Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
This week, we’ll be taking a look at the local AAU programs whose players will be drawing the attention of quite a few college coaches over the next two weekends, which constitute the April Live Periods.
One of two programs in the region who play on the Under Armour Association circuit, Philly Pride always plays stereotypically Philly basketball: guard-heavy, in-your-face, physical hoops. And this year’s teams are no different, with a number of impressive prospects and familiar names throughout the program.
Here’s a look at Philly Pride’s two oldest teams, which will be playing in New York this weekend and Indianapolis next weekend, the first two stops on the UAA circuit.
John Harrar (above) is part of a sizeable Philly Pride 17U frontcourt this April. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Chris Arcidiacono (2018/Neshaminy, Pa.)
Allen Betrand (2018/Roman Catholic, Pa.)
Rodney Carson (2018/Cheltenham, Pa.)
Jack Clark (2018/Cheltenham, Pa.)
Ed Croswell (2018/St. Joseph’s Prep, Pa.)
Eric Esposito (2018/Conwell-Egan, Pa.)
Denelle Holly (2018/Martin Luther King)
Elijah Kiah-El (2017/Martin Luther King, Pa.)
John Harrar (2017/Strath Haven, Pa.)
Justin Steers (2018/Friends Central, Pa.)
Breakdown: The Philly Pride 17U roster is representative of the area: there isn’t much in terms of can’t-miss high-major talent, but it’s stocked with sleepers and mid-major studs who should still pile up the offers in the next few weeks. The biggest eye-opener to many coaches over the next two weekends will likely be Clark, who was going into his junior season a 6-foot-1 shooting guard and left it a 6-6 wing who can really rise up and knock down perimeter shots; Rider became his first offer last month. Also emerging with a big junior season was Arcidiacono, the younger brother of the former Villanova star who’s got better size (6-3, 180) than his brother but not quite the; he pulled his first offer, from Western Kentucky, in February. Betrand, a 6-4, 180-pound wing guard, picked up several offers last summer as a relative unknown out of Samuel Fels HS; after a learning curve season at Roman, he’s been scoring the ball at a high level in several offseason events. This year’s potential unknown-to-breakout could be Holly, who comes with that stereotypical Philly chip on his shoulder.
For at least April, the frontcourt is going to be a real strength of this team. Head coach Sean Colson has three quality bigs he can use in the frontcourt between Harrar (6-9, 260), Croswell (6-7, 230) and Kiah-El (6-7, 220), all of whom are physically impressive posts who are a handful to bang with underneath. Harrar is the reason that they’ll be an even better group for these first two weeks, as the Strath Haven senior is almost certain to end up on a Division I campus this fall after picking up several offers by the end of the month. But even once he’s gone, Croswell and Kiah-El will be more than up to handle the task, as the two are both ferocious rebounders who can get to the hoop and score from the foul line. Also helping out up front will be the 6-6 Steers, though he’s really more of a combo forward who’s at his best in transition and on the offensive glass. Esposito, a 6-5 shooting guard, will miss April with a knee injury but will return well before July.
Kingsway's Hakim Hart (above) was one of the top scorers in the entire region at over 26 ppg. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Fah’mir Ali (2019/Mt. Pleasant, Del.)
Hakim Hart Jr. (2019/Kingsway, N.J.)
Kiyn Healey (2019/Cheltenham, Pa.)
Zach Lezanic (2019/Conestoga, Pa.)
Shermeek Lofton (2019/Academy Park)
Seth Lundy (2019/Roman Catholic)
Asim Richards (2019/Haverford School)
Jamil Riggins Jr. (2019/Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Donta Scott (2019/Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Michael Smith (2019/Chester, Pa.)
Fatayn Wesley (2019/Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Breakdown: This group has the potential to be one of the best on the Under Armour 16U circuit, in large part due to its wings. At 6-7, with a developing perimeter game, Scott is an impressive two-way wing who’s a terror in the open court, and he can defend all five positions as well; if his handle and shot keep coming around, he’s got a chance to be a top-25 prospect nationally in his class. Then ad in the physical 6-6 Riggins, versatile 6-5 Lundy, 6-4 scorer Lofton and 6-5 athletic defensive specialist Healy and it’s a group of ‘3’s and ‘4’s who can spell serious trouble for opponents. Ali, Lezanic, Wesley and Smith all played point guard for their respective high schools, but all bring something a little different to the table; Wesley is the quickest of the group, and should take over for Daron Russell to run the Panthers’ offense in the fall, while Lezanic, Ali and Smith had that role as sophomores. Hart, a 6-3 shooting guard, is one of the top scorers in South Jersey, averaging over 26 ppg for Kingsway, but he’ll need to show he can transition from a volume shooter to an efficient scorer as he gets older. The one thing this team is lacking is a post player with elite size; Richards is the team’s only real under-the-basket presence, though at 6-5 and 230 pounds he’ll be giving up a few inches to the tallest centers on the UAA.