By JOSH VERLIN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
In addition to Philadelphia’s loaded 2013 class — Rysheed Jordan, Brandon Austin, Steve Vasturia, John Davis and many others could star at the next level –there are quite a few talented 2014s and 2015s to keep an eye on as they work on getting to play Division I basketball.
Here are five players from the current junior class to keep an eye on:
ERIC ANDERSON (The Haverford School)
Anderson’s one of those players who might not blow you away at first, but the more you watch him the more there is to like. A 6-foot-6 wing, Anderson plays the 4 for Haverford but projects as a true wing out on the next level. A good shooter with decent athleticism, he has a good basketball IQ and won’t make many bad decisions on the court.
Davidson, Princeton and Fairfield have already offered and a lot of other high-academic schools are very interested; with a good start to his junior season (he scored 18 points Friday night in a win over Moyer and dropped 15 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Valley Forge on Tuesday) he could end up a little higher than that.
JAHYDE GARDINER Freire Charter)
Not really sure if Gardiner’s a guard or a forward, but he’s certainly a basketball player with a great tendency to get to the rim and finish in traffic. At 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, he’s transitioning from an interior player to out on the wing, and how much he can improve his handle over the next year is going to play a large role in where he winds up for college.
Towson and Drexel have already offered Gardiner, who could be a really good fit for the CAA with his toughness and commitment to defense. He also claims interest from Auburn, Miami, Quinnipiac, Oregon State and USC.
SHEP GARNER (Roman Catholic)
Part of a loaded backcourt that also includes junior Rashann London (low-mid major) and sophomore Traci Carter (probable mid-high major), Garner’s a 6-3 combo guard who does a lot of things well. Good handle, good shoot, strong defender, and sees the court well; he dropped 10 points and added four assists in a shredding of Roxborough on Wednesday for his fourth double-digit scoring effort in four games this season.
Roman coach Chris McNesby says that Garner likes Penn State, St. Joseph’s and Rutgers as his three favorites right now, and that a spring decision is possible; it seems certain that he’ll play out the season before making up his mind.
JA’QUAN NEWTON (Neumann-Goretti)
Probably the best 2014 prospect in the Philadelphia area, Newton is a highly skilled, 6-3 combo guard who’s at his best getting to the bucket. Neumann-Goretti’s only played one game this season, a win over suburban powerhouse Lower Merion, and they were led by Newton’s 21 points. He also chipped in eight rebounds and two steals with Villanova’s Jay Wright and other coaches in the building.
Like many 2014s, Newton is still a ways away from cutting down his list, but he’s got a number of high-major programs very interested, including local schools Temple and Villanova (though St. Joseph’s would love to have a chance) as well as Georgetown, Miami, and a number of other Big East and ACC programs.
BASIL THOMPSON (Imhotep)
A transfer from Math, Civics and Sciences, Thompson is an athletic 6-6 forward who’s stuck somewhere between being a wing and playing under the basket. Ultimately, he’ll probably slot in somewhere in the low-mid major range for his athleticism and versatility, but it doesn’t seem like he’s going to quite develop the skill set necessary to play much higher. If he can add a mid-range game, Thompson could end up being a player similar to Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, though maybe not quite as elite of an athlete.
Right now, Thompson doesn’t have any offers but has interest from Quinnipiac, Robert Morris and “other schools like that”; however, he said he’s hearing the most from Miami (Fl).