CONSHOHOCKEN The first-round action at the 2022 Donofrio Classic continued on Tuesday, the second night of the 60th edition of the high school all-star tournament.
Here’s a notebook with a recap of the evening as well as notes and quotes on a number of prospects who played on Tuesday:
Game One: In a game that felt much more like a quarterfinal or semifinal at the Fellowship House, the Main Line core of Primetime Hoops mounted a huge second-half comeback, got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer and went on to take out a talented Team Awesome, 126-119, in 2OT. Primetime Hoops, the rebranded South Jersey Hoops Elite program from last year, features a roster made up largely of players from Radnor and Devon Prep, with a few others in the mix as well.
The quartet of Devon Prep’s Jacen Holloway (37 points) and Lucas Orchard (30 points) and Radnor’s Jackson Hicke (22 points) and Charlie Thornton (20 points) accounted for the vast majority of the scoring, while Lawrenceville Prep (N.J.)’s Jeb Williams added 10 for the winners. Orchard hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation to send it to extras, his 6th of seven triples on the afternoon.
Team Awesome, coached by former Muhlenberg standout and Lehigh Valley staple Toomey Anderson, got 33 points from Princeton commit Xaivian Lee (Perkiomen School) and 23 points from soon-to-be Virginia Commonwealth big man Christian Fermin (Pocono Mt. West), plus 11 points each from St. Joe’s Prep freshman Olin Chamberlin and MCS sophomore Aasim Burton.
Game Two: The deep roster of Great American Pub raced out to a big lead against a young Rawls Inc. squad and didn’t look back, moving on to the second round with a 147-102 win. Great American Pub, a mix of last year’s Philly Pride Gold 17U squad and a good helping of Plymouth Whitemarsh’s roster, got 28 points from Monmouth commit Andrew Ball (Shawnee, N.J.), 19 from Army commit Nix Varano (La Salle College HS), 18 from PW’s Qudire Bennett and 16 from the Colonials’ Jimmy Flowers, plus 10 from Shippensburg pledge Trey Martin (Boiling Springs, Pa.); in all, 12 different Great American Pub players joined the scoring sheet. Rawls Inc., which was a mix of players from Abington and Chester, plus a few others, got 21 points, all in the second half, from Abington freshman Paul Glantz, 19 points from Devon Prep senior IV Pettit, 18 from Archbishop Carroll senior Shawnn Smith and 13 from Chester sophomore Kevin Rucker.
Thornton, Primetime Hoops gearing up for a big summer
This season, Devon Prep and Radnor went a combined 42-12, finishing their seasons as the PIAA Class 3A champions and the District 1 5A (and Central League) runner-ups, respectively. They were two teams breaking through to new levels of success on the hardwood, drawing more attention to Tide and Raptors games than there had been in quite some time.
Charlie Thornton (above) is starting to hear from colleges as he enters his final summer of AAU ball. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
So it’s perhaps not surprising that when some of the best players from both programs team up, good things happen. That’s the case for Primetime Hoops, whose group of juniors have high expectations for this summer. Beating a group of D-I players on Team Awesome to start their offseason, before they’ve had a chance to have a single practice this spring — Devon Prep only won its state title two days back — was quite the way to start.
“Especially after that one, I think the confidence is through the roof,” Radnor junior Charlie Thornton said. “We’re ready to go play against whoever is in front of us.”
A 6-foot-4 wing, Thornton was one of the key pieces of Radnor’s run to the Central League and District 1 championship games, where they fell to Lower Merion and Chester, respectively. They made it into the second round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament where they ran into eventual champ Imhotep.
Now he’ll play with Primetime Hoops, formerly known as South Jersey Hoops Elite, on the Hoop Group Summer League circuit, where his team is expecting to make some noise. In a time of year that gets more attention for players seeking individual recruiting attention, Primetime Hoops has a group that moves and shares the ball well, something that was a habit of both Radnor and Devon Prep; they’re typically coached by Devon Prep head coach Jason Fisher, though it was his assistant Kevin Carroll that was coaching on Tuesday night.
Thornton’s certainly improved in his overall game over the last year, becoming a more efficient scorer and effective finisher, and he’s a long defender who doesn’t mind mixing it up inside and can block shots both as a primary and help defender.
In his 20-point outing on Tuesday, Thornton didn’t hit an outside shot but did hit a few mid-range jumpers, doing most of his damage on some impressive drives to the rim, even against a couple future D-I forwards on Team Awesome. He’ll play the combo ‘2’ and ‘3’ at the next level, and being able to create with the ball in his hands is a big part of that.
“I want to switch more to a guard role,” he said. “Growing up I was always the biggest kid so they stuck me at the ‘5’; I want to get more comfortable with the ball in my hands and hitting outside shots.”
Playing on a squad that’s going to draw a lot of small-college (and some Division I) eyes to their games all summer long, Thornton already is getting some early Division III interest from Babson (Mass.) and Cabrini. Expect him to get a lot more schools on board once Primetime Hoops makes its true AAU debut next weekend at the Hoop Group’s Spring Jam Fest in Manheim (April 8-10).
“It’s great to start hearing from [colleges],” he said. “It feels a little better, the work I’m putting in is starting to show, but there’s a lot more work to do.”
Matt Johnson (above, center) saw one potential suitor drop off following an injury but several others join the mix. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
GFS’ Johnson rebounding from back injury with a number of suitors
Matt Johnson suited up for Great American Pub uncommitted, which wasn’t always the plan. In the fall, the Germantown Friends senior thought he’d end up committing to Randolph-Macon, this season’s Division III men’s basketball champion. However, after scans revealed an injury to Johnson’s back, the match never came through.
“It’s been a little rough,” the guard said. “I was planning on going to Randolph-Macon in the beginning of the year. Then I got three stress fractures in my back, and they stopped looking at me.”
Johnson suspects he suffered the injuries last June, but he continued to play through the pain. Once the fall came, he finally got his back checked out and was officially diagnosed with the stress fractures around the end of September, keeping him out for the beginning of the high school season. Unable to further evaluate Johnson from its Virginia location, Randolph-Macon stopped recruiting him.
“I felt like I deserved (to play there),” Johnson said. “I felt like I was happy where I was going. I loved the school, I visited twice. So it was tough.”
After some time off, Johnson got healthy enough to be cleared to make his season debut for Germantown Friends in January. Then once he returned to the court for the Tigers, Johnson saw the interest from colleges pick back up.
“It definitely felt great,” he said. “I had felt like I had lost it or something like that, but then the schools started hitting me back up. I realized I was still good enough to do it.”
Following the added interest since January, D-III Widener has become Johnson’s top potential destination, with Penn State-Harrisburg just behind. Gettysburg, Muhlenberg and Susquehana are also in the mix.
Johnson still has a few financial details to work out before he makes a final choice, and he also has an upcoming visit at Penn-State Harrisburg.
In the meantime, he’s playing at the Donofrio Classic and continuing to try to improve his game. He is working on his shooting from deep, striving to bring his 3-point percentage from the low- to mid-30s up closer to 40%.
At 5-foot-10, Johnson is also looking to work on his floater. He can work his way into the lane with the ball, but will need to develop additional methods of finishing over taller defenders at the next level.
The Donofrio Classic will likely be the last team event he competes in before he makes a commitment to a college program. And while it’s still not exactly clear where Johnson will end up, making a decision will serve as a rewarding end to a long process.
“It’ll definitely be a relief off my shoulders,” he said. “It’s been stressful, looking at schools and stuff. I just want to move on to college. I’m excited.”
A couple Division I schools have told Lucas Orchard (above) they'll be checking him out come April 8. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— After helping lead Devon Prep to its first-ever PIAA basketball championship, Lucas Orchard is starting to hear from Division I colleges. The 6-4 wing guard said that both Princeton and Monmouth had reached out recently, and that Monmouth had actually come to one of his postseason games; both said they’d be tracking him during the spring.
“It feels good, finally getting some looks, yeah. It’s been a long time waiting, but now people are finally starting to notice, it feels great.”
Orchard, whose uncle Rob Baxter played at Fordham in 1990s, is a bit of a ‘tweener’ but there’s no denying his production on the court, and while his shooting form is a bit unorthodox, there’s also no denying it works, as he hit seven of them (with a number of close misses) on Tuesday. In his junior season, Orchard averaged 14.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 3.6 apg, shooting 49.5% overall and 37% from 3-point range (41-of-111).
— Though most of Primetime Elite played together last year, one new face to the group is Jeb Williams (2023 | Lawrenceville Prep, N.J.), though he’s not entirely unfamiliar with his teammates. Williams was at Radnor for his first three years of high school, transferring to the Garden State boarding school last year and repeating his junior season, putting him in the same class as former teammates Hicke and Thornton. After playing last season with East Coast Power, the 6-5, 175-pound Williams adds yet another guard with length to the Primetime perimeter, showing his ability to fit in with a couple treys in their close win. A high-level student with a 1580 SAT score, Williams said he’s already been talking to MIT, Johns Hopkins and Amherst, with an interest in studying “something in STEM;” yet to visit any of the schools recruiting him, he said he’ll focus on that later in the offseason. Considering Primetime was yet to practice this offseason due to Devon Prep’s extended state playoff run, Williams’ experience with the team Tuesday night was his first ever.
“I’m excited to play with the guys I played with at Radnor last year,” he said. “The team’s obviously better, I think we have a really good group, I’m excited to compete at a higher level this year.”
Khaafiq Myers (above) has four Division I offers as he enters his 16U summer. (Photo: Ty Daubert/CoBL)
— After helping lead Neumann-Goretti to Catholic League, District 12 and PIAA Class 4A championships, sophomore guard Khaafiq Myers is excited for the challenges of the offseason. Appearing for Team Awesome in this tournament and playing for the NJ Scholars’ 16s on the Nike EYBL circuit, the 5-10 guard wants to add strength.
“On the [EYBL] circuit, I’m going to be guarding 6-3, 6-4 point guards,” Myers said. “And in college, if I get there, I’m going to be guarding 6-3, 6-4 point guards. Just putting on an extra five pounds and getting some muscle is important.”
Myers has Division I offers from North Texas, Binghamton, Wichita State and Temple, and his hometown school has kept in touch most. Temple assistant coach Chris Clark has been in contact with Myers to discuss his future. At the same time, the point guard isn’t too entirely worried about college just yet with two more high school seasons to go.
“It’s all going to come together when it’s time to commit,” he said.
— When Thomas Haugh transferred to Perkiomen School, he reclassified to graduate in 2023. He previously had Division I offers as a member of the class of 2022 from conferences such as the Patriot League, but didn’t feel that they were his best possible opportunities.
“I appreciated all my offers for 2022,” he said. “There were some great schools out there. I just thought I wasn’t at my full potential.”
Haugh, a springy 6-9 forward, wanted to see what other schools could be out there and to be able to play right away in college. He currently has interest from Tulane, Iona, Davidson and Richmond. As a member of Great American Pub in the Donofrio Classic and WeR1 in the AAU circuit, he’s hoping to continue to build mid-major interest.
— Executive Charter’s Jalil Schenck shared ball-handling duties for Team Awesome in the double-overtime loss, but it’ll likely be his last bit of team action for a while. As a senior, he won’t be playing for a squad in the summer circuit, instead planning to train individually as he decides on a college.
“For me, the next step is just getting in the gym and working,” he said. “Just advancing and looking to the future.”
Schenck has a selection of Division III options, including Alvernia, Gwynedd Mercy, Penn State-Harrisburg and Lycoming. He still has a few schools to tour, but is hoping to make a decision around May 8, the date of his 19th birthday.
-- One final note, on a pair of committed prospects who'll be playing in the Garden State. Both Andrew Ball (Monmouth) and Xaivian Lee had really quality games on Tuesday night, and look like they'll be in the mix for minutes from the get-go. Ball, a 6-8 wing guard out of Shawnee (N.J.), looked more fluid, assertive and comfortable than he did a year ago, throwing down a big-time alley-oop and hitting some tough shots in the lane as well as a couple 3-pointers in his 28-point outing. Lee, a 6-2 point guard, had four triples of his own in his 33-point outing, and he's a silky-smooth gilder to the rim who can finish with either hand, and he does a great job of avoiding shot-blockers with body positioning and craftiness around the rim.