Owen McCue (Owen_McCue)
CONSHOHOCKEN -- The second round of the Donofrio Classic continued on Thursday night at the Fellowship House, with two more games taking place in the 58th edition of the annual high school all-star tournament.
Here’s a roundup of the action with recruiting notes, quotes and more:
Game One: In its first game of the tournament, We R1 showed it’s going to be a tough team to beat, topping the Keystone Blazers Black, 78-59. Eric Dixon (Abington/2019) led the way with 18 points, while Justin Paz (Bethlehem Catholic/2019) scored 15 points. Chereef Knox (Imhotep/2019) and Rider commit Ajiri Johnson (Bonner-Prendergast/2018) each added 10. Kevin Dodds (Bishop Shanahan/2018) led the way for Keystone Blazers Black with 12 points.
Game Two: The best game of the tournament so far needed an extra period to determine a winner. The Keystone Blazers Red rode their defense to a 102-94 overtime win against the L&L Running Rebels. Naheem McLeod (Plymouth-Whitemarsh/2019) was a force inside with 19 points. His high school teammates Ahmin Williams (Plymouth-Whitemarsh/2018) finished with 13 points as did Kevin Tillman (Simon Gratz/2018). Malik Green (Simon Gratz/2018) added 12 points, including seven in overtime. Army commit Chris Mann (Phillipsburg/2018) poured in 31 points for L&L, and recent Bloomsburg commit Travis Elmore (Pocono Mountain West/2018) added 24 points.
McNeal-Wright finishes wild prep year
Before this past season, Nisheem McNeal-Wright was a standout player at Audenreid, scoring 1,000 points in his career. During his senior season in 2016-17, McNeal-Wright helped guide the Rockets to the Class 4A state final before falling to Imhotep.
Though he said he had some interest from several Division II programs, McNeal-Wright took a prep year to up his profile, trying to carry over the success of his senior season.
“I just tried to let everything lead into now,” McNeal-Wright said. “Went into prep with the same mentality, want to win, don’t want to lose. Get a free scholarship and then just keep going.”
McNeal-Wright ended up at the Jordan Academy in Burlington, North Carolina. He described the area as “really, really country.”
When he got down there in August, it was a bit of a culture shock as he had never left the Philadelphia area before.
“I was homesick the first day,” he said. “I wanted to come back, but if I want go hard and this is what I want, I have to just put up with everything.”
While down at Jordan Academy, McNeal-Wright said he took some classes at nearby Alamance Community College. He hopes to eventually study hospitality management.
McNeal-Wright said he was also playing well on the court, averaging more than 30 points per game, but after seven games, the school closed the basketball program due to issues with housing. Suddenly, he was left without a place to play.
“I was doing good,” McNeal-Wright said. “I averaged like 32, but then I was mad because that’s when all the coaches and everybody was coming out there. Once it got shutdown, I had to tell all the coaches where I was going.”
“It was tough,” he added. “I was in a struggle. I had nowhere to go at first.”
McNeal-Wright said his father called around trying to find him a place to play. Evenutally he got in contact with Sam Rines, the recruiting director at Rocktop Academy, who McNeal-Wright had known since ninth grade.
It took about a month for McNeal-Wright to join Rocktop, but he said he picked up where he left off, averaging about 20 points per game as he traveled the country playing in national events like the Gotham Hoops Classic in New York and the IMG Beach Blast in Florida.
“I just stayed in the gym, every day, working hard,” McNeal-Wright said.
Right now, McNeal-Wright said he is still waiting on an offer. He said he has talked to a handful of Division I programs including Hartford, Fairfield, Drexel, Towson, UMass and New Mexico State.
What will the program that eventually lands McNeal-Wright right get?
“I’m hard on both ends of the floor,” McNeal-Wright said. “Offense, defense, I attack really hard and just hustle. I’m a hustle player.”
-Imhotep junior Chereef Knox said there hasn’t been much new in his recruitment over the past few months. The 6-foot-6 wing currently has offers from Howard, Hofstra and Rider. Knox and the Panthers won their second straight Class 4A state championship this past season. They also finished in the Top 5 of the USA Today Super 25 for the second year in a row with a 31-2 record. “It was amazing, going back-to-back,” Knox said. “It was a great feeling going back-to-back Top 5 in the country, is everything you could ask for.”
-Bonner junior guard Isaiah Wong took the Philadelphia Catholic League by storm this past season, winning the league’s Player of the Year award and helping the Friars get to the PCL title game. Wong said UNLV, Miami and Xavier all seem very interested. He currently holds offers from Miami, Xavier, Villanova and several other programs. His goal for the upcoming spring and summer is to become more comfortable running the point. “I’m still working on my guard skills, passing the ball, calling plays,” Wong said, “just working on speaking more.”