LANSDALE — There’s a big world outside the little bubble of Jenkintown.
Jake Hilton, a rising senior guard at Jenkintown High School, has gotten a good look at it this summer and has come back a much better player because of it. A District 1 Class A finalist last winter, the Drakes will have a much different looking roster this year.
Jake Hilton (above) is hearing from several Division III programs after a summer on the grassroots circuit. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
But there’s not much doubt who they’ll be looking to as their leader on the court.
“I feel better with pretty much everything,” Hilton said after going for 19 and 23 points as Jenkintown wrapped up play in Dock Mennonite Academy’s summer league on Monday. “Handling the ball, getting the ball, doing my own move, hitting step-backs off crossovers, whatever I can do, I feel way more comfortable doing all of that this year.
“I’m also looking to be more of a leader in general.”
As a junior, Hilton was the marksman for a Jenkintown team that made its first district title game since 2015. He was solid all season, averaging 10.4 ppg on 41 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc and adding about six boards a game.
Hilton was happy with those numbers, but won’t feel the same if those are his averages this coming winter. Between Dock’s summer league and a couple other events with his Drakes teammates, the guard has gotten good reps this summer but he also stepped out of the Jenkintown bubble and had a strong run with his Philly Heat 2021 AAU team, which also featured Drakes teammate Danny Ecker on the roster.
“I have a heavier load to carry but all these guys do too,” Hilton said. “I may have scored close to 11 (points) and shot over 40 (from three), but now it’s time to step that up a bit. I have to shoot even better, get more assists, more rebounds and more blocks.”
On Monday, Hilton said he’s currently measuring about 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds and while he doesn’t have an official measurement, he said his wingspan is in the 6-7, 6-8 range. That long reach, plus a wicked-fast release, definitely allow the lefty sniper to do some damage from distance.
Hilton had his last AAU event of the summer this past weekend at the AC Jam Fest and his shot was a little off in the first game Monday, a loss to Wissahickon. Despite that, he managed to hit 19 points mixed in with a few boards and assists.
The second game, a setback to a big and tough Phoenixville squad, saw Hilton get hot for a spell in the second half. He got himself going by blocking a midrange jumper, snaring the miss and taking it all the way for a layup, then hit four of his next five 3-point attempts in what ended as a 16-point half in a 23-point effort.
“Everything is confidence and aggression in my opinion,” Jenkintown coach Wes Emme said. “He’s a kid that flew under the radar, had to really earn his trust from me and had a breakout season. Then he got the chance to play AAU this summer and I just see a different kid.
“You have to go play outside of the Jenkintown bubble and he’s one of the kids that it’s really, really benefitted.”
Hilton said he doesn’t want to be identified as just a shooter and he knows his ability to expand his game will have strong ties to how well Jenkintown does this winter. On Monday, Hilton handled the ball plenty, picking up a few nice assists but also moved well off the ball.
Jenkintown only had five players on Monday night but Emme said his “skeleton crew” is following Hilton’s lead. For his part, the rising senior dished as much back on his teammates and said he owed it to them to be there Monday so they could have enough players to take the floor.
“This offseason, we’ve all been on each other to get in the gym,” Hilton said. “It’s a totally different squad from last year. We’re trying to build chemistry and they’ve helped me by getting me the ball so I’m trying to return the favor by getting them the ball too.”
Hilton’s strong play has also earned him some attention from the next level. While he’s still awaiting a first formal offer, the guard has heard from TCNJ, Haverford and Wilkes, which is the most involved right now.
“It’s like a dream come true, it’s progress, nothing real yet but it was a surreal experience,” Hilton said. “It was a landmark experience and tells you that you may be better than you think you are and if you continue to improve, there’s a chance to go to the next level.”
Getting out of the Jenkintown bubble helped Hilton grow as a player but he’d like to grow the game in that bubble too. He’s not done evolving as a player and the soon-to-be senior hopes that can push the Drakes past where they finished last year, even if it’s a new crew trying to accomplish it.
“I’d obviously like to grow a few more inches but with where I’m at right now, and especially in our league, I just have to keep getting blocks, getting boards and just stay versatile,” Hilton said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t think we can win districts and go to states. We’ve been holding our own against the teams in this league and while we can’t underestimate teams, I think we can have something really special.” — Andrew Robinson
Dylan McKenzie (above) scored 27 points in an impressive shooting performance for Springfield (Montco.) (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— Springfield (Montco.) got a terrific game from rising junior Dylan McKenzie in a 50-43 win over Lansdale Catholic. The 6-1 shooting guard was on fire from deep, knocking down 5-of-6 from deep (including his first five attempts) en route to a 27-point effort to power his team to the victory. McKenzie had several tough takes to the rim and also knocked down a few mid-range jumpers, with four rebounds and a couple steals as well. His teammate, rising senior forward Harry Rittenhouse, chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds; the 6-4 lefty used the glass well, getting all of his production on shots within 10 feet, showing a good use of the jump stop to create space in the paint. Lansdale Catholic got a 19-point, eight-rebound outing from junior guard Matt Hopkins, who knocked down three 3-pointers, went 6-6 from the line and showed off his athleticism with a pair of blocks.
— Pennridge coach Dean Behrens showed his program’s depth in a 61-30 win, in which nine of the 11 players who took the court for the Rams scored at least one bucket — and eight of the nine hit at least two shots; as a team, the Rams were well over 50 percent from the floor. They were led by a 12-point outing from rising senior guard Justin McCormick, while his classmate Carter Arnaiz had five points and five dimes. Seven different players registered at least one assist for Pennridge, which has now turned over its entire rotation from the 2019 Class 6A state championship finalists but still looks very much like a program that expects to be in the mix for an SOL title and then some come February. Dock got a solid 10-point outing from junior guard Nathan Lapp, a multi-sport athlete and returning starter who also stars on the baseball diamond.
— Phoenixville’s group of 11 seniors had it rolling in a 65-41 win over Souderton, jumping out to an 11-0 lead and never looking back. Forward Gabe Massenberg, who didn’t play as a junior, scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds; an intriguing 6-7 forward, Massenberg is a muscular interior presence with soft hands around the rim, missing only one of his eight shot attempts. Senior wing Zavier Mayo hit a pair of early 3-pointers to propel him to a 10-point outing, adding in seven assists and four rebounds; senior wing guards Jackson Kuranda (14 points) and Chase McDonnell (12 points) rounded out four Phantoms players in double figures. — Josh Verlin
-- Wissahickon had a good night, going 2-0 with wins over Jenkintown and a feisty Council Rock South that pushed the Trojans to the final seconds. Veteran coach Kyle Wilson has some key pieces to replace, including 1,000-point scorer Matt Compas and point guard Jackson Intrieri but he has a couple good leaders ready to step in. Rising seniors Josh Twersky (12 points, five assists) and Morgan Wilson (13 points) combined for two crucial baskets in the come-from-behind win over CR South. Twersky showed a lot of fight in the post offensively and fighting for boards while Williams displayed excellent body control on some tough finishes around the rim. — Andrew Robinson
Tag(s): Home Josh Verlin Schedule/Standings Bicentennial League Christopher Dock Jenkintown Pac-10 PAC-10 Frontier Phoenixville SOL Freedom Springfield (Mont.) SOL Liberty Wissahickon High School Andrew Robinson