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PIAA Preview: Southeastern PA boys' stars to know

03/10/2023, 12:45am EST
By Chad Graham

Chad Graham (@CGraham_Sports)

With the state playoffs starting this weekend, we wanted to take a look at some of the area stars who could be in for a couple big weeks ahead. 

Here are some local standouts in the boys’ brackets who folks around the state might be reading about en route to Hershey; CLICK HERE for some under-the-radar boys’ players to know:

Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Qudire Bennett is one of the most lethal scores in District 1. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Qudire Bennett (2023 | Plymouth Whitemarsh)
For someone who has over 1,000 career points, Bennett doesn’t care how many he scores if his team wins. But that’s why the Colonials feed him the ball - because he can and will get as many buckets as they need to win. Bennett is truly a 3-level scorer. He understands how to use his body to absorb contact when finishing at the rim and he can make just about any shot once he’s in the gym. He put up 22 points in a comeback win over Penn Wood in the second round of the District 1 6A playoffs. His skillset generates open looks for everyone else. But when defenders help off of him, they pay for it.

Jalil Bethea (2024 | Archbishop Wood)
The 2023 Catholic League MVP, Bethea took the area by storm in his first year as a starter. He averages 23.3 ppg with his ability to bend defenses with his shooting from deep (46% 3FG) and craftiness getting to the rim (89.4% FT). In Wood’s rematch against St. Joe’s Prep, Bethea took over the game in the fourth as he dropped 30 points, going 6-for-8 from three. His all-around effort throughout the season - 7.2 rpg and 3.8 apg - led the Vikings to the PCL semifinals and the District 12 3-seed.

Dylan Blair (2023 | Downingtown West)
Few players make as many winning plays on a nightly basis as D-Blair. He’s a competitor, a tenacious defender at the point of attack, and an all-around play-maker. Blair does the little things too: rebounding outside his area, communicating on defense, and keeping a positive attitude. With him leading the charge, the Whippets finally got over the hump to claim the Ches-Mont League title since 2015. The coach’s son and Army pledge put DWest on his back as he scored a game-high 26 points. His willingness to do whatever is necessary to win are a huge reason why his team is the D-1 4-seed.

Sam Brown (2023 | Lower Merion)
A marksman who you can’t be left open, Brown can fill it up with the best of them. He’s the straw that stirs the drink for LM’s five-out attack. Brown splits time between primary ball-handling duties and operating as a movement shooter. When the Aces played Germantown Academy, he drained 7 threes every which way possible, finishing with 29 points in just three quarters of action. Because of how teams try to defend him when he’s off-ball, the future Penn Quaker doesn’t have to score to impact the game. With a ton of experience between him and the number of seniors in their rotation, the Aces open as the 3-seed out of District 1.

Xzayvier Brown (2023 | Roman Catholic)
The one who had almost everyone in the city throwing up the “X” with their forearms crossed, Brown cemented himself in Philadelphia basketball history during the recent Catholic League playoffs. The first team all-PCL guard made play-after-play, forcing turnovers, tilting defenses off-the-bounce, and knocking down shots as he willed the Cahillites to victory. Brown averaged 20.3 points and 5.3 assists over their 3-game run. No stranger to the 6A state playoffs, Roman won it all in 2022. This time around, they’re District 12’s 1-seed and will need Brown to do a whole lot more.

Jaden Colzie (2024 | Plymouth Whitemarsh)
Colzie’s big time shot-making is a significant driver of the Colonials’ success this season. Whether he’s getting to his pull-up on-ball or relocating for a spot-up three, the junior guard keeps the floor spaced for his teammates. He did just that on PW’s Suburban One and district title runs, backing up the nickname “King Colzie.” They were neck-and-neck entering the fourth quarter of the District 1 6A championship, then Colzie cashed in three triples off-the-dribble and clutch free throws to secure the crown. The back-to-back all-league selection has PW in one of the top seeds in 6A as the hunt for their third and final crown.


Imhotep seniors Rahmir Barno, above, and Justin Edwards are finishing out their high school careers. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Class 5A

Rahmir Barno (2023 | Imhotep)
Speed and instincts are the name of the game for Barno. The FGCU-signee bends defenses with how fast he gets into the lane. Whether it’s in Tep’s halfcourt sets or on the break, Barno puts constant pressure on the opposing team when he has the ball. It doubles as his calling card on defense when he beats ball-handlers to their spots. His speed proved to be world-class when he won the City of Palms tournament MVP, averaging 15.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, and 2.8 spg. The Panthers expect to add some more hardware to the trophy case in their last go-round with him at the reins. 

Justin Edwards (2023 | Imhotep)
The consensus 5-star wing has excelled on the national stage and the 5A playoffs are his last chance to show out in PA, before he takes his talents to Kentucky in the SEC. Earlier this season, Edwards was one of the top performers at Spalding Hoophall Classic, where he dropped an astounding 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steaks, and 1 block in a win over Cardinal Hayes. His skill as a havoc-creating defender and a play-finisher attacking off-the-catch are unrivaled in the 2023 class. This season makes 3 straight Public League titles that he led them to and, as the District 12 1-seed, he aims to make this their second straight 5A title.

Jackson Hicke (2023 | Radnor)
This Radnor team is on a historic run in the school’s history and Hicke is at the helm. In a convincing win over Archbishop Ryan, the soon-to-be Princeton Tiger led all participants with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Hicke can slash to the cup as their primary initiator, space the floor with shots from the perimeter, or facilitate as the Raptors’ offensive hub. His versatility and selfless leadership pushed them to becoming the Central League and District 1 5A champs. As one of the top seeds in all of 5A, he’ll have the opportunity to face Archbishop Ryan again in the quarterfinals before taking on Imhotep, who knocked them out in the second round last year.

Ahmad Nowell (2024 | Imhotep)
Nowell is quickly becoming one of the most decorated players in the school’s history. In just three years, he eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring mark. His combination of craft, footwork, and strength are why he’s one of the most coveted junior guards in America. That and his long range shot-making are why he’s so valuable to the Panthers. He hit 3-of-7 from deep as part of a 25-point outing when Tep beat Oak Hill. Nowell continues to prove that, if/when Barno and Edwards are having off-nights, he’s just as capable of carrying their offense, which is why Imhotep will be hard to beat in 5A.

Thomas Sorber (2024 | Archbishop Ryan)
No doubt one of the best big men in the state, Sorber is a walking double-double. He averaged around 18 ppg, 10 rpg, and 4 bpg against a loaded schedule. His ability to power through defenders and use touch around the basket make him a difficult match up. The Trenton-native kicked off the season with a 27-point, 17-rebound, 8-block performance versus Patrick School (NJ) and later reached his first triple-double (24p, 16r, 11b) against King’s Fork (VA). He and the Raiders fell to Imhotep in the District 12 championship game. But as the 2-seed, they have a chance for some payback if they advance to the semifinals.

Charlie Thornton (2023 | Radnor)
Thornton’s progression is a catalyst behind Radnor’s spectacular season. A bouncy 6-5 wing, he flies around for rebounds, steals, blocks, and dunks. His handle and shooting are the biggest areas of growth for him. The increased ability to put the ball on the floor while attacking the basket gives him another avenue to use his athleticism. Thornton went off for 26 points in the Central League title game, going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc. As a consistent shooter, his 3-ball effects how teams have to guard him and the rest of the Raptors team. 


Class 1A - 4A

Zaki Alston (2023 | Sankofa Freedom)
Able to focus on being the primary scorer for Warriors, Alston was able to get to his spots more effectively. He led Sankofa with 14.9 ppg and 6.3 rpg. The senior guard used touches from the second-side to get downhill and into the paint. Instead of settling for threes, Alston collapsing the defense put him at the line for 7 FT attempts per game. As they get into their 2A competition, his dynamism in the halfcourt could make for a title run.

Jacen Holloway + Lucas Orchard (2023s | Devon Prep)
The senior duo played significant roles in each of the Tide’s last two seasons, featuring the 2022 3A state title. Holloway is a small-ball forward, putting up 18.1 ppg, and 5.4 rpg. Orchard is a do-it-all glue guy who averaged 12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 3.1 apg on the wing. Both around 6-4, they each shot over 30% on +4 attempts from three. Their supporting cast is always able to play off of or through them because of how well they balance the floor. They’re the main ingredients in DP’s recipe if they’re going to repeat.

Budd Clark + Zion Stanford (2023s | West Catholic)
The Burrs are the favorite coming out of District 12 and their captains are why. They each put up 18 ppg. Clark gave them 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg, and 4 spg as well. Stanford chipped in 6.7 rpg and 3.2 stocks (1.8 spg + 1.4 bpg). Clark got more comfortable shooting from deep (35.3% on 3.4 attempts), while his fellow first-team all-league awardee improved his game by playing more off 2-feet. After an early exit in last year’s 3A playoffs, they’re gearing up for the long-haul, starting with Columbia from District 3.

Kyree Latimer (2024 | Constitution)
After losing most of their contributors to graduation and in his first season in a General's uniform, Latimer has Constitution back in the Public League semifinals and the 3A mix. The 6-3 combo guard generates 15.4 ppg and 3 apg. Starting with his pull-up game, he creates advantages with his on-ball scoring craft. Latimer’s sense of urgency when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, tilts the defense, allowing clean looks for everyone else. Not just a scorer, he grabs 5.4 rpg.

Izaiah Pasha (2023 | Cardinal O’Hara)
The big guard from Harrisburg brings so much to the table for the Lions. Pasha led the team in points (17.4) and rebounds (7.4), in addition to being second in 3-point percentage (32.9%), assists (4.4), steals (1.6), and blocks (1.3). His versatility as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and a player who can still be a threat off-ball are one reason he’s set to go to Iona this fall. Another reason is defense. Pasha has the length and lateral quickness to match up with anyone on the perimeter.

Robert Wright III (2024 | Neumann-Goretti)
Shouldering as high of an offensive usage as anyone in the country, the Baylor-commit is also one of the nation’s best on-ball decision-makers. On a nightly basis, he gave the Saints 22.2 points while dishing out 5.0 assists. Wright III keeps defenders off-balance and guessing, because as soon as they try to take away one option, he finds another. He also became a more complete floor general this season, collecting an average of 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals. 

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