Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
OAKS, Pa. — The Big Shots Philly Pride tournament took over one section of the Greater Philadelphia Convention Center this weekend, as the Under Armour-backed program put its bevy of teams on display in bracket play against several dozen other programs from the Northeast throughout the three-day event.
Here’s a notebook focusing on some local high school and player storylines from the weekend:
Lucas Orchard (above) is one of two Devon Prep wings preparing for a key junior season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Devon Prep’s Holloway, Orchard playing with a new focus
It was a breakthrough season for Devon Prep in the Catholic League, and rising juniors Jacen Holloway and Lucas Orchard are determined to ensure it wasn’t just one year. The Tide rose quickly in its third season in the PCL, going from three wins to third place in just one season, making the PCL semifinals as one of the surprise team performances in the entire region last year.
Both Holloway and Orchard were key contributors to that group, which went 9-4 in league play; Orchard started 12 of 14 games, averaging 7.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg, while Holloway came off the bench in all but one, averaging 6.7 ppg. With senior starters Eamonn Walsh and Chris Patton graduating, the pair of 6-foot-3 wing guards are in prime position to take on much larger roles as juniors, which makes this offseason crucial.
“It’s really important,” Holloway said. “I’m going to try to improve my skills and just get better.”
Holloway and Orchard are teammates on the summer circuit too, playing for Devon Prep head coach Jason Fisher on the SJ Hoops Elite 16U squad. It was a group that was clicking all weekend, making it to the championship game of the top 16U bracket before falling to a strong All In (N.J.) squad.
Fisher said he’s doing whatever he can to challenge Holloway and Orchard, primarily by having them do things they didn’t do for Devon Prep. For Holloway, a strong interior player, that means playing more as a guard and improving his shooting; for Orchard, a spot-up wing who also crashes the boards, it’s about handling the ball and working on his point guard abilities.
“They’re both carrying themselves differently [...] more of a swagger to them than what you saw of them last year at this point,” Fisher said. “I think also we’re trying to find the right spots to put them in [...] Catholic League teams have no weak links, here there’s places they can go out and feel comfortable, so our job is to make them as uncomfortable as possible so they can hopefully make the next step come December.”
If the summer work is successful, Orchard and Holloway will be improved parts of a rotation that also includes rising senior IV Pettit (14.2 ppg), rising sophomore Ty Mishock (8.7 ppg), rising senior Allen Cieslak (4.0) and more, a group that looks like it’s going to be in the mix near the top of the PCL yet again.
“Before, we felt like we were just trying to play with these guys, now we feel like we can beat them all,” Orchard said. “Next year we’re going to try to win the whole thing.”
Tyson Allen (5) was a key contributor down the stretch as a junior at Wood. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Allen ready to step up for Wood
Tyson Allen has waited patiently for three years, but now it’s his turn.
The Archbishop Wood (Pa.) rising senior guard has spent his first three years with the Vikings playing behind one of the most loaded classes in recent memory: Wood’s 2021 hoops class included four Division I players (UConn’s Rahsool Diggins, La Salle’s Daeshon Shepherd, James Madison’s Jaylen Stinson, Richmond’s Marcus Randolph) and another scholarship-level forward in Muneer Newton.
It was a group that swept the Philadelphia Catholic League this past season, winning the program’s second-ever title, falling one point short in the state title game. And that five dominated the minutes for most of the last three seasons, head coach John Mosco trusting his talent — with much success.
“I learned a lot from playing behind them,” Allen said. “Even from watching the sidelines, I learned a lot from every single one of them, I learned how to play defense [...] offensively, I picked up the moves they do. I’ve been really ready for my senior season, that’s what I’ve been looking forward to.”
Now that group is gone, and all that remains from the varsity rotation is Allen, a 6-3 guard, and classmate Mike Knouse, a 6-4 wing. The first offseason practice was….different.
“We had one workout Sunday, and it’s crazy because I didn’t realize how many freshmen we have coming in,” Allen said. “It’s different being the leader of the team now [...] I’ve got to guide the young guys, when I’m gone, they’ve got to (lead) the team, so I’ve got to make sure they’re ready for that. It’s different, man.”
Allen averaged only 1.5 ppg during his junior year, scoring a grand total of 25 points. He did start coming on at the end of the season, when Shepherd was sidelined due to COVID contact testing; he had seven points in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal win over William Allen and then played big minutes while grabbing six rebounds in the state semifinals against Lower Merion.
It was during that time, Allen said, that Mosco started really preparing him for taking the reins for the 2021-22 season.
“He really started preparing me during the state playoffs, when he started playing me,” Allen said. “[He] started telling me what to do, how to lead a team, he started just walking me through the baby steps of being a leader.”
Without Diggins, Shepherd & Co., there’s no doubt that expectations for Wood will be lower in the Catholic League than they’ve been in some time, especially with quality groups returning at Roman Catholic, La Salle, Devon Prep, Archbishop Carroll, and more. But don’t count out Wood just yet — the Vikings have already added senior guard Justin Moore from now-closed Bishop McDevitt, and there are a crop of talented underclassmen ready to step up and contribute (see below).
Allen certainly sounded like a Catholic League vet when he said “I think coming off last year, we do still have high expectations [...] and I think if we really work in the offseason, we can beat those expectations.”
Matt Mayock (above) showed off his shooting range this weekend in Oaks. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Westtown’s Mayock showing off improved floor game
Matt Mayock’s game has come a long way in the last 18 months.
That’s certainly the result of a lot of hard work on the 6-6 wing’s part, but a significant uptick in competition didn’t hurt either. After finishing out his sophomore year at Conestoga High School, Mayock had the opportunity to repeat that year and move into the Class of 2023 at the Westtown School (Pa.), which has become a national-level program under head coach Seth Berger.
“(Westtown) gave me the best chance to play at the next level,” he said, “so I thought it was best for me, so I made it happen.”
Primarily a spot-up shooter at Conestoga, Mayock’s much more well-rounded offensive arsenal was on display in Oaks this weekend. Now filling out his frame at 190 pounds, Mayock was aggressive off the bounce, finishing on a couple smooth reverse layups, and he’s got a light trigger finger to pull up and knock shots down from deep.
In a win for East Coast Power over the Hudson Valley Panthers on Saturday evening, Mayock was 7-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line for his 20 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists. He had the ball in his hands a good amount, creating from the wing in 1-on-1 situations, and he didn’t need much space to rise up and knock down shots.
“I think I’ve improved a lot on defense, and I’ve also gotten better on-ball, creating for others, stuff like that,” he said. “We’re playing against a lot of high-level kids [at Westtown], which helped me a lot.”
Not just in competition against other prep schools, but within his own program: in his first season at Westtown, Mayock was teammates with incoming Florida State freshman guard Jalen Warley and Albany’s Ny’Mire Little, plus five-star 2022 center Dereck Lively II and numerous other Division I prospects.
“It was a lot of fun, playing with Dereck and all of that, playing with Jalen was really good for offense, too, and just competing against them every day in practice helps a lot,” he said. “Coming into practice, you couldn’t take any plays off, anything like that, [you had to] work hard all the time.”
Mayock’s recruitment is just beginning: he said he heard from VMI recently, but that was the only interest thus far. In the meanwhile, he said, he’ll be continuing to work on his defense, as well as his ability to handle and create against smaller guards.
Jalil Bethea (above) is one of several impressive young Archbishop Wood players. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— The future of the Archbishop Wood program looks like it’s in good hands, as there’s some talented youngsters on the rise. Playing for Philly Revolution 15U, 2024 guards Jalil Bethea, Josh Reed, Tahir Howell and Alex Best as well as big man Sean Murphy all were part of a group that made it to the 15U semifinals before falling just short against K-Low Elite. Especially impressive in a Saturday win over East Coast Power was Bethea, a smooth 6-3 combo guard who knocked five 3-pointers from all around the arc, on both pull-up and off the catch situations, and then used that shooting to open up driving lanes; he also had four rebounds and a trio of assists. Reed, a bouncy 6-1 guard, had eight points, four boards and three assists; both were strong defenders, as were Howell and Best.
— Another local school whose youth movement was on full display this weekend was Friends’ Central. Now under new leadership, as it was announced that FCS grad and former East Carolina/Pitt standout Mike Cook was taking over from Jason Polykoff, the Phoenix have some 2024s that they have a lot to like about. Fazl Oshodi, Isaac Moore and Reid Belcher were all playing in the 15U championship game; Belcher for K-Low Elite while Oshodi and Moore were teammates with Philly Pride. Oshodi, a 6-3 guard, shined brightest in that one with 18 points and three rebounds, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and all eight of his foul shots. Moore, a 6-5 wing forward, had four points and four rebounds, while the 5-10 Belcher had a pair each of 3-pointers, assists, and steals. With 2021 grad Ed Holland III off to Penn and a number of other seniors graduated alongside him, Cook is going to need to develop this young core if he wants to have any chance at challenging Westtown, ANC and new upstart George School at the top of the Friends’ League in the next couple years.
— Orchard and Holloway weren’t the only high school teammates on the SJ Hoops Elite 16U squad that put together a good weekend. A trio of Radnor players all had numerous productive outings, so don’t be surprised if the Raiders end up making a move up the Central League standings next year after going 4-8 this season. Point guard Danny Rosenblum is a drive-and-kick type with a reliable outside shot, while wings Charlie Thornton and Jackson Hicke, both north of 6-2, bring some length, plenty of athleticism and hustle plus some scoring ability to the perimeter. With two years left together, that’s a nice core for Jamie Chadwin to build around on the Main Line.