 points, three rebounds and three assists in a 63-56 victory over Sanford School (Del.). He also hit a pair of treys and finished with 12 points in a win over Central York. Other options in the backcourt include 6-foot rising senior Greg Perullo, 5-9 rising senior Zachary Orchard, and 6-5 rising senior Ben Costello, who will have his opportunity to showcase his scoring and rebounding ability.

The front court presents a lot of intrigue with 6-5 rising junior Zane Conlon and 6-7 rising junior Reece Craft.

Devon Prep senior Ty Mishock #22 - PSD Photo by Krystal Williams

Conlon is a tough forward who rebounds with tenacity and has evolved from a back-to-the-basket player to one more than comfortable stretching out to the three-point line. He should flourish this season. Craft is a rangy lefty who does the dirty work inside, but he can lead the break. His shooting range is expanding, and he should be a valuable contributor with Holloway and Lucas Orchard moving on. Jaden Craft, Reece’s brother, has the chance to play in year one due to his deadeye shooting and composure with the basketball.

Looking back on its unprecedented success, Devon Prep is primed to be a force in the present with continued optimism as it moves into the future in the Philadelphia Catholic League.