CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The June high school live periods tipped off in grand fashion Friday in Philadelphia, with several dozen local, regional and national programs taking the court at St. Joe’s Prep. It’s the first time that high school players have been able to play in front of Division I coaches since the end of the 2019-20 season, and the first time coaches have been able to see so many prospects in one building since July 2019.
With a ton of talent in the building, there were college recruits all over the field, from Division I through Division III, though it’s the D-I players most of the coaches were there to see. And for all the players there, whatever their current recruiting picture is could look very different in a week or two. Here’s a notebook featuring coverage of recruiting news, notes and quotes from Friday and Saturday’s action:
Justin Edwards (above) worked on developing his shooting during the COVID-shortened season and has received a number of D-I offers. (Photo: Rich Flanagan/CoBL)
Justin Edwards (2023 | Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Players at Imhotep Charter have become accustomed to playing in front of large audiences and attracting the national spotlight. Since Andre Noble took over in 2005, the Panthers had won nine Philadelphia Public League titles, including four in the last five years. They have been the dominant program in the Public League since the turn of the century and with that has come vast notoriety and intrigue from some of the best college programs in the country.
Names like Kashief Edwards, Sam Prescott, Brandon Austin, Jaekwon Carlyle, Fatts Russell and Donta Scott are just a few that have made their mark at Imhotep and gone on to tremendous careers at the next level. Noble has created a brand on N 21st Street and he has another player in the pipeline that should continue what has already been one of the most dominant runs in city history.
Justin Edwards, the 6-foot-7 rising junior, has exploded onto the scene during this AAU season with Team Final’s 16U squad, playing alongside fellow Panthers’ teammate Rahmir Barno. His recruitment has skyrocketed faster than anyone could have expected but all of the exposure pales in comparison to what his future decision will mean for the lineage that has been established at Imhotep.
“It means a lot to keep the tradition going at Imhotep,” Edwards said, following a 15-point, five rebound performance against First Love Christian Academy at Philly Live I on Friday night.
Edwards has been a member of the Panthers’ rotation for two seasons with his length and ability to defend multiple positions. During the course of the shortened 2020-21 season, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was looking for ways to be more effective at the offensive end of the floor. He became committed to developing a skill coveted by plenty of schools at the next level: shooting.
He started with his form, finding a higher release point and bringing his elbows more parallel to his body. He moved to catching and shooting then transitioned into shooting off the dribble. The countless hours after practice paid dividends over the course of the season with an 11-point game against Plymouth Whitemarsh and a 13-point outing versus Math, Civics & Sciences.
When speaking about his progress, Edwards makes it seem as if his maturation happened almost overnight.
“I just got my jump shot,” Edwards said. “I had the skills established but I really needed to work on my shot. It started to come together toward the end of the school year.”
Things truly came to fruition in the Public League title game as he posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds in Imhotep’s 69-56 victory over Abraham Lincoln.
Following that performance coupled with strong play for Team Final, offers from Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Penn State, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Miami (Fla.), DePaul and Rutgers came pouring in. He took an unofficial visit to UConn on June 14 and received an offer from head coach Dan Hurley that day. Washington, Miami (Fla.), Villanova and Alabama, which has shown interest recently, have been reaching out to him regularly. Villanova assistant coach Mike Nardi was in attendance on Friday to watch the rangy forward.
His size, length and smooth perimeter jumper make him a desired prospect for several high-level programs but Edwards is not letting the list of offers go to his head.
“The offers mean a lot but me working in the gym, I knew they were going to come,” Edwards said. “I’m just trying to stay hungry and humble working by myself.”
Edwards understands that while his recruitment is only just taking off, there are more areas he needs to work on in order to attract the attention of other schools and gain the confidence of those who have already offered him.
“When my shot isn’t falling, I need to impact the game in other ways like rebounding and getting on the floor,” Edwards said. “I can’t always depend on scoring the basketball. I have to see the game better.” – Rich Flanagan
Christian Fermin (above) shot up from a mostly unknown prospect to being included in the latest Rivals150, boasting more than a dozen D-I offers. (Photo: Spencer Kahn/CoBL)
Christian Fermin (2022 | Pocono Mt. West, Pa.)
When the COVID pandemic struck, Fermin was finishing up his sophomore season at Pocono Mt. West, a mostly-unknown young forward with a world of potential ahead of him. So PMW head coach Rich Williams challenged Fermin to make a list of 60 schools that he’d want to play for, Division I programs from high-majors on down; on the list were schools from Penn State to VCU to Georgetown, and plenty more.
“I’m thinking like, ‘oh, damn, I haven’t even proved anything yet,’” Fermin said. “None of these schools are going to hit me up.”
Fast-forward 18 months, and they’re all hitting Fermin up. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward has been on an upward trajectory ever since the COVID pandemic began, putting together a strong junior year for the Panthers: 17.5 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 6.5 bpg, earning him second team all-state honors in the process.
He then joined the New York-based, Nike-backed PSA Cardinals for the summer circuit this spring, and the college offers have rolled in. By the time Fermin and PNW rolled into St. Joe’s Prep this weekend, Fermin’s offer list was more than a dozen D-I scholarships strong, including VCU, Penn State, Temple, St. John’s and more.
A sure sign of his growth was his being included in the latest Rivals150 for the 2022 class. Not bad for a kid who was cut from his 7th grade basketball team and sat the bench in eighth grade, then played freshman ball in his first year at PNW.
“A year ago I wasn’t ranked, I didn’t have no offers, I was just some sophomore nobody knew about,” he said, “and now people see me as one of the best players in the country, and I’m out here proving I can do tons of great things in front of tons of Division I coaches.”
Fermin was certainly impressive in an afternoon game against Conestoga, where he was matched up with another strong big man in ‘Stoga’s 6-10 Mike Walz, who has offers from St. Joe’s and Lehigh, among others. Both forwards more than held their own, getting the best of each other at times, and accounted for more than half of their team’s production in a 44-38 Conestoga win; Fermin had 22 points and Walz 19.
What stands out about Fermin on the court is not only his physicality and athleticism, his continued effort, and his improving ability to step out and knock down 3-point shots; he was also quite vocal on both ends of the floor, his voice audible even above the noise generated by the three other courts all going at once in the Kelly Fieldhouse.
Just as talkative off the court as he is on it, Fermin said he’s hearing the most from VCU — where he took his first official visit, earlier this month — and Temple, where he’s planning on taking an official visit at some point in the fall. In the middle, he’ll be taking an official visit to St. Joe’s beginning Sunday, as soon as Pocono Mt. West finishes up its stint at Philly Live.
Who gets his final two visits is still up for grabs: Fermin said he’s hearing from Cincinnati, Maryland and Georgetown, and he was hoping to get a Pitt offer by the end of the weekend with a few strong performances. He plans on playing out the summer, including a Peach Jam trip with PSA, then cutting down his list and taking his final visits before a pre-senior year commitment.
“I want to know I can go somewhere and impact the program,” he said. “As a freshman I expect to go in and play, because there’s a lot of programs that have offered me that are saying ‘you can come here and play as a freshman.’ I don’t want to redshirt, I feel like I’m physically ready to play the game of basketball at the college level.”
He’s not wrong. And that list of schools, which one day seemed like a long shot, is now his reality. — Josh Verlin
James Johns Jr. (2023 | Salesianum School, Del.)
Johns Jr., a 6-6 wing who will play for the Salesianum School this upcoming season, looked terrific in a hard-fought loss to West Catholic Prep on Friday afternoon. This was his first action for a young Sallies team that has high expectations in Delaware.
For the last two seasons, Johns spent time being a student-athlete in other states. Now, he’s back and better than ever in his home state of Delaware and attempting to make a name for himself and his team with the Sallies.
“I wanted to be closer to my family,” he said. “I want to go away to college soon but I really wanted to be close to my family.”
Johns Jr. is excited by the fact that his dad, James Johns Sr., who is also the head coach of the Team Final 17U team, will finally be able to see him play on a consistent basis this upcoming season.
“It’s fun. I love basketball and I was going all around the country,” he said. “Being home and seeing all of the faces I know has been great. I get to play against my friends.”
Those friends he mentioned were his former West Catholic teammates from when Johns Jr. attended the school as a freshman. The two teams went at each other Friday, and while both sides got each others’ best effort, it was the Burrs of West Catholic Prep that narrowly came out on top.
Johns Jr. had a smooth 20 points against the stiff West Catholic defense, and he recognized that this game was a small step in the right direction for the Sallies.
“We’re going to have our growing pains,” he said. “But I feel like we have the pieces to compete for state championships in Delaware.”
Johns Jr. revealed that Alabama called Thursday and Ole Miss keeps in contact frequently. One campus he visited? UConn, where he had a great time on an unofficial visit. This week, UConn’s HC Danny Hurley returned the favor by showing out to Philly Live I to see Johns Jr. and his Sallies team play. Penn State, Oklahoma State and Saint Joseph’s have also offered this spring.
Johns Jr. said he is excited for the recruitment process to continue this summer as he plays on the EYBL Circuit with his Team Final 16U team that features players like the aforementioned Justin Edwards, Rahmir Barno, Kachi Nzeh, Ruben Rodriguez and several other Division 1 hopefuls.
But for now, he’s just a kid who’s excited to be back home. — Austin Meakim
Denver Anglin (above) comes from a basketball family and has become a hot prospect amongst high-major, high-academic programs. (Photo: Spencer Kahn/CoBL)
— Whenever Denver Anglin (2022/Gill St. Bernard, N.J.) launches a 3-point shot, it looks like it’s going in. Whether that’s because of his picture-perfect form no matter whether he’s on the move or spotting up, or because he knocks them down at such a high rate, is hard to tell. But every time the 6-2, 170-pound combo guard rises up, there’s only one expected outcome.
For that reason, among quite a few others, Anglin’s a hot commodity amongst high-major, high-academic programs. Stanford, Providence and Northwestern have all received official visits, and he’s taking a fourth to Georgetown starting Monday. UConn, another school hot on his trail, is angling for an official visit this fall, and he was just there on an unofficial visit as well.
It’s a process that’s new for Anglin but not for his family: his father, Kyle Anglin, played at St. Bonaventure in the late 1980s, and his brother Dallas Anglin played D-I ball at Hofstra and Southern Miss before finding success at Northern Colorado.
“My family...we just believe in the best fit for me, and whatever gets me to the highest level of basketball,” he said. “It’s been a great offseason with (colleges), and just talking to all the coaches and seeing all their points of view of how I can make an impact (on) their team, it’s just really nice.”
Anglin will play with the NY Renaissance in the Nike EYBL event in N. Augusta, S.C. next month and then hopefully in Peach Jam immediately thereafter. He said he plans to keep his recruitment open until the end of the summer, then take any remaining visits and make his decision this fall. He’ll weigh things like distance from home, school atmosphere...and some more minute details.
“Those are factors that I look into,” he said. “Small things, like a bagel shop...it has to check all the boxes for me to be the perfect fit.”
— After a stellar sophomore season on a Reading (Pa.) team that won the state championship, it’s no surprise that first team all-state guard Ruben Rodriguez picked up his first D-I offer from St. Peters. The 6-2, 165-pound guard has impressive speed and a great ability to attack the rim as well as rebound and pass. Rodriguez transferred from Muhlenberg after his freshman year where his squad won the district championship; a move that has paid off.
“Me and my family thought that was the best move for me and for our city,” Rodriguez said. “And when I transferred they gave me the automatic green light...and yeah, I just hoop.”
Although no one in his family played hoops, Rodriguez has loved the game from a young age, watching the sport and going out to the rec center to play. Two guys he’s looked up to when he was younger are Lonnie Walker III, an NBA player and member of the 2017 state championship team at Reading, and Isiah Cook, another member of that ‘17 squad and a current player at Penn State Brandywine. The rising junior has also heard from Colgate and is spending this offseason working on becoming a better shooter off the dribble, getting stronger, being a lockdown defender and using his off hand.
— In the class of 2023, Jake Warren is yet to turn 16, making himself one of the youngest players in his class. The 6-10, 200-pound big man spent his freshman season at Archbishop Carroll before transferring to Downingtown West. Warren recently received his first offer from St. Joe’s and has been in communication with schools such as Delaware, Colgate, and UPenn.
Jake’s older brother, Josh Warren, went to Downingtown West where he was a three-time all-league player prior to his playing career at Cornell. Josh, who is 6-8, plays a big role in his brother's basketball career.
“He’s a big part of why I’m here,” Jake said of his older brother. “Everything he's taught me, all my post moves and all that.”
Warren showed on Saturday his impressive ability to pass the ball especially for somebody of his stature. While playing AAU ball for Philly Pride, an Under Armour affiliated team, Warren identified rebounding as an area he should work on and he is doing just that this offseason.
— Khalil Farmer (2022/Roman Catholic, Pa.) will be going into this season with a new head coach, as Roman brought back Chris McNesby. In Saturday’s contest against Centerville, the Cahillites looked sharp in a 68-53 victory even though they are still in an adjustment period.
“The coaching styles (between) him and coach Matt Griffin were different,” Farmer said. “But it’s nothing we couldn’t adjust to; he’s more of a ‘get at it’ type of a guy, just bringing that intensity every game, we’re learning, we’ve got a long way to go.”
Farmer, in particular, looked smooth on the offensive end scoring 16 points which included three made shots from behind the arc. The 6-3 combo-guard looked to improve on the defensive end this summer, and in the contest, he got two steals.
Farmer isn’t leaning in any direction for where he wants to play college ball, but he wants to make that decision before the upcoming season. He currently holds offers from Robert Morris, Albany, Boston University, Binghamton, NJIT and Rider and he’s planning to visit Boston University soon.
— Khalif Crawley (2022 | Math, Civics, & Sciences, Pa.) had another impressive outing on Saturday in a 62-60 victory over Reading. The 6-9 forward scored 18 points and showed his versatility as a scorer. Whether it was going back up off of offensive rebounds, knocking down mid-range jumpers from the top of the key, or drilling a three-pointer, Crawley had it all working for him. He also showcased his ability to initiate offense with pinpoint outlet passes and snatched up eight rebounds (four offensive).
Coming into Saturday, Crawly held offers from multiple mid-major programs and picked up another offer from UMBC Saturday afternoon, adding to a list that includes Saint Peter’s, Raford, NC A&T, NJIT and several others. Crawley has spent the summer working on his handle and conditioning to become a more appealing college prospect. Crawley had an unofficial visit with La Salle last week and wants to finalize his visit schedule for the rest of the month, with his list trimmed to five by the end of summer and a plan to commit by late December/early January.
The biggest priority for Crawley when picking a school is making sure that he’s in a position to showcase his versatility. “I want an opportunity to showcase my talent because I know I can do more than what other people think I can do,” Crawley said. “I don’t want to go to college where they want me to play in a bubble.”
Tag(s): Home Recruiting Josh Verlin Rich Flanagan Justin Edwards Khalil Farmer Jake Warren Schedule/Standings Catholic League Archbishop Carroll Roman Catholic Public League Public League A Imhotep Math, Civics & Sci. High School James Johns Jr.