NEPA Sports Nation

Imhotep places three on first team

By Mike Gross

Imhotep Charter became a boys basketball power almost as soon as the school opened in 1998.

This season was special even by the Philadelphia charter school’s usual standard, as reflected in voting for the Pennsylvania Sportswriters All-State team, announced Wednesday.

Imhotep’s Justin Edwards, a Kentucky recruit, was named Class 5A Player of the Year after the Panthers rolled to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association 5A title, outscoring five state-tournament opponents by an average of 35 points per game. Those wins included stopping District 2 champion Abington Heights in the state quarterfinals.

“We met all our goals – winning our league, district and state,’’ Imhotep coach Andre Noble said. “On top of that, winning the City of Palms (a national-level tournament in Florida), the first Pennsylvania team to do that.’’

The all-state teams and Coaches of the Year were selected through nominations and voting by a panel of sports media members from around the state. The top vote-getter in each class was named Player of the Year.

The Panthers finished 30-3 against a national schedule, and were in the top 10 in the country in most rankings. Edwards, a 6-foot-8 forward, was all-state for the third time and 5A Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He is the third-ranked player in the country by ESPN, 24/7 Sports and

“Justin has gotten better every year,’’ Noble said. “He’s working on getting stronger. … They have grown men in the SEC.’’

Ahmad Nowell and Rahmir Barno, Imhotep’s starting guards, also made the 5A first team. Barno is headed for Division I Florida Gulf Coast. Nowell, whom Noble predicted will be, “the best player in the state next year,’’ has offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee.

A trio of junior D1 recruits joined the Imhotep threesome on the 5A first team: 6-9 Thomas Sorber of Philadelphia Archbishop Ryan, 6-9 Royce Parham of Pittsburgh North Hills (28 points and 11 rebounds per game), and 6-4 Darren Williams of Archbishop Ryan. 

Imhotep’s state final had no drama, but the Class 6A and 4A games, at Hershey’s Giant Center last month, were classics, and impressed the voters.

State champion Reading boasts the 6A Player of the Year, Rider-bound senior guard Ruben Rodriguez (22.2 ppg), first-team all-state for the third time. Teammates Aris Rodriguez and Myles Grey made the third team.

State finalist Philadelphia Roman Catholic, which lost an intense final 63-56 in overtime to Reading, placed point guard Xzayvier Brown (St. Joseph’s recruit) on the first team along with Jalil Bethea, a high-major recruit from Archbishop Wood in Philadelphia, superb shooters Nick Coval of Parkland (22.6 ppg) and Braeden Shrewsberry (Notre Dame) of State College.

The 4A final, in which Lincoln Park Charter edged Neumann-Goretti 62-58, may have been the best pure 32 minutes of basketball of the weekend, and featured five all-state selections.

The Player of the Year is Robert Wright III of Neumann-Goretti, a 6-0 junior point guard bound for Baylor and, next year, for Monteverde Academy in Florida.

Lincoln Park’s top guns, 6-4 Pitt-bound senior guard Brandin Cummings and 6-4 sophomore Meleek Thomas, made the first team. Thomas, who averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, was a breakout star of the postseason and holds offers from Connecticut and Duke.

Also on the 4A first team: four-time all-stater and West Virginia football recruit Rodney Gallagher of Laurel Highlands, Neumann-Goretti big man Sultan Adewale and senior swingman Izaiah Pasha of Cardinal O’Hara.

The 3A Player of the Year is repeat first-teamer Makhai Valentine of Steel Valley, a 6-3 senior guard who scored 36 points per game with a high of 63.

State 3A champion Philadelphia West Catholic had two first-teamers, 6-5 Temple recruit Zion Stanford and point guard Budd Clark, who scored 32 on 16-of-18 shooting from the field in the state final. West Catholic knocked out District 2 champion Holy Redeemer in the second round.

State 2A champion Lancaster Mennonite put 6-2 senior guard Camden Hurst (21.7 ppg) on the first team for the third time. He was edged out for 3A Player of the Year by Davion Hill (34.3 ppg) of St. John Neumann, a four-time all-stater who dropped 50 in a one-point loss to Lancaster Mennonite in the first round of states.

Lancaster Mennonite knocked out Holy Cross in the state semifinals.

The Class A Player of the Year is Vinnie Cugini of tiny Aquinas Academy. Cugini broke the 30 year-old WPIAL career scoring record with 3,189 points, averaging 43.7 points and 11.9 rebounds as a senior. Cugini, headed for Pitt-Johnstown, was also all-state as a junior and sophomore.

Also in the A first team from state champion Imani Christian: 6-11 sophomore Alier Maluk, the 16th-ranked sophomore in the country, with offers from LSU, Ohio State and Oregon.

The Player of the Year on the non-PIAA team is Christian Bliss of the George School, a 6-4 junior repeat all-state selection with college offers from Villanova and Penn State.

Coaches of the year: Reading’s Rick Perez in 6A, Matt Ashcroft of state finalist Exeter in 5A, Mike Bariski of Lincoln Park in 4A, West Catholic’s Miguel Bocachica in 3A, Seth Buckwalter of Lancaster Mennonite in 2A, Tanner Prosser of state finalist Berlin Brothersvalley in A, and Tom Baudinet of Perkiomen in non-PIAA.


Mid Valley’s Danny Nemitz is District 2’s lone all-state boys basketball player: MV’s Nemitz named all-state – NEPA Sports Nation.

The complete list: First-, second- and third-team choices: All-state boys basketball teams – NEPA Sports Nation.

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