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Verlin: June live period players who impressed

06/28/2021, 2:15pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Nix Varano (above) was one of several local prospects who really impressed the last couple weekends. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

What a couple weeks.

The 2021 June scholastic high school periods were a welcome return to normalcy for high school players and college coaches alike, with prospects across the region and the country able to show what they can do in front of D-I coaches for the first time since the end of the 2019-20 season. 

The CoBL staff was hard at work these last couple weekends, covering dozens of regional prospects, and you can find a roundup of that coverage here. Now that the June periods are over, I thought it would be a good time to mention several local prospects who didn’t just impress on one day but have really shown over the course of multiple games/weekends (including some spring events) that they’re trending in the right direction.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and not being on this list isn’t indicative of anything other than the fact that I can’t be everywhere at once. It also doesn’t include players who I just saw for the first time in the last couple weeks. With that being said…

Rahmir Barno (2023 | Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Point guard, lead guard, combo guard, whatever you want to call him, Barno’s just good. The 5-11 ball-handler continues to impress as an offense-runner who knows how to set up his teammates and break down defenses, but he’s also a three-level scorer with a whole bag of tricks, and he also knows how to get free without the ball in his hands where he’s a reliable 3-point shooter. Also a great on-ball defender who really puts pressure on the point of attack and can get the Panthers going the other direction.

Chase Coleman (2024 | Archbishop Carroll, Pa.)
Coleman was more of a defensive specialist for Carroll as a freshman, though it was clear there was talent in the young guard. Now 6-1 and more assertive offensively, Coleman is starting to show where his strengths lie, and he’s becoming a rather productive rebounding and defensive guard who also can get into the lane and finish, with just enough of a 3-point shot to keep defenders honest. As his shot continues to improve, his defensive mindset and aggressiveness on the glass will only continue to help him stand out. 

Justin Edwards (2023 | Imhotep Charter, Pa.)
Edwards has been a clear prospect since he was a lanky 6-5 freshman wing, but he’s turning that potential into a whole lot of production as he prepares for his junior year. The now 6-7 left-hander is emerging as a potential five-star prospect on the national scale, as he’s rapidly improved his handle and ability to create his own shot, while staying a reliable 3-point threat who also knows how to operate out of the high post. Motor is running higher and higher as well. 

Anthony Finkley (2023 | West Catholic, Pa.)
Finkley is one of the more unique prospects around, but there’s no denying that he’s a crucial part of the Burrs’ success. A big wing forward at 6-7 and north of 220 pounds, Finkley is a natural ballplayer, comfortable with the rock in his hands, and he can attack the hoop from the 3-point line and finish deftly around the rim. He carries his size well and can guard guards as well as bigs, and he knows how to establish post position and score over both shoulders. If he improves his outside shot, watch out.

Moses Hipps (2024 | Archbishop Carroll, Pa.)
Like Coleman, Hipps was a specialist as a freshman, though his speciality was more of the 3-point variety. The 6-3 guard — who looks like he’ll grow a few more inches before it’s all said and done — is still a strong outside shooter for the Patriots, but he’s starting to expand his offensive game and play more with the ball in his hands. Hipps made several good reads in creative situations, whether those were slip-screen passes to a rolling big man or kick-outs to the perimeter, and he hit a couple pull-up jumpers as well. Certainly expect that type of progression to continue.

Demetrius Lilley (2022 | Lower Merion, Pa.)
Division I coaches saw these couple weekends what has been apparent for a while, and that’s the fact that Lilley is straight-out productive whenever he’s on the floor. What I hadn’t seen was much of him matched up against fellow big men, but he more than proved himself against the likes of Pocono Mt. West’s Christian Fermin, among others. Even when he wasn’t able to have the size advantage, the 6-9, 240-pound Lilley did his best to outwork and outproduce, using his vacuum-like hands to win rebound battles, and he’s got great feel around the rim and can score through contact.

Dereck Lively II (2022 | Westtown School, Pa.)
I mean, duh. Watch Lively play for five minutes and it’s obvious why he’s one of the top prospects in the country regardless of class. At 7-1, he does a little bit of everything, from shot-blocking and rebounding (where he’s elite) to stretching the floor as a 3-point shooter, posting up and finishing around the rim, and (especially) as a put-back dunker or lob finisher, where he throws down with authority multiple times per game. He moves like a guard a foot shorter than his size, and has the modern game every big man in the country would kill for. Sky’s the limit. 

Justin Moore (2022 | Archbishop Wood, Pa.)
Moore’s looking more and more comfortable in his new duds at Archbishop Wood, and the rising senior guard is playing his best ball of late. Scoring the ball at a good clip from deep and also attacking the rim, Moore’s figuring out how to play in the Vikings’ multi-guard attack, and college coaches are catching on. Moore has looked the part of a D-I guard since his sophomore year at Cheltenham, but he’s especially been living up to that potential lately, as his body has filled out and gotten stronger and he’s improved his athleticism as well.

Thomas Sorber (2024 | Archbishop Ryan, Pa.)
One of several impressive young forwards who will be making noise in the Catholic League over the next few years, Sorber is going to step right into a starting spot at Ryan and give the Raiders the first legitimate ‘5’ man they’ve had in some time. A solid-bodied 6-8 post, Sorber is a space-clearer with great hands, and it’s tough to stop him once he gets rolling in the lane. He’s also got touch, able to step out from the 3-point line and he’s a good foul shooter, and an equally good rebounder on both ends of the floor.

Daniel Skillings (2022 | Roman Catholic, Pa.)
One of the prospects coaches came away from St. Joe’s Prep buzzing about the most was Skillings, who looked every bit the part of a high-major wing for Roman against a lot of top-level competition. A true 6-6 small forward with a plus wingspan, Skillings was scoring from all three levels, playing with a great motor and being super-aggressive on the glass, cleaning up a ton of misses while showing the body control and patience to avoid shot-blockers and get it home. His 3-point shot can be a little streaky, but the upside is too real to deny.

Masud Stewart (2022 | Neumann-Goretti, Pa.)
Stewart really put it all together for the Saints the last couple weekends, playing like the rising senior guard Neumann-Goretti needs him to be. The muscular 6-1 combo guard is a terrific 3-point shooter but he’s also a good rebounder and uses his physicality more inside, playing off the Saints’ other capable guards to crash the glass and clean up some misses. He’s also just consistent, giving a good effort whenever he’s on the floor, with great body language the whole time.

Nix Varano (2022 | La Salle College, Pa.)
Maybe the biggest eye-opener of the entire couple weekends was the play of Varano, who was a good third scoring option for the Explorers as a junior and a strong outside shooter, but he’s really playing at a high level at the right time. The 6-2 combo guard is still a high-volume shooter who knocks it down at a good clip, and now he’s been showing he can play with the ball in his hands, attacking the rim and finishing against quality competition, and finding teammates as well; he puts in a ton of effort on both ends and it’s paying off.

Michael Walz (2022 | Conestoga, Pa.)
Walz has been on the Division I radar for some time due to his size and physicality (6-10, 240 pounds), but his production didn’t always quite match his potential. That’s certainly changed lately, as Walz has been playing like a man on a mission. He’s turned up his aggressiveness in attacking the glass, and showing a reliable 3-point shot with good form; he’s also a great passer who helps the flow of an offense out of the post. 

Robert Wright (2024 | Neumann-Goretti, Pa.)
Wright, as the kids say these days, is a bucket. The 6-0 lead guard is a confident, capable scorer from just about anywhere on the court, and it seems like lately he’s going for 20+ more often than not. He’s a strong outside shooter who picks his spots wisely, and he’s also got a few different hesitation and spin moves to get into the lane, where he can finish tough buckets or also hit a variety of step-backs, floaters and more.

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