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Donofrio Classic Report: Tues., March 28, 2023

03/29/2023, 12:45am EDT
By CoBL Staff

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The 2023 Donofrio Classic’s first round continued on Tuesday night with its second night of play, four more teams taking the court at the Fellowship House to see who moves on into the second round of the five-round, 26-team affair.

Here’s a roundup and notebook from Tuesday night’s competition; CLICK HERE for all of CoBL’s 2023 Donofrio Classic coverage:


Jalil Bethea (above) had 26 points as Keystone Blazers advanced in the 2023 Donofrio Classic. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Game One: Keystone Blazers 95, Danny Rumph 79
How deep is the talent level at Donofrio this year? Well, a team led by Jalil Bethea (2024 | Archbishop Wood) and Thomas Sorber (2024 | Archbishop Ryan) had to play in the first round — but led by Bethea (26 points) and Sorber (18 points), Keystone Blazers didn’t have too much trouble with a group representing the Rumph Classic in the opening round. The Blazers were successful despite the best efforts of Saleem Payne (2023 | Phelps School), the recent West Chester commit going for 32 points to lead all scorers. Keystone Blazers, which led by 11 at halftime, also got a strong game from ESU-bound big man Carson Howard (2023 | Archbishop Wood), who had 17 points, plus 10 from Deuce Maxey (2025 | Archbishop Wood), while Jaiden McGhee (2023 | Middletown, Del.) added 19 points, including five 3’s, for Danny Rumph. 

Game Two: M-Sport 110, Difference Makers 103 (OT)
Difference Makers led almost wire-to-wire, scoring the first 12 points and playing frontrunners until the end, but a late 3-pointer in regulation by Ryan Williams (2024 | Malvern Prep) brought the teams to overtime, where Myon Kirlew (2024 | Norristown) made three 3-pointers to lift M-Sport to the come-from-behind win over a really talented Difference Makers squad. Adam ‘Budd’ Clark continued a stellar run of play for M-Sport, scoring 20 points and playing as aggressive on-ball defense as you’ll see, though it was Williams who led the way with a 38-point outing, including four 3-pointers; Kirlew finished with 15 and Tariq Jennings (2024 | West Catholic) added 14. Difference Makers got 25 points from Aasim ‘Flash’ Burton (2024 | Cardinal O’Hara), 23 from Drexel commit Horace Simmons (2023 | La Salle College HS), 17 from Luke Bevilacqua (2025 | George School), 15 from Jamaal Morris (2023 | Our Saviour Lutheran, N.Y.) and 13 from his twin brother Jameel Morris (2023 | Our Savior Lutheran, N.Y.).


Sorber coming into his own at the perfect time

Thomas Sorber (above) has come a long way in his two years at Archbishop Ryan. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Thomas Sorber out on the court on Tuesday night was almost unrecognizable from the one who made his Archbishop Ryan debut at the Philly Live event back in 2021.

First, there’s the obvious physical changes: Sorber has dropped his baby fat and is in the best shape of his life at 6-foot-10 and right around 245 pounds, which has helped him open a world of potential on the court. But the personality difference is almost as stark — formerly soft-spoken and tentative, Sorber’s turned from a shy underclassman to a confident junior, and it’s easy to tell both on and off the court.

“Two years ago, it was my first time coming to a new school, all of this was new to me, I was in my own little shell,” he said. “I was scared, now I’m more opened up.”

Sorber showed why he’s gotten all sorts of high-major offers with a well-rounded performance in his Donofrio debut, scoring 19 points on seven buckets and four foul shots, getting most of his production around the rim, a few 3-point attempts looking good but not falling. He was a dominant defender, blocking more than a handful of shots, switching onto guards, making his presence felt whenever he was on the court.

Also noticeable was how much he was playing hard but playing with a smile, enjoying the up-and-down competitive atmosphere on the intimate Fellowship House court, not bothered by the pace of the game or the back-and-forth nature of the games there.

“Yeah, that’s what most of my coaches tell me to do, because they say if you have more fun on the court, it makes you play better and makes you look better as well,” he said. “You don’t want to be on the court looking mad and stuff, so you know, try to have fun with the game.”

Sorber’s getting ready for his final season of grassroots ball, where he’ll play with Team Final on the Nike EYBL circuit. He’s already got plenty of high-major suitors: Villanova was his most recent offer, back in January, but his list includes Xavier, Miami (Fl.), Seton Hall, Syracuse, Providence, Pitt and more.

Sorber cited new Providence coach Kim English as having been in touch recently, along with Villanova assistant George Halcovage; Syracuse head coach Red Autry and Gerry McNamara both came to watch him play during the state playoffs, as did Halcovage and others.

Sorber also said his offer from Georgetown still stands, new Hoyas coach Ed Cooley — previously at Providence, where he’d also offered Sorber — reaching out to keep that offer open. At the moment, only a visit to Miami is planned, though the Hurricanes are in the middle of a Final Four run; Sorber also mentioned wanting to visit Syracuse, but he’s still a ways away from a decision, just getting into the recruiting mindset after helping Ryan into the PIAA 5A semifinals.

“Plenty [of] people keep asking me, ‘Oh, where are you going?,’ he said. “I don’t know yet. Now I’m starting to look into it more seriously.” — Josh Verlin


Phelps School’s Payne headed to WCU

Saleem Payne (above) is off to D-II West Chester in the fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Saleem Payne first spoke with West Chester University on the grassroots circuit the summer heading into his senior season at Phelps School.

Then came five months of silence. Not a word from West Chester or other schools, and Payne grew anxious not knowing where or if he was going to hoop at the next level.

But the Cheltenham native chose to let his play speak for itself, knowing that if he played well, everything would work out. West Chester came back around after they saw Payne play 3-on-3 at the Happy Hollow playground.

It was the Rams’ pursuit of Payne that committed him to play for the Division II program back in late February. The speedy guard had West Chester and East Stroudsburg in his final two, but chose the Rams over their PSAC rival because West Chester felt like family.

“[Assistant coach] Ben Kay was texting me, he was calling me everyday,” Payne said after his Danny Rumph squad lost to the Keystone Blazers at the Donofrio Classic. “They always say ‘go where the most love is like no matter D-I, D-II, or D-III, go where the most love is.’”

“It was a tough decision between those two, but West Chester (pulled) the trigger way faster than East Stroudsburg. I couldn’t wait anymore.” 

The senior attended West Chester’s games and practices, getting a feel for the program and head coach Damien Blair.

“They said I can come in and play,” Payne said. “But a lot of coaches come in and say that. But I just go to be (coachable). Blair is a really hard coach. He can get on your tail. I gotta be coachable. I gotta come in and do what I do.

“I feel like the PSAC is a great place [to] play. I went to a couple of their games. They showed me that it was a good culture, a good area.”

He also settled on West Chester because it’s not far from his home in Northwest Philadelphia and the Mallery Recreation Center — where Rumph tragically passed away in 2005, Payne wearing No. 11 to honor the former Parkway High star. Payne takes a lot of pride in his neighborhood and wanted a school that had mutual trust, like his family and friends back home.

“I just need a coach that can trust me,” he said. “I feel like when a coach believes in me, that's the best player you see [on the court]. Like (the Danny Rumph team), that's my family. My coaches, they are like my family.

“They trust me. I was comfortable with them and they let me do what I want (do).” 

Payne’s grown a lot since during his senior season and is looking forward to the next phase.

“I’ve come along and matured way more,” he added. “I used to not have a great attitude, but I feel I got way more positive like trying to be a leader. I’m just happy (high school’s) coming to the end.

“Now go to college and start a new chapter in my life.” — Jared Leveson


Cardinal O'Hara's Flash Burton (above) has three Division I offers entering April. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Quick Hits
Aasim ‘Flash’ Burton (2024 | Cardinal O’Hara) had to sit out O’Hara state playoff run due to PIAA transfer regulations, so his Donofrio experience was his first game in a semi-competitive setting in well over a month. He acquitted himself well with 25 points, kicking off a key summer for the 6-2 point guard. Burton’s got offers from Drexel, Fairfield and Texas El-Paso already in his pocket, and said he’s also been hearing from La Salle, Saint Peter’s and Rider. He’s also playing with a new grassroots program, joining East Coast Power, where he’ll be one of the featured players on the squad as well as one of the top guards on the regional independent circuit, which he’s hoping helps his game stand out. 

“[I’m] looking for the best fit, a coach who’s going to let me play through my mistakes and help me be a pro,” he said.

Adam “Budd” Clark (2023 | West Catholic) is in a great position following a historic state championship run that saw he and the Burrs bring the school’s first ever state title back to West Catholic. Fresh off of a championship, the 5-foot-10 senior guard is now back in limbo as he is again in the process of deciding which DI college he will be taking his talents to. Just a few weeks ago Clark was set on being one of the newest Eagles at Coppin State, but after former head coach Juan Dixon’s firing, Clark decommitted. 

Now back as an undeclared player, he has plenty of potential suitors, garnering interest from Merrimack, Fairleigh Dickinson, UMass, Appalachian State, and Texas-Arlington since reopening his recruitment. Although his high school basketball career is over for West Catholic, Clark is in no rush to commit to any college just yet, and he is only just beginning to do some visits to potential schools; he didn’t have any commitment date in mind and didn’t seem to indicate any favorites, though he did mention he’d had good conversations with coaches from App State and Texas-Arlington.

Ryan Williams (2024 | Malvern Prep) got his spring off to a great start with that 38-point outing in a win, which he said he’d been looking forward to after nothing but AAU practices for the last four weeks. He’ll play for a Philly Pride squad whose core — including Williams, Matt Gilhool (2024 | Westtown School), Ty Burton (2024 | IMG Academy, Fla.) and a couple others — have been together since their 15U summer, and they’re hoping for big things this summer. Williams, a 6-3 guard, said he’s been hearing from high-academic types; Penn, Princeton and Fairfield have all offered, while he said Richmond and Harvard “text me a lot” but need to see him play live a few more times. When he gets back out in front of the coaches late in April, Williams said, he wants to show  “strength and defense, all aspects of defense like help, on ball, talking more, being more of a leader.”

— Fresh off of West Catholic’s first ever PIAA 3A state championship, Aymr Walker (2023 | West Catholic) is still hungry for more. Instead of a state title, the 6-foot-1 guard is playing for a spot on a collegiate roster. Walker, who didn’t make the varsity squad until his senior season, first spoke with D-III Marymount University (Va.) and has since talked with Eastern, Delaware Valley, and now Gwynedd Mercy after an impressive performance in M-Sports’ overtime win against Keystone Blazers/Difference Makers Tuesday night. The South Philly native will continue playing through the spring at the Donofrio and similar events.

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