Open Gym: LaSalle College HS (Philly Catholic League) –
Last season the Explorers saw their campaign come to a crushing end when they had an epic 4th quarter collapse vs. eventual Catholic and PIAA 6A state champ Roman Catholic in the league quarterfinals. What made the night worse was the news that St. Joseph Prep had knocked off Neumann-Goretti and leap frogged LaSalle for the final 6A playoff berth in District 12 for a shot at states thereby ending their season with a thud. After 14 seasons HC Joe Dempsey was let go and with a good nucleus returning LaSalle hired Mike McKee a longtime college assistant who has Catholic league roots having played at Roman Catholic before embarking on a college career at Lehigh. He will be coming back to Philly after stops at King’s College, Lafayette, Air Force, Richmond and Univ. of Denver on his resume. LaSalle will have a good mix of guards and bigs that have been highly touted for the last few years and after watching their open gym yesterday they seem to be responding to the new system and coaching staff but only time will tell that story.
For the second year in a row LaSalle loses two contributors in the backcourt to graduation but the cupboard is certainly not bare as 6’0” ’19 Allen Powell returns as the starting PG. Powell is a really good shooter with range and he shot it well today in the scrimmage portion of the workout. With plenty of options to choose from he’ll have to tighten up his passing game to best utilize this vast array of shooters at his disposal. He’ll be joined by 6’2” ’19 Titus Beard who will play the two as a nice wing with a developing shot and decent moves to the basket. Another possible contributor as a backup is 5’10” ’20 Jake Timby who showed off a smooth lefty stroke with 3 point range and a good nose for the ball, although he needs to add some weight to his slight frame. For the future there are two young men that could help this year as well and that would be 6’1” ’21 Charles Ireland and highly thought off freshman 6’3” Sam Brown. Ireland is a lanky kid with a silky jumper who shows promise as a defender and facilitator and Brown looks to be a potential All Catholic down the road.
Going into their final seasons together 6’9” ’19 Zach Crisler and 6’7” ’19 Princeton recruit Konrad Kizska are the constants on the frontline as they will be entering their fourth varsity season. Crisler is that stretch guy who can pull a bigger defender away from the basket by draining his very reliable jump shot with range to the arc while also being able to play some on the low block with solid footwork and good touch. Kizska is just an athlete with tremendous hops who can double with Crisler by having the offense go through them in the high post with excellent passing skills and keen court sense. Both of these guys are competent rebounders and fluid offensive players with skills away from the basket or at the rim. 6’6” ’19 Kahlil Ashley-Diarrah provides some low post bulk and rebounding prowess with the ability to score around the rim. He will need to get back in basketball shape though as he plays football and was not present at yesterday’s workout. Another contributor returning for the Explorers will be 6’3” ’19 Jack Rothenberg a wing with a strong frame who battles every play maximizing his limited athleticism for the position. One name that Coach McKee threw out as a possible guy who could provide minutes was 6’4” ’20 Mike DiPietro who looks similar to Rothenberg as a player and that made sense based on what LaSalle may need this coming season.
Despite last year’s disappointing conclusion this team can do some damage in the Catholic league. They have college level talent especially in Crisler and Powell both entering their senior years and that brought out Quinnipiac, Rice, Hofstra and Princeton and even though the Tigers were checking on Konrad Kizska this team has some other young players that should garner college interest in the immediate future too. While the talent on this team is evident the results have been mixed these last couple years and in my mind it’s come down to consistency and toughness with this group. Over the last two seasons there have been bouts of wildly inconsistent play that led to some head scratching losses and for them to succeed with a top 4 finish in the league and a return to states they must play with a poise and maturity that I believe they’re capable of. Secondly they have to dig down and play tooth and nail defense on every possession especially when they match up with the cream of the league and not just the bottom end teams in the standings. If the big three on this squad can lead by example and get the rest to follow I think a top four finish is possible but if they revert back to their penchant of backing off a bit in the toughness department they could wind up with a lower seed and a tougher road to the top. At this point in time this is only speculation but I can see the Explorers finishing in the top 5 of the league with a berth in the PIAA 6A state tourney waiting for them.