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Donofrio Classic Report: Weds., April 6

04/07/2022, 9:30am EDT
By Josh Verlin & Zak Wolf

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) &
Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The second round of the 2022 Donofrio Classic began the first of four nights on Wednesday, with the first two teams punching their ticket into next week’s quarterfinal round. Here’s a roundup of the evening at the Fellowship House, with recaps of each game, as well as notes and quotes from several of the participating prospects:

(For complete coverage of the 2022 Donofrio Classic, including a schedule and bracket, click here)

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Jake Kapp (above) hit seven 3-pointers in Gibbs Elite's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Game One: In a back-and-forth contest, the shot-making ability of Gibbs Elite proved to be the difference in an 83-80 win over Danny Rumph. Gibbs Elite, which was made up primarily of players from the Pioneer Athletic Conference, made 11 3-pointers in the win, including seven in the second half, to flip what had been a Danny Rumph lead for much of the opening 20 minutes and walk out with their third win of the tournament. Boyertown junior Jake Kapp led the way with 29 points, including seven 3-pointers; Upper Dublin junior Nyles Bunn-McNiell (16 points) and Valley Forge Military senior Will Anozie (13 points) joined him in double figures. Danny Rumph, which only had five players, got 27 points from Math, Civics & Sciences big man Khalif Crawley, plus 20 from fellow MCS senior Jaheim Bethea, 18 from Phelps School junior Saleem Payne and 12 from Middletown (Del.) junior Jaden Rodgers

Game Two: A game that was filled with highlight reel dunks and plenty of impressive lays, Raw Sports came out on top 103-90 against Hunting Park. Raw Sports, consisting of players from the middle of the state, had a good combination of size and strength inside as well as speed at the guard spot. Senior Anthony Smith (Shippensburg), who’s a Minnesota football commit led the way with 31 points, Javon Adams from Olympus Prep had 28. Ruben Rodriguez, the junior from Reading high had 12 as well. Hunting was led by a trio of Lincoln players, including sophomore Naseem Wright who had 27 points, junior Aymere Thomas with16 and Tamir Powell (15). MCS senior Isiah Griffin was also in double figures with 11. 

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Gibbs Elite continues unlikely run to the quarterfinals 

Gibbs Elite may not have the star power that some of the other teams do in the Donofrio Classic, but that hasn’t mattered to them. After winning their first round matchup against Just Clean It, they advanced to the quarterfinal with a 83-80 win over Danny Rumph. Gibbs Elite is a team consisting of a mix of local suburban products from leagues like the Pioneer Athletic Conference and Suburban One. 

Most of the players either have been playing, with or against each other for years, so there’s a familiarity among this group. Jake Kapp (Boyertown), Caleb Little (Spring-Ford) and Nyles Bunn-McNeill (Upper Dublin) have been playing against each other since sixth grade, so they know each other's play style, which has allowed them to have chemistry that other teams might not.


Nyles Bunn-McNeill (above) and Gibbs Elite are in their first spring as a program. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We’re all tight and we know how to share the ball on the court and we work well together,” Kapp said.

The junior from Boyertown is familiar with the tournament after his brother Jerry Kapp played in it twice. Jerry was a standout player on the basketball court for Boyertown during his time there, but elected to play football at the collegiate level instead. He’s now at Kutztown and is a redshirt junior playing wide receiver. 

There was a time when Jake felt he might be a football player, but in ninth grade the younger brother decided to take a different route and put all of his time and effort into basketball. 

Jake remembers shooting around with his brother whenever they got the chance to and he knows that he made him into a better player. Playing in the Donofrio classic previously, Jerome had some words of advice for Jake going into the tournament.

“He told me it was very fast paced and that people were going to get up and down,” he said, “and that the court’s really small, obviously.”

Kapp took his older brother's advice and ran with it, pouring in 29 points, including seven 3-pointers on Wednesday night. He knew that the fast pace and open play would create plenty of opportunities for him, which he did not pass up.  

Gibbs also received a boost from Bunn-McNeilll, who had a rough go of it this winter. The junior transferred from Pottstown to Upper Dublin in October, but tested positive for COVID-19 right before the regular season started for basketball. 

Because of a heart murmur he had when he was younger, Bunn-McNeill was held out of action because doctors wanted to monitor him. After previous health issues, they didn’t want to risk anything, so he wasn’t able to do any physical activity for over a month. 

“It was definitely a struggle mentally going through it,” Bunn-McNeill said. 

Towards the end of January, the junior was able to do light conditioning and started to lift weights, before getting fully cleared in the middle of February. Bunn-McNeill practiced, but because of the time he missed, he was never able to make it into the Upper Dublin rotation. 

A football player as well, Bunn-McNeill provided a physical presence inside for Gibbs Elite as well as a soft touch from mid range and the three point line. He’s still trying to fully get back into shape to where he was pre-covid, but feels he’s on the right track and is happy that his team is doing so well. 

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Jalen Snead looking for the next step

After a successful 4 years at Archbishop Ryan, Jalen Snead is getting ready to make the next step and transition to the college game. Snead made the PCL semi-finals three years in a row with Ryan, and finally got to play in a final this year against Neumann Goretti. Even though they lost, Snead still got the most out of playing in the championship game at the Palestra. 

“It was crazy, especially the championship game,” Snead said. “Both games were packed, but you could tell the final was extra crazy and was completely sold out. I really wish we won, but it was still a great experience.”

Snead was a steady presence for Joe Zeglinski all year playing the point and providing senior leadership to a team that got a lot of it’s production from sophomores. Snead had to mentor younger guys like Thomas Sorber, Darren Williams, and Jaden Murray

He remembers what it was like when he was first implemented into the starting lineup in 10th grade having to go up against guards like Lynn Green (St. Joe’s), Hakim Byrd (UMBC) and other great PCL players.

“It was rough… you get used to it eventually but it’s still tough at first,” he said. “My last three years we made it to the [PCL] Final Four each time, so it was great to have that success.”

Snead grew up during his years at Ryan, developing a close relationship with his coach, which helped him be a leader out on the court. 

“I really like him and playing under his system,” Snead said. “Being able to push the ball, but also slow it down and run plays. You were able to play your game.” 

The senior averaged just under 5 points per game this season, but he knew how to play his role and make winning plays when he needed to. His two biggest points of the season came against West Catholic in the PCL semi-final, when he iced the game with two free throws in the last few seconds. 

Snead was fourth in the league with 5 assists per game and averaged 1.4 steals as well. The senior didn’t care how many points he scored, as long as his team was winning he was happy.

“I was comfortable in my position,” he said. “As long as I was a factor on the court contributing to our success I was fine.” 

Snead hopes to find a similar role at the next level, playing with whatever team will give him a chance. The point guard is talking to local D-III schools like Gwynedd Mercy, Cabrini and Del Val, as well as some NAIA schools.

“I think I can be good anywhere I go as long as I have a coach with a system that wants me,” he said.

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Payne hoping to show benefits of bonus year

Saleem Payne first made a name for himself as a sophomore at Cheltenham, the diminutive guard giving the Panthers a good boost off the bench. A year later, wanting to give himself more time to develop before hitting the college ranks, he left Cheltenham for the Phelps School in Malvern, repeating his junior year and stepping up to playing a high-level prep school schedule. 


Saleem Payne (above) is hoping to show he took advantage of his extra year at Phelps. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Payne spent his first year at Phelps playing behind Boston College commit Chas Kelley, learning about playing the lead guard position from a future ACC talent. 

“I needed to be more of a leader, that’s what Chas told me, you need to be way more of a point guard, more of a leader,” Payne said. “He taught me a lot, I ain’t going to lie.”

In the Suburban One League, the 5-10, 160-pound guard could typically get to his spots at will, where he loved to utilize a mid-range jumper, using that to open up driving lanes. But he had to adjust his playing style at Phelps, where 

“It’s way harder to get your shot off in that league, you don’t get that many open shots [...] we’ve got seven-footers in the paint, every game. So I just learned that I had to get my shots up quicker, shoot way more catch-and-shoot 3s, shoot off the screen. I learned a lot last year.”

This is the summer where he has to show that it’s all paid off. 

Donofrio is the opening event for Payne, and it’s an arena he’s happy to be playing in for the first time, believing it’s an atmosphere that’s suited to his skillset. He looked good in Danny Rumph’s close loss on Wednesday night, scoring 18 points with three 3-pointers, hitting a few of those mid-rangers and a couple tough layups as well.

“I like this type of environment, this is me,” he said. “I like having a crowd, I like being close to the sidelines, that’s my type of game. This is definitely a great experience, I’ll definitely be here next year, for sure.”

Ironically, Payne will be playing this spring with Gibbs Elite, which will feature a number of the same players on the team that knocked him out of Donofrio. The new program, founded by former Pitt standout Ashton Gibbs, also includes Carroll’s Dean Coleman-Newsome and Blake Deegan and Downingtown East’s Connor Shanahan.

With college coaches sure to be watching that group, Payne’s focused on what he wants to do to stand out.

“I want to [...] show that I’m a scrappy point guard; I’m a tough little guard, I’m not just a little guard that (opponents) move around,” he said. “I want to show coaches I’m a good point guard, true leader and I shoot the 3-ball well.”

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Quick Hit

Math, Civics & Sciences senior guard Jaheim Bethea is trying to make a college decision, but first he’s trying to figure out exactly what his options are. He’s got at least one good one, with an offer from Jefferson University and a visit planned for Thursday. However, he’s hearing from other Division II programs, including East Stroudsburg, as well as D-Is like Fairleigh Dickinson, and NAIA University of Pikesville (Kentucky), and it’s possible in the roster shakeups of the spring that some schools will be looking for a point guard. 

“I want to (commit) as soon as possible,” he said. “but I guess I’m going to visit first and then see, choose out of that. It’s just right now, this month is kind of hard for me because I’m doing Ramadan, so I’m fasting.”

Bethea didn’t get a chance to break his fast before his game started, but was able to scarf down a pretzel and some water at halftime, able to help power him to his 20-point outing, which included a number of impressive drives and finishes through contact.


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