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Donofrio Classic Report: Thurs., March 31

04/01/2022, 7:15am EDT
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The first round of the 60th edition of the Donofrio Classic continued Thursday night at the Fellowship House, with four teams stocked full of some of the best hoops talent the Delaware Valley has to offer making their tournament debuts.

Here’s a recap of Thursday’s games, with a notebook featuring some of the players who participated in the third night of the opening round; for the event bracket, rosters, and a roundup of our coverage so far, CLICK HERE.

Game One: With about five minutes left in warm-ups, it didn't even look like this game would get played. Then Hunting Park II pulled enough guys together and got a few more reinforcements in the first half before running past Keystone Blazers/DE Life 105-77 to open the night. West Philadelphia's Deyishon Miller was the first player for the team in the gym and fittingly led the way with 30 points, while his Speedboys teammate Keyishon Miller added 18. The winners will face Philly Hoop Group on April 11 at 7 p.m. Friends Centrals' Fazool Oshodi poured in 25 while teammate Isaac Moore (Friends Central) had 16 including a quartet of 3-pointers for Hunting Park II. DE Life was led by 18 from Jason Young and 17 points from Marc Handy (A.I. DuPont).

Game Two: The first week of the tournament saved its best ending for last. Down 12 points with about eight minutes to play, Cool Hoops just kept playing and kept whittling the score down. With 7.4 on the clock and trailing by a point, Cool Hoops rebounded a missed free throw by Keystone Blazers/Difference Makers Elite and set up the floor. A trap forced Jaydon Brown (Rocktop) to give up the ball to Mike Anderson III (Olympus Prep), who caught it with 2.5 left, dribbled across halfcourt and put up a shot that caught all net as the buzzer sounded for a 98-96 victory.

Brown led Cool Hoops, which consisted mostly of Rocktop players, with 25 points including four 3-pointers while Devon Jainlett (Rocktop) had 21 and tripled three times. Earle Greer (Rocktop) added 14 points, Maurice Walker (Rocktop) had 12 on four 3-pointers, Josh Horan and Traivon Collins each had eight and Anderson finished with five including his dramatic winner.

Difference Makers Elite, which featured a host of high level prospects with a heavy New Jersey accent, was paced by 22 from Horace Simmons (La Salle College HS( including six 3-point makes and 20 from Shawn Simmons (Hillcrest Prep, three 3-pointers). NJIT pledge Wisler Sanon (Phelps School) scored 15, Elijah Jones (Mt. Zion) had 12 and Kachi Nzeh (George School) and Syracuse commit Quadir Copeland (IMG) each posted 10.


Anderson seizes moment in Donofrio debut

Mike Anderson III has been through enough that when the ball found him with 2.5 seconds left on the clock, he could just act.

Anderson, a 5-foot-10 guard whose career has taken him to stops at Roman Catholic, Girard College and most recently Olympus Prep, hit one of the shots of the tournament so far with his mid-court buzzer-beater lifting Cool Hoops over a loaded Difference Makers Elite side to close out the opening week. As far as Donofrio debuts go, it was a pretty good one for Anderson, but not one that was too big for him.

Mikey Anderson (above) hit the game-winning triple to close out the first week of Donofrio. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

"It's just not being afraid of the moment," Anderson said. "I wasn't even supposed to get it, I was just running down the floor but when I saw him get trapped, I came up. I saw the opportunity and I'm not afraid to take it."

Cool Hoops didn't have the same size or overall talent as Difference Makers Elite, but even a 12-point deficit in the second half didn't keep them from playing hard. If Difference Makers Elite hit a three or finished another dunk, it didn't seem to faze the five on the floor for Cool Hoops and they just kept playing.

Anderson hadn't played with the other Cool Hoops players - most of them coming from Rocktop Academy - prior to Thursday but he had played against a lot of them and knew the type of competitors they were.

"That's how you're supposed to take the game, you're supposed to take it serious," Anderson said. "Once you step out on that court, you step into that mode, you can't pay attention to the crowd. Some of them were talking trash the whole game, but I wasn't fazed by it."

Don't get Anderson wrong, he doesn't mind opponents or onlookers saying things to him. If anything, it makes the game more fun and even more so when his team wins like it did on Thursday.

"Everybody knows me around the city and I know everybody around the city," Anderson said. "Philly basketball is the best, it's super-competitive, a lot of trash talking out there. I just love it."

After a couple stops around the city, Anderson wrapped up his high school career across the river with Olympus Prep in Williamstown (N.J.). As far as the next level, Anderson said he's had some contact with Division II programs and few low-Division Is but nothing concrete yet.

"With my size, I've always been overlooked and always been labeled 'too small,' but you just have to keep working hard every single day," Anderson said. "If you put your faith in God, God's going to make it come to life for you."

No matter what the scoreboard said, Anderson wasn't worried and felt the same from his teammates as they chopped the lead first to single digits, then to six, then one as a final chance came to them.

Anderson wasn't afraid to take his opportunity and because of that, he and his teammates get another opportunity in the second round of the Donofrio Classic.

"Stay tuned for next week," Anderson said.


Vespe's patience pays off as FGCU comes calling

Things came together quickly for Blaise Vespe, but he firmly believes he couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

Blaise Vespe (above) committed to FGCU shortly before playing in the Donofrio Classic on Thursday. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

Vespe took a chance on himself by taking a prep year at Florida-based powerhouse IMG Academy after two solid years with Neumann-Goretti. Spending every day in a gym surrounded by high Division I prospects only pushed the 6-foot-7 wing and by the end of his only season with IMG, he was holding his own as one of the most consistent players on the team.

He still needed a college program to call home however, and it all came together this week as Vespe committed to Florida Gulf Coast University and new head coach Pat Chambers on Thursday afternoon.

"I got the offer a little more than a week ago, he just called me and we got along really well," Vespe said after playing with Difference Makers Elite on Thursday. "He's from the Philly area, his assistants are from the Philly area, my parents loved him and one of my coaches, Julian Dunkley, is really close with (Chambers) and really pushed for me, so I give a lot of credit and thanks to him."

Vespe helped Neumann-Goretti win the 2020 Philadelphia Catholic League title but after his senior season ended with the Saints in 2021, didn't have the offers or looks he was hoping for. Taking the fifth year so far from home and in an environment where he'd have to earn his keep did come with some risk, but Vespe was up for it.

It certainly paid off. Vespe, who felt he grew all-around as a player this past year, thrived and averaged close to 20 points and 10 rebounds over IMG's final 12 games.

Chambers, who was formally introduced by FGCU on March 15, came into the mix soon after.

"I wasn't guaranteed anything going to IMG, I had to go earn it," Vespe said. "I walked into the gym and there's UConn, Syracuse, St. John's, et cetera, and I just worked my butt off every day and earned my playing time, I didn't have anything handed to me. When I got in, I produced and ended up being one of the best players on the team by the end of the season."

Vespe feels stronger on the court, adding he's seen improvement in his ball-handling and jump shot, which is the latest step in the natural progression he's made with each season.

Even down in Florida, Vespe kept tabs on his Neumann-Goretti guys and was as happy as anyone to see the Saints capture the PCL title, District 12 championship and PIAA 3A title this season. As part of that progression he's made, Vespe credits his time with the Saints as helping build a foundation for the improvements he made this past season with IMG.

"It helped me with so much," Vespe said. "They taught me a lot about the game but also taking your role on. I had a certain role there, it wasn't to score the ball but I've gotten a lot better at that, they taught me how to play within a system, play as a team, make one more pass. If it wasn't for Neumann-Goretti, I wouldn't be as confident as I am going into college."

Vespe had just gotten home earlier this week before heading over to the Donofrio Classic on Thursday. He's planning to spend some time home with his family before going back to IMG to keep working out with his teammates. After that, he'll come back for about a month then get on campus and "get after it."

He also mentioned the new FGCU assistants, including KJ Baptiste and Kyle Griffin as a major pull alongside the quick bond he developed with Chambers.

"It's a group of energetic guys who love to get after it and are very competitive," Vespe said. "They're all from the same area as me, it all just fits."

While he tried to play each game at IMG as loose as possible, Vespe admitted he did feel the weight of playing for a scholarship on his shoulders as well. He knew there wasn't a guarantee of anything at the end of the season, but did his best to keep playing the right way and as a result, his production kept going up.

He had contact with other programs but Vespe just knew there was something more behind FGCU's interest when they first contacted him.

"The thing that stands out to me about Coach Chambers is that he did his own research on me and he trusts his own eyes," Vespe said. "He really believes in me, he didn't care that I didn't have any other offers."


Nzeh ready to enjoy the AAU experience

Kachi Nzeh has been all business the past couple summers on the AAU circuit.

The George School big man is heading into his second summer playing with NY Rens on the Nike EYBL schedule with a little different mentality. Winning is still paramount, but the 6-foot-8 forward wants to get more out of the experience.

Kachi Nzeh (above) enters his final AAU season with more than a dozen offers, including Maryland, Penn State, Illinois, Miami and more. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

"It's a good group of guys and overall, I'm looking forward to just having fun," Nzeh said after his run with Difference Makers Elite on Thursday. "I think for my basketball career, it's all been focusing on the end goal and with this being my last AAU season, I just want to have fun with these guys and hopefully win a 'chip."

Nzeh's been putting in work on his shot and his focus this summer is to sharpen his handle to go with it. He feels he has a good base being able to finish and with footwork inside and sees his next step as being able to grab a rebound and push the ball up the floor where he can make a play.

It's an endeavor his AAU team is behind, part of the reason Nzeh is looking forward to a second summer playing with the Rens.

"A lot of teams say they're a family but the Rens, they do a really good job of actually practicing that," Nzeh said. "They look out for everyone and development-wise, it's a bunch of elite guys so we're all getting better every day just by playing against each other."

Nzeh's got a lengthy list of suitors and said he recently picked up an offer from Saint Louis. He's also had some contact with Arizona State recently and Georgia and Georgetown contacted him a few months back.

"I'm looking maybe toward the beginning of next school year to make a decision then," Nzeh said. "But between now and then, whatever happens, happens. Right now, I'm just looking forward to enjoying this summer."


West Philadelphia's Miller working for an opportunity

Deyishon Miller knows what he has to do.

The West Philadelphia senior had a tremendous year on the court for the Speedboys doing everything from guarding the opposing team's big to scoring, passing and everything else between the lines. Off the court, his focus is on his grades from now to the end of the school year.

West Philadelphia's Deyishon Miller (above) is considering doing a prep year or going the JUCO route. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

Miller knows he'll either have to do a prep year or attend a junior college if he wants at the next level, but first he needs to be in position to qualify.

"My GPA's not where it's supposed to be, I have to get it higher," Miller said. "I just want to hoop, so if I have to go to a prep school, I'll go to a prep school or if I have to do junior college, I'll do junior college."

The 6-foot-4 guard said he wasn't as committed to school as an underclassman and is working to raise his GPA as a result. He's been working hard this year and if he stays on track through the rest of the academic year, he's on pace to get it back up to where he wants and where programs that had some interest were looking for.

Miller said his coaches have been reaching out to prep schools and some junior colleges on his behalf, which he thanked them for and is just hoping for an opportunity to keep playing.

"Whatever schools want me, I'd be grateful," Miller said. "I don't have anything now, I can't really be picky."

Miller didn't know much about the Donofrio Classic and even less about the rest of his team Thursday but figured things out pretty quick on the floor. The guard finished with a game-high 30 points but was just as solid finding teammates, including his brother Keyishon, on a consistent basis.

"I feel like I can do everything but I know I can pass, so if I see somebody open, I'm going to get them a look," Miller said. "I think I shot the ball well, I might have missed three shots, something like that, I wasn't really missing."


Moore's jumper work paying off

The Fellowship House rims were very welcoming to Isaac Moore on Thursday.

Moore, a 6-foot-6 wing from Friends Central, had a great game shooting the ball from deep as his Hunting Park II side stormed past DE Life in Thursday's opener. The sophomore hit four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points, demonstrating a fluid release he's been working a lot on.

"I've been working on my jump shot for a while and I feel like it's finally coming together," Moore said. "With my form, I want to finish high, keep my form and hold my finish because when I do that, I have enough arc on it that it seems to go in."

This past high school season, Moore often matched up with bigger players but felt that played to his advantage on offense. He wanted to be able to pull his defender out to the perimeter where his versatility would be more of a factor but needed his jumper to be consistent enough that opponents had to respect it.

He had it Thursday and overall, felt like his first Donofrio Classic experience was a good one.

"Definitely enjoyed the atmosphere, having the announcer was cool," Moore said. "It was good competition and I'm looking forward to coming back."

Moore will be playing with WeR1 this summer and said he's hoping to fill a similar role to the one he had Thursday as a consistent floor spacer.

"I'm just hoping to start getting some interest, play my game and have fun," Moore said.

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