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Donofrio Classic Report: Thurs., April 4, 2024

04/05/2024, 12:45am EDT
By Owen McCue + Josh Verlin

By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

CONSHOHOCKEN — Week 2 of the 2024 Donofrio Classic concluded Thursday night with the third of four second-round evenings. Two more squads grabbed quarterfinal final spots as the 26-team field is down to 10 with the final two quarterfinal squads to be decided on Monday.

CLICK HERE to access our 2024 Donofrio hub. Read ahead for game recaps and a notebook featuring a couple players who took the court Wednesday night:


Game One: Philly Hoop Group 118, Rome Runs 100
Philly Hoop Group pulled away late in the second half for a 51-36 halftime lead and never looked back to book its quarterfinal spot. Zaahir Muhammad-Gray (2026 | Imhotep Charter) starred for Philly Hoop Group with 33 points, five assists and 15 rebounds. Georgetown commit Thomas Sorber (2024 | Archbishop Ryan) added 22 points, five assists, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Deuce Maxey (2025 | Archbishop Wood) had another big night with 19 points and handful of fastbreak slams. Xavier Fauntroy (2027 | West Catholic) got in on the fun in the second half with 13 points, including a trio of deep triples.

Patrese Feamster (2027 | Friends’ Central) and Christian Matos (2026 | Methacton) led the way for Rome Runs. Feamster scored 24 points (four 3s), while Matos finished with 21 points on seven triples, including six in the second half. Rider commit Aasim “Flash” Burton (2024 | Cardinal O’Hara) added 16 points and four assists, while Scranton commit Max Lebisky (2024 | Phoenixville) did his best to limit Sorber, finishing with 10 points, six assists and 10 rebounds.

Game Two: Keystone Blazer-Philly Blaze 98, 717 Hoop Dreams 95
Drexel commit Josh Reed (2024 | Archbishop Wood) skied for an offensive rebound and earned a trip to the line with 20 seconds left, knocking both foul shots down to help lead his team to a win. Reed finished with 32 points to go along with 15 rebounds. R.J. Smith (2026 | Imhotep Charter) followed his clutch free throws with another pair with six seconds left. Smith was terrific as well, putting up 30 points (seven 3s) and four assists, dazzling with his ball-handling.

717 Hoop Dreams was led by 21 points from Dior Kennedy (2024 | Coatesville). High school teammate Larry Brown (2026 | Coatesville) added 11 of his 13 in the second half, including a go-ahead bucket with 34.6 seconds to play. Millersville commit Ethan Benne (2024 | Penn Manor) added another 13. Hoop Dreams led by seven with two minutes left before eight unanswered from Keystone, including triples from Smith and Mike Green (2025 | Archbishop Wood), who finished with 15.


Imhotep sophomores Smith, Muhammad-Gray steal the show

Though they didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood, Imhotep Charter sophomores R.J. Smith and Zaahir Muhammad-Gray have played together for a long, long time.

RJ Smith (above) put on a show on Thursday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Smith, from the Northeast, remembers meeting Muhammad-Gray, from Cheltenham, back around fifth grade. They’ve been the two young guys on loaded Imhotep teams the past two years.

Now, the two will continue their journey together, first this summer on Team Final’s 16U EYBL team and then stepping into starring roles for the Panthers next winter.

“I’m excited because we’re figuring it out,” Smith said. “We’re figuring it out on our own. I think that’s great for us because we’re young, we’re all coming into a new role, and I feel like we’re going to develop well and we’re going to put the work in this summer.”

In a rare occasion the two Imhotep sophomores weren’t playing together on Thursday night — but they both may have given a sneak preview of what’s to come this summer and next season. 

Muhammad-Gray shined for Philly Hoop Group with 33 points, five assists and 15 rebounds in the first game. He stayed around to watch Smith go off for 30 points and four assists, including seven threes, in the second game.

“I feel like it’s gonna be a fun experience playing with my man R.J.,” Muhammad-Gray said. “He’s the point guard that I need. He just does everything right.”

Smith was the sixth man for Imhotep two years ago, seeing important minutes and hitting big shots in huge games early in his career. Muhammad-Gray started to make a name for himself as a hustle player during the Panthers’ postseason run in 2022-23.

Zaahir Muhammad-Gray (above) picked up an offer from Georgia Tech this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

They both got to open up their games a little more this season in Imhotep’s starting lineup as sophomores. Muhammad-Gray in particular showed off a blossoming perimeter game, which was on display Thursday night as he knocked down threes, hit midrange pull-ups and beat his defender off the bounce. 

He picked up an offer from Georgia Tech this winter and should have plenty more opportunity to impress coaches this summer.

“I’m excited to really show the coaches and people my true game and how I really play,” Muhammad-Gray said.

Smith will share the backcourt next with junior Carnell Henderson, who also played well at the Donofrio Classic last week. He follows two terrific point guards in Nowell and Rahmir Barno (Florida Gulf Coast). 

He will be ready to take the reins next season.

“We’re excited to be the guys,” Smith said. “We’re excited to have the ball in our hands, make decisions for our team. I feel like we’re gonna have a great season.” — Owen McCue


Lebisky finds landing spot at Scranton after big senior year

There’s no doubt that Max Lebisky was one of the 2023-24 season’s breakout stars. 

Max Lebisky (above) led Phoenixville to the 2024 PAC championship. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The Phoenixville guard/forward was the biggest reason his squad captured the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship for the first time in 17 years, and not just because he hit the game-winning layup. The 6-foot-5 senior did it all for the Phantoms: he was their go-to scorer in the post, their leading rebounder, and their best passer, a big-time problem for opponents with the ball in his hands. 

It was a season that brought him all sorts of college attention from Division II and Division III programs, including an offer from West Chester University back in December. 

“It was cool, just a lot of hard work that I put in, mornings, paying off,” he said. “Seeing the coaches seeing the work I put in, it was a nice, rewarding feeling.”

But after Phoenixville’s season ended with a run to the District 1 5A semifinals and a loss in the opening round of the state playoffs, Lebisky thought it over and realized he most wanted to play at the University of Scranton, committing to head coach Carl Danzig’s program back on March 16.

“At the end it came down to Scranton and DeSales,” he said. “I loved DeSales, it was a hard choice, but I just thought Scranton was a better fit.”

Lebisky said that it helped that Scranton was one of the first programs to reach out to him last spring, the year that he spent developing a connection with the coaching staff and players certainly a factor in his decision.

Last season was a rare down one for Scranton and Danzig, the Royals winning just four games as two starters went down with injuries in the first two weeks of the season. They’ve won 20-plus games 11 times under Danzig, winning eight NCAA games in 11 different appearances over his 23-year tenure, most recently over NC Wesleyan in the first round last year.

“This year was an off year, they had a lot of injuries,” Lebisky said, “but it’s a good program, the school in general I love it, the social aspect of it is great.”

Though Lebisky played something of a ‘4’ man’s role in Phoenixville’s offense, his ball skills lend him to a versatile role at the next level. He showed that versatility in a losing effort for Rome Runs, putting up 10 points, six assists and 10 rebounds in his final Donofrio game.

The biggest key for him will be continuing to work on his body and getting into better shape, something he’s done well with over the last two years, though the process isn’t done. 

Once he gets into college shape, his defensive versatility could match his offensive one. That’s the plan for his summer, along with continuing to work on his jump shot.

“(Danzig) can use me all different ways as I work more on my body,” Lebisky said. “Slim down, become more of a guard, be able to defend the perimeter a little bit better.” — Josh Verlin


Quick Hits

Antonio Morris (2024 | Bensalem) hasn’t had two much practice tossing alley oops on a Bensalem team that topped out around 6-foot-3 this past season. However, he had a capable lob partner Thursday night in Archbishop Ryan’s 6-10 big man Thomas Sorber and decided to give it a try.

Sorber let him know the pass was on the money. He just wasn't expecting it, so he wasn’t ready to go grab it and toss it in.

“I haven’t done that since … not ever, honestly,” Morris said.

“I surprised myself at how on target it was. I was just trying it. It was fun.”

The future college point guard had a pair of assists and 13 points in Philly Hoop Group’s win. His patented pull-up was as locked in as ever — a weapon that should help him continue to terrorize opposing defenses even if he won’t get to use his newfound alley-oop skills.

Though his recruitment is open, Morris said Delaware Valley and Arcadia are his two top options right now. Arcadia has been recruiting him since last offseason and he has taken a pair of visits, while Del Val has jumped into his recruitment in the last two weeks, recently getting him on campus.

“They like how poised I am, and how I play under control and how I’m a point,” Morris said. “That’s what they’re looking for, and also a scoring point, not just distribute, but I can also score.”

He doesn’t expect to make a decision on where he will play until next month.

Ryan Everett (above) is hearing from several area D-III programs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Ryan Everett (2024 | Archbishop Ryan) left his mark on the Philadelphia Catholic League his past season with the second biggest shot of the PCL playoffs. In case you need a refresher, Everett hit the go-ahead three in the final seconds of the PCL title game before Roman’s Kabe Goss came down and hit the game-winner, playing the role of Marcus Paige to Goss' Kris Jenkins.

Even without the big shot that made its way across social media and onto SportsCenter, Everett put together a strong senior campaign on a talented Ryan team. He played about 19 minutes per game, averaging 4.9 ppg and knocking down 31 threes for the Catholic League runner-up and PIAA semifinalist Raiders.

“Playing in the PCL, people started to realize who I was my senior year,” Everett said.

The signs of a big winter came during the PIAA postseason in 2022-23 when Everett averaged double figures during a run to the state semis. The 6-foot-2 guard was fourth on the team in scoring this season and typically found a way to knock down a clutch shot.

“Coming into senior year, I knew we were going to be good, playing a national schedule, so I knew I had to step up and make shots,” Everett said.

Del Val, Penn State-Abington and Gwynedd Mercy are a few of the programs interested in Everett. He is still trying to figure out his options, but Del Val and head coach Muhamadou Kaba and Sean Tait have left an impression so far.

“I really like their program,” Everett said. “They’ve been reaching out to me pretty much my whole senior year. I really like their campus, their basketball program, and I have a really good relationship with their coach.

Nyle Ralph-Beyer (2024 | West Chester Henderson) didn’t realize when he committed to Sacred Heart that he wouldn’t be the only Ches-Mont product on the Pioneers’ roster. SHU added a transfer last week from Rustin product Griffin Barrouk (Hofstra), meaning two different West Chester-area players will be suiting up this fall on a Division I roster. 

Ralph-Beyer said he hadn’t yet talked to Barrouk, who graduated from Rustin back in 2021, but knew who he was and where he was from. He was excited at what it meant for the area to have two D-I players at the same time for the first time in recent memory.

I think it’s pretty cool how two West Chester guys are going to be on the same team,” Ralph-Beyer said. “It feels good, you know, especially kids under us, they can just keep their heads up. Even though they might be from West Chester, it doesn’t matter if they don’t play for a big AAU team, they can still do something and go to college.”

A 6-5 guard, Barrouk played in 26 games over the last two years at Hofstra after taking a medical redshirt in 2021-22. He’s not the only local newcomer to SHU; Carroll product Amiri Stewart transferred from D-II Wilmington last week as well. 

Tre Simpson (2024 | North Penn) is soaking in his first and only Donofrio run. The 6-5, 210-pound forward was a junior varsity player the last two years after not even making the team as a freshman, and he’s well aware of what playing Donofrio means, especially coming out of a school that hasn’t had too many players on Donofrio rosters over the years. 

And he gets to do it on a Keystone Blazers squad that includes the likes of Drexel commit Josh Reed (Archbishop Wood), Imhotep sophomore RJ Smith, and other high-level local hoops talent, which now finds itself two wins from a championship game appearance.

“It’s really fun to get out there and play a different brand of basketball from what I’m used to,” he said. “I know how big Donofrio is just within the culture of Philly basketball, how everybody’s come through here [...] it’s really cool, actually, to represent North Penn, because I know we don’t have a lot of representation.”

After averaging about 10 points and six rebounds as a senior for North Penn, Simpson is getting some attention from the next level. He said his recruitment right now is mostly three schools: Del Val and a pair of JUCOs, Montco and Northampton, but he’s also open to other options, if he catches the eyes of any of the other D-II or D-III coaches who frequent the Donofrio sidelines and baseline. 

“That’s kind of the main thing to play in here,” he said. “Not only to win and be around such a great culture, it’s also for myself and my recruitment.”

Sean Murphy (2024 | Upper Moreland) has seen his recruitment uptick in the last two weeks, opening up his college options. Murphy, a second team All-SOL Freedom Division selection, is a 6-foot-10 big man, who mentioned a post hook as one of his top weapons.

He recently picked up a pair of Division II offers from Dominican and Kutztown and has a visit to East Stroudsburg upcoming as well as plenty of Division III interest. 

“I can shoot threes, I can run the floor too, obviously my height at 6-10,” Murphy said of what college programs are interested in. “My rebounding is good sometimes, my defense, just the whole thing.”

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