Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(Ed note: Over the next few weeks, high schools all around the greater Philadelphia area will have open gyms for their basketball teams after school, giving college coaches a chance to see drills and scrimmages. CoBL will be attending many of the open gyms; Josh Verlin checked out Roman Catholic on Wednesday afternoon.)
Roman Catholic has their strongest backcourt since a guard named Maalik Wayns wore the Cahillite uniform, led by senior point guard Britton Lee and junior combo guard Shep Garner the 2012-13 squad should challenge for a Catholic League title. Lee, headed to Robert Morris this fall, is a 5-foot-11 dynamo with great speed and court vision; Garner is a 6-foot-2 combo guard who led the team in scoring last season with a 16.0 point-per-game average. While neither of them were at practice on Wednesday–Garner is dealing with a minor back issue while Lee was at the optometrist–there were a few players running the floor that I got to take a look at and discuss with Roman’s fifth-year head coach, Chris McNesby.
Point guard, Class of 2013
A 5-11 combo guard, Simon only scored a total of 30 points in his junior season but is expected to make a much larger contribution in his final year of high school basketball. The sharpshooter was hitting from all over the court in practice, showing off a nice stroke in hitting easily from 3-point range as well as a few midrange jumpers and also showing off a nice floater.
“He’s been here for four years, he knows the deal…he’s ready to step in and contribute,” McNesby said. “I’m excited about him this year, I think he can really be a nice piece for us against teams that play us a certain style, he’ll help us stretch defenses, make some shots and he’s kind of a specialist so it’s good.”
The coach added that Simon is hearing from D-III schools from all over the southeastern Pennsylvania region as well as New Jersey and up into New York. I didn’t get enough of a feel for Simon’s defensive abilities with Lee and Garner absent from practice, but a good shooting ability will translate to any level; still, it’s unlikely that Simon ends up going any higher than D-III but should contribute right away as a shooter.
Wing/Forward, Class of 2015
Similar to fellow Catholic league sophomore Derrick Jones (Archbishop Carroll) and Constitution High’s Ahmad Gilbert, Wilkerson is a 6-6 “power forward” whose height and athleticism had him playing the post up to this point in his career but whose path seems headed out towards the perimeter by the time he gets to college.
“I think that’ll be his future,” McNesby said about Wilkerson’s transition to the wing, “but for us it’s almost like ‘do whatever you gotta do’ to win games. If it’s down low, it’s down low. If it’s from the perimeter, it’s from the perimeter, just win games–bottom line.”
Wilkerson already has an advantage over Jones and Gilbert in terms of his strength; more muscular than Gilbert and with a better shot than Jones, he still is still more forward than guard at this point though he still has plenty of time to continue making the change. Now that he’s got a year of high school basketball under his belt, it’s about refining his game and bringing a more consistent effort on a regular basis.
“Last year he’d have two good games and three games where he played like a freshman,” McNesby said, “so if he can kinda be more consistent and feel more confident about himself, I think that’ll just happen naturally.”
The Cahillites also have two young bigs in 6-6 sophomore Manny Taylor–who played his first high school season at Life Center Academy (N.J.) last season–and incoming freshman Khalif Kroma, who’s already a solid 6-7 if not a shade taller.
“We actually have some size…we’re excited about (Manny), he’s a big body,” McNesby said. “Khalif’s about 6-7, maybe 6-8….he’s got good size, just trying to get his conditioning and the speed of the game at the next level.”
Kroma isn’t expected to make a large contribution this season, as McNesby said he prefers to get his players accustomed to the level of play in practice before introducing them to games once they can “hit the ground running.” Taylor, however, could start alongside Wilkerson in the frontcourt with Simon, Garner and Lee in the background; McNesby did indicate a willingness to start four guards, including junior combo Rashaan London.
““He’ll be a junior, very good combo guard. His recruitment’s still kind of early but we see him being a potential prospect,” McNesby said. “Rashaan is our most well-rounded (guard), he always seems to make the right decisions. Unselfish.”