Westtown School junior Jalen Warley (above) has become the latest high-major target in the Moose program. (Photo: Liam O'Brien/CoBL)
Liam O'Brien (@lmob6)
Ever since Jalen Warley was in the second grade, Westtown School head coach Seth Berger knew he was different from the rest of the kids running around in rec league hoops.
“I’ve known since the second grade that he had a chance to play in the NBA,” Berger said before Westtown’s matchup against Our Savior Lutheran (N.Y.) at the Empire Invitational in New York on Sunday. “He [and my sons] T.J. and Quin used to play against each other in the Malvern League, and I’ve known his talent forever. It’s just a matter of time.”
When Warley first made the decision to join Westtown heading into high school, league dreams were way off in the distance.
“Jalen made a really interesting decision to come to Westtown,” Berger said. “When he was going through the process, I called him twice to make sure: ‘Hey, listen. You’re probably not going to play much freshman year.’”
Stuck behind a future lottery pick in Cam Reddish, the 6-foot-5 point guard was forced to accept a lack of consistent playing time.
“I just wanted to play with the most talented team I could,” Warley said. “I just wanted to play at the highest level, play against nationally ranked teams, and play with NBA big men.”
Most youth standouts would scoff at being relegated to a reserve role, but Warley took it in stride. As a freshman, the Norristown native was able to realize the prosperous opportunities that lay ahead of him in the Westtown system.
“[Warley] said, ‘Look, I’d be coming to Westtown because that’s where I could reach my highest potential in high school and it’s the investment I want to make in my future,’” Berger said. “This is an eighth-grader saying that. An incredible level of maturity.”
The summer before his sophomore season, Warley could only claim Howard University among those pursuing him on the recruiting trail.
Now, as he hits the stretch run of his junior year, Warley has a number of high-major offers in his bag.
“It’s been a great experience,” Warley said. “We have a lot of older guys who have helped me because they have gone through similar experiences and they have gone through the same thing as me.”
Possessing a lengthy wingspan and a high basketball IQ, Warley is able to impact the game on both ends of the floor. His defensive savviness allows him to wreak havoc on opposing point guards, exemplified by his seven-steal performance against Our Savior Lutheran point guard Posh Alexander in a close loss at Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx.
“He’s grown a lot,” Berger said. “His commitment level increased. His strength and athleticism has increased.”
The work Warley has put in on his handle and ability to slash to the basket has been on full display for the consistent array of college coaches in attendance.
Against Our Savior Lutheran, Warley consistently utilized a wide array of hesitation moves to blow by the first line of defense to the tune of 14 points. His craftiness at the rim is superb, as he showed the ability to finish among some big bodies inside with a swooping right-handed hook on multiple occasions.
This repertoire has resulted in Warley’s recruiting stock soaring in recent weeks. Despite entering the season unranked on scouting services such as 247 Sports, Warley’s offer list now includes Maryland, Oregon, Seton Hall, and Pitt.
Warley even took a trip up to Newark to watch the Pirates beat Georgetown in their Big East home opener.
“It brings a lot of attention to my teammates,” Warley said. “We put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes, so any time of national attention we get as a team, I’m all for.”
Of course, playing alongside some of the best prospects in the country doesn’t hurt. Westtown’s starting lineup consists of 6-8 Pitt commit Noah Collier, 6-11 five-star junior Franck Kepnang, sophomore 7-footer Dereck Lively, and Berger’s older son T.J. Berger, who’s committed to Penn.
The chance to run the point for a squad boasting some of the top names on the high school circuit was one of the factors that attracted Warley to Westtown. He has certainly taken advantage of that opportunity.
“He wants to be a true point guard,” Berger said.
His leadership on the floor is evident. In the midst of a tough stretch in the second half against the physicality of Our Savior Lutheran, Warley was never rattled by a missed shot or turnover. He played nearly the entire game with a consistent demeanor that set the tone for his unit to mount a comeback in the closing minutes.
“He’s handled his increase in exposure with the same level of maturity,” Berger said. “Every day he wants to get better. He’s focused on being the best player he can be.”