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Verlin's 2022 June Live Period Eye-Openers

06/27/2022, 10:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The benefit of being away from basketball for close to eight weeks is getting a chance to see the city’s prospects with fresh eyes. Once the season ends in February/March, the city’s various hoopers spend time working on their games, and it’s common for high schoolers to look noticeably different in the summer than they did just a few short months ago.

Here are some local players I saw these past two weekends who really impressed me with the improvements they’ve made since the end of the season, and since seeing them last:

Jalil Bethea (2024 | Archbishop Wood)
It was clear from watching Bethea emerge over the course of his sophomore season that the 6-foot-3 guard was going to be a big piece for the Vikings during his upperclassman years, and that he was certainly one of the ‘next up’ in Wood’s quickly-growing list of Division I recruits. The always-confident 3-point shooter was getting better and better with the ball in his hands, and starting to round out his game. Bethea’s taken a huge step since then, becoming a true combo guard who can initiate the offense and make plays with the ball in his hands, and he’s also gotten much better at attacking the basket while still keeping that 3-point ability. He’s going to be on the preseason PCL Player of the Year watchlist at this rate.

Dylan Blair (2023 | Downingtown West)
It’s not like Blair, a 5-10 point guard and son of West Chester coach Damien Blair, wasn’t already a quality player; Blair was a First Team All-Ches-Mont League selection as a junior, after all. But he’s trying to earn himself a Division I scholarship, and while that pursuit can cause some prospects to try to do too much, Blair has been playing his best hoops. He’s a strong, athletic guard whose defensive abilities are an underrated plus, and his basketball IQ as a coach’s son is terrific. He was consistently putting up big numbers during Philly Live, either in the scoring column or assist column (or both), and his effort never stops.

K.J. Cochran (above) is growing into an impressive prospect in the 2025 class. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

KJ Cochran (2025 | West Chester East)
There was already a bunch to like about Cochran as a freshman, from his impressive on-court demeanor at such a young age, to his abilities with the ball in his hands, and a lanky frame that suggested there was still more growing to do to an already 6-2 frame; like Blair, he was selected to the All-Ches Mont National First Team after helping East to a 22-8 record. Now a couple inches taller and with his frame starting to fill out a bit, Cochran is quickly catching the attention of college coaches, a scoring lead guard who can create his own shot, defend multiple perimeter positions, understands the game and helps his team win. High-major isn’t out of the question if he continues this trajectory.

Jackson Hicke (2023 | Radnor)
Hicke’s been steadily improving his game over the last year, first proving himself to be a future college player and then one worthy of a scholarship over the course of his junior year. The 6-5 wing is now a certified Division I prospect after picking up offers from Cornell, Colgate and Army after Philly Live I, and backed that up with another stellar showing at Philly Live II. Hicke really knows how to use his length to his advantage, capable of guarding Division I level forwards and guards, with an improved post-up and mid-range game to go along with his already-strong outside shooting. Hicke’s a strong passer as well who regularly makes no-look assists, and often gets double-digit rebounding numbers.

Shareef Jackson (2025 | Roman Catholic)
There’s no denying that Jackson has as good a hoops pedigree as anybody. The son of former Temple star Marc Jackson, who played in seven NBA seasons, Jackson got immediate playing time at Roman as a freshman, the muscular 6-7 forward immediately capable of handling the physicality of the Catholic League. Jackson’s maybe an inch taller than he was last season, and while he doesn’t yet need to be a leader for Roman — Xzayvier Brown and Anthony Finkley take care of that — he’s starting to show a more well-rounded skillset that should see him take a nice step up from the 4.6 ppg and 5.7 rpg he averaged as a freshman, including the ability to stretch the floor out to the 3-point arc and put the ball on the floor from the perimeter to get to the rim. 

Jaron McKie (above) competes for St. Joe's Prep in the second Philly Live weekend on Friday, June 25. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL)

Jaron McKie (2025 | St. Joseph’s Prep)
McKie is another Catholic League freshman who didn’t waste any time getting acclimated, averaging 11.3 ppg and shooting 45.7% (37-of-81) from 3-point range on a young Prep squad that certainly took its lumps under second-year head coach Jason Harrigan. As expected, the Hawks as a whole look ready to take a big step forward this season, and McKie individually is making advancements in his game. He’s still a dead-eye 3-point shooter, but he’s making really quick decisions with the ball in his hands and being more aggressive attacking the bucket. The son of Temple coach and longtime Philadelphia 76er Aaron McKie, Jaron’s going to be attracting a lot of college attention soon.

Jacob Nguyen (2025 | Spring-Ford)
We liked Nguyen ever since we saw the rising freshman at our Underclassman Camp last fall, and Nguyen backed it up with a solid first year at Spring-Ford under first-year head coach Joe Dempsey, the lanky 6-3 guard a strong outside shooter and good athlete. At Philly Live II this weekend, Nguyen showed he’s really turning into an all-around guard, making impressive play after play with the ball in his hands, including on-point, one-handed cross-court passes, burying jumpers, attacking the rim, and all with that extra edge of a player who’s feeling good on the court. At this rate of improvement, especially as his body continues to mature, he’s a year away from really being a name amongst regional college coaches and beyond.

Lucas Orchard (2023 | Devon Prep)
Orchard’s progression over the last 12 months has been really impressive. He’s gotten his body in shape, worked on his athleticism, and put a lot of time in the gym. Orchard’s been thriving this spring and summer, knocking down shots from all over the court and making great decisions with the ball in his hands, playing hard every second he’s on the court. It seemed like every time we saw Orchard these two weekends he was appearing on standouts lists, dropping 30-plus on multiple outings, with high rebound and assist numbers to boot. His production is undeniable at this point, and he just keeps getting better.

Izaiah Pasha (above) is hearing from multiple Atlantic 10 programs after a strong showing at Philly Live. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Izaiah Pasha (2023 | Cardinal O’Hara)
A year ago was Pasha’s debut with O’Hara at Philly Live, and while there was certainly good upside to the 6-5 wing, he was still feeling his way into his frame and polishing out some rough spots, which is common for players at that age who can do a little bit of everything. The difference from then to now is stark, as Pasha’s so much smoother and more explosive of an athlete, a confident combo guard with size who will probably start off as a ‘2’ and ‘3’ at the next level but with the abilities to play any of the three perimeter pieces. St. Joe’s has been heavily involved, but other A-10 schools have joined the mix as well.

Bobby Rosenberger (2023 | Perkiomen School)
A 6-5 left-hander, Rosenberger’s an athletic wing who’s never lacked for energy or effort when he was able to get in for Perkiomen, but he wasn’t always as efficient with his minutes, trying to do too much at times to show he could belong. But he showed a ton of progress in the last few times we’ve seen him, the result of maturity and trust in his spot, and he’s putting his abilities to good use as a combo wing who can also play a small-ball ‘4’ role, with an improved 3-point shot and shot selection in general, and he’s overall cleaned up his game to be much more efficient. West Chester offered last week, his first scholarship, and it was certainly deserved.

Kevin Rucker (2024 | Chester)
A 6-4 wing guard with a lot of length, Rucker is ready to become ‘the guy’ for Chester now that he’ll be a junior, and especially so with Larenzo Jerkins transferring to Neumann-Goretti. And he’s looking ready to take that mantle, with plenty of 20 and 30-point outings scattered in lately, Rucker making the transition from playing a ‘3’ and ‘4’ down to a true ‘2’ with an improved handle and shooting ability. Rider and Drexel both offered this weekend, his first two, as he tries to become Chester’s first Division I signee since Marquis Collins (Delaware State) in 2016.

Kai Shinholster (above) picked up his first two offers, from Hofstra and Robert Morris. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Kai Shinholster (2025 | Penn Charter)
The younger brother of Penn Charter 2023 SG Trey Shinholster, who’s been one of the Quakers’ leaders for the last few years, Kai had a promising freshman season, earning a starting role in the Penn Charter lineup, but was often a third or fourth scoring option, deferring to his older teammates and playing a little passively sometimes. But he’s stepping it up this offseason, and after offers from Robert Morris and Hofstra in May, he’s playing a much more assertive, aggressive game, still shooting well from beyond the arc but beginning to create off the bounce. He’s got one year playing alongside the Quakers’ deep 2023 class, and then the team will be his as a junior and senior.

Zion Stanford (2023 | West Catholic)
In the 2023 class, there might not be any player in the city who is more “Philly tough” than Stanford. The Burrs’ 6-4 wing guard plays like he’s 6-7 the way he crashes the offensive glass and finishes around the rim, and he’s improved as a 3-point shooter to the point that he might have earned the “knockdown” tag after hitting shot after shot at Philly Live II. Rider, NJIT and Marist all offered, as have St. Joe’s and Drexel. Stanford already led West Catholic in scoring a year ago (14.0 ppg) but it’s hard to feel like he won’t take a big step forward in production as a senior based on the way he’s been playing of late.

Cameron Wallace (2025 | Westtown)
We get the feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about Wallace over the next few years. The 6-5 wing guard was a Ches-Mont all-league first team selection as a freshman at Great Valley and then transferred to Westtown, where he’ll join one of the top private school programs in the country under Seth Berger, who’s turned out numerous NBA players and plenty of high-major prospects in his decade-plus with the Moose. And he looked gooood for the Moose this weekend at the Hun School, dropping 27 points on 10 shots in front of plenty of high-major coaches, showing no hesitation to pull up and knock down jumpers or attack the rim. And it feels like he’s only just scratching the surface.

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Tag(s): Home  High School  Boys HS  Catholic League  Archbishop Wood   Cardinal O'Hara  Devon Prep  Roman Catholic  St. Joe's Prep  West Catholic  Radnor  Ches-Mont National  Downingtown West  West Chester East  Delaware Valley  Chester  Westtown School  Inter-Ac  Penn Charter  Spring-Ford