WEST CHESTER — The final eight boys’ basketball teams gathered at West Chester University’s Hollenback Center on Wednesday evening as the WCU Summer League continued its playoffs with quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.
Muhlenberg (47-35 over Unionville), Salesianum (71-57 over Chester), Downingtown West (47-44 over Boyertown) and Devon Prep (91-49 over Collegium Charter) won in the quarterfinal round. Devon Prep took down Downingtown West, 77-43, and Salesianum rallied past Muhlenberg, 55-46, to set up Thursday’s championship game.
CoBL was on site to take in the competitive offseason action.
Below is a notebook with information on a few of the teams and players that participated in the quarterfinal and semifinal round of the league’s playoffs.
High School Notebook
Unionville hopes challenges help it reach ‘ceiling’
Unionville coach Chris Cowles rarely — if at all — had a roster at full strength last season.
“We had three broken hands, a torn meniscus, torn ACL, a concussion, guy out with COVID,” Cowles said.
Unionville's Nick Diehl goes up for a shot. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
The hardships of last season will hopefully pay dividends for the Longhorns this upcoming winter.
Unionville has rising seniors Quintan Boyle (team captain) and Robbie Logan returning in the backcourt and classmate George Naolitano back in the mix.
The result of last season’s bad luck in the health department is that the Longhorns also have an unusually experienced class of rising juniors in Ryan Brown (6-3), James Anderson (6-2), Charlie Kammeier (6-3) and NIck Diehl (6-6) also tested at the varsity level.
“Long story short, a lot of our younger guys got to play a lot last year, some of them were even the guys who got injured,” Cowley said.
The Longhorns went 11-11 in 2021-22, missing the District 1 playoffs for the first time since 2018 and breaking a streak of three straight seasons with a district win, including a Class 5A semifinal trip in 2021.
Unionville did, however, win four of its last five games to conclude its 2021-22 season.
With some already proven varsity contributors and the addition of rising freshman James Brenner (6-4), Cowles is excited about the potential of this group.
“It’s been the same with a lot of our teams where our ceiling’s very high, but our basement can tend to be quite low as well,” Cowles said. “We just need to stay connected, do our job in the moment and execute the principles that everybody’s preaching and their talent will shine through that.”
The Longhorns opened Philly Live I last week with a game against reigning PIAA Class 4A champion Neumann-Goretti then continued against Cheltenham — a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinalist last season.
Unionville hung with the Saints and were tied at halftime before N-G pulled away in the second half.
“We were excited for the challenge, and I think we went in with a healthy mindset,” Cowles said of the N-G game. “When we stayed competitive, we kind of took our foot off the gas as far as what we needed to do in the moment for about 50 seconds and Neumann went on a 12-0 run in those 50 seconds.”
“In general, it was a good experience for us to grow as a team.”
The Longhorns lost both games last weekend and exited in the quarterfinals of the West Chester Summer League on Thursday night against Muhlenberg. The game played out similarly to the N-G loss as a tight game turned into a runaway when Muhlenberg’s pesty defense turned turnovers into fastbreak points.
Unionville’s tough slate of games will continue this upcoming weekend at Philly Live II with games against Father Judge and Constitution — the 2022 PIAA Class 2A runner-up.
Cowles is excited about another challenge, one that will hopefully make the Longhorns better as they push to return to their winning ways this season.
“We’ve got good players and we’ve got great kids and honestly we’ve got really supportive parents and administration,” Cowles said. “It’s definitely a collective effort from everybody.”
Chester moving up a classification, still aiming to repeat
One of the most historic programs in Pennsylvania high school basketball history added to its legacy last season with a District 1-5A crown and state semifinal run.
Chester head coach Fred Taylor is ready to run it back this year with a good chunk of his core players returning to play for the Clippers in 2022-23. This time at the 6A level.
Chester will lean on rising junior Kevin Rucker as it chases another D1 title. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“They are still a really young group, so as a staff we have to remember that at times,” Taylor said. “These kids are still learning and evolving as players, but I am excited to have the chance to work with them again.”
The Clippers only graduated three seniors, though they were all key contributors to last year’s district championship team. Isaiah Freeman, Yinka Itabiyi, and Quadir Lowrie were all looked upon as the key veterans on the team and their leadership will be missed this winter, Taylor noted. Last year’s sophomore all-state forward, Larenzo Jerkins has transferred out of the program to Neumann-Goretti as well.
Some key returnees for this year’s Chester team include rising junior point guard Kyree Womack and rising junior wing Kevin Rucker, who showed they are ready to take another leap in production during this past weekend’s Philly Live I event and on Wednesday night in Chester’s loss to Salesianum.
Rucker, a 6-6 wing dropped in 22 points, showing the ability to get to the rim and finish at will and was the leading rebounder for Chester in the contest. Womack, who scored 20 points in last year’s district title game over Radnor, had nine points on Wednesday and several assists. The two rising juniors are going to be looked upon to lead Chester as it moves from 5A to 6A this upcoming season.
“Kevin is going to be real good, I think he is in for a big year,” Taylor said. “We need him to be locked in and playing hard all the time. He just has to play through the hard moments, because he is a really talented kid.”
“I am looking for Kyree to run the club for us. He is going to hit big shots for us, especially late in games, we know that. That is the type of player he is. He needs to keep things organized for us on the floor.”
Outside of Rucker and Womack, Hamza Clay-Goudelock, Terence Cobb and Jerry Young figure to be key members of Taylor’s rotation.
As they progress through the rest of the offseason, Taylor is hoping that the youth of his team starts to show off their experience more and get ready to make a run at another District 1 crown — this time in its largest classification.
For now, the focus for his bunch is sharing the ball, playing hard, and staying in shape as they look to ramp things up before December because he knows his team has a target on its back.
“Just because you have Chester on your chest, teams aren’t going to lay down for you like they used to back in the day,” Taylor said. “Teams want to take us down now more than before, so we are going to have to go out and earn it.”
Mutts ‘finding himself,’ his game at Salesianum
There was a time when Deuce Mutts said it was difficult to be ‘just Deuce.’
With an older brother, Justyn, who is a star basketball player — now playing at Virginia Tech — Deuce sometimes felt he had to match the hype that came with his last name.
“It was tough,” said Mutts, a rising senior at Salesianum (Del.). “Growing up, I kind of had to follow in his footsteps. Everybody expected me to be just like him. It was a lot of pressure, but now I feel like I’m finding myself.”
After beginning his high school career at Roman Catholic, Mutts currently finds himself entering his second season with the Sallies. He played with the team last offseason before spending most of last season as the sixth man in the rotation.
“This year, I feel way more comfortable,” Mutts said. “Last year was a great team. I loved them guys. I feel way more comfortable now, kind of like know my role on the team.”
The bouncy 6-5 wing should be a starter this season on a squad led by rising junior Isaiah Hynson (6-4). Other rising juniors Kareem Thomas and Zach Swartout also impressed during Wednesday’s West Chester Summer League wins.
“We’re together way more than we were last year I think,” Mutts said. “Coming back into that brotherhood as we were, we’ve got a lot of new guys who are working their (butts) off to become what we need. … That’s why I love this team.”
Though not yet matching his older brother’s accomplishments on the hardwood, Mutts is a standout hooper in his own right and plans to play at the next level. He said he’s talked to Division I Jacksonville as well as multiple Division II programs.
Mutts has brought a lot more than his basketball talents to Salesianum, however.
During his first year at the school, Mutts was named the vice president of his class.
“That was kind of crazy,” Mutts said of getting elected.
He recently went on a school trip to Michigan for the Salesianum Leadership Camp to meet with other leaders from different schools around the country.
“It was amazing, like a surreal experience for a week,” Mutts said. “It was our four vice presidents and our president and then other schools like their student councils and their leadership positions. It was a great trip.”
Jacen Holloway (2023 | Devon Prep)
Rising senior guard Jacen Holloway picked up his first scholarship offer last week from Division II Chestnut Hill.
The 6-3 lefty, who plays a unique type of point-forward role for the Tide, does a lot of work on the perimeter and inside, making him an intriguing college prospect. Getting his first offer to play collegiate hoops was a surreal moment for the member of the reigning Class 3A state champions.
Devon Prep's Jacen Holloway received an offer from Chestnut Hill last week. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
“It felt great to get that first offer from Chestnut Hill under my belt,” Holloway said. “It was really special to me because that is something I have been working for.”
He thinks it will be a momentum builder not just for his recruitment, but also his game as he searches for his future college.
“Not just for me, but for any player when you receive an offer or interest from school it is a really good confidence builder I think,” Holloway said. “It makes you feel wanted and like your hard work is paying off and you want to continue to build on that and you do that by playing well.”
Holloway does a little bit of everything for Devon Prep and is going to be counted on as one of the key cogs of their squad again this year. Holloway uses his muscle to play bully ball inside and finish around the rim, but he was also able to showcase an improving jump shot in victories over Collegium Charter and Downingtown West on Wednesday night.
Going forward, Holloway is aiming to improve his overall guard skills as he looks to transition from his current point-forward role, to more of a guard for the college game.
“I am really just trying to improve my ball handling and becoming more of a point guard,” Holloway said. “If I can combine that with my ability to play inside as well it is only going to make me better in the long run.”
Holloway added that he has heard from Division I Army and Division II’s West Chester and East Stroudsburg over the past few months, but has no offers outside of Chestnut Hill at the moment.
— After a strong showing at Philly Live I, including a 35-point performance against Episcopal (FL), Devon Prep rising senior Lucas Orchard took an official visit to Monmouth on Monday.
Orchard first came in contact with the Monmouth coaching staff during the middle of his high school season “around January” and has been in contact with the staff regularly. While he wasn’t awarded an offer on his visit, the 6-4 Orchard came away encouraged.
“The visit to Monmouth was good, very encouraging,” Orchard said. “I was able to find out a lot about Monmouth.”
“Speaking to the coaching staff and finding out about the program and what they thought about me as a player was the best part of the visit.”
Orchard has also been in contact with Division II East Stroudsburg and a number of Division III programs such as Arcadia, Scranton, and Randolph Macon.
— After a strong first weekend at Philly Live I, where he made our standouts list, Dylan Blair (Downingtown West | 2023) heard from a few Division I programs.
“I heard from Colgate and Binghamton after the weekend,” said Blair, a 5-11 guard. “My AAU coach said Columbia and Rider reached out to him as well.”
“I got a call from Colgate and they said they liked what they saw out of me, but they want to see a little bit more of me going forward,” Blair said. “Binghamton said they are going to send their head coach up to see me this weekend.”
This weekend, the Whippets will be playing at Philly Live II, with matchups against Executive Education and Trinity on Friday as well as East Windsor (Conn.) on Saturday afternoon.
Blair, a very strong student with a 4.1 GPA, as well as the son of West Chester head coach Damien Blair, didn't rule out becoming a Golden Ram and playing for his father’s program as well.
Going forward, Blair is looking to improve his strength and ability to finish over taller defenders in the lane as he aims to lead Downingtown West to a District 1 title in 6A and become a successful player at the next level.
— Isaiah Hynson (Salesianum | 2023) told CoBL this past weekend that La Salle, Delaware, UMass and Providence all reached out to him at the start of the June live period last week, and Colorado State contacted his coach at some point. On Wednesday, Hynson said he was excitedly surprised to hear from Xavier as well after the event.