CONSHOHOCKEN — The Donofrio Classic made its long-awaited return to the Fellowship House on Monday night, the 60th edition of the annual high school all-star tournament expected to once again bring together most of the top hoops talent from Southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond.
Here’s a roundup of the first two games of the first round, along with a notebook featuring a couple Lincoln High standouts and a few others from Monday night’s action:
Game One: A second half back-and-forth battle between Gibbs Elite and Just Clean It needed an extra 5 minutes to decide a winner. After falling behind double digits early on, Gibbs Elite battled back and thanks to a late three from Boyertown junior Jake Kapp, tying the game was 71-71 at the end of 40 minutes of regulation. With under 10 seconds to go it was Kapp again who came up with the game winning bucket, finishing with 20 points on the night. His high school teammate Zach Ward finished with 11, while Owen J. Roberts junior Jake Bolyn had 14 including four 3’s. For Just Clean It, they were led by Egg Harbor Township junior D.J. Germann who had 26 points and recent Lynn University (Fl.) commit J.P. Baron had 16. Dayon Polk, a junior from the Sanford School (Del.), was also in double figures with 12 in the loss.
Game Two: Hunting Park and BW Elite 16U faced off against each other in what was a physical battle between two aggressive teams. BW Elite fought hard, but fell short against a Hunting Park team full of talent, losing 82-74. Hunting Park was led by a trio of Lincoln High School players including sophomore Naseem Wright (21), senior Aymere Thomas (11) and junior Tamir Powell (16). Archbishop Ryan guard D.J. Wise chipped in with seven and so did Isiah Griffin. BW Elite had a balanced scoring effort with Imhotep sophomore Devin Booker putting up eight points along with Lamar Lovett who also put up eight. Roman Catholic freshman Talaji Henderson was in double figures with 10.
Lincoln’s Aymere Thomas looking at JUCO route
Aymere Thomas could be maddening at times. The Lincoln 6-foot-4 senior forward could look brilliant one moment, and disappear the next. Lincoln coach Mel Lindsey Sr. knows. He’s watched up close.
Thomas has no Division I offers, though possesses arguably D-I talent. He dropped 11 points for Hunting Park I in its 82-74 victory over BW Elite 16 on the opening night of the 60th Donofrio Classic.
Thomas is counting on his performance here to possibly spur greater interest.
“I have a little something here with the Franklin Pierce College, a JUCO in Texas,” Thomas said. “This is my first time at the Donofrio and I want to prove that I can play with the best. I need to get into the gym. That’s what it is. I could use more endurance. I need to build my conditioning. I want to go to a four-year college for free.
“I have to improve my right hand and I need to make a commitment. Once I commit, I’ll be okay.”
Lindsey has been patient with Thomas. Lindsey maintains that Thomas has problems with the ‘c word,’ commitment.
“If he commits to playing basketball, and it’s on and off the court, and includes inside the classroom, he can go anywhere,” Lindsey said. “Aymere needs to be committed. I keep telling him basketball knows no lies. If you put in the work on those off days, things will work. Lately, he has been dropping down into the gym, and I’m thinking that the maturation is starting to happen.
“Time is important. As long as he realizes high school is ending, and he has enough time to realize he’s good enough to go to school for free, that’s the goal. He has to go the JUCO route. His GPA won’t allow it. Aymere is a smart kid. It’s just about committing.”
He's been maddening to Lindsey. He reminds Lindsey of Ty Corbett, a lanky lefty who could shoot and is now at Coppin State. He’s had two 20-20 games this season, and Lindsey said it took Corbett a while before he got it right. Once he found that focus, he excelled.
“I can see the same thing happening to Aymere,” Lindsey said. “If Aymere gets it, and I think he has the ability to get it, the sky is the limit.”
Naseem Wright (above) played his first season of varsity ball at Lincoln this year. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
Naseem Wright ready for first AAU experience
The raw talent of Naseem Wright is evident on the floor, but the sophomore is a player who’s still trying to learn the game of basketball with every passing game. Wright looked impressive in BW Elite’s 82-74 win, scoring 21 points to lead all scorers.
Competitive basketball is still a fairly new concept to Wright, who didn’t play basketball at all his freshman year while attending KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy in West Philadelphia.
During the pandemic his family and friends motivated him to work out and try to get better at basketball. Eventually Wright was introduced to Lincoln head coach Jamal Lindsay through mutual connections which is how he got to where he is now.
Wright spent his sophomore season playing for the Railsplitters where he went through some growing pains and learned tough lessons as the year went on.
“It was hard, but I had to persevere. My teammates motivated me to get stronger and better but it all started to come together during the season,” Wright said. “I learned that it takes time, dedication and you have to be ready for whatever comes at you.”
Wright was a part of a Lincoln team that made it to the Public League finals before losing to Imhotep. Lincoln did beat ‘Tep during the regular season, handing them their only loss in the pub all year.
The sophomore still has a lot of room to grow in terms of his basketball ability, but has great size for an underclassman, along with a big wing-span and he’s very athletic. Wright gets off the ground quickly for blocks on the defensive end and is good at muscling his way down low for tough buckets.
The key for Wright going forward is keeping his confidence high.
“Everyone sees his talent except him. He gets so down on himself fast,” Lincoln coach Jamal Lindsay said. “His biggest hurdle is mentally, he doesn’t have the confidence a player of his caliber typically would, but he’s humble, coachable and everybody loves him. I can’t wait to see him next year.”
After getting his first taste of high school basketball this winter, Wright will hit the AAU circuit for the first time playing for Philly Pride. He’ll play alongside Toby Ojukwu (Roman Catholic), Jeremiah White (Imhotep) and Matt Gilhool (Elizabethtown) among others.
“It’s a different experience since I’ve never played AAU, so that’s going to be another learning process,” Wright said
Being able to travel to different parts of the country while playing basketball isn’t something that Wright takes for granted and he’s thankful for every opportunity he gets. The sophomore will work to make a name for himself and try to get more exposure to college coaches this summer. Although he doesn’t have any colleges with interest at the moment, he’s confident that he’ll be able to play well enough to get some looks. His coach feels the same way.
“He just needs to play a lot of basketball, the more basketball he plays, the better, make a million mistakes and learn from them,” Lindsay said. “The biggest hurdle is mentally; when he gets that the sky's the limit.”
— Will Anozie (2022/Valley Forge) gets to play on after helping Gibbs Elite to a 78-76 overtime victory over Just Clean It in the first game of the tournament. Anozie, a 6-2 senior guard who was a 1,000-point scorer at Valley Forge Military Academy, scored 14 points in the victory.
Anozie is looking to improve his stock in this tournament. He’s getting attention from D-III’s like Immaculata, Misericordia, Gwynedd Mercy and Delaware Valley.
“I think I helped myself,” said Anozie, who is originally from Houston, Texas. “I want to play against the best Donofrio had to offer and hopefully I can get some more looks to prove that I can play against higher level talent, because that’s the one thing (college) scouts said I was not doing.
“I just hope to prove them wrong out here playing with these guys. I twisted my right ankle late in the game, but I’m okay.”
— One player who certainly helped himself on opening night was Just Clean It’s point guard, D.J. Germann, a 5-foot-11 junior guard from Egg Harbor Township. Germann has not received any offers, but he did gain some attention from Penn State-Harrisburg, which is a Division III school. Germann dropped a team-high 26 in the 78-76 overtime loss. When Germann left, due to cramps in his lower right leg, the Just Clean It team began tapering off and lost a big, early lead.
“I was just hoping to get some exposure with this,” said Germann, a three-year starter who averaged 14 points a game this past season. “I was cramping up there in the end and that was slowing me down a little.”
— Coming off of a 5A state championship with Imhotep, sophomore Devin Booker is trying to continue to grow as a player. Booker didn’t get a ton of minutes on a loaded Panther squad with the likes of Justin Edwards, Rahmir Barno and Ahmad Nowell, but he doesn’t take being on the team for granted.
“The experience was really fun and exciting,” he said. “As a nationally-ranked team we get a lot of exposure, so for me not getting a lot of minutes, I still got a lot of experience just being with them.”
Booker has a solid frame and wing span which allows him to get into the lane using his rip through move. The sophomore is not afraid of contact and is willing to battle in the paint and do the dirty work necessary to win games. Playing for Imhotep, Booker has learned to be tough and it will help him on the AAU circuit this summer as he tries to get more exposure playing for K-Low Elite with Darren Williams (Archbishop Ryan) and Pearse McGuinn (O’Hara), among others.