We are just two weekends removed from the first high school live periods of the summer. Post & Pivot hosted the Pre-Live High School Team Camp this weekend to give some of the local squads some good runs to get ready for the big event.
After a few weeks full of grassroots hoops with some spring leagues mixed in, it was a good opportunity for the CoBL staff to check in on some of the local squads. Here's the first part of our notebook Saturday and Sunday's action at Jefferson University:
Abington's. Charles Grasty recently took over as the school's athletic director, meaning the June high school team events will mark his final on the Ghosts' sidelines. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Grasty savoring last few events with Abington
This week, Charles Grasty had to tell his Abington squad that he was stepping away after 13 years, taking over as the athletic director at his alma mater, unable to do both.
But before he finally steps away from the sidelines, he and the rest of the Ghosts coaches — assistants Gary Massey, Howie Burrell and Sam Szymanek — are guiding the program through the June high school team events and team camps. Massey’s serving as head coach for the moment, Grasty sitting at the end of the bench, providing one-on-one guidance to the players and a few helpful thoughts during timeouts and post-game speeches.
“We’re trying to make it as smooth a transition as we can with the guys,” Grasty, 50, said Saturday afternoon after a loss to Downingtown West. “It’s tough…[t]here (were) some teary-eyed nights, I’m going to miss it, but it was an opportunity that I had to take for my family.”
Though Grasty got a certificate from Del Val in educational leadership seven years ago, knowing he eventually wanted to move up the chain of command, he still never quite found the right opportunity to leave.
It wasn’t until last month, when the position opened up, that Grasty even seriously thought about moving on this offseason; he said the whole process happened in just a couple weeks, and it wasn’t until a week ago that he told his players he was stepping down.
“It’s tough. It’s tough. It’s emotional,” he said. “But you know what, these guys, we told them we’re going to leave them in good hands, they’ll be fine.”
The most difficult part of the decision for Grasty was that stepping aside meant he wouldn’t get the chance to coach his only child, Xander Grasty, a rising freshman at the school. The younger Grasty, a 5-9 point guard, got some run with the Ghosts on Saturday, his proud dad sitting at the end of the bench.
“It may be a little easier, maybe I’d have been harder on him,” Grasty said, “so maybe it’ll be a little smoother of a transition with a new coach.”
Grasty’s been one of the top coaches in District 1 during his 13-year run at Abington, from where he graduated in 1990. During that time he won four District 1 titles — including three straight from 2017-19 — and seven consecutive Suburban One championships (2013-19).
His teams always played hard and were well-coached, but it didn’t hurt that they had plenty of talent: Eric Dixon (Villanova) and Lucas Monroe (Penn/Drexel) both graduated in 2019, while others like Anthony Durham (Rider), Anthony Lee (Kutztown), Amir Hinton (Lock Haven) and Matt Penecale (West Chester) found success at the next level.
“I’m most proud of the young guys that we coached turning into men, seeing them develop, seeing their growth,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the players get married, had kids, that’s what I’m more proud of than any championship. And some people say it’s coach talk, but it’s true.
“A kid will stop me and roll his back window down and introduce me to his son or his daughter, or invite me to their wedding. Seeing them become men and being the leader of their household, that means a lot to me.” — Josh Verlin
Father Judge 2026 guard Derrick Morton-Rivera is priming for a bigger role in 2023-24. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Morton-Rivera working on bigger role for Judge
For Father Judge to make another move upwards in the Catholic League in Chris Roantree’s third season, it needs Derrick Morton-Rivera to do the same.
The rising sophomore was one of the PCL’s more promising freshmen a year ago, the Crusaders’ fourth-leading scorer (10.3 ppg) giving them instant offense off the bench, making 41 3-pointers on 35% shooting from outside. With two of Judge’s top three scorers ahead of him — Kyle Jones and Ernest Shelton — both graduating, Morton-Rivera’s in a prime spot to become more than just a role player.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to earn it.
“It’s all about development, he’s got to take the next step,” Roantree said. “He played a lot of minutes for us last year as a freshman, scored the ball really well. But now it’s about going from 14-15 minutes a game to 24 minutes a game, and for him it’s about doing things other than shooting it: finishing at the rim, playing off dribble-drives, defending, rebounding, using his athleticism, really taking that next step.”
The son of former Neumann-Goretti standout Derrick ‘DJ’ Rivera, who played at St. Joe’s and Binghamton, Morton-Rivera is a 6-foot-3 slasher who looks like he’s still got plenty of room to grow into his frame. He’s been starting for Judge thus far this offseason in the Northeast Basketball League as well as on Saturday, one of the main warm-ups for the Philly Live events later this month; he’s also been starting for the ShoreShots Rio 15U squad on the Under Armour circuit.
He had a positive showing in a win over Constitution, scoring 10 points with six rebounds, three steals and two assists, showing an increased ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot, though he still took plenty of catch-and-shoot 3s.
“Mostly getting better on my defense, my ball-handling,” he said. “I’m already a good shooter so just working on my defense and all that, passing the ball and moving.”
Morton-Rivera is part of an intriguing, deep core for Roantree’s Crusaders, whose main goal is to take a step forward in the Catholic League once again after improving from 4-9 in league play two years ago to 6-7 this past season, good enough to get a spot in the PCL playoffs but no further. Rising senior guard LaQuan Byrd and rising junior Kevair Kennedy will lead the way, but Morton-Rivera plus classmates Rocco Westfield and Max Moshinski will all be major pieces.
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Morton-Rivera said. “Need to get better throughout the year, hopefully make a PCL run.” — Josh Verlin
Zamir Parker-Barnes is headed to Abington Friends next season, where his older sister once starred. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Parker-Barnes finishing at Abington Friends
Zamir Parker-Barnes always hoped he'd end up at Abington Friends.
It’s where his sister once starred and led the Roos to a PAISAA championship (2019-20). It’s a place he feels he can take his game to the next level next season.
“I just think fun, and it’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Parker-Barnes said of his expectations.
Parker-Barnes started his high school career at Cristo Rey before spending the last two seasons at Frankford. He averaged 9.3 ppg and 4.5 rpg for the Pioneers as a sophomore before elevating his play as a junior.
The wiry and bouncy 6-4 wing averaged 12.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 2.9 apg to earn second team All-Public League honors and first team division honors help Frankford win a PPL ‘B’ Division title.
“It was really good. It was a good time. I remember my coach told me,” Parker-Barnes said. “I didn’t make it last year, so that was really one of my goals was to make it, and I was surprised when I got second team.”
“I expected the leap,” he added. “I knew I had to get better in order for my name to get out there and to get offers and stuff like that. I love this sport. Why not? If I really dedicate my life to this, why not work for it, right?”
Parker-Barnes played with Rens United NJ during the spring live periods. He said he’s heard from West Chester and Temple has sniffed around. Next up will be playing with AFS at the Mid-Atlantic Prep Showcase events at Blair School and Hun School during the June high school live periods.
As an athletic guard with size, Parker-Barnes is able to get to his spots on the floor and is very effective right now in the midrange, particularly pulling up. He’s got bounce and can really rebound at the guard position and playmake a little bit too. The next steps included extending his range and taking a more cerebral approach to the game.
“Just hard work, always in the gym, putting in work, VertiMax, weights and just a focus point has been working on my mental aspect of the game,” he said. “Skillwise, they say I’m good, but once I get my mental together they say I’ll be really, really good. It’s just the mental aspect of the game.” — Owen McCue
2024 guard Camden Burns is one of the top projected returners for SCHA this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Springside-Chestnut Hill adjusting to life without Amadou
For the last two years, SCH Academy’s plans have been centered around Alassane Amadou, and for good reason. The 6-foot-9 center, now beginning his freshman year at Marquette, was one of the best rim protectors around, giving the Blue Devils a defensive outlet few teams in the region could match.
“It was a lot easier when you’ve got a kid that can block any shot in the world standing back there, so if you make a mistake you know he’s back there,” SCH head coach Julian McFadden said. “There were plays last year where it was like ‘let them go to the hole, Al will block it.’ We can’t conceptually do that anymore.”
Without Amadou, who helped them to a 16-9 (6-4 Inter-Ac) season, SCH’s boys are left without a true post; they’re also without 6-4 wing Jaren Morton, off to VMI. So McFadden has to shift the focus to a talented group of guards to keep pace in an Inter-Ac League that seems up for grabs following the graduation of Penn Charter’s talented 2023 class and parity otherwise across the board.
He’ll lean heavily on a trio of seniors — Ron Brown III, Camden Burns and Ryan Kull — plus junior guard Keni ‘Bird’ Williams, all returners from the varsity squad a year ago, none of them taller than 6-1.
“We’re going to have to switch it up a lot more,” McFadden said. “We’re not going to be able to play as much man-to-man because we can’t make as many mistakes.
“We’re going to have to be tougher, we’re going to have to play a lot harder — not to say that we didn’t play hard last year, but it’s going to have to step it up a notch because you’re going to lose a kid that’s going to Marquette and a kid going to VMI.”
The Blue Devils went 0-2 on Sunday, Williams sidelined with an injury, but they were competitive against a pair of quality Catholic League programs in Archbishop Carroll and West Catholic. In the loss to Carroll, which saw them fall behind big early and battle back over the second half, Burns led the way with 19 points, Brown scoring 12 and Kull eight, 6-5 sophomore Owen Kelly chipping in nine points and five rebounds in some of his first real ‘varsity’ action.
Considering his team hadn’t really practiced or played together since the end of the season in February, McFadden couldn’t complain too much.
“Yeah, first time we got a chance together. I’m encouraged, I feel really good about what I saw, to be honest. We played small, played undermanned and we thought. Came out slow against (Carroll), I think we were just really tired, but I felt really good about what I saw, really good.” — Josh Verlin
— Devon Prep’s core the next two years are going to be focused around its group of rising junior wings: Reece Craft (6-6), Zane Conlon (6-5), and Shane Doyle (6-4), though seniors Ty Mishock and Ben Costello will be major factors as well, along with some other youngsters. This weekend, though, it was Craft’s younger brother, Jaden Craft, who stole the show, especially in the last game of the day. An incoming freshman at Devon Prep, Jaden is about 5-6 and maybe 115 pounds soaking wet, but proved why he belonged on the court with the varsity squad by hitting at least four 3-pointers in a win over Coatesville, including the game-winner in the last 30 seconds. Reminds us of the first look at Chris Arcidiacono, when the then-diminutive eighth grader was chucking in 3s during the Northeast Basketball League back in the spring of 2014.
— It’s been a couple down years for Central Bucks West, the typical Suburban One Continental contender finishing with a 6-16 record (4-12 SOL) this year after going 5-16 (4-12) the year before. But this year’s Bucks will start five seniors, and they’ve got good size and athleticism across the board, with a frontcourt of Sam Jankowski (6-5), Julian Phillips (6-4) and Bowen Gugger (6-4), while point guard Matt Engle is a quality ball-handler who can be a one-man press break and get them into their sets. Central Bucks East, North Penn and others have been strong the last few years, but this looks like a group head coach Adam Sherman should be able to contend with.
— Archbishop Ryan added an impact transfer Brandon Russell, and the rising junior looks like he’ll jump right in and be a major piece for the Raiders. Russell, who comes to the PCL after two years at the Pennington School (N.J.), averaged more than 14 ppg last year against a tough schedule; he looked the part in a win over Plymouth Whitemarsh, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds. A 6-5, 220-pound wing guard, Russell opened the game with a pull-up 3 from straightaway and continued to show good touch on his jumper without trying to be too flashy.
— Aiden Tobiason (2024 | St. Elizabeth, Del.) was an out-of-town eyecatcher during Saturday’s action. The 6-5 wing with a pure jumper and ability to create off the bounce was an all-state honorable mention selection this past season. He said he’s heard from some D-IIs and D-IIIs, including West Chester, Millersville, University of Dallas (Texas), Alfred and Arcadia. He’s definitely a player that could be a steal for a small college program with a long, lanky frame, a buttery stroke and plenty of room to fill out.
Tag(s): Home Contributors Josh Verlin Owen McCue High School Catholic League (B) Archbishop Ryan Devon Prep Father Judge Friends' Schools (B) Abington Friends Inter-Ac (B) SCH Academy Suburban One (B) SOL Liberty (B) Abington Brandon Russell