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Philly Pride Bump n' Grind Notebook (July 8)

07/09/2018, 1:00am EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

As one final tune-up for the upcoming July live recruiting periods, Philly Pride hosted a number of top regional AAU programs at Peak Skills Basketball on Sunday for a day-long set of scrimmages.

Here’s a recruiting notebook from the day’s action:


Mikeal Jones (above) will have the option of going in the 2019 or 2020 classes. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Mikeal Jones still weighing class decision

At some point in the relatively near future, Mikeal Jones will have two decisions to make.

One is where he’ll want to go to college. The other is when.

Jones is entering his fourth year of high school, starting with a freshman year at Roman Catholic in 2015-16. He then transferred to Girard College, stating an intent to reclassify from the 2019 class into 2020.

At the moment, Jones is still technically only a rising junior at Girard, so he’s playing with the WeR1 16U team this July. But should the dominoes fall the right way, the 6-foot-8, 205-pound combo forward could be entering his final year of high school.

“After this upcoming year I’ll be done with the college requirements, so I do have the possibility of moving up to 2019, but I haven’t really given it much thought,” he said. “I just know there’s a possibility I could.”

Watching him on Sunday, it was pretty obvious that Jones will be ready to help a high-level college program by next fall if he so chooses.

The mobile big man with an increasingly effective face-up game had 12 points and seven rebounds in a win over the Jersey Shore Warriors’ 16s, then went for 20 points and 12 boards in a win over East Coast Power. Jones knocked down a few 3s, fought for second-chance buckets, began the fast break and stuffed a few shots as well.

Jones said that two local programs, Temple and La Salle, have both indicated they would take him in 2019. He’s hearing from a list of programs that also includes Villanova, Marquette, Saint Joseph’s, Virginia, VCU, Tulane and Seton Hall, but he didn’t say that any particular programs were coming at him stronger than others.

If Jones does decided to go through one extra year of high school, it’s not clear exactly where that would be.

Girard College is still a member of the PIAA, which means it can’t have fifth-year seniors, but it’s no secret the school has looked into going independent, which would mean Jones could play out his fifth year there. If Girard stays in the PIAA through next season, Jones would have to find a prep school if he wanted to stay in the 2020 class.

But Jones said that Girard’s status wouldn’t have an impact on his decision; that would all depend on his recruiting picture.

“After July is over, after the live period is over, if I get the schools that I want, then I’ll definitely consider going 2019 and going to school early,” he said. “It depends on the circumstances going on.”


Jon Bol Ajak (above) is headed to the Westtown School this fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

New Westtown big man Ajak hoping for big summer

Jon Bol Ajak says he wasn’t himself this spring.

Playing for Team Final, the 6-10 center struggled on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging only 2.2 ppg and 4.2 rpg, not quite the numbers expected for an an explosive athlete whose upside had pulled in offers from Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Pitt and more over the course of the last year.

“My Achilles, it was really bothering me,” he said. “I played through it, but it did not go well for us as a team.

“It started during the basketball season and I kept playing through it, and by the time spring came, it was worse, and I didn’t know what to do,” he added. “This spring, they needed me to play. I tried to play through it, but…”

Ajak took most of May and June off to rest the injury, and now, he says, he’s ready to show coaches what he can do. Except now he’ll be playing with East Coast Power’s 17s, bringing some high-major attention to a program that had been full of high-level small-college talent with a couple low-major prospects.

He’s also making a move in the high school realm, from Church Farm (Pa.) down to the Westtown School (Pa.), where he’ll stay in the class of 2019 and play for the same program that’s recently churned out Cameron Reddish (Duke), Mo Bamba (Texas/NBA), Brandon Randolph (Arizona) and more.

“It’s just development and the competition,” he said. “That’s what I looked into and said ‘you know what, I’d like to be in that competition.’”

Ajak is working on developing his body this summer; he’s up to 215 pounds from 198 at the beginning of the summer, and wants to get to 225 by the fall.

Currently, Ajak said, Syracuse, Georgetown and St. Joe’s are the schools he’s hearing from most often, as well as some contact with Wake Forest. After his rough April, he’s hoping a strong July will mean a different recruiting picture come August, and he’ll sort things out from there.

“I want to be able to be a fit, basketball-wise,” he said. “I don’t really care about how the beautiful the campus is, not really. Just where my style of play will fit there and am I going to be happy basketball-wise, that’s all I care about


Andrew Carr (above) now stands 6-7 after a spring growth spurt. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Quick Hits
-- West Chester East 2020 small forward Andrew Carr is quickly growing into a bona-fide Division I prospect, both literally and figuratively. The son of former Delaware center Phil Carr, who played for the Blue Hens in the mid-80s, has sprouted up a couple inches already this offseason to now stand 6-7 and 175 pounds, making him the second-tallest member of the East Coast Power 16U roster. Carr certainly looked the part as the Power battled WeR1 to a 75-64 defeat, hitting all five of his shots (including two 3-pointers) for 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds along the way. With a solid catch-and-shoot game and his length defensively, Carr looks like he’s on his way to being able to carve out a role in a low-to-mid-major program that utilizes shooters on the wing who don’t necessarily need to create their own shot. As of Sunday, Carr said he hadn’t yet heard from any schools; it won’t take many showings like that over the next three weeks for that to change.

-- Another 2020 prospect who doesn’t yet have his first Division I offer but should pull one in before long, Ronnie Ellis had a strong pair of games for the WeR1 16U squad. A Hamden High (Conn.) rising junior who travels down to the Delaware Valley for AAU season, Ellis is a slender 6-2 guard who can knock down 3s as well as he can get to the hoop. He first scored 20 points (on 10 shots) in a 56-38 win over the Jersey Shore Warriors before dropping 18 in the win over the East Coast Power; he also added a combined 10 rebounds between the two games. Since June 15, Ellis said he’s heard from Butler, Providence and George Washington, but is still waiting on that first scholarship offer. A pure scorer from the ‘2’ spot, Ellis can get it done at all three levels of the floor, with a particularly polished midrange game. He also stands out on the defensive end, where he can defend either guard spot and get into passing lanes to ignite the fastbreak.

-- The Jersey Shore Warriors’ 15U group put together a strong team effort in a 62-32 win over Philly Blue Magic, coming up with 17 assists along the way. Seven different rising sophomores picked up at least one dime, but the pace was set by Lucas Dunn. The 6-1 Camden Catholic guard and brother of incoming Susquehanna freshman Dominic Dunn only scored two points but contributed seven assists, five rebounds (four offensive) and three steals to the effort. Garnet Valley 6-2 guard Neel Beniwal added 15 points and six other players hit multiple shots from the floor; Christian Brothers (N.J.) guard Colin Farrell also hit double figures with 10.

-- Both forwards for the Philly Pride 17U ‘B’ squad are picking up college interest from several different states. Mastery Charter North’s Lakeem McAiley is hearing from several Division II programs, including LIU Post (N.Y.) and Chestnut Hill, as the athletic and mobile 6-4 forward continues to show he can score from all three levels. More of a defensive specialist is 6-6 Cheltenham rising senior Kiyn Healey, whose nearly 7-foot wingspan has him hearing from programs at all levels, including D-II Chestnut Hill, D-III Hood (Md.), John Jay (N.Y.) and more.

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