Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
As the 2019-20 Philadelphia Catholic League season reached the midway point, the Archbishop Ryan Raiders stood 6-2 and appeared primed for another deep run into the postseason. But while Joe Zeglinski looked on during practice a day before a matchup with rival Father Judge, leading scorer Aaron Lemon-Warren went down with a major injury, and it was later learned that the junior had broken his right foot.
In an instant, a once promising season seemed much more questionable than originally anticipated — with the latter part of the schedule upcoming and the looming question of whether or not Lemon-Warren would return, Zeglinski had to turn to his bench for assistance. He looked down the row to guard Luke Boyd, only a sophomore who saw minutes but was not seen as much of a contributor to that point.
Luke Boyd (above) became one of the top shooters in the Catholic League. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Zeglinski saw the potential, and thought with more time and experience that Boyd would blossom into a valuable member of the rotation.
“When Luke came in, he was known as a pure shooter, and once he got his athleticism going into his mid-sophomore year, you started seeing it come out in games, blocking some shots and the way he can get off the floor with a quick release,” Zeglinski said.
The former Archbishop Ryan standout and coach was right, as Boyd scored 19 points against Neumann-Goretti in the game after the matchup with Judge, then became a pivotal force in the Raiders’ run to the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals at the Palestra, which included an upset of Bishop McDevitt on the road in the quarterfinals.
“He played a huge role for us, especially after Aaron went down and missed the rest of the season,” Zeglinski said. “Luke stepped up to be a starter and was instrumental in beating McDevitt in that quarterfinal game to get to the Palestra. That’s when he came onto the scene, and he’s always had the confidence to do it.”
For Boyd, the confidence was always there but the natural progression and comfortability with the rest of the roster allowed him to see the game in a new way and become a key piece for the remainder of his career.
“When I first came into the program, I wasn’t really anybody,” Boyd said. “[My sophomore year,] I played with the guys who played JV and learned from (the varsity squad) because I thought it would translate: If I could play with them, I will get to the same level as them. I learned from their game and put it into mine.”
Boyd committed to head coach Damien Blair and West Chester University on March 25, solidifying his rise as one of the better shooters but also a player who had transformed into a leader while at Archbishop Ryan. The 6-foot-1 guard had been on the Golden Rams’ radar for some time, and then his offensive explosion during a few games at the annual West Chester Big 64 gave Blair and assistant coach Ben Kay the opportunity to witness Boyd’s scoring prowess and command of the Raiders in person.
He was invited to a prospect camp shortly after, which is when West Chester offered. Kay shared more with him about the type of player he is currently and how his trajectory could ascend if he were to sign with West Chester.
“Coach Kay liked my offensive ability and he thought I could develop my defense better,” Boyd said. “He said I was pretty smart since he was drawing up plays and I was following them all correctly. He kept talking about my IQ and my offensive ability. He thinks I can develop into a good player.”
(Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Boyd also had an offer from Holy Family, who was heavily recruiting him, and received interest from East Stroudsburg.
“It came down to Luke wanting to get away a little bit for college and West Chester was his first offer,” Zeglinski said. “Holy Family did offer him at the beginning of the season and there were some others recruiting him, but it’s tough to get those offers early with the portal and everything now. He felt most comfortable at West Chester since he visited a few times. He played with them in the spring at open gyms and he made his decision pretty soon after our season ended.”
Boyd’s energy off the bench during his sophomore season was contagious, and he had a way of igniting his team. Once he was inserted as the sixth man, then moved into a starting role shortly after Lemon-Warren’s injury, it became apparent that he was locked in as a permanent starter in the backcourt. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds against current West Chester players Robert Smith Jr. and Jamil Manigo and the Royal Lancers in the quarterfinals then poured in 12 points in his first career game at the Palestra against eventual champion, Neumann-Goretti.
The Raiders won two state playoff games before the tournament was canceled before the quarterfinals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boyd returned as a starter on a lineup with Lemon-Warren, Dominic Vazquez (Arcadia), Christian Tomasco (Hofstra) and fellow 2022 class member Jalen Snead. He averaged 9.8 points per game and helped lead Archbishop Ryan to a second straight trip to the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals where the Raiders lost to another eventual champion, Archbishop Wood. Boyd and his teammates immediately turned their attention to the District 12-5A title, winning the first in program history, then made an incredible run to the PIAA 5A title game in Hershey, which included a semifinal victory over Chester at the Clip Joint. Boyd and the Raiders fell to Cathedral Prep in the state final.
With Lemon-Warren, Vazquez and Tomasco gone, Boyd and Snead were the unquestioned leaders, but Boyd understood that Zeglinski set the standard for the returning team.
“He was talking to me the whole summer about how I need to be that guy,” Boyd said. “In my moments, I was trying to and I don’t like to lose. In moments, I was trying to get the ball and help my team win by putting the ball in the basket. If someone else was open, give them the ball and make the easy decision.”
If the Raiders were going to remain in contention for the Philadelphia Catholic League title and continue their rise in the state playoffs, Boyd had to be the catalyst pushing Snead, sophomore guard Darren Williams, reserve guard Michael Paris and 6-9 sophomore big man Thomas Sorber. Zeglinski knew he possessed the traits to be the leader as a senior.
“It was about coming into being the man this past spring, especially after Aaron had moved on,” Zeglinski said. “Once he became the guy, he really embraced his role coming into his senior year and that’s what teams did all season. They were trying to not allow him to get open looks and that opened up our inside game with Thomas. It also helped some other guys because you can’t leave Luke open.
Boyd averaged 14.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists while nailing 68 3-pointers in his final season. He poured in a career-high 31 points against Father Judge to open league play, then had 29 points versus Conwell-Egan. He hit three treys and finished with 12 points in an upset of Wood in the quarterfinals to set up another semifinal appearance for the Raiders.
Boyd (above) was a major part of the Raiders' run to the 2022 PCL championship game. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
He hit three more three-pointers, including one on which he was fouled on then drilled the free throw to ignite his team and the Archbishop Ryan faithful inside the Palestra to begin the fourth quarter of a 59-55 win over West Catholic, giving Zeglinski his first win at the fabled arena. He scored 15 points in the title game, but Neumann-Goretti came away with a 61-57 victory. The Raiders advanced to the second round of the PIAA 5A Tournament but this time the Clippers got the best of them, winning 53-48.
While he did not claim a coveted championship, the heartbreak of those contests on the biggest stage actually aided Boyd in his maturity in more ways than one.
“Those moments are going to live with me for the rest of my life,” Boyd said. “I love the teammates and coaches that I did it with. Those losses and experiences helped me improve as a person.”
Boyd started 45 games and made 105 3-pointers over the last two years, but what’s more impressive is the 2022 class won 49 games over its final three seasons. That included three league semifinal appearances with one trip to the final as well as three state tournament berths and one state title game appearance.
“Those guys will always be remembered as one of the winningest classes in our school’s history,” Zeglinski said. “They will be known for being winners and unselfish. Jalen Snead, David Wise, and Luke brought competitiveness and a winning attitude that will show future classes how to lead the way and how to approach the game. They did what they needed to do to win and win big games.”
Boyd joins an incoming class at West Chester that includes Kiski School’s Anthony Purnell, who previously played at Cardinal O’Hara, and will be added to a Golden Rams team that finished 17-12 (10-11 PSAC East) last season.
Following a canceled season because of the pandemic, Smith burst onto the scene at West Chester avg. 14.2 ppg as a freshman, including scoring in double figures in 21 out of 29 games, and Manigo avg. 11.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg. The Golden Rams had two additional double-digit scorers in Elijah Allen (13.2 ppg) and Episcopal Academy alum Matt Dade (12.9), who also avg. 7.9 rpg and had a team-high seven double-doubles. Smith and Dade were named Second Team All-PSAC East this season.
With already having played against current members of the roster, Boyd feels it will allow him to immediately connect with this corps and contribute right away.
“I think they have a lot of offensive talent and I think I would match well with them, especially since they have two former PCL players,” Boyd said. “They can relate to me, and I can relate to them. I played against them, and I know they’re good players.”
Zeglinski echoed those sentiments and feels Boyd has a bright future with the Golden Rams.
“He’s going to be a great guy for them, especially by spacing the floor for their talented guards,” Zeglinski said. “He’s going to give room for those other guys to make plays and they’re all going to learn you can’t cheat off Luke. That will open up the floor for everyone and he makes everyone better because you have to guard him out to the three-point line.”