CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
MANHEIM, Pa. — The Hoop Group’s jam fest tournament series hit the road from Atlantic City this week to the massive Spooky Nook Sports complex for the weekend, with the series’ mix of HG Showcase League (HGSL) programs mixing it up with other independent grassroots programs as well as a few Nike EYBL squads. It was a field that drew plenty of Division I colleges to the Nook, including head coaches and assistants from the highest-level programs all the way down to D-III staffs.
Here’s part two of our recruiting notebook from the day’s action:
Matthew Filipowski (above, right) and his twin brother Kyle have a special connection on the court they use to their advantage. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Matthew Filipowski (2022 | NY Renaissance | Wilbraham & Monson, Mass.)
Out of all his Rens teammates, there’s one that Matthew Filipowski shares a special connection with: his twin brother, Kyle Filipowski. It’s a bond that’s obvious whenever the two are on the court together, which happens every so often on a deep and loaded Rens squad that has five forwards 6-8 and taller.
In a game against District Basketball Club on Saturday afternoon, the Filipowski brothers had a strong first-half stretch together, with the 6-11 Kyle finding the 7-foot, 235-pound Matthew on multiple high-low passes, including one gorgeous behind-the-back dish for a dunk.
“It just makes things 10 times easier,” Matthew said. “We can pretty much think like what each other’s thinking, and be in places you wouldn’t think someone would be if they just didn’t know.”
By the end of the 64-44 win, Matthew had nine points and four rebounds, with an assist, block and steal; Kyle had four points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal. The two of them were an imposing defensive front line against a DBC club that didn’t have anybody taller than 6-6 on the roster, but that’s the case against many of their opponents outside EYBL competition.
The two have different games: Kyle is the more mobile and skilled of the two, a top-20 prospect with recent offers from Duke, North Carolina and Michigan; Matthew is the true ‘5’ man of the two, a space-establisher and rim-runner who can play the pick-and-roll, with recruitment in the mid-major range. Of course, they get to work on their craft against each other, another built-in advantage
“It’s really helpful,” Matthew said. “Having that height makes it so much easier to do the post stuff and play against someone really big and strong just like yourself.”
On the recruiting front, the taller brother has pulled in recent offers from Bucknell, WIlliam & Mary and Iona, joining those from Brown, Cal Poly and others; several others have been in touch.
“I’ve been in contact with a lot of different schools from all across the country,” Matthew said, “getting to know each one of them, trying to figure out what I like, what I don’t like, and still playing and getting better.”
Flipowski said that he’s been hearing from a group of high-academic mid-majors with rich hoops histories including Loyola-Chicago and Davidson, the former of which he’s already visited and the latter of which he’s hoping to see, along with William & Mary and Bucknell, after the July live periods. He’s interested in studying computer engineering in college.
“Really just trying to find out what I like and if the place is going to be a good place for me, for my college career,” he said. “Someplace where I can continue to further improve my game and go somewhere where I can get a good degree and set up a life for myself after college.” — Josh Verlin
Caleb Bryant (above) prides himself on being the center of the defense for the Explorers. (Photo: Rich Flanagan/CoBL)
Caleb Bryant (2023 | Team Final | La Salle College HS, Pa.)
It was only two years ago that La Salle was playing in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship game. Behind a senior-laden lineup in Allen Powell (Rider), Konrad Kiszka (Princeton) and Zach Crisler (Fairfield), the Explorers fell to Roman Catholic but then rebounded to advance to the PIAA Class 6A semifinals, beating the Cahillites in the quarterfinals.
In a shortened season due to the pandemic, La Salle went 9-5 and has all but two players returning. One of those players is 6-8 rising junior Caleb Bryant. While he never had more than three points in a game last year, he made it a point of emphasis to find ways to affect the game in other ways, particularly on the glass.
The Explorers big man found his calling and it centers on being the center of the defense.
“I just get my job done,” Bryant said. “I let my teammates do all of the scoring while I stop the ball and rebound. I try to do what I do and do it as well as I can.”
La Salle’s strength is on the perimeter, where senior Sam Brown (15.4 ppg) — a Rutgers football commit — and Division I recruits Nix Varano (12.8) and junior Horace Simmons (12.6) all have developed under head coach Mike McKee. Chris Williams, a 6-3 rising senior, will also be integral to the team’s success.
Bryant knows the prowess the Explorers boast on the outside and he wants to help them succeed any way he can. He’s been in La Salle’s starting lineup all spring and summer long, looking like he’ll be much more of a factor on the court this season.
“My role is to help them get to where they need to be,” Bryant said. “Nix is a D-I player who just got an offer from Navy. Horace is another D-I player with offers from Marquette and St. Joe’s. Sam is a two-sport athlete. They’re all great scorers.”
He has developed in a legitimate rebounder and shot blocker on a Team Final 16U squad that features Justin Edwards and Rahmir Barno, two high-level prospects at Imhotep Charter; Ruben Rodriguez, a rising junior who led Reading to the PIAA 6A title; Carson Howard, a 6-8 big man who recently transferred to Archbishop Wood; and Kachi Nzeh, a 6-8 forward out of the George School. Developing alongside teammates in Howard and Nzeh has helped him, especially with the ball in the paint; while he doesn’t have the college attention his frontcourt mates have, he’s got the body of a future scholarship big man; he can score in the post but his forte is on the defensive end.
The pieces are in place for La Salle to get back to a similar position they were two seasons ago and Bryant is hoping his play could put the Explorers over the top. In the always competitive Philadelphia Catholic League, improved play brings increased expectations but Bryant is ready to meet them head-on.
“The expectations have certainly risen,” Bryant said. “We will be able to compete for a championship. When you play together, things go the way you want to. We can score and we can get stops. As long as we play right and don’t be selfish, we will be fine. We’re working out the kinks and we have time to fix things.” — Rich Flanagan
Drew Greene (above) has seen his recruiting pick up some steam recently. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— Jaden Kealey (2022 | Crown | Canterbury, Conn.) and Brent Bland (2022 | Crown | Upper Room Christian, N.Y.) showed no fear in a 63-48 loss to Team Final EYBL in a game that was much closer than the score appears. Kealey, sporting a mask a la Rip Hamilton after breaking his nose the day before, and Bland led Crown’s scoring as they put a scare into a Team Final squad sporting D-I talent at every position. The 6-5, 220-pound wing Kealey is taking a post-grad year at the Canterbury School in Connecticut, where he wants to work on his ball-handling skills, after previously attending Center Moriches (N.Y.). Kealey picked up his first D-I offer from Central Connecticut State July 9th and has offers from College of Staten Island and Post University. Bland mentioned wanting to become a more consistent shooter. He has Division I offers from St. Peter’s and LIU.
— Three local products have been picking up recruiting steam on Team Final Black’s 17U squad. Drew Greene (2022 | Cherry Hill East), Landon Shivers (2022 | Life Center Academy) and Luke Boyd (2022 | Archbishop Ryan) all had some updates on their recruitment status. The 5-10, 150-pound pure point guard Greene has interest from some DII’s including University of Tampa. Over 10 high-academic D-III’s have shown interest as well. Maybe the biggest one: A Princeton coach reached out to his AAU coach. Shivers, a 6-8, 200-pound forward, picked up a D-II offer from Georgian Court in June; D-I’s Central Connecticut, Lafayette and Rider and D-II East Stroudsburg have been in contact. Boyd, a 6-1, 165-pound shooting guard, said he’s been in frequent contact with D-II Chestnut Hill. — Sean McBryan