skip navigation

2024 Philly Live II: Recruiting Notebook (Pt. 1)

07/01/2024, 3:15pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

The first session of Philly Live 2024 brought nearly 200 boys teams to the City of Brotherly Love from all over the region — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware were well-represented, but teams from as far away as Florida came up for three days of competition in front of college coaches of all levels.

CoBL’s writers spent the weekend at both Jefferson University and the Philadelphia Youth Basketball ‘6th Man’ Center catching up with local teams and prospects of note. Here’s a notebook featuring recruiting updates on several area prospects:


(Ed. Note: Links to all of our 2024 Philly Live I content can be found at the bottom of this article)


Luca Foster (2026 | Archbishop Carroll)

Foster’s time is here, and his train is pulling into the station right as scheduled.

Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) 2026 G/F Luca Foster. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The 6-foot-4 (and change), 175-pound wing has been a prospect to watch since he first put on a Carroll uniform two summers ago as a rising freshman, a lanky wing with shot-making abilities and a frame that screamed upside. One of a number of talented 2026s on the Patriots’ roster, he’s now establishing himself as the highest-level prospect of the group, with a ceiling that just keeps rising.

After two quality years in a Patriots uniform, he’s starting to turn that potential into some serious production and ability. That was clear in a viewing on Saturday, when he dropped 26 points on 9-14 FG (6-8 3PT) against a high-level Sidwell Friends (D.C.) squad. 

He picked a good time to do so: coaches from Duke, Kentucky, Tennessee and more national high-major programs were courtside to see both squads, the area around PYB’s Court 3 jam-packed most of the weekend with coaches and Division I prospects.

“This is probably my first game I had Duke and Kentucky sitting on the baseline, I just had to put on a show, play the right way,” Foster said. “I thought I did a pretty decent job today.”

The coaches agreed. Villanova and East Carolina offered directly afterwards, becoming his seventh and eighth Division I offers, joining St. Joe’s, Temple, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Albany and Bryant. That’s a list almost certain to continue growing if he puts on a few more performances like that in July, playing at the Peach Jam with Team Final’s 16s.

Recruiting isn’t front-of-mind for Foster just yet, but as he enters his upperclassman years, he knows things are getting more and more serious.

“I’m just trying to make a relationship with all these coaches, see what’s the best fit,” he said. “Really just see where it goes. I’m starting to get a lot of high-majors start calling me and texting me…my recruitment’s definitely taking off.”

Foster said he wants to get down to Virginia Tech “soon,” and also mentioned that Pitt had been trying to get him on campus; Xavier and Notre Dame were two others that had made contact heading into the weekend.

With his silky-smooth shooting form, Foster has established himself as one of the best shooters not just in the Philadelphia region but in the country. He was hitting catch-and-shoot triples Saturday even as defenders closed out, then started to put the ball on the floor and get into the lane or to the foul line, coming up with a couple and-ones against Sidwell.

“I’m getting a lot more confident with the shots I take,” he said. “I feel like I take more off-the-dribble shots now that I’m getting older and the game’s finally coming to me. My driving’s gotten a lot better [too], making the right decision off the pass, making the right plays.”


Shareef Jackson (2025 | Roman Catholic)

Jackson’s no stranger to working with NBA big men.

Roman Catholic (Pa.) 2025 PF Shareef Jackson. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

After all, the 6-foot-7 Cahillite forward is the older son of Marc Jackson, who played with five different NBA teams over seven seasons as part of a 13-year professional career. So he’s gotten no shortage of tips from the highest levels, which have helped him craft his game into a versatile inside-out threat as he goes into his senior year. 

But getting an invite to the NBPA Top 100 camp in Orlando in June was a new experience for Shareef Jackson, who got his most immersive hoops experience — outside of his own family — just yet. And it wasn’t the on-court instruction that Jackson was most interested in, but some of the off-the-court learning.

“hey had (Arnie) Kandor, he’s the conditioning and stretching coach of the Orlando Magic, I feel like a lot of what he taught me helped,” he said. “A lot of these guys go down there thinking ‘I’ve got to get better,’ but then they go off the court, their body’s breaking down, you’re stiff and all that, and I feel like what he taught us really helped.”

There’s no doubt that Jackson’s perception of the basketball world is a little bit different than most players his age. Thoughtful and analytical, the talkative post is honing in on several high-academic options, already knowing what he wants to spend his collegiate years studying.

Rather than working towards a degree in business or sports management like many of his peers, his academic interests point him in one direction: physics.

“Physics is something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid,” he said. “It’s the unknown — you have these other [professions] — lawyers, doctors, that’s cool and all, but it’s a lot of human vs. human. Physics is the unknown, it’s not a human-set thing or societal, no economics, no political anything. It’s just looking at our world and seeing how it works, knowing that hey, we don’t know a lot. Going and trying to find out more about the world, trying to improve our own life, that’s something special.”

Jackson named Princeton, San Diego, Lafayette, Yale and William & Mary as the schools currently on his list, saying there were “a bunch of others” that had been involved at various levels. He’s planning on taking officials to all of the schools he mentioned, but also said he had room for one more, depending on how the rest of his summer plays out. 

A muscular post who’s been developing his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting, Jackson was a major part of Roman’s 2023-24 Catholic League championship squad. Though undersized for a combo ‘4’ and ‘5,’ he’s got a terrific basketball IQ and footwork, showing off in a 19-point, 12-rebound, five-assist game against St. Rose (N.J.) on Sunday just why colleges have been on him for years. 

But while they’re familiar with him, he’s still at the beginning part of his collegiate exploration, not yet knowing what factors he’s looking for as he begins taking his more in-depth visits to campuses.

“I don’t have a lot [in mind], maybe just how colleges work,” he said. “A lot of kids go to college and say ‘I expect this and this and this from a college.’ I have no idea what to expect.”


Ben Natal (2025 | Central York)

Everything’s coming together for Central York’s lead guard.

One of the top players to watch in York County since his freshman year, Natal was a major reason the Panthers captured the PIAA 6A championship, becoming the first public school from York County to win a boys’ basketball state championship. A 6-2 guard, Natal scored 15 points in the state title game, a triumph over Parkland, and he’s carried that momentum right into the offseason.

Central York (Pa.) 2025 G Ben Natal. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“Being the first one in York County, it’s awesome,” Natal said on Friday. “A lot of people in the community are still talking about it, and I want it to set the standard for all the kids coming to Central in the future and who are going to be in the same place I am.”

Playing with Central York as well as the York Ballers on the grassroots circuits, Natal has had collegiate interest for a couple of years, but had yet to receive a Division I scholarship offer. That changed between the two weekends of Philly Live, when Loyola (Md.) head coach Josh Loeffler became the first to deliver the good news.

Natal had been talking to the Loyola staff since his sophomore year, and when Loeffler took over the Greyhounds program earlier this year, he continued that interest right into the offseason. 

“I haven’t gotten to meet (Loeffler) yet but I was talking to him on the phone, he sounds like a really good guy,” Natal said. “He knows [Central York head] coach [Jeff] Hoke really well, I want to go down there and meet the staff, see the facilities.

“It was a great feeling,” he added. “Going through Twitter and seeing everyone else getting offers, it motivated me to play hard. When he said ‘we’re going to offer you a scholarship,’ that’s a blessing.”

As of Friday, Natal said he was also hearing from William & Mary, Towson and Penn. By the end of the weekend, he’d heard from more than a dozen others, including Drexel, Penn, Stonehill, NJIT, Holy Cross, New Hampshire, Maine, Albany, and more.

Getting down to Loyola’s Baltimore camps for a more significant visit after an unofficial stop there earlier in the year has become a top priority. Natal said he’s also spending the summer working on his use of ball screens with classmate and year-round teammate Ben Rill, the Panthers’ 6-8 forward and other scholarship-level senior, as well as his shooting. 

“I probably want to make a decision, maybe before the school season starts, or midway through,” he said. “I’d say the biggest thing for me is probably getting into a system where I feel supported and a staff that sees what I can do and helps me get to the next level.”


J.J. Kelly (2025 | Chambersburg Area)

Throughout his years at Chambersburg, Kelly has been a multi-sport star. 

Chambersburg Area (Pa.) 2025 SF JJ Kelly. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

On the hardwood, he led the Trojans to a 20-win campaign and a spot in the PIAA 6A second round after finishing as the runner-ups in District 3. As a sophomore, he not only caught five touchdown passes for the Chambersburg football team, he also won the state championship in the triple jump and high jump.

But while the 6-foot-6 rising senior isn’t ruling out a multi-sport career in college, he’s made it clear which is his primary sport.

“I’m definitely closing everything down for basketball, that's what I wanted to be from the rip,” he told CoBL on Saturday. “I’m definitely open to dual-sporting at some schools, it depends on the situation, but basketball’s definitely the main sport I want to play.”

A hyper-athletic wing, Kelly is at his best attacking the rim, with an improved handle and ability to shoot off the move; unsurprisingly, he gets some terrific height on his jumper as he squares up, and those leaping abilities help him on the boards as well. 

So far, Kelly has four Division I offers: American, Mt. St. Mary’s, UNLV and Towson, with FGCU, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Robert Morris and a few others also interested. 

Syracuse and Iowa State have offered for football, though he didn’t play as a junior; he was also unable to defend his state track and field titles, as the dates conflicted with Nike EYBL stops for the Team Melo squad he plays for. 

“Syracuse said something about [playing two sports], but I’m definitely open to opportunities,” he said, then confirming: “Basketball comes first.”

Kelly said he’s spending the offseason continuing to refine his shooting and ability to shoot on the move, as well as his ability to finish with his left (off) hand through contact and his handles, wanting to more than just a runner and dunker in college. 

“I want someone who wants to develop me, who wants me to play on their team as soon as possible,” he said, “because I’m willing to work as much as I have to.”


D-I Coverage:

HS Coverage:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Recruiting  High School  Shareef Jackson  Boys HS  Luca Foster