Eric Ayala (above) is one of the top local 2018 guards to watch on the summer circuit this year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
It’s time for the April live recruiting periods, the first two weekends since the end of the high school season where Division I coaches can go to events and watch prospects compete; specifically, watch hundreds of them compete at once in mega-events taking place all over the country.
The vast majority of the region’s talent are on one of four circuits: Nike EYBL (Team Final), Under Armour Association (Philly Pride, WeR1), Adidas Gauntlet (K-Low Elite) and Hoop Group (Jersey Shore Warriors). But there are several other programs with players to watch as well.
Here are some current junior guards (class of 2018) from the Philly area to keep an eye on in April, many of whom will see a major uptick in their recruitment; click here for wings and bigs:
Chris Arcidiacono (PG/Neshaminy, Pa./Philly Pride)
-- The younger brother of former Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono is a legitimate Division I prospect in his own right, with an offer from Eastern Kentucky already under his belt and several other mid-majors hovering around. At 6-3, Chris is slightly taller than his older brother, and is a terrific outside shooter with a solid handle as well.
Justin Anderson (SG/Archbishop Carroll, Pa./Team Final)
-- One of the most prolific bucket-getters around, Anderson has been consistently displaying his scoring prowess since averaging over 14 points per game as a freshman at Springside Chestnut Hill. The smooth 6-foot-3 lefty led the way for a balanced Carroll squad this past year, and will now take his talents to the Nike EYBL circuit with Team Final. Local mid-majors like Saint Joseph’s and La Salle have been tracking him for some time, along with several high-academic programs throughout the northeast.
Eric Ayala (G/Putnam Science, Conn./WeR1)
-- A Delaware native who still plays his AAU ball locally, Ayala has established himself as a top-50 prospect nationally since reclassifying to 2018. Able to play both on and off the ball, look for him to be one of the Under Armour Association’s leading scorers this spring. There is still talk of him going to college this fall, with Syracuse and UConn among the schools competing hard for his services.
Allen Betrand (SG/Roman Catholic, Pa./Philly Pride)
-- Betrand entered last April as a complete unknown after his sophomore year at Fels, but now he’s one of the more visible prospects around after playing his junior season at Roman Catholic. St. Joe’s and La Salle offered the 6-3 wing last summer, and he’s bound to pick up a few more mid-major looks this summer as he’s been scoring the ball from close and deep at a high rate. Does a good job of getting into the lane and drawing contact.
Izaiah Brockington (SG/Woodstock Academy, Conn./K-Low Elite)
-- After a strong senior season, leading Archbishop Ryan into the state playoffs for the first time, this 6-4 wing made the decision to open up from a previous commitment to NJIT and take a prep year, and he has a chance to go from mid-major to high-major with a strong summer. Brockington’s made continuous improvement in his game over the last two years, and he’s got great size for an off-guard with above-the-rim athleticism and a solid 3-point stroke.
Antwuan Butler (PG/Del-Val Charter, Pa./WeR1)
-- One of the top guards in the Public League the last several years, you’d be hard pressed to find a sturdier option at the point guard spot than Butler. A true facilitator, “Booty” looks to get his teammates involved first, but also has the handle and quickness to break down his defender off the bounce and create for himself. Butler is currently nursing an injury, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be available for WeR1 this month.
Andrew Funk (above) enters April with a trio of Patriot League offers from Lafayette, Boston U and Bucknell. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Andrew Funk (G/Archbishop Wood, Pa./Jersey Shore Warriors)
-- The younger brother of current Army guard Tom Funk, Andrew has a higher upside than his brother as a 6-foot-4 combo guard. A knockdown shooter with good craft around the rim, the younger Funk is currently being courted by a wealth of Ivy and Patriot League schools, but has a chance to see his recruitment hit mid-major territory with some timely performances this month.
DaQuan Granberry (SG/Chichester, Pa./Team Final Black)
-- One of the bigger sleepers on this list is Granberry, a 6-4 shooting guard with a lot of bounce, isn’t afraid to score from anywhere, against anyone. He’s still far from a refined product, with some consistency issues, and needs to work on being more vocal and a better leader to become a true Division I prospect, but he’s got the athleticism to defend and the scoring ability to contribute for a mid-major program if he puts it all together.
Robbie Heath (G/Abington HS, Pa./Hoopdreamz)
-- A three-year starter for the Ghosts, Heath has grown from a 5-9 freshman who was a 3-point specialist into a well-rounded 6-2 guard who’s now on the Division I radar after helping lead Abington to the 2017 District 1 6A championship. The Melbourne, Australia native can play either guard spot, though he tends to operate best with the ball in his hands where he can get to the line, he’s a good spot-up jumper shooter as well working off screens.
Denelle Holly (G/Martin Luther King, Pa./Philly Pride)
-- A tough Philly lead guard, Holly really established himself as a clutch scorer in late-game situations this year, helping lead King to an appearance in the Public League championship game and PIAA 5A second round. He’s not the most physically imposing guard at 6-2 and 170 pounds but he doesn’t let that bother him, absorbing contact and getting to the line willingly if he can’t get open 3-point looks. Doesn’t back down from a defensive challenge, either.
Darius Kinnel (PG/St. Joseph’s Prep, Pa./NY Jayhawks)
-- After playing with Jersey Force last season, Kinnel is traveling a bit further for his AAU ball, but playing with the Jayhawks means he’ll be playing on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit. A muscular 6-2 point guard, Kinnel isn’t typically a score-first guard, preferring to defer to teammates and focus defensively, but he’ll take advantage of driving mismatches when available. One of three Prep juniors with D-I aspirations.
Arion Lewis (G/Valley Forge Military Ac./Hoopdreamz)
After spending his first two seasons of high school ball on Roman's JV team, Lewis headed to VFMA as a junior and broke out as a potential Division I prospect with a big season, helping the Trojans into the state quarterfinals. A 6-3 guard with good length who can play either position, Lewis is a strong outside shooter with a tight handle who's becoming a better attacker as well; several D-Is are sniffing around, but no offers yet.
Bernard Lightsey (G/Imhotep Charter, Pa./K-Low Elite)
-- A compact, 5-11 combo guard, Lightsey makes up for what he lacks in height with a knockdown 3-point shot, which he’s displayed since his freshman year at Imhotep. Over the last year, he’s become a better drive-and-kick guard as well, though he hasn’t needed to do a ton of that with Daron Russell and David Beatty in the Panthers’ backcourt. His size will limit his recruiting ceiling but he comes from a winning program and plays hard on both ends, two intangibles that will help his case.
Tyler Norwood (G/Penncrest, Pa./Jersey Shore Warriors)
-- The hero of the District 1 5A playoffs, Norwood is a slight (5-10, 160) scoring guard with a fearless attitude. He’s got no hesitation to pull up and launch from NBA range and hit with regularity, but he’s also got a solid handle and once he gets by his defender knows how to score in a variety of ways, including in crafty ways around the rim with both hands. Ivy/Patriot interest will likely turn into some Ivy/Patriot offers before long.
Tyree Pickron (SG/Archbishop Wood, Pa./K-Low Elite)
-- It seems as though coaches are always looking for shooters, and that surely makes Pickron a good candidate to see an uptick in his recruitment over the next couple weeks. The 6-foot-3 sniper has recently been offered by Robert Morris, Quinnipiac, and Fairleigh Dickinson, and should see the bulk of the MAAC, America East, and NEC on his trail in the coming weeks. Schools from some higher mid-major conferences already have Pickron on their radar, and some timely shooting performances on the Adidas circuit could lead to an influx of new offers.
Antonio Rizzuto (G/Northeastern, Pa./York Ballers)
-- An under-the-radar prospect from the central part of the state, Rizzuto is likely to experience a nice burst of offers once he gets back out in front of a lot more coaches the next few weekends. At 6-3, 180 pounds with a smooth 3-point shot off the catch or pull-up and a great ability to keep his head up on the drive, Rizzuto already has offers from Albany and Stony Brook, with interest from throughout the America East, Patriot and some Ivy League schools tracking him as well.
Sam Sessoms (above) is a talented point guard with a high-scoring touch and A-10 schools tracking. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Sam Sessoms (PG/Shipley School, Pa./Team Final)
-- A true floor general, Sessoms will be given the keys to a potent Team Final lineup this spring, as the starting point guard for a team with aspirations of making a deep Peach Jam run. Despite standing just 5-foot-11, he’s able to use both his handle and his craft to get wherever he wants on the floor. Sessoms is at his best getting downhill towards the rim, but is a strong standstill jump shooter and has a strong enough pull-up game to keep defenses honest. He’s yet to pick up a scholarship offer, but has schools from the MAAC up to the A-10 closely monitoring his progress.
Sean Simon (SG/La Salle College HS, Pa./WeR1)
-- A shooting guard in every sense of the term, Simon loves nothing more than to find open spots in the opposing defense and knock down shots from beyond the arc. He’s got a great rise-and-fire ability even with a hand in his face, and at a solid 6-3 he’s usually not lacking by too much in the height department; defensively, he makes up for a lack of elite athleticism with solid instincts and footwork. No offers yet, but his size and scoring ability will have some scholarships coming his way before long.
Kyle Thompson (G/St. Joseph’s Prep, Pa./Jersey Shore Warriors)
-- The son of former Drexel standout Michael Thompson, Kyle is a 5-11 guard whose best asset is his 3-point shooting, where he’s nearly automatic when he has even a sliver of an opening. But he’s becoming more of a combo guard with focus on his handle and point guard duties, though he’s still typically in a score-first mentality. At his height, he’ll need to prove to coaches this summer he can run an offense to land D-I looks of his own.
Damon Wall (PG/Doane Academy, N.J./K-Low Elite)
-- Though he’s still waiting on his first offer, Wall looks the part of a Division I point guard -- poised and confident, with solid size (6-0, 175) and the ability to communicate with his teammates, set up the offense and make things happen. He’s not quite as flashy or as much of a high-flyer as some of his peers, so what he does can be sometimes overlooked, but he’s calm under fire and limits his mistakes. With continued watching, his game stands out.
Ahmad Williams (SG/Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Pa./PYO)
-- With his twin brother Ahmin Williams still recovering from a foot injury, Ahmad is going to have to continue to shoulder a heavy load for PYO, but he's up for the task. A 6-2 bulldog of a guard, Williams is a super-competitive wing who loves to get up in his man defensively for 94 feet, but he can get a little shot-heavy offensively. When the game becomes a track meet, he benefits more than most.
Tag(s): Home High School Josh Verlin Ahmad Williams Eric Ayala Ari Rosenfeld Tyree Pickron Justin Anderson Damon Wall Kyle Thompson Sam Sessoms Antwuan Butler Bernard Lightsey Tyler Norwood Robbie Heath Allen Betrand Sean Simon Darius Kinnel Da'Quan Granberry Denelle Holly Andrew Funk