The second weekend of Philly Live 2021 wrapped up on Sunday, with eight final sets of action to conclude the two-weekend-long, massive event at St. Joe’s Prep.
Here’s one final notebook of coverage from the event, featuring a mix of high school and recruiting coverage:
Justin Moore (above, earlier this month) and Archbishop Wood had a strong couple weekends despite many new pieces. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Archbishop Wood reloading quickly after second PCL title
Even though this was the second edition of Philly Live, as Archbishop Wood head coach John Mosco and Imhotep head coach Andre Noble ran an equally large (and equally well-regarded) event back in 2019, the two weren’t treating this year’s event like it was something they’d done before.
The pandemic forced a gym change from Jefferson to the Prep, and that necessitated both the limiting of fans entering the building due to the four-court layout taking up the entire gym. Then there was the matter of the coaches on the observation track for the first weekend; when it became clear that the higher viewpoint wasn’t necessarily advantageous, Mosco and Noble moved the coaches to the floor for the second weekend.
No matter what, it’s clear the 2021 edition was another success, with great competition and hundreds of college coaches attending both weekends.
“I work for PECO, and we always joke around, you never do your second storm,” Mosco said with a laugh. “This is again our first event, because we had the time off, and it’s like we’re back starting all over.”
Those words can apply for Mosco’s Vikings as well: they’re starting all over, but already well ahead of the curve.
Wood graduated its entire starting lineup from last season’s Philadelphia Catholic League championship squad, which took home the school’s second-ever PCL title and fell short to Reading in the state championship game, spoiling what had otherwise been an unbeaten year. And what a lineup it was: Rahsool Diggins (UConn), Marcus Randolph (Richmond), Daeshon Shepherd (La Salle) and Jaylen Stinson (James Madison) are all playing D-I hoops, and Muneer Newton turned down several D-II scholarships to attend NAIA powerhouse William Penn (Iowa).
But the cupboard is far from empty in Warminster.
Senior guard Justin Moore, a Division I recruit with a half-dozen offers, arrives from Bishop McDevitt, which closed after the 2020-21 school year. He joins two other seniors, Tyson Allen and Mike Knouse, who were role players last year but will be much larger factors in the equation this time around. Junior forward Carson Howard, a 6-8 post with a Saint Peter’s offer, arrives from Lacey (N.J.), and a sophomore class led by bouncy, talented guards Jalil Bethea and Josh Reed are ready to step up after impressing on the JV squad a year ago.
“We’re not so much young, [but] we’re inexperienced,” Mosco said. “I like our pieces, we’ve just got to get better at certain things.”
Moore, a 6-2 guard who was at Cheltenham as a freshman and started for the Panthers as a sophomore, has been playing his best basketball lately, including multiple 20-point outings during the Philly Live sessions. He’s added offers from Jacksonville, Albany, Merrimack, St. Francis (Pa.) and Saint Peter’s since the start of the June live periods, joining those from Rider, Drexel and Central Connecticut.
Though he’s still new to the program, Moore will have to assume a leadership role on the squad as by far its most experienced member, not an easy task for someone who’s still familiarizing himself with his new teammates and coaching staff.
“It’s starting to come now,” Mosco said. “He knows guys, he’s been around guys, working out with guys, so it’s starting to come. Going into September, when we’re working out, October, it’ll be a lot easier for him.”
Despite all the fresh faces and the fact that quite a few PCL squads are returning much more from successful teams a year ago, Wood’s goals remain sky-high under Mosco, the former longtime Neumann-Goretti assistant who’s turned the suburban school into a powerhouse in his eight years there.
“As a program, our expectation is to be at the Palestra and win,” Mosco said. “So we’re challenging them to get there.” — Josh Verlin
Michael Walz (2022 | Conestoga)
This summer has been an eventful one for 6-10, 235-pound center Michael Walz. The rising senior at Conestoga is in the heart of his recruiting and is juggling that with the grind of the high school offseason and AAU season. Walz is using his AAU and high school games as a ‘release’ from all the mayhem happening off the court.
On the final day of Philly Live II, the big man had an impressive showing against St. Joe’s Prep in front of numerous colleges. Walz dominated inside and showed his shooting ability knocking down two threes. Walz finished the game with a double-double registering 24 points and 13 rebounds, giving the ball an empathic slap after coming down with some of his boards.
Walz is working on improving his strength around the basket, which he showed Sunday finishing through contact, his ability to drive, and becoming more of a playmaker in the sense of setting his teammates up to succeed in every way possible.
“Playmaking doesn't necessarily entail just handling the ball,” Walz said. “Setting up your teammates to be in the right position to score, directing them throughout the offense, being a captain. We don’t have captains on the summer team but trying to take that role of directing your guys letting them know what's up. Letting them know where they're supposed to be. I think playmaking there’s more than one element.”
Shooting and defense are two aspects Walz is also working on, specifically trying to improve his footspeed and guard more wings which he mentioned is important when playing AAU ball and having to guard 6-8 players that can handle the basketball.
Walz currently holds offers from Bucknell, Richmond, William & Mary, Lehigh, St. Joe’s, La Salle and Penn State, which he picked up following his big game on Sunday, and has been in recent contact with them all. Walz has also been in communication with Davidson, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, George Washington, Towson, Iona, Stony Brook, Northeastern, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Delaware, Brown and Drexel.
Walz is doing his due diligence visiting schools, taking unofficial’s to Lehigh, William and Mary, Richmond, Princeton, Bucknell, and St. Joe’s which he also visited officially. He currently has an official visit set up for Lehigh on Thursday and mentioned the possibility of visiting others schools with Holy Cross, Stony Brook, Lafayette, Delaware, and La Salle — who tried to set up a visit with him but both parties schedules didn’t match — along with the possibility of other schools getting in the mix.
When it comes to Walz’s next step in his hoops career, he has three pillars that are important to him, the first being academics. Walz wants a respected degree that he can use ‘once the ball stops bouncing,’ adding that business is his top major choice. The second is a place where he can win. The third and final pillar is a place where he feels like part of a family.
“It’s always nice to know that within your little college basketball community there will always be someone to have your back, inviting you places, caring for you like brothers and sisters or parents,” Walz said.
Walz has four schools that are going to be when he cuts his list down, declining to mention any by name, and is still open to more schools getting in the mix. As for now, Walz is going to keep his options open throughout the live period, where he'll be playing on the Under Armour circuit with Philly Pride during stops in Georgia, Texas and Indianapolis.
“We’ll have a lot of national exposure, we’ll see if any other schools reach out but I think that’s the plan that my coaches and I and my family have come to,” Walz said. — Matthew Ryan
— Having someone to mentor you is extremely important, but when that person is your father and has been around your entire life, it’s even better. That’s the case for rising La Academia junior DeMajh Salisbery, son of Temple great Dustin Salisbery who also had a long overseas career. The two work out together and play one on one, and DeMajh takes parts of his pops’ game and adds it to his, mentioning he gets his scoring from his dad.
DeMajh is a solid player in his own respect, having a strong outing Sunday morning, knocking down two threes and scoring inside the arc. Salisbury is working on improving all aspects of his game, mostly his jump shot and conditioning.
The 6-foot-tall, 165-pound point guard recently received his first offer from the University of Albany in May and has been in contact with La Salle and George Washington. Dustin went through his recruitment almost two decades ago but is giving his son some valuable tips as he navigates his own.
“Remain humble at all cost,” DeMajh said on his dad’s advice to him. “Keep in contact with the coaches and just remain yourself through it all.”
— It’s a nice issue to have: West Catholic coach Miguel Bocachica has too many Division I prospects to start them all, which means junior guard Marcus Branker Jr. gives him a nice pop off the bench.
In West Catholic’s blowout victory over Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.), Branker didn’t get the start, but he played significant minutes off the bench. A 6-4 wing, Branker had a solid game Sunday, finishing with eight points, knocking down a three and showing his ability to score inside and through contact. Branker is working on improving his catch and shoot three, ball handling, getting to the rim more.
With college coaches being able to contact players in the class of 2023 starting June 15, Branker received his first D-I offer that day from Bryant when he was at practice and is yet to hear from any other D-I programs.
“I’m just looking for a school that will best fit me for my position and what I have to bring to the table,” Branker said. “As long as I’m able to attack, score, play defense I feel like I’ll be in a good position for any team.”
— After going 13-2 overall and 6-0 in Delaware Valley play, next season’s Chester squad is missing some big time players from the year prior, most notably two time Daily Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year Karell Watkins. The Clippers are also going to be without Fareed Burton who was first team all Delco, Jameel Burton who was second team all Delco, and big man Shaquan Horsey who was an honorable mention for a conference team.
Keith Taylor’s squad was missing two key contributors this weekend with Isiah Freeman and Lorenzo Jerkins not in attendance. Freeman, Chester’s quarterback, was named an honorable mention for an all conference team last season and missed Philly Live II due to a football obligation.
Taylor also mentioned sophomores Kyree Wormack and Qadir Lowrie, who saw reserve minutes as freshmen, as players who are going to play big roles for his team next year. Wormack (24 points) and Lowrie (15 points) were Chester’s two leading scorers in their 67-45 victory over Tatnall (Fla.).
The Clippers are a young and small squad this season and they’re working on simply getting some time on the floor together during this offseason.
“Getting these guys used to just playing basketball because a lot of them are young and they're going to have to play a big part of what we’re going to do this year coming up,” Taylor said. “So just trying to throw them in the fire as much as possible. Hope they’re able to put it out.”