CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The second weekend of Philly Live 2022 continued on Saturday with action at Jefferson University and St. Joseph’s Prep running all day long, with a total of seven courts going from morning until night packed with talent from around the region and a little further away. The CoBL was all over the event, with reporters at both venues.
Here’s Part 2 of a recruiting notebook featuring action from St. Joseph’s Prep on Saturday; click here for the first half of our SJ Prep coverage:
Ruben Rodriguez (Reading | 2023)
The start to Ruben Rodriguez’s summer has been eventful.
Ruben Rodriguez (above) got to play with the Puerto Rico U18 squad earlier this month. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)
At the beginning of June, Rodriguez represented the Puerto Rican national team in the FIBA U18 Americas Men's Championship in Mexico. Puerto Rico finished fifth, but for Rodriguez playing under Eddin Santiago was a meaningful experience.
“FIBA was a lot of team-orchestrated basketball and a lot of plays, AAU it’s a lot of solo or individual skill,” Rodriguez said about the difference in playing internationally. “I just learned how to play different styles of basketball.”
For AAU, Rodriguez will be playing in the EYBL circuit with Team Final, where the speedster looks to showcase his improved playmaking, shotmaking and overall feel for the game. The rising senior also has grown a couple of inches to 6-1 this summer, and the additional height and added explosiveness have him finishing above the rim with more confidence.
The added height also helps him see the floor more, evidenced by his six-assist outing against White Plains (N.Y.) on Saturday. Going into his senior year, Rodriguez has several offers, including Rider, Drexel, and Fairleigh Dickinson, and he’s gotten interest from Binghamton, Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s.
Rodriguez just completed a visit to Mount St. Mary’s and plans to have a more finalized list of schools by the end of the AAU season, and when it comes time to choose a school, he is looking for a winning culture.
“I want to go to a school that’s used to winning and somewhere that can take me as far as possible in my basketball career,” Rodriguez said. — Jerome Taylor
Isaac Cole (2025 | West Catholic)
Last year’s West Catholic team was one of the best in the program’s history, as they made it to the Palestra for the first time this millennium. But like most successful seasons at the high school level, repeating that success is challenging due to turnover on the roster.
Isaac Cole (above) picked up his first scholarship offer on Saturday afternoon, from Hampton. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)
For West, Isaac Cole seems poised to fill the void left on wings due to Nasir Griffin (East Stroudsburg), and twins Kaseem and Kareem Watson (Cal-State Bakersfield) all graduating in 2022.
The rising sophomore appeared in 18 games for the Burrs as a freshman, averaging nine minutes in those appearances. And after his performance during the Philly Live Sessions, it’s safe to say those numbers are going to rise.
In West Catholic’s 71-68 win over Hayfield (Va.) on Saturday, the 6-6 wing showcased all of the things that make him such an intriguing prospect: defensive versatility, 3-point shooting, and off-ball cutting. The last attribute stands out the most watching Cole play, partially because that’s what got him playing time as a freshman.
“Coach [Miguel Bocachica] prides himself on cutting,” Cole said. “When I first got here, that’s how I got on the court, that’s what gave me my minutes, that’s what gave me this role.”
Cole finished with 15 points and went 3-5 from 3-point territory in the game against Hayfield. His length was also impactful on the defensive side, as he slowed down Division I prospect Greg Jones whenever he was the primary defender.
“In practice, my teammates see my defensive ability increasing, and I tell them I want to check the ball,” Cole said. “When my teammates get tired, Budd (Adam Clark) and Z (Zion Stanford) are on the ball a lot, and I want to help them.
When the final buzzer sounded, Cole was officially a Division I prospect in his own right, earning his first D-I scholarship offer from Hampton, though he was in disbelief when he found out.
“I don't really believe him,” Cole said with a huge smile immediately after his head coach broke the news to him during the interview.
But Bocachica was correct about the Hampton offer. And now his team, who already had the likes of Zion Stanford, Adam “Budd” Clark and Shemar Wilbanks-Acqui in their rotation, looks like they’ll be formidable again in the Philadelphia Catholic League thanks to Cole’s emergence on the wing this summer. — Jerome Taylor
Dylan Blair (2023 | Downingtown West)
For a guard as talented and dedicated as Blair, many would expect some D-I offers already on the table, but the 5-11 guard has yet to receive any, and he has a hunch why that may be.
Dylan Blair (above) is hearing from a number of high-academic Division I programs but is awaiting his first offer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“Being a small guard, nothing is going to be given to you, obviously you’re gonna have to prove yourself every time you step on the floor.” Blair said following the team’s five-point loss to Trinity on Saturday. “They all say I can play, but they’re definitely hesitant to pull the trigger because of my size.”
Despite his size, Blair has found consistent success at Downingtown West. He has been a solid piece on the Whippets roster for the past three seasons, a 1,000 point scorer who led the team in scoring last winter.
His ability to create opportunities for himself and his teammates on the offensive end while still staying committed to the defensive end makes him a valuable addition to any team.
The Whippets’ guard has been contacted by multiple D-I schools, the most recent additions being Binghamton and Colgate. Binghamton’s head coach made the trip to Philly this weekend and Colgate is hoping to either bring Blair to campus for an unofficial visit or have him attend their elite camp at the end of July.
For the guard, who has been on college radars for quite some time, this offseason and live period have helped the recruiting process pick up.
“I definitely get that sense,” Blair responded when asked if he felt that coaches seem more interested now than 6-8 months ago. “Playing Catholic League teams and actually beating them and playing well against them definitely has gotten my name out there, and coaches are talking about me now.”
The rising senior still has time to get the offers that he’s looking for, but he always has the option of playing for D-II West Chester, where his father, Damien, is the head coach. He has higher aspirations than playing for his father’s program, but Blair seems comfortable with the possibility that without a D-I offer this summer, West Chester might just be the best option — and it’s certainly not a bad one, as the Golden Rams have gone 241-134 (.643) under Blair, making four NCAA Tournaments in the past seven years.
“I think I would enjoy it,” Blair said of playing for his dad. “It’d also be difficult at times, but I would look forward to it. It’d be pretty fun in my opinion.
“We definitely talk about it [...] and I’ve been around some of the players and it looks good if I don’t get the one I want.”
While the default of West Chester will always be in the back of Blair’s mind, his focus remains on improving his game this summer to give himself the best shot at receiving that DI offer.
“I just want to show them that no matter my size, no matter who I play, every time I step on the floor, you’re gonna get the same thing from me every time.” — Meghann Morhardt
Daemar Kelly (above) scored 26 points in a win over Bethlehem Catholic. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
– A strong student with a 4.5 GPA, Daemar Kelly (2023 | Penn Hills) is receiving interest from multiple Ivy League schools as well as IUPUI, Drexel, and Colgate, but he is continuing to work on his game so he can turn that interest into official offers.
“I’m trying to work on getting my teammates involved so the game comes easier for me,” Kelly said following Saturday’s win over Bethlehem Catholic where he had 26 points including seven 3-pointers. “I’m working on getting to the rim, finishing, knowing what moves to use, when to pull up, when to take it to the rim. And just having fun, giving it my all for my last season.”
The wing guard will continue to be Penn Hills’ number one option this season, but the lessons that he has learned as a role player on Team Final will be invaluable to his improvement.
“Not being a star player on that team, I had to figure out ways to help the team when the ball wasn’t always in my hands,” Blair said. “Just figuring out ways to play with different styles and aggressiveness, always having that high motor intensity that they (Team Final) play with.”
— Chris Fields (2023 | King’s Fork, Va.) has no offers at the moment, but there is interest from some schools.
“I’m talking to a few,” Fields said. “A D II school in North Carolina, Catawba, they came up to me last weekend at North Carolina Live, and a couple of other schools came up.”
The 6-6, 220-pound forward played an extremely physical game against Neumann-Goretti, showcasing his skills of finishing at the rim and playing through contact. Fields finished with 10 points in a hard-fought 63-60 victory.
— Playing on a team with players who have high and mid-major offers, Bruce Smith (2023 | Neumann-Goretti) has had to figure out his role for the Saints. Entering his third varsity season, Smith has seen improvement in his game, but knows there is more to come.
“I think I have improved on my ball handling, being able to go coast to coast, and my shooting,” Smith said following a loss to King’s Fork on Saturday night where he had 12 points. “ I want to be a team leader, more vocal and hold my team accountable. I can always get better and I think that’s going to happen during the season come winter.”
Recently, Smith has been in contact with some D-II schools including Holy Family and Chestnut Hill. He is still in the early stages of communicating with hopes to continue building those relationships as the summer goes on, but there are no official visits scheduled at this time.
– Jackson Tindall (2023 | St. Peter’s Prep) has his eyes set on a D-I offer, but when talking about his game, he remained team-focused.
“It’s been great getting back with my high school team, connecting, and getting back to winning together,” Tindal said following Saturday’s 50-38 win over Constitution where he had 14 points and six rebounds. “ I’ve improved on getting the best out of everybody on the team and becoming a better leader in that respect.”
Since the beginning of the live period, Tindall has received some new interest from schools like Rider, Albany, and Boston University who was in attendance at Saturday’s game.
These coaches are looking to see the 6-6, 180-pound stretch forward prove that he can be the teammate and leader that they need him to be on both ends of the floor.
“They want to see me being that guy who’s gonna get his teammates better, get them involved,” Tindall explained. “But also be the guy who takes the biggest challenge on the court in guarding the best players.”
— Since last season, Matthew Kinzler (2023 | St. Peter’s Prep) has expanded his game, becoming more of a threat off the dribble, making him more attractive to coaches.
“I think just being more aggressive,” Kinzler said of the improvements he has noticed. “Just getting downhill, getting to my spot. And I’ve worked on my midrange shot, trying to get that going. Trying to score at all three levels.
Kinzler, who is seeing interest from Patriot League and Ivy League schools, knows that physicality and shooting are the key to his shot at playing D-I basketball.
“I want to work on becoming a more consistent shooter,” Kinzler said following Saturday’s 50-38 win over Constitution where he had 14 points and seven rebounds. “But the big emphasis has been on playing physical and definitely just being more vocal as a player. These are all things that I can control, so I just gotta work on them more.”