Daron Russell (above) is in his final season at Rhode Island, wrapping up a stellar Rams career. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The Philadelphia Catholic League, Inter-Ac League, Friends' School League, and various public school leagues in the surrounding Philadelphia suburbs have been churning out Division I hoops talent for a long time, and there's no signs of slowing. There are more than 90 current Division I players from the immediate Philadelphia area, not even counting those from the Lehigh Valley, and Harrisburg/District 3 regions, or all the Jersey kids.
In fact, there's so many local kids playing D-I hoops, we've had to split the roundup into four parts. Here's the first of four below, featuring kids from the immediate Philadelphia area and a couple from juuuust over the bridge in South Jersey.
Tyree Pickron (Jr./Quinnipiac)
A four-year starter at Archbishop Wood, Pickron hasn’t quite found his groove in his first two years at Quinnipiac, fighting off a couple injuries along the way. So far, he’s averaged 11.7 mpg in 42 games across two seasons, all off the bench; as a sophomore, he averaged 4.1 ppg and 1.6 rpg, though shot only 30.2% from the floor and 30.4% from 3-point range. That’s uncharacteristic for a 6-3 wing who made his mark as a spot-up shooter as well as a strong rebounder from the perimeter, but there’s still time for him to find his stroke for head coach Baker Dunleavey.
Seth Pinkney (Soph./Quinnipiac)
The ultra-lanky 7-1 center out of Archbishop Wood enters his second season under Dunleavy looking to earn an increase in playing time. Pinkney, known for his defensive prowess and ability to control the glass throughout his high school career averaged 1.4 blocks per game in only 11.2 minutes per game during his freshman season for the Bobcats. He finished third in the conference (MAAC) with 43 blocks last season, and those numbers should continue to increase as his playing time does. Look for Pinkney, with an expanded role to earn respect as one of the best mid-major shot blockers in the nation.
Daeqwon Plowden (Sr./Bowling Green)
Plowden is the definition of a player who’s put in the work each year to improve his game, and it shows. He averaged 4.8 ppg and 2.9 rpg as a freshman, 6.9 rpg and 4.8 rpg as a sophomore, and then 12.7 ppg and 8.5 rpg last year as a junior, playing in 31 games (30 starts) while shooting a career-best 47.6% overall and 34.7% from 3-point range. A 6-6, 220-pound wing out of Mastery North, Plowden was named a second-team preseason all-MAC selection as BGSU was picked to win the league.
Allen Powell (Soph./Rider)
Yet another Rider player on this list, Powell enters his sophomore season with the Broncos after appearing in 25 games as a freshman. The 6-2 point guard out of La Salle College HS struggled to get a rhythm his freshman year, shooting 9-of-57 (15.8%) from the field on the season, in an average of 8.8 minutes per game in 25 games. Powell should be in the mix for minutes in the backcourt along with fellow local sophomore, Christian Ings (Neumann-Goretti).
Christian Ray (Soph./La Salle)
Ray definitely got in the mix as a freshman with La Salle, playing in all 30 games (8 starts) for an average of 22 mpg, though his raw numbers (4.0 ppg/5.0 rpg) weren’t anything mindblowing. Still, the former Inter-Ac MVP out of The Haverford School has leadership responsibilities as a sophomore already for third-year head coach Ashley Howard. A 6-6, 205-pound wing guard, Ray needs to improve his 3-point shooting (25.7%) to make his favorite one-dribble pull-up more of an option.
Jamir Reed (Soph./Central Connecticut)
Coming out of Mastery Charter North, the 6-4 Reed had a strong first collegiate season, averaging 8.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg in 30 games (15 starts) for the Blue Devils, shooting 39.5% overall and 35.5% from 3-point range, topping 11 double-digit performances with a 21-point outing against LIU. One of eight freshmen and sophomores last year to play significant minutes for one of the youngest teams in the country, Reed will now try to help CCSU build on a forgettable 4-27 (3-15 NEC) season for head coach Donyell Marshall.
Jamil Riggins (R-Fr./Quinnipiac)
Riggins took a redshirt in his first season at Quinnipiac, but he’s ready to bring his physicality and shooting abilities to the court this year. The 6-6, 190-pound wing forward, who played in part of a loaded 2019 class at Imhotep Charter, averaged 11 points and six rebounds in his senior year, and the left-hander is equally adept playing inside or out.
Fatts Russell (Sr./Rhode Island)
Over the last eight years, Russell has gone from proving himself to be one of the best players in Imhotep Charter history to becoming one of the better guards in Rhode Island’s much longer hoops history. The 5-10 dynamo has improved his scoring output each year, from 7.0 ppg as a freshman to 14.2 as a sophomore and 18.8 last year, to go along with 4.6 apg, 3.4 rpg and 2.9 spg. Though his supporting cast changed drastically from last year to this one, Russell’s ability to put the ball through the hoop won’t be affected, especially if he hits 35%+ of his 3-pointers like he did last year.
Donta Scott (Soph./Maryland)
Scott had a solid debut season for the Terps, playing in 31 games (21 starts), averaging 5.9 ppg and 3.6 rpg, shooting 43.9% overall and 31.6% from 3-point range (25-of-79). He put up a great offensive rating of 115.7 last year according to KenPom, which was second-best on the team amongst players who saw at least 50% of available minutes. With the top two scorers from last year gone, the opportunity is there for Scott to see a lot more shots and become an integral part of Mark Turgeon’s scheme.
The top scorer in Shipley history, Sam Sessoms (above) arrives at Penn State after two standout years at Binghamton. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Sam Sessoms (Jr./Penn State)
When he was in his prep years at the Shipley School, Sessoms showed that he was an incredible scorer, becoming the first Gator to surpass 2,000 points. He then scored more than 1,100 in two years at Binghamton, averaging 19.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 4.8 apg during a fantastic sophomore season. Now he’s jumped up a few levels to the Big Ten, where he’ll get a chance to show how good he really is against other high-major and future professional talent. He’s got a chance to start in a PSU backcourt that already has some impressive pieces.
Ray Somerville (R-Fr./Cal State-Bakersfield)
One of the local products furthest from home, Somerville spent his first year at CSU-Bakersfield working on his 6-10, 230-pound frame. The Roadrunners have some size on the roster but it’s their wings that get most of the minutes, despite playing one of the slower tempos in Division I. Somerville’s minutes will depend on his conditioning and his defensive abilities, areas he showed development in during high school but needs to have continued to improve in his year off.
Justin Steers (Jr./Coppin State)
Steers is back with the program at Coppin State after being away from the team last year. As a freshman in 2018-19, the 6-6 wing averaged 6.0 ppg and 3.2 rpg, shooting 52.9% from the floor and earning a spot on the MEAC All-Rookie team. In high school, Steers started at Tacony Academy, played at Friends’ Central for one season and then ended up at Rocktop Academy, averaging 18 ppg as a HS senior.
Elijah Taylor (Fr./Notre Dame)
Another Imhotep Charter product, Taylor was the man in the middle the last four years for the Panthers, a 6-8 power forward who typically played ‘5’ in high school on one of the most successful programs in the state. He arrives at South Bend as the Fighting Irish need to replace John Mooney’s 16.2 ppg and 12.7 rpg, though Notre Dame has a few older forwards who will get the first chance to take that production. The student body president at Imhotep, don’t be surprised if Taylor makes his voice heard no matter if he’s on the court or waiting on the bench.
Koby Thomas (Sr./Coppin State)
An Imhotep Charter grad, Thomas began his college career at Robert Morris, averaging 12.0 ppg as a freshman but then dropping off to 7.3 ppg as a sophomore. He departed for Coppin State last year, and found a resurgence, averaging a career-best 13.3 ppg to go along with 6.8 rpg and 1.3 spg. He’s still a terrible 3-point shooter (20.8% for his career) but an exciting open-court athlete and finisher, a 6-6 wing who was 2x MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the week last year.
Myles Thompson (Jr./St. Francis Pa.)
A versatile 6-6, 225-pound wing out of Camden (N.J.), Thompson really came into his own as a sophomore, going from 5.6 ppg and 3.4 rpg as a freshman in 32 games (14 starts) to starting 31 of 32 games, averaging 10.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg. His shooting percentage jumped from 42.1% to 46.9%, helped by hitting 33.8% of his triples instead of 24.5%. Now that one of the program’s all-time greats, Keith Braxton, has graduated, Thompson will need to shoulder an even bigger load in his upperclassman years.
Taj Thweatt (Fr./West Virginia)
The best way to describe Thweatt would be ‘powerhouse.’ The 6-7, 210-pound wing-forward is built like a truck, with wide shoulders and a strong upper and lower body. Though he got by early in his career at Wildwood Catholic (N.J.) on strength and athleticism, he developed a good skill set to boot, hitting 36% of his 3-pointers as a senior while averaging 17.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg on a 27-2 squad. The Mountaineers love physical forwards who can crash the glass and present a problem defensively, and Thweatt fits that mold perfectly.
Expect Malvern Prep grad Kieves 'Deuce' Turner to be doing this a lot in his years at Bucknell. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Deuce Turner (Fr./Bucknell)
Turner arrives at Bucknell at the right time, as the Bison need to replace their top two scorers from a year ago––and scoring the ball is what Turner does best. The 6-2 guard from Malvern Prep is the Inter-Ac’s all-time leading scorer with 2,452 points (more than Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, Alvin Williams, etc.), averaging 25.1 ppg and earning PIAA Class 5A Player of the Year as a senior. A true three-level threat, Turner has tremendous shooting range and confidence, and should be one of the best young guards in the Patriot League.
Karrington Wallace (Jr./Central Connecticut)
A 6-7 forward out of Archbishop Wood, Wallace enters his third year at CCSU after playing in 21 games with 18 starts a year ago. He took a small step forward from his freshman year (3.0 ppg/2.7 rpg) to sophomore (5.0 ppg/3.1 rpg), averaging almost a block per contest as well, shooting 46.4% from the floor. CCSU has most of its cast returning, so Wallace doesn’t need to take a big jump forward in the scoring column, but another year of development should return another boost in his production.
Derrius Ward (Fr./La Salle)
A Philly native, Ward spent a prep year at St. Thomas More (Conn.), where he’d originally reclassed to 2021 following a transfer from Sankofa Freedom (Pa.), but decided to come to La Salle on time instead. Likely headed for a redshirt due to La Salle’s backcourt depth, Ward is a 6-6 shooting guard with length who was named PIAA Class A First Team all-state after helping lead Sankofa to a state title in 2018-19.
Lance Ware (Fr./Kentucky)
Ware had ‘high-major’ all over him from his earliest days at Camden High (N.J.), a 6-9 wing forward with the requisite length, athleticism, and skills already apparent. Then his motor really kicked in, and Ware became a tremendous two-way force, his biggest strength perhaps on the defensive end, where he can switch onto guards, project the rim, and get up and down the floor in a hurry. He’ll be in the pros once he demonstrates a decent outside shot and ability to play the combo forward role, which won’t take long.
Jahlil White (Fr./Temple)
A versatile 6-7 wing guard out of Wildwood Catholic (N.J.), White was expected to be a big piece for the Owls this season. Unfortunately, a torn MCL in the preseason forced him to undergo surgery that will likely cost him the season, though it’s not a serious long-term injury.
Isaiah Wong (Soph./Miami Fl.)
The talented lead guard we’d all watched dominate the Catholic League for two years at Bonner-Prendergast didn’t quite show up early in his first year with the Hurricanes, as Wong averaged only 2.8 ppg in 12.7 mpg over his first 17 games. But injuries helped him get a bigger opportunity and he suddenly found his confidence, averaging 13.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg in the final 14 games (13 starts), shooting 46.6% overall and 39.5% during that span. Expect him to keep up at least that level of play moving forward.
Jeff Woodward (Fr./Colgate)
The centerpiece of a dominant Methacton program the last four years, Woodward arrives at Colgate with a big chip on his shoulder after COVID robbed his Warriors of a chance to win three more games for a state title. A 6-11, 265-pound center who plays the game with an unending motor and (typically) a smile, he arrives at one of the Patriot League’s top programs after piling up 1,450 points, 1,140 rebounds and 262 blocks in high school, all best in Methacton history.
Sean Yoder (Soph./Navy)
Yoder had a solid debut season for the Midshipmen, appearing in all 30 games as a reserve, averaging 15 minutes, 2.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Like many freshmen who only saw so much time, he didn’t shoot the ball tremendously well (31.1% overall, 20.4% from 3-point range), but showed what he’s capable of with a 19-point effort at Lehigh where he shot 6-of-9 overall and 3-of-5 from deep in front of plenty of his friends and family. Most of Navy’s backcourt is back, so Yoder might not be ready for 35 mpg, but expect to see his confidence and numbers rise.
Cameron Young (Fr./Bowling Green)
Last on the list but certainly not least is this BGSU newcomer, who arrives in Ohio after a strong high school career at Neumann-Goretti. A freak athlete who, at 6-6, can defend lanky seven-footers, Young also turned into a quality outside shooter, making 42% of his 3-pointers during his senior year with the Saints; he averaged 13.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and more than an assist, block and steal per outing for a team that looked on its way to yet another a PIAA Class 3A championship.