Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Luke Rasmussen decided to spend his senior year at the Haverford School, he was back in familiar surroundings, at the school he spent his middle school and ninth grade years. Even if the Lower Merion native was, himself, unfamiliar.
“None of my old teachers recognized me,” he said with a laugh.
Luke Rasmussen (above) is back at The Haverford School, looking much different than when he left. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
That’s partly a product of being away from the Main Line and going to the Hill School for three years, repeating his freshman year at the Pottstown boarding school and entering the Class of 2023, most of his former classmates having graduated in the spring. But it’s mostly because when he left Haverford, he was a 5-foot-5, 90-pound kid who was cut from the freshman basketball team — and he’s now more than a whole foot taller.
“I guess that’s the biggest change,” Rasmussed said with a smile. “Just my whole stature.”
Rasmussen’s now 6-7 and still growing, a solid three inches taller than he was just in the spring, when he realized he’d rather spend his final year of high school back around his family and not at a boarding school.
He’s joined a Haverford squad at an interesting intersection of young and old, fresh faces and returnees, all trying to put it together somewhat on-the-fly. Bernie Rogers has five different classes represented in his starting lineup, a lacrosse star coming off the bench, and a whole lot of unproven young talent on the floor, the coach using all of his 20-plus years as a high school head coach to figure out a winning formula.
The Fords’ experiment looked good on Tuesday afternoon, as they started and finished strong in a 63-51 home win over Abington Friends.
“[It’s a] new team, a lot of new guys, but it’s been good so far,” junior guard Billy Rayer said. “We’re a young team, so the more we play, the better we get.”
Billy Rayer (above) hit four 3-pointers in the win over Abington Friends. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Young they are: Rogers rolls out a starting lineup consisting of Rasumussen and Rayer, plus a sophomore, freshman, and 8th grader, which was quite an age gap against a Kangaroos squad that started two seniors, including Rider commit Ife West-Ingram, and three juniors.
But it’s impressive youth, indeed. The sophomore, KJ Carson, had nine points in the win on a trio of second-half 3-pointers; he’s in the starting lineup because another sophomore guard, Duke Cloran, is out for a couple weeks with a sprained ankle. The freshman, Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Butts, is a 6-7 forward, who dealt with foul issues but finished with nine points and six rebounds.
The eighth grader is Silas Graham, son of Penn assistant Nat Graham, and he was the best of the group of youngsters on Tuesday. The 6-4 wing guard finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block, playing the ‘1’ through ‘3’, hitting a couple floaters and a 3-pointer, and playing at the top of the Fords’ 1-2-2 press on top of all of it.
“I knew he’d help us and I knew he was a smart player,” Rogers said. “I think his rebounding and his defense has been off the charts. He’s playing the top spot of our press but then he’s I think four out of five games he’s led us in rebounds, which is pretty impressive.”
Silas Graham (above) had 12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Rayer led Haverford School (3-3) with 19 points, the 5-10 guard going 4-of-6 from 3-point range, getting the Fords off to a 20-10 lead after one quarter with a couple early bombs. That advantage hit 15 early in the second quarter before Abington Friends found its momentum, largely in the form of West-Ingram, who finished with a game-high 25 points.
Haverford’s lead was down to 31-29 at halftime, and Abington Friends (2-5) briefly took the lead in the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but the Fords regained a 43-37 advantage going into the fourth. Three-pointers from Graham, Rayer and Carson helped them break it back open again, the one from Graham a big one, making it 52-38 with 5:39 left.
“It was a good bounce-back, I thought,” Rogers said. “We kinda had the game where we wanted, let it slip through our fingers, but did a good job of not feeling sorry for ourselves and went on another run.”
As a team, the Fords shot 10-of-19 from 3-point range, making five in each half, while racking up 15 assists on their 20 buckets. There were some turnover issues (17) against the AFS press, but they made up for it with 11 offensive rebounds. Forward Brendan Leary, a Penn State lacrosse commit, was helpful in that regard, the 6-5 senior popping off the bench to grab eight rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
“I think we’re a very well put-together team,” Rasmussen said. “We play like a team, we share the ball really well and I think a lot of teams will have struggles with us because we want to play as a team, we want to win more than these other teams, that’s what it comes down to.”
Rasmussen finished with five points, four rebounds and five assists, taking only five shots as he deferred to his hotter teammates. Still adjusting to life as a post player and not as a 3-point shooting guard, his previous speciality, he’s proving himself to be a versatile ‘4’ man, one who’s got high-level, high-academic Division III programs like Hamilton (N.Y.) and NYU in touch, along with what he said is a “plethora” of local D-IIIs.
Not focused on making a college decision anytime in the immediate future, Rasmussen’s much more concerned with helping the Fords exceed expectations in the Inter-Ac, where they were expected to face an uphill battle against the likes of Penn Charter, Malvern Prep and SCH Academy, all of whom have talented, upperclassmen-laden squads.
“I really, really believe, strongly believe that we’re a sleeper,” he said. “I think that we could play with every team in the Inter-Ac. I think we’re gritty and I think we’re going to get better every week. I don’t think there’s a ceiling on us right now.”
Haverford School: 20 | 11 | 12 | 20 || 63
Abington Friends: 10 | 19 | 8 | 14 || 51
Haverford School: 20-48 FG (10-19 3PT), 13-17 FT
Abington Friends: 16-48 FG (5-19 3PT), 14-17 FT
Haverford School: Rayer 19, Graham 12, Butts 9, Carson 9, Rasmussen 5, Scanlan 4, Large 3, Leary 2
Abington Friends: West-Ingram 25, Ford 9, Shanken 9, Otero 6, Bell 2