By CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
CHESTER — The Pete and Jameer Nelson Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic took place Thursday and Saturday at Widener University. The six-game slate included a high-level NJ matchups, some great District 1 squads and a few other talented programs in the region.
CoBL had coverage throughout the entire day; here’s who stood out:
Connor Fleet (2024 | West Chester Henderson)
Henderson’s starting point guard isn’t close to a college decision, but he’s making progress.
Fleet emerged this offseason as perhaps the area’s most desired small-college guard recruit, coming off a strong junior year for the Warriors and carrying that right into the grassroots scene. The list of Division III schools who reached out to the Henderson senior was nearly 40 programs long, he said, from all over the northeast and beyond.
West Chester Henderson senior Connor Fleet has his list of schools down to six. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“It was a lot, especially during the summer, literally every day almost, somebody was texting me,” he said. “It was special, it was good to know that I was wanted by a lot of people.”
It’s easy to see why Fleet has drawn so much attention. The 6-foot-tall guard is a terrific ball-handler, passer and scorer, a strong outside shooter and finisher at the rim who also sees the floor well and makes plays in the half-court and transition. He showed that with his play in wins this weekend against Plymouth Whitemarsh and Garnet Valley, finishing with 10 points against PW and 22 against Garnet Valley, with bunches of assists, steals and rebounds.
After the craziness of the summer, Fleet’s cut his list down to six suitors: Alvernia, DeSales, Eastern, Marymount (Va.), Widener and York. It’s five local schools and one much further away, but they’re staying in it for good reason.
“I have relatives down in Arlington,” he said. “The other five are close by, so that’s just where I felt most comfortable, being not too far from home — and if I do go to Marymount then I’d be close to my sister, who lives down there. I’d be close to family, no matter what.”
Fleet, who added he’d still be open to scholarship opportunities from Division II schools, said a decision isn’t coming until after the 2023-24 season, as he’s got something more pressing to focus on. Henderson’s one of the midseason favorites in District 1 6A, showing it this weekend with their two wins over the Colonials and Jaguars.
During the next couple months, he said he’s going to be taking in games of all of his suitors, as well as stopping by a few practices to try to get a feel for where he would fit in best.
“I’m definitely just looking for, would I see myself on the court?” he said. “A lot of point guards that these schools have are seniors or are about to graduate, so seeing the rest of the team and how they play will be good for me.” — Josh Verlin
Jaden Colzie (2024 | Plymouth Whitemarsh)
Jaden Colzie arrived at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School with two goals in mind: Win a District 1 championship and score 1,000 points.
He grew up watching players like Naheem McLeod and Xzayvier Malone accomplish the feat of putting their name in the gym’s banner and adding to the school’s trophy case and had sites of doing the same.
Plymouth Whitemarsh senior guard Jaden Colzie (1) poses with his team after scoring his 1,000th point on Thursday at Widener. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Colzie checked off the first box last March as the Colonials captured their first District 1-6A title since 2016. He checked off the other Thursday night in the midst of a 31-point burst during a loss to West Chester Henderson.
“I watched their games when I was younger,” Colzie said. “I saw them getting buckets and I just saw Q last year. I knew coming in I wanted to be like that too. I’m glad I’m going to be.”
Colzie began playing as a freshman for PW. The 6-? Guard has been a name to know in the area for quite some time due to his quick first step and red hot shooting ability. With departures of fellow 1,000-point scorer Qudire Bennett and Chase Coleman from last year’s squad, the multi-year captain has had several explosive outings like Thursday’s.
Coach Jim Donofrio has challenged him to do more however on a PW team that entered the season with lofty expectations of repeating last year’s run. He’s a scoring point guard who needs to run the team with a group that doesn’t have a whole lot of experience.
Donofrio said he’s answered the call. And while the 31-point outing was impressive, Colzie’s ability to control the game and his awareness to improve upon the holes in his game stand out as well. He added another 20 points in a win over Unionville on Saturday.
“I’ve tried to become a better point guard and tried to finish at the rim more,” Colzie said. “Coaches was saying a year ago I need to work on my body, and this whole summer I worked on my body, and I think it shows, becoming more consistent really.”
Colzie said West Chester is a school who has reached out and he is trying to figure out a time to get on campus during a busy basketball season. His recruitment is quiet, however, he’s heeding the advice of Colonials’ assistant Chuck Moore — whose brother Ronald accepted an offer to Siena late in his senior season — to be patient.
“That’s what my coaches have been saying, it’s gonna probably come later,” Colzie said. “You’re showing it and I’m just trying to keep proving it on the court every game.”
“I’m just taking my time. I’m just trying to focus on the season, and I feel like everything will come.” — Owen McCue
Jalen Long (2024 | Camden-Eastside, N.J.)
Jalen Long couldn’t have asked for a better basketball mentor.
The great-grandson of the late Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, Long had plenty of words of wisdom passed down to him at an early age.
Camden Eastside senior Jalen Long is being noticed during a strong senior campaign. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“He always preached to me that as a point guard you gotta be able to handle the ball under tough situations and get yourself involved and your teammates,” Long said.
Long, a 5-10 guard, missed his freshman season at Pennsauken with an injured shoulder. He made an immediate impact as a sophomore, averaging nearly 18 points per game for a 5-12 squad.
He arrived at Camden-Eastside last winter and had to fit into a new role, averaging just under 10 points and two assists per game. The undersized guard has always prided himself on his defense — as to be expected from one of the descendants of the great Cheyney and Temple men’s basketball coach. However, it took some time to master the point.
He’s blossoming as a senior into a college-level talent, averaging 16 mpg, 3.6 app and 3.4 spg through five games for a talented Eastside squad.
“Controlling the offense, getting my teammates involved by getting myself involved, staying aggressive all game and playing defense,” Long said of what he brings to the table.
College coaches are waiting for him outside the locker room now after games, which is something he didn’t think was a guarantee after last season. Rowan, The College of New Jersey, Clark University and Del-Val are among the schools interested in the guard.
“It’s a blessing,” Long said. “I really didn’t have that last year. I kind of had my hopes that I would have it this year, but I’ve been working all summer and I’ve been playing good last year so that was my goal to get my name out there a little more.” — Owen McCue
Jayden Thomas (2024 | Parkland)
It was last September when Thomas suffered a major setback during a preseason workout. While scrimmaging at an open gym, Thomas went up for a layup, but while in midair something felt wrong. Thomas described being in shock when he landed and despite knowing he was injured, he wasn’t in a lot of pain. But Thomas knew something was wrong, eventually being diagnosed with a broken Tibia and was ruled out for his junior season.
Parkland senior Jayden Thomas is back from injury. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Thomas had surgery in late September before starting an “intense” physical therapy process. Thomas grinded his way to get back on the floor, eventually returning around March-April.
“The best thing I had was the guys around me,” Thomas said. “They kept me positive. The mental part is the hardest part of the process.
When he first came back, Thomas said he struggled and wasn’t playing good basketball. Playing in the spring and into the summer at events like Philly Live, Thomas grew frustrated with his poor performances.
“It was rough, I did not have a great summer but no, it was my first time back in almost a year,” Thomas said. “So I was just getting back into it and now I feel like I’m getting a rhythm and we're finding my groove.”
In part due to his injury, Thomas’ recruitment has yet to pick up any steam. The senior doesn’t have any official offers, but is getting looked at by local Division III schools like DeSales, Arcadia and Moravian.
After being held out of action for nearly a year, Thomas has had a strong start to his senior campaign. Thomas finished with a team-high 15 points as Parkland nearly pulled out a win against Bonner and Prendergast, falling 53-50. Thomas provides a scoring spark alongside Nick Coval (Davidson) who often draws much of the attention from opposing defenses.
Going forward, Thomas is confident in his scoring ability which he feels will help him play at the next level. As each game passes, Thomas’ confidence only grows. Thomas feels stronger than ever and his performances have shown that.
“It's kind of weird now because I feel a lot better now than I did before the injury,” Thomas said. “I spent time in the gym, doing physical therapy, getting my body strong again. I'm so confident and have no fears at all.” -— Zak Wolf
— Unionville senior Ryan Brown has been in the Longhorns’ rotation since his sophomore season. Brown and the Longhorns have ramped things up a level in their non-conference slate after a run to the District 1-5A championship game last season.
After already entering the winter break with marquee matchups against Spring-Ford, Malvern Prep and the Haverford School, the Longhorns took down Central Dauphin 51-49 then lost to Plymouth Whitemarsh 50-38 at the Jameer and Pete Nelson Classic.
“It’s definitely nice for us. It’ll help us in our districts and playoff runs,” Brown said. “It’s nice to play against these teams because we’re winning a few of these games, but it’s also nice to just play against the physicality and the level of competition to get us ready.”
Last year, Unionville sent Robbie Logan (Juniata) to play at the college level. Brown is one of a handful of small college prospects in this year’s lineup.
The 6-foot-3 guard said he’s hearing from a few Division III schools, including offers from Alvernia and Juniata. He visited both this fall and had the chance to spend the night on campus at Juniata after a preseason scrimmage and has another trip to Alvernia in the works. Ursinus has also talked with him.
“I definitely think the biggest thing I bring to the table is my shooting,” Brown said. “A lot of schools that are reaching out to me are looking for that shooting spot, which is nice because then I can fight for some minutes when I get to campus.”
— Camden-Eastside senior Jahaan Green rode a strong summer into a really good fall. The 6-foot-4 guard scored 16 points in a win over Parkland on Thursday then 18 against Rutgers Prep on Saturday.
Green, a 4.0 student, started to get some interest from the Division I level with Lafayette, Army, Navy and Holy Cross among the programs who have reached out. Lafayette had an assistant at Widener on Thursday. His coach also said he has an offer from D-II Wilmington.
“My tenacity and my athleticism,” Green said of what sticks out about his game to college coaches. “I’ve been working on those things, they work well with my jump shot and also drawing defenders in, getting to the paint for a touch to kick out to the open man.”