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 The Shipley School on Wednesday afternoon.)
The Shipley Gators already have one Division I commit, but from the looks of their practice on Wednesday, new coach Phil D’Ambrosio has a few kids on his team who will be signing National Letters of Intent at some point in the next few years. That one commit, senior Zac Tillman, chose Monmouth University just a few weeks ago, giving the Hawks an up-and-coming center in their 2013 class. While taking a look at Tillman, I also was able to check out promising prospects in both the 2014 class and 2015 class that could help Shipley to a very successful year in the Friends’ League (especially now that Friends Central’s Amile Jefferson has shipped off to Duke).
Center, Class of 2013
The centerpiece of Shipley’s 2012-13 squad, the 6-foot-9, 290-pound Tillman has a big frame and improved footwork, just one benefit of having already dropped 30 pounds off his frame though he’s still 20 pounds away from his goal weight. What really sticks out about the big 17-year-old is his court vision and passing ability, both out of the low post and the high post as well as on outlet passes.
“That’s one of his strong points, his hands,” D’Ambrosio said. “He’s working on the footwork at this point but his hands are definitely his strong suit.”
Though Tillman certainly has the size to dominate, he doesn’t yet have the aggressiveness that would allow him to control a game like he should be able to at this level. D’Ambrosio thinks there’s a simple reason for that.
“It’s his unselfishness that really gets in the way,” he said. “I’m actually gonna challenge him this year to be a little bit less unselfish and try and take over games on his own a little bit. I’d like to see a 20-point game from him every once in awhile. As long as he knows I have his back for that kinda stuff I think he can do it.”
Guard/Forward, Class of 2014
One of two important transfers on the Gators’ squad, Rodden is a 6-6 wing who comes over after averaging 11.2 points per game at La Salle College HS in 2011-12. A reclassified junior, Rodden will serve as Shipley’s best long-range threat although his coach says he wants one of his bigger players to also get into the paint from time to time.
“What I like to work with him more is getting a bit more aggressive on the inside,” D’Ambrosio said. “He tries to shy away and dance around the 3-point line and I’d like to get him attacking the basket a little bit more. At the next level yes, he’ll be playing the perimeter but at the high school level, at 6-6, you need to play inside as well.”
Rodden looked very comfortable both coming off screens and pulling up from range, but much like his coach said looked much more likely to pull-up from midrange or attempt the occasional NBA-range trey. Having a big like Tillman attracting attention and posting up, as well as a capable driving guard in Johnson, should help Rodden penetrate if Shipley can move the ball around the court well.
Combo guard, Class of 2015
I first saw Johnson this summer, playing with the Team Philly 16Us at the Reebok Breakout Team Camp in July. On a team that features FLC guard Sean Lloyd and Imhotep forward Basil Thompson, among others, Johnson stood out as a quick guard with a good dribble who could, above all, score the rock.
“He’s not your pass-first type of guy, he’s looking for his–which isn’t bad either,” D’Ambrosio said. “I like a guy who’s going to be able to take over the game for us when we need it.”
Another transfer, the reclassified sophomore (originally a 2014) played his last two seasons at World Communications Tech, where D’Ambrosio said he scored around 450 points in his first two seasons at the varsity level. At 6-1, Johnson is a good enough athlete to project as a D-I guard, but how high up he could play will ultimately depending on if he can improve his point guard skills.
“He’s really a scoring guard, but I think we’re gonna try and make that transition a little bit to get him to the point guard form,” D’Ambrosio said. “He’s not gonna grow much more, he’s not getting much taller. He’s a tough kid…he has a good feel for the game in terms of understanding the game.”