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Donofrio Classic Report: Thurs., April 14

04/15/2022, 11:45am EDT
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The 2022 Donofrio Classic is down to four.

Thursday night’s quarterfinals, wrapped up the Round of Eight to set up the final week of the tournament starting with Monday’s semifinal round. There are two powerhouse matchups on tap, with Gibbs Elite facing Love Basketball-Team Hardnett in the opener and out-of-area contenders Raw Sports and NEPA Elite in the nightcap.

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)


Game One: Academy of the New Church teammates Elmarko Jackson and Anthony McCall put on a show for Love Basketball-Team Hardnett, combining for at least three alley-oops, about six or seven other dunks between them and 43 points.

The rest of their teammates were in fine form as well, as Hardnett just kept attacking and scoring as they ran away from Philly Hoop Group 114-83. Hardnett led by 20 at the half and got 24 from McCall, 19 from Jackson, 13 more from ANC’s Jarell Keel, a 12-spot by Christian Kirkland (Friends Select) and 10 from Muhsin Muhammed (Germantown Friends). Rashan Locke-Hicks (Lincoln) was plenty involved in the highlight reel as well, scoring 19 points with a couple deep threes and a few other flashy plays to go with them.

Ahmad Nowell (Imhotep Charter) paced Philly Hoop Group with 14, Mo Abdullah (Imhotep Charter) had 13, Khrys Murray (Lincoln) scored 12, Jaylen Shippen (Lower Merion) finished with 11 and Nasir Washington (West Philadelphia) 10 for a squad that had 10 players score.

Game Two: NEPA Elite and Cool Hoops have both experienced the feel of a close game at the Fel, so it wasn’t too surprising their contest was a one-point game with 3:16 left on the game clock. However, it was NEPA moving on thanks to a 12-2 run to close out an 83-72 win that locked up the final semifinal spot.

Justice Shoats (Holy Redeemer) and Ethan Meuser (Hill School) both tallied 18 for NEPA Elite while Ryan Nealon (Abington Heights) and Augie Gerhart (The Hill School) each had 14 with Nelon hitting four 3-points and Gerhart scoring two huge hoops after Cool Hoops had cut the lead to 71-70. Cool Hoops got 19 from Jayden Brown, 17 from Earle Greer and 15 from Devon Jainlett, all Rocktop Academy products.


West Philly’s Washington blending his passions

If Nasir Washington isn’t playing basketball, there’s a good chance he still might be playing basketball just in a different form.

Nasir Washington (above) loves to play and stream his basketball skills. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

The West Philadelphia High School junior, easily recognizable by his billowing afro and his 3-point shooting, is hoping to parlay an excellent season by the Speedboys into a strong summer and some college interest. When he isn’t busy doing that, the 6-foot-3 guard will likely be engaging in his other main interest, filming videos and streaming for his YouTube channel.

Washington, who frequently live-streams NBA 2K games, thinks a blend of both worlds will help him take the next step.

“I like to game, so I stream when I play, I react to videos, I try to do a lot. I’ve always been a game, but it’s always school first, then basketball and then streaming,” Washington said with a smile. “I’ve got a lot going on but I like it. It lets me be myself, it’s something where I’m happy when I’m doing it.”

Primarily a shooting guard with West Philly this past season, Washington is preparing for a much more involved role with the Speedboys next season. Washington, who is playing this summer with SK Elite, has a photo on the header of his Twitter page showing the back of a shirt with “-Da Leader” etched on the back.

It’s apt, as it’s the role Washington is preparing himself for with his high school team next winter.

“For next year, I know I’m going to be ‘the man,’ and I know people already have high expectations for me,” Washington said. “I also have high standards for myself, so I’m ready.”

Washington felt his experience in the Donofrio Classic was just what he needed as his summer really gets started in the coming weeks. SK Elite played in its first event last weekend down in Virginia and is slated to be part of the Pitt Jam Fest April 22-24, and Washington now has some things he wants to work on as the schedule heats up.

“The tempo of basketball and the energy was just crazy,” Washington said. “I’ve never played in an environment like this. At first, we didn’t have any team chemistry but I feel like we built something, I got to really know these guys and we’re hoping to have mostly the same team next year.

“Playing with and against some D-I commits and prospects made me feel better about myself, because I think I saw that I’m getting used to the game.”

Washington heads into his junior summer confident that he can play with anyone but also said it was motivation to “lock in” over the next few months.

He’s also hoping college programs will take notice. Washington hasn’t had any contact or interest come his way yet, but he’s being patient with it.

“Whatever comes, I’ll be happy with but my dream colleges are Temple and Villanova,” Washington said. “Like I said, I have high expectations for myself.”

Washington cautioned he may have to cut back some on his streaming this summer because he plans to be in the gym a lot working on his handle, gaining some strength and finding ways to add to his solid shooting ability.

But he’s definitely going to find time in front of the camera too.

“I think it’s helped me with how I talk, the way I can talk to other people, give them advice or make them feel better about themselves,” Washington said. “I want to embrace that leadership role, I think it’s something that I’ve tried to get better at through basketball and streaming.”


Decision looms for La Salle’s Williams

Chris Williams really couldn’t ask for much better.

Chris Williams (above) is down to two local programs for his college pick. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The La Salle senior wanted to stay local for his college career and his final two choices both fit that bill perfectly. A 6-foot-3 guard who was a great complementary piece for the Explorers the last two years, Williams is hoping to make his pick between Arcadia and Gwynedd Mercy University as early as this weekend but no later than the end of the month.

“It was what I wanted, to stay local,” Williams said after his Philly Hoop Group team was knocked out on Thursday. “Arcadia, I really like what coach (Adam Van Zelst) is building over there and coach (John) Baron, he’s got such a great legacy over at Gwynedd Mercy, so it’s a tough decision but a good one to have to make.”

Arcadia was one of the earliest programs to jump in on Williams, who was named the MVP of the Norristown Triangle Club’s tip-off tournament this season, while Gwynedd Mercy jumped into the mix a little over a month ago.

Playing on a strong La Salle roster that featured Nix Varano, Horace Simmons and Sam Brown among others, Williams readily accepted a role supplementing his teammates’ strengths. A dependable shooter, smart passer and secondary ball-handler, Williams thinks his versatility will help him at the next level.

“I think I’m one of the hardest workers around,” Williams said. “Going into a new program, I’m going to try and work my way to the top of the rotation and look to make an immediate impact.”

Once he makes his decision, Williams said he plans to continue working out and playing over the summer so he’s ready to go next fall.

“The Catholic League, there’s Division I talent all around,” Williams said. “Playing at the Division III level is no joke, it’s definitely tough, but I feel like I’m prepared for that jump.”


Shoats hoping to do it all at next level

Justice Shoats drove off the right side of the lane, spun around a defender and finished on the other side of the basket.

The crowd on hand at the Fellowship House gave the athletic 6-foot-1 guard his due but it’s something his NEPA Elite teammates and Holy Redeemer High School opponents have seen plenty of in recent years. Shifty, crafty, explosive and determined, Shoats has plenty of winning qualities and not surprisingly, plenty of colleges looking to add him to their roster.

NEPA is through to the semifinals thanks in part to Shoats’ 18 points Thursday but his future beyond that is still in question.

“I’m looking for a good sports program but definitely number one is a good education,” Shoats said. “I’m saying either by the end of this month or next month I hope to have a decision but as of right now, I’m still open.”

Shoats listed St. Francis (Pa.), Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, and Lock Haven amongst the programs he’s been talking with in the last year.

On top of his basketball prowess, Shoats is a standout track and field athlete. As a junior, he won the PIAA Class 2A long jump title and also competes in the high jump, 100 meter dash and the 4x100 meter relay, all events that accent his athletic abilities well.

“I’ve actually got a couple offers and some interest in track and I’m hoping to get a few more after this year,” Shoats said. “I’d 100 percent be open to both sports, but I haven’t had any offers for that yet.”

Shoats was proud of his senior season with Holy Redeemer, with the Royals making it all the way to the PIAA Class 3A semifinals before falling to Devon Prep in an overtime thriller. 

“I think I shot the ball a lot better this past season but more importantly, I was able to get my teammates involved more,” Shoats said. “When we started off, we kind of played selfishly and as individuals, but we came together and had a great run.”

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