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Jay Ems Northeast Basketball League Notebook (May 2)

05/03/2023, 6:00pm EDT
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

The 2023 Jay Ems Spring League got underway on Thursday night, with eight teams taking the courts at the Mayfair Rec Center following the conclusion of this past weekend’s live periods.

Here’s a notebook consisting of interviews and observations from the opening night, focusing on the West Philadelphia-Archbishop Ryan and Samuel Fels-CB East games:

Gavin Reed, 2024 Archbishop Ryan

Reed ready to carve out role on senior-led Ryan

Archbishop Ryan doesn’t have many holes to fill next season. 

The Raiders return five of the top six members of their rotation with the exception of senior point guard Zaire Paris.

It’s a veteran group with All-Catholic League juniors Thomas Sorber and Darren Williams and classmates Rocco Morabito, Jaden Murray and Ryan Everett set to return from last year’s main rotation as seniors. Freshman point guard Matt Johnson, sophomore guard Mark Anthony Gallagher and junior wing Christian Durham all saw action in 16-or-more games.

Another rising senior Gavin Reed is trying to carve out a role off the bench for a team that will enter next winter with sky-high expectations after playing in seven games last season.

“I think we can win the PCL championship, go to Fort Myers and win the City of Palms, and win the PIAA championship,” Reed said.

“It would be good to be able to be a part of it. I didn’t play a lot last year, just to be a main role off the bench this year.”

Reed, a 6-foot guard with some muscle to play as an undersized forward as well, looked really good shooting the ball on Tuesday night. It’s a skillset that goes a long way when playing with a dominant big man like Sorber — as Everett displayed during the postseason this past winter.

“(Coach Joe Zeglinski) just told me to come off the bench, set screens, hit shots really, play defense on bigger kids,” Reed said.

Ryan fell in the PCL quarters before falling in the District 12-5A championship and PIAA Class 5A semifinals to eventual state champion Imhotep to conclude its season. The experienced group will hope to use those experiences next season.

“We’re all used to the environment,” Reed said. “I’m used to the environment from sophomore year, last year. I think we’ll be good this year, handle the adversity.”


Khabir Washington, 2026 West Philadelphia

Young West Philadelphia looks to build off run

A shorthanded West Philadelphia group lost a lopsided one to a Sorber-less Ryan squad on Tuesday night, but the Speedboys should be a fun — albeit young — team to watch once again in 2023-24 after their first trip to the Public League championship game since 1988.

Freshman 6-7 forward Makel Butts was one of the eye-catching youngsters in the city last season. Neither he nor fellow freshman big man Al-Jalil Bey-Moore took the floor for the Burrs on Thursday, but the Burrs’ backcourt of the future — freshman guards Jayden McKie and Khabir Washington — flashed some of the skills that got them on the floor this past season.

“I feel like the freshmen who played last year and becoming sophomores, we’re going to be ready because we played last year with the seniors,” Washington said. “We had the senior leadership and we know what to do now.”

That quartet of freshmen have been playing together for a long time and are playing with WeR1 together this summer, according to Washington, where they hope to continue to build on their chemistry.

“We knew each other before coming here,” Washington said. “That was kind of the thing, we were all gonna link up to come here.”

“We just kind of stay together. Whether it’s on the court or off the court, we just stay together. We’re like brothers.”

Fellow freshman guard Xavier Howard, who played just two games this season, impressed Tuesday. Sophomore forward Brandon Williams (6-4) and freshman Jalyn Hopkins (6-5) provided the size with Butts, Bey-Moore and next year’s most veteran piece, junior Abdurahman Coulibaly (6-3), both absent.

The Speedboys will rarely overmatch teams with their size anyway next season, so they’ll look to develop other ways to win.

“I feel like we just gotta play as a team, move the ball, take the right shots, play a lot of defense,” Washington said. “We gotta be dogs. I feel like that’s gonna be our identity this year. If we want to be good, we gotta be dogs.”


Tyler Dandrea, 2024 CB East

CB East hope to stay strong in 2023-24

CB East captured a third straight SOL Colonial title last season, and the Patriots’ senior class is gearing up for a run at a fourth straight crown next winter.

First team all-division guard Joey Giordano and second team all-division wing Kyle Berndt are both gone, but CB East has had no problem replacing All-SOL players in the past and the program certainly looked like it had plenty of depth in a win over Fels on Tuesday.

Junior guards Jake Cummiskey, a first team All-SOL Colonial selection, and Tyler Dandrea, an honorable mention selection, are those at the top of the list to lead the way. Dandrea certainly seems like a breakout candidate in the SOL for next season as he’ll have more responsibilities on his plate.

“Just more of a playmaking role, trying to work on my handle a lot this offseason,” Dandrea said. 

“This year I’m trying to become more all-around on offense.”

As Dandrea noted, what’s made the program successful is that they have a “well-rounded” squad and there still seems to be a lot of depth in the program. Junior forward Miles Demby had his moments last season, and junior guard Justin Diroberto was clutch at times.

On Tuesday, junior 6-4 wing Dhruv Mukund did a lot for a balanced Patriots attack, while sophomore big man Caleb Lyzinski showed flashes he could be a more significant varsity contributor. Dandrea noted sophomores Justin Panaia and Nolan Behm are among a long list of others who might help out.

The Patriots’ philosophies stay pretty similar from year-to-year under coach Erik Henrysen, making it easy to replace the talent in the program and keep the wins churning.

“The way he always runs the program, there’s always certain things we’re going to do every year,” Dandrea said. “It will be pretty similar I’m sure.  … We love just moving the ball, drive and kick, just create shots for each other. Tough team defense, really rotating.”

“We practice all the time at practice, so they know what their responsibilities is,” he added.


Sam Etienne, 2024 Samuel Fels

Etienne has work left to do at Samuel Fels

Samuel Fels junior guard Sam Etienne exploded for 37 points against CB East on Tuesday night.

He’s been a contributor since his freshman season with the Panthers and helped the program to one of its best seasons in program history this past winter as they went from 2-11 during his sophomore season to 21-3 and a perfect 13-0 mark in the Public League’s ‘D’ Division before advancing to the PPL quarterfinals

Etienne averaged 10.3 ppg this season, third on the team behind senior Stanley Parker (17.4 ppg) and junior Naeem Colston (13.7 ppg). His points Tuesday night came from an onslaught of pull-up dribbles and drives to the basket with either hand.

“I hustle,” Etienne said. “Even if I make a bad shot, I get back on defense. I do what I gotta do on defense and offense.”

Etienne said he developed his game going to parks growing up, including the Tarken Rec Center, where he played pick-up with former St. Joe’s standout and Philadelphia 76ers Charlie Brown last summer.

He said his coaches have been on him about staying in the weight room to get stronger this season. He's still trying to get better and has hopes to eventually play at the next level.

“I was going to the park, learning how to hoop, then it went from there,” Etienne said of where he learned to score the ball “Now, I’m here where I’m at now.”

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