PHILADELPHIA — The class of 2015 is strong in Philadelphia, and a talented group of rising juniors is about to get some recognition on a national level now that the AAU season is here.
While there are many potential breakout candidates, here are five who really could open a lot of eyes this spring:
Shawn Alston, The Haverford School
Alston is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who played off the ball last year but made the transition to point guard this year quite successfully. He averaged 16.2 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals on a 17-9 Haverford team that made the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania independent schools’ tournament. The son of former Temple Owl Levan Alston has quite a bit of in-state interest already but is likely to open a lot more eyes this summer as he plays on a talented Team Final 16U. A confident shooter and shot creator with a great on-court demeanor, Alston is used to having the ball in his hands in crunch time and projects somewhere in the mid-major-plus range for now.
Sam Foreman, Vaux
Foreman is a scoring point guard with a great handle. Though he tends to be a little selfish at times, Foreman is adept at getting to the hoop and drawing contact; when his 3-point shot is falling, he’s easily capable of going for 30 points or more. He’s 6-feet tall and though he’s got a solid body for his size, he’s also unlikely to get much taller, which could ultimately be the factor that prevents him from going high-major. Playing alongside consensus five-star recruit Rysheed Jordan, the best player in Philadelphia’s Public League last year, Foreman still managed to average 11.8 points per game; he dropped a combined 50 points in the school’s semifinal and finals wins as Vaux took home the PIAA Class A championship in the schools’ final year of existence.
Ahmad Gilbert, Constitution
Constitution was one of the youngest teams in the Philadelphia Public League’s “A” Division, and though the school also moved up from A to AA classification, the Generals still made the quarterfinals of the state playoffs in large part to the play of Gilbert, a 6-foot-6 wing. Gilbert averaged 12.8 points to lead four players on his team in double-figures, but it was his contributions on the defensive end and boards that really stood out. A high-major athlete with a developing jumper as he works on moving from the interior to the perimeter, Gilbert’s ceiling will be determined by how his shooting and handle progress over the next 12 months. He’ll play his summer ball with Alston on Team Final’s 16U Blue squad.
Derrick Jones, Archbishop Carroll
Another athletic forward working on his transition out to the wing, Jones is like Gilbert — an athletic freak but a little more advanced in his transformation to a collegiate-level small forward. Archbishop Carroll made the state finals with Jones averaging a team-leading 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. A high-flying lefty, Jones somehow manages to get his head above the rim on every rebound and put-back slam, his highlight reel from just one game[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oJ1Z5owOr0&w=560&h=315] shows off his ups quite well. How high up could he play? Syracuse is aready keeping tabs on the sophomore, as is every other Division I program in the area. Offers will pour in this summer as college coaches flock to a loaded We-R-1 16U squad that also includes Pitman (N.J.) forward Tim Delaney and Jones’ high school teammate Earnest Aflakpui.
Lamarr Kimble, Neumann-Goretti
Neumann-Goretti has seen its fair share of good point guards in the last few years, and Kimble certainly seems to be the heir apparent to Saints like Scoop Jardine (Syracuse) and Tyreek Duren (La Salle) who have gone on to great success in college. At 5-11 and 170 pounds, Kimble is a solid-bodied point guard who makes up for what he lacks in height with great court vision, an extremely high motor and a solid 3-point stroke. “Fresh” averaged 10 points, 3.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds for Neumann-Goretti, and told CityofBasketballLove.com this weekend that he’s hearing from Notre Dame, Xavier, Villanova, Temple, Miami, Georgetown and Providence, though he doesn’t have an offer yet. He also plays with Gilbert and Alston on Team Final 16U Blue.
Josh Verlin is the owner/editor of CityofBasketballLove.com, which covers Philadelphia-area high school and collegiate basketball.Follow Josh on Twitter