CONSHOHOCKEN — The second round of the 2022 Donofrio Classic continued with its third of four nights on Monday, with the next two teams punching their ticket into Thursday’s quarterfinals. 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:
Game One: Hunting Park II was in trouble from the outset against Philly Hoop Group, with just four eligible players who showed up to play while Philly Hoop Group had a roster about a dozen deep. And even though HP II had some real talent in its quartet, the man deficit proved to be too much to overcome, as Philly Hoop Group took home a 132-98 win. Robert Wright (2024 | Neumann-Goretti) had five 3-pointers to lead the way with 27 points, Nasir Washington (2023 | West Philadelphia) had 21 points, Khrys Murray (2022 | Lincoln) had 16, Matt Williams (2022 | Lincoln) had 13 and Aaron Lemon-Warren (2022 | Mt. Zion Prep, Md.) had 10 points to round out a long list in double figures for Philly Hoop Group. For Hunting Park II, Deyishon Miller (2022 | West Philadelphia| had 36 points, Zaki Alston (2023 | Sankofa Freedom) had 22 points, future Penn State freshman Jameel Brown (2022 | Westtown School) had 21 points and Rahmir Barno (2023 | Imhotep Charter) had 17.
Game Two: In a more evenly matched game, Cool Hoops nabbed a 121-119 overtime victory over L&L Running Rebels. Jerron Drake scored the game-tying layup with under five seconds to go in regulation, and in overtime, Jaydon Brown (30 points), Devon Jainlett (25 points) and Earle Greer (21 points) accounted for all of Cool Hoops’ scoring in the extra frame, scoring seven points apiece for a team consisting entirely of Rocktop Academy talent. The Running Rebels were led by Allentown Central Catholic senior Liam Joyce (32 points), William Allen’s Nate Ellis (32 points, 8 3-pointers) and Parkland sophomore Nick Coval (16 points, 4 three-pointers. Cool Hoops can look forward to facing the winner of Tuesday’s contest between K-Low Elite and NEPA Elite in the quarterfinals.
Lemon-Warren closing in on college choice
It’s been a long and often frustrating road to a college scholarship for Aaron Lemon-Warren, the former Archbishop Ryan standout, who’s been on college radars since early in his sophomore year. At various points during his final three years of high school, the 6-foot-4 wing held numerous different mid-major and high-major offers, including from Richmond, Bowling Green, Drexel and more.
Aaron Lemon-Warren (above) seems like he's closing in on a college choice. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
But a mix of injuries, the COVID pandemic, and other factors kept Lemon-Warren from really having any true options at the end of his senior year of high school.
A post-graduate year at Mt. Zion Prep meant Lemon-Warren got to play all last summer with K-Low Elite on the 17U summer circuit — even still, he played out his entire extra year without any schools extending a scholarship offer. It wasn’t until this month that one finally came in, from Delaware State and second-year head coach Stan Waterman.
Lemon-Warren isn’t ready to declare his recruitment is over, but for the first time in a while he has a clear path to a D-I roster for this fall.
“(Waterman) came to me at the beginning of the season, before we had any games, he wanted to make sure we stayed in contact, told me how much he liked me, his plans for next year and everything,” Lemon-Warren said, “and he kept in contact even to this day, so I really appreciate that.”
Though he’s got the height of a shooting guard, Lemon-Warren’s game is much more of a tweener forward, a good 3-point shooter with his feet set and a strong mid-range scorer who can tough his way to the rim and rebound with just about anybody.
The first year away from home can be a difficult one, and even though Lemon-Warren wasn’t on a college campus yet, he lived the lifestyle, with multiple practices each day set around a strict schedule of class, homework, meals, and sleep.
He was having a solid year on the court, as Mt. Zion Prep played at events from Virginia to Maine and beyond, but that wasn’t translating to college interest. The attention from Delaware State helped keep him going even as some of his teammates were hearing from more and more schools.
“After a while, coaches stopped reaching out, but [assistant] coach [Horace] Owens and them kept in contact with me,” he said. “Just felt good to be — I can’t even explain it, honestly. It just made me want to keep playing. Sometimes you fall into those dark times and there’s always something that makes you keep working through it. That was definitely the reason.”
Despite the difficult year, Lemon-Warren is grateful for his time in Maryland, and hopes what he learned in his year there will help him make an impact right away at the Division I level.
“It was a great experience actually,” he said. “The coaches [...] they treated me right and they gave me a lot of knowledge and everything about the game, even out of the game. It was just a great experience.” — Josh Verlin
Brown getting ready for time in Happy Valley
Jameel Brown just wrapped up another successful season at Westown as they captured the FSL and PAISAA crown. The success has Brown’s confidence soaring as he wraps up his final months as a high schooler and prepares for life as a Division I athlete at a Power 5 school.
Brown will be heading to Happy Valley to play for Micah Shrewsberry, and the Penn State signee is ready to adjust.
“I want to come in making an impact right away,” Brown said. “I’m not really expecting anything, just going in there with a clear head. They didn’t promise me anything. I’m just going in there and just working.”
Brown was initially committed to Purdue, but when Shrewsberry got the job at Penn State, he made the jump with him.
“There were a lot of other schools, Notre Dame, Virginia Minnesota we’re definitely talking some good stuff,” Brown said. “But having a good relationship with coach Shrewsberry and other coaches just pushed me to Penn State.”
Brown has already witnessed Penn State's culture when he and his family were brought onto the field during Penn State football’s white-out game against Auburn. Now he wants to help turn around the basketball program in University Park.
To do that, he’s working on his body and trying to get faster this summer. But he admits that he’ll look to Penn State’s strength and conditioning team to help him with that when he gets on campus full time. As a player who’s accustomed to winning, he wants to bring that culture to a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2011, and he knows that starts with steady individual improvement, which is his main goal in his first year.
“I want to grow in all aspects, in the gym, in the classroom and just getting better every day. That’s what I live by,” Brown said.
Joyce ready to join defending D-III national champs
Allentown Central Catholic’s Liam Joyce thought that his last time playing with his high school teammates was during a Lehigh Valley all-star game a few weeks ago, but at Donofrio, he was catching yet another lob from Tyson Thomas.
Liam Joyce (above) will head to Randolph-Macon to play for the defending D-III national champs. (Photo: Jerome Taylor/CoBL)
“I got some assists from him like old times, so it was fun,” Joyce said.
Both Joyce and Thomas will be continuing their basketball careers at the next level but in different gyms. With Joyce heading to Randolph-Macon and Thomas heading to Emory (more on that below), Joyce is now focused on becoming a more well-rounded player and will have to be, considering he’s joining the reigning NCAA Division III champions.
Standing at 6-6, Joyce is using the summer to develop his ball-handling and guard skills before heading to Ashland, Va., to lessen the inevitable learning curve that comes with a jump in competition. But that competition is what attracted Joyce in the first place.
“The culture down there was just like let’s go play basketball and win, right away I was like I’m with it,” Joyce said. “I visited and hung out with the team, and the next morning we played some pickup and right at the pickup, I was connecting with some of the guys, and it was lots of fun.”
Though he won't play with him, Buzz Anthony made an impression on Joyce, as did Josh Talbert and Will Colbe, who he will get to play with and thinks their play style will mesh well with his.
“Right when I started talking to them, my play style matched theirs. They’ve got a free-flowing offense and a lot of different guys that can score,” Joyce said.
Allentown CC’s Tyson Thomas makes his pick
After committing to Division III Emory about a week ago, Tyson Thomas is eager for the next step.
But it’s not just basketball that is drawing the Allentown Central Catholic product to the private college in Atlanta with less than 10,000 students and a sub-20% acceptance rate but the academics too.
“I want a high future if basketball doesn’t work out. Academics are going to be right there,” Thomas said. “Emory is one of the best schools in the country in terms of academics, and that really stood out to me.”
Thomas intends to major in psychology before heading to law school. He sees Emory as the perfect opportunity to receive the high-quality education he is looking for while also being able to play basketball.
As a basketball player, Thomas’s ability as a facilitator both in the half-court and transition caught Emory’s eye. And the 6-1 guard’s scoring (14.5 ppg this season) will also complement a winning program like Emory, which has made the NCAA tournament every year since 2013 (the Division III national tournament was canceled in 2021).
“[High school] was a fun time. I enjoyed myself, but it’s over now, I’ve got to transition to college, and once again, I have to work hard and keep that hard-work mentality and keep getting better every single day,” Thomas said.
— At around 6:00 Monday evening, Parkland sophomore Nick Coval picked up his first Division I offer, from Robert Morris. Like most that watch Coval play, his shooting is what caught Robert Morris’ eye, and the offer came during their first conversation with Coval.
“I was shocked to be honest because I didn’t talk to them at all until today, but it feels great,” Coval said.
Coval is still early in his recruitment, but he currently has a 4.3 GPA and says academics will be a heavy factor in his decision, evidenced by the mutual interest between him and Ivy League schools like Penn, Princeton and Columbia.
— After winning the triple crown with Imhotep this season, North Philly’s Rahmir Barno is using the 2022 summer to improve his shot and athleticism. This will be his last season in EYBL with Team Final, and he wants his playmaking to be more of a focal point of his game. He is mostly hearing from VCU, Virginia Tech and Tennessee, at the moment and he says he will be making his decision based on what program feels most like family and allows him to be himself on and off the court.