Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
What's the best grassroots program in Philadelphia?
It’s a debate that’s never going to be truly settled (depending on who you talk to), but this year’s version of the Battle of the Bell will give us an idea of who's the top dog this year. Three different programs from three different sneaker circuits — Team Final (Nike), Philly Pride (Under Armour) and K-Low Elite (Adidas) — will be meeting on Saturday for a day-long affair at Cristo Rey High School, with Final and K-Low’s middle school teams also playing the evening before.
Admission for the event will be $15.
A look at each of the three programs competing in the event:
Darren Williams (above) is one of a number of impressive young prospects in K-Low's system. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The program formerly known as Team Philly and now named after its most famous alumnus, Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry, K-Low Elite, has the heaviest concentration of hyper-local talent on the roster. Almost everyone on its 15U through 17U rosters are from District 1 or District 12, with one or two South Jersey kids thrown in the mix as well. K-Low’s 17U squad features Archbishop Ryan graduate Aaron Lemon-Warren, a 6-4 wing about to do a prep year at Mt. Zion Prep (Md.), as well as fellow Division I recruits Justin Moore (22/Archbishop Wood), Derek Simpson (22/Lenape, N.J.) West Catholic’s 2022 twins Kareem and Kaseem Watson, and more.
K-Low’s 16U group is led by Roman Catholic point guard Xzayvier Brown, who just picked up offers from Marquette and VCU, as well as West Catholic 2023s Anthony Finkley and Zion Stanford plus Penn Charter wing Trey Shinholster and Sankofa Freedom guard Shemar Wilbanks. Their younger group, the 15Us, feature several players who will be making varsity impacts next year, including Archbishop Ryan 2024 Darren Williams (6-3), Friends’ Central’s Reid Belcher (5-11), Bonner’s Deuce Ketner (6-4) and Cardinal O’Hara’s Pearce McGuinn (6-5).
Alassane Amadou (above) is part of a towering Philly Pride 16U frontcourt. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The city’s Under Armour participant, Philly Pride has produced several NBA players in recent history, including DeAndre Hunter and Charlie Brown, and Kamal Yard’s progra is once again stocked with quality prospects from the city as well as the surrounding area. The 17U Pride group features Conestoga center Michael Walz, Roman Catholic’s Daniel Skillings and Khalil Farmer and Hill School’s Gabe Moss, all of whom have more than a few Division I offers. The backcourt includes Kiski Prep’s Anthony Purnell, a Chester native, plus Imhotep shooting guard Naji Reid and Penn Charter rising junior Mark Butler.
Pride’s 16s feature plenty of size up front, including Downingtown West’s Jake Warren (6-10), SCH Academy’s Alassane Amadou (6-9) and Hill School’s Augustus Gerhardt (6-9), with two of them often on the court at the same time together. On the wing is La Salle’s Horace Simmons, who already has multiple mid-to-high-major offers, with a strong backcourt of Academy New Church’s Deywilk Tavarez, La Academia’s DeMajh Salisbery, West Catholic’s Adam ‘Budd’ Clark and Downingtown West’s Dylan Blair. Finally, Pride’s 15U group has as much upside as any around: keep an eye on the Friends’ Central duo of Fazl Oshodi (6-3) and Isaac Moore (6-5), plus Bishop Eustace guard Reggie Selden Jr. (6-1), Lampeter-Strasburg’s Ty Burton (5-9) and Malvern Prep’s Ryan Williams (6-2), with Elizabethtown’s Matt Gilhool (6-9) and Imhotep’s Jeremiah White (6-6) up front.
Jameel Brown (above) and Team Final are one of the favorites for the Peach Jam title in July. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Final has big hopes for July, with a two-week trip down to North Augusta (S.C.) coming up in the middle part of the month. Down there, Rob Brown’s program will compete first in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL)’s pandemic-shortened ‘regular season’ followed by the return of the Peach Jam. Final’s 17U group is certainly good enough to go down there and win the whole thing for the first time since Peach Jam became the EYBL championship tournament back in 2010, led by its towering frontcourt of top-two 2022 prospect Jalen Duren (Montverde Academy, Fla.) and fellow five-star Dereck Lively II (Westtown, Pa.), who measure at 6-10 and 7-1, respectively. But there’s more: the backcourt has UConn commit Corey Floyd (Roselle Catholic, N.J.) and LSU commit Justice Williams (TBD), plus high-major targets Jameel Brown (Westtown School, Pa.) and Otega Oweh (Blair Academy, N.J.).
Final’s 16U group is more wing-focused, including Imhotep Charter’s Justin Edwards, who’s flown up the recruiting rankings this offseason and pulled in numerous high-major offers, as well as Salesianum (Del.)’s James Johns Jr., who’s also had quite a few scholarships come his way, and Pittsburgh-area product Daemar Kelly (Penn Hills, Pa.), who’s also gotten D-I looks; up front is George School big man Kachi Nzeh, with high-major offers of his own. The guards include Edwards’ Imhotep teammate Rahmir Barno, another emerging high-major target, as well as Reading’s Ruben Rodrigeuz, who picked up his first offer this month. The 15U Final squad has some great guards, including Neumann-Goretti’s Robert Wright III, Archbishop Ryan’s Mike ‘Deuce’ Jones, Archbishop Carroll’s Moses Hipps and Parkland’s Nick Coval, with Neumann’s Luke Bevilacqua (6-9) and Ryan’s Thomas Sorber (6-8) up front and Amir Williams (Neumann-Goretti) and Elijah Brown (St. Augustine Prep, N.J.) on the wing.
The complete schedule:
Friday, July 2
Grail Sports Complex; Wilmington, Del.
6:30 PM: Team Final vs. K-Low Elite (13U)
8:00 PM: Team Final vs. K-Low Elite (14U)
Saturday, July 3
Cristo Rey HS; Philadelphia, Pa.
9:00 AM: K-Low Elite vs. Philly Pride (15U)
10:20 AM: K-Low Elite vs. Philly Pride (16U)
11:40 AM: Philly Pride vs. Team Final (15U)
1:00 PM: K-Low Elite vs. Philly Pride (17U)
2:20 PM: Philly Pride vs. Team Final (16U)
3:40 PM: Team Final vs. Philly Pride (17U)
5:00 PM: K-Low Elite vs. Team Final (15U)
6:20 PM: K-Low Elite vs. Team Final (16U)
7:40 PM: K-Low Elite vs. Team Final (17U)
Tag(s): Home Josh Verlin Xzayvier Brown Jalen Duren Justice Williams Justin Moore Moses Hipps Rahmir Barno Justin Edwards Horace Simmons Alassane Amadou Daniel Skillings Khalil Farmer Dereck Lively II Robert Wright III Jameel Brown Elijah Brown Luke Bevilacqua Nick Coval Deuce Jones Thomas Sorber Amir Williams Caleb Alston-Nelson Reid Belcher Devin Booker Darren Williams Pearse McGuinn Anthony Finkley Shemar Wilbanks Zion Stanford Deywilk Tavarez Dylan Blair Jake Warren Matt Gilhool Reggie Selden Jr. Michael Walz High School Kachi Nzeh Anthony Purnell Jaheim Bethea James Johns Jr. Augustus Gerhardt Naji Reid