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Philly Live II: Day One Notebook Part 1 (June 25)

06/26/2021, 12:15am EDT
By CoBL Staff

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

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The second weekend of the June scholastic live period got underway nationwide on Friday, with St. Joe’s Prep playing host to the Philly Live event for the second weekend in a row. CoBL was on staff all day long to see as many games as possible spread across the four courts at the Prep, checking out local schools and a few out-of-area visitors as well.

Here’s Pt. 1 of a notebook from Friday’s action; click here for Pt. 2 and click here for standouts:

A boy blocks another boy attempting to make a layup

Christian Fermin (above, on the left, last weekend) has narrowed down his college list and expects to make his pick in July. (Photo: Spencer Kahn/CoBL)

Fermin announces top five schools, eyes July decision

Christian Fermin can almost see the finish line, literally and figuratively. He is heading into his senior season at Pocono Mountain West but more importantly, he can finally focus on making his college decision. It has been a long and grueling process to get to where he is currently and getting to a point where he is ultimately happy with his next destination came at the right time.

“The way I came to that process and looked at the landscape of everything going on in my recruitment, I decided that it was time,” Fermin said. “The top five were really the schools that recruited me the hardest and I was interested in the most.”

The 6-10 big man released his top five schools on Thursday with VCU, St. Joe’s, Temple, Penn State and Pitt all making the cut. From the moment his recruitment began to explode over the course of his junior season, Fermin and Pocono Mountain West head coach Rich Williams have been on their phones talking with coaches about what comes next. 

Immediately following his announcement on Thursday, the phone did not stop ringing.

“I released it and Coach Williams had people contacting him for hours wondering where I’m going to go,” Fermin said. “I’m happy, and looking forward to just being a basketball player again.”

Fermin posted a double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds in a 80-48 loss on Friday night to Archbishop Ryan. He scored 20 of his 29 in the first half and hit three 3-pointers in the game. Seeing the versatility Fermin showcases now makes Williams recall when the highly-recruited player could barely get on the floor as a freshman.

While he cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore, Fermin’s maturation has been a true pleasure for Williams.

“He looked like he never belonged as a 10th grader; then after that, he’s blown up,” Williams said. “Now, he’s starting to fill out and he has big shoulders and big legs. He has the frame that has college coaches thinking, ‘Oh, we can make this guy really strong.’ I couldn’t be any prouder of the kid. He worked his tail off.”

The Pa. All-State Class 6A Second Team selection averaged 17.5 points, 12 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per game this season. He will make his final decision on July 3 and, while it will be a difficult one, Fermin has a great understanding about what each program wants out of him, particularly the Rams and Hawks. 

“St. Joe’s wants to help me develop into a forward, which is something that I’ve been trying to showcase,” Fermin said. “I’ve been handling the ball a lot and Billy Lange has developed multiple NBA players like Jerami Grant.”

“VCU is a great program with the style and grittiness that they play with. It suits me as a player because I put a lot of effort into playing and I like playing gritty. I don’t back down and that’s what VCU is about. They have ‘havoc’ on the back of their jerseys and they have tons of players that I would mesh with as well.”

Lange and assistant Justin Scott were on hand to watch him play against the Raiders as were Rams head coach Mike Rhoades and assistant Brent Scott. Having two different sets of coaches courtside anxiously waiting in anticipation for his decision shows how much each program wants him.

Being able to come in and play from the outset is the most appealing quantity to Fermin and Williams knows that is going to have a huge impact in his decision.

“One of the big things is that he will get to play right away,” Williams said. “In college basketball, most guys will say that you will but he knows he has to earn it. He will figure out a way to get on the court. The other part is fit and it starts with his versatility. He can move defensive, play in a press, shoot the three and post. There’s not too many 6-10 kids walking around. He wants to be somewhere where he can get up and down.”

It was a mere coincidence that Fermin happened to select four Pa. schools in his top five but he stated that “staying home doesn’t matter to me. I’m a basketball player and I’ll play anywhere.”

This may be the biggest decision of Fermin’s young career but the announcement cannot come soon enough. He admits the process has been rigorous and he is looking forward to reaching that finish line.

“As soon as this decision is made, that’s it for my recruitment,” Fermin said. “A lot of people don’t know how tedious this process is. It’s so competitive.” — Rich Flanagan

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A boy dribbles a basketball

Daniel Skillings (above) only started playing basketball seriously as a freshman, but was the clear standout for Roman Catholic on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Skillings impressing for Roman as recruiting takes off

For Roman Catholic wing Daniel Skillings, working on his game is an all-day affair. Literally. Hitting up the Salvation Army gym at Broad & Vine with Philly Pride coach Kenny Jackson, Skillings is making no short work of his workout routines.

“Every day we wake up at 8:30 in the morning and leave the gym at 5 in the afternoon,” Skillings said, “get something to eat and rest, and get right back to it tomorrow.

Jackson confirmed that Skillings really does spend his days working on his game, whether it’s weight lifting sessions or skill development drills, though they’ll break for lunch during those long days of hoops. 

To be fair, there’s a lot for Skillings to catch up on: the 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing only started playing basketball seriously as a freshman in New Jersey, and his first season at Roman was limited to 12 games thanks to COVID instead of the typical 25-30 that the Cahillites play in a normal year. 

“There’s some mornings where I don’t feel like getting up,” Skillings admitted, “but that’s the sacrifice when you want to be great one day. Those are the best days, where you don’t really want to get up and you force it through and you feel better about yourself,  and you got better that day instead of staying inside.”

All that considered, what he’s able to do on the court is quite impressive. Skillings was Roman’s clear standout in a Friday night loss to Jersey powerhouse Camden High, producing from start-to-finish. He ended up with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting (1-3 3PT), grabbing 11 rebounds (seven offensive) with two blocks and two assists. The slashing wing, who’s got a combination of length and strength on his frame, crashed the glass hard and hit a few mid-range jumpers.

After playing in mostly-empty gyms all season long, Skillings said he’s been thriving off finally playing in front of coaches again.

“It feels great, it feels great. I play better when there’s coaches or fans or a lot of fans, a lot of media, I play better,” he said. “I like a loud gym, a competitive gym.”

Skillings picked up six offers last week (UMass, Hofstra, VCU, Fairfield, Rhode Island and Fordham), doubling a list that already included Robert Morris, Iona, Temple, Drexel, La Salle and Albany. He said high-majors have started to check in, including West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma State and Marquette. 

“It’s a blessing, man, it’s truly a blessing,” he said. “Two years ago today, my dream was to get scholarships from D-I colleges and at that high of level, I’m just truly blessed and I thank God every day.”

With his recruiting still very much on the rise, Skillings played it close to the vest when it came to visits; he hasn’t gotten to visit any schools yet, and isn’t planning on doing so until the July live periods are over. Playing with Philly Pride on the Under Armour circuit, he’s sure to play in front of plenty of D-I schools at stops in Georgia and Texas as well as the UAA championships in Indianapolis at the end of the month. He did say he’ll be continuing to work on his handle and shot, as well as his core muscles and strength.

While on the road, he’ll be looking for “any college that’s interested in me and shows me love and is there for me,” he said. “I know every college is going to be great for me basketball-wise, get me better and get me ready for the next level.  I just care if colleges have my back, if they have love for me; who calls me most, who’s most interested.” — Josh Verlin

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Quick Hits

— It was after a game of his during the first weekend of Philly Live that Chase Coleman (2024/Archbishop Carroll, Pa.) got some unexpected good news: he’d gotten a scholarship offer from Manhattan College, his first D-I offer. The 6-foot-tall point guard, who plays with the NY Renaissance on the Nike EYBL circuit, got the heads’ up from one of his AAU coaches, and then saw the news on Twitter. The first offer is a milestone for any Division I prospect, but Coleman knows that it’s still extremely early in his hoops journey.

“I’m not really worried about it because I’m still young, I’m still developing and still growing, “ he said. “Just trying to be a better player every day, that’s it.”

One member of a key 2024 class for Carroll, Coleman started 15 of 16 games as a freshman, averaging 4.6 ppg for a Carroll squad that finished 7-5 in the Catholic League (9-7 overall). But he’s in for a big step up in production as a sophomore, which he’s shown all offseason long; in a 66-49 win over Executive Education Charter (Pa.) to open up the second weekend of the June live periods Friday afternoon, he had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists, grabbing five misses on the offensive end. Along with fellow sophomore Moses Hipps, another D-I prospect and returning starter, Coleman will have to assume leadership responsibilities sooner rather than later for a team with Catholic League championship hopes.

“It’s a lot to expect from young kids, but you’ve got to deal with it because it’s basketball,” Coleman said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ve just got to be a leader regardless, that’s really it.

“Even though we’re young, we’ve got to go out there and try to win the PCL championship.”

— Neumann-Goretti is going to have to replace a lot of production from last year with the graduation of four of its top five scorers, and it’s been clear that senior Masud Stewart and sophomores Robert Wright III and Amir Williams will all help pick up some of the slack. Lately, senior guard Aamir Hurst has been inserting himself into that conversation as well. The 6-1, 160-pound wing guard had 12 points and 12 boards in the Saints’ 64-38 win over Downingtown West, and he’s been a consistent two-way producer for Neumann-Goretti in other events they’ve played in this spring. College coaches are noticing, too: Hurst said he’d heard from D-I Maryland-Eastern Shore and D-IIs East Stroudsburg and West Liberty (W.Va.) in the last few weeks.

— Bensalem forward Allen Myers is starting to catch some attention this summer, but it makes sense why he wasn’t known beforehand: the 6-7 forward was only 6-2 about a year ago, according to head coach Ron Morris, and is still adjusting to his new frame. Myers is a lanky post who definitely needs to add some weight to become a post player at the next level, but he puts in good effort on the block and has good length; in a loss to Constitution, Myers had nine points, 13 rebounds (five offensive) and three blocks. Morris said several D-III programs, including Albright and Bryn Athyn, had already inquired.

— As has been the case just about wherever they go, Camden was the biggest draw of the evening, with coaches flocking to the court to see D.J. Wagner & Co. (though Roman Catholic was a strong draw as well). Wagner finished with 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting (1-9 3PT), with six rebounds, three assists and three steals. It remains to be seen whether the consensus No. 1 player in the 2023 class will end up going to college or not in his quest to become the first third-generation NBA player, but the son of former Camden and Memphis star Dajuan Wagner is a no-doubt high-level athlete with a unique burst to the hoop, and his ‘compete’ level is as high as they get.


D-I Coverage:

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Tag(s): Home  Recruiting  Josh Verlin  Rich Flanagan  Daniel Skillings  Robert Wright III  Amir Williams  Catholic League  Archbishop Carroll  Neumann-Goretti  Roman Catholic  Suburban One  SOL Patriot  Bensalem  Other  Camden  Masud Stewart