CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
The countdown is on to the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season, with less than six weeks of practices remaining until the country’s 350-plus Division I programs take the court for meaningful action for the first time since April.
This week, we’ll be going through the City 6 from a number of lenses, taking a look at some big-picture storylines before we go through each program in detail over the next couple of weeks.
CoBL-Area Alumni to Watch (Pt. 2)
We step away from the City 6 to bring updates on local prospects playing D-I ball around the country; click here for Part 1
Devin Liggeons (Jr./Wagner)
A 6-foot-4 wing, Liggeons was a Swiss army knife at Imhotep Charter in high school, capable of playing the ‘2,’, ‘3’ or small-ball ‘4’, utilizing his strong attacking ability and nose for grabbing rebounds to stay productive. Last year he was a reserve for the Seahawks, playing 13.4 minutes in 27 games (two starts), averaging 3.6 ppg and 2.3 rpg.
Towson's Zane Martin could be in for a big sophomore season after starring at Neumann-Goretti. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Zane Martin (Soph./Towson)
Martin didn’t have much of a chance to impress in his first two high school seasons at Neumann-Goretti, but the 6-3 guard made up for lost time with two productive upperclassman seasons that carried him to a scholarship at Towson. His college production curve looks accelerated; after averaging 3.1 ppg in his first 19 games of the season, he averaged 8.7 ppg over the closing 14, hitting double figures five times while making 38 percent of his 3-pointers. Could move into starting role as a sophomore.
Tyere Marshall (Soph./Rider)
A Martin Luther King grad, Marshall came to Rider following a prep year at Putnam Science (Conn.), where the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward got his body into college shape. As a freshman, Marshall saw action in 31 games with three starts, averaging 4.0 ppg and 3.9 rpg in just over 13 minutes. On a Broncs roster that graduated three 6-7 seniors from a year ago, he’s primed to take a big step forward this year.
Clifton Moore (Fr./Indiana)
Moore’s recruitment exploded last summer, when the lanky 6-foot-9 Hatboro-Horsham wing with a 7-foot-plus wingspan and intriguing face-up game got out onto the AAU circuit. He committed to Indiana in the fall, then re-opened his recruitment following Tom Crean’s firing before re-committing to new head coach Archie Miller in April. Moore’s upside is undeniable, with a frame that has NBA scouts salivating, but he’s got a lot of work to do on his game before he’s ready.
Julian Moore (R-Sr./Penn State)
After a late growth spurt in high school, Moore saw his recruitment go from low-major to high-major in the blink of an eye, and ended up at Penn State coming out of Germantown Academy in 2013. Now he’s the old man on the Nittany Lions’ roster, having appeared in 103 games (22 starts) over the course of his career. Just like his last two seasons (15.2 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Moore will be a steady part of the team’s rotation, even if he won’t be a star.
Jared Nickens (Sr./Maryland)
A lanky 6-7 wing guard, Nickens is a North Jersey native but a product of the Westtown School, where he was part of a Moose squad that also featured 7-footer Georgios Papagiannis and Monmouth’s Pierre Sarr, among others. His best season at Maryland so far was his freshman year, when he averaged 6.1 ppg in 19.3 mpg; last year, he averaged 3.1 ppg in 10.2 mpg.
Sa’eed Nelson (Soph./American)
The 2016 South Jersey Player of the Year by numerous publications, Nelson went right from a starring role at St. Augustine Prep into a similar situation at American. The 2017 Patriot League All-Rookie team selection played an astounding 37.8 mpg, third-most in the NCAA, leading the Eagles in scoring (14.9/game), assists (2.7/game) and steals, (2.4/game), the last of which was also best in the Patriot League. The 6-1 point guard now has a lot of eyes on him to see what he can do as a follow-up.
Ja’Quan Newton (Sr./Miami)
During his four years at Neumann-Goretti, Newton put together one of the best high school resumes in Philadelphia history: four Catholic League championships, four district 12 championships, three state championships. His 1,972 points are more than any other PCL player in league history. So far at Miami, he’s scored 863 points, averaging 13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 3.4 rpg during a junior year that saw him become a full-time starter for a Hurricanes squad that went 21-12 but lost in the NCAA’s first round.
Sean O’Brien (Sr./Colgate)
A 1,000-point scorer during his prep career at Penn Charter, O’Brien enters his senior year at Colgate within striking distance, 313 points away from accomplishing the feat in college. The 6-2 guard moved into the Raiders’ starting lineup last season, averaging 12.5 ppg and 4.1 apg while shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range. He’ll be a second-year captain this season, and has played in all but one game in his first three seasons.
Anthony Ochefu (Fr./Stony Brook)
The younger brother of former Villanova center Daniel Ochefu begins his college career this fall after graduating from the Westtown School. Though he was injured early in his high school days, Ochefu began rounding into shape as a junior and really came along as a senior, doing the little things on a loaded Moose squad that featured Mo Bamba, Brandon Randolph, Cameron Reddish and more. At 6-8 and 245 pounds, he’s got the physicality to handle D-I right away if he can limit his mistakes.
Daeqwon Plowden (Fr./Bowling Green)
Playing at Mastery Charter North, Plowden didn’t get a lot of the publicity or play in front of the same crowds as some of the bigger Public League schools or other leagues in the area. But the 6-6, 195-pound wing led Mastery North to the PIAA Class 2A championship game in 2016, and left his school the first player to score 1,000 points, while also earning all-state honors twice. He’s expected to play a solid role right away at BGSU.
Brandon Randolph (above) will take his sharpshooting abilities with him to Arizona. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Brandon Randolph (Fr./Arizona)
On most other teams in the country, Randolph would have been the absolute standout -- on the Westtown School, he was just another incredibly talented weapon for the Moose. A 6-6 wing guard, Randolph is arguably the best off-ball shooter in his class, though he really improved his slashing ability over the course of his junior and senior years, landing as the No. 37 overall prospect in his class per ESPN. Could play himself into one-and-done territory, but could also be in school for a few years before he’s ready for the pros.
Daron Russell (Fr./Rhode Island)
In high school, Russell staked his claim as one of the best to ever wear the Imhotep jersey, leading the Panthers to Public League and PIAA Class 4A championships during a senior year in which he averaged 18 ppg on an absolutely loaded squad. Now, the 5-10 lead guard will take his Iverson-esque game up to Rhody, where he’s joining a deep Rams squad fresh off a 25-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance.
Josh Sharkey (Soph./Samford)
Samford was the only Division I school to offer Sharkey, a 5-9 point guard out of Archbishop Carroll, and some others might be regretting not doing so after the way Sharkey played his freshman season. Playing 22.5 mpg off the bench, Sharkey averaged 8.2 ppg and 4.2 apg, setting a new Samford program record with 71 steals along the way. Has one more year behind Christen Cunningham before he takes the starting role.
Lamar Stevens (Soph./Penn State)
Stevens wasted no time getting to work at Penn State. The muscular 6-6 wing out of Roman Catholic (and previously the Haverford School) averaged 12.7 ppg and 5.5 rpg, starting all 33 of the Nittany Lions’ games in his rookie campaign. And after not making a single 3-pointer through the team’s first 22 games (six attempts), he was 11-for-28 (.393) and averaged 16.1 ppg over the final 11 contests.
Horace Spencer (Jr./Auburn)
A Philadelphia-area native, Spencer originally played at William Tennent but then went the prep school route, finishing up at Findlay Prep (Nev.) before heading into SEC territory for college. A prime physical specimen at 6-9 and 220 pounds, Spencer has started 30 games in his first two seasons as a Tiger, averaging 5.0 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 17.4 mpg along the way; his numbers were actually marginally better as a freshman than as a sophomore. Bruce Pearl has a very young and talented roster, so Spencer will have to earn any more playing time as a junior.
Tyrell Sturdivant (Sr./Stony Brook)
A 6-8 forward out of Chester High, Sturdivant spent his first two years at Stony Brook backing up Jameel Warney, the Seawolves’ 2,000-point, 1,200-rebound stud of a forward who’s now playing in the G League. He moved into the starting lineup last year and averaged 10.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg in 23.8 mpg. Now in his senior year, he’ll try to take another step up in production; the best way would be to improve upon his 64.0 percent mark from the FT line.
Austin Tilghman (Sr./Monmouth)
Tilghman has quietly racked up the minutes over his years at Monmouth, appearing in 103 games and playing nearly 2000 minutes despite starting only one game. The Archbishop Carroll grad, a 6-1, 230-pound point guard, has been largely a complimentary piece to former Hawks standout Justin Robinson, but might have a chance to show a bit more of what he’s capable of in his final collegiate season; MU graduated four seniors from a 27-win team.
Lonnie Walker (Fr./Miami)
The Pride of Reading led the Red Knights to a PIAA Class 6A state championship, and now he’s off to Miami to join a Hurricanes program that’s loaded with talent and coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. A 6-5 scoring wing with a well-rounded game, Walker is being ranked in the top 15 on numerous 2018 NBA Draft boards, but that’ll take a tremendous freshman season to get there. He’s capable of it.
Mike Watkins (R-Soph./Penn State)
When he was on the floor for the Nittany Lions last year, Watkins was a force to be reckoned with. A Math, Civics & Sciences product who came to State College via the Phelps School, Watkins averaged 9.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 2.7 bpg in just 23.8 mpg; according to KenPom, he blocked 11.7 percent of all shots when he was on the floor, good for 8th in the country. Look for him to be a double-double machine before long.
Derrick Woods (R-Soph./Delaware)
Woods began his collegiate years at St. Bonaventure, averaging 3.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg in a freshman season in which he actually started 22 of his 30 appearances but only averaged 13.1 mpg. The Pennsbury product then decided to come closer to home, sitting out last season for Blue Hens’ first-year head coach Martin Ingelsby. A 6-8, 225-pound forward, Woods will likely fit in fine in a forward rotation with senior Skye Johnson and redshirt junior Eric Carter.
Yosef Yacob (R-Sr./Binghamton)
A fifth-year senior out of Archbishop Carroll, Yacob’s best collegiate season thus far came as a freshman, when he averaged 11.5 ppg and 2.6 apg, albeit on a BInghamton squad that won just seven games. They’ve trended up slightly each of the seasons since, and he’ll gladly take being a reserve if it means the Bearcats can be competitive in the America East after a long climb back from a 2009 scandal.