T.J. Berger (above) was one of several standout players during last week's first July live period. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ari Rosenfeld (@ARosenfeldDVHR)
Ed. Note: Over the first week of the live period, Delaware Valley Hoops Report scouting director Ari Rosenfeld was at the Elevate Hoops Summer Icebreaker I, Hoop Group Elite Camp and Hoop Group Atlantic City Jam Fest. Here are local players that impressed while he was watching:
Jon Bol Ajak (2019/East Coast Power/Westtown School, Pa.)
After a disappointing and unproductive spring playing EYBL for Team Final -- during which he says he was fighting through an Achilles injury -- Ajak made the jump to East Coast Power for the summer and used this first live period to show he’s still every bit of a high-major post prospect. The 6-foot-11 former Church Farm big man, who will transfer to Westtown for his senior year, was a defensive menace, swatting opponents’ shots left and right in help-side and transition situations, along with his getting his hands on a couple perimeter jumpers. Ajak also showed off the makings of a skilled offensive game, drilling multiple 3-pointers and showing an improved ability to put the ball on the deck and attack the rim. Having been watched by both Fran Dunphy and Phil Martelli last week, he’ll have a chance to fully re-establish himself this weekend, playing in front of a slew of high-major coaches at the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest in Manheim.
TJ Berger (2020/NJ ShoreShots/Westtown School, Pa.)
Setting up Ajak for easy buckets as Westtown’s point guard will be Berger, the son of longtime Moose head coach Seth Berger. The younger Berger played a complementary role as a sophomore next to high-level guards like top-5 2018 recruit Cam Reddish (Duke) and high-major 2019 Jalen Gaffney, but has used this AAU season as his platform to establish himself as a no-brainer Division I prospect in his own right. In leading his ShoreShots team to the 16U AC Jam Fest championship, Berger showed why schools like Drexel, Penn, Stony Brook, Columbia, and Lafayette have already extended him offers since the start of AAU season. Possessing great size for the lead guard spot at 6-foot-3, he’s an elite 3-point shooter in both pull-up and spot-up situations with the ability to rain in triples at a moment’s notice. This weekend in Atlantic City, Berger also showed a bit more dynamism to his dribble than he had in previous viewings. As he continues to develop his frame and skillset, Berger has a chance to establish himself as a legitimate mid-major guard (if not much more) before long.
Joshua Cohen (2019/Jersey Force/Christian Brothers Academy, N.J.)
Having shot up from a 6-foot freshman to a 6-foot-9 rising junior, Cohen was clearly still adjusting to his body playing for the Jersey Shore Warriors on last summer’s AAU circuit. Even so, he showed the signs of being an intriguing long-term post prospect. Now having grown another inch to 6-foot-10 and shed over 20 pounds, Cohen proved this week that he’s finally putting it all together. While he’ll never be the most athletic player on the court, he makes up for it with a highly skilled offensive game, displaying impressive court sense to go along with a soft touch near the rim and the ability to stretch the floor with an increasingly consistent 3-point shot. This week at both the Elevate Hoops Summer Icebreaker and the AC Jam Fest, Cohen also looked far more comfortable running the floor, even initiating fast breaks off the defensive glass before sprinting ahead to finish at the rim. Coaches certainly took note of Cohen’s improvement, as he picked up his first offer on Sunday night, coming from Fairleigh Dickinson.
Stevie Mitchell (above) is establishing himself as one of the top PA guards in the 2021 class. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Stevie Mitchell (2021/Team Final Red/Wilson West Lawn, Pa.)
One of the better-kept secrets in the area right now is the 6-foot-1 Mitchell, who’s quietly been giving out buckets all spring and summer on the 15U level. After averaging double figures as a freshman at Wilson, Mitchell has carried his strong play right into the AAU season, with the AC Jam Fest being no exception. Mitchell led the way all weekend for Team Final Red, the Philly-based EYBL program’s Lehigh Valley affiliate, scoring 22 and 21 points, respectively, in two viewings before bowing out in the 15U semis. Playing with great pace and command of the game, Mitchell cerebrally works his way to his spots, constantly hunting his shot while also keeping his eyes up to see open teammates. Though he may not have the highest upside, lacking the explosive athleticism typical of most high-level prospects, there’s no doubting that Mitchell is one of the best rising sophomore guards in the area at this moment.
Leo O’Boyle (2019/JB Hoops/Scranton Prep, Pa.)
One of the state’s top two-sport standouts, also starting at quarterback for Scranton Prep’s football team, the 6-foot-7 O’Boyle is establishing himself as a priority hoops recruit for high-academic Division I programs from the Ivy and Patriot leagues. Previously more of a bruising interior player, O’Boyle has shown a vastly improved perimeter game this AAU season, and this past week was certainly no exception. The muscular forward started off raining triples at Hoop Group’s Elite Session 1 camp at Albright, showing picturesque mechanics highlighted by some of the cleanest footwork you’ll see. O’Boyle then picked up right where he left off, leading the way in JB Hoops’ run to the inaugural Hoop Group Showcase League championship game, highlighted by a 37-point eruption in the semifinals before losing to Middlesex Magic in the title game. Thanks to his strong play, O’Boyle doubled his offer list after the weekend, adding Lafayette and American to a list that already included Columbia and NJIT.
Christian Ray (2019/K-Low Elite/Haverford School, Pa.)
Already having one of the better off seasons of any area prospect, Ray continued that right into the live period, getting started with a bang in leading K-Low to a blowout win over the Jersey Shore Warriors in an Elevate Hoops showcase game. In the 65-47 win, which was non-competitive for the majority of the second half, Ray showed off the expansion of his game for dozens of college coaches. The 6-foot-5 forward connected for multiple threes and also displayed his increased athleticism on a few breakaway dunks. Ray capped his strong week with a standout performance at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in New York, where he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game--including a game-winning tip-in at the buzzer--to help lead K-Low to a semifinal berth in the Big Apple. If he can continue to knock down long-range shots at the 38 percent clip he shot at Adidas, Ray could see his recruitment hit firm mid-major territory by the end of the month. As it stands, he’s added offers from Lafayette, Columbia, and Brown to a list that already included seven schools as he appears to be becoming an academic D-I priority.
Jahlil White (2020/NJ ShoreShots/Wildwood Catholic, N.J.)
Perhaps the biggest breakout of the entire week from a local standpoint was White, who played a supporting role for Wildwood Catholic this year as a 6-foot-3 point guard but is emerging as a big-time wing prospect after having grown to 6-foot-6 since the winter. Alongside a trio of other D-I prospects in Berger, plus North Jersey wings Jacob Sussman and Will Soucie, White proved to have the highest upside of them all en route to winning the 16U championship. He’s still adjusting a bit to the wing position after being used to having the ball in his hands, but is able to translate his point guard mindset into his new position, slicing in from the perimeter and hitting open teammates on countless occasions. Most importantly for White as a long-term prospect is the development of his jumper, which seems to be coming along at a solid rate. A non-shooter at points during the high school season, he showed much-increased confidence in his perimeter shot--despite still mixed results--and solid accuracy on his midrange pull-up and free throws. With recruiting interest already from the likes of St. Joe’s, Drexel, Delaware, and Siena, it may not be long before those schools and more join Bryant in offering White a scholarship.
Jeff Woodward (2020/East Coast Power/Methacton HS, Pa.)
You may not find a more rock-solid prospect in the area than Woodward, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound low-post threat who produces in big ways seemingly every time he touches the court. Far from an elite athlete, he uses his big body and a great set of hands and feet to establish good position and score over, through, or around defenders on the block. What really sets Woodward apart is his passing, as he can facilitate the offense either from the low-post or the elbow, pinging passes all over the court to open shooters or cutters. While he may not always look the part, Woodward continues to prove himself as a mid-major frontcourt prospect, and this week was no different as he made the top-20 All-Star game at Hoop Group Elite camp. It was a disappointing weekend for the East Coast Power 16U group, bowing out in the first round at the AC Jam Fest, but Woodward nonetheless was a buzzworthy name amongst the plethora of coaches in attendance, particularly those of the high-academic variety.
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Ari got most of the local players who impressed this first week. But here’s a few others I liked watching, including a few from a bit further away:
Bol Akot (2020/DC Blue Devils NH/Proctor Academy, N.H.)
The best pure point guard I saw this week, Akot is just a fun passer to watch. He throws court-long outlet passes to hit his man in stride with ease, knows how to use the pick-and-roll and get the ball into the post in a variety of ways, and has a great handle and top speed to get up and down the court in transition. He’s definitely a little on the small side at 5-10 and about 160 pounds, but if he continues to hit jumpers at a high rate, his consistent rate of production will be too much to ignore. Rutgers, St. Bonaventure and UMass-Lowell have already offered.
Babatunde Ajike (2019/Team Speed/Camden Catholic, N.J.)
A muscular 6-5 wing, Ajike has been an impressive athlete to watch for several years at Camden Catholic, but his skill level has continually improved to point where he’s now a bona-fide scholarship-level recruit. He’s at his best in mismatch situations, taking bigger players off the dribble and attacking the rim or posting up against smaller guards, with good touch within 15 feet and a smooth-looking 3-point stroke that he doesn’t always uncork in obvious shooting situations. Ajike doesn’t have a Division I scholarship offer yet, but he’s very close to that territory.
Khai Champion (2020/East Coast Power/Shipley School, Pa.)
The younger brother of Loyola (Md.) sharpshooter Chuck Champion was living up to the family legacy this week, as Khai was burying shots from all over the court both at the Hoop Group Elite Camp and again in AC with the Power. Though the 5-11 guard is handling some point guard duties with Malvern Prep’s Spencer Cochran sidelined, his best asset is as an off-ball scorer, with a knockdown 3-point shot and improved pull-up ability off the bounce. A slender guard with long arms and skinny legs, Champion looks like he’s due for one more growth spurt, which would put him solidly in D-I territory; otherwise, he’ll need to get much stronger and continue to work on being a pass-first point guard who also can knock down an open shot.
Jonah Charles (2019/NJ ShoreShots/Rutgers Prep, N.J.)
Charles committed to Penn just before the start of the live period, and he certainly played like the pressure was off, with an extra bounce to his step and snap to his shot. The 6-4 right-hander has great lift and form on his jumper, and he won’t hesitate to rise up and knock down a 3-pointer, but he’s also an above-average passer who enjoys seeing his teammates hit shots. He’ll be able to fill a similar role at Penn, working off the ball to get free and let his shot fly, but he can do some creating off the bounce if the situation arises.
Reed Fenton (2019/PK Flash/Greater Latrobe, Pa.)
One of the most consistent performers all weekend at the AC Jam Fest, Fenton was impossible to miss. The 6-4 wing guard from western Pennsylvania led the way as the Flash stormed to the Hoop Group Summer League final, making plays all over the court. Fenton was grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists and playing tough defense, and on top of that he was hitting shots all weekend long, both knockdown shots as well as creating off the bounce and making some tough pull-up jumpers and layups when his team needed a bucket. Bowling Green, Marist, American, Holy Cross and Dartmouth all offered this week alone, joining a list that included NJIT, Drake and the Naval Academy.
Kasean Pryor (2019/Young & Reckless/Ann Arbor Pioneer, Mich.)
Lots of players like to say they can play all five positions, but Pryor is one of the rare group that might be able to actually back it up. A former 6-foot guard entering high school, Pryor has shot up to over 6-8 entering his senior year, and while his true position now is something of a combo-forward who can stretch the floor, there’s no doubt he can handle the ball and make plays off the bounce for himself and his teammates, but he’s got the length necessary to defend the rim. Robert Morris, Hartford, NJIT and Central Michigan are his only four offers thus far.
Will Soucie (2020/NJ ShoreShots/Gill St. Bernard, N.J.)
Yes, another member of that ShoreShots 16U squad. But I couldn’t leave off Soucie, who played well both in Albright and Atlantic City. A big (6-5, 210-pound) wing, Soucie plays the whole game downhill, whether that’s pressing in transition or at the top of the ShoreShots’ 1-3-1 halfcourt zone, or attacking the bucket off the bounce, where he’s an excellent finisher through contact. He doesn’t uncork his 3-point shot as much as his AAU teammates, but if he can be more of a reliable knockdown shooter, he’ll be recruitable at all sorts of D-I levels; North Alabama, Hartford, New Hampshire and Stony Brook have offered thus far.