Justin Jaworski (above, in Feb.) committed to Lafayette on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Justin Jaworski showed up at Perkiomen Valley in the fall of 2013 as a 5-foot-8 freshman, Vikings basketball coach Mike Poysden wasn’t quite sure what he had in the youngster -- beyond, in his own words, a "sort of average-sized guard who could really stroke it.”
But something set Jaworski apart almost instantly.
“The work ethic was undeniable,” Poysden said.
And though injuries set Jaworski back his freshman year, he bounced back, and then some. By the end of his senior year, by which point he'd grown to 6-1 he’d wind up with over 1,500 points, second in school history. That work ethic powered Perkiomen Valley to the 2017 Pioneer Athletic Conference title, into the PIAA state playoffs for the first time and to a win over two-time defending state champ Roman Catholic for the program’s first state playoff win.
So when Division I coaches told him last summer that he needed to keep working on his game to be worthy of a scholarship, Jaworski did just that. The sharpshooter worked on his handle, on his athleticism, on his ability to score in different ways and be a more complete player. And the deeper Perk Valley went into the season, the more that work became apparent.
Finally, it paid off earlier this month, in the form of two Division I scholarships, from a pair of Patriot League institutions. And on Thursday night, Jaworski made his college decision, picking Lafayette over American as well as Division II Philadelphia University.
He's the first-ever Division I scholarship recipient in Perk Valley boys' basketball history.
“It means everything to me...an eighth grader and a freshman, I remember talking to my parents about it, I want to score 1000 points, I want to win a championships,” he said. “To put PV on the map with that is a big accomplishment for me, and a personal accomplishment to get that Division I scholarship and then hopefully have a good career. I really hope it sets an example for young guys coming through PV, if you’re not the biggest or fastest or most athletic, it’s still possible.”
It was on a trip to the Easton, Pa. school this past weekend that Jaworski got a chance to play pick-up with the Leopards. All that did was confirm something he’d suspected heading up on the trip: he’d fit in just fine.
“My game really matches them well with that motion offense and their guys really embraced me when I was there,” he said. “They all were willing to pass to me right away, and that’s something I want to play in, with a bunch of unselfish guys and they have a good young core that I think we can do some damage.
“I think all of those schools were really good academic schools and then all very good coaches and good basketball programs,” he added. “But then, staying home played a big factor for me. It’s 45 minutes from my house and my parents will be able to come watch me every game.”
At Lafayette, Jaworski will join a program that’s just a few years off a Patriot League championship and NCAA Tournament berth in 2015, though the Leopards have gone just 15-45 (.250) in the two seasons since.
Jaworski is the fourth recruit for head coach Fran O’Hanlon and staff, along with St. Christopher (Va.) senior Alex Petrie, a 6-3 point guard who committed to Lafayette after piling up offers from the likes of Drexel, Northeastern, Towson and more; Dylan Hastings, a 6-8 forward from Solanco (Pa.) and E.J. Stephens, a 6-5 wing from St. Thomas Aquinas (Fl.).
Both Petrie and Jaworski were heavily recruited by Leopards assistant Jimmy Fenerty, who along with Pat Doherty helps recruit the Mid-Atlantic region for O’Hanlon. Fenerty, the son of longtime Germantown Academy coach Jim Fenerty, just finished up his second year on the staff.
“I knew him through my AAU coach [Jason Fisher], so I knew him a little more personally before,” Jaworski said of Fenerty. “I’ve been communicating with him a lot and he seems like a really good guy to have on our staff.”
With four-year starting point guard Nick Lindner graduating, there’s certainly minutes available in the backcourt, with no true point guards behind Lindner besides rising sophomore walk-on Jimmy Panzini.
Jaworski will certainly be in the mix for those minutes, along with Petrie, rising sophomores Kyle Stout (6.6 ppg, 1.1 apg) and Hunter Janacek (5.9 ppg, 0.8 apg) and maybe even redshirt freshman Cal Reichwein, a C.B. West product.
“I’ll have to play a little more point than I do in high school, but at the same time they said I’m a scorer, so they’re not going to try to hold me back from that,” Jaworski said.
As he’s shown, there’s no point in trying.