Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
PRINCETON, N.J. — The first live recruiting period in two years tipped off Friday night in gyms and arenas across the country, with just about every college coach around heading out to a local event or two to start to catch up on a years’ worth of missed recruiting. Quite a few high-majors and plenty of other D-I, D-II and D-III coaches were at the Hun School for Friday’s Mid-Atlantic Independent School Shootout action, which began at noon and ran well into the evening.
Here’s a short notebook from the afternoon sets of the event, which features private schools from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and runs through Sunday:
Dereck Lively II (above) scored 17 points and grabbed 21 rebounds with Westtown at the first day of the Mid-Atlantic Ind. Shootout. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Dereck Lively II dominates in opener
There were heavy hitters at Hun from the get-go, with Duke head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer and UNC’s Hubert Davis in the stands along with a plethora of other high-majors, from Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry to UConn’s Dan Hurley, as well as assistant coaches galore. And while there were plenty of high-level players for them to scout, there’s no doubt who was the main draw of the shootout’s opening game: Dereck Lively II.
The Westtown School (Pa.) rising senior big man has been one of the no-doubt stars of the spring on the grassroots circuit, and it doesn’t take long to see why. The 7-foot-1 center is just about the prototype for the modern forward: long and athletic, with the ability to defend the rim at a high level and score not just from in close but from the 3-point arc.
Playing most of the spring with Team Final, Lively has been every bit as impressive as his travel team frontcourt mate Jalen Duren, the Montverde Academy (Fl.) forward who’s considered a top-two prospect in the 2022 class. Coaches and scouts are taking notice: in the latest Rivals recruiting rankings, Lively shot up 31 spots to the No. 14 spot, and even that number seems low.
“Definitely just been working on trying to show off what I can do, really, and really just have fun with the teams I’m playing with, that’s all I’m trying to do,” he said. “All the recognition I’m getting is just hard work paying off.”
Lively was fantastic in both of Westtown’s games, though he didn’t need to play much in a 90-66 blowout of Kiski Prep in their second matchup of the afternoon, finishing with 17 points before sitting most of the second half. It was in the opener, against Patrick School (N.J.), where he impressed from start-to-finish, leading Westtown to a 64-53 win and showing just about every aspect of his versatility.
The final numbers speak for themselves: 17 points, 21 rebounds, four blocks, three assists — and a steal for good measure. They also don’t account for the easy half-dozen shots Lively didn’t block but forced into misses, or Patrick’s general unwillingness to go near the bucket once Lively sent a few early shots flying.
All the blue bloods are in on Lively, who said he plans to announce his top seven schools next Friday, June 25. A few are known: he’s already taken an official visit to North Carolina, and he’s got ones scheduled to Kentucky (June 20) and Duke (June 29). Michigan, whose assistant coach Phil Martelli was in attendance, figures to be in the mix, as does Penn State, where Lively’s mother Kathy Drysdale — who scored 1,000 points in a Nittany Lions uniform — is the Director of Marketing.
Though Lively’s cutting down his list soon, don’t expect a commitment shortly afterwards; he said he plans on taking visits “throughout the fall and winter,” and knows that a player of his caliber has the ability to take his time to make his decision. And it’s a big one, with the NBA well within his sights.
“I’m really trying to go to a place where I can develop my character and develop my brand, and develop as a person, really,” he said. “It’s a hard process because I can do that at many different colleges, so it’s definitely going to be a hard topic to pick.
“It really just comes from how hands-on the coaching and coaching staffs are, how much working and fine-tuning the simple things, the little things,” he added. “Not the crazy dunks, the crazy 3s and all that, it’s mainly the footwork, the ball-handling, I’m just trying to get to a point where I’m perfecting every point of my game, that’s really what I’m looking for.”
(Ed. Note: CoBL will have a full-length feature story on Lively out early next week)
Ryan Dunn (above) had a strong showing with the Perkiomen School on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Perkiomen's Dunn wastes no time getting acclimated
There wasn’t a ton of time for Ryan Dunn to adjust to his new teammates.
The Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) grad arrived at the Perkiomen School on Tuesday to start his prep year, giving him a grand total of three days to get ready for a crucial stretch. Didn’t look like it mattered.
Coming off the bench for Perkiomen, Dunn quickly made an impact, knocking down a pull-up 3-pointer to kick off a 14-point, eight-rebound, two-assist effort in a close loss to Upper Room Christian (N.Y.), a school located only about 15 miles from LuHi.
“First actual game [with Perkiomen],” he said, “and I played against a team that’s five minutes from my hometown...I knew almost everybody.”
A late-blooming 6-7, 190-pound guard, Dunn is a slender, athletic wing who puts out a great effort, diving on the floor multiple times for loose balls and chasing down a number of rebounds out of his position.
That work ethic runs in his family: his older brother, Justin Dunn, was a first-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2016 and is currently a starting pitcher with the Seattle Mariners, with 25 career Major-League starts over the last two seasons (5-4, 3.94 ERA). Though the sports are different, the work ethic it takes to succeed as a professional are the same.
“Some people just take one workout a day and chill out; no, he goes like 3-a-days, two-a-days,” Ryan Dunn said. “Just watching him be where I want to be, it’s fun to watch him and take notes. It’s the same way, same work ethic in the offseason, I go work out with him, it’s always fun.”
Dunn arrived at Perkiomen with a single scholarship offer in his pocket, from Stony Brook; he added one of the other Long Island D-Is, Hofstra, by the end of the day; Dunn also said later in the evening he’d heard from UMass and Georgetown, while Holy Cross, Fairfield and others had reached out before the weekend.
While it’s possible that he could still go to college this fall, as a high school graduate in the 2021 class, Dunn said that he’s focused on doing the prep year at Perkiomen, understanding that the extra year can help his development considering he only became a basketball-first player four years ago, when a baseball injury forced a change. Because of that, he said he’s still working on improving his basketball IQ and the mental part of the game.
“Last year I got a lot better physically and so now I just am learning how to make the right plays, learning how to get my teammates involved while getting double-teamed, a lot of stuff like that,” he said. “(Perkiomen school coach Tom Baudient) is a great development coach. I felt like Perk was the perfect place for me … to come in and get my work done, lock in, and get the offers that I want to get to.”
Trey Shinholster (above, in May) and Penn Charter's junior class lead an intriguing group in the Inter-Ac. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Penn Charter’s junior class has high Inter-Ac hopes
It’s been a good while for the old Penn Charter.
The Quakers’ hoops program, long a factor in the Inter-Ac, hasn’t won a league title since 2004, back when Sean Singletary (Virginia) and Rob Kurz (Notre Dame) donned the PC jerseys. That was before most of the current roster was born, and definitely before any of them were aware of high school hoops, but head coach John Owens has a group capable of finally ending that long drought.
It centers around a strong junior class of guards: Trey Shinholster, Mark Butler and Keith Gee. But there’s some intriguing youth behind them, and it’s clear there’s at least a two-year window for this group.
“We’ve been thinking about that since freshman year,” said Shinholster, a 6-3 guard, who had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists in a 54-48 win over Solebury School (Pa.). “When we came in, we played our league, we saw the best of the best as freshmen, playing against seniors. Now it’s our turn.”
Butler, a 5-10 guard who had 10 points in the win, was the first to get to the school, arriving as a sixth grader. Shinholster and Gee, who are teammates together with K-Low Elite’s 16U squad in the offseason, arrived as high school freshmen, giving Owens a core to build around.
Also playing well in the win over Solebury was rising sophomore Kevin Cotton, a 6-3 guard who was 4-of-4 from 3-point range for 12 points. Another junior, Isaiah Grimes, had 11 points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end. And Shinholster’s younger brother, Kai Shinholster, is a 6-4 wing guard who knocked down a 3-pointer of his own.
The growth was slowed last year, when COVID limited Penn Charter to only four games; the Quakers went 2-2 and technically finished in fourth place, though they played half as many games as the rest of the league.
“It’s good to be out with my guys again,” said Butler, who plays with Philly Pride’s 17U squad during the summer. “Last year’s season got cut short, we couldn’t really show what we could do, but this year hopefully we’re going to put everybody on notice.”
At least a few people have already taken notice, including college coaches. Shinholster said he’d heard from Penn and Colgate since D-Is could first contact rising juniors this past Tuesday; Butler said La Salle texted him seven minutes after midnight, and Colgate also called him the following morning.
“It definitely felt good, feels like the hard work’s starting to pay off a little bit,” Butler said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the experience, talking to college coaches is really cool.”
— Lively wasn’t the only impressive performer in Westtown’s two wins, as two other Moose really stood out over the course of their pair of games. Jameel Brown isn’t an unfamiliar name to coaches, as the 2022 guard has had high-major offers for a couple years, and the former Haverford School shooting guard was committed to Purdue before re-opening his recruitment earlier this spring. In his first Westtown outing, the 6-4 guard had 11 points in the first game but then caught fire in the second, hitting six 3-pointers for 20 points in the big win over Kiski. Also hot from beyond was Matt Mayock (2023), as the 6-6 wing guard was 4-of-6 from deep for 14 points against Patrick School and then hit three more as part of a 15-point outing against Kiski. Mayock’s recruitment was still largely quiet heading into the live periods, with a couple D-Is reaching out, but that’s likely going to have changed by Sunday, if not this evening.
— Perkiomen point guard Sam Pohlman had a strong game against Upper Room Christian, controlling the pace and making great reads in the half-court set and on break, making a number of passes that had courtside scouts taking note, threading the needle multiple times. The 6-2, 175-pound guard had nine points and five assists, hitting three second-half 3-pointers, including a game-tying one with under 15 seconds left in a 54-52 loss. Pohlman is still working on pulling in his first offer but the super-high-academic prospect has been hearing from D-Is VMI and Princeton plus D-IIIs Johns Hopkin, Middlebury, Amherst and Wesleyan.
— Patrick School 2022 Zion Cruz is the top-20 prospect on his squad, but Scotty Middleton was the more impressive player against the Westtown School. While Cruz struggled from the floor (8-of-23, 18 points), Middleton was a somewhat more efficient 6-of-14 for 16 points; the 6-7 wing guard from Florida is an impressive prospect with upside, but is still generally under-the-radar, with offers only from La Salle, Penn State and Bryant, all of which came since April.
— Another new contender in the Inter-Ac this year looks like it’ll be Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy. Julian McFadden’s bunch has several new pieces in the mix, and they’re going to provide an injection of talent that SCH hasn’t had in quite some time. The addition of 6-9 forward Alassane Amadou and 6-4 guard Jaren Morton from now-closed Bishop McDevitt — both of them repeating their junior year and entering the 2023 class — gives them two scholarship-level players, alongside senior guard Darius Isaac, plus a talented sophomore guard in Ronald Brown plus 6-6 sophomore Mitch Karp and 6-5 sophomore Caleb Alston. The last time SCH won the Inter-Ac was 2009-10, when they went 10-0 under head coach Bill Dooley.