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  • Jared Exler

Philly Area 17u AAU Preview Part 2

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

*Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAU basketball competition has unfortunately been delayed. I’m still hoping for the best, and that these players will be able to get the opportunities they deserve to showcase their abilities at some point, whether that’s sometime in the mid to late Summer or even early Fall. This is the second of a 3-part series of team previews.

Team Final: A member of the Nike EYBL circuit that is known for being a consistent team to make it to Peach Jam year after year.

Headlining this team is a consensus top 2 prospect in the class of 2022 in 6’10 center Jalen Duren who just transferred to Montverde Academy. Duren uses his elite physical tools and athleticism to be a force on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he plays mainly in the post at this stage and can frequently score or dunk with ease without any kind of offensive moves because he is so physically and athletically ahead of the most of his competition. He took a nice step in his sophomore season showing improvement in this category as he has developed a drop-step as well as when he catches it in the post facing up and taking his man off the dribble. Always will be a threat to score off putbacks or alley-oops. Defensively, he has great timing on his blocks and does a good job staying out of foul trouble by keeping his hands up straight in addition to being an elite rebounder. It will be important for him to develop in the next few years as a guy who people will respect shooting the ball from the three to become the kind of NBA player he has the potential to be, with the modern NBA being a league with bigs who can space the floor by having at least respectable 3-point shooting ability.

Running the point for this team will be 6’2 point guard Rahsool Diggins from Archbishop Wood. Diggins is a natural scorer but what really makes him special as a player is how he balances facilitating for his teammates with his elite scoring ability. Diggins can really shoot the ball from three as well as finish at the rim with crafty finishes. Defensively, he also gives a valiant effort as he led Archbishop Wood in steals and deflections this season. Has proven himself to be among the top point guards in his class and it shows with recent offers from Kansas and Villanova.

Forming the other part of the interior duo for this squad is 6’9 power forward Nnaana Njoku from Sanford School (Del.) who just committed to Villanova. Has very good physical tools for his position with his height and a strong 250 lbs. Offensively, he’s very skilled with his moves in the post and his soft touch, but what really has impressed me has been the development of his jumper, especially from the mid-range, as well as the occasional three he has shown he can hit. Defensively, he uses his size and muscle to block shots in addition to getting great position for rebounds. Looks like he will be another one of those multi-year Villanova guys who people will ask when he’s a junior or senior, “how is he still in college?”

On the wing is 6’8 John Camden from Archbishop Carroll. Missed a good portion of last season's EYBL with injury but will surely be welcomed back as he is fully healthy now and showed his potential this season in high school. One of the best shooters in Pennsylvania, uses his size and textbook shooting form to shoot over defenders with ease. Can heat up in a hurry and shoot out to NBA range when he’s hot. Very effective as a spot up shooter or coming off of screens. With such a premium placed on shooters this size in today’s game, it makes sense why schools like Memphis, Indiana, and Wake Forest have offered him. In order for him to reach his full potential, though, he will need to develop more strength to improve as a finisher as well as his ball handling to become more of a creator off the dribble.

A player on this team who could emerge as the biggest stock riser because of his unknown profile to many right now is 6’5 combo guard Quadir Copeland from Gettysburg HS. Has great size for a combo guard which allows him to see over defenses to use his outstanding playmaking ability to find open teammates. Is very athletic as well which allows him to finish at the rim with ease or cause havoc on defense, whether that’s from blocks or steals. Has a current offer from LaSalle and I’d expect many more A-10 schools to get involved, but if he can develop into a consistent three-point shooter he looks like a high major player to me.

Next on this team are a trio of Archbishop Wood players: Jaylen Stinson, Marcus Randolph, and Daeshon Shepherd. Stinson is a 6’0 point guard who has sacrificed both in high school and AAU having to play off the ball with Diggins running the point. He is a very efficient scorer both from the three-point line and mid-range. A player who always takes as much pride in defense as he does on offense which always helps to provide a spark to his teams. Has shown in spurts the ability to play point guard with his playmaking but just hasn’t consistently gotten the opportunity. Says a lot about him as a person and his selfless mentality that he has no problem playing off the ball because he knows it’s what’s best for the team. Currently, a mid-major priority for schools like Hofstra, Rider, and St. Peter’s and that makes complete sense, but could play his way up to a conference like the A-10 if he can take advantage of any opportunities he gets to run the point on Team Final or Wood. Randolph is a 6’5 shooting guard who has a very smooth offensive game both with his three-pointer and finishing ability at the rim. Also a player who can get easy buckets with his instinctive cutting ability. Really fit well on Wood this season as he doesn't dominate the ball and the majority of his points come off very few dribbles. Would thrive in a league like the CAA, where he has offers from Drexel and Hofstra. Shepherd is best known for his elite level athleticism which he uses to score very efficiently at the rim with layups or dunks as well as on defense where he will often guard the other team’s best player. Made strides as a three-point shooter this high school season. He is an A-10 priority recruit with offers from schools like St. Joes, LaSalle, and Richmond, but has the potential to play his way into high major looks if he can continue to show improvement on his three-pointer and his ball handling to become more of a secondary ball handler and creator.

A new addition to this squad is Hysier Miller who is a 6’2 combo guard from Neumann Goretti. Miller is an elite defender who used his strength and lateral quickness this season to be an absolute pest for defenders. He can do a lot more than just defend as he was one of Neumann’s top scorers this year as well. He is best offensively at scoring at the rim but has consistently shown that you can’t leave him open from three or he will make you pay. Another player on this team who is a mid-major priority as he has schools like Drexel, Hofstra, and Rider coming hard after him. Just recently picked up a Penn State offer though, and could get more offers like that if he can show he can run the point full time whether that’s in AAU or high school.

Rounding out this team is another newcomer in 6’8 wing Kareem Ewell from The John Dickinson School (Del.). Has great physical tools for a wing with his height and long arms as well as being very athletic. Can really handle the ball well for his size and create off the bounce for himself and others. Is an efficient finisher at the rim with his size and athleticism in addition to being able to guard multiple positions on defense because of how well he moves laterally for his size and his length. Looks to be someone who mid-major schools like the CAA or MAC will need to be all over, but if he can develop into a consistent three-point shooter, schools in the A-10 or AAC could show serious interest.

From guards to wings to bigs, this squad doesn’t have many holes and I would have certainly expected them to be in the Elite 8 of Peach Jam this year had the EYBL not been canceled.

Philly Heat: This is a squad that has a lot of the top talent from the Suburban One league and could help many of the small schools around Philly and the surrounding region.

First up is 6’4 power forward/small forward Derrik Cosenza from William Tennent. Offensively, he is versatile as he can score both from posting up or from strong drives from the perimeter. Also shoots it well enough from three where the defense has to respect him which opens up his driving game even more. Defensively, he has great instincts about where to be and when, which is a key reason why he comes up with tough rebounds in addition to blocking shots or getting steals. Also is an underrated playmaker who can make others around him better. Is certainly going to make a D3 school happy when he makes his decision for college.

Providing top notch shooting for this team is 5’11 shooting guard Joe Jackman from CB East. Jackman was one of the top scorers in the Philly suburbs this year at nearly 20 points per game and he did that with his range out to the NBA line along with his improvement in getting to the rim and finishing in creative ways. Whenever Jackman is on the floor, defenders have to respect his shooting and the spacing can then open up the floor for other guards to get into the lane. A guy who should make an immediate impact and have a great career at the D3 level.

Adding size to the interior for this squad is 6’7 power forward Mike Murray from Neshaminy High School. Murray is a player who showed a lot of flashes this past high school season and I look for him to turn that into more production going into his senior season. Has a very soft touch on his layups which allows him to finish efficiently at the rim both on post-ups and drives to the rim. Also can shoot the mid-range jumper. Certainly one who D3s in the area should be aware of right now and keep tabs on to see if he can get stronger and become one of the top players in Suburban One next year as he has the potential to be.

Making one half of the two best prospects on this team is Michael Farley who is a 6’7 power forward/small forward from CB South playing up on this team as a 2022. Farley has a very high level skill set for his size. Uses his quick first step to get to the rim easily and finish at a high rate. Is also a good athlete who plays above the rim which is another reason why he can finish so well. The most intriguing part of his game is how his jumper has been progressing, as he shoots well from the mid-range and is more willing to shoot three-pointers. Is very quick laterally defensively which allows him at the high school level to guard the 3-5 positions with his size. Looks to be on track to be a scholarship D2 player by the end of his high school career but has the potential to play his way into low D1 territory if he can develop into a player who shows he can play on the wing full time by improving his ball handling and three-point shooting skills.

Bringing more size to this team and the other best prospect on this team is 6’9 small forward/ power forward Jack Hamilton from CB East. Offensively, he prefers playing on the outside, and he has proven he can do that with his ability to shoot the ball from three. A good athlete as well who plays above the rim. He also has good enough ball handling and coordination for a guy his size to make strong drives to the rim from the wing. Defensively, he uses his size and high IQ as a player to make the proper rotations so he’s in position to snag rebounds and block shots. A very talented baseball player who just committed recently to play at Lehigh. If he chose to play basketball in college he would have been a very solid D2 prospect with the potential to play his way into an Ivy/Patriot league type player if he could gain about 10-15 lbs of muscle and show he can be more of a volume scorer.

Another one of the players playing up on this team is 6’0 shooting guard Byron Hopkins from Upper Moreland who I expect to emerge as an all-league player next year in Suburban One. Hopkins is a pure scorer who can score at all three levels whether that’s at the rim, mid-range, or three-point range. Very smooth form and release on his shot which allows him to make his three-ball at a high rate. Uses his quickness to get to the rim and finish in a variety of ways. Also a football player, it will be interesting to see which sport he chooses to play in college, but as far as basketball, projects to be a player area D3s will need to familiarize themselves with very soon because of his scoring abilities.

Adding to this team on the wing is 6’4 shooting guard/small forward Teddy Spratt from CB West. Spratt is swiss army knife player who can play various roles for a team. The first thing that stands out in his game is intensity that he brings on both sides of the ball with his motor. You never have to worry about him playing hard. He enjoys playing defense and uses his height and lateral quickness to be a pest on that side of the ball. Offensively, he’s a guy who isn’t spectacular in any one particular skill set but he does a lot of things very well; he can dribble, pass, and shoot, all well enough to help his teams win games. Any D3 school who is looking for a player who can play and defend multiple positions should be following Spratt this next year.

At the point guard position this squad has a player in 5’8 point guard Liam McDonnell from Lansdale Catholic. McDonnell is only a sophomore and showed flashes this year in the always tough Philadelphia Catholic League. What he lacks in physical tools he makes up for with his skill and toughness. Can really shoot the ball from three-point range whether he’s spotting up shooting off the dribble, and also has a nice mid-range pull-up. Also has good instincts as a playmaker which helps make others around him better. Is going to be an interesting player to watch his last two years of high school as he will be the guy running the show for LC. Will need to dedicate himself to the weight room to become as strong and athletic as possible to compensate for his shorter stature but should have D3 schools interested in him by his senior year as he has enough skill, along with the PCL competition which helps its players prepare to play in college.

Although the Philly Heat may not stack up physically or athletically to the other top teams in the area, they could surprise some people this season as they have players who always play with a chip on their shoulders, and many of these players have played together before so the chemistry is already there with this group.

Copyright © 2020 Jared Exler, All rights reserved.

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