Jalen Duren (above) was one of several standouts from Sunday's sets of the CoBL PA/NJ Shootout. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The 2018 PA/NJ Shootout concluded its two-day affair on Sunday, with 36 teams taking the court for their two games of action.
Here’s who played well in front of the CoBL staff on Sunday:
Jon Bol Ajak (2019/Westtown, Pa.)
Westtown coach Seth Berger said he rarely takes one-year players, but he made an exception with Bol Ajak. The 6-foot-10 forward, who played at the Church Farm School last season, has brought maturity and leadership to the Moose as one of just two seniors. Bol Ajak had some tough matchups inside with Wildwood Catholic’s Taj Thweatt and Camden’s Lance Ware. He answered the call with a solid showing on the defensive end and the boards. Particularly impressive was his rim-protecting ability, where he used his length to block several shots he had no business even being close to getting. On offense, Bol Ajak is a smart player who puts himself in the right spot and makes got decisions. He made some really nice passes and showed off some range during Sunday’s contest.
Rahsool Diggins (2021/Archbishop Wood, Pa.)
Diggins played a lot of minutes as a freshman last season on a Wood team with four Division I seniors. With Andrew Funk (Bucknell) and Tyree Pickron (Quinnipiac), who was in attendance on Sunday, gone from last year’s squad, Diggins was running the show this weekend. The biggest takeaway from Sunday might have been how much it appears the 6-foot-2 guard has caught up physically to his peers entering his sophomore campaign. He looked extremely comfortable handling the ball and finishing once he got to the paint. His jump shot was falling, especially off the bounce in the midrange. Though the Vikings struggled a bit on the offensive end, the pairing of Diggins and sophomore guard Jaylen Stinson, formerly of the Haverford School, in the Vikings’ backcourt was fun to watch and should be for the rest of the season.
Jalen Duren (2022/Roman Catholic, Pa.)
A skeptic might point to the losses of Lyn Greer and Allen Betrand as the catalyst for some regression from the reigning PCL and PIAA 6A champs Roman Catholic. Newcomer Jalen Duren did a lot to alleviate those concerns on Sunday. The 6-8 freshman looked like the best player on the floor for large chunks of Roman’s wins against Gill St. Bernards and Wildwood Catholic. Duren was a brick wall around the rim all afternoon, making life extremely difficult for anyone willing to go into the lane. On the other side of the ball Duren was just as dominant, throwing more than a couple beautiful putback dunks, and using his impressive frame to back defenders down in the post. The 210-pound forward has already gotten his fair share of national attention, having picked up an offer from Penn State, as well as an invite to USA Basketball’s October Minicamp. Duren has upside through the roof, with the potential to put on a few more inches and use his athleticism to continue expanding his game. He’ll certainly spend the next few years giving Catholic League opponents headaches.
Jalen Gaffney (2019/Westtown, Pa.)
After the departure of Cam Reddish (Duke) and Jake Forrester (Indiana), Gaffney enters his second season at Westtown as “the guy” for another Moose squad loaded with Division I talent. The springy 6-foot-2 guard made his commitment to UConn last week and guided the Moose to victories over Wildwood Catholic and Camden on Sunday. Gaffney used his quickness to get into the paint and athleticism to finish around the rim. When left open, he did not hesitate to knock down shots from 3-point range. Gaffney is an exciting player out in transition and showed good court vision finding weapons like John Camden, T.J. Berger and Jon Bol Ajak.
Corey Greer (2019/Olympus Prep, N.J.)
With multiple ligament tears in his knee forcing him to miss almost the entirety of his junior season, and the subsequent AAU campaign, Greer spent most of his senior year at Camden HS playing his way back into shape and getting back into the flow of things. But after deciding to do a post-graduate year and performing well on the spring and summer AAU circuits, Greer showed once again this weekend that he is fully healthy and worthy of Division I attention. The 6-foot-1 Greer is a highly-skilled combo guard who possesses high-level shotmaking ability from all over the floor. He also showed today to be a plenty capable passer, consistently making the right reads after drawing help defenders and even passing teammates open on multiple occasions. Currently without a Division I offer heading into his prep season at Olympus, Greer has attracted recruiting interest from the likes of St. Peter’s and Florida Gulf Coast.
Hakim Hart (2019/Roman Catholic, Pa.)
Hart made his commitment to Saint Joseph’s earlier this month, and showed why Phil Martelli and his staff were keen on making the 6-foot-6 guard a future Hawk on Sunday. Hart averaged more than 15 points per game for the Philadelphia Catholic League and PIAA Class 6A champs last season, and should have an even larger role with Allen Betrand now at Towson and Lynn Greer at Oak Hill Academy. Without first team all-Catholic League performer Seth Lundy, who was on an official visit to Penn State this weekend, Hart was instant offense at times for Roman in its wins over Gill St. Bernards and Wildwood Catholic. As he did last season, Hart got hot from behind the 3-point line. He also was aggressive attacking the rim on Sunday. Hart highlighted his day by throwing down a monster dunk late in a 53-42 win over Wildwood Catholic.
Zahree Harrison (2020/Cheltenham, Pa.)
Last season saw the Archbishop Wood transfer split ball handling duties with Ahmad Bickley (Chestnut Hill College). This year Harrison will have full reign of the offense, a prospect that no doubt excites his teammates who benefit from his excellent court vision. The 5-8 point guard has always been comfortable driving and kicking, or finding a big body under the basket, but on sunday he looked more comfortable as an individual playmaker. Harrison utilized his exceptional speed to consistently get by his man, and made several circus shot finishes over rim larger defenders. First year head coach Patrick Fleury will count on Harrison to not only initiate the offense but be a primary scoring threat on a night to night basis as the Panthers look to compete with SOL American heavyweights like Plymouth Whitemarsh and Abington.
Samier Kinsler (2019/West Catholic, Pa.)
The Burrs could be a dark horse this season in the Catholic League, and it all starts with Kinsler. The senior guard seems to have embraced first-year coach Miguel Bocachica’s intense style. Bocachica praised Kinsler for his leadership early this season and by the looks of Sunday’s performance he has the rest of the Burrs buying in as well. He provided constant energy for West Catholic in a 49-21 win over Atlantic City. Kinsler forced a ton of turnovers with his in-your-face defense and by anticipating passes. He turned those turnovers into easy buckets by breezing by defenders on his way to the other end of the court, also knocking in several midrange jumpers for good measure.
Cameron McCole (2019/Downingtown West, Pa.)
A scrappy, undersized ‘4’ man, McCole does a few things really well -- including get to the rim. The 6-5 forward excels at moving without the ball, constantly finding himself behind opposing defenders for layups, and he’s a strong finisher as well with both hands. Going up against much bigger frontcourts on both Delcastle and St. Augustine Prep, McCole still found himself the most productive post player on the court, fighting his way for handfuls of rebounds and getting plenty of buckets. He’s still working on creating his own shot, but he’s certainly productive enough without it.
Nnanna Njoku (2021/Sanford, Del.)
If there’s one word to describe Njoku’s game, it would be power. The 6-9 forward is a physical specimen for his age group or anywhere in high school, and he’s not shy to flex his muscle whether it’s blocking shots, grabbing rebounds or throwing down one of several big dunks he slammed home Sunday morning. Njoku also displays some nice form on his foul shooting, and he knocked down a corner 3-pointer in a game against Archbishop Wood, but he did most of his damage around the rim. As he continues to progress throughout high school, look for him to develop more of a face-up game, and he’ll be a much-wanted prospect by the time he hits the 17U circuit.
Will Soucie (2020/Gill St. Bernard’s, N.J.)
A downhill wing who always plays with his eye towards the bucket, Soucie has great size at 6-6 and a strong 205 pounds, and he uses his big frame to his advantage when getting to the bucket. His jumper is a threat but not truly a consistent one yet, but he’s got the ability to put the ball on the floor with both hands and get into the mid-range and closer, which is where he’s most effective. Soucie already holds offer from several low-to-mid types, including New Hampshire, Iona, Hartford and Stony Brook; as he continues to work on his handle and long-range jumper, he should certainly add a few more onto the pile.
Taj Thweatt (2020/Wildwood Catholic, N.J.)
Thweatt has been a physical and athletic presence since first entering high school with his muscular 6-foot-6 frame, but he proved today that his skills are starting to catch up to his natural gifts and from the looks of it that should be a scary sight for the rest of South Jersey. Despite tight losses to both Westtown and Roman Catholic, Thweatt showed off his expanded perimeter game, knocking down several three-pointers and even a couple midrange looks off the bounce. Not to be ignored were his usual high-energy plays, using his bounce and relentless motor to keep balls alive on the glass and in open-floor situations. Look for Thweatt and classmate Jahlil White to perhaps lead the Crusaders to a No. 1 ranking in all of South Jersey.
Quinton Alston (2019/Olympus Prep), Nazim Chavez (2020/Willingboro), Tre’ Dinkins (2020/Cardinal O’Hara), KeShaun Hammonds (2020/Constitution), Tariq Kalim (2019/Downingtown East), Imere Harris (2019/West Catholic), Amyr Henry (2020/Shipley School), Jacob Hopping (2020/Wildwood Catholic), Andrew King (2020/Downingtown East), Connor Murphy (2019/Gill St. Bernard’s), Jabari Merritt (2019/Constitution), Ayo Ogunbo (2020/Delcastle), Yazid Powell (2019/Olympus Prep), Justice Shoats (2022/Holy Redeemer), Ray Somerville (2019/Shipley School), Jahlil White (2020/Wildwood Catholic), Naadhir Wood (2020/West Catholic)